A Year Later – Where are We Now?

It was just about a year ago that I completed the Konmari transformation on my house. I figure I owe you a follow-up. Did I stick with it? Is my house still tidy? Does everything still spark joy?

In a word, yes, with life tossed in.

Like anyone else, we have two young kids and we live a pretty busy life: sports, camping, work, school, etc. Since completing the Konmari process, on any given day, you can walk into our house and it’s pretty decent. There might be a stray toy or two laying about, a dirty dish someone didn’t set in the sink, or I may have decided to skip cleaning the kitchen or folding the laundry the night before, but for the most part, our house is still pretty decent. I wouldn’t want to take pictures and post them, but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have you pop by on a visit. And that’s what I was going for. I wasn’t going for showroom perfect; I was going for relaxed tidy.

My kids are able to straighten their rooms in a few minutes, and I can straighten and clean the house in a couple of hours (depending on whether or not you want the floors mopped), so I consider that Mission: Compete.

Now that we’ve decluttered and maintained the house for a year, I’m looking more seriously at redecorating the house. I’ve already primed the walls in the master bedroom and replaced the bedding. My next task is to paint the walls, but in my heart, I also want to paint the trim and doors white (and replace the flat panel doors with raised panel doors for more texture), and once I do that in the bedroom, I have to do it throughout the whole house to make it cohesive, which will prompt replacing the floors (from carpet to hardwood), then painting the cabinets, and replacing the counters. I also want to stain/paint the two decks outside and redo the landscaping.

My design style would be a cross between rustic/casual/western/modern farmhouse. I love contrasting colors (black against white, grey against white with pops of red or yellow) and I love old unfinished wood. Straight lines and contrasting textures. I love barn doors on rail systems and old, black wire baskets. I love the texture of corrugated tin and old, weathered ladders. I have a vision in my head for how I want our house to feel. I love bright and airy and old and weathered, but modern and smooth. I want the atmosphere in our home to encourage visitors to kick back and put up their feet on the coffee table.

My husband and I have been daydreaming about moving outside of our little city onto a small acreage, but we want isn’t available presently. For the time being, we’re desperately working on reducing the debts we owe, which ties up almost all of our extra money, so remodels remain on hold. It’s a good thing Christmas is coming! Maybe I’ll ask for paint and rollers and sheets of corrugated tin. It might take a decade’s worth of Christmases to achieve it, but I’ll have it, and when I find that perfect house with that perfect acreage, I’ll take it all with me and start again. 🙂

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Stifling Stimuli

In today’s fast paced society, we’re bombarded with stimuli on a minute by minute basis. Some people are well equipped to handle it. Others aren’t. Having a few simple tricks in our playbook can be a tremendous game changer.

Like most people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, I often get overwhelmed by the things going on around me. The constant demand for my attention drives me batty! This is known as sensory overload.

A little about sensory overload

Sensory overload can come from a variety of sources, but the most notable are noise, crowding, visual stimuli and information overload. There are many other forms as well. For me, I’m affected by a variety of sources, but the most crippling are noise, visual stimuli and information overload.

Someone who suffers from sensory overload will often “shut down” or refuse to participate further in the activity at hand. They can get irritable. They can become tense, fidgety, restless, have difficulty concentrating or have angry outbursts. Sensory overload can affect people who suffer from a long list of disorders. When we think of sensory overload, we typically think of Autism, anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but sensory overload can also affect individuals who suffer from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and schizophrenia. (source)

Treatment and Prevention

Of course, with any disorder or syndrome, there are medical interventions that can be taken to treat the illness, but I’m more inclined to go the prevention route. I’d rather find the source of the issue and eliminate it rather than masking the issue with a cloud of pharmaceuticals – especially since so many drugs end up causing more health problems. Ever read one of those side effect lists?

Instead of drugs, I am utilizing these two techniques: avoidance and setting limits. Avoidance involves creating a peaceful environment. This can be done by producing quiet, uncluttered spaces. Setting limits involves limiting social interaction, limiting the amount of time spent on any one project, and taking frequent “time outs”.

To reduce the visual stimuli, I decluttered my home. I discovered through self-reflection that my home caused me a great deal of stress. Visual overload occurs when I have too much stuff to look at and process. Having papers scattered across all the solid surfaces, clothes scattered all over the floor, toys filling any remaining void, and a mounting to-do list brings me to my proverbial knees. I just can’t do it. Decluttering my home was key to solving this problem. In addition to keeping my home neat and tidy, I have to keep my desk at work tidy too. Books are put away in their cabinet. Pens and pencils are tucked away nicely in their pen caddy. Unneeded papers are shredded. When things are left out, it’s like each one of them is screaming “look at me! look at me!” I’d had enough. The negative (empty) space created in both my home and work environment simply by decluttering or putting them away when I’m done with them has done wonders for my mental status. Decluttering a home is a lofty task. If you don’t know where to start, I’d recommend the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo for inspiration.

