I bought the Halloween Costumes but Made Dinner…

I bought Halloween costumes for the first time this year.

It really isn’t that big of deal…except I swore I would never buy Halloween costumes.

I had vowed around the time our first was born to make the kids’ costumes or piece them together with inexpensive things from the Dollar Store, things we had at home and the occasional hand made piece.

And then, we were driving to Walmart yesterday and the thought entered my mind “just let the girls pick out costumes and be done with it.”

Simplifying Social Media with Path

As I have worked to cut back, down size, minimize in all areas of my life, there’s still been this thing nagging me with Facebook.

I like Facebook…I like how I can keep in touch with friends and family at a distance. I love seeing the pictures and quick status updates of their life and it is fun for them to see what we are up to, too.

And for a long time I wished that I could somehow go back in time and contain it to just our close friends and family…as much as I love my old college roommates, high school friends and random acquaintances from a few years ago, there are things that I don’t feel a need to share with them…in fact, most things I don’t feel a need to share with them anymore.

To keep or not to keep? That’s NOT the question!

When I first started simplifying my home, I’d look at an item and think:

“Should I keep this or not?”

And then I’d have to think about it…I sometimes use it or so and so gave it to me or the WORST ever “I may need it someday.”

When you're simplifying your house "Should I keep this???" Is NOT the question to ask yourself, here's why...

I mean after all, I wouldn’t have kept all of this stuff in my house if I didn’t have a reason.

So I quickly realized that “should I keep this?” was not at all the right question to be asking myself. The real question is:

Reflections on a Saturday afternoon while all of my kids (and husband) are napping

 

That’s me, standing in the wheat field, with my arms raised, warm sun in my face…I feel free, and happy, and joyful and at peace.

Ok, so obviously that’s not me…never once has my life looked like this (even growing up on a farm ;)).

But as I search for a way to describe how I feel right now, this would be it.

I feel happy, and at peace and like things are under control (this is my favorite feeling, not in a control freak kind of way, in a “I don’t have a list of 20 other things I should be doing right now” way)

…in fact, I have no other things that I should or need to be doing right now…and that is awesome.

The Best Toy Storage & Organization

I’ve been on the hunt for quite awhile to find a sleek and affordable solution for storing toys in our basement family room. I wanted something that looked a little sophisticated since it would be in plain view. It also needed to have large bins, be easy for the kids to use and not break the bank…

The best, most affordable and durable toy storage

The best, most affordable and durable toy storage

We often joke that everything in our house is from Craig’s List or Ikea, so no surprise that we found these really great black shelves and bins at Ikea. Each section with bins was $39, so total we invested around $120 for the three sections we have.

The best, most affordable and durable toy storage

I really appreciate how easily the bins slide in and out and how STURDY the whole thing is, it seems that it should last until we have grandkids :)

The best, most affordable and durable toy storage

In my perfect, organized world, each bin would be neatly sorted with Little People, dolls and trucks, but currently I’m happy if everything just ends up off the floor at the end of the day.

And here is a fun idea from Shanty 2 Chic to make your own shelves for the bins:

The best toy storage!

How cool is that? She even includes plans to build the shelves, find them here at Shanty 2 Chic.

The best, most affordable and durable toy storage

What I also love about these shelves and containers is that the bins are virtually indestructible. Of course, this would NEVER actually happen at our house, it is for demonstration purposes only ;)

And they went together quickly and easily. I was able to put all three together during one nap time while 9 months pregnant…not bad, right? :)

Related Posts:

Simplifying Toys: Which Ones Made the Cut
Simplifying Toys: The Time & Sanity Saving Trick for Sorting ALL of Your Kids’ Toys in an Hour

Have you found practical toy storage solutions that you love? Please share!

Dawn

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Are my relatives spoiling my kids? (despite my best efforts!)

As we unpacked the van after all of our Easter celebrations last night I felt a little overwhelmed by all that the kids had received.

Spoiled is an attitude and mindset, not a number of gifts or possessions.

Spoiled is an attitude and mindset, not a number of gifts or possessions.

So naturally,  I began to compose a note in my head to send to all of our well-meaning friends and family:

Hi there,

Thank you so much for all of the wonderful gifts and treats you gave the kids for Easter! They were thrilled to receive them and have had so much fun playing with their new toys. But out of fear of our children turning into materialistic spoiled rotten brats, we kindly ask that you refrain from giving them gifts on traditionally non-gift-giving holidays (like Easter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving). On gift-giving holidays (Christmas and their birthdays) would you kindly only present them with one single gift (preferably an activity based gift or best yet, an “experience”).

Thank you so much for understanding and for loving our kids so well, they are very fortunate to have you in their lives!

Dawn

I ran the idea by my twin sister (one of the culprits). She was like: get a life.

But truly, she really didn’t appreciate it.

