Focus Time

My phone is my lifeblood.

Fact. Truth. Sadness. Reality. But, for most of us these days, we are incomplete without our phones. They help put our daily puzzle pieces together, get us out of binds, solve a problem in seconds flat, and connect us to people that we might not otherwise be able to find the time to connect with. Add a thousand other uses for a cell phone, but you get the point.

On the other side of that coin, we often feel guilty for our phone use. Sometimes this is totally legit; we should be more active members of the world around us, specifically when it relates to our kiddos and loved ones. I can feel my body shift when I hunch myself over and bend my fingers to type out a message. And don’t get me started on texting while driving.

But, I’ve come to realize that we shouldn’t feel that immense guilty burden simply for our phone use. Personally, I think it’s the fact that I am not intentional with the time spent with my phone – or anywhere else, really.

Think of every time you have a question, or realize that your child needs new pants, or something breaks, or you wonder what the news is, or simply find yourself board and you grab your phone and instantly start searching. You open every email, article, or link in hopes of reading it…some time. How often do we get back to these ideas and, then, clear them away?  

I could consider myself an informational hoarder. I currently have 31 tabs open in Safari. Blog posts. Recipes. Organizational prompts (that should speak to my psyche right now). Articles. So many Christmas gift ideas. A closet organizer and search for a new bed for our girls’ room. The new Disney+ lineup. A writing group I belong to. Home DIY blog posts. Facebook. The local news. Resources I checked out while at a conference for work recently. Two grocery orders. A Black Friday ad that I have no intention of using. A new rug for our bedroom.

There’s a lot of hope in those searches. In perusing them, I can also see a desperately juggling mother who only has enough time for quick spurts of inspiration only to be pulled back to reality. “I shouldn’t be looking this up right now.” I (and many of us) spend free time going back and seeing what we can work on.

Let me repeat that. Our. Free. Time. Work. On. Those words are true and deliberate.

What is our free time meant to do for us, particularly as parents? Isn’t it meant to be time to recharge, to either get a task (or two) done and then have a moment of “me” time to feel whole again? At least, that’s the hope. Have you ever spent an entire nap time going down the online rabbit hole only to look up and see a child standing there; nap complete, mama frustrated.

Which scenario do you see in your life more? For me, it’s the rabbit hole. Sure, I usually do have to actually get something done, like an online grocery order or something, but it takes far longer than it should because I tend not to focus just on that one thing. Cell phones are turning us into multitaskers who instead of task completers.

This leads me to a new challenge for myself. You may assume that I’m going to say “No phone use…” but that defeats the purpose. I do, actually, need to get a task or two done. Like, I legitimately need to pull the trigger on the purchase of the closet organizer and a bed for my daughter’s room. But, it’s impossible with all the other thoughts going through my brain via my phone.

So, my ultimate goal is, with everything, to simplify. When it applies to my phone use, it’s to reduce the outside distractions. To only use my social media once a day, unabashedly, but then to ensure that my other use is during one of those “free times” and with a specific goal in mind. FOCUS TIME.

If you’re doing this along with me, it might help to make a prioritized short list of the things you “need” to do. For me, it’s ordering the bed and closet organizer. Then, to check and stick to our Christmas list before searching for a good price and ordering.

This alone should shave off all that extra time of looking things up only to see them pile onto the open tab grave site. 

I’d love to hear – what’s your biggest struggle when it comes to your phone use? What’s one step you can try to help battle this issue?

My Minimalist Inspiration

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If you were to walk into my house at this very moment, you’d find yourself awash in lots of clutter. Piles of our 4-year-old’s artwork and my to-be-filed mail. Two (yes two) rolled-up rugs that will find a place to live in our basement when we get it painted and cleaned for the kiddos as a playroom. Toys…toys…and more toys. Baskets full of clothes (and even piles of clothes near our kids’ overflowing rooms). Oh, and a wayward cat or two napping.

The cats are fine. The rest? Not s’much.

So, I currently consider myself far from a minimalist individual.

Does that mean that I don’t WANT to live a more minimal, simplified lifestyle? Well, no. Rather the opposite, actually.

When I originally wrote this post, all of my mental energy was being put towards packing up my library at school and finishing inventory. Well, and still wrapping my head around the curve ball change we’ll be facing come fall (I’m being moved to the high school library which means our son will be heading to a different elementary school), if I’m honest. As of this moment, though, I’m able to decompress and allow myself to finally looking forward to some relaxation and fun with the family this summer – as I think we ALL need it.

But, I’m still feeling this gentle pull towards minimalism. Maybe it’s an urge to rid myself and my family of its extra trappings. Maybe it’s an inclination to avoid so much consumerism. Maybe I’m just FED UP WITH THE CLUTTER. Whatever the reason, slowly but surely, I hope to start doing some meaningful purging this summer. And this isn’t out of a sudden nesting or burst of energy; I’m still lacking in motivation most of the time. That’s why I say “slowly but surely.”

