Category Archives: Minimalism

When you’re struggling to minimalize

I received an email from a reader (yes, I am excited. It’s my first legit email from a reader) who was struggling with making minimalist changes after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. She asked if I had any advice, and here is my response to her.

Keep on with “less”

Don’t give up! It’s a process, I’m not there yet by any stretch and I’m still sometimes tempted to shop or make regrettable purchases. (Frankly, I’ve been tempted quite a bit this summer). Still, the mindset shift is what has been most life changing for us. The results will continue to come, slowly but surely.

Everyone is different, your goals will be different and your reasons for decluttering (or hoarding/over-shopping, etc) are different also. So you need to evaluate your reading materials based on your goals. Marie Kondo is my least favorite of all the minimalism books I have read. It wasn’t worthless by any stretch but I have come to think she is not a true minimalist at all and her main tenant (spark of joy) truly didn’t work for me.

A Spark of Change

I had to come to realize that the joy I needed to seek was completely apart from any material possessions. Obsessing over “stuff” and which item is more perfect for my needs was my MO, even though it went completely against my core belief system and values. Once I realized that my daily lifestyle and how I was spending my time didn’t jive with my deepest heartfelt convictions, was when I got truly serious about making a change. The More of Less by Joshua Becker is my favorite book on this topic. It’s incredibly life-changing, v. Marie Kondo being house-changing, if that makes sense. Totally different perspectives.  Here is his website if you’d prefer some quick-read articles with the same gentle encouragement. He’s wonderful.

Faith & Minimalism

Ultimately, my faith in God is one of the reasons I have become so passionate about this topic. I want to spend my time on things that have eternal value v. temporal possessions that will become dust sooner or later. And part of this struggle for me is my personality. I find myself easily overwhelmed and distracted. The clutter, the stuff, the responsibility of unneeded possessions was weighing heavily on me. And my entire family was feeling the strain.

Aggressive Progress

For weeks I would complete purging and decluttering projects every single day. Even when I was busy, I’d go through a drawer while dinner was on the stove or clean out a closet as I dealt with the laundry. When my son was in the bath I’d attack the bathroom drawers and cabinets. While watching TV I’d sort through bins of toys. Every spare moment I would devote to pursuit of the final goal. Which incidentally I have yet to reach: I want to be able to take a photo of each space in my home, every tiny nook, and share it on social media. I want to know that I have recently evaluated every possession and deemed it worthy of keeping. That’s quite a proposal for me, a messy shopaholic with poor organization skills. And I’m not there yet, but I’m way, way closer.

Results

The more possessions I unload and the more deals I pass by, the lighter these burdens feel. The more I find myself able to focus on the things that I am passionate about. For the first time, I feel like I am capable of basic household maintenance on the daily. It’s working. My counters are clear and my mind is less chaotic. I can’t think of a single drawback that I have encountered other than a few awkward conversations when I try to explain why deals don’t thrill me the way they used to.

Maintaining a Minimalist Mindset

The typical consumer mindset has been fed by years and years of commercialism and profit-driven societal-standards. Changing this perspective requires some persistence and intentionality. It helps me to continue to watch vloggers, follow groups and websites and constantly check out more books on the topic of minimalism, simplicity, hygge, slowing down, faith, and similar topics that fall into this group I’m placing myself into. It’s a pursuit that doesn’t really end. There’s more we each have to learn.

I feel I’ve gotten off on a tangent, and I apologize but your message sparked reminders for me of why I’m happy with my direction and where I came from. I don’t want to be the girl who is always stopping by the thrift store or stalking the clearance shelves. I am not that girl anymore! Good luck on your minimalist journey! No matter how you approach it, I’m convinced you will be happier as a result.

 

Update & Direction for the Summer

Good morning! I wanted to quickly give an update on what I’ve been doing lately and where the blog is going. We have just wrapped up our homeschooling year and are looking forward to summer! It’s already hot as blue blazes around here, so I admit there has already been a good bit of water play and swimming which has been a welcome relief. We still have some math to complete over the summer but my two girls are now officially 5th graders and my wild little man is going to be in 5K. I can’t believe it! Each year of homeschooling has brought new challenges and I admit sometimes I do not feel equipped to do this job. However, for the time being I feel like this is where we are supposed to be. It’s hard but I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

When I rebranded the blog last year, I was uncertain of my direction. I was still focusing on deal alerts and was only in the first stages of what has become a big life change of simplifying, editing, and re-focusing. When I chose the name, I chose something that has deep significance to me, but I had no idea what a perfect choice it would turn out to be. Once I realized I wanted to pursue minimalism, it all started to click into place. Santee was absolutely and by far the most minimalist and simple place I’ve called home and it was the most peaceful oasis I have ever found. I love that my direction and blog home have merged into a very concise journey of simplicity and minimalism.

