Mommyhood · Self-Care

7 Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety

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The holidays, with all of their charm, are still considered by many to be the most stressful time of year. Between family drama, traveling expenses, and long grocery store lines it seems there is no end to external pressure. Add to that the never-ending duties of caring for the tiny people in your house and, well, you could probably use a few ideas to help you take a deep breath and take care of yourself. So here are my top tips for self care and reducing your stress and anxiety.

1. Take time for your appearance.

While the baby is napping this morning I have taken the opportunity to do a few things for myself that I never get a chance to do. I put the clothes in the dryer, started the dishwasher, poured myself a big glass of water and got to work. I washed my hair, massaged my scalp, and applied a homemade hair mask (1 egg, 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, a handful of conditioner) to help strengthen and grow my hair. You can wrap your hair up in a towel and let it soak into your hair for as long as you want before rinsing it. Healthier, shinier, longer hair!

I also took time to apply moisturizer a scrub to my lips, brush my teeth extra well, pluck my eyebrows, and lather some lotion on my skin. It’s amazing how much a little self care will boost your confidence and give you energy! Paint your nails or apply a face mask. Give your body the attention that is so often neglected when caring for your children.

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2. Clean your living space.

Hands down, the biggest thing I can do to relieve my stress levels are to be sure my home is tidy and smelling fresh. Start with your bedroom and move out to the main living areas. In many countries it is widely accepted that a messy environment invites stress and other negative emotions. Cleaning the house is viewed as a way of detoxing all of the built up yuckiness and boosting the mood of the entire household. So if you’re dealing with a lot of stress, be sure that your environment isn’t a contributing factor. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll gain a fresh perspective and a better attitude when everything is in its place.

3. Treat yourself to your favorite food.

Food is one of the fastest ways to calm the soul. We all have those comfort foods that remind us of our childhood and put us at ease. Maybe it’s a big cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows or chicken noodle soup. It might be a guilty pleasure like ice cream. Give yourself permission to veer from what you normally eat and make yourself a treat. Kick your feet up and enjoy it.

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4. Try yoga or an outdoor form of exercise.

Many people swear by yoga as a way of calming the mind and body. I’ve never gotten into it, but some day I would like to learn the basics. What I can recommend from experience is a little sunshine. Take a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood. Go for a swim. Even just a drive downtown to order a smoothie can do wonders. Get out of the house and let the calming power of the great outdoors take over.

5. Find an outlet to express your feelings and struggles.

Talk to your spouse or call up your bestie and ask them if you can take a moment just to vent. Don’t be afraid to let those who love you know when you need a little help. Maybe you love to write; a blog is an excellent outlet, even when you have an average of 2 views per post. Don’t feel comfortable opening up to anyone? Make something creative. Get in the kitchen and start baking or pull out your acrylic paints. Go shopping, if that’s your thing.

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6. Look at taking a trip.

Consider getting away from it all for the weekend. Drive a few hours away and sink your toes in the sand at the beach or drive through the mountains. Just having a spell away from home can help you return a renewed resolve to get things done and make important decisions.

Maybe that’s not possible for you right now. If you’re working, at least consider taking a sick day to recharge. Ask a friend or family member if it’s possible for them to watch your children for an afternoon.

7. When all else fails, take a nap.

The world and all of its problems always seem so much less important when you wake up from a good nap. There’s a chance you just need to sleep on it and look at the problem with fresh eyes when you wake up.

May your holidays be stress-free!
Elizabeth

Christian Life

30 Day Bible Reading Challenge

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Hello friends! I’ve recently embarked on a 30-day Bible reading challenge. There really isn’t a whole lot about it that’s profound, but I would like to share the concept with you and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own bible reading challenge. I’m posting just in time for New Year’s and this would be a great way for you to start off 2017!