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite resources that help me find the mental energy (which is even more important than the physical sometimes, isn’t it??) I need to start this journey.

Pick Up Limes – A good intro to both minimalism and this YouTube channel would be to check out the Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism and 10 Questions to Ask Yourself. Between her positive, soothing persona and realistic tips, I could watch and rewatch her videos a zillion times. Not kidding!

One of my favorite things about Sadia’s tips and conversations is that they’re not negative. They don’t really touch upon the whole “Americans consume too much!” complaint. No, she addresses instead how you – not your family, your partner, your kids, but YOU – can make your own changes to better your own life in this way. So. Positive. My favorite.

Naturally Thrifty Mom – This is a YouTuber whom I find to be honest and inspirational – she’s endlessly patient as a mom and shares SO much of her life. I just don’t know how she does it sometimes, y’know?

While she’s trying to cut back on both her family’s clutter and reliance on packaging, she keeps it real and still buys “normal stuff” (if by normal you consider vegan and organic snacks normal – which I kind of do when they’re, like, alternatives to goldfish crackers and that sort of thing).

KonMarie – I’ve had this book for awhile and it’s honestly caused me both inspiration and some consternation. While the author believes that one must essentially surrender 100% to the suggestions in her books, I’ve learned to take the things that totally ring a bell in my brain and make me nod in agreement and kinda leave the rest. I dunno, maybe it’s why I haven’t been able to do a full-on decluttering; maybe she’s right.

But so far the main idea I’ve gleaned and brought with me is the idea that the only items we should hold onto are ones that serve a purpose or “spark joy.” Totally legit.

And I also remind myself that this is actually a book that has been translated, so the tone is one of an entirely different culture. Always good to recognize and acknowledge.

Exploring Alternatives – Seriously, with high-quality videos like this on YouTube, who needs a TV anymore? While my family and I don’t strive to give up 90% of our worldly possessions and travel, living a life of minimalism, the couple behind this channel (and the folks they meet) are truly inspirational.

That’s one of the things I love about inspiration. We can take what we want out of it. This channel provides just that.

Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home – I chatted about Bea’s lifestyle several years ago here on the blog, but find myself still completely in awe over what she’s done with her family. Again, while I’m not about the “extreme” side of this lifestyle, there’s tons of inspiration (and lessons) to gather from Johnson’s choices.

Becoming Minimalist – I’ve been following this site for awhile now and it always seems to offer just the right words of clarity when I’m at my most overwhelmed. I love that his weekly roundup newsletter offers a wide variety of thoughts from the internet in addition to their own writers’ best stuff – which even further “simplifies” my life. 😉

Becoming Minimalist really discusses all aspects of the minimalist movement, as it were, with everything from the grand concept of the thing (including an entire mindset shift) down to small tips to simplify your life and consume less. There’s quite literally something for everyone.


So, here’s the thing. I hate to create a numbered to-do list for myself because when I force myself to clean something (and find myself lacking motivation), the job is 10x more of a chore. However, a bit of mental organization and a general guideline is good for accountability and I can pick and choose when motivation strikes in that certain area.

– Go through (and purge) the basement moving boxes. We moved in November. There are still tons of boxes in the basement we haven’t really found necessary…which tells us they may not be something we need to have, y’know?

– Cut back on toys. I’d like to determine a percentage of toys to get rid of (since the kids don’t use a huge amount of them). Not sure I could get rid of ALL of the toys like some parents, although the concept is admirable. But there’s clearly a couple of big issues bubbling with our toy situation, so beyond a purge, an entire mindset shift will be needed. Fingers crossed, folks!

– Konmarie my clothes. While I may not use this process for every single item in the house, I do want to start with my own clothes. It’s tough being pregnant and wanting to keep things for post pregnancy (and “normal” me), but clothing is a glut of an issue in our house. And who knows? Maybe it’ll be the inspiration I need to Konmarie ALL our stuff!

Oh, and we’re planning on having a garage sale so anything we think folks will find a use for will go to that (or a local thrift store). So finding the balance between wastefulness (and hurting the earth!) and actually doing away with what we don’t need is a challenge, but there are a few ways to do just that.

How about you guys? Is anyone else looking to pare back and minimize a bit of their stuff (and life)? I’ve read so much that says that the less things we own, the more clarity we have, so I’m really hoping this is true! Drop me a line if you’ve had any success with decluttering/minimalism in general and how you’ve stuck to it!

Why We Couldn’t Do the Tiny House Thing

It’s intriguing. It’s resource-saving. It’s simplifying. It’s even hip.

And there’s no way that we could ever attempt it.