However, as often as minimalism is the focus of my posts, I want to make one thing very clear. Minimalism is merely a tool that I am using to reach my goals. Minimalism is not the end-game, not by a long shot. I talk and share about minimalism because cutting out the excess in my life has allowed me to have freedom and better focus on what is very important to me. My goal is to love God and love others. To seek His will for my life. To raise my children in the knowledge of Christ. To build a marriage based on a common goal of obedience to our Savior. So every tip, life hack, 10 ten list, or recipe I share is only a tiny effort to make more room in my life for what really matters.  And that’s what I want for my readers as well.

Psalm 73:25-26

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Thanks for being here! I hope you stick around; it’s going to be a great summer!

#momgoals and re-learning

We are taught as kids that we should have high lofty goals for our careers and futures. We are encouraged to “reach for the stars”. You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do! If you work hard you can succeed. Awesome, right? The American dream is still alive today!

Yet once we start a family, we are bombarded with a completely different message:
“Find a new comfort zone.”
“Survival mode is normal, and lasts for 18 years.”
“Lower your standards.”
“Your house will never be clean again”
“If you’re sleep-deprived, nutrient-robbed and have no time to yourself, you are doing it right”.

Part of being a parent is realizing that it may not be possible to reach your goals (or that the ultimate goal of nurturing a family is more important than some personal goals we may have). A lot of my “progress” as a mom for the first few years was basically making peace with lowering my own standards. (I am a natural perfectionist and I do struggle with pride). After all, moms can’t have it all (indeed, no one can). Houses will be messy, bedtimes will be late, meals will be torture. That’s what we learn as a mom.

What if all of that is a distortion of the truth?

First, let’s look back on America’s generations before us, say pre-WW2 and earlier. How was parenting different back then? I’m sure there were lots of differences but just a couple stand out immediately to me. First, there was a supportive family structure in place for most young families. Parents were more likely to be living close to Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents. It was normal and accepted that the “village” would help in child-rearing. Not to mention, most parents were simply not spread as thin between career and family.

Secondly, consumerism hadn’t taken hold of our culture. Instead of being bombarded with empty advertisements and sometimes dangerous “health” tips from a corrupt pharmaceutical industry, parents would get advice, for the most part, from the previous generation and raise their children accordingly. I can only assume there was less guilt and pressure for the most part…was the neighbor silently judging you over your fence as pervasive as the ever-present “mom wars” are today? I imagine not.

Now, I have to say right here that I understand that the above is dramatically over-simplified. I try not to look back on America’s history with rose-colored glasses, although I do sometimes feel envious of the simplicity of the past. I do know that social patterns are far more nuanced than I am describing and I have not researched these statements. Still, I think the two points stand: for the most part, there was a closer extended family unit and individuals were not bombarded with commercial messages and a corporate agenda to the extent we are now.  So how does that affect the way we approach our lives as parents?

I used to think I wasn’t exactly affected by commercialism. Because I never picked up the phone to order from an infomercial, I didn’t subscribe to popular magazines, and I wasn’t likely to buy the latest thing from the mall. It’s only since I have started to work toward minimalism that I realized I was affected by commercialism in a far more subtle way.

I truly and sometimes literally bought the idea that MORE was better and that success was defined by a large house, plenty of amenities, disposable income, and carefree consumerism. This is hard to admit,  because my own family has always been frugal and thrifty and in so many ways challenged the status quo. For me this dichotomy translated into a bargain-hunting version of shopaholic lifestyle. So I would try to emulate the lifestyle of excess in a second-hand, clearance rack, bargain basement way. It worked pretty well, I was able to find most of the latest and greatest at a fraction of retail. But I missed the fact that I was still buying the lie. 

More stuff doesn’t make us happier. It didn’t make me happier and it won’t make you happier. For most of us, more stuff, better stuff, nicer stuff and upgraded stuff does not make our existence easier or life burdens easier to bear. It simply adds more chaos, noise, and confusion to an already complicated existence. And it perpetuates this dangerous lie to our children that collections and accumulation leads to a better life. I am working hard to end this deception in our home and I know our lives will be better for it.

Are you ready to make a change? Read more about our journey to Minimalism. 

The Ultimate Guide to Rock-Painting

Welcome to the world of rock painting! My family is new to this hobby but we are happy to share what we’ve learned so far and hope you will comment with any ideas or products you’ve had success with!

First of all, if you haven’t heard much about rock painting or wonder what exactly we are talking about, check out this week’s article from Martha Stewart!

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know I am pursuing minimalism with a passion, and consequently I’m pretty choosy about starting new hobbies or collections. Rock painting fits PERFECTLY into the minimalism lifestyle. The best part of this hobby is that the art is shared instead of hoarded, and each rock is created to be a blessing to the community. I love that!

So let’s get to the specifics of rock painting, are you ready? Here is what you will need:

Rocks: “River Rocks” are usually what you want, because the surface will be nice and smooth to apply paint or markers. The Dollar Tree sells small bags of smooth black rocks that work well and are an easy way to start out. I’m looking for a good local source currently. These rocks on Amazon look like a good price for the weight. 

