First Day Props


The first day of school is this week in our town.  Fellow parents, one of the least important decisions you have to make is whether or not you’re going to use a prop or not (DO take a picture though, it’s a rite of passage).

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve no doubt noticed that it is rife with wildly-creative prop ideas. The last 2 years, I’ve worked really hard on the girls’ signs and ALWAYS regretted it.  Sure they’re cute, but they stressed me out and I wished I’d done something simpler that took WAY less time.  So make a choice you WON’T regret.

5 Prop Ideas (Easiest to hardest):

  • Get a blank piece of paper, white or colored according to what you have.  DO NOT GO TO THE STORE TO BUY PAPER.  Draw a big number of what grade your kid is going into.  Maybe write the year (2016).  Maybe let them decorate with stickers.  Kids like their names being on stuff, so write their name on it, too.
  • Let them make their own signs on construction paper or cardboard.  Help them with the parts they can’t accomplish on their own.  It’ll be a fun task for them to help with that’s FOR THEM and something THEY can do to prepare for school.
  • Use an existing chalkboard or white board you have laying around
  • Cut a cardboard box into a square or rectangle.  Cover it in pretty wrapping paper or foil.  Cut out a big number of grade in paper.  Outline it with glue/glitter.  Write kid’s name in glue/glitter.
  • Make a fancier sign from Pinterest: Google pinterest first day of school signs


How to End School Paper Clutter


If you kids aren’t school-aged, you don’t understand, but there is a DELUGE of paper that comes home with kids EVERY DAY.  (Or worse, if there’s a suspicious lack of papers, that means a TIDAL WAVE is coming as soon as your kids teacher discovers he or she has been cramming it all in a sad, sad desk at school.)

This 1 trick will cost you a whopping $0.20 per kid and save you endless frustration when dealing with school paper clutter.
  1. Buy 2 folders per kid
  2. Put 1 folder, labeled for the kid, in a place where he/she knows NOT to mess with it.  This is Mom’s folder of papers for the year.  Special stuff.  Sweet stuff.  Beautiful artwork.  Terrific grades.  Awards.  (I don’t even use the pockets, just place everything in chronologically.)
  3. Put 1 folder, labeled for the kid, in a place where he/she HAS ACCESS to it.  Bookshelf?  Desk?  Maybe even next to yours.  This folder is for your kid to put papers he/she wants to keep.  They are special to him.  (Even if they are only partially colored.)  When this folder is full, have her CLEAN IT OUT.  What papers do you not care about anymore?  Keep what’s important.  Make room for other stuff.

How this conversation goes on a daily basis as we process their folders:

Me: Ok, here’s your stack.  Either put it in your folder or the trash.

Kid: OK

(Kid sorts through stack)

Kid: Where’s [beautiful artwork or worksheet with amazing grade]?

Me: I put it in my folder of special things

(Kid beams ecstatically with pride)

The end.

Obvious teaching points:
  1. There are things to be proud of keep for special reasons.  Let’s celebrate those!
  2. We aren’t going to keep everything.  We don’t need to and it’s impractical to manage.
  3. It’s good to purge periodically.  For everyone of all ages.  Period.
  4. We can work in a system with finite space.  Let’s figure out how to accomplish a goal within a given set of parameters.
  5. We aren’t going to have HUGE amounts of paper floating through the house.  Because that’s awful!  (And my kids tend to start shredding paper if they’re left alone with it for any length of time!)

When trying to figure out this dilemma, I found a post that talked about keeping everything in a paper box and going through it all at the end of the year.  That is SO MUCH SPACE.  A box.  Holy cow, I have too many kids for that!  And talk about an excruciating chore to have at the end of the year when you’re sick of everything school-related!  No, thanks.  I have to go through the papers right away anyway in case there’s an urgent reminder from school (which happens frequently), so let’s toss the trash, save the precious and impressive in Mom’s folder, and let kiddo keep her 37th math worksheet in hers until she’s ready to toss it in 2 months.


Running Out


We should run out of stuff.

There’s a prevailing and destructive concept that most of our households struggle with which traps us in an unending cycle of hoarding, waste, and feeling overwhelmed by too much stuff: We can’t run out of that!

I have a vivid memory of freaking out to my friends in high school that my mom hadn’t gone to the store and I didn’t get to have my preferred breakfast. Fortunately for me, my friends weren’t idiots and they pushed back telling me to eat a sandwich and relax. I needed to learn to be more flexible.