The idea has been in the back of my mind for a while. In fact, I think it’s something God has been challenging me to pursue. Here are the basics:

1. Dedicate a certain time each day to reading.

You can work with your own schedule to find a time that works best for you. For me, nap time is the most ideal portion of the day. When Hudson is napping I generally have an hour to myself, give or take. For a lot of my late teens I would set my alarm for anywhere from 5:30-6:30am, make a big cup of coffee, and go sit outside to do my bible study while watching the sunrise. This is still my favorite time of day for bible study, but while I’m pregnant I generally need all of the sleep I can get before my toddler wakes up going full-speed at 7.
My husband is one of those people who can concentrate best at night. There are some of those weird people out there. Find your peak time and try and set aside at least half an hour.

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2. Decide what to read.

Many people follow a specific bible reading plan. I’ve used many great ones before that take you through passages covering a single theme, such as forgiveness or the miracles of Jesus. You can read through a whole book of the Bible, or if you’re feeling really ambitious you can even aim to finish the New Testament or the book of Psalms.
This time, for me, I have decided to simply approach my reading time each day with an open heart and mind and allow God to direct me where He wants. Normally that would feel too wishy-washy to me, but I really feel this time like that’s what He’s leading me to do. I have no idea where I’ll be reading! Isn’t that exciting?

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3. Find a small notebook.

I purchased a set of three lovely notebooks to keep and use only for these 30 days. I find this a lot less overwhelming than buying a 200-page leather bound journal that I’ll only use a fraction of. These are only 64 pages long, which is the perfect length to have a couple of pages per day.
Use your notebook as an aid to your study. Jot down key verses, Greek/Hebrew definitions, word studies; whatever helps you to get the most out of your reading time. For me, answering questions helps me to really get the most out of a passage. I generally ask:

  • What can I learn about God from this passage?
  • Is God trying to teach me something by leading me to this text? Can it be applied to a situation I am currently in?
  • What is the greater context of these verses?

You can write out your answers or just meditate on them.

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4. Find a way to apply and share what you learn.

God will certainly teach you something important if you open yourself up to receive and grow from His lessons. Involve your spouse in your study or encourage a girlfriend to participate with you so you can talk about what you’re learning. Post a verse that really stood out to you on your social media. If you choose to take part in the challenge, try a hashtag like #30daybiblechallenge that will help others connect with and encourage you. Purchase a notebook for a loved one this Christmas and write the instructions on the cover page. And if God brings a certain friend or family member to mind when you come across a passage, share it with them and tell them God laid them on your heart. Ask them how you can pray for them and better lift them up. Remember, God’s love is contagious!

Happy reading!
Elizabeth

Mommyhood · pregnancy

An Open Letter to My Second Child

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My dear little one,

You have been growing inside of me now for right around 6 months. They tell me you weigh a little over a pound, that you already recognize my voice, and that all of your tiny organs are developing perfectly on track. I greatly anticipate my monthly doctors appointments when, for a few brief moments, I get to peek into your world and see you. Even as I’m sitting back and typing this letter I can feel you thumping around inside me. I think you like the coffee I’m sipping.

You mean a lot of things to me. We were going through a very rough time when you came along. I wasn’t aware of your presence for almost 6 weeks. I thought I was just drained from stress and chasing after your wild brother. You were the gift we didn’t know we wanted. Those two pink lines meant something different to me this time, though. My initial thought was that I couldn’t fit another thing on my plate right now. We hadn’t planned on a second child for at least another year. The risk of miscarriage was much higher. Everyone recommends two years between c-sections. I had only just gotten back to my pre-pregnancy weight. We were still waiting on our house to sell. How was I going to tell my family, who would have all of the same concerns?

My second test came back positive; even darker than the first. Blood work confirmed it less than a week later. I was most certainly pregnant, and the signs of your presence were growing every day. My belly began to swell.