Paint: Most acrylic paint should work fine for painting rocks. We used whatever we have on hand for solid colors including craft paint, spray paint and leftover paint samples from the hardware store. My daughters can free-hand well with fine paintbrushes; but for someone like me, (who is artistically challenged) I needed something more user friendly. Which is why we ordered markers…

Markers: These markers by Uni-Posca are AMAZING for rocks! The color is so vibrant, the tip perfect for fine details and it’s pretty quick drying as well. The colors even layer well, with just a brief drying in between. This makes it easy to draw and write on even the smallest rocks.

Rock ID tag: If you are part of our Facebook page, you will want to tag your rock so that it can be shared and re-shared. Click here to download the labels for free! (For smaller rocks these will need to be trimmed to size).

Sealing Spray: The most important step is to waterproof your rocks before you leave them out in the weather. There are lots of clear spray products that will work for this, such as Mod Podge Spray or Krylon Clear Coat Spray. A few light coats should do the trick. You will be ready to hide just as soon as these have dried!

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. 

 

Friday Favorites March Edition

It’s been a while since I have done a Friday Favorites, but I do a have a few new fun things that we are loving lately. Things have been super busy for work and homeschooling and my personal blogging has been put on the back burner, but I don’t want to leave it there! I only have a few minutes to create this post, so let’s get right to it. This post will contain affiliate links for your convenience! Don’t worry, it’s not all stuff!

Organic Mascara: I asked for this Organic Mascara (Endlessly Beautiful) for Christmas and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a bit pricey for me, but I have a really hard time with mascara irritating my eyes and have tried many brands. This is a nice, basic black mascara that is by far the gentlest I have found (better than Neutrogena, Almay, and Physician’s Formula). This doesn’t have some of the amazing features of drug-store brands (no extra crazy length or super waterproof coating) but it goes on nicely and stays well. Mostly, I am happy that I am not rubbing it off, so if you have sensitive eyes, I would recommend it.

The God-Centered Mom PodcastI’m ridiculously late to the Podcast Party, but I’ve recently been catching up and mostly choosing minimalist topics. But my friend recommended The God-Centered Mom Podcast and it’s been fantastic. The handful of episodes I have listened to have been incredibly thought-provoking and relevant to where I am right now as a Christian mom and wife! I am still processing the last episode I heard about “Smiling Depression”. If you have ever struggled with shame or perfectionism I think this will really interest you. Thanks Susan for letting me know about The God-Centered Mom!

A Streamlined wardrobe. I am loving my simplified wardrobe. I have not made the transition to a true capsule wardrobe. However, I am trying to move in that direction slowly, with practical steps. I have cleaned out my closet in phases so that after each purge my clothing becomes more “me”, more simple, and more functional. I’m loving it. I have been forcing myself to experiment with monochromatic choices and it has been surprisingly helpful. Just another way of cutting out decision fatigue in my life! Specifically, I purchased a couple of these soft and comfy tees in grey and black and have been wearing them weekly. 

Just one purse. I had no idea the bags I owned were really complicating my life until I got rid of them. I knew that I had neck and back issues so I decided to eliminate all of my heavy bags (even though they tend to be *nicer*: Goodbye to my lovely leather Michael Kors tote!). Also, I realized the patterned bags were just to difficult to match (Vera Bradley, I’m looking at you). Plus switching bags by mood or color was causing the clutter to build up and receipts to become lost. Guess what? I don’t miss those bags a bit! I received a lightweight Thirty-One hipster for my birthday last summer and have used it every day. Recently, I decided to make one more handbag purchase keeping in mind my vow for embracing neutrals: the Houndstooth print Kava rope bag. The compartments of this bag have taken me a little time to get used to, but I LOVE how light and comfortable it is. It feels almost strangely light on my back compared to a shoulder bag with the same contents! It’s obviously a casual bag, but it was time for me to admit that 99.99% of my time I am dressing casually, and HELLO!? there is nothing wrong with that!

Our evening routine: For the first time as a mom, I feel like our evenings (and mornings for the most part) are truly productive and we have formed actual habits instead of forcing ourselves through painful routines that just never became second-nature. Although I can’t completely explain how this process has been crystallized I will tell you it has 100% been about simplicity and mindfulness and all began by eliminating excess in every room of our home. Just embracing the idea that motherhood does not have to be a series of complete failures and looking for actual solutions to the problems has been revolutionary for me! It has become blissfully simple to leave our house neat each morning and go to bed with everything (at least in the living areas) in their proper place. I will try to blog more about this later! Right now, I just really intend this to be an encouragement. As moms, sometimes we don’t need to hear over and over: “it’s normal, everyone struggles like this, don’t strive for perfection”. Sometimes we need to hear, “Being a mom is hard. Look for the best way to succeed as a mom and work for it”. That’s what I am telling myself from now on.

Ellie HolcombMusic used to be a huge part of my day…. when I had my days virtually to myself. Now there is so much NOISE that I often hesitate to add to the audible clutter by turning on anything. But I realized that I missed inspirational Christian music, so I was pulling out my old CDs from the 90’s. Then a friend on facebook suggested Ellie Holcomb (thank you Rebecca!) and I have got to tell you that I AM HOOKED. She has a beautiful voice and a wonderful message that I really relate to. Here is one of her music videos, but I have been listening to Ellie for free using Spotify! Click here for her Album Red Sea Road.