NOISE! Oy. Noise. This is a monster for me because how do you tell everyone around you to shut up? You can’t. Plain and simple. But you can create a space where you can get away – most days, this is my car. Mornings at our home are hectic. Everyone is running in a million different directions trying to get things done before we leave. It takes us an hour to get dressed, put on our shoes, and walk out the door. It shouldn’t take that long, but it does. And it’s stressful. There are many times when the stress of getting moving in the morning drives me to tears after I drop the kids at daycare. This time in my car alone, without the radio and without social interaction is vital to me. If I had to go straight from dropping kids off to walking into my office within minutes of each other, I’d be a frazzled mess all day long. The hour long drive to work is my morning stress buster. Most “normal” people don’t have an hour commute, so to those people, I would say bless your heart and suggest finding a ritual you can perform, alone, before embarking on the next part of your day. Stop at a coffee shop and enjoy a cup of Joe before work. Meditate. Take a walk through the park. Something, anything, to help you decompress.

At home, when things get out of hand, I will often retreat to the shower. A nice hot shower without interruption is priceless! Lock the door and drown in the steam! Then, of course, there’s also bedtime for the kids. As sad as that is to say, sometimes, bedtime is the biggest blessing of them all. And I can’t forget exercise! Taking an hour to focus on yourself can’t be understated. Like they tell you on an airplane: put on your mask before you help someone else put on theirs. Mama’s no good to anyone else if she’s not taking care of her self first.

Information overload is overwhelming to me. I will often miss key details because I’m overwhelmed at the sheer volume of words coming at me and tune the rest out. Taking notes helps. I don’t go anywhere at work without a notebook. If my boss has specific instructions, I’ll start writing them down. Getting the words out of my head and onto paper frees my brain to accept and process the next series of words coming at me. Whether you’re getting directions to an unfamiliar place or taking directions at work, writing them down is ever so helpful. And when you’ve gotten them all written down, you can read them back to the speaker to make sure you’ve got it all correct.

This applies to that long to-do list, too. Don’t keep that thing stored in your head. Write it down to clear up the space in your brain.

Other techniques include limiting interactions with specific people, taking frequent breaks during tedious tasks, and just simple deep breathing techniques. They all help. At the end of the day, you have to know your own physical limits and you have to respect them.

How are you taking care of yourself today?

A Weekend Unplugged

In a world that runs on technology, with micromachines that run the consumer life, it’s easy to get wrapped up and lost in the ones and zeros that are constantly filtering in.

I’ve noticed that our world is nearly always looking at a glowing screen, be it a computer monitor, a tablet or the phones in our hands. It’s next to impossible to look around and not see someone staring at their devices – whether it’s the park, the mall or a restaurant, you are guaranteed to find someone lost in their device. I am one of these people and it bothers the shit out of me.

I haven’t taken a tally of how much time I spend staring at a screen, but I know for a fact it is way more than I want it to be. At this very second, I’m writing this post using my phone while my kids are watching videos on a kids’ site or challenging themselves on SumDog on the laptop. (The husband is snoring away in the recliner). The tv is even yanking at us – despite no one watching it. I bet the picture is similar in any random home across the nation.

I’ve tried to take steps to reduce my own use of technology – hoping those around me will see what I’m doing differently and join in, but reducing the apps on my phone hasn’t been enough. What I’ve removed, I’ve replaced with something else. Instead of scrolling through Facebook, I’m playing games or reading blog posts. It’s ridiculous.

Our brains are constantly seeking stimuli – something it can analyze, information to process. It’s no surprise we are so into our devices. They’re a constant stream of fresh stimuli. There’s always something new. Why watch that beautiful bird in the tree when we can gaze into the looking glass and see something we haven’t seen yet?

But while we’re staring at our phones, our lives is passing us by. The seasons are changing, our kids are growing and our relationships are dying.

Because my dependence on technology and all that it brings to me is wildly out of control, I am putting the phone down and walking away. I’m not going to use my phone all weekend long. I’m shutting the mobile data off at 3:30 pm on Friday and not turning it back on until Monday at 5:00 am. I will only use my phone for its originally intended use – communication with people close to me. Text and calls is all that my phone will be used for this weekend.

It’s going to be hard. Oh man, is it going to be so very hard. But it’s necessary. I can’t go on like this. I’m so overwhelmed by the time I spend on my device that I want to scream.

