Update on my Minimalist Challenge

Today my to-do list included, among other activities, to toss an old tennis ball back and forth with Woodrow in the backyard (which he likes to do and asked me about this afternoon) and to finish browsing through a book of fighter planes with Woodrow (that he’d also asked me to do–we started it Monday night and finished it this afternoon). This is a large part of what I do as a “professional mother,” investing time in my  children. And that makes it to the to-do list.

dry erase board with markers

Spending these moments together with him, doing activities that he’d chosen, confirmed something for me:  My first born’s love language is quality time. My own love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch; I think Garfield’s are receiving gifts and also physical touch. Knowing what speaks love to my children helps me to pursue them intentionally, offering what I know will bless them.

Have you heard about the 5 love languages? You can discover more about those at this site.  The book of the same name (The Five Love Languages) has been around for decades, but I find it’s helpful to know this kind of information about yourself and about the ones you love.

wreath with garland

Other items on my to-do list today:  bake bread, make smoothies, and–of course–since it’s November 8, to organize my 8 things to purge in my November Minimalism Dare. I’ve been faithful with this practice each day this month, and it’s giving me the gift of anticipation. Each morning, I wake up eager to toss something else into the give-away bag. Part of me wants to rush through it and dump everything into the container headed to Goodwill all at once (I’ve pulled out a pile of stuff that I will eventually get rid of and am so far picking through that for each day’s give away). But I’m heeding my internal reminders to pace myself, to enjoy the ride, and to value having something to anticipate each day.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve purged so far in November:

Day 3:  1 glass jar with lid + 1 fabric swatch + 1 piece of clothing

Day 6:  1 tent (an extra one we’d been trying to sell–it finally sold!) + 1 luggage tag + 1 two-minute timer from an old Boggle game (we lost some of the letter cubes) + 1 ribbon + 1 piece of fabric + 1 cord with tassels

Day 8:  1 garment bag + 7 make-up samples

chalk spilling from tin bucket

On day 2, we gave away a box of macadamia nut milk that we’d won at a grocery store event (random, I know). We didn’t need it, so we passed it along to a family who did. The make-up samples went to a women’s Bible study via a friend, hopefully blessing some women there who might enjoy these items. On day 7, I FINALLY returned 2 books I’d borrowed from my team leader with Cru–I’d had them more than 2 years.

So, this project isn’t only satisfying to me; it’s actually giving me the means to bless others, too. I can’t wait to discover what else I can share, toss, sell, or donate this month!

 

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November: Minimalist Challenge Month

This summer, the furnished apartment where we stayed in Colorado included cable TV (which we don’t have at home). So Mike and I watched several HGTV episodes of tiny house shows. I have a fascination with tiny houses, and back in 2015, when we embarked on the journey of selling our townhouse, we both pondered how we might build a tiny house on a little patch of land.

We couldn’t figure out a way to make it work financially (with the need to buy the land first, then build the tiny house, but still have a place to live in the interim), but I still gravitate toward TV shows featuring tiny houses.

One of these episodes featured a couple who’d taken a minimalist challenge before pursuing their move into a tiny home. Here’s what that entailed:  For a month, they gave away, sold, or trashed personal belongings. On the first day of the month, they got rid of one item; on the second day, 2 items. On the 3rd day, they donated or threw out 3 items…and so on. I’d never heard of this plan before but was intrigued by it.

carafes

Now I’m planning to take on this dare for the month of November. I won’t have each item out of our house by midnight each day–it just isn’t feasible–but I’ll put the things aside in bags for donation as the month goes by.

I’ll also stay accountable to this challenge on my blog, so you can read about the flotsam and jetsam that I’ll be passing along–to the garbage bin or to the Goodwill. Today’s the first day.

Day 1.  A ribbon gleaned from my craft bag. (It’s fine to start small, I think.)

I suspect this dare will become increasingly difficult as the month goes by–good thing I picked a month with only 30 days. 

