Keeping out the Junk

Recently I was listening to a podcast on Focus on the Family with a woman called Sandra Felton.  She started an organization called Messies Anonymous.

I’ll admit, when I read the summary of the podcast, I almost didn’t press play.  It sounded a bit like a joke to me.  Is messiness that much of a problem that there needs to be support group?  Surely people can just get off their butts to clean their house instead of spending time meeting with and reading about their messiness problem.

Then Jesus told me to take a look around my house.

I am a messie.  And I am not anonymous.

In this affluent, first-world country, we have the problem of too much stuff.  Way too much stuff.  It can be difficult to weed through all of the “stuff” we accumulate in order to get rid of what we actually don’t need or will not use.

As I listened to this podcast, Felton talked about two different kinds of people in this world:  “cleanies” and “messies”.  After giving a short blurb of each, I quickly realized that both my husband and I fall into the “messie” category, though I have the internal voice of a “cleanie” (my mother).

What does this mean?

This means that neither my husband nor I are naturals at keeping things tidy.  We both tend to keep otherwise useless things for either sentimental value or possible future use.  We both are not in the habit of putting things away as soon as we’re done using them.  These small, seemingly insignificant habits mean that we can acquire a lot of junk very quickly.

In an effort to simplify our lives, we have continued to try to simplify our possessions.  Though we both still struggle with putting things away or throwing things away as soon as we’re finished with them, we are working on this habit.  We consult with the other when we feel there are items that would be best donated or thrown away instead of kept unused.

I recently cleaned out my half of the closet, removing all of the clothes I haven’t worn in a year or more, didn’t like the way it looked on me, or didn’t particularly like the style of.  I was shocked to find how little clothes I actually had left.  Importantly, though, everything I had left in my closet were things I loved and looked good on me.  Fortunately, my closet cleanout inspired my husband to do the same.  He too was left with much less clothing that he truly liked to wear.

Decluttering, cleaning out, and keeping organized are always struggles in our household and have been even well before we had children.  Though we are learning how to deal with this problem, I’m interested to hear how my readers take care of clutter.   What have you found that helps?

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Be Serious: Fun

Man.

I can’t believe I just typed that.

Let’s all just take a moment for the silliness that is that title.

Take fun serious.

Plan fun.

Yes!

Life can really suck you in.  With meetings, appointments, housework, caring for kids, and everything else, it can be hard to find the time to do something fun.  So I schedule in fun.

What kind of fun?

Date night, for example.  That’s fun for me.  And for my husband (I hope! haha).  And for my girls.  We get a date night every other week, and my sister-in-law watches the girls.  They get to hang out with their aunt, uncle, and cousin while my husband and I can spend some time alone.  It’s really a win-win situation.

But it wouldn’t happen regularly if it wasn’t scheduled.

Another piece of scheduled fun is a sane moment.

Oh a sane moment.

This is a glorious amount of time during which either my husband or I can be alone or with friends.  Without spouse or children.  My husband and I have found these are literally crucial to our sanity.  With a toddler and a preschooler, it can feel like someone is always demanding something or asking something of you.  Having a couple of hours a week without those demands can be lovely.  My husband often hangs out with friends for his sane moments, and I have been known to sit in Panera Bread drinking coffee and writing for hours.  We try to make these happen every week.  Sometimes it isn’t possible, but it’s a good goal to reach for.  Having even just 2-3 hours a week outside the home for each of us to be real adults can be so refreshing.

One last example of scheduled fun is girls’ movie night and toenails.

Another weird sounding night.  Sheesh.  I need to come up with better names.

Girls’ pampering movie night?

Yes, that sounds better.

On Saturday afternoons, once the girls get up from their nap, I have them pick a movie they’d like to watch.  We watch the movie, have copious (healthy-ish) snacks, and paint our toenails.  My husband works late on Saturdays, so this gives the girls and I some fun time together.  We usually have snacks first (popcorn, fruit, cheese, anything that isn’t too crumbly or crumby or messy), then I’ll have the girls sit on the floor on a blanket.  Madeline sits well for me to paint her toes and fingernails.  Clara is still working on it.  But the experience is fun nonetheless.  The girls love having “pretty toes”, and it’s a real treat to watch a movie.

I choose not to let my Saturdays get bogged down with projects and housework.  Instead I spend time enjoying and pampering my daughters.  And re-watching my favorite Disney films.  ;-)

Do you schedule fun into your week?  If so, how? And what kind of fun?