When I feel the itch to check Facebook Groups, I’ll grab a book. When I feel the pull to play a game, I’ll go outside with my kids. I’ll find movies to watch. I’ll catch up on the shows we’ve missed recently. I’ll take a walk. I’ll play a card game with my kids. But I will not pick up my phone.

How is your technology use? Do you need a break too? Care to join me? Comment below with “I’m in” and we’ll go in together.

No Spend November

It’s no secret that our society is overwhelmed with consumerism and debt. Statistically speaking, the average American household credit card debt tips the scales at $16,140 with an average interest rate of 14.25% (source). That’s a lot of money!

My husband and I contributed to this number in previous years but have since worked really hard to rectify that situation. We dug deep, rearranged our budget, and made a plan to pay off our cards and we saw it through. But we still live pay check to pay check, and that’s quite depressing.

I’ve been following a lot of different kinds of blogs lately – minimalist, homesteader, and frugalist alike. One thing I keep seeing between all three genres is making do with what you have, not buying what you don’t need, and curbing the excess spending. This blogger is of the same mindset.

When my husband and I set out to correct our debt problems, I adopted the Dave Ramsey plan (well, sort of) and started budgeting and snowballing debt. It’s been a very slow process because we still had bad spending habits. If we wanted something, we simply bought it – but we bought it differently. Instead of dropping the credit card on the counter, we dropped the debit card and then I performed some creative financial magic at home to make the numbers work so we didn’t end up overdrawn. Unfortunately, our savings was always the victim – hence why we still live pay check to pay check nearly 5 years since my Dave Ramsey discovery – three times as long ago as it takes the average Dave Ramsey follower to pay off all their debts. In the end, we’re still treading water.

I’ve been using You Need a Budget to budget and track our spending for about two years now and I’ve noticed a trend: we still spend too much. There are two categories in which we consistently spend too much money: groceries and free spend (Free Spend is the category Dave Ramsey says you have to have for frivolous spending that does not take away from the 4 walls of your financial house – my husband and I both get $25 a week for free spend). We consistently go over budget in both of these categories by $200 on average. That’s too much money. What’s it getting spent on? Dinners out, impromptu grocery shopping trips, gas station stops, coffee stops, unnecessary buys, lazy pizza dinner nights, etc.

If we’re ever going to find our way out of this financial debt we dug our way into in the early years of our marriage, we’ve got to change the way we spend money. Point blank. But how do you change the way you spend money? With drastic measures, of course!

Enter: No Spend November. You’ve heard of No Shave November, where guys opt out of shaving for prostate cancer awareness, right? Well, No Spend November is where people opt out of spending money for financial wellness awareness. And I’m jumping on board.

For the month of November (and 5 days of December – maybe all of December and January), I will have a defined set of rules to follow in regard to monetary spending. These rules apply to the grocery and free spend categories of our budget – nothing else will change. The rules are as follows.

1. Bring lunch to work every day and eat it. No trips to the cafeteria.
2. Make coffee at home. No trips to the coffee shop – except on Veteran’s Day when I’ll get a free cup from Starbucks.
3. Make a meal plan for each week, buy according to that plan, and stick to the plan. No unplanned trips to the grocery store unless I legitimately need an ingredient for dinner and cannot improvise.
4. Use the public library or Kindle Lender’s Library for new books. Do not purchase any new books during the month of November.
5. Limit dining out with the family to restaurants that we have gift cards for, and budget accordingly for the rest of the bill.

Most No Spend November participants say no to dining out altogether, but this is just my challenge and not one my family has agreed to participate in, so I’m trying my best to be strict enough to break my own habits, while being flexible enough to keep my family happy. As such, some dining out has to remain.

Expected result: My expected result will be less creative financing stress to deal with each week, more money available to set aside for upcoming gifting opportunities (Christmas and birthdays are right around the corner), and setting my Free Spend money aside each week to be used next spring on raised garden beds for my vegetable garden. I have lofty goals for 2016 which include a lot of landscaping, debt payoff and savings endeavors because I am very tired of living on this debt treadmill. I want off. I’m not willing to sell all my stuff like Dave suggests, but I am willing to make some sacrifices to my current lifestyle to push it forward. I’m willing to skip the expensive coffee flavored sugar milk in lieu of cedar planks for my garden or red wood mulch for my flower bed. I just have to make it a habit to do so. November is my month to make it happen.

I will revisit this topic in December to share how I did.

What about you? Have you ever thought about participating in a No Spend month? What are you waiting for?

