Unexpected Minimalism

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I’m super duper busy this week, so this post might be a little blurby! Our church is having a sweet little Valentine’s banquet this weekend for about 30 people, and I ended up in charge of setting up, decorating, shopping for the food, and making desserts.

Does anyone else love being busy?

Stick with me through this.  I have a point, I promise!

We usually go with paper, plastic, or foam plates for church functions since there are so many people.  But if you’ve ever once in your life used a disposable plate, you know those babies would never hold up when loaded with a hefty steak and a generous baked potato.  And who wants to eat off of plastic at a Valentine dinner?  

And I also needed salad plates, dessert plates, bread plates, cups, sturdy forks, knives that actually cut more than butter…

I was starting to feel quite nauseous pricing out “good” plastic.

And then…

I remembered real plates are a thing.

I searched our church kitchen, and I found them!  A few years ago, someone had donated some dinner plates, bowls, and saucers.  We also had a pretty decent collection of matching drinking glasses.

Y’all….I went out and bought enough real dinnerware to feed 30 people for less than what it would cost to use plastic.


I wanted to share all that with you because I think it makes an *excellent* point that minimal is whatever you need it to be.

Sure, the stack of dishes in our church kitchen got a little bit taller this week.  And, yes, I’ll be washing dishes for a long while afterwards.  But…

  • I saved money.
  • I have better quality items that can be built upon and reused. (Imagine a future potluck with NO PAPER PLATES!  Insane.)
  • The church kitchen has plenty of empty cabinet space, so storage is a non-issue.
  • I ensured that the only thing going into the trash cans this weekend will be paper napkins. (I’m working on making cloth napkins to pair with our fabric tablecloths!)
  • People can eat comfortably without having their forks snapping in half :/

Minimalism can be based on so many factors.

Environmental impact, cost, storage space, long term usefulness, quality, personal value, etc.

For this banquet, I considered all of these things, and I concluded with keeping more stuff than I started with.

As I’ve said in another post, minimal is relative.  I also believe it’s much more broad than going through your trinkets or wardrobe and labeling each item as joyful or not.  It can be based on deep pondering, not just an immediate emotional reaction.  It can be based on what you need, it can be based on what you want, it can be based on what you know you don’t want or need.

One person’s method doesn’t have to be your method!  If your method is bringing you peace and joy, don’t let anyone else take that away from you in the name of “doing it the RIGHT way.”

Chocolate covered strawberries, anyone?!

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Ways To Use Your Planner Without Actually Planning

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My Happy Planner just *getsme.  

I try not to post similar topics back to back, but I’m still on my planner high.  I’m finding more and more uses for my planner, and I really want to share!

Now, of course I use my planner for appointments (IF we ever had any…), meal planning, social events, etc.  But more than anything else, I’ll be using my planner as a record keeper.  As I said in my last post, I’ve always made lists or used notebooks to organize and keep track of things.  I now keep all of my “records” in one planner, and I’m already absolutely ecstatic after less than a week’s use.

Here are some things I include in my planner that aren’t actually plans.

Expenditures

We already stick to a precise budget, so this is basically the support system to go along with it.  I store receipts in the nifty pocket folders I added, and I jot down what was purchased, from where, and the amount spent into that day’s slot.  I know when bills were paid, how much money remains for each budget category, and so on.  It’s like having an up-to-date bank statement with you at all times.  (Old receipts get added to the compost bin!)

Energy Usage & Efficiency

This one may sound a little over the top, but it’s made so much of a difference in my personal happiness and in our finances.  I jot down every load of laundry I do, every run of the dishwasher, and how often we use the A/C and heat.  When I first started taking note of my laundering habits a few months ago, I was blown away by how much laundry I did.  (six to ten loads a week.  TEN LOADS A WEEK!?  Insane.)  I also saw that we used our A/C on days that were perfectly comfortable.  All it takes is one degree to turn on your A/C.   Keeping a record of things like this has made me so much more aware of how much we waste.  It’s easy to dismiss your waste when you don’t even see it. I’ve been able to adjust my household chores to a much more efficient level.

