LET'S CHAT ABOUT MINIMALISM


Last week I shared a photo of my minimalistic wardrobe on social media. I was shocked at the number of responses I got asking for help and tips to address their wardrobe.  So today I thought I'd share my experience over the past couple of years and offer some suggestions for not only addressing your wardrobe but your home in general.

Minimalism was never really on my mind until we decided to downsize and move into a tiny 800 sqft bungalow.  

We were not only moving to a smaller house, but from 3 acres in the country to a postage stamp lot in the city.  That decision made me keenly aware of how much "stuff" we had and caused me to question if we truly "needed" it all.


Moving has a way of igniting my desire to purge, organize, and start over.  As I began packing for that move I began eliminating excess as much as I could knowing that space was going to be a huge issue in the next home. 

One of the areas that needed the most addressing was my wardrobe. I'm a natural "saver" because "what if I need this?"...and my wardrobe reflected this.  My closet was overflowing with business attire from my former teaching career, dresses from the various weddings I'd been in in recent years, maternity clothes from two close pregnancies, hiking and biking gear as those were our favorite hobbies (pre children), and I couldn't throw anything away because "what if I needed it?" and it could always be used as "work clothes" while working on our fixer upper or in the garden.  It was overwhelming to say the least.

That's when I came across the idea of a minimalistic wardrobe.  In theory it sounded amazing!  I loved all the beautifully curated wardrobes floating around Pinterest...but the reality of turning my mess of a closet into something so beautiful was daunting.

Over the past three years I've moved twice and lived out of a box of limited clothing for months at a time during the transition...though that experience I've learned to live with less and zeroed in on what I truly want and need in my wardrobe. 

Here are 10 tips I've gathered over the past few years that I hope will help you not only address your wardrobe but really any area of your home that you desire more minimalism.

1. Define you're why. This may sounds silly, but we all have different motivators for why we do things and it's important to identify your personal motivator.  For me, my desire for a minimalistic wardrobe was about space, time, and organization. We have lived in small homes with limited storage and the clutter of an overstuffed closet stresses me out. Clean and organized spaces bring me peace and allow for clear headspace.  Also time necessary to dig through my clothing to find the "perfect outfit" was also overwhelming and discouraging. 

2. Less is truly more. Before I began actually going through my clothing I noticed that I was grabbing same items over and over and avoiding others.  I realized that while I may have 20 shirts, I was only actually wearing 5 of them on a regular basis. Those other 15 were just taking up space. Once I removed that I almost instantly became happier because I was excited to choose one of my 5 shirts vs. overwhelmed by the 20 options I had before. 

3. Noticed patterns. Look at your favorite items and likely you'll begin to see a pattern of your "style"...this took me a few years to zero in on because I had been buying things because they were trendy or others told me they looked good on me.  Over time my style began to emerge. Now my wardrobe consists of neutrals (gray, tan, white), olive green and black, with the occasional pop of maroon or blush pink.  These are the colors I have always felt most comfortable in and naturally grabbed, so eliminating the distraction of other colors made my wardrobe cohesive.

4. Start small and keep a list. I don't recommend going all Kon Marie and trashing anything in your wardrobe that doesn't bring you joy - at least not all at once. It's easy to just want to start fresh, but truly this evolution takes time and requires a mindfulness in order to be sustainable.  Eliminating things you haven't worn in months or don't fit is step one. Once those items are gone you'll feel so much lighter and your closet more visible. Then begin identifying items you'd like to replace - maybe your favorite T is wearing out, or your sneakers aren't the color you'd like. Or maybe you've never owned a good fitting jacket and would like to add that to your wardrobe.  Make a list of these items and keep it with you (I keep mine in the notes app on my phone) so that when you're out shopping you can be mindful of what you need to add to your wardrobe...don't purchase anything until you find the PERFECT thing...and don't wait until you need an item to start looking for it - chances are you'll settle for something you don't love. 

5. See your wardrobe as a whole.  It's easy to go shopping and see an item you might really love, then get home and realize you have nothing to wear with it. So you either never wear that item or you end up buying more just to make that outfit work.  Once you identify the color theme of your wardrobe you are better able to add to it cohesively. I am now able to pass on that beautiful mustard sweater I fell in love with at Target because I know it's not going to mesh with what I have in my closet.