The tiny house movement is a fad (there, I said it) in which people buy or build a super small building and make it work as their one-and-only living space. We’re talking 200 square feet spaces, guys. It’s kind of like taking a tiny NYC apartment and proving that you could live in it any old place. Sure, in the city it may seem worth it…okay, not even in the city does it seem worth it. At least, not for our family of four humans and three cats.

Even if it would be the best excuse ever to get well-meaning relatives to stop. Buying. All. The. Stuff. Tiny just isn’t viable or sustainable in the long-term.


Currently, we’re living in a house just over 1,000 square feet. Some might say we’re already living in a tiny house, but I’d argue that it’s more of a small house.  Not bursting at the seams. Not “a hut in Africa” small. But cozy and definitely cramped, especially with a 3-year-old who takes to announcing “I’m Kid Flash!!!” zooming from room to room. As cute as he is, it gets old.

The idea behind tiny house living is an admirable one. In response to the mentality behind McMansions that led to the housing market collapse, people thought, “That’s gross materialism, plain and simple.” So, what’s the opposite? Gross simplification.

As you know, I’m all about living a simpler lifestyle. The benefits are immense. If we COULD wrap our heads around the idea of living in a tiny house, maybe this blog post would be a very different discussion. But, as it is, I’m a realist. And a mother, at that. Four years ago, I know I thought, “Well, if we don’t find another house, this one will suit us just fine in the long-term.” I was wrong.

I couldn’t have foreseen the special, what-the-heck-is-in-his-Wheaties kiddo who would bless our family. He is SUPER-CHARGED a lot of the time. Kid’s got spunk and energy for days. The only good our tiny house is to him currently is as a race track: the fact that our layout offers a misshapen circle to race is his favorite. Dining room, kitchen, living room…dining room, kitchen, living room….

No, a kid like this deserves a larger space. Sure, we could do a tiny house on a HUGE plot of land, but we spend far less time outside during the winter than we do inside. (Maybe I should amend that.) And, since winter is *usually* a pretty lengthy season in these parts, there’s a lot of energy that can get stored in a 3-year-old body. That energy inevitably explodes in sometimes disastrous ways.

So, while we by no means long for a McMansion or even a Happy Meal version, we’d like to upgrade to a reasonably larger space. At least one that allows for more inside play space (along with a bit more outside, too) but still small enough that we know our kids, if you catch my drift. Then, in purchasing a house rather than wasting materials on a new build, and by upgrading in eco-friendly ways, I’m hoping that our footprint will still be markedly less than the big beasts.

As with all things in life, moderation is key.

Simply Spooky

Halloween last year was pretty darn awesome. The fact that it’s on a Saturday this year could be a good thing…or not. We’re hoping that it will, at the very least, make for a more relaxed day. We can visit the grandparents early in the day to show off the little guy’s costume, maybe do some baking or movie-watching, not have to rush for trick-or-treating (although we’re only going to hit a handful of houses, like last year), then finish the night with some hot cider or cocoa and popcorn. I mean, really, what’s better than that?

Of course with baby stuff going on, my brain has been all over the place lately. I keep telling myself to get going on the little guy’s costume…then work on something for the baby’s room, or a writing project, or planning for school…and it doesn’t get done. It’s time to change that! I’m sick of having half-done projects EVERYWHERE. But, we’re hoping to simplify stuff to the point of “that wasn’t so bad”, if you catch my drift.
When Hadman was a baby, he was a giraffe. (He was only 3 months, so it wasn’t even really a costume as much as just an outfit and we didn’t necessarily “do” anything for it.) The following year, we got a Snoopy stuffed animal and did the Charlie Brown thing, which was pretty rad. Then, last year he was an apple. Clearly he’s starting to have a say in what he gets to be.

So, what did choose this year? Unfalteringly, he selected…ghost. The classic ghost. 

I remember stories of my big brother tripping over his sheet ghost costume a million times on the steps, and having the eye holes shift downward while trying to walk. Sounds like a good time for all, right?

Let me just say: Thank you, Pinterest!!! I ended up finding this spooky (and safe!) inspiration from Parenting magazine, and was hooked…


Not only is it WAY safer, but it’s adorable, classic, and kitschy…just like our kid! 

So, I’m doing it a bit differently. I’ve assembled a thrift store ladies’ white long-sleeved t-shirt for the base (going to trim and hem the arms), black felt to make the mask (which I can’t wait to add to his dress-up box), black (and white) sneakers, and even a pair of black and white striped leggings.

I may switch those leggings for black sweat pants if it’s cold (please…no…snow). Here’s what I’ve got left to do: cut out the mask, make the white hat (probably from an old t-shirt), and alter a white pillowcase to fit comfortably over top (if I can find a reasonably-priced pillowcase; seriously, how are they more expensive than the frickin’ sheets?!). If there’s time, I may get some gauzy tulle to go over top and some white gloves, but I’m not worried about the small stuff.  