 

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Be Serious: Planning Kids’ Activities

Today I’m going to branch out and talk about something I have only been planning for a relatively short period of time:  activities with my girls.  For the first few years of my career as a SAHM I used to let my time with the kids be almost completely led by what they wanted to do.  This does work in the short run, but I noticed each girl would always ask to do the same activities over and over.  Madeline could paint all day long, and Clara could have a dance party every afternoon.  As much fun as these activities are, there are so many fun (and simple) things the girls and I could do that will help them learn new things about the world around them.

To start, I spent some time on Pinterest researching activities to do with toddlers and preschoolers.

I was completely overwhelmed.

There are so many options it almost shut down my desire to plan activities for the girls.

Fortunately I stumbled on a few very helpful websites for easy kids activities.  First was The Stay At Home Mom Survival Guide.  The activities are usually done with materials you already have in your house, are quick to put together, and keep my girls’ interest for a good chunk of time.  Another website I loved was Intentional by Grace.  This blogger sets up an early version of homeschooling for her young son, so most of the activities are educational.

My favorite go-to activities to do with my girls are:

  • Magnetic letter matching
  • Nature walk and scavenger hunt
  • Puzzles
  • Read books
  • Sing songs, especially ones with hand motions
  • Do chores together
  • Work in the garden
  • “Wash” dishes
  • Make Play-doh letters
  • Make Play-doh animals
  • Have a tea party
  • Go “grocery shopping” in our spare bedroom
  • “Cook”
  • Cook
  • Paint
  • Color coloring books
  • Build block towers
  • Build things with Legos
  • Play with our princess Lego sets
  • Pull the pillows and cushions from the couch onto the floor and jump on them
  • Play musical instruments
  • Paint toenails
  • Cut or rip paper to make confetti
  • Play Simon says

When I sit down to plan my week on Sunday evening, I write down two different activities to do with the girls each day.  Some days we go on a play date or go to library programs.  These would count as an activity for that day.

I find that during the course of my day my brain moves very quickly, and I can’t stop to think of something creative and fun to do with the girls.  If I have a couple of activities written on my to-do list for the day, I can quickly get something together that occupies, entertains, and even teaches the girls.

What do you do with your children while you stay at home/work at home?  Do you plan the time you spend teaching your kids each day?

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Be Serious: Meal Planning

I know those two words together can seriously scare some people.  I promise, though, the way I meal plan is super easy.

Suuuuuper easy.

First of all, before I started planning meals, I would end up either making several trips to the grocery store each week or wasting a lot of food.  Or both.

Planning meals has helped me to save time, effort, and money in the kitchen, and it only takes me about 30-45 minutes every week or two.

First, I have a general idea of what I will be cooking each day.  Take a look:

Monday – Grill or Roast meat and simple sides

Tuesday – Date Night

Wednesday – Italian food

Thursday – Soup/Salad

Friday – Mexican/Spanish food

Saturday – leftovers/sandwiches

Sunday – casserole or other “nice” recipe

Having this general outline helps me to pick meals on specific days.  So, for example, on when I’m planning a meal for Monday, if the weather looks nice, I can pick something like marinated chicken kebobs with grilled fruit and salad.  If, however, weather looks poor, I can roast that chicken in the oven with potatoes, carrots, and still have a salad.

I usually plan meals for a full week, sometimes two, before I plan my grocery shopping adventure.

I tend to stick to one meat per week.  We may eat meat 2-3 times a week, but I will use the same kind of meat (chicken or beef or pork, you get the idea) so I can buy just one large package.

I usually have some leftover if I buy a big package of meat at Sam’s; then I can store it in our freezer and have it for a proverbial “rainy day”.

I also try to stick with seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I cook asparagus and peas in the spring, zucchini and eggplant in the summer, and butternut squash and sweet potatoes in the fall.  This helps me to choose which recipes I use.

I am one of those cooks that could go with or without a written recipe.  Some things I just make from memory, like a roast chicken and vegetables.  I have weeks where I fill my meal plan up with things that are go-to’s for me.  Other weeks I pore over Pinterest to find new, fun recipes to bring some spunk in to the kitchen.

Once I fill in a dinner for each day, I make a list of the ingredients I need.  This handy thing is what I call my grocery list.

Seriously.  It’s that easy.

Our breakfasts and lunches around here pretty much stick within a normal realm.  Breakfasts are usually cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and granola, eggs and toast, or pancakes.  And lots of fruit.  Lunches are usually sandwiches, salad, or leftover things like soups, chilis, pastas, etc.  If I need to restock any of these items, they go on my grocery list.

I promise you, that taking the short amount of time to focus on what you will be eating for the week will help you to shave down your grocery bill, reduce the waste coming out of your kitchen, and save a whole lot of hassle.

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