That’s it for now! Have a wonderful weekend!

Happy New Year

I am feeling very optimistic about 2017 for our family. I feel so grateful for the blessings of 2016 and I can truly say that I feel more at peace than I have in a long time about attacking this coming year.

If I had really been on the ball with blogging, I would have a series of posts lined up to greet the new year. A minimalist challenge, a meal planning calendar, a homeschooler’s guide to getting through winter.

If I were on the ball, I would be hosting a giveaway, sharing DIY essential oil projects, and working on my Instant Pot Recipe ebook (this book does not exist, except in my imagination).

Instead, I am catching up on sleep. I am cuddling my kiddos. I am putting away holiday decor with more excitement and glee than I have ever had in opening a gift. I am staring at my new planner with stars in my eyes, imagining what the next year could be. I’m making lists and I’m taking my time. I’m thinking about a theme word to guide my year. (I’m considering the word savor. Kind of weird but it jumped out at me. Any thoughts?).

A dear friend asked me what happened to push me towards minimalism. I can’t exactly put my finger on when the change happened. As I rebranded my blog in the spring, I renewed my passion for writing, shifted my efforts away from looking for deals and began searching for my niche as a writer. But the significant change happened somewhere in between my Target boycott and when I started researching ethical shopping practices. In the midst of the busy everyday of parenting and life, I was crying out to God, asking Him for direction. I was so tired of being so overwhelmed and feeling like such a failure as a wife and mother. I begged God to show me another way.

God answered me very clearly by saying, “Stop valuing stuff”.

Soon after that moment, I read the article “How Getting Rid of Stuff Saved My Motherhood” by Allie Casazza and I knew that this was my answer. My answer was minimalism, and next I had to find out how to become it myself. I then began reading furiously everything I could find on the topic and spending every spare moment emptying our home and studying minimalism as if my sanity and survival depended on it.

In this process, we have filled and emptied both cars many many times. Boxes of donations, from furniture, clothing, gadgets. Tons of papers have been recycled or shredded. We’ve pared down, and pared again, and realized we still aren’t done. We’ve parted ways with items both sentimental and senseless. We’ve worked hard, we’ve had a few moments of panic and we’ve seen the holidays come and go with less chaos than usual.

So that brings me to today, January 4th 2017. I’m still tired and overwhelmed. We haven’t finished the process, there is so much more to do. But I am so hopeful and can’t wait to see what this year brings. Here’s to 2017!

What’s in my Amazon Cart and mini-victories

I just churned out three posts for BargainBabe but I still can’t neglect my sweet spot here. I just have a few things to share but let me first say that a couple weeks ago I read The More of Less by Joshua Becker and it is incredibly positive and inspiring. (If you read Marie Kondo and thought that woman was spookily animistic, depressing and kind of in need of psychiatric help, you need to read this.) I just can’t say enough good things. I connected so much to this version of minimalism, with a greater purpose in mind.

moreofless

It’s only $1.99 on Kindle (back to $11.99, so sorry but still totally recommendable) so now is the moment! What’s more minimal than a digital copy, anyway? I still think the book is worth reading at $11.99 but I would probably suggest the library instead unless you are dying to spend the money. I will be watching for more deals on this!

Have we talked about capsule wardrobes? Sometimes I get confused about which blog I posted what in, but in case we haven’t touched on this, Courtney Carver does a fantastic job of explaining this with Project 333. I was fascinated to learn that Courtney delved into her first wardrobe challenge as she was re-vamping her entire lifestyle. Her ultimate goal was to cut the stress out of her life in order to help treat a chronic illness. I thought this was so interesting, as many of the articles you read on capsule wardrobes seem to be fixated on hunting down the perfect items to satisfy an arbitrary scavenger hunt of “necessary” pieces. I love that her perspective was so different and practical. Finding the perfect wool pencil skirt is not part of this equation. Making your closet a functional, simple and stress-free part of your life is.

qtq80-j9Od1k

I’m not ready to go to a true capsule wardrobe, because I really don’t want to perform a complete purge and also frankly right now I am not at my ideal weight or shape. But I am looking at making purchases with much more precision and thought. Towards that end, I’m very interested in a brand I recently noticed on Amazon because the pieces are exactly in line with my style, very inexpensive, and also made in America! I feel like it is probably too good to be true, so if anyone has any feedback on this please fill me in. The brand is FRUMOS; please let me know what you think!

I do have a few minimalist victories to share for this week. Because our progress hasn’t been incredibly speedy, I sometimes forget that things are becoming steadily better. Packing for an out of town trip, reminds me that YES we are getting there. This was our easiest car trip, even down to leaving the house completely picked up and ready to return to. Small victory, yes, but I am grateful. Thanksgiving was delightful.

I used to go shopping all the time. Multiple times a week. Sometimes every day. Things are different now and last weekend I had a list of returns and ISO items that needed to be fulfilled (actually needed, like allergy covers for the girls’ beds after a recent diagnostic test and shoes for my rapidly growing 10 year olds.) We went shopping as a family and I was able to find the needed items and purchase them with store credit. It was so nice to be able to focus and not be distracted by a gnawing urge to consume aimlessly. We found all the needed items and didn’t bring home a single thing that wasn’t on our list. A different sense of satisfaction than the brief thrill of bargain hunting, but it felt good.