A short time later I was finally able to see you. You were a tiny, black-and-white jelly bean on the ultrasound screen. I had dreaded the appointment in many ways because I worried that something would be wrong, horribly wrong. That’s when I began to realize how much I had come to love you in such a short time. And yet, a quick little heartbeat flashed on the monitor. I fell in love with you, and determined that somehow we would make this work. I was going to be the best mother I could be.

I still remember the nurse’s voice when she told me over the phone that I would be having another boy. Nothing about the announcement surprised me. I held onto the possibility that you were a girl, but I think I knew in my heart that I would be the mother of two little men. My visions of a sweet boy and girl pair changed to one of two brothers. I’m glad that you’re another boy. I believe God knew you were exactly what I needed.

Your big brother is very independent and headstrong. He reminds me a lot of myself and my own firstborn characteristics. I hope that you’re a little more easy-going and cuddly. I feel like you will be. We have everything waiting for you whenever you make your arrival. We’ve got all of the hand-me-down clothes and snuggles that you could hope for. You’ve got a future best friend in your big brother and and mommy and daddy who can’t wait to finally lay eyes on you and see who you look the most like. All of this, and you only weigh a pound.

I’ll continue to look forward to each bump and kick. It makes me smile every time. I love watching my tummy grow with you. We named you over the last few weeks after a lot of debate and careful thought. We have settled on Truett Ford. We tried many others but that is the only name that has stuck. It feels right. I think you’re gently telling us that it’s your name.

We want you in our arms soon little one, but stay safe with me for a few more months. I want to be able to hold you when you arrive. Mommy and daddy love you and can’t wait to meet the little miracle that you are. You are precious to us.

With all of my heart,
Mommy

marriage

Marrying Young: 11 Tips I’ve Learned

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I was eighteen years old when I walked down the aisle in my white wedding dress. I know, I’m insane, right?

I could feel the judgement. I still can. Our society has morphed in the last century from one that praised young marriage as an accomplishment to one that condemns you as desperate and naive at best. I didn’t have many people straight-up tell me that I was really stupid for tying myself down so young, but many well meaning people did advise me to question what I really wanted in life. I was advised to date around first, go on a mission trip, finish college. Most of it was great advise; probably even advise I would now give other young women in my shoes. But it wasn’t what I wanted. I had fallen irrevocably, uncontrollably, head-over-heals in love with my soon-to-be husband, and I couldn’t wait to be his wife.

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Throughout my teenage years I was very influenced by a lot of Christian bloggers and speakers on courtship and being a housewife. The vision they presented of a dutiful wife and young mother was what I wanted. Something in it struck me as logical, as the right way of doing things. I felt (and still feel) that I had been made to fulfill those rolls. When I was fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen I began to go through intense cycles of fear and unwavering excitement about my future. The vast majority of my life was a world of untapped potential. I wanted nothing more than to meet my future husband. I held onto the dream of marrying at eighteen…though I never actually believed it would happen to me.

Of course, I had other dreams too. I spent most of my spare time drawing, painting, and writing books. I wanted to be a missionary, and I was determined to go as a single woman if God didn’t send a husband my way soon. That’s when a certain guy came into my life who had actually been hanging in the background for four years. I knew him but was absolutely 0% attracted to him. We went to the same tiny church and had seen each other no less than twice a week for years. In fact, I recall at least momentarily considering every other guy who walked in the church except him. To be blunt, I found him unattractive, boring, and especially unintelligent (all of these opinions taking root without ever having held an actual conversation with him). I’m quite grateful that it wasn’t love at first sight, though. It truly taught me a powerful lesson about putting people into categories. Having never had a boyfriend prior to him, I was able to experience for the first time the incredible complexities that make up another human being. It was hard to believe that someone I had once found so painfully ordinary turned out beneath the surface to be a person as multi-faceted and complex as myself.

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We dated for six months before he proposed. We’ve never been able to keep secrets and surprise each other, so I knew what his plans were that weekend (what I didn’t know until later was that he had been so sure from the start that he was going to marry me that he had purchased the engagement ring only a few weeks after we started dating). In our favorite grass meadow where we had spent much of our time, he asked me to be his wife. Just over three months later we got married. I was eighteen and he was twenty-one.