Homeschool

My homeschooler doesn’t do well with elaborately planned lessons.  We go to the library, close our eyes, and grab ALL THE BOOKS.  We do “class” riding in the car, at the grocery store, or while I’m cooking dinner.  It’s much easier to write down our accomplishments after the fact rather than plan to do XYZ and then feel like poo for not being able to check it off as completed.  I’m pretty certain my oldest child is the anti-lister. Spontaneity is her game.

Church Notes

Our pastors are known for using a bajillion verses during each service, and I absolutely love it.  Taking notes is mandatory for me.  That sermon isn’t just good for that one Sunday.  It’s good on Monday when the blues hit you hard.  It’s good six months from now too.  And like a good movie, you always find something new each time you experience it.  I also teach Sunday School (as does my wonderful husband), and I like to record who is present, the topics or verses discussed, and games played.

Memory Keeper

Planners are an excellent way to preserve memories.  A simple “Baby met great-grandma today” can make your heart do that funny, about-to-explode-with-happy thing as you flip through your pages.  Maybe you’re looking back a few months to find the ingredients for that delicious orzo salad, and you come across “I spent the day cuddled up with my babies watching movies.”  You’ll never regret hoarding sweet memories.

Moral Booster

Maybe this is just me, but I’ve always felt more energized and productive when I can check off tasks or look at a page full of accomplishments.  I need confidence builders.  I need a positive outlook.  I need momentum.  My note taking has always provided that for me.  I can open my planner and see that YES, I am needed for important things.  I can see that YES, I AM making progress in so many aspects of life.  I can see that YES, I. Can. Adult!  

I also broke down today and bought a sticker pack. After much indecisiveness (so many awesome options!), I brought home the Faith Value Stickers.  I ultimately chose this pack because it has so many uplifting words.  So much encouragement!  Sometimes all you need is a “YOU CAN DO THE THING!” sticker.


And to all of you that bought the 18 month planner six months late like me, take heart!  I’m going to share some uses for all those extra pages in an upcoming post!  Don’t toss them just yet 🙂

Holiday Minimalism Tips

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I’m minimizing slowly but steadily!

We’re now down to two crock pots instead of three.

Leaps and bounds being made here, I tell ya!

In all seriousness, I really have been making good progress. Especially considering the time of year and the near constant influx of new toys and clothes.

I did a pretty good destash of my kids’ clothes a few weeks ago. I was able to donate two huge garbage bags of stuff. Yesterday I halved the amount of stuff in our toy box. (I cannot express the level of combined peace and fabulocity one feels when there is OPEN SPACE in the toy box.)

Let me tell you… Attempting to up your newbie minimalism game DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON can be tough. We are extremely blessed and often exchange many, many wonderful gifts.  It can feel overwhelming to have rooms full of wrapped gifts, new toys scattered everywhere, and giant mounds of new clothes to find hangers for.  But what a blessed mess! Because of the love and generosity of family and friends, we have only needed to actually purchase clothes for our children a handful of times in their whole lives.  How amazing is that!?

I’ve realized a few things and developed a few strategies to make the most of the season without going into full on minimalist panic mode from the chaos and then following up that panic with immense “but we’re so fortunate” guilt.  I hope this helps some of you too!

Action #1. Prep Errthing.

Destash heavily in the weeks before.  Clothes, toys, kid stuff, adult stuff.  Clearing out not only gives you room to work with, but it also gives you an excellent sense of what you and your kids actually need and what you don’t really use.  Clearing the clutter makes visits at home and traveling much easier. Plan your schedule and visits to allow for a recoup period so you can get yourself refocused before going at it again. Spacing events also helps give your kids some time to detox and unwind from the excitement and RED DYE SOAKED SUGAR IN EVERYTHING. STAAHHP.  

Action #2. Destash Wisely, Graciously, and Cheerfully.

During the destash process, be on the lookout for regiftables, hand-me-downs, shelter items, etc.  I’ve noticed in our town people leave warm clothing and blankets tied to trees in parking lots for the homeless and less fortunate.  There is always someone needing a warm jacket. With all the opportunities to be a blessing and be blessed during this time, there is no reason to keep any “umm, this could maybe be useful to me” items.

Action #3. Learn to Accept Blessings.