Oh, and we’ll be putting out our jack o’lantern and painting a teal pumpkin like last year to let folks know we have allergen-free goodies. This year, we’ll be handing out more of the glow-in-the-dark teeth and spider rings from last year, comic books the Dorky Daddy has stocked up on, and I DID grab a couple of bags of Surf Sweets goodies. I wrote a piece for them awhile back and am in love with their products AND ethical, inclusive practices! (Plus, I can trade out some of the candy Hadman gets with these and he won’t know the difference. Candy = candy.)

So, slowly but surely, it’s coming together. I love hearing the ideas that kiddos (and parents) come up with for costumes every year. What’re your little ghosts and goblins going as this year?

Or, better yet, what was YOUR favorite costume ever? I loved the year my mother switched my costume, last-minute, from a princess to the Tooth Fairy (since I was missing 3 or 4 front teeth at the time). She’s super creative that way.

The Organizational Snowball

Sometimes the most empowering achievements in life are the simplest, aren’t they?

As you guys know, we’ve been doing plenty of organizing, purging and simplification around our humble abode lately. Some are big (why hello, there, basement), others are what I call “steps” (I’m attacking my side of the office a little at a time), and still others are a quick one-and-done attack.

Today, I’m sharing one that’s made a big impact, although you wouldn’t know it by walking around my house. I feel like playing the “colder, hotter” game with you all. No, seriously, keep looking. Not in the living room. Nope, cold, stay out of the kitchen. Dining room? Warmer. Getting warmer.

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HOT! Bingo. That’s our dining room sideboard. Or server. Or console. (Not really, too big for that.) Thingamajigger that holds china and other random sundries.

We fell in love with its ’20s/’30s vibe when we were in Vermont on our honeymoon. We filled it with gorgeous china (the stuff we use once a year…maybe), decor stuff, and…crap. Crap, crap and, just for fun, a touch more crap.

It had reached the point where the top two drawers were so full that I’d pull them open a couple of inches, toss an item back in, then close it as quickly as possible (pushing pretty hard to jam it shut). Just. So. Cluttered. But, those were the only drawers that I used with any regularity. (Remember: extemporaneous china in the bottom drawers/cabinets.)

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We’ll just put you through one of the drawers’ craziness.

I had a dream of purging and making one side into decor-type stuff and the other one into a kidcentric spot. Turns out, it wasn’t too hard. And I need bigger dreams.

Just had to recycle a couple dozen super old magazines. That seems to be the theme with my house purging; magazines multiply.

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I mean, really. Just check out that kid side. It has made our summertime projects and “lessons” (a couple of workbooks) so pleasant. Well, the workbooks are pretty fun, anyway, but being organized has made it such a simple, more enjoyable thing.

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Aaaaand the other side. My grandmother’s dictionary, some thank you notes, random decor stuff…and a cat toy that we’ve gotta keep in hiding. Ultra special, that dangly toy.

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Aside from stuff that got tossed, here are things that either a) went in the basement (rafia, red and white ball garland that I LOVE using at Christmastime, homemade pennant garland, some random hardware, hardly-used trays) or b) off to Goodwill (frames!).

I utilized my good ol’ tips of 1) usage: figuring out what still has a purpose (sorry, old magazines), 2) placement: what actually needs to be there, in the dining room area and 3) getting creative: using organizational tools in different ways (a silverware organizer turned into our art supply caddy). Super helpful, super simple.

Somehow, heading to the basement after seeing such an organized little space was the kickstart I needed to dig in down there. And, the rest is history. Er. Mostly done. (We’re having the walls painted this weekend, then can move the stuff back to have an ultimately super organized space after that. Squeal!)

So, there you have it. The snowball that started the avalanche of purging. Here’s what’s up for the next few weeks:

– Finishing the basement stuff
– Office stuff (and possibly even moving ALL my stuff outta there…we’ll see)
– Hadman’s closet
– My clothes 

Anyone else using summer as an excuse to organize crap? Or are you just, y’know, having fun like most people? 😉 Do tell!  

Basement Organization – Home Improvement Crap

Welcome to “Basement Organization, Pt. II – Battle of the Clutter”!! I worked my belly off during the little man’s nap time (seriously, I had him rubbing my aching baby bump when he got up) to organize the stuff that Dave had pulled off our shelving units over the weekend. We have one unit that’s dedicated to paint (which used to house paint, but we had a “tipping over” incident) and another that has tools, electrical stuff and other odds-and-ends things for around the house.

Oh, and there was other random crap cluttering up the space.

Seriously. This is what we were dealing with when I walked into the basement:

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Just lotsa wrong goin’ on. Stuff got moved. Stuff got tossed. It was fun. And my tips from our first weekend organizing came in super handy. Like stuff with like stuff, FTW! 

