5 Ways KonMari Minimalism Improves My Life

5 Ways KonMari Minimalism Improves My Life

I can’t claim to be an expert minimalist.  I don’t count my possessions, I can’t fit everything I own in a backpack, I don’t have a spartan tiny home.

But goodness, do I have less stuff than I used to.  I aspire to minimalism.

I applied the KonMari method to my entire home when pregnant with my second baby.  Call it extreme nesting if you will.

I did it again as we were packing up that house to move.

And I’m doing it again right now in my new home (how did this stuff even get MOVED here?!)

It is the best homemaking decision I’ve ever made, and here’s why:

birch trees. Text: Minimalism Changed My Life

1 – Minimalism forces me to think deeply about purchases and gifts

Before I buy anything for my husband or kids, I think seriously about whether it is amazing and going to be used frequently.  This results in usually buying one joint large gift for Christmas – and this last year we skipped in entirely.  We went on a 2-day vacation with our dear friends instead, and it was so much better than a gift!For our children, we follow the 4 gifts principle – something to wear, something to read, something fun, and something they need.  (Clothing, a book, a toy/game/ticket to somewhere, new sheets, dishes, etc.)  Since they have grown up this way, they don’t expect anything more lavish.  My 3 1/2 year old still gets excited when we put his “new” sheets on his bed, and talks about how he opened them on Christmas.

2 – I am more motivated to finish the laundry and the dishes.

I only have enough sippy cups and coffee mugs for two days.  I also only have enough kid dishes, good knives, and pans for two days, so if I’m feeling unmotivated I can only possibly let the dishes go for a day before we run out of necessary items.  (Sippy Cups and Coffee Mugs would make a great blog name – feel free to borrow that one!)Likewise, we have pared down our wardrobes to the point where I can’t skip laundry.  Maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, but before KonMari I could skip laundry indefinitely.  I had SO. MANY. CLOTHES. that it didn’t matter if I washed them or not, the closet just kept giving!  Now, my boys only have 6 pair of pants, so I have to wash them.  I use a capsule wardrobe, so I actually wear every piece in my closet and need to wash them to have options for the next week.

3 – Broken items rarely bother me

Fact: Kids break things.  Little Known Fact: My husband, somehow, breaks even more things.This used to bother me immensely, but the process of decluttering and reducing my possessions has definitely changed my mindset about material possessions.  Minimalism functions under the theory that possessions are not important, period.  Because of this, I’m not going to get upset at a person who accidentally ruins one.  I actually say, “Well, there’s one more thing I don’t have to own!”  It helps me let go of even one more item – it has been decided for me by being broken.

4 – Less guilt

This is a problem I didn’t even realize I had until I became familiar with the KonMari method of minimalism.  I had no idea how much guilt I was inviting into my daily life by keeping possessions around that I didn’t love.

“I should really be using that, _____ gave it to me.”

“Forgot I had that.  What a waste of money!”

“I need to go find _____ and set it out so _____ thinks I’m using it.”

“I should dust.  Haven’t touched that shelf of things in months.”

“Here’s the box of ugly things I have to keep around.”

“Let’s sort the Christmas ornaments: Ones we like, ones we can get rid of, ones we don’t like but can’t get rid of.”

“I need to find a place to put _____ where nobody will really see it.”

These are true.  Not exaggerated.  I actually had to think these thoughts routinely about possessions in my home.

I heard it so many times, but didn’t truly believe it until I decluttered objectively: The people you’ve loved don’t cease to exist just because you get rid of “things.”  I didn’t need to keep around heirlooms, gifts, greeting cards, what-have-you from deceased or faraway relatives simply to remember them by.  I’m not going to forget them!  I do have some heirlooms and gifts that I really, truly love and use almost everyday.  I enjoy that those particular items happen to have come from people close to me.  Beyond that, I’ve learned to let go.  And now I don’t have to hear those guilty thoughts inside my head anymore. (Katie from The Decluttering Queen wrote a great post about “keepsakes!“)

The same goes for money spent  You already “wasted” the money.  Having the items staring at you all the time isn’t going to help the situation – it’s just going to make you feel bad daily, instead of once by decluttering the item.

5 – Ease of cleaning, dressing, packing, etc.

Less clutter on surfaces = easier to wipe or dust.
Fewer toys = even if the kids empty out the whole playroom, it’s not that much to pick up.
Capsule wardrobe = just count outfits to pack.  Everything goes together, everything fits, everything feels good to wear.