Getting Back on Track

When I started my Konmari Journey to Decluttering and Minimalism, I didn’t set out to finish in any particular time frame, but my first round, what I call my “pre-Konmari”, took about 6 weeks. I went through my clothing, CDs/DVDs, books, paper and the kitchen (which I think is one komono category with about a million subcategories). Then something happened and I got a little off track.

After some time passed, I picked it back up and kept trucking with a goal of completing the process by our vacation in October, only to be sidetracked by summer. Baseball, racing, camping. You name it, I was distracted by it. I was really in no hurry to complete because I really didn’t need to be.

Then late this summer I joined a challenge on Facebook to complete the Konmari process by Labor Day – always a sucker for a challenge, I accepted. I evaluated what still needed to be completed, learned I didn’t have as much left to complete as I thought, planned it out on a calendar, and set to work making it happen. Come Labor Day, I considered myself a Konmari Graduate! It felt amazing to be done. We went camping a few times after this and came home to a spotless house. It was so great.

Then October struck and we went on vacation. I tried to make sure I had everything done before I left, but I didn’t (there was still unfolded laundry littering my dining room table and some clutter had popped up here and there as we packed and prepped). After we returned, we didn’t unpack in a timely manner so we added half unpacked luggage, plus the unfolded laundry we washed as soon as we returned home, to the laundry that remained from before we left. Add to that detritus from too many nights of take out and 10 days worth of untouched mail, and you have what I call a disaster. My anxiety was mounting!

After a week and a half of doing no chores and having no routine, it was very hard to get back on track and maintain our Konmari graduate status. But we’re now one week post-return home and things are getting back in place. After spending a weekend and 3 weekdays looking at the mess we’d created, I buckled down and tackled the job before it became insurmountable. How?

Lists.

I made lists. I am an amateur Bullet Journaler (still not entirely sure this is the perfect method for me) and used that system to make my list. I thought I’d ease in by doing the biggest project first – folding laundry.

Wednesday night: fold laundry (didn’t happen – but a bunch of other stuff did).
Thursday: fold laundry (didn’t happen, but more other stuff did).
Friday: fold laundry (who am I kidding??)
Saturday: Get groceries, Birthday party, etc.
Sunday: Clean the house!!! (and fold laundry – for real this time).

Throughout the rest of that week, I cleared the counters again, cleared the launch pad in the living room (I’ll write a post about the importance of a launch pad someday, but in the mean time, you can learn about one here), put away the blankets (those things migrate and take over our living room!), cleared the coffee table, got the kids to put their toys away, cleaned their rooms, and got my sink shiny again, etc. This weekend, I focused on vacuuming, catching up on laundry, and made time to wash all the curtains in our house (some were looking pretty dusty), and took the kids to the farm to chill with their grandparents. I even folded and put all but one basket of laundry – it was still drying so I have an excuse. Yay me!

Prior to the list, I could see all the things that needed to be done, but I didn’t know where to start. Creating a list of all the things I needed to do helped. I was able to take that first thing on the list, focus on it, and knock it out. Then I moved onto the second item. And so on, on down the line, until the list was complete.

Additionally, I always put the machines to work first. I always start the washer and dishwasher before I do any kind of cleaning. I can’t even get started on any task until the dishes and laundry are going. Stop by my house on any given day and you’ll see me wandering around aimlessly until I get those two machines taken care of. I physically have to start a load of laundry and must have a cleaned out sink (clear of all dirty dishes) before I can start dinner. It borders on OCD, actually. It’s really a no-brainer if you think about it. By starting the washer and dishwasher first, you’ve already tackled a large part of the cleaning up process in most homes – you’ve collected all the dirty laundry and all the dirty dishes and taken care of them. Boom. Two tasks (maybe 4 depending on how you make your list) done, before you’ve even started cleaning!

As you move along through your decluttering categories, ideally you’ll find a way to go from start to finish without stopping, but that’s not how life works. If you should find yourself getting sidetracked or backpedaling and aren’t sure how to get back on track, start by putting your machines to work first and making a list. It works for me every single time.

But beyond all this, it’s important to give yourself a break. Rome wasn’t built in a day and getting caught back up with the house chores likely won’t be done in a day, either. It’s  more important to spend time with your husband and children or hang out with family and friends than it is to have that perfectly spotless magazine ready home. So, do what you can, but make time for bonding, fun and relaxation too. You’ll get it done eventually.

Minimalist Gift Giving – and a brief summary of our vacation

My husband and I just returned from a 10 day vacation to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary where we attended a NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup race, visited many race shops, dreamed about what it would be like to be a part of the NASCAR family of employees, and experienced the ocean and a true beach for the first time in our lives. We spent a day at the beach. Hubby and I did what we call snorkling. We saw many fish and a crab. We went to the Miami Seaquarium. We went to the Everglades and took an airboat tour and watched a gator wrestling show. We spent time at Bayside. We ate alligator, crab, conch, squid and mahi mahi. The weather was perfect. We loved every minute of our time in Boca. There has been much talk of what it would be like to live in Florida.