6. Set limits. As I began purging clothes I realized that I could indeed live with less, but I still wanted options..specifically with tops. I also began to notice that I naturally had accumulated things in sets of 3...so I went with it.  I narrowed my jeans down to 3 favorites, and dresses (which I rarely wear) down to 3 versatile options - summer/winter/formal.  I then set limits of 3 of each color for tops - 3 neutral, 3 black, and 3 green -- this helped really reign in my random shopping trips to Target!  

7. Start with a spending freeze. We're impatient, we want to fix things right away.  It's easy to want to toss everything you hate and replace it immediately with things you love. So start with a spending freeze and challenge yourself to wear what you already own for the next 30 days. During that time be mindful of what you're choosing. What patterns arise? What color choices/styles do you prefer? What items do you want to add to your wardrobe? What types of clothing do you need to avoid?  

8. STOP! Once you have a wardrobe you love, just stop. There's no need to mindlessly wander the clothing aisles at Target wondering if there's something you need - you don't!  Live with your wardrobe for a few months or a season before reevaluating.

9. Start today. There's no perfect time to start, don't wait. You're ready to take small steps to eliminate the clutter so you can better  focus on things that matter most to you.

10. Do what works for you.  There's no perfect formula for this, friends, you've just trust the process and do what works for you. These are the things that have worked for me, but they may not be for you, that's ok! Find what does work for you and run with that!

That's it, friends. I hope these tips are helpful. I have found them useful not just for my wardrobe but have used the same steps for addressing our kitchen, bathroom, and miscellaneous storage.  

The more we live with less, the more space we have for living! 

Please consider sharing with a friend if you think they'd find it helpful and I'd love to hear what you think or how you've used these tips to address your wardrobe or home! 

BACK TO SCHOOL


Here we are, one month into our homeschool year and once again I realize how much I need to re-write my definition of "school".

Over the past few years, observing my children and reflecting on my time in the classroom, I've come to embrace the concept of "learning through life."  The world offers so many incredible opportunities for our children to learn!  I'm always amazed at the skills and concepts my children learn from observing those around them and participating in unique experiences.

Every little thing under the sun -- they notice them all.  They're amazed by the world.
- Julie Bogart, "The Brave Learner"

When we first decided to homeschool, I was excited to plan our days, select our curriculum, and learn alongside my children.  I have always LOVED teaching, and knew I'd LOVE teaching my own children.  But as I began to dive deeper into theories and philosophies of homeschooling, the more I realized, learning is less about checking boxes and more about stoking a fiery passion!  Our children are naturally deeply passionate about so many things, and my role is to fuel that passion as long as it lasts.  To follow the child.

So we've let go of the constraints of a curriculum and opened the world to our children.  We follow their lead and create an environment of learning around their specific interests.  When the boys show interest in a topic, we head to the library and find loads of books on the topic, we get lost down rabbit trails on YouTube related to the topic, we ask more questions and seek out more answers.  Sometimes the interest in a topic lasts for a few hours or maybe a few days, other times it lasts for months...but the kids are always in the drivers seat, I'm just there to offer support and guidance.
Everything can be taught through anything.
- Julie Bogart, "The Brave Learner"
Though I have a rough plan of what I want to expose our children to, more than anything I want them to fall in love with learning, I want them to hunger for more!  Taking time to follow the spark of their interests pays dividends in creating an education that is personal and meaningful to them!


In the spring, my boys became OBSESSED with collecting water.  After asking multiple times to use the hose and being told no, they decided to start collecting rain water. Any time it rained they would run around the house setting up buckets and barrels (plastic cups, old pots, anything they could find!).  Throughout the day they'd go out to check their water collectors, dumping the collected water into another bucket.  Initially I thought it was cute, I mean how creative of them to find an alternative source of water, but after months of the daily obsession and their constant need to check their barrels or being unwilling to leave the house during a storm, I began to get annoyed.  I didn't understand why they cared so much...why they were so passionate...and because of that wanted to shut it down and turn their attention to something else.  But instead I decided to lean into their obsession and fuel their passionate fire, finding creative ways to learn together.