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I’ve learned a lot of things since we’ve been married. I’ve grown and changed, both with age and life’s challenges. I’m becoming more of the woman I want to be. We’ve both seen each other make some big mistakes and take a few falls. We have only been married for 2 years and 4 months now. We still have a lot to learn and years of new seasons and changes ahead of us. Here are a few things in particular that I’ve learned so far.

1. They will definitely make you mad. A lot.

And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! It’s part of discovering each other. I actually wrote in my diary when we were dating that I couldn’t possibly imagine James ever doing anything to make me angry. I conceded that he probably would annoy me at some point, but he certainly would never make me angry.
Oh my gosh.
I was so wrong.
Living with another human being, it won’t take you long to realize just how different you are (more on that in a minute). I am a first born and he is #4 out of 5. I tend to boss him around like a big sister and he annoys me like a little brother. I’m an introvert and he’s an extrovert. He says too much when he’s angry and I give the silent treatment.

It’s taken us a little over two years to get over most of the petty fighting. A LOT of other couples told us the same thing; that we would work out most of the arguing over misunderstanding each other in the first couple of years and then move on to have healthier, more productive disagreements. We still have a bad day here and there, but we have come a long way in learning how to overlook annoyances and forget the bad encounters we do have. We are both accepting that some of the biggest differences between us are simply who our spouse is as a person and we need to make adjustments. For a long time he would be annoyed when something made me cry, and I would get aggravated that he never cleaned up behind himself. Over time he has accepted my sensitivity and I have learned to work around his uncleanly habits.

You’ll get mad at each other. But those episodes will decrease in frequency after the first bit if you choose to learn from your mistakes as a couple and not repeat the same mistakes next time. There are always going to be things you could fight about. Pick what’s most important and overlook the rest. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.”

2. You’re still more similar than you think.

I was surprised to learn all of the ways we are actually very similar. I didn’t think that we would have so many things in common since I’m a woman and he’s a man, but we do. We share some similar past encounters like a lack of friends in elementary school and sneaking out of bed at night to listen to our parents’ TV shows. When we talk about deeper subjects, we frequently arrive at the same conclusion. Many of the ways that we process information and live life are simply deeply human experiences. For being opposite genders, we actually share many things: feelings, frustrations, worries, regrets, memories, lessons.

I’ve often told people that in my first year of marriage I learned two things primarily; during the first six months I was blown away by how much we were alike. During the second six months I realized just how vastly different we were.

3. You will learn everything there is to know about yourself.

Let me say this loud and clear–I had no idea who I was before I got married. None. Zilch.

The thing was, I didn’t even know it. I took for granted the things I did and said without really understanding why I did them. I couldn’t pinpoint any of my dominant personality traits. I struggled through temperament tests because I just really wasn’t sure which sounded more like me. I wasn’t sure if I was introverted or extraverted, forgiving or hard-hearted, lazy or responsible. Some days I felt like both. Which was I really?

Marriage has totally changed that. Having another person in such close proximity to study me and compare myself to, it didn’t take too long to understand what made me tick. I can now say “no” to some things that I know won’t be a good fit for me. Having the freedom to be creative and make 100% of my own decisions, I’ve developed firm preferences on my style, habits, even exactly how I like my coffee. And cutting down on my initial wishy-washiness has helped us to form a more authentic marriage in which we can meet each other’s needs because we understand them. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Your differences can strengthen your marriage when you learn how to use them.

Again, this will take a little time to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but once you do you can actually use them to great advantage. I’m not great with numbers, and deadlines and due dates intimidate me, so James pays our bills and keeps up with our finances. He fills me in and we’re good to go. I ask him what is an appropriate amount to budget for groceries and go in with that amount only. I enjoy researching online and finding fun things to go do, so I make our weekend plans. He will throw up if he comes within 10 feet of a poopy diaper and it doesn’t bother me at all. We both get to avoid the majority of things we hate to do.