What’s this got to do with minimalism? Everything, really.

For starters, we opted for a shared experience rather than buying each other anniversary gifts – highly minimalist! He has always wanted to see the race shops in Charlotte and has wished to take me to a race since we started dating. I want to visit my best friend every chance I get (she’s the reason we went specifically to Boca Raton, FL). I have always wanted to see the ocean and a real beach (all we have for beaches here are man-made lakeside beaches or sandbars in the middle of the river). We wanted to see the Miami skyline, and see gators in real life – not those we see in a zoo. Mostly, though, we really wanted to see the ocean and our friends.

Secondly: souvenir shopping! There’s nothing more anti-minimalism than buying a bunch of friends and family a bunch of stuff that really means nothing to them because they didn’t attend the vacation with you. Who doesn’t want to buy everyone they know something to commemorate a vacation they didn’t take? haha That’s how silly it felt to us as we were hitting gift shops trying to find things for the people in our lives. Additionally, buying everyone something gets expensive in a real quick hurry when you have 15 parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and children. Because buying gifts for everyone was cost prohibitive and silly, we opted to only buy gifts for his parents and our children. And we didn’t just buy them any old thing we saw. We ended up buying very little for these four individuals, which surprises me, to be honest.

Because his parents kept our children and tended to our pets for 10 days, we felt the need to buy them a thank you gift. We wandered through countless gift shops while in Charlotte, and spent some time in the gift shops near the beach. We evaluated everything we saw with different eyes than we used before finding minimalism. We didn’t want to just get them “stuff” that would sit on a shelf and get dusty. We wanted to find them something they’d actually use and enjoy. It boiled down to us buying one tshirt, two can koozies, a beachy candle, and two coffee mugs. We decided that none of this was an adequate enough thank you gift, so we ended up getting them a gift card to a local restaurant so they could enjoy a date night on us for helping us celebrate our first 10 years of marriage on such a grand scale.

What we bought our kids was different than it would have been a year ago as well. Ordinarily, we’d buy everything we saw that reminded us of them. Instead, we stuck with 3 tshirts each, a shark tooth and alligator tooth necklace for our son, a flower necklace for our daughter, a stuffed alligator each, a bookmark for our son, a refrigerator magnet for our daughter, and a shell adorned “treasure box” for our daughter. They loved all three tshirts. Our son is an avid reader and was thrilled with his holographic alligator bookmark. Daughter likewise loved her holographic alligator magnet. Son and Daughter have both worn their necklaces each day since we returned home. And both have slept with their stuffed alligators each night, naming them and dragging them with them everywhere they go. We sent home a few postcards because our kids just love getting mail – I’m still trying to figure out what to do with these now that they’re in our home.

It feels like a lot when it’s all written out, but each item was carefully considered for usefulness, enjoyability, and cost. If we thought they’d like it, but it would sit on a shelf unloved, we didn’t buy it. If it was useful but not necessarily enjoyable, we didn’t buy it. Looking back, we could have just done the gift card for his parents and called it adequate. Everything we bought will be used, but in hindsight, it’s more stuff for people who don’t necessarily need or want more stuff.

While we didn’t execute our gift buying flawlessly, our thoughts on gift giving have changed so much in the last year. We’re even rethinking Christmas and birthdays – asking for experiences rather than things. We’ve already decided that for Christmas 2017, we are loading our kids up and taking them to Florida to experience all the wonder and excitement we experienced in our 4 days there. We just have to decide what time of year we want to go that will result in the least amount of disruption from school without being hotter than blazes or overrun by tourists, that still allows for comfortable use of the beach and ocean. Florida has been, by far, the best experience I have ever had – in line behind marrying my husband and having his children, of course.

As I think about this upcoming Christmas and my new philosophy on gift giving, I have to admit I’m getting a bit overwhelmed and anxious about it. We live in an area that does not have a whole lot of experiences to offer. Our nearest marine aquarium is three hours away. Our nearest amusement park is two hours away. I’ve been scouring websites that offer alternative gift ideas trying to find some that fit in our area of the country, but each of them results in the parents having to fork out extra money to utilize the gift. I’m really coming up empty and it’s scary to me.

Are you a minimalist gift giver? What gift giving ideas do you have?

