Minimalism and Children’s Clothes

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Photo by Caspar Rubin on Unsplash

I used to keep all of my children’s clothes.

As our first child, Caleb, grew out of things, I would pack them away in a sturdy plastic bin and put it in storage. I bought many bins over the years to accommodate ALL these clothes…bin upon bin built up quite a collection of boy clothes, from newborn through the toddler sizes.

Then we discovered minimalism a year ago and my entire approach to clothing began to change. Isaiah was an infant, so I was beginning to go back through those first bins of boy clothing to see what might be useful.

With my new minimalist perspective I saw clearly for the first time the folly of my ways. I had kept SO MANY clothes, many of which I didn’t even like. They were the ones that I rarely or never put on Caleb as a baby that sat on the shelf just in case I ran out of clothes I liked.

Why did I keep them?

Being frugal has something to do with it, but there is also this nagging voice that says, “You might need that one day.” That’s the voice I was not listening to anymore. I decided that if I really did *need it* one day, I could replace it.

I would not be chained to clothing because of an anxious voice in my head any longer.

My new approach was simple: I kept every clothing item that I liked and was in good condition. Everything else was thrown away or donated.

I got rid of a lot of clothes.

Space opened up (empty bins!) and I saw a way forward with my kids’ clothes that did not end up with me standing among towers of stacked bins, overwhelmed and wondering what to do with it all.

The psychological benefit of minimalism is huge. The mental space is as rewarding as the physical.

Now as my children continue to grow and I routinely sort through their clothing, the process is easy. If they wear it and it’s in good condition, it stays in their drawers (I do keep a few “play clothes” for each child that are not in good condition). If it is damaged or never worn I get rid of it. If it is outgrown, I keep it for the next child only if I LOVE it or it is particularly valuable/useful.

Minimalism has also changed the way I buy clothes. I used to love yard sales, consignment stores and bags of hand-me-downs. Now I avoid them. As much as I love getting clothes for a fraction of the retail price (or free), the time commitment involved is not usually worth it, at least at this time in my life. I do shop at consignment stores occasionally, but for the most part I buy new clothes for my kids as they need them.

And here is the key: each child does not need very much. A few pairs of pants/shorts, a few t-shirts, a few long sleeved shirts, and a few nicer outfits for church is all that’s needed. So buying replacements as items are outgrown or damaged is not a financial strain.  Plus I don’t shop at expensive stores, so that always helps the bottom line!

The empty bins, the space in drawers, the psychological freedom…minimalism has been such a gift.

Planning for the New Year

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It is vital for me to simplify if I want to accomplish anything.  Otherwise the overwhelm takes over and nothing productive happens.  Planning for a new year is one of these things.  I want to be intentional about the new year coming.  I want to have my priorities and goals in order and in mind so that I do not blunder through the year haphazardly.  But when anyone starts talking about roles and goals and intentions and priorities and planning I start to feel like burying my head under a pillow.  Where do I even start?  How do I determine what’s really important for this year?  Frankly, I’d rather do something else.

So I simplify.  I sat down with Trello this afternoon and made a board for the new year.  Then I wrote all my separate roles (wife, mother, etc.) as headers of separate lists.  Then I wrote down priorities or goals for each role.  I did not take a lot of time to do this.

Then I took my new weekly planner (which I bought at Walmart, by the way, and really like) and wrote out a sample week.  I do not have any desire to schedule every minute of every day, but rather I put down the basic structure of the days and certain things that need to happen.

For example, a new strategy I have going forward is scheduling two afternoons each week to focus on housekeeping, including laundry, instead of spreading it through the week (or not doing it at all!).  These afternoons will be on the days that I go to work in the mornings.  All that is written in my planner, along with items like when we will be homeschooling and my writing times.

Priorities in Trello.  A weekly rhythm in my pink, spiral-bound planner.  I think I’m ready for 2018.

Simplify to accomplish!

 

Minimalist Christmas

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Doesn’t that sound depressing? A minimalist Christmas.  I picture a Christmas tree under which there are no presents, a house sparsely decorated and no joy.

But minimalism is not about getting rid of things for the sake of getting rid of things.  It’s about getting rid of the extra, the not really valuable, to make space and time for what is.

A minimalist Christmas will look different for different people.  For one family it might mean minimizing decorations, keeping only those they truly love (creating space).  For another family it might mean paring down the invitations they accept to parties (creating time).  For another it might mean a complete re-prioritization of the season – this might take the form of a bigger tree and more intentional traditions (creating value).  Of course it could be a combination of all these things.

For us, minimizing Christmas does not mean getting rid of things.  Besides the broken ornaments and a few items that have no value for us, we are not getting rid of much this season.  In fact, we bought some decorations.