And this is why I continually look to minimize our home even more.  It has brought such a relaxed, peaceful mindset about possessions and really helped me curb my attachment to them.  There is so much more mental space and time in a day to work at things that truly matter, because I’m not devoting time to shuffling items around (physically or mentally!) picking out clothes, avoiding housekeeping, lingering over decisions about keeping or storing.

What benefits are you hoping to see from your minimalism journey?

What positive experiences have you already had along the way?

Let Go of Mom Guilt: Put Yourself on Your Schedule

Among the HUGE list of “Things I Was Clueless About When I Became a Professional Mom” was the entire concept of planning.

But that’s a topic for another day.

This is just about planning YOURSELF.
Yes, that’s a thing.
Yes, it’s a thing you need to do.
Yes, it will actually improve your parenting.

Whether you’re an on-paper planning aficionado, or all your vague scheduling is in your head, think about it.  Where are YOU on the schedule?  When do you partake in your hobbies, or personal growth activities, or real, intentional leisure time?

Hint: “whenever I can fit it in” is the wrong answer.

That’s how I operated for over a year of full-time at-home parenting.  In practice, it turned out that I did hobbies/personal growth/intentional leisure exactly zero times per week.  Really, almost zero times per year!  Not okay.

The result was a very grumpy, lackluster momma.  One who felt irritation rise at the very first whine of the morning, who felt guilt and exhaustion every time she spotted the half-finished novel on her bedside table.  (The novel I promised myself I would finish before moving, and didn’t finish until months afterward.)  I was a mom who didn’t even feel at leisure on vacation – I would bring along a hobby and it never made it out of the suitcase.  Ugh.

Enter 2017.  This year began with a little Parents’ Getaway (something I always said I’d never need or participate in.)  The epitome of scheduled leisure.  I planned this little vacation to intentionally include nothing but scheduled leisure – the dead of winter in Wisconsin, in the middle of farm country, in a tiny vacation home with nothing but two bags: one of face masks, board games, and novels and the other of groceries.
And this spurred an entire lifestyle change.  (No exaggeration!)  I realized that the only thing preventing me from reading, relaxing, etc was that I didn’t treat it as important.  That if I didn’t create pockets of time for my own adult brain, I was going to lose my patience/sanity/creativity/intellectual prowess during my years as a professional parent.  And that prospect was NOT ACCEPTABLE.

So here’s what I did:  I took out my planner (because I’m old fashioned!) and quite literally penned myself in, every day.  In the first slot of my planner, every day, I schedule a cup of tea and either blog writing or professional development reading.  In the very last slot, every day, I schedule fiction reading, movie nights with my husband, nail painting/face masking, etc.  The last weekend of each month, I spend my early morning at the local coffee shop (read: my literal happy place) setting goals for the next month. I actually think about this at the start of every week and pen. it. in. with equal weight as my cleaning schedule and meal plan.

And a lot of the time, I actually do it!  I don’t fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 thinking of all the wonderful things I could do, but feeling like I should do housekeeping instead.  I don’t drag myself out of bed to the sound of little boys pounding on bedroom walls.  I’m actually pumped to get up early each day for my “me time” and I can dive right into a relaxing activity as soon as the kids are tucked in at night.

It’s given me the “permission” to nurture myself, in addition to looking after the hearts of my family.

And a peaceful mom runs a peaceful home.

What’s a hobby or leisure activity you claim to love but never have time to do?
Make an appointment with yourself!

Reflecting: Making Tortillas

The other night for dinner, I decided to make homemade tortillas.
That sounds uninspiring, maybe.
I remember when I first “learned” to make tortillas.  I use some quotes there because my attempts were awful.  But I “learned” to make them during our first year of marriage.
(A little background: We got married at 21 and were both full-time in private college for an additional three semesters.  Picture a historic, falling-apart apartment above a crafts&gifts store, with no internet and a leaky kitchen ceiling.  And heat controlled by the city, in Minnesota.)
Back then, I made homemade tortillas because we were, frankly, broke.
I had no aspirations of being a homemaker.  I didn’t even think I wanted children, and I certainly had no interest in giving up my (future) career.
But honestly, most of our groceries came from a food bank run by volunteer ladies in our college’s basement.  God bless those ladies, and the people who sent donated food.  We ate well, considering: cereal for breakfast, ramen noodles and bagged pasta sides and farm fresh eggs.
But I was determined that we would have tacos.
Tacos were a very important food to my (new) husband.  His family had big taco feasts when he was growing up – lots of chopping and grating and heating up in preparation for a big spread around a huge oval table with lots of siblings, nephews, significant others.  I had experienced these family taco dinners firsthand, and I knew how much he loved the whole atmosphere.
If we were to have tacos, those tortillas had to be free.  And free meant making them myself, with flour and oil from the food bank.
I remember investing $3 in a crappy grocery-store rolling pin to make my husband a pie on his first married birthday.
I remember taking our iPod touch down to the local coffee shop to get some WiFi, to look for a recipe for tortillas.  Then writing it down to bring home, because the iPod wouldn’t save webpages.
I remember them tasting like oily flour, and being strangely transparent, and way too thick to actually roll into a taco.
I remember my sense of accomplishment at having made a family taco feast out of nothing but sweat and stubbornness.
Then my thoughts turned to more recent years, where our financial state has been more secure.
Years where I never gave a second thought to store-bought tortillas, where I had the luxury of being picky about the percentage of my ground beef, where my complaints about taco feasts mounted because “I didn’t feel like washing up all those dishes” or “it was too much chopping to bother with.”
And here I was, in my beautiful new kitchen, stepping around my toddlers, scattering flour everywhere, making tortillas.  Almost a decade after that first time.  A completely different woman, a completely different wife, living in a way I would have never imagined back in that leaky kitchen as a college student.
Making tortillas because I thought it would be a fun culinary adventure.  Because I could.
 