Disconnecting to Stay Connected

My husband and I are preparing to take a vacation, just the two of us, to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We’re taking an extensive trip that will span a total 10 calendar days, have us driving more than 3,000 miles and in the car, one on one, for more than 44 hours. We haven’t taken a trip together in the car since 2013 when we drove to Tennessee in the middle of Winter Storm Cleon – boy was that ever fun! Before that, the longest trip we’d taken together was our honeymoon to Table Rock Lake in 2005.

The last trip we took was a great deal of fun – despite the crummy weather. We listened to the radio (I have satellite radio so we had quite the range of music to enjoy) and sang along to some old favorites from high school and had a blast doing so. We snapped pictures of the display when really ridiculous songs came on and shared them with the World of Facebook. I’m sure that was super annoying to all our Facebook friends – really, who cares what song is playing in your car?

I fully expect to enjoy ridiculous songs from the 80’s and 90’s again this time around, but I won’t be posting them to Facebook – mostly because I can’t now that I’ve removed the Facebook app from my phone. So, Facebook friends, rejoice! Your newsfeeds will be free from images of my car’s radio display. My husband still has Facebook on his phone, so I’m sure there will still be some updates here and there that he posts (and tags me in), but yours truly won’t be logging in.

But I’d like to take it a step further and put the phone down completely. Complete disconnection… Putting the phone down for our trip will allow more opportunity for connectedness between my husband and I while we drive for those 44 hours. He will be driving most of the hours because he prefers to, and not staring at my phone will allow me the ability to truly enjoy the sights of our beautiful nation. And what good is a co-pilot who’s not also watching the road?

Disconnecting will also save battery power for taking pictures of the landscape to share with our children, for phone calls home to tell them goodnight, and for Googling local sites and restaurants for visiting. 10 years ago when we traveled to Table Rock Lake, we did not have smartphones, Facebook or a computer. We had each other and a camera. Times are different now, but I think I will put away the smartphone in exchange for one on one time with my hunny, reminiscent of our honeymoon 10 years ago.

Maybe we’ll even leave the laptop at home? However, I will take my Kindle b/c what’s a road trip without a good book? I saw on Amazon the other day that Ania Ahlborn has a new release.

Have you disconnected to reconnect with loved ones? It’s been on my mind a lot lately. How did you make it work?

Making the Tough Decisions

I fell in love with the idea of minimalism when I discovered the Konmari method of decluttering a few months ago. I’ve been minimalizing everything – personal belongings, obligations, the apps on my phone, the people I interact with, my to-do list, my daily planner, etc, etc, etc.

I have my own idea of what minimalism is, but I felt like I needed to do more research on the topic before I could truly call myself a minimalist. So I did what every true red-blooded American does when they want more information: I turned to Google for my answers. I did a generic search for minimalism and came across a lot of blogs and Pinterest pins.

The search result that resonated with me the most was The Minimalists. What a perfect name. So simple and precise. I checked it out and was instantly in love. I’ve done much perusing on their site since finding them. Their blog was what inspired me to start this blog (it helps that they have a blog about starting a blog). I’ve always had a knack for writing really long Facebook posts. I read somewhere that if a post is longer than one paragraph, it should probably be a blog post. So, why not…

Anyway, I was over there today reading up on their transition to their minimalist lifestyle and one particular post really struck a chord with me, so I wanted to share it with you all. It’s about making decisions. It fit so many areas of my current life. I struggle with decisions a lot. Especially decisions that are potentially life changing, but not majorly important in the here and now – like what to have for lunch when temptation strikes.

As I read this post, I thought of all the “shoulds” that I  need to turn into “musts” and will be compiling my own list of musts. Some of the things I thought of were eating better, intentionally moving my body, dropping excuses for not making changes, etc. As hard as it will be, I will be creating my own list of “musts” in my journal. I may or may not post that list publicly later on. I think right now it’s important for me to make the list and really sit with the emotions that come with acknowledging the need for change. I encourage you to do the same. Change is hard; deciding to change is even harder, but we’re all adults here. If we don’t take charge of our lives, who will?

Without any further ado, The Minimalists, their 21-Day Journey into Minimalism and How to Make a Damn Decision.

Today is the best day of your life, because today is the day everything changes: Today is the day your shoulds turn into musts. Today is the day you decide to take action. Today is the first day of the rest of your new, simplified life.

What kind of changes do you dream of making? Will you be creating a “musts” list? Will you take the first step in changing your life to one you’ve only dreamt of before?

Finding “The Click Point”

2015 started out as the year to finally get a handle on my domestic duties. The emphasis was placed on simplifying life by finally becoming a domestic diva to reduce anxiety and discontent. I learned quickly that maybe my domestic shortcomings were the reason for my anxiety when I discovered I didn’t feel anxious outside of my home, save for a few specific triggers. It was shortly after making this discovery that I discovered the “Magic” book. The year quickly become the year of finding what truly sparks joy.  It has been a wildly successful year.