This was actually a hard lesson for us to learn.  When we started attending our current church, we realized that many within our church family love to give.  Whether it be a helping hand, a small comfort item, or palmed cash covertly slipped over during a hug.  To say it was awkward for us is an understatement.  When we asked our pastor about it (Should we let people do this?  Should we give the money back?), he basically told us to remain humble and not refuse a thoughtful and faithful blessing from a sister or brother in Christ.  If someone feels a pull to give, let them give.  Both sides receive joy in this.  And remember that we are blessed so that we may also BE a blessing.

Side note for funsies! – We did the shoeboxes from Samaritan’s Purse this year.  My husband and I were standing at the back of our SUV in a parking lot trying to decide what we needed and how to best pack our boxes.  A wonderful lady approached us and said she had asked God for direction in blessing someone today.  And then she handed us $50. We thanked her profusely, wished her a blessed day, and then bought $50 more worth of stuff for extra boxes!  I’ve heard it said, “God will get it to you if He knows He can get it through you.”

Action #4. Always Remember Jesus.

With soooo much going on and so many physical or material aspects of the season, always keep your focus on Jesus. Giving away your old items, or even giving away brand new items, is so much easier and heart fulfilling when you really open up and accept that you’re not just giving things or donating your old crud.  You can make your home a happier place AND bless others mightily. Maybe you’re like me and often struggle with thoughts of “we have so much and others have so little.”  Now is the time to remind yourself that Jesus was sent, not because we deserved Him, but because our Father in Heaven loves us so much!  Be blessed.  And when the blessings fill you up to overflowing, start blessing others just as much!

It’s Time to Get Serious with Minimalism.

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I’m a minimalist at heart.  Too bad I’m not a minimalist in reality!

Now, I’ve made huge changes in my life in terms of destashing and prioritizing things. But I still have drawers full of stuff I never use or really even look at.  I still have clothing that I hang on to “just in case.”  I don’t even want to think about that closet full of mangled fabric scraps and half used bobbins of thread.  EEK.  I’ve done some minimal (AHA, PUN!) destashes before, but they were admittedly pretty amateur attempts.  Now I’m ready to get serious!  Or rather…

I’m desperate for a more peaceful space.

I’ve looked back on my past attempts to see how I could be more efficient.  Turns out I made some major mistakes that really crippled my ultimate goal. So here’s my new plan!  Because planning is for winners.  

Stop thinking in terms of organization.

I think this is a pretty common mistake among new minimalists.  Organization definitely has its upsides, but it’s an entirely different circus from minimalism.  We tell ourselves we can keep all this crud as long as we keep it organized.  NOPE.  Stop focusing on finding a spot for everything and start focusing on the productivity of the items themselves.  Organization follows naturally after you minimize.

Have an immediate destination for destashed items.

This is one of my biggest problems.  I’ll clean out a cabinet or closet and end up with piles of items to donate, items to sell, items to give to a friend, items to keep until the next church yard sale…  And while I’m waiting for the sale or forgetting to make a trip to Goodwill, all this stuff is STILL HERE.  Just in a different, even less convenient location than before.  If I plan to donate, we are going right now.  If I want to give to a friend, I’ll send them a message saying, “I’m coming by your house TODAY.”  If I have yard sale gold, I’ll ask to have it stored at the church.  Again, organizing into piles does nothing.  It moves out today or it gets trashed.

Don’t follow the “Does This Bring Me Joy?” method.

This is a popular minimalism method where you assess each item individually, asking yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?”  Granted, I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, so what do I really know?  But I’ve developed my own assessment technique that works for me.  (Because home school attendance records do NOT bring me joy, but I have to have it.  Because my washing machine does not bring me joy, but it’s better than no washer.)  I utilize the “Would I Be Super Duper Bummed If I One Day Discovered I Needed This Destashed Item” method.

Rate items on a scale of 0-10.

  • 0 being I don’t even remember what I got rid of/I’m so glad it’s gone!
  • 5 being I could probably have used it, but meh.
  • 10 being I threw away the winning Powerball ticket.

Anything less than a 7ish definitely goes.

The time has come.

Minimalism is here.

Updates to follow!