I bought a lot of it because I know we’ll use it.

This is a really destructive mindset we have to vanquish from our brains and buying habits.  Unless it’s at an incredible price, you’re certain you’ll use it all before it expires or spoils, and you have adequate storage space, this isn’t a wise choice–it will just create clutter and potentially waste.

How I approach it
  • We can’t run out of essentials. Medications are essential. Diapers and toilet paper and soap and clean drinking water are all essential. You should NOT run out of these things. I think we can all agree that running out of them would be bad. We need to eat. We need to be able to do life.
  • We need to redefine “essentials.” Having our favorite snack around is not essential. If we’re trying to be minimalists and simplify life, it’s important for me and my family to reassess so we’re in agreement about what this should look like, because no one likes change or surprises
  • We need to be less manipulated by sales and do more with less. Most people I know stick pretty closely to a budget and therefore, take advantage of sales. There’s nothing wrong with doing that so long as we’re purchasing items we really want and need. And it should be reasonable. I used to spend a lot of time and effort to buy Tide at good prices, causing myself crazy stress instead of thinking outside the box for a better solution. Now I make my own detergent, which we LOVE, and it’s virtually stress-free.
  • It’s critically important for our hearts and minds to be without. Do we realize that when we always get everything we want we’re spoiling ourselves? We’re training ourselves and our kids that we have a right not to be without our favorite sandwich or chips or fruit or juice or soda. When we DO run out of things on a consistent and frequent basis, 2 things happen:
    1. We get used to it and can receive it with a better attitude. Think about the unpleasant things you have to communicate on a frequent basis (your favorite shirt is dirty, it’s raining and we can’t go outside, someone already checked your book out of the library). Unless it’s catastrophic, we handle it well, because we’re used to it. We want our responses and those of our kids to be “OK,” not screaming tantrums. Running out of non-critical items needs to become mundane.
    2. We become less prone to gluttony. This isn’t a word people use a lot, but since America has an obesity epidemic and all of us would at least say that we want to be healthy, we need to be more intentional about portion size and wise food choices—eating foods that will fuel our bodies instead of just satiating our cravings.

The Truth About Laundry


A while back I opened up a survey with some questions I was curious about in terms of laundry.  Here are the results.

If you want to take the survey:

The breakdown: We all have easy access to laundry services, the vast majority have it in our private residence, and we’re all over the place on how frequently we do laundry.  Bottom line: most of us struggle getting our laundry folded or put away.

The stats:

93% of respondents were female, 7% declined to answer

Work Status:
work full time: 26.67%
care for the needs of my home/family full time: 53.33%
work part time: 6.67%
am a full time student: 13.33%
am retired: 0%
other: 0%

What is your relationship to the laundry process?
I am the laundry person in my household: 93.33%
I do some laundry sometimes: 6.67%

Describe your laundry situation:
I have a washer/dryer in my private residence: 86.67%
I have shared laundry services in my building: 13.33%

How do you do things?
I wash and dry all my laundry on one day: 26.67%
I wash and dry at least one load daily: 6.67%
I wash and dry loads as needed: 40%
It kind of depends on life that week: 26.67%

I consider myself:
a structured/organized person: 60%
a non-structured/organized person: 40%

What is the HARDEST part of the laundry process for you?
Remembering to transition the load to the dryer (or clothesline, if that’s your thing): 6.67%
Folding; Everything ends up wrinkled in baskets until I need it: 46.67%
Putting the laundry away: 46.67%

What is your household reality in regards to “stuff”?
We have way too much stuff! 26.67%
We declutter pretty frequenty, but still have more than we really need 53.33%
We only have/buy what we really need/want 13.33%
I don’t understand.  My stuff is just my stuff. 6.67%

The Reality of Cups


I read a LOT about minimalism.  A theme that crops up over and over again is getting rid of multiples of things.  When I was decluttering some kitchen cabinets a few months ago, I realized we were OVERRUN with coffee cups.  It was like they’re been breeding in there or something!  Now I am SUPER INTO MINIMALISM.  But the rest of my family is not (yet).  So when I say things like, “I’m getting rid of all our cups,” I know my husband is going to FREAK OUT.  I have to take a more measured approach to maintain peace and marital harmony and encourage this transition rather than create defensiveness against it.

How’d I do that?