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Hey, look! An old TV. (Which will replace our current old TV when it kicks the bucket. Not kidding.)

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The stuff on the TV has actually since been taken care of, and the box on the right is stuff for Dave to go through. Otherwise, tools on the bottom two shelves, odds and ends organized by “type” (electrical stuff, cleaning chemicals, sundry tapes, safety gear) on the top two. 

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Since we’ll be painting the rest of the floor (Dave started awhile back) and hopefully the walls, this stuff is all going to have to be pulled out and moved, but I needed to get it out from the middle of everything. They don’t look it, but they’re totally organized – interior, primers, Drylok, and exterior. My favorite semi-gloss trim paint lives on the shelving…because it deserves it.

So, how’re we doin’? I need to turn my attention back to the clothing situation and organizing around the washer/dryer area, plus we’ve got a Lowe’s trip to make (I’d like another shelving unit to organize kiddo stuff and maybe totes and some spray paint for a freebie I recently scored).

One thing I’ve realized is the tumbling dominoes of organization rule. The more space that opens up (little by little), I realize that it loosens me up mentally to purging and storing stuff from other areas. Like, I’ve got some stuff from the garage that I’d rather have inside than in an outside space, and our office is in dire need of decluttering. This doesn’t mean shuffling crap we don’t need around, but giving serious consideration to what’s needed and how often it’s used, then storing appropriately.

I’m super inspired by small living and mindful living websites and blogs lately, so that also helps in my mindset. Anyone else trying to live a more fulfilling life with less?

Christmas in July

My mother had a tendency to be early…for everything. I kind of agree, and get anxious when we don’t leave early (or, God forbid, when we leave late!). But, one thing I remember her saying a lot over the years is that when we were kids she liked to get her Christmas shopping done by sometime in September. If she could do it before school started, all the better.

The poor woman can’t do that anymore since it’s like pulling teeth to get lists out of all four kids, spouses and grand kids. I get it. We’re annoying. 😉

But, this year, I’m hopping on the “the earlier, the better” bandwagon. With a second little one coming mid-November, my usual Black Friday fun with my sister will have to be skipped. Heck, a lot will probably get skipped. But, Chrismas fun? NEVAAAAHHHH!!

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We actually have a stash that we add to throughout the year for monkey, anyway, so we’ll be inspecting that to see what, if anything, we need to round it out. (Figuring out his size will be a challenge for clothes.) Dave and I have a tradition of taking a Saturday to shop together for a couple of special little guy gifts from Santa and getting coffee or lunch together, so we’ll most likely drop him off to the grandparents and take the little one with us to do that again.

Otherwise, I’m already searching the interwebs for deals. There are a handful of things we need to buy for the baby, so my eyes keep wandering, but my focus is CHRISTMAS SHOPPING. Lots of online sources are touting Black Friday deals in July, so I’m hoping to stock up and get some stuff off my list sooner rather than later.

So, here’s my strategy:

Paring down. Since my side of the family is doing the “only buy stuff for the kiddos”, that cuts back on the number of people we need to buy for. We will still always get something for all of our parents since they do SO much for us. I’m also hoping for “quality over quantity” for Dave and I, too, and will be setting a smaller limit than usual for ourselves and the kiddos. They’ll still get stuff, but a reasonable amount, especially considering that our extended family will be getting them stuff, too.

Infant gear. We’re not buying a ton of stuff because, well, we have a lot. However, because Hadley was a summer newborn (and some of the stuff has worn out), we’ll be in need of some new clothes. In advance, we’ll be getting some new cloth dipes, a new carseat, and some cold weather essentials. However, we won’t need a million outfits because that’s what we’ll get (and ask for) for Christmas, along with a couple of other baby items.

Keep things flexible and open. It seems the closer to “Santa time” you get, the more the list grows, doesn’t it? The week of Christmas, it’s common for a kiddo to add one thing they RRREEEEEEAAAALLY want. Hadman was so all-over-the-place in the past that it didn’t matter if Santa missed something here or there. This year, I’m asking early, working on the list *together*, and getting stuff early. However, this is why Dave and I have a shopping date closer to December — just in case there’s an item that we’d really like him to have or that he adds.

Organization! Lists are the only way I sleep at night, I swear. So, I’ve got a Google Doc of my list and everyone who needs to be gifted. (I’m also going to have a list of the to-do’s as far as pre-baby planning and when we get closer to the holiday, too.) Seriously, savior.  

Do as much online as possible. Sure, I could schlep out with the 3-year-old to try to buy full-priced stuff in the stores…but isn’t there a better way? Yep. Shopping during naptime in your sweat shorts with free shipping and pretty decent deals? I’d call that better!

Am I the only one who is planning for (and starting in on) Christmas now? Can you blame me, though, really? 😉 Honestly, if I don’t start planning now, I’m going to put off any thoughts of what’s to come (and, honestly, it makes the baby feel more “real” when planning for after he/she comes) and find myself completely unprepared.