5. You will fear confrontation less because you have learned how to fight right.

Other than fighting with my siblings, I was an extremely non-confrontational person prior to marriage. I had no clue how to stand up for myself, form a clear opinion, or debate with someone. If I had purchased a flawed product a few years ago, I could never have mustered the gumption to go to customer service, explain my problem, and nicely (but firmly) demand a refund. I would never tell a waitress that my the food she brought wasn’t what I ordered. I’m not so easily intimidated now. And that’s a good thing. I can now let someone know that I disagree with their opinion but still respect their position and won’t allow our differences to affect our relationship.

6. You learn to own your less-desirable traits.

You both know you have them anyway. It’s better to own them. If you’re an unusually lazy person, you had might as well go ahead and admit it, be sure your spouse understands your negative tendency, and do your best to go against your natural grain when it will produce a better outcome. You and your spouse may both know that you are quick to anger, and when you both understand that you can work to avoid bad situations. You can take the reigns when you see your spouse is about to explode on someone and steer everything in a better direction. Admitting you can’t do something, or have a very hard time doing it, is the first key step in solving the problem together.

7. Don’t bring up past mistakes.

That thing he said in an argument two years ago? Forget it. Don’t mention it next time you’re upset. No matter how bad it was, if they apologized for it and it’s behind you, leave it in the past. I once heard that the biggest key to a successful marriage is having a short memory. There’s a lot of truth to that. Some things may never be forgotten, but even if you think about it every day for a time, don’t bring it up if you’ve already worked through it. Set a firm rule with yourself that you won’t hit below the belt and try and add past failures to current problems. It isn’t worth it and it won’t get you anywhere.

8. Your spouse is not all-knowing. Ask for what you need.

I love to be surprised. My idea of a romantic date is probably calling me at the last minute telling me to get dressed and pack my bags because my hubby is taking me to a surprise date spot for the weekend (which miraculously happens to be the place I’ve been wanting to go for months but never mentioned). Oh, and he’s arranged for a babysitter. Everything is taken care of.

You know what? That’s never happened. It’s never happened because James can’t read my mind. You have to actually tell your spouse what you want from them and not expect them to “just know”. Never be afraid to ask for what you need from someone who loves you. It can be a romantic need, the need for space when you’re angry, the need for a break from your crazy toddler every now and then. Tell them. You’ll both be happier.

9. You’ll begin to understand divorce.

You may not agree with divorce. You may never have considered it yourself. But you’ll begin to see how its possible to slip into bad habits that over time break down and destroy a marriage. Some people say that this creates a holier-than-thou attitude for those who have made their marriage work when they see others failing. Like they’ve discovered “the secret” and everyone else is just wimping out and choosing the easy escape. For me it’s been the opposite. I judged divorced people before being married myself. Now my heart hurts for them because I can begin to imagine how painful it must be to have gone into marriage with the same optimism that I did only to have reality come crashing down.

Do I believe that in 90% of difficult cases a marriage can still be salvaged if both parties swallow their pride and agree to start over? Yes. But I don’t judge the person who has chosen to separate. They have enough pain and adjustment to deal with without my condemnation piled on top. I would rather help them where they’re at and do what I can to support them, even if I don’t support their decision. I realize now how short the road actually can be to disaster.

10. Never take your spouse for granted.

Your marriage will be 100x healthier if you never let go the possibility that you might not always have your partner. This doesn’t have to be a morbid thought. Just a necessary dose of reality. When my husband is driving me crazy, even if I don’t react the right way I am already taking a step in the right direction when I remember that there’s no guarantee I will have him in another 5, 10, 50 years. The news is full of heart-wrenching stories of the wife who was hit by a drunk driver on the way home from work or the husband who was fatally shot at his workplace. They often interview the spouse, who says that they never imagined “something like this would happen to me”. Even worse, it feels like half the time something terrible happened it was after they were fighting earlier the same day.