In August, I completely the Konmari Process on my home. With the help of my children, and the support of my husband, I have successfully pared down my personal belongings and the belongings of my children to contain only joy sparkers.

As I neared the end of sorting and organizing the komono categories of our house, I started getting frustrated that I hadn’t experienced “the click” yet that so many in the Konmari circles speak of. I understood this “click point” to be the point where everything changes. Your brain just clicks with this method. The click point is the point of no return. But I didn’t feel like I’d reached the point of no return yet… so I was getting frustrated.

My house still felt messy despite the removal of an overwhelming amount of stuff. Something still didn’t feel quite right and I was quickly losing steam. I started to get anxious about it because the longer this went on, the more I worried that I’d end up backsliding into the cluttered lifestyle once again. I knew something wasn’t quite right yet. My house was trying to tell me something but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

Your home speaks to you

I felt like my house was telling me to rearrange the living room so we did. My husband and I rearranged the furniture following the rules of feng shui as best we could given the layout of our home, and while the room felt incredible and I couldn’t help but smile every time I entered the room, there was still something off about the house as whole.

I did a quick run-down of what I still had left to do. My komono list was getting shorter and shorter, but one category was looming and I was not looking forward to it – kid stuff. In addition to kid stuff, I still had the sentimental category to trudge through.

At one point in August, there were two days where I was unable to secure daycare for my children, so I had to take the days off work. These days coincidentally coincided with a weekend, allowing for 4 complete days at home. I knew I could use these days to my advantage and with any luck, I’d feel the click.

Not entire sure what needed to be done to reach the click point, I decided to listen intently to my house. If you listen intently, you’ll find that your house speaks to you as well. Our house had a lot of demands.

The kids and I ran an errand that Saturday morning. When we returned, the house spoke loudly to me that I should really finish the flower bed makeover I’d started a couple of week prior. I had already tilled half the flower bed and filled it with day lilies and remulched, filling in the gaps between plants with some strawberry plants a friend had gifted to me. I still needed to till up the other half and replant it. I spent most of Saturday on that project. It’s quite amazing what finishing this project did for my soul. You’d laugh at me if you knew how many times I walked outside just to look at this.

Flower Bed

The green plants in this pic are day lilies. Day lilies are my favorite landscape piece. The whole bed is filled with them. They add such a great pop of color, with a simplicity that can’t be outdone. Also planted here, but not seen, are strawberries. Between each lily, to the front and rear of the bed, are strawberries. They’ve grown quite large since this picture was taken. Some have even started sending out runners. I suspect next summer will be delicious.

I worked very hard cleaning the house on Sunday, at the instruction of my house, starting in the kitchen, followed by the living room, then dining room, then master bedroom. I still had a pile of donation items in the living room, so I moved those to the garage. It looked and felt very good, but the house still didn’t seem happy. I knew in my heart that the house really wanted me to tackle the kids stuff category. I was filled with dread but excited to tackle it all at once.

I was moving along at full steam, so Monday we cleaned my daughter’s room. Since this was our second pass through her room, she didn’t remove very many things. All we really did was put away what she had and vacuum the floor. Her room was beautiful when we finished. She loved it but worked so hard during that hour that she slept for nearly 3 hours on the couch afterward.

Not wanting to lose my motivation, I recruited my son and we moved onto his room. He only got rid of one box of toys, but most of what he kept had a million little pieces (you’ve heard of Legos and Hot Wheels cars, right?). Much to my surprise, we completely straightened and organized his room in 4 short hours. We vacuumed his floor and arranged his joy sparkers in a pleasing to him way. It looked better than it had in a long time. I couldn’t help but be fearful that he’d have it trashed again in short order.

Right in the feels

I put the vacuum away and looked around. The feeling I experienced having my entire house clean at one time was overwhelming. All of a sudden, the world stop spinning so fast. The whirlwind that engulfed my brain stopped. All the swirling debris in my mind fell to the floor and three little men in bib overalls came running out of the darkness with push brooms, swept it all up and disappeared. This was a new sensation.

What was this unfamiliar thing I was feeling? OMG, was it calm?  Peace? Relaxation? Appreciation?

All of a sudden, I appreciated my surroundings. I appreciated vacuum lines in the carpet. I appreciated the satin sheen on my kitchen and dining room floors. I appreciated the angles and surfaces in my home. I found the layout in my kitchen wasn’t all that bad, which was an issue I had been struggling with lately.