And you know that I’m starting to browse Pinterest for simple ways to celebrate Christmas (along with space saving nursery ideas).

Finding Timeless

Do you ever find yourself getting burnt out by the craziness of “now”? Feeling detached from your own thoughts because of the constant viral conversations and noise? Have you ever longed to transport yourself back to another time (any) just to appreciate the simplicity of life again?
My husband and I are quite modern in most of our ideals but, by nature, drawn to “older” interests. We have both been told that we were born in the wrong time period. We gravitate to old movies – I literally can’t remember the last time we saw a movie in a theater. Our car rides entail older music (Dave’s into the ’80s, but can also get down with classical and Big Band, which I find an awesome spousal trait). When we take a vacation, we always make at least one historically significant stop along the way. We generally prefer older houses (although goodness knows what we’ll end up with during our current house hunt). The list continues on and on.   

So, today I’m sharing some ideas for anyone who may have had enough of the current fast-paced, do-it-all world in which we all seem to be swirling. Here’s how to add some timelessness to slow things down…

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Simplify. Okay. Look at a person one hundred or more years ago (or even less, actually). How much “stuff” did they own? Or, simply think about their wardrobe. One nice Sunday outfit, then maybe two outfits for every other day. A woman used an apron and petticoats so that they didn’t have to wash their dress every day. One pair of shoes kept cean.
Now, I’m not advising that we go to these extremes. But, consider this individual and ask yourself, “Am I any happier?” Life is easier thanks to modern day conveniences and we certainly don’t have to “do the washing” nearly as much. But I didn’t say ‘is life easier?’; I said ‘are you any happier?’ Big difference.
So, address your closets. Check out your over-flowing storage situations. Analyze whether or not you need enough plates, cups, etc to feed four dozen people. Is this all stuff that you NEED in your life? Does it make you happier by having it? If so, you may need to do some more soul searching to discover where your fulfillment lies. (We are slowly but surely making our way through our own stuff and, boy, does it feel freeing!)

Be mindful and let go. Common sense truly used to be a common trait. It was partly inborn, partly taught. I find that by being in touch with one’s surroundings and trying your best to be “present” in the current moment, we can find a lot of clarity – which, in turn, helps us make wiser choices. (There’s that common sense thing.) Try your best to be mindful and you may also find yourself enjoying life quite a bit more, as well.
At the same time, the current issues that people have are plentiful. Yes, there were issues many years ago (disease and mortality have always been problems, right?), but when they were problems, they were HUGE – think: the crops didn’t come in and we don’t know how we’ll keep the farm this year. Many of our current problems are self-made. Say you didn’t have enough taken out for your taxes and rather than getting that juicy tax refund (the one you’ve already mentally spent), instead you have to pay. This isn’t something to hold on to. It was a mistake — a mistake you made. Own it, figure out a way to amend it (in other words, pay the darn thing), then move on. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s yours. But, we all make mistakes, so it’s perfectly find to move on.
Learning to let go can be downright liberating. Mindfulness can help you connect to your life. Both awesome things.

Go green. It’s surprising (or not) how many of the “green” initiatives and suggestions these days are actually deeply rooted in practices that our great grandparents would have found to be the norm. Cloth diapering? Breastfeeding? Eating natural, home-grown foods? Finding natural treatments for minor ailments? Finding uses (and reuses) for things? Backyard chickens and gardening? None of this is new. It’s just starting to make more sense to people.
There are a million small ways to go green. So, save rain water. Start a small potted garden on your patio. Keep an eye on your water use. Eat vegetarian once a week. Or check out the many websites that have a plethora of other suggestions (of course, I’m biased and love Green Child Magazine and The Eco-Friendly Family). Every time I water a plant, I think about the backyard garden my great-grandmother fed her five children on.  