And they turned out beautifully.
What I mean to say, friends, is these tortillas remind me of how blessed I have been in my adult life.
And of a time when I put significant effort into homemaking without even realizing it.
And that now that I have the luxury of time and money, how much more should I work toward creating that “taco feast” kind of atmosphere.
Grace.

 

Bringing Vacation Home

Is there such a thing as an adult who does not enjoy vacation?
I went on a little New Years’ getaway with my husband and our best friends, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes vacation so wonderful, and how to incorporate some of that into my daily life.  I’ve come upon a few different concepts.

From our recent vacation – relaxing in the middle of nowhere.

Relaxing, minimalist environment
Think about what made the vacation so relaxing.  Was it that your space was clean?  That you were living with just a suitcase of possessions and no clutter?  Odds are good you were even living in a significantly smaller space than usual, possibly even with extra people, yet the hotel room/cabin/condo was relaxing.
This is great to replicate at home!  Living with fewer possessions naturally helps your space stay cleaner.  I will forever be indebted to the Kon Mari method of decluttering for making my home more peaceful and easier to keep picked up.  Consider a capsule wardrobe to replicate the limited options of a suitcase (and the ease of dressing that comes with it!)

Fresh linens
That may seem super small, but really.  When’s the last time you changed your sheets and washed your throw blankets and bleached your towels? (I keep white towels for this reason.)  Try it, and really pay attention to the sensation of sinking into fresh linens – savor it!  (By extension, all your nicely folded laundry in your suitcase?  Ey?) If you find this as valuable as I do, plan it into your housekeeping!

Pre-planned activities
Now, this is probably personal preference,  but I usually  have some pre-planned activities on vacation.  On this recent vacation, we brought along decks of cards to play our favorite game, one board game the husbands specifically like, and books and facemasks for the wives.  Nothing fancy, nothing that involved leaving the couch.  The aspect of this that makes the day so enjoyable is that there was no sitting around saying, “What should we do?  I dunno.  What do you want to do?  I dunno.”
Consider planning your leisure once you’re back home – would you like to read a book in the evenings? Journal in the mornings?  Have a family movie night?  I have actually taken to pre-planning my leisure activities for my miracle mornings and for my evenings after the kids go to bed, and it’s great.

Personal growth time
Like I said, this recent vacation included intentional book-reading.  For me, leisure reading is a part of self care and personal growth, because I truly love reading (like in the depths of my soul, love, reading.  #nerd)
Odds are good that during a vacation, you take more time for these kinds of activities.  Perhaps hiking is your personal growth.  Maybe meditating.  Some people probably experience personal growth by touring important landmarks or museums.  Whatever it is that feeds your spirit, you’ve probably made up your mind and planned to do it during your official vacation.
You should really do that kind of stuff during your regular days.  Seriously.

Moments of complete stillness
There are moments in vacation where absolutely nothing is going on.  Nothing is calling your attention.  Nothing needs to be cleaned or cooked or put away.  Those moments may be in an art gallery, in your hotel room in the wee hours, sitting on a beach kid-free, or doing a face mask on a couch while your husbands play a board game.
See if you can recreate those moments in your daily home life.  For me, those moments exist at 6:00 am (after my husband has left for work, my kids are still soundly asleep, and I’m alone in my office with a cup of coffee) but you can jam them anywhere.  On a commute using public transport, on a walk, etc.

Pick one thing to try – make your daily life more like a vacation.  Maybe commit to it for 2 weeks.  Write it down.  Plan it out. 
Share what you’re going to try or what you already do!