Neither is over-commitment a problem for us during the holiday season.  We are working on establishing valuable traditions for our family, which sometimes means putting items onto our calendar.

But what about presents?! Of course this will be different for each family, as well.  Some families give no presents (which really does sound depressing).  Some probably keep it to one gift each or three each or something along those lines.

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Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

We decide on an amount of money to spend on each child instead of a number of gifts.  It is not a huge amount, but it allows us to get each of our children several nice gifts that (hopefully) they will truly value.

So there will be presents under our tree.  We do have some decorations.  But my greatest hope for us this season is moments of real, deep joy…especially that miraculous kind found in a drafty, dirty stable a really long time ago.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

Advent/Christmas Plans in A Nutshell

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Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

This holiday season has snuck up on me. Last year I was on top of it all, which had everything to do with the fact that I was due to have a baby on December 23. As it turned out, I had exactly enough time to be completely ready. Right after we put the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and were ready to “settle down for a long winter’s nap,” my water broke. So it was not much of a winter’s nap, but the next day we got the greatest Christmas present ever.

Though tomorrow is the first day of December, I have not started ANY shopping.  I have, however, given a little thought as to what I’d like the next few weeks to hold.

But before I get to our actual plans, I need to explain our current approach to the Advent/Christmas season:

For a few years we tried to observe only Advent until it was actually Christmas, and then celebrate Christmas for all 12 days. It really didn’t work for us. It felt like we never celebrated because Christmas day would finally arrive, fly by, and then everyone and everything would move on (except our parish – it stays decorated and we sing Christmas carols).  Then it felt like our attempt to observe the “12 Days” was really just us pretending that Christmas was not over.

So we are trying to find a way to truly celebrate Christmas while also observing Advent.

We do Christmas-y things during Advent like listen to Christmas music, get a Christmas tree and watch Christmas movies.

But we also listen to the readings in Mass each week and think about how we are waiting. With the whole church we celebrate that He came as a baby and we wait for him to come as King.

With all that being said, here’s what we plan to do this Advent/Christmas season:

This Weekend

Get a Christmas tree! We’ve always gotten a real tree, but last year we actually cut the tree down ourselves. We plan to do this again, and the kids are looking forward to the whole experience (wagon ride, picking our tree, cutting it down, watching the trees get bailed and then seeing it loaded on our car). Then, of course, we will decorate it.

Throughout December

We plan to light this countdown candle and open a window of this advent calendar each night at dinner. I’m opting for one candle this year instead of the traditional five (purple, pink and white) that are lit each Sunday in Advent. Our table is really small.

December 6

Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with a surprise new book for each of our kids and brownies. We’ll try to talk about the real St. Nicholas, too, and watch The Polar Express.

December 8

Celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception by going to Mass in the evening and probably have dessert afterwards.

In the 2nd or 3rd week of December

Bake and decorate (gluten free) cut-out cookies. I was excited to find this mix from King Arthur Flour, as we’ve had great success with their gluten free mixes.

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Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

In the week leading up to Christmas Day

Build a gingerbread house! We did this last year and it was really fun, especially since we used a boxed kit and did not have to make the gingerbread first. The kids had a great time putting the candy decorations all over the house.

Go see Santa Claus at the mall. It still surprises me that our kids are into Santa and that we encourage it! We try to avoid outright lies on the subject, but so far it’s been fun and sweet. Last year was the first time any of our kids met Santa, and our mall Santa just happened to be a GREAT one. Before I knew it we were putting milk and cookies out for him – and an apple for the reindeer – on Christmas Eve (I ate the cookies and drank the milk before my water broke).

Take a drive to see Christmas lights. It’s amazing how much work some people do to make their houses look beautiful (or at least Christmas-y) at this time of year, so we drive around to enjoy it.

December 24

Go to the Christmas Eve vigil Mass. We would love to go to the midnight Mass at our parish, but it would be so hard for the kids. And then the next day would be so hard for us. Hopefully when they are older we can do that again.

So those are our plans in a nutshell. What do you do to observe Advent and Christmas?

Elephant & Piggie Save the Day (1st grade homeschool update)

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In this post I shared my plans for our 1st Grade homeschool year. Once we started there was some tweaking I had to do, so I’m here to report. Now we’ve found our groove and things are going well.

Reading:

I quickly realized that the Sing, Spell, Read & Write book we had was moving too slowly for Caleb. For a short time I switched back to Catholic Heritage Curricula’s Little Stories for Little Folks (which we used quite a bit last year).