I used to have a big, stocked gift closet with items for almost any occasion, but I have been minimizing it as steadily as possible. This week I was able to use several of the items as gifts and I think they are really going to be used and enjoyed by the recipients. As more items are disappearing from my once plentiful stock, I feel lighter and gain a closet back!

Also, a brief mention of Black Friday: we went out for the morning because my hubby and I had the opportunity to spend a little time together sans kids. (Rare, oh so rare). We had a nice romantic breakfast at Waffle House (because coffee and waffles without kids is poetry to my heart) and shopped a few stores. We found nothing of particular interest and I felt a strangely pleasant casual detachment from the entire process. Although we enjoyed talking and planning a bit for the holidays as we walked around and having fun with each other without having to answer 21 questions from the four year old, there was no NEED to spend.

spire

One last thing in my Amazon cart: I am super intrigued by the Spire, a new-ish fitness monitor that claims to improve your breathing and anxiety. Anyone have experience with this? I’m pretty tempted to try it. If it was wrist worn, I wouldn’t hesitate, but I’m concerned it might be problematic for me to wear. Any feedback?

Well, that’s all for now. This is the kind of post that I throw together after being away from the blog for too long, so I apologize for the random collection of thoughts. I hope your Thanksgiving Weekend is peaceful and sweet!

Attacking the attic, sentimental items, and Joshua Becker

I’ve really missed posting but I do have other blog commitments, a part time job, a full-time four year old, the daily challenge of homeschooling twin tweens, and am pretty deeply committed to 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Please don’t mistake my slow posting to a lack of commitment, that is far from true.

Here at the Prescott house, we are still deep in the minimalism journey and working on a daily/weekly basis toward our goals, which are slowly coming into better focus. I say “we” because my family has definitely gotten completely on board. They were never resistant but I do think a few months of hard-core dedication on my part has proven this is not a passing phase for me, and becoming more of a habit for all of us. gratitude-as-an-attitude-quote

As a quick aside, if you want to read some of my other blog posts around the web, here are my most recent:

Minimalism: Discovering My Maternal Optimism

9 Easy Ways to Jump-Start Your Minimalism Journey

12 Kid Gifts that Won’t Clutter Your Home

9 Unique and Meaningful Holiday Gifts for Adults

Notice a trend? Yep, I am still pretty obsessed with Minimalism. If you are interested in reading up on the topic, please start with the More of Less by Joshua Becker! I have enjoyed this book so much and wish I could share it with every one of my friends and family. If I owned it, I would lend it but I recommend the good ‘ole library for this. I had to wait awhile but it was worth it!

Yesterday we tackled the bulk of our attic and it was quite a job. My neck and back are consequently killing me from lugging boxes up and down those rickety steps. We delivered a car-full of donations and filled our trash can to the brim as well. We aren’t done.

We opened boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. The contents of some were total mysteries despite hastily scrawled words sharpied across the tops. What I discovered was that 99% of the items that once seemed attic-worthy only served to add to my work-load yesterday. Some of the items I had chosen to save were comical, some were pathetic and a few were very poignant. But almost none were saved. I took a couple photos, read a few old cards and showed my kids a news article or two. I threw away trophies, a walmart vest, heaps of letters and notes and every school paper I saved from college. I kept my high-school diploma even though it seems pointless and I kept some old antique books (which may also get culled eventually). I dumped a truly creepy box of old dolls which I once treasured, I snapped a photo of my old karate gi because most folks I know now can’t believe I was a green belt once upon a time. I discarded suitcases which had disintegrated from poor storage and chairs which had somehow become broken over time. An old lamp which I never liked even in it’s prime and a huge collection of books which I once enjoyed. I uncovered items given to us for our wedding shower, baby showers, Christmas, and a truly startling amount of vintage tea sets that I at some point packed away.

Now that I have delved into every category of our home and opened almost every old box, I want to share what I thought and felt dealing with nearly every single box, bag and knick-knack that I had previously packed away. It can be summed up in one word.

“why?”

Why did I save this and what was I hoping it’s value would be to me or anyone else?

Anything that served a useful purpose at one point has become useless or obsolete from being stored over time (and without climate-control). Instead of being donated to someone who would actually use it in it’s prime, it has lost value over time.

Anything of sentimental importance when packed away in such bulk loses it’s value and impact and just serves as emotional filler.

My sister and I exchanged dozens of sweet notes when I was in college. Yet when I found them yesterday, I really didn’t want to pour over each one. I just wanted to jump in my car and visit her and spend time with her NOW. I wanted to clear up my home and schedule so that I could have more freedom to spend time with my family today. Memories are special, but now is NOW. We aren’t promised tomorrow, and I don’t want yesterday’s burdens to cloud today’s focus.

So how will this new mindset affect my perspective going forward? I will post more about this in the future. Until then, embrace gratitude.