P.S. – we used Air BnB to book our vacation, and it worked like a charm!  I even got email copies of text messages sent by our host.  Recommend!
(Not sponsered.  I wish!)

Daily Routines

Let’s be honest – “morning routines” were one of those things I thought were total hogwash.
A mystical creation of work-at-home moms who wanted to seem awesome on social media.
A farse.
Nobody really does this. Nobody actually does the exact same things every morning that include cleaning.  Nobody schedules their day like this.

Well…
I was wrong.

I don’t think you must have a morning routine in order to be a professional mother. (And I do believe that being a stay-at-home mom is, in fact, a profession and should be treated as such.)  But I do think they can form naturally and be super helpful.

Before moving to our new home, I had neither a night nor morning routine.  I was basically flying by the seat of my mom pants, and I didn’t know I had a problem.  Our new house is larger and requires more “housekeeping” to stay up to my standards, and my current baby is getting big and needing more specific schedules and attention, and my husband has gone back to full-time teaching at a permanent position, so my day has gotten fuller.  In a wonderful way, but fuller.
In order to fit everything in and still sleep a relatively healthy amount (I am not about motherhood masochism) I decided to do a few tasks before bed and in the morning before the kids get up, largely tasks I never did daily before.  And thus, a routine was born!

Some nights/mornings they don’t get done.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about it when that happens, when sometimes I choose extra sleep or hanging out with my hubby or helping do some school work instead of tidying up my house.  It depends on the day’s demands.  But it’s nice to have slots to fit these activities into instead of constantly regretting that they’re falling through the cracks.  It’s good to know that these cleaning activities will get done almost daily, that my house most mornings will be clean and quiet, that if people drop by my home will be clean and inviting.   That I will be able to find everything I need if I need to rush out the door in the morning.

Stay tuned for full posts about my morning routine and night time routine!

Meal Planning, Differently

I cannot figure out how to meal plan traditionally
 I have read/watched lots of mom-bloggers and vloggers and many seem to plan out a week or more of meals, then hit up Costco or Sam’s Club and buy all the things needed to have said meals.  Some do a wonderful job of stocking up on meat or staples on sale, and keeping multiple pantries or freezers full of things to use in future weeks.

Here is my struggle:

First off, I don’t belong to any warehouse clubs.  I have never been able to justify the membership fees, or the drive to the nearest one (20 miles), nor do I have multiple pantries or a deep freezer.

Second, I have a rather poor selection of grocery stores near me (no Aldi or Trader Joe’s or discount groceries!)

Third, I refuse to coupon.  I don’t have the attention span/patience for that, and I don’t subscribe to a physical newspaper.

So I spend an arm and a leg on groceries?
Nope.
I quite literally don’t buy any food items that aren’t on sale.

Essentially, I meal plan in reverse.

I get my weekly grocery store ads on Wednesday.  During nap time, I sit down and make a grocery list by seeking out the food we eat that is on sale or store coupon.  I am looking mostly for meat, produce, and dairy, as we don’t really eat processed food. (Personal preference, we actually don’t like the taste of most processed food.  We are not food snobs.  We eat a lot of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and M&Ms, okay?)
Neither store I have available requires me to actually cut out coupons, so I just take my ad to the store with me and they scan whatever coupons apply.  I do not clip coupons from anywhere.  If the store has a hanger-coupon-thingy by an item, great, I’ll pull it off and take it with me to the checkout.

I make my list for each store, then I get out my list of dinners.  I compare the dinners list to the fresh foods on my shopping list, and decide 5 meals I can make to use the produce or meat that is on sale this week.
Then I plug them into my weekly planner based on amount of prep time, my husband’s after-school schedule, and events going on.

That’s it.
We shop on Saturdays, together as a family (free activity!) and my husband makes Saturday dinner (so I don’t plan it.)  On Sunday, we tend to make a large meal like roast or a whole chicken, which we use as leftovers if we need more food for lunches or if we will be very busy one afternoon.  I usually have the freezer space to freeze half a roast if necessary.

Speaking of, we have leftovers for lunch.  Everybody, every day.
And we eat cold cereal, toast, or oatmeal for breakfast.

Done.

It’s not fancy.  Sometimes it gets repetitious because of seasonal vegetables or dry spells in meat sales.  Some weeks we have precious little meat, or the same meat every night.
But that’s okay!  We eat mostly whole foods, mostly healthy, and it gets done on a budget.  Goals accomplished.

Keep a lookout for my list of dinners!  I’ll link it here when it’s finished.
Also something about my planner.  Which might be my second-best friend in the world.