Once we moved to our new house, we created a rain barrel to help them collect more water and give them a place to store the water they collected elsewhere.  We monitor the rain barrel and measure how much water is collected after a rain. Their excitement when it rains is so contagious!  Last month we decided to dive deeper and learn more about water and our world through a prepared science unit from The Good and The Beautiful.  It's been fun for me and they're loving it, especially the experiments!  There are so many ways to learn through passions, we just have to be willing to step outside the box of traditional education!



Other water related activities we've done:
1. Measuring our water collected.
2. Charting the weather.
3. Writing vocabulary words.
4. Drawing the water cycle.
5. Watering plants and watching how they respond.
6. Reading about climate change and how water effects our world.
7. Learning about and visiting Niagara Falls.


It often happens that what really gets learned is different from what the teacher had in mind - an experience both baffling and intriguing. But little can be done about it except to teach for surprise
- William Reinsmith, "Ten Fundamental Truths About Learning" 
Homeschooling for us is a lifestyle, not a curriculum.  Learning through life, following the spark, seeking to learn all day every day!  We definitely don't have it all figured out, but that's part of the joy of the journey...getting to learn right alongside my children!


ELLIE'S BIRTH STORY: PART 2


I thought for sure we'd be meeting our third baby on Jan 23rd (a day early!) when I woke up to mild, but regular contractions. I stayed in bed as long as I could, but between the excitement and contractions every 5 minutes, I wasn't sleeping! So I picked up the living room, cleaned the bathroom, and was doing the dishes when Dan woke up. After sending him to the grocery (at 5am!) I called my midwife and my mom. 



When my mom arrived a few hours later ready to see Caleb off to school and spend the morning with Abel, contractions had all but stopped! They were now irregular and anywhere from 10-20 mins apart. Total defeat set in. Dan decided to work from home and I went back to bed, though I didn't really sleep.

Around noon, I talked with my midwife and we both figured it just wasn't time. I took a bath, drank a glass of wine, and crashed on the couch for a few hours.  My mom decided to take the boys home with her, to allow us more time to just relax, should baby decide to come. 

Early evening the contractions returned and built with some intensity. At roughly 10 minutes apart I once again was hopeful that this was it, but not overly optimistic.



By midnight the contractions we're every 8 minutes, but intense enough that we weren't sleeping. My sweet hubby suggested that we get up and move around the house to try to speed things up.  After two hours of endless laps around our tiny house, contractions were now every 2-3 minutes! We called our midwife and she headed right over. Things were finally moving along.



I labored for what felt like days, walking laps, taking a shower, catching catnaps literally in every room of our house. I could not get comfortable and felt that little progress was happening. 



Finally at about 8am, while my midwife was administering a second dose of antibiotics for GBS (which I had tested positive for), we talked about what to do next. She offered to check me and see if she could break my waters which might help speed things up. No sooner than I had agreed with her, my water broke (at 8:07am) on its own - while she's still pushing in the antibiotics!  She quickly finished up the antibiotics and  I sat back to let the nurse check that the waters were clear and she immediately noticed that baby was descending. I thought I'd just lay down to rest for a minute while my midwife switched places with the nurse (knowing the hard part of pushing was ahead of me)...as I did, my body completely took over and literally pushed Ellie out on it's own! I can remember looking at my midwife, saying "I can't stop, I'm not pushing."  



It was less than a minute from the time her head emerged to her snuggling on my chest! She was born just 5 minutes after my water broke at 8:12am, on her due date, January 24th!!!



Sweet Eleanor June, rocked our world the moment she arrived! I spent weeks in shock that I had a daughter.  Still today, I sometimes look at her and marvel over the fact that I get to be the mama of this sweet GIRL! She brings so much JOY and LIFE to our lives.




{Read part one of Ellie's birth story here. }

ELLIE'S BIRTH STORY: PART 1


I've desperately wanted to share our sweet daughter's birth story for over a year now, but could never quite find the right words.  To tell her story, we have to go back two years.....