Here are the questions I asked (Most are pretty typical of minimalism):

How many do we really need on a DAILY basis?  2, for our daily coffee

What about handling contingencies like crazy life that prevents kitchen cleaning for a couple days? We have a BIG family, so we MUST do dishes at least every 2 days or life is unbearable.  That means 4 cups.  (For our ship to sail smoothly though, it’s daily dishes.)

What about guests?  This is a frequent defense to purging, but I encourage you to ask this followup question honestly: What do you USUALLY do when you have a ton of guests?  Anytime we have more than maybe 4 guests drinking anything, we go disposable so it doesn’t matter anyway.*  Bam! Purge it!

*If for some reason we were going to have several guests and REQUIRED real cups, I could always borrow from friends.  A super-unlikely exception shouldn’t hijack the decision-making process.

Are we really ready for permanent removal or is archive storage the answer?  We were not ready to permanently remove them, so they’ve been in storage in the basement.  I know it’s been several months, so I’ll bring that up in the conversation to donate them.  Usually, I’ll write a note that amuses me like “Will I miss these?” and date it so I have rock hard evidence that we should let go.

I asked Dan to pick his 4 favorite cups and I picked mine.  That’s 8.  And just like a bad TV show, 8 is enough!


6 Savvy Ways to Use Command Hooks That You’re Missing


I LOVE Command Hooks!  They’re easy to remove, but even if they don’t quite work for you in one instance, they can show you if you want a permanent hook without making any permanent changes.

1.  So helpful to have more hooks for holding towels (or whatever)!


2.  I have NO storage under my sink, since it’s a pedestal sink.  So I needed a creative way to hang my cleaning cloths!

image   norwex_v2



3.  I took a coat closet door with 1 nail and put up 9 hooks for kid vests, coats, and jackets.  Incredibly helpful!



4.  I didn’t have any more storage space for my microwave cover, but I DID have wall space…it’s perhaps a bit tacky, but I LOVE that it doesn’t have to sit on the counter or in the microwave anymore!

image  image

5.  I wanted a convenient place for oven mitts and AGAIN I had wall space and nothing else

image   ovenmitt_v2


6.  We have a STUFFED kids’ activity bookshelf.  And I needed more space.  So I stuck some hooks on the side and hung Ziplock bags that I hole punched on them.  I DO want to continue downsizing our stash and at that point, being able to remove them easily will be great, but for now they work SO WELL.


Minimalism and the Gospel

I have too much stuff.  Most people I know have too much stuff.  A few years ago, I read Jen Hatmaker’s “Seven” and was inspired to get rid of all our unnecessary stuff and disgusted by our materialistic culture.  That led me to start exporing minimalism in a more real way.  Reading blog posts, searching Pinterest for wardrobe capsules, learning about the best and worst ways to declutter.  After about a year of trying some things and still feeling unsuccessful (largely because I’m only 1/6 of this family), I started trying to persuade my husband of its benefits.

How does the gospel apply to minimalism?

Missional living (living every aspect of life on mission to grow relationships and share the gospel of who Jesus is and what he’s done) has been at the forefront of our lives for a while now.  SInce we believe applying the gospel to every aspect of every day is critical, it wasn’t surprising when during one of these conversations about the merits of minimalism, my husband said, knowing me, “Write up a short paper on how the gospel applies to minimalism, include links to your favorite articles or blog posts, and I’ll read it.”

And I did.  Here it is.  You might notice that it lack a lot of transitions.  I didn’t write an intro or a conclusion for it.  I felt the content was fairly self-explanatory.  How very minimalistic of me!

30ish Minutes to Minimalism

1 min – This one should do it for you!
A Spiritual Journey

4 min
Why Minimalism Should Not Be Entered Into Lightly

3 min
Minimalism Benefits

5 min
Finding Minimalism

Quote to entice you:
6. Are you frugal?

While becoming minimalist doesn’t mean that you have to spend less money, it certainly provides the opportunity. And because you are buying less things, you also have the option to make higher-quality purchases that last longer.

6 min

4 min

Fav Quotes:
I have lots of clutter in my house, and I hate it. I would love to actually have a place for everything, but in order to do that, I need to get rid of a lot of stuff.

I can’t count how many times that happened when my daughter was a baby. She had so many baby clothes, that I’d forget exactly what she had. Then I’d pull out an outfit, only to find that she had outgrown it already.

I really believe that having an overabundance of stuff breeds discontentment.

3 min

Minimalism Is Not a Radical Lifestyle

8 min

He showed me how the compulsion to own more is rooted in fear and actually dragging us all down.