Step 3: Attack Problems

This is Step 3 of the Simplify Your Life Challenge! This is a general outline of the steps I am taking with my family to simplify our life and become more minimalist. If you haven’t seen them, please click through to Step 1 and Step 2 for more details!

Step 3: Attack Problems

This is where the rubber meets the road, guys. Prepare yourself, because this step is crucial and you can’t back down. This is the time to really recognize the “issues” your family struggles with and be totally honest with yourself. This is the step that will mainly focus on attitudes and how we approach parenting, and less on physical action. (Which means it could be the most difficult step of all). Keep reading, this is an important part of simplifying your life!

To attack the problems, you first need to recognize (or admit!) what they are. I made a list of some of our “problems” that I wanted desperately to address. I tried to stick to broad, overlying issues that were affecting our family’s “big picture”. This isn’t a time to list every petty complaint you have about your spouse or children, but a time to think about what small changes could make a monumental difference in the atmosphere of your home.

eliminatingexcess

Attitude & Chores:

I’m so sure that we are the only family ever to struggle with children who don’t want to do chores, right? That’s not a common issue at all! (heavy sarcasm) I was frustrated because there was constant competition between the twins with sharing the workload and almost complete belligerence from my four year old son when it came to simple tasks.
(Like, “Go wash your hands”. “No”.  Seriously? You’ve had to do this multiple times a day your whole life. You really want to fight this?! )
I knew we needed a smooth and full proof system, so I started asking friends and working on solutions.

Attitude & School:

How shocking that the second category was also related to attitude! (Perhaps, next I need to tackle the personal problem of excessive sarcasm). My older girls have the complex challenge of being identical twin girls who are also sharing the first-born role and descended from two high-stress strong (stubborn?) personality parents. Don’t you just feel like weeping for them? Seriously, I am fully convinced that my three children are going to do truly great things one day, but for now, where is the balance between loving them where they are and addressing pride issues that arise from chronic perfectionism? This has been one of the main difficulties with homeschooling and one I am fairly certain will persist in challenging me.

Attitude of Entitlement

Noticing a trend? I must begin by saying that this a family issue (well, I won’t blame my husband but I do fully implicate myself) not just something the kids deal with. Despite our very blessed life, we are all finding it difficult to have gratitude and temper our entitled expectations. I’m pretty sure this is also a universal issue among humans (and particularly Americans) but does that mean we should just accept it?

 

I will probably create more detailed posts about what we have done to improve the three areas above, but for now I will just promise you that the more you simplify your life, routines and living space, the easier it will be to actually deal with problems.

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I want to treat parenting like my life’s mission field, which means taking this job seriously and not allowing the mundane tasks of unloading the dishwasher and washing the clothes to take the place of the true battlefield that is parenting. This is about so much more than cooking and cleaning and carpools! This is about shaping the next generation and responding to God’s call on my life to glorify Him as a mom. For me, all the stuff has kept me from my calling….and I refuse to allow that to happen any more. I don’t think that minimalism is the cure to every ailment, but in my life it is making a profound difference.

Before I started down the minimalism path I felt so overwhelmed all the time that discipline issues came down to the quickest possible end to whatever was currently disturbing the peace. I had trouble actually addressing the root of problems. The more I simplify, the easier it is to focus on the big issues. We’re a work in progress, for sure, but at last I finally feel like the progress is moving forward!

I encourage you to ask yourself, what is preventing you from fulfilling your calling? What is keeping you from the greater good? Is it stuff, or commitments, or money, or work, or debt? Is it selfishness, jealousy, or pride?

 

Lessons as a New Minimalist

I’m tentatively thinking of myself as a minimalist now. It feels very strange, as if I am wearing someone else’s shoes. But I feel like I have spent enough time to warrant the title at this point. And I remind myself that minimalism is a choice I have made, not something that requires years of education, special equipment or a particular skill set.

Don’t worry, I’m not going around introducing myself to new people as a “minimalist” or ordering business cards or anything. I’m just telling myself, “it’s different now. I’m going in a new direction.” And I know this change is for real.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned a few months into my minimalism journey, in no particular order. (By the way, I used to roll my eyes at the term “journey” but now I sheepishly admit, a journey I am on and there isn’t really a better way to describe it). If it sounds snobby, please forgive me. There are times when the best words sound obnoxious, and this is one of those times.

  1. Yes, I really am materialistic. I had no idea the hold my stuff had on me, until I started to let it go. I’m still materialistic but admitting it is helping me to make better choices for the future.
  2. Our house isn’t small. I had spent so much time trying to squeeze “stuff” into my little house, I had forgotten how much space there actually is here. 1400 sq. ft. is really not that shabby for five people and one beagle.
  3. Working towards a positive goal is so much easier than giving yourself restrictions. All the times I have told myself to “stop shopping” have been difficult because the bad habit wasn’t replaced with something positive. Now that I am working toward a specific goal, I don’t miss shopping (yet). “Stop wasting money and filling the house with more and more stuff” just wasn’t working for me as a goal. “Focus on the important things and eliminate the things that get in the way” is a motto I can stick with. Maybe semantics, or maybe the secret elixir of life?less-to-clean
  4. Organizational tips can become traps. I was constantly trying to organize and constantly struggling. I had believed so much false logic in regard to organizing and I didn’t even realize it. One of my main mistakes was storing things in multiple spots. Since we had “limited space” I thought I should utilize every nook and cranny even if it meant spreading out the junk so that nothing was easy to find and I had no idea how much we actually owned.