November 2016.  During our annual anniversary, Dan and I talked at length about the next few years. We were eager to get started in buying more real estate and decided that we'd widen our parameters in include possibly moving our little family.  While we loved our little blue house, I was struggling with being home alone all day with our littles and not being near friends.  They had been working on our sewer connection for months and we couldn't even enjoy playing in our own yard. Dan's job kept him away sometimes 80+ hours a week making it hard to fit in housework.  We knew a move would help ease some of the stresses we were both dealing with, so we were open to it.

During the month of December, we looked at real estate daily....we visited and put offers in on a number of potential rentals, but nothing was panning out. Discouraged, we poured our energy into making some updates to our home - fresh paint + simple repairs. By the end of the year we felt like maybe we were supposed to just settle into our home for a few more years, but neither one of us were ready to give up.

Near the end of January I got a call from Dan one morning asking if I had time to come see a foreclosure he and our realtor had just learned about.  I literally loaded up the boys and went to meet him at the house.  This particular foreclosure was only available for "Owner Occupancy", which meant the owner had to move into the house and live there for at least a year.  So the question was - Is it worth moving our family across town, into the city? And could we live in this SMALL house for a year?  (it's important to note that the house is less than 900 sq ft and only 2 bedrooms).  As we were leaving we wrote up an offer - and within days we had a closing date.  Two weeks later we got the keys to Our Little Green Bungalow!

It was a whirlwind, completely unexpected, but completely exhilarating! We were finally taking steps to financial freedom and we had this awesome adventure for the four of us for the next year.

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During this time, Dan and I were both struggling with our desire to grow our family but felt it wasn't the right time.  Dan's job kept him away so much he barely got to see the boys, and we'd just bought a house so all his free time was spent getting it ready for us to move into.  Despite my inner desire, I was home alone with our two boys all day and felt ill-equipped to add more children to the mix.  Then there was the financial burden - we were already living on a single income.  While we were able to pay the bills, there wasn't much extra to save or invest what we desired!  We both felt like we had this heavy decision to make but didn't want to!  I remember one night near the end of February, just letting go and turning it all over to God - praying that if we were meant to grow our family that it would be in God's timing and not ours...and if we weren't supposed to grow our family that God would grant us peace about it.  Over the coming weeks as we dove deeper into house renovations, I was overcome by an incredible sense of peace and contentment about our family.

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May 2017. It took months to finish the house and get it to a livable state (gas and plumbing issues took far longer than anticipated!) but by mid-May we were moving! The night we moved in, I remember sitting on our front porch soaking in our new neighborhood. We talked about the walks we'd take on the trail and to the park.  How we'd visit downtown more often now that we were just minutes away.  We were both filled with joy and excitement just thinking about sharing this season of city life with our boys.  It was in that moment that I confessed to Dan that while putting this photo on the mantel that afternoon, I just couldn't shake the idea that someone was missing....that there was room for one more.  He looked at me like I was crazy - we'd literally just downsized - moved our family for four into a small 2 bedroom house.  Meanwhile I was recounting the past two weeks of feeling "off".  I had chalked it up to the stress and craziness of the moving process, but deep down wondered if maybe I was pregnant.

The next morning, I was the first one awake and decided to go ahead and take a pregnancy test to just clear my mind. I fully expected it to be negative - knowing that the stress and chaos of moving could have caused the types of symptoms I was experiencing.  So imagine my surprise when it was positive! I remember just sitting there staring at the test, working my way through every emotion of excitement, worry, fear, joy, frustration, surprise....I was anxious to break the news to Dan, especially after the conversation we'd had the night before.  I was a ball of nerves as I carried the test into the bedroom, unsure really what to say, but smiled through tears as I told him.  He just looked at me, his eyes full of joy and love and said "I guess we're going to need a bigger house" - and we both burst into laughter!

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The next 9 months were by far some of the most difficult and exhilarating of our lives.  Dan's job went from bad to worse that summer and we rarely saw him -- when he wasn't at work he was at our old house getting it ready to rent.  By the end of July, we both felt broken and beat down - I lived in fear of what the future of our family would look like, I worried about his health, our boys missing their daddy, how to take care of a baby and older children by myself.  The days were incredibly long.