Then one day when it was time for reading and I got out the next story, Caleb broke down in tears. He had taken one look at the first page full of words and was overwhelmed. I insisted he read the page because I knew he was up to the task, but after that experience I reevaluated. I don’t want him to dread reading. I want him to love it.

During a providential internet search for funny beginning readers I happened upon the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. I was able to get lots of them at our local library, so for at least a couple of months we’ve been working our way through each one.

These books are great! There are only a few words per page (but usually around 60 pages per book), and lots of repetition. They use plenty of diphthongs, consonant blends and digraphs. But best of all they are FUNNY. Caleb does not even realize how hard he’s working to read each page because the story is so funny and engrossing!

Recently I discovered that Mo Willems has a series of Pigeon books, so when we’ve exhausted Elephant & Piggie we will move on to those.

Handwriting:

We went back to our Catholic Heritage Curricula handwriting book from last year. It is spiral-bound at the top, which makes hand/arm positioning very easy, and I feel like the size of the letters is good for beginning writers. We are almost done with Level K and Level 1 is ready and waiting. These books are more expensive than I’d like to spend on handwriting, but the format and content has worked so well that I’m willing to pay the higher price. Caleb spends only 5-10 minutes each school day on handwriting, but improvement in his confidence, speed and accuracy has been steady.

Other subjects:

In all other subjects we have stuck to the plan. Sonlight for history and literature has been really good so far. MCP Math and our Evan-Moor Beginning Geography book have both worked well. We have not tried Artventure yet.

So far that’s all there is to report. I’m sure there will be more tweaking before this school year ends, so I’ll give a final update in the spring or summer.

Towards Eating Real Food & Healing Leaky Gut

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Today I drove a long way out of my way to buy three half gallons of raw milk. I see it as my first step on a long path toward eating real food and healing our guts.

The last three months have been a whirlwind of investigation, trial and some frustration as I seek to discover what exactly are Anna’s nutritional needs and how what she eats is connected to how she behaves.

After many late nights online, hours and hours spent researching different food intolerances (Dairy? Corn? Everything?), removing dairy for a while, deciding we need to give up ALL grains (and then not knowing what we’d eat), wondering if the problem is actually the wheat or the glyphosate sprayed on the wheat (or both?), I finally have something of a plan, and I feel peaceful about it.

My plan is very simple and so is the reason behind it.

First the reason: I think Anna has leaky gut syndrome. I don’t know for sure. I can’t prove it. But that’s what I think it is. So helping her does not mean pinpointing one precise food or food group to eliminate from her diet. Helping her means healing her leaky gut.

Now the plan: Eat real food: raw milk, fruits, vegetables, meat/fish/poultry, beans, rice, nuts, etc. Eat foods that encourage gut healing: bone broth, fermented foods (I haven’t gotten my feet wet on this one yet, but plan to), and whatever else Dr. Josh Axe tells me to fix in his book Eat Dirt. I also plan to use essential oils, probiotics and enzymes to encourage Anna’s healing.

There is no doubt that eliminating gluten from her diet three months ago was beneficial for her. We will be largely gluten free, but any breads, biscuits, pancakes, etc. we eat I will make with einkorn flour. I discovered this gem a couple of months ago. It’s an ancient wheat that has never been tampered with and has far less gluten than our wheat today. The brand I buy is Jovial.

Now this is not to say that we will never eat processed foods again. We definitely will. We are NOT swearing off pizza, potato chips or even fast food forever. When we’re in social situations, we will be social and eat the food given to us as much as possible.

The goal is not perfection in sticking to a particular diet. The goal is health and healing by eating real food most of the time. The other goal is pleasure: getting to eat and enjoy good food together with an awareness that what we eat affects how we feel, think and behave.

So cheers, and bon appétit!

Now I’m off to the grocery store…

Make Today Better

My mothering lows are far lower than I ever imagined they would be. Mothering is also far more difficult than I ever expected. At the end of a particularly frustrating, irritating day it seems like all my efforts have been for nought. Despite my good intentions and hard work, my children are selfish, whiny small people who I often do not want to be around.

The next morning three simple words cross my mind: MAKE TODAY BETTER.

I already know that my children are not quite as bad as I felt the night before – they have weak areas in their characters, to be sure, but also I have failed to institute and enforce necessary family systems that would help us all live together better. I have been inconsistent in my approach to discipline.

Overall they are warm, loving kids who like to have fun.

So MAKE TODAY BETTER.

I can institute the system that our family needs and begin to enforce it.

I can reevaluate my discipline strategy to target what are the real issues and leave the rest alone.

I can make time to really see each child, even for a few minutes, and let them know my interest in them personally by listening to them or playing with them or reading a book to them.

If God will give me the love and grace that I otherwise do not have, today can be much better than yesterday.