    Then I proceeded to spend time every day searching for items that I wasn’t sure were even there to begin with. Making my life constantly frustrated.

  5. Allowing clutter is just another kind of procrastination. I am not sure where I originally read this statement but it has really stuck with me. For multiple reasons, we tend to let clutter build up even knowing we will eventually deal with it (or at worst others will deal with it). Whether it’s from guilt (“I never should have bought this”) or dread (“I’ll never really be able to get this taken care of”), we can be paralyzed. But I want to enjoy my home NOW. So no more waiting and no more putting it off for later. Seizing the day and acting can be very empowering and I love that I’m finally DEALING with issues rather than burying my head in the sand.
  6. Just because I love it, doesn’t mean I have to re-create it at home. This is something I never realized I was doing but it has been another light-bulb moment. I made choices of purchases and preferences rather randomly, based on a vague notion of re-creating things I enjoyed outside of my home. If I like eye-catching colors, I wanted them all over. If I enjoyed visiting a home with tons of tiny details, I thought maybe that’s what my house needed too. What I ended up with was a busy, eclectic combination of unrelated styles with no common thread. I have finally realized that I can go outside to enjoy nature, go to a museum to enjoy art; I could go to Cracker Barrel to peruse random collections of dusty collectibles, for Pete’s sake. I do not have to have each of these aesthetics in my home! My home is about creating a restful space for my family to re-charge so that we can go out into the world again. That takes a lot of pressure off me and helps me make decisions with clarity. 

I also have one item I would like to recommend for Friday Favorites. This is one of the cheapest diffusers I have found and we have been very pleased with it at only $12.99! Check it out here via my affiliate link!

That’s it for now! Keep simplifying, friends!

Minimalism, menus and buying in bulk

Right about when I started my official “minimalism” conversion, the much-awaited Costco opened up near me. I had been waiting for this moment for YEARS. Remember, I am a Shopaholic at heart. I was afraid Costco was going to become a major stumbling block in my journey, but that hasn’t actually been the case. In fact, buying in bulk has actually helped me simplify our meals. I never thought of cooking in a minimalist way, but now that I am devouring minimalist literature like there is no tomorrow, I’m finding that nearly every aspect of a simplified life appeals to me. With three kids, a part time job, homeschooling and all the details that come with mom-life, I’ve simplified our menu significantly. Check out some of my easy meal ideas here and here. I want to share a few ways that buying in bulk has actually helped my kitchen become more streamlined, efficient and enjoyable to my family.

I should preface this by saying that my children, especially my girls are remarkable open-minded and cheerful in their diet. All three of my kids try whatever they are given. I know that isn’t typical so some of my ideas will not apply to everyone. If you are dealing with a picky eater, you have my sympathies. My kids eat like champs but none of them ever sleep past 7 AM, if that makes you feel any better.

Also, I would like to say sorry I haven’t included any of the prices. I will try to add this info in the future for a post update.

  1. A signature salad: We have never eaten as much salad as we have this year and it’s totally due to bulk-buying. First, we buy the huge container of Organic Baby Spinach at Costco, the huge bag of Craisins, the huge bag of croutons, the huge bag of bacon bits, and we found a salad dressing we all love: Vidalia Onion Vinegrette (we are still using up this dressing from Sam’s Club, but I would like to try a similar one from Costco next). We mix the salad up in a big bowl and the girls have gotten great at gauging the perfect amount of each add-on. Since we always have these on hand, it’s great to always have a healthy side ready to pull out. (Note: sometimes we throw in other veggies or strawberries or cashews. The nice thing is that the base “recipe” is very simple and shelf-stable. I realize the dressing could be healthier, but I’m striving for small steps. Eating a big pile of organic spinach is still a win, in my book. Also, I’m convinced that when a salad is properly tossed in a large bowl, much less dressing is used.)
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  2. Beans & Rice: Sorry to mention it again, but it is still a favorite for the Prescotts and it is so crazy easy in the Instant Pot. At Costco, we can buy pretty much all the ingredients in bulk and just have that recipe ready to make any given day. We have loved having a HUGE bag of black beans and a HUGE bag of rice on hand all the time. minimalism-and-buyingbulk
  3. Parfaits as a main course: I totally get that this doesn’t appeal to everyone, but for my kids it’s like they’ve won the lottery. From their response, you would think we were giving them ice cream sundaes for dinner when it’s actually: vanilla yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and/or bananas and granola. We really like the big double bags of granola from Costco and they are insanely cheap compared to granola at the regular grocery store.
  4. Limited Options: One more mindset-shift that fits in nicely with minimalism and bulk-buy is limiting options. Now, I know this sounds like a negative thing, but please bear with me. As parents, most of us bend over backwards providing for our children. We want them to have the best of everything that they might want or need and we want them to have all the choices in the world. One thing I have really been working on in an effort to cultivate contentment in our home is limiting our options.
    Examples: instead of having crackers and cheese, tortilla chips with salsa, potato chips, popcorn and pretzels all in my pantry at once, I am aiming for one main snack for the week (or shopping period). Instead of filling the fridge with all the veggies and fruits, we can maybe have pineapple and carrots this week, apples and broccoli next week. (The exception is bananas, we try to always keep those on hand for smoothies and snacking). This is something new for us, but so far it’s working pretty well and there is less produce wasted. This is so much easier than constantly feeling like I need to provide an entire buffet & salad bar of healthy options for the kids at all times. (When I tried to do this, produce was becoming so wasted and I was exhausted from prepping food or guilty when I handed them a Popsicle instead of prepping the rapidly-expiring food. Live and learn.)