Life can be short. We aren’t promised forever together. Make the most of today.

11. Be spontaneous. Be weird. Keep them guessing.

Keep things fun by being a little unpredictable at times. Fix all their favorite foods on a random Thursday night. Bring them lunch at work one day. Write a love letter for no reason.

All of those things break up the monotony of every day life and add a little spice to your relationship. It’s exciting and tantalizing when there are still little aspects of you that your partner doesn’t expect.

Wishing you all the best with your marriage,
Elizabeth

Mommyhood · Our Adventures

Aquarium Trip

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I thought I would share a few pictures from our trip this morning to a local aquarium. Hudson is really still a little young to fully appreciate the animals, but there were lots of sensory activities he did enjoy. His favorite things included splashing in the water, playing with sand, and spinning the wheels on a water-powered display.

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He did watch the fish for a little bit, and he seemed the most interested in their biggest tanks. I can’t wait to take him when he’s older. Somehow I’ve always had a hunch that he will be a kid who loves animals.

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I love those moments when he becomes engrossed in watching something. He has the attention span of a small mosquito, but every now and then something does arrest his attention and he stops to get a better look. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to ask me a hundred questions, eager to soak in as much new information as possible. For now I’ll take what I can get.

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What do you and your littles enjoy getting out to do? Drop me a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Adventuring!
Elizabeth

Household · Minimalism · Uncategorized

8 Tips For an Organized Cleaning Routine

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I’ll admit, I’m not an organizer by nature. I still sometimes throw my dirty towel over the back of my desk chair and wait two days to unload the dishwasher.

But you can’t argue with results, and I will be the first to tell you that my household runs far more smoothly when it’s clean. When everything is untidy and the work has piled up, the mood of our home takes a serious dip. I’m moodier, my toddler fusses, and even my husband (a natural-born advocate for “leaving everything on the floor so you can find it”) is notably less patient. For the first year or so of my marriage, I had a bad habit of skipping over tasks I didn’t want to do. Laundry we no longer wore piled up in the corner of the laundry room. The oven smelled any time I turned it on over 350 degrees because of the tiny drops of cornbread mix burned onto the bottom. Every few days my husband would complain that he couldn’t find something because I had stashed it in a drawer somewhere to maintain the outward semblance of cleanliness.

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A couple of months after my son was born, I finally decided that enough was enough. I was tired of finally getting around to something when it got too bad to avoid. Armed with a huge sheet of cardboard and a sharpie, I set forth a cleaning schedule that I have very proudly stuck with for the better part of a year. It has revolutionized the way I keep my house and prevented things from building up.

Without further delay, let me share my top 8 tips for getting (and staying!) organized and clean, even when you’re a natural slob like me:

1. Download a cleaning app.

Yes, an app for cleaning. I’ve benefitted from a couple that off and on have helped me stay on top of things during busy seasons. My favorite is the Tody app. It costs a couple of dollars, but I feel it’s worth it. You can download it to more than one device so it’s with you wherever you go. It’s fully customizable and allow you to set how often you want to perform each task. You add as many rooms as you like. It’s streamline design was also a big selling point for me. I love how simple and easy it is to use.

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2. Have separate tasks for each day of the week.

This was a big one for me. After my maternity leave I was working three mornings a week, which meant that the other days are when I had more time for longer jobs like the laundry. For example, Monday and Tuesday are bigger cleaning days for me because my husband tends to leave a mess from the weekend. Sunday I do almost nothing besides tidy up behind the baby. I found it a lot more helpful not to have the same list of chores every day, aside from basic things like making the bed and unloading the dishwasher. I can also work around Hudson’s nap schedule. If I need to clean the toilet during his morning nap rather than first thing, I have that option. I usually give myself until it’s time to start dinner to have my main things completed.