You see, one of her love languages is gifts, so she LOVES giving gifts. She enjoys shopping, and contemplating, and wrapping and every step involved with a thoughtful gift. She also loves receiving them and appreciates when thought is put into gifts given to her. So to ask her to stop giving gifts feels unfair, it is one of the ways she expresses love.

And Nana (my mom) would likely stage a revolt, she has told me in the past that it is her “right” to buy her grandkids things ;)

But guys, surely you understand my desire to raise kids who are not greedy, spoiled and expectant of gifts all of the time???

So as I reflected on it more, I realized that being spoiled isn’t about a certain number of toys, it is about an attitude. And if our relatives can un-do everything that my husband and I have taught and instilled in our kids in one single holiday, then they aren’t the problem, WE ARE.

Spoiled is an attitude and mindset, not a number of gifts or possessions.

Oh sure, things could probably be scaled back a little bit and I do appreciate that everyone knew we we have been eating healthier and cut way back on the candy (look at all the bubbles and new toothbrushes from Nana– My grandma even labeled the bubbles with names so the kids wouldn’t fight over them, VERY considerate!). But at the end of the day, Tom and I need to be thoughtful about the values our kids are learning because they are growing up in a time when they will have to manage way more material possessions then we ever did.

So while they are young, we’ll help them.

We’ll ration the candy and the bubbles and help them to enjoy the new things that they got. We’ll help them to express thanks and to realize that they are so fortunate to be so well loved by so many, and giving gifts is just one way of expressing that. And we’ll help them to become thoughtful gift-givers because it is an important part of our culture.

And I’ll appreciate that I have never once had to buy our kids bubbles or side-walk chalk ;)

Spoiled is an attitude and mindset, not a number of gifts or possessions.

And how can you not want to give every toy in the store to these cute little faces??? :)

Spoiled is an attitude and mindset, not a number of gifts or possessions.

Have you found a tactful way of asking friends and family to give your children less? I always love to hear new ideas!

Dawn

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Minimizing: What about gifts?

When it comes to deciding which things to keep or pass on, this has been one of the most difficult areas for me:

What about all of the kind, generous, thoughtful gifts you have received over the years?

I present to you exhibit A:

When we scale down our home it can be difficult to know what to do about gifts you have received over the years...

My mom and sister gave this to me when we moved into our current home. It was thoughtfully white to match my new office and functional and cute…the problem is, once I got my office decorated, there really wasn’t a logical location for it.

I know, I’ll put it in the girl’s bedroom and they can hang their artwork on it…but then we came up with an easier solution for that with magnets.

Oh, I can put it in the garage, I wanted to create a spot for returns. Things that needed to be returned to stores or friends or relatives. Shoot, we have that covered, now, too with hooks.

What I absolutely did not want to do was hang it up just to hang it up.

So I’ve hung onto this for two years now, each time I look at it I have a slight feeling of regret and sadness that this very kind gift has gone unused and surely they have noticed that it hasn’t been displayed!

So I decided to ask my mom and sister what they would think if I donated it:

Mom: I don’t remember giving it to you.

Sister: Oh that’s fine, it was on clearance anyway, I just thought it was fun.

Then I asked “every time I look at this thoughtful gift I actually feel burdened by it because I am worried about what you will think if you visit my home and don’t see it displayed, is that what you had in mind when you gave it to me?”

Ok, so I didn’t actually ask that, but I KNOW if I did they would say “don’t be silly! Of course not! Do what is best for you.”

If our goal is a home filled with only items that we find useful or beautiful, we’re probably going to have to give away a few gifts along the way.

Is it possible that we could unintentionally offend a loved one by doing this: yes. Can we control how others react: no. Is it worth hanging onto things that we don’t value to appease others: probably not.

But what if it was handmade? or an heirloom? or one of a kind?

For me, having less stuff in our home and the time and peace that has accompanied it is worth more than any gift I have ever received.

I hope this doesn’t come across as callous, because this really can be a difficult area of letting go (look, I’ve hung onto this for two years now, still in the package!). Gifts are an important part of our culture and we would never intentionally want to hurt anyone.

So if you are looking for permission to get rid of things that don’t have a practical use to you, here it is!

And if you need a little more time to get there, that is ok, too :)

Dawn

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The very first step–and MOST important

But where do I start???

“Where did you start?”

I generally find that people are very supportive about the changes our family has made to our home, namely, getting rid of 85% of our “stuff.” But when they think about actually doing something like this for their own home this look comes across their face like “oh…I…oh…my…where would I…I mean…I don’t even know…know where I would begin…”

Been there…I get that. Our house wasn’t terrible when I began, but it was still overwhelming.

Step two: Get a quick win

 

Once you’ve decided that you want to simplify your home, it can be tempting to “information gather” as opposed to just getting started. While it is GREAT to read about other people’s successes and tactics, it is also wise to get started as soon as possible.

Here is a quick guide to creating a minimalist home from Zen Habits. I’ve followed it loosely, but it is very helpful.

So, where to begin?