Care to join me? I find something so cleansing about purging excess stuff from our home. Maybe you’d like this dare, too.

Wear It Well Wednesday: From New York

Just a few days before my family and I flew to New York for our recent vacation, a package of goodies arrived from our friend Vivian in Texas. In it were lots of pieces that I wore to, in, and coming home from NYC.

I’m so blessed that my clothing sizes are similar enough to several family members’ sizes (and some friends’, too) that I can wear their cast-offs. Here’s the outfit I donned to travel to New York; I also wore the pants the following day with a different shirt.

wear it well wed in new york

Shirt and jeans:  hand-me-downs from Vivian. I especially like the zipper details on the ankles of these pants. Boots:  passed down from my aunt Anna. The necklace–which is more or less my go-to one–is a gift from my sister. In case you wonder, I did not wear these boots around New York City. As soon as we plopped our things in our friends’ apartment our first night in town, I changed into more comfortable shoes, and we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Then we had Japanese ramen at a tiny restaurant in Brooklyn Heights–it was a great introduction to our NYC vacation.

 

A Spoonful of Sugar: My Mopping Playlist

Music can really set a mood, even while doing mundane household chores. I mopped the kitchen/eating area today (it’s all one room) and created a play list as I went along. I’m sharing it with you today, for your own listening/mopping pleasure.

You’ll notice there aren’t any praise and worship songs; I wasn’t aiming for contemplative, thoughtful tunes. I looked for upbeat, familiar songs–preferably ones with which I could sing along. Essentially, I needed to hear music that would make me want to dance with my mop. And I did, as I listened to Bruce Springsteen croon about how his “kisses used to turn you inside out.”

mop on wood floor

We have an Alexa (which I think is more properly called an Amazon Echo), so I just yelled out tunes for it to play while I sloshed my mop back and forth over the tile floor. I was initially against bringing this device into our house, but my husband won it as a door prize at a trade show. The last thing our home needs added to it is more technology. But I acquiesced so long as we only refer to it as “it,” and not “her,” although it can be easy even for me to forget since it has a female name. You pick the best means for enjoying your own play list, and maybe mine will inspire you.

Allison’s Mopping Play List

  1. I Am a Paleontologist, They Might Be Giants
  2. I’m Goin’ Down, Bruce Springsteen 
  3. R.O.C.K. in the USA, John Mellancamp
  4. Why Does the Sun Shine? They Might Be Giants (notice the science theme from time to time)
  5. Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Denise Williams (first heard this on American Bandstand as a child)
  6. Dancing in the Moonlight, King Harvest
  7. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals
  8. Tempted, Squeeze
  9. Safe and Sound, Capital Cities
  10. Break it Down Again, Tears for Fears
  11. Budapest, George Ezra

The steady stream of music simultaneously helped me get my floors clean and lifted my spirits. And in my experience, lifted spirits translate to more energy.

woman in washing machine

I’m off to listen to more music and maybe even find something else to clean. Happy Friday!

How Much Should I Give? vs. How Much Should I Keep?: Growing Toward Faithfully Frugal

I have supper in the Crock pot right now:  split pea soup. I am finally–FINALLY–using up the remainder of a bag of dried split peas we bought at a bulk store long ago. As in, almost two years ago. I know, I know…those peas are old.

boys on rocks in stream

But I have set my course to fix meals from the freezer and pantry, using up what we have and stewarding well what’s already been purchased (or, in some cases, given). Instead of allowing those split peas to languish for another year, I’m putting them to use.

I’ve been spurred on by a short little e-book I recently read…Faithfully Frugal:  Spend Less, Give More, Live More, by Kari Patterson.  You can find it at Amazon, which is where I bought it.