Imagine the scene in The Sound of Music when Maria Rainer dances among the hills belting out “The Hills are Alive”. That’s how I felt at that very moment. I wanted to run and dance and sing at the top of my lungs for all to hear!

Konmari-Joy-All-AroundIt was at that very moment that I had found my click point. That point where all the planets align in your own little subset of the world. It’s like everything in my world finally came into focus. And it was profoundly amazing.

It was a feeling I wanted to keep feeling. I wanted to feel that way about my home forever.

My home has been so easy to maintain since then. I’ve done a “real” cleaning twice – where I sweep and mop the floors and make it an “event”. I’ve only done it twice because it hasn’t needed it more than that! The house actually maintains itself now! It’s like it’s self-cleaning! Since everything has a home, very few things are left laying about – if they are it’s simply because we’ve been momentarily too lazy to put them away. But that’s short lived because someone will usually pick it up and put it away – and that someone is not always me. Sometimes it’s a child that sees something astray and fixes it. A child! I have actually witnessed this and you could have knocked me over with a feather! 

My children have kept their rooms clean. For 5 whole weeks my kids’ rooms have been spotless! I can go in at a moment’s notice and vacuum the floor and not spend any amount of time putting toys away first. My son even vacuumed his own floor after making a small mess one day! For reals, yo! My 8 year old son took it upon himself to get out the vacuum cleaner and clean up a mess he made in his space. There’s only one word to describe this: mind-blowing! (or is that two words?)

Finding your own click point

Each person’s click point will be triggered by something specific to them. Maybe your click point will be a certain number of items in your home. Maybe it’ll be a certain level of cleanliness like mine was. Only your heart and your home know where the click point lies for you.

If you’ve started your own Konmari journey, I encourage you to keep going. Thing will get tough, you’ll feel like there’s no end in sight, but I promise you, if you keep pushing through, you’ll reach the point of no return soon enough. Keep the vision of what you want your home to be like in the forefront of your mine. Eye on the prize, as they say. Keep pushing forward and it’ll happen. Your happiness awaits!

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Welcome!

Hi. I’m Jenn. And I used to be chronically busy. Like, always super busy. And it made me perform poorly at just about everything I attempted. I was a poor housekeeper. I was a poor employee. I was a poor wife. I was a poor mother. I didn’t have time to scrapbook. I didn’t have time (or energy) to read leisurely. And it always bothered me beyond measure. Naturally. Every woman strives to be her best, right?

I’m a married working mom of two kids (three if you count the 33 year old). My kids play sports. My husband has a racing hobby. I work full-time an hour away from home doing a job I love. I’m really no busier than most moms, but it certainly felt like I was busier. Everywhere I looked, there were images and articles of moms doing it all: painting, hiking, swimming, riding bikes, or otherwise playing with their kids, trying all these great new recipes they’d had the time to find online, spotless houses and perfectly smooth clothing. All the while, I was incessantly busy trying to keep up. I never felt like I had time to play with my kids. If I did, something else had to take a back seat. Who needs folded laundry or a cupboard full of clean dishes as long as there were enough for dinner? All the “You’re doing so well, Mom” posts on the interwebz said that happy kids live in houses with dirty floors and wear wrinkled clothes. I felt like I was doing enough to be socially acceptable (I mean, no one has a clean house, right? That’s what all these mom blogs said) but not doing enough at the same time. My house was a disaster, but my kids were fed, bathed and clothed. Except… *I* wasn’t happy. And I’m pretty sure no one else was either.

I dreamed of the day that my house would be tidy and clean. I dreamed of the day that my kids and I would be able to visit grandparents and not have to rush home to make sure the house wasn’t going to result in a DHS inspection. I dreamed of the day I could take pictures of my kids doing crazy kid things without having to edit out a mess or keep the picture all to myself because I was embarrassed by what our house looked like. I dreamed of the day that I wouldn’t have to spend an entire DAY prepping to sweep, mop and vacuum the floor. I firmly believed that day would be the day my kids moved out of the house. I pined for the day that someone could knock on the door and be welcomed into our presentable house and I wouldn’t have to apologize for the mess.

I was an anxious, depressed, distracted, angry disaster. But that’s all changed. My house is presentable in minutes, not hours. My house feels light and airy, not weighed down and stuffy. It feels amazing to come home after a long day at work knowing I don’t have a night full of additional work to do. Life at home feels good now. Like, really, really good.

This blog will explain how it all changed – how I stumbled upon my solution and what a profound change it has made in our lives. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in on a comfy couch while I tell the story of how I went from frazzled and unhappy to joyful, at peace, and relaxed, with time to do the things I love to do – like visit the farm, go for bike rides, and simply enjoy my life. It’s been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to share it with you all.