I’ve switched the days around too, here and there. Schedules change and it’s good to be flexible. Here are a few I found that I really love:
Weekly Cleaning Schedule
Daily Cleaning Schedule
How Often to Clean Everything

3. Say no to things and events when it will jeopardize your schedule.

If your dishes are piling up and someone wants me to hang out, I’ve found that I have to muster the discipline to say no…Or at least not until I can finish them. When I tell myself that Oh, I’ll do that when I get home, I almost never do. Simply put, you can have a whole day of plans and still manage to make a mess than will complicate your evening (and the next morning when you wake up). If you can’t balance both, don’t try to. Know your limits. Know when to say no.

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4. Utilize nap time.

Believe me–when I lay my toddler down for his nap, I am usually ready to curl up for a nap myself. But those couple of hours a day are often the only appropriate ones to clean during. When my son is awake, I can’t leave out my bottles of Windex. I can’t put the toilet lid up while I clean it or he will manage to throw something into it. I certainly can’t mop without him slipping and sliding until the floor dries. If you need to, just set aside 20 minutes and tell yourself that you’re going to do as much as you can in that amount of time, and after that you will sit down and have some “me time”.

5. Learn what a “broken window” is and why it’s important.

I was first introduced to this concept a couple of years ago while reading a home economics book. They theory is simple: a nice, well-kept neighborhood is significantly less likely to be robbed. Police officers talk about the surprising impact that one thing (i.e. a broken window) can have on an area’s likelihood of crime. One broken window can make the whole neighborhood susceptible to it.

In the same way, your entire living room can be spotless. It feels amazing. But the moment that you have a few toys in the middle of the floor or pull the pillows off the sofas, the room is “broken”. One messy thing invites further untidiness. Someone is less likely to leave a mess in your room when it’s spotless to begin with. They (and you) will be significantly more inclined to put things back in their place and clean up your own mess.

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6. Keep dirty laundry off the floor.

First thing in the morning, I grab our dirty towels and yesterday’s clothes off the floor and put them in the washing machine. I might not start a load yet, but they are out of the way and ready to be washed. I don’t even bother with a laundry hamper because I’ve discovered that for me it encouraged me to wait around until it’s overflowing to take care of. With our current family size, I typically wash 1-2 loads of laundry every other day. But no matter what, I don’t leave dirty laundry on the floor. Ever.

7. Sort through the mail every day. Period.

This is something that I let slip pretty often. Every time it does, junk mail piles up on our kitchen table. The simplest thing to do is to sort through it and throw out anything that isn’t a bill. I go through the coupons in the weekly flyer and keep what I know I’ll use and chunk the rest. Bills go to work with my husband the very next morning.

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8. Keep every room smelling fresh.

I’m a big advocate for this one. I send the trash with my husband every morning so poopy diapers don’t stink up the house. During the day, I typically burn at least one candle. I run the dishwasher often. I mop with clean-smelling products and Fabreeze the sofas. When your home smells clean, your home will feel clean. 

 

I hope you’ve found some of these tips useful and inspiring! The most important thing is staying motivated. It’s hard some days. Finding your motivation is key to keeping up a routine. Once you see results you will be significantly more inclined to keep up with it. And the more you clean, the less you will have to do each day as your home becomes cleaner and cleaner.

Happy cleaning!
Elizabeth

Household · Minimalism

Minimalism: The Art of Living with Less

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What is minimalism?

The Miriam-webster dictionary defines minimalism as a design or lifestyle characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.

As a modern movement, it has seen a rise in popularity in the last few years. At heart, the movement is built on not allowing your possessions to possess you. Living with less is a road to freedom from greed, clutter, and chaos. Minimalists openly defy our culture’s obsessive need to own stuff. 