Step outside your comfort zone. Maybe your annual vacation consists of a nice long trip to a beachy resort with lots and lots of splashing fun for the little ones. This is an awesome way to recharge and get some fun family time in, but consider just trying one thing that might be outside of your family’s comfort zone, like a quick trip to a historic lighthouse for a guided tour or a stop by the visitors center to learn more about the significance of the area you’re visiting. If you’re camping, you may be surprised to find a gem of a museum right in the middle of the woods (my favorite is the Adirondack Museum). There’s often far more than meets the eye when you’re traveling, and you may find yourself with a deeper appreciation for your favorite vacation spot.
The funny thing here is that it’s often a battle with older kids (or your spouse) to take precious time away from one’s vacation for one of these stops. However, if you start your kids young with this type of activity, it will often spark a further interest in history of all different kinds; and older children ride along with a pout but before long are found with smiles and laughs while helping historical interpreters pour candles or test out an old trade. Now, it’s your job to get your significant other on board. 😉
Read. The best way to get in touch with the past is to get hands-on like with the aforementioned activities. However, arguably the second best way (I have friends who would claim it to be THE best way) is to immerse yourself in books that were either written during a past time period, are set in the past, or are about the past.
The cool thing about this tip is that if you’re a reader, you don’t have to change much. If you like a certain style of fiction, I guarantee that you’ll be able to find it in a historical setting (adventure, romance, science fiction, realistic…it’s all available in historical fiction form, too). If you prefer non-fiction, well, just head for ANY time period that sparks your interest.
The great thing about history is that you can tailor it to your interests: if you enjoy a good political debate, read up on American politics (things were just as raucous and rude 150 or 200 years ago, believe it or not) or even Greek and Roman politics; if you’re a world traveler, pick up a great piece on the turmoil your favorite country underwent in centuries gone-by; if you’re a crafty individual, grab a “book of receipts” (oftentimes a how-to book on how to run a house in the 1700s and 1800s, it’s quite fascinating and creative to see what activities were undertaken and how without electricity and modern conveniences), found for a steal on Amazon; if you’re into current Hollywood celebrities, try a biography on a classic starlet; fashion, try ANY historical clothing book. There are practically endless options.
If you’re not a reader, a lot can be said for “books on tape” (although they’re now downloadable in a variety of formats and available as CDs), especially read by a famous actor you’ll actually enjoy listening to.
Watch a movie. Wait, what? First you tell me to read a book, then you say to watch a movie? Isn’t that kind of contradictory? Nope, not really. There’s a ton of history in movies, whether they’re new films based on historic events or an old movie about, heck, anything, either way they can open your mind.
When Dave and I were just “friends in a show together” he got me an old ’40s film noir called “Scarlet Street” for my birthday. While it wasn’t necessarily my usual “style” of film, it was superbly acted and meant more than anything in the world to me because he realized I had a taste for the old school (ie he “got” me). Later, when we started dating, we enjoyed nights in watching, yes, the occasional “Family Guy”, but also movies that had a meaning to them, like “His Girl Friday” (Dave worked in news). Now, as our family has grown, we’ve raised our son with Andy Hardy movies and even a Fred Astaire clip here and there. It definitely pulls us not only back into another time, but back down to earth.
Learn about your past. You may think you know everything there is to know about yourself, and to an extent that’s accurate. But, you don’t fully “know thyself” until you are aware of how you got to where you are and how many people are really rooted in who you are today.
I’ve accomplished much of this by reading our family’s papers on particular past members, but also through my research on Discovering how many ancestors had hands in real, significant historical events is both humbling and heart-touching at the same time. It definitely forces me to consider what my effect on the world might be.
You don’t need to buy a subscription to Ancestry, though, to learn about your family’s past. Just start by asking questions: your parents (my mom somehow knows more about my father’s side than many of Dad’s siblings!), any living grandparents or aunts and uncles. They all have a wealth of information to share, and it’s often like chatting about old times (and people that were very dear), so can be a very pleasant conversation to have.
Try something an old way. My husband has forsaken his electric or disposable razors for an old-fashioned safety razor and brush. Aside from this method giving a good, clean shave and looking super cool on our bathroom shelf, it lowers our waste (yes, the razor part needs to be disposed, but if you rinse and dry it well, they last 5-10 times as long as they would otherwise).
We also wash our dishes by hand. I’m not sure if it conserves water, but we do our best to do so. We also don’t really hate to do it (most of the time) and it gives your mind a chance to wander. You may be surprised at how just-as-convenient some “non-convenient” methods can be.
Limit your online time. This is one that Dave and I still find to be a challenge, but we’re trying to be mindful (ha! See above!) about it. Unless I’m hunting for a recipe for dinner, my phone is away when the guys get home at night and doesn’t reemerge until after the little guy goes to sleep. It’s important to give your mind a rest and to remember that you CAN survive without checking Facebook or your email every hour (or minute).
Every once in awhile, I’ll do a tech-free day (sometimes without TV, most of the time just a little). It definitely helps to break the addiction and cycle of constantly leaving the “real world” for the “non-reality” of the internet. It’s hard to remember sometimes that it’s not a real place to give every second of your life to. Your tangible reality – your family, friends, pets – are in the now and won’t always be there. Cherish the real world.
Go outside. While avoiding that internet time, try heading outside. You can be extreme and take a hike to a tall mountain or simply head to your back deck with a coffee, but there’s something refreshing and soul-recharging about listening to the birds, feeling a breeze, smelling grass and flowers. You may also strike up conversations with some unexpected neighbors, much as people once did very commonly. Just think about how much time people spent outside in years gone by and how, at the end of the day, the feeling of a day well-spent in fresh air must have filled their souls with such contentment.
So, here we have just a handful of ways to find and insert some “timeless” into your daily life. What are some ways that you hold history dear in your day-to-day life? Any suggestions to add?