I’m so inspired by this book. The author delves into the teachings of Scripture in regards to our relationships to money and how we view it–and the Christian’s purpose of frugality:  Christian circles think of building wealth SO THAT we can be generous. But God says to be generous SO THAT you can build wealth. More and more, I find myself convinced that the way to store up treasure in heaven is to give it away on earth, to “give both mites,” as the author writes, referring to the poor widow in the New Testament who threw her final remaining coins into the Temple offering and was pointed out as an example by Jesus for her wholehearted giving.

money planted in dirt

Patterson doesn’t imply that we give away all our possessions or take a vow of poverty or allow our children to starve by “giving both mites.” She explains that our giving, when we give God our whole hearts and entrust all our money to him, can move from religious obligation to relational opportunity. We push the entire pile of our money over to the Lord, allowing him to call the shots and viewing it as HIS money. And this is worship.

“The joy is found when we give both mites,” she declares. She writes that our goal should not be MORE money–acquired by scoring a deal or saving a dime, getting all the stuff we want as long as we get it at a cheap price. Our goal, as Christ followers, is generosity.

open hands with money

“Our enemy,” Patterson states, “is not debt, high prices, inflation, or a recession. Our enemy is greed…” With her words, she compares the concepts of foolishly frugal and faithfully frugal, and she references the Biblical parable of the rich fool. From Luke chapter 12:

16 And he [Jesus] told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

The person Christ calls “fool” in this story likely scrimped and saved and worked hard in order to amass such an amount of earthly wealth. But his end-goal was for the here and now, seeking gains for self. Faithfully frugal, conversely, seeks gains in eternity, for others and not for self.

My heart for living simply and frugally has been refreshed; I’m renewed in a desire to ask of the Lord:  How much should I keep? instead of How much should I give? 

presents

Now cue the cooking from the already-bought foodstuffs in the pantry, trying to be faithful with what we have in order to free up more resources for giving. Patterson gives enormously helpful practical advice in her book, too, regarding taking steps like this.

So instead of buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the store last week (which I find so much easier to use), I bought 2 whole chickens. I cooked one in the Crock pot and had Mike pick the meat from the bones. I frankly find that process disgusting, but he truly doesn’t mind and even wanted to do it. Then I took the “frame” (the foodie word for the bones/carcass), dunked it back into the Crock pot–which, by the way, is getting quite the work out–and made bone broth with it. I now have plenty of nearly free broth for use in dishes from chili mac & cheese to chicken pot pie (made last night) to the soup I’m making today.

There’s a deeper sense of purpose, a heightened awareness of the sacred nature of serving, when I labor long in the kitchen knowing I’m nourishing my family and increasing our capacity for generosity, too.

One question Patterson poses to her readers on the journey of becoming more faithfully frugal:  What one non-essential item could you go without this year? How might you answer?

“Giving is the only antidote to materialism.”–Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle 

 

My First Very Own Clothesline

In May, I received the Mother’s Day present that I’d requested from my family:  a retractable clothesline.

We have a backyard now at our current home–as of 2 years ago–and I wanted a clothesline to go with it. There’s an old metal post that used to belong to a clothesline at one end of our yard; it’s fixed in concrete, so that precluded moving it to a sunnier spot for erecting a new clothesline.

The boys created a tree fort using the rusty old post as a base for the wooden pallets we picked up for free last year–with the vision of making some kind of tree house. The pallets languished in the yard for many months; then one day, I spotted the boys creating this in the backyard. Using ropes, strings, and a cord from a broken set of window blinds, this is what they created:  a two-story play place in the shade. So at least that old post is good for something.

boys tree fort

So, in the absence of an actual clothesline, for a while I hung laundry over the chain-link fences surrounding our yard–or at least big pieces such as towels and sheets. But invariably it would get blown off. After the second time in one day that I was forced to kick off my flip-flops and hop the neighbor’s fence to retrieve the rogue laundry, I gave up on that practice. And, yes, I know it sounds a bit tacky to hang one’s drying laundry over a fence (although portions of our backyard fence aren’t shared with the neighbors’ yards). That’s kind of par for the course in our neighborhood, but still:  It did provide a reason to skip fence-line drying of clothes. I returned to using our clothes dryer along with the dryer balls I made a couple years ago. 