I was introduced to the movements a month or so ago through social media and I have immensely enjoyed learning about it and applying some of the principles to my household. Already I have seen big benefits to my attitude and energy levels. I’ve even noticed a difference in my toddler. The wonderful thing to me about minimalism is that you can take it as far as you want to. I have watched YouTubers who refuse to own a car and can fit all of their possessions in a single handbag. That level of dedication is not practical for me as a wife and mom, but the great thing about it is that it isn’t necessary. You will know when you have gotten rid of enough things in your life that you begin to feel the space to breath again. Basically, if you own an object that is unnecessary or doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. Sell it, recycle it, throw it out, give it away–whatever you have to do to remove it from your home. Get rid of duplicate items (oh hello, 3 crockpots) and those old things that you have kept in your junk room for years because you made it when you were ten.

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Another important principal of minimalism is that your good memories are not tied to an object. You will have the memories without the item 90% of the time. If holding onto sentimental things is cluttering up your home and you’re having a hard time parting with it all, consider sorting through it all and determining to get rid of half of it. In a few months, revisit the stuff and cut it in half again. Keep it up until you feel that you’re down to only what you need and have let go of the rest that you kept purely because you felt bad to throw it out.

Over the last few weeks I have ruthlessly edited my closet. I don’t know at what point it clicked for me that the key to a clean home is not to organize and re-organize again and again, but to get rid of what you don’t need in the first place. Nip it in the bud. All of those t-shirts people gave me with holes in them and the skinny jeans from my pre-mommy days that will never fit again are gone. I decided I didn’t need to hang onto three stretched-out white tanks tops when I had one really good one. I finally have room in one closet for my clothes and my husband’s clothes. My laundry has been cut in half and I feel like my outfits have looked better lately because I can see everything I have to put it together. I’ve also gone through my pantry, bathroom, laundry room, back porch, and my junk room. We’re in an apartment for the time being but hope to buy a home in 2017. When we do, I’ll share lots of pictures of my decorations and organization. For now, everything is semi-ready to move without much notice.

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There are some aspects of minimalism that can be applied to every area of life too, including relationships and finances. The majority of minimalists aim for zero debt. Of course that takes time, but it’s a worthy goal that will leave you with so much more freedom down the road. In the meantime, my husband and I have cut surplus spending from our budget. We finally cut off the cable we never watched and reduced the data plans on our phones. We have virtually eliminated eating out except for the occasional date night or Sunday lunch. As a result, we already feel more in control of our money as we watch our savings climb at a faster rate. We simply do not buy what we do not need.

As far as relationships go, I believe you are responsible for removing negative influences in your life. It depends entirely on the situation, but you will find a lot of freedom when you simply learn to say no. The people who take advantage of you will begin to fade away, and you’ll have more time for those in your life who truly need you. It’s more than okay to distance yourself from people and situations that hurt you, depress you, worry you, and weigh you down. The people who care about you will see when their behavior is a burden to you. Less negativity. More genuine love. Let people know when they are pushing your limits and adding uncalled for junk to your life. You don’t need that. I’ve noticed that the times in my life when I was the most weighed down by drama are when I had the least energy to give to my family. Save your worries and care for the people closest to you.

I hope my brief introduction has been helpful to you. Maybe you’ve been a minimalist for years or maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it. Let’s face it; sometimes we’re too lazy or busy to read and need an easier way to digest more information. Let me leave you with a list of some wonderful YouTubers I have watched over the last few weeks. As you will see, they each approach minimalism in different ways, some more extreme than others.

Allison Anderson
Lots of great ideas here for beauty and fashion without the excess spending. She also has some very simple guides for decluttering that I found helpful.

Sarah Nourse
I had to follow her on Instagram too because she does such a good job creating a beautiful, minimal space. Love her sense of style both in fashion and design.

Jenny Mustard
She is a much more extreme minimalist than I think I have the discipline to be, but I find her videos helpful and concise.

Zoe Arielle
I could watch her channel all day! Such well made videos!

Love,
Elizabeth