Spring Cleaning, Simplified

This year, I’m not stressing about spring cleaning. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be doing some high-octane cleaning; it just means that I’m not going to break a huge sweat or give up my long-awaited-for warm days.

Here are a handful of simple but super helpful ways I’ll be gettin’ ‘er done. (Hate that phrase.)

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Do all the jobs. Wow, that DOES sound overwhelming. What I really mean is that when I do ceilings, I’ll take a broom with a microfiber cloth and “sweep” all the ceilings in the whole house while I’m at it. (Spoiler alert: Already did this. While on the phone, even.) Or, when I do the fans, I’ll wipe all of them down and only do the “take off every single light cover and wash/dry” if absolutely necessary. All the woodwork at one time. All the vacuuming at one time. Etc, etc, etc.

Sometimes, I try to do a room at a time (like last year) and, sometimes, it works fine. But, this year, I kind of prefer doing the jobs I feel like doing at the moment and getting them ALL done. Also, once I get out a particular cleaning product (say, the Old English for our woodwork), it’ll be nice to just put it away when the job’s done.

Stretch it out. While it sounds like a buttload of work doing the above clusters of jobs, I’m not doing them all at one time. Instead, I already started the cleaning process and am doing a quick 5-10 minute job before work in the morning or at the end of the day, or a longer one on the weekends (sometimes a couple). It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Use the least amount of products possible. I love multi-tasking cleaners. We use a Method all-purpose cleaner made with mostly-natural ingredients that does glass, wood, ceramic…frickin’ everything. We also love our Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which can be used on pretty much anything and everything you can imagine. Sure, this time of year I take out the big guns (like Old English), but for the most part, it’s simple. Kind of the point of this post. 😉

Enjoy the clean. By doing little jobs here and there, it highly reduces the amount of stress we put on ourselves. Know what else reduces it? Enjoying the clean stuff.

Throwing open the windows not only helps to freshen up your indoor environment, but also lifts your spirits. Opening the curtains after you’ve washed and rehung them helps the light come in and – yup – same thing, lift your spirits. Or just plopping down after you’ve finished a job and allowing yourself some relaxation time by way of a book or movie is totally allowed – even if you haven’t finished ALL the cleaning yet.

I can’t say how many times I’ve looked in my newly fresh (and deodorized, woohoo!) fridge just to enjoy a job well-done. Seriously.

Do you guys all spring clean? What are some of your tips and tricks for getting your spring cleaning done? We’d love to hear them in the comments! 

Real Food Challenge – Week #12

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

Review of Week #11: This past week has all about “going local.” I totally love the idea of it. While the suggestion was originally to eat one local thing per meal, it was far too challenging for many of us still dealing with cold temps and snow flurries (our CSAs and full-time farmers’ markets don’t start until May, and even them tend to have slim pickings). So, “at least once a day” it was. We hit up an indoor FM Saturday morning, which saved our bums. Local, grassfed beef made a stew that lasted us Sunday and Monday, locally milled and baked bread (sourdough, mmm) helped with breakfasts, eggs fit the bill several ways, and some local spinach and onions helped localize our salads.

I’d love to try this throughout the summer months! A fun challenge to eat as much local food as possible. 😉

Week #12 Challenge: Well, we only have a few weeks left and, of course, the challenges are mounting. Next week is all about eliminating ALL SUGARS, whether naturally occurring or not (even maple syrup and honey, which have been my saving grace). I’ve decided to opt Hadman out of this one since he doesn’t eat “sugary” foods on the average (zero candy, maybe a little in his organic cereal bars yogurt unless I’m packing it with maple syrup). I don’t need to put him through the misery.

While we were actually told that we didn’t HAVE to do the whole week (suggesting that we try a couple of days and just recognize how challenging it can be to find ANYTHING without sugar), we’re going to try our best to see how much we can do. This will be relatively easy for my husband, but darn near horrible for me. I’m pretty sure I have a “sweetener addiction” (not necessarily straight sugar since honey and maple syrup have worked fine for me), and I don’t quite feel ready to say “goodbye” forever. I’m sure I’ll feel healthier…but I may feel hungrier, which definitely never helps the situation.

I’ll be trying naked herbal teas, toast for breakfast…but my favorite snack of the day (whole plain yogurt which I usually add berries and maple syrup to) will sacrifice and, dare I say, probably won’t be eaten at all. Which sucks. Also, bought some Larabars, which aren’t organic but…I’ll try them. I’ve got my doubts. I’ve stocked up on fruits, veggies, local breads (not made with sugar), nuts, and Dave will make some homemade popcorn…any other suggestions are terribly welcome!!!! Breakfast will be carb-laden, as you can see…

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