In other words, anything I own that I’m not using rightly belongs to someone who could. One might say that I am hoarding other people’s possessions by holding onto things I don’t need.

Why Own Fewer Possessions? Jesus and the Minimalist Lifestyle

3 min (skim)

Christian Faith and Minimalism

dip a toe

7 Tiny Steps for the Beginner Minimalist

How Does Minimalism Jive with Gospel-Centered Living?
Minimalism isn’t just about less stuff–material possessions; it’s also about how you spend your time, energy, etc.

minimalism is anti-greed (have stuff you need, but not stuff you don’t)
minimalism encourages giving to those in need (give stuff to others, whether it’s your stuff or money which you now have from not spending it on stuff you don’t need)
minimalism roots out unhealthy attachments to material possessions

Celebration of Discipline quotes:
The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.
We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out.
Hoarding we call prudence.
The Bible challenges nearly every economic value of contemporary society.
Had Israel faithfully observed the Jubilee it would have dealt a death blow to the perennial problem of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer.
He (Jesus) told the parable of the rich farmer whose life centered in hoarding—we would call him prudent; Jesus called him a fool.
He calls all who would follow him to a joyful life of carefree unconcern for possessions: “Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.” Luke 6:30
Paul counsels the wealthy not to trust in their wealth, but in God, and to share generously with others. 1 tim 6:17-19
***Read 4 paragraphs from book, p 84 starting with first full paragraph
New focal point: seeking first the kingdom of God
Everything hunges upon maintaining the “first” thing as first.
Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style.
Focus upon the kingdom produces the inward reality, and without the inward reality we will degenerate into legalistic trivia. Nothing else can be central. The desire to get out of the rat race cannot be central, the redistribution of the world’s wealth cannot be central, the concern for ecology cannot be central. Seeking first God’s kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom is the only thing that can be central in the Spiritual Discipline of simplicity. P87
And when the kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor, the equitable distribution of wealth, and many other things will be given their proper attention.
As Jesus made clear in our central passage, freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking first the kingdom of God.
The freedom and liberty experienced from simplicity comes from an inward spirit of trust. (paraphrase)

From the book:
Freedom from anxiety (3 attitudes)
If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety.
Just as God gives us the sun, air, water, he’s given us everything else. p 88
We can trust him to protect what he’s given us.
We must banish our anxieties about tomorrow and realize that God’s given us things to share.

Outward expressions of simplicity:
1) buy things for their usefulness
2) reject anything that is producing an addiction in you
3) develop a habit of giving things away
4) refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry
5) learn to enjoy things without owning them
6) develop a deeper appreciate for the creation
7) look with healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes (be super careful about debt)
8) obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech
9) reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
10) shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God

Gospel-reality: We don’t need people to see what awesome stuff we have because our worth comes from Jesus, not our stuff.
Gospel-reality: We don’t have to keep things we never use because of “what if?” God has met our greatest need in Jesus. He meets our needs with jobs, money, food. We have never not had something we really needed. And sometimes our “need” that we feel in a moment should be redefined more accurately as “discontentment.”
Gospel-reality: I’m afraid of losing my stuff and comfortable life-style. That’s because I erroneously believe that those things can and will make me happier than Jesus.

Practical Outworkings
In your mind, picture a space that causes you stress and frustration with its clutteredness or disorganization. It should be small (wallet) to medium (desk drawer or laundry basket) in size. Give yourself 10 minutes to go through it and remove any garbage or things that should be donated. Do it. Rinse. Repeat. Feel awesome.

As you go throughout your day, note in a text file, Reminders, or Wunderlist areas that you want to work on. They should NOT be huge, like “the basement.” Instead they should be doable (preferably in under 30 min) like “the island” or “your shoes” or “the box of cleaning items under the kitchen sink” or “the stairs.”

Hey There

So this site is my name.  Blech.  Please understand that it was an act of simplicity and not self-aggrandizement.  I didn’t want to spend time coming up with a different name like or something like that.  Everything that you’ll see here will be something that I am learning or have learned.  And I’m putting it out there because I want to help people and I use the internet in this way ALL. THE. TIME.  I am straight up a Google junkie.  So let’s be friends and take over the internet.

My interests and hobbies generally include being a wife (to a pastor), mom of several kids, web developer, aspiring minimalist, occasional reader of books, infrequent cleaner of my house, not-so-infrequent preparer of food, and productivity crazy person.