chalkboard-magnetic-menuOne last quick thing and it’s an affiliate link for a product I have really loved having! We ordered this HUGE chalkboard style magnetic menu for our fridge and we have really enjoyed it. It totally helps me to have a cute visual reminder of the menu plan for the week and I’ve used the grocery list spot a lot as well. The magnet is super strong and it goes so well with our other chalkboard items in the kitchen.

What are your thoughts on bulk buying and minimalism?

 

Minimalism Journey Ramblings

When I re-branded my blog a few months ago, I wasn’t 100% sure where my posts would take me. I knew that I wanted to write and that I loved connecting with others through blogging. I was determined that this blog wouldn’t fade into the past (like so many have before), and that I would stick with this project. I painstakingly chose the title “Chasing Santee” after a place that is incredibly dear to my heart. I wrote the tagline “sweet and simple things of life” because I knew that’s where my heart was and where I hoped to take the blog. At that moment, though, I had no idea how I would get there or where Chasing Santee would lead.

At the time, I felt like my “niche” was shopping and finding deals. It had been such a big part of my life and a hobby I had enjoyed for a very long time. It was something I was good at, which I sometimes admitted sheepishly. I didn’t really love the fact that my talent was tied so closely to material things, and really didn’t line up with my personal values.  Even though it didn’t perfectly mesh with the “simple things”, I kept sharing the deals as I hunted them down. This was what my audience wanted, I assumed. This was what I enjoyed?

In an unanticipated metamorphosis I could hardly follow, I began to realize my perspective was changing. Slowly, at first, then much more akin to a rock slide, I began to reject some of the ideas I had been repeating to myself for years. “That purchase will make my life easier”. “This system will improve our day to day struggles”. “If only I had __________ I could better enjoy ____________.” I started to feel like I was finally waking up from a hazy dream where I just wasn’t seeing clearly. One minute I was stressed, overwhelmed and defeated. The next minute I was committed to becoming a minimalist.I was optimistic and confident. I can hardly imagine a more unexpected change.

When I started the Simplicity Challenge, I really wanted to call it the minimalism challenge. But I felt like that was too drastic, too extreme, and that maybe my readers would doubt my sincerity.  I was afraid to commit, knowing once I typed it in cold hard Helvetica 12, I wouldn’t be able to go back.  It felt like a decision too big for me, almost like moving my entire family across the country. Were we ready for this?

To say my mindset was transformed does not seem like an over-statement. I want to be authentic as a writer, so I truly try to live out my thoughts of changes of direction before writing. So you can know that I have been pondering this for awhile. Is it too much to say that God led me in this direction? Is it off-base to feel that by changing in this way I am closer to the heart of Scripture?

I know that only time will tell or prove that I have experienced a true change of heart. I am in no way preaching, or even suggesting this is the right change for anyone but myself. However, I am stunned at the weight that I have felt lifted in the last month. I never imagined a shift in perspective would change me so much.

If I were a really good blogger, I would have been taking before & after pics and vlogging every day and making tons of posts from each step of this process to help encourage everyone and motivate myself. But the truth is, I’m slamming through this process so quickly the thrift store can hardly keep up with me. I haven’t taken before pictures and I am not ready to post after pictures. I haven’t really made it to the point where I am able to give advice (but I will try anyway). I’m moving so quickly that I am a little dizzy.

My ultimate goal is to get our home to the point that I can photograph every nook and cranny of it. That I can know what we have and where we have it. That I can know the things we have kept are being used or bringing joy to us. That our possessions are actually getting us closer to our goals as a family. That we aren’t being hindered or held back by upkeep and cleaning. I want to be able to open my home at the drop of a hat and not feel that my stuff is in the way of people. Yes, in the past my stuff has been in the way of me fully loving my family and my friends and expressing the love of God to strangers.

Let me repeat this: In the past: jump ropes, crumb-filled toasters, building blocks, dog-eared books, tangles of costume jewelry, scratched CDs, dusty vases, stacks of photos, piles of unworn clothes, all of these THINGS have interfered with my opportunities to LOVE PEOPLE. And my heart is really broken about this.

To be continued