Then, miraculously, something shifted. The last day of July my Young Living business hit an incredible milestone - one I'd spent the past 3 years working towards.  The next day our first house was officially rented and by the end of that first week of August, Dan was in the midst of interviewing for a new job! August was full and busy for us, but we were finally feeling lighter and happier.  By the middle of the month Dan accepted a new job and was set to start September 1st. We spent the last week of August on vacation with Dan's family and it felt like the perfect way to celebrate ending a difficult season and get excited for all that lay ahead in the next.

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Despite being my third child, I had a lot of fear about pregnancy and caring for older children.  I desperately wanted to keep up with the boys but by late November I hit a wall.  I was in excruciating pain being on my feet and ended up spending much of the holiday season laying on the couch.  It really took a toll on me emotionally!  I struggled daily to hold on to that light, joy and happiness we'd just regained.  As my due date approached I was eager to meet our little one, but again fear and worry crept in.  I had had a January baby before and knew that the weeks and months of dark dreary days could easily keep me down, and I desperately wanted to enjoy the postpartum season this time.

I knew I needed to be proactive and set intentions for the upcoming season - so I told anyone who would listen that I was going to do nothing but rest and care for my baby for at least 6 weeks. I asked, begged, for people to hold me accountable and call me out if I tried to bounce back too quickly.  I prepped meals, and made plans for friends and family to care for the boys so I could rest.  All the planning and preparing really helped to brighten my spirits as I waited for baby's arrival.

    WHOSE LIFE ARE YOU TRYING TO LEAD?


    Last night, after putting the kids to bed, I looked at the clock and sighed, 8:30.  I turned to my husband and said "how lame is it that I just want to crawl into bed and read until I fall asleep?".  He looked at me with a furrowed brow and said "Why is that lame? Whose life are you trying to lead?" His response totally stopped me in my tracks.  I mean really, why would taking care of my needs and desires be  considered "lame"??? But if I'm completely honest, that has been part of the underlying script scrolling through my brain for the past decade!

    For years I've worked hard to be as productive as possible --to make the most of every last hour of the day.  To do enough.  Be enough.  I've calculated number of hours necessary for sleep and scolded myself for taking more. I've tabulated to do lists and evaluated progress against an unrealistic expectation. Phrases like "everyone had the same 24 hours, we make time for what we truly want" are on repeat in my brain daily, causing me to ponder whether or not I'm doing enough with those hours.

    It wasn't until a few years ago that I even started thinking about what I truly wanted in life.  What MY goals even are!  I have always been one to follow the crowd, blend in and go unnoticed.  Attention makes me uncomfortable, but deep down I have a burning desire to be different! I have dreams that I've ignored and abandoned for fear of drawing attention.  Dreams that feel abnormal and different, dreams that go against everything around me.  But the truth is, not following these dreams, means I'm follow someone else's!  Living someone else's life!  In a world of social media, it's so easy to see what everyone else is doing and think, "maybe I should do that too!" But, as I've turned inward this past year and worked hard to put on my blinders, my vision for my life has gotten brighter.  My confidence in being who I was created to be had gotten stronger.  Every day I grow more comfortable being different, being me!

    Today, I can honestly say that I love my life! I love that I get a front row seat to watching my children grow and learn. I love that I get to make our house a home. I love my family and my friends and the community we’ve built.  But most of all, I love embracing the freedom to create the life of our dreams, and sometimes that means going to bed at 8:30 and reading until I fall asleep!

    ———

    So, when was the last time you turned off the noise and asked yourself  "What are my dreams and aspirations?  What am I working towards?”

    If you're anything like me, that may be a super difficult question for you to answer!  But I want to challenge you to turn off the noise (social media, news, TV, movies, etc) and spend some time inside your own head.  You have dreams...you have deep burning passions...trust me, they're in there, you just need to create the space to bring them to light!

    Friend, I want you to know that your dreams matter.  That YOU matter!  You were created for a purpose and to live a life of freedom!

    Whose life are you trying to live anyway?!?