Then we visited Travel Country Outdoors one afternoon, and I spotted the retractable clothesline option, primarily meant for camping. I asked for one for our family. I unwrapped this gift in May, then we left for the summer. In early August, Mike installed it using 2 trees in our yard. It’s affixed to one tree; I pull out the cord, stretch it across the yard, and hang it on a hook attached to another tree.

clothesline 2

I grew up with clotheslines in the backyard of our country homes; the featured picture at the top of every blog post is of my parents’ clothesline. And now I have my own! Solar power for the win.

clothesline 1

New Life for an Old Dress

At the end of this month, Mike and I will mark 15 years of being married. That’s longer than all of elementary and middle and high school combined. So much has happened in all these years.

colorful cogs

Eleven days before our wedding was to take place, our florist quit her job. She arranged floral displays at a theme park in central Florida, and there was no other florist employed there who could take over where she left off. I learned of this when one of her co-workers called me at work to break the news. This woman offered to meet me at a grocery store to pick out flowers, but I declined. She mailed back my check, plus the 2 tin buckets I’d brought to the florist for her to use for the flower arrangements I’d ordered.

We’d already planned for the bridesmaids to carry bouquets of artificial flowers, made by my mama and sister. Mama and Rachel also made boutonnieres for the groomsmen. I’d planned to have only Mike’s boutonniere, my bridal bouquet, and 2 arrangements of blue hydrangeas as actual flowers. Because:  budget. But after the original florist quit, I settled for using real flowers only for my bouquet. A neighbor of one of my co-workers worked with flowers, so I paid her $50 for a bouquet featuring a huge hydrangea bloom in a delicate pale blue. All in all, losing our original florist turned out to be only a minor setback.

For our wedding, I borrowed a veil (from my friend and bridesmaid Nicole); I also borrowed shoes from my sister. I wore my great-grandmother’s pearls. That covers “borrowed” and “old.” To represent the “blue,” I switched my regular nose ring out for a tiny stud with a blue stone in it. (I’ve had a nose ring since I was 25, in case you didn’t know.) The little blue stone fell out in a matter of weeks, but it did provide the traditional “blue” for the wedding ceremony.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…My “new” consisted of the wedding dress that my mama sewed for me, and she did it in the span of only a few days during a visit to Orlando.

allison wedding day (1)
That’s my Daddy in the background, which is probably where he prefers to be when a camera comes out.

Many years after we married, after our two boys were born, and I realized that we weren’t having any more children (and that I wouldn’t have a daughter), I decided to do something with my wedding dress apart from hanging it in our bedroom closet.

I sought out opportunities and came upon the Mary Madeline Project.  This group of volunteers sews wedding and bridesmaid dresses into burial gowns for babies who die in the neonatal period at hospitals, as well as for stillbirths.

I have a family member who lost a baby at around 18 weeks gestation; volunteer sewers provided him with a burial outfit, although it was not connected to the Mary Madeline Project. I’m so thankful for that gift to the grieving parents who lost their baby boy. I’ve never personally had to face such a loss, but I believe (if I found myself in those circumstances) I wouldn’t want to have to exert energy on selecting burial clothes for a newborn if I could simply receive those as a gift.

i will always love you lock

So that’s the route I took–I boxed up my wedding dress and mailed it to the Mary Madeline Project. Later, when I received their thank-you note detailing how the fabric of my dress would be used, I cried–not because I missed my dress nor because I experienced second thoughts about having given it away, but because I imagined myself in the place of those parents. And I felt gratified knowing my wedding dress would find new life in honoring the short but significant lives of premature or stillborn infants.

In all these 15 years of marriage, I remain grateful that I could pass along the wedding dress my mama made for her child so it could hopefully bless the parents of other children.