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“clut-ter:

1. A confused or disordered state or collection; a jumble”

One of the most effective ways to keep your life simple is to purge your home of clutter.  People spend hours upon hours managing their “stuff,” and for what?  Most of it is stuff we don’t even need or use!  I want to spend my time and efforts on my family and my life, not on the care and keeping of the junk in my life.  This kind of flies in the face of my thrifting obsession, but not really.  I try to employ a “one bag in, one bag out” policy in those situations.

I found this great idea this morning, and although Lent has already begun, I think I may be able to catch up.  My basement and closets desperately need to be purged.  What a lovely way to ensure a clutter-free Easter!  Just in time for a nice Spring Cleaning!  I have 2 bags filled just from my linen closet!

One decluttering method that works very well for me is “puttering.”  If you don’t putter around your house and actually look to see what areas need help, you will just continue to add to the pile and it will grow into an insurmountable problem.  Puttering is my answer to that.  First, I either turn on some music or call a friend/sister.  This gives me something pleasurable to focus on while I putter around my home.  Then I get started.  Often the distraction is so helpful that I get off the phone or emerge from crooning along to my favorite songs to realize wow, I just cleaned this whole room and I don’t remember doing it.  This may just be testimony to how 4 kids in 5 years makes you lose your mind, but I prefer to think of it as distraction working quite well, thank you.  An example of puttering could be reorganizing your bathroom cupboard, decluttering your work desk, cleaning out your fridge or organizing a closet.  I usually choose jobs that I seriously detest doing, not my usual daily cleaning tasks.

Living in a small home means we simply cannot hold on to every little thing we’ve ever owned or ever will own.  That includes the clothes that our kids grow out of.  For awhile I labeled and stored every item of clothing my children wore, but as our family grew, this became too much.  I switched to saving only the things that were in perfect condition, but even this became too much to hang on to.  The truth is, even if I did have a baby of the same gender as 0ne of the older children, there were no guarantees that the seasons would be correct anyway.  I began handing off clothes to friends.  So far things seem to find their way back, often mixed with outfits from other families as well, when a new baby warrants it.  I’d rather have my kids clothes used by others than stored in a basement.  It works well for us.

The best part of keeping your home clutter-free is how quickly you can clean your home, and how long it stays clean.  I can usually tell when my children have too many clothes and too many toys by how messy their rooms are.  Obviously they are children and are going to make messes, but if my daughter can throw 25 shirts on the floor in her quest for the perfect outfit, there is something wrong.

Here is a quick list of suggestions:

2 sets of sheets per bed. – this may not be necessity if you are single and tend to wash your sheets and put them right back on, but having kids can mean middle of the night messes.  Its nice to not have to do laundry in the middle of the night!

2 towels/washclothes per person in the family.

Keep your kitchen counters clear of appliances.  Keep only what you absolutely need and make sure each item has a “place” in the cabinet. (coffee makers may stay out).

File your papers/bills/bank statements weekly to cut down on surface clutter.

Employ “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Try to have “only” 1 junk drawer.

If you have a spouse who is prone to setting his/her random clutter all over your house, get a few baskets and set them around.  That way it doesn’t look so awful, and you can quickly grab the basket and put the things away when you get a chance.

Recycle, yet, but don’t be afraid to throw things out.  Socks with holes?  Toss.  Old toothbrushes? Toss.  Some of these may be a given, but if you are like me and really don’t like throwing away something that might be useful, it can be hard to figure out what to do.

As an organizational/large family thing, I like to have certain items in gender-neutral tones to cut down on what we have to have on hand.  Mittens in multiple sizes, snow boots, hoodies, etc., I prefer ones that are red, navy or grey so everyone is willing to wear them.

This post is entirely too long.  Please feel free to post any additional tips!

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I’ve never bought a new piece of furniture.

Let me re-phrase that:

I have never bought a new piece of furniture.

Everything we have was either gifted or thrifted.  That also extends to the art on our walls.  Additionally, I’ve never spent more than $100 on a piece of furniture.

Being a mom of several very small children with a tendency to run around in the backyard barefoot and then come in and rub their feet all over the furniture, spending large quantities of money on furniture (or even going into debt for furniture) would be nothing short of madness.  Spending little on furniture means replacing things can happen more frequently.  I want to be someone who puts people before things, and I want my children to be able to enjoy our home – without costing me a ton of money in ruining expensive furniture!  We have had 3 different couches since we’ve moved in and we have been in this house only 4 years.  Don’t think we just set them by the side of the road – we often sell them for the same price as our “new” furniture, meaning that an upgrade and a fresh start with a new couch is, get this, FREE.

Additionally, its recycling.  And recycling is a good thing!

Don’t think you have to sacrifice quality when buying second hand.  Often you are able to buy higher quality items than you’d be able to if purchasing them new.  Case in point, my 2 Ethan Allen chairs that I love so much.  These chairs originally sold for around $600 each.  I brought them home for $75…for the pair.

Its important to go out and look, but only buy something if you absolutely love it or need it.  Often I’ll be on the market for an upgrade in something but it will take me a month or so to find something that I want to purchase.  Take your time.

Where do I find deals?

Thrift Stores – Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.

http://www.craigslist.com – find a classifieds in your area.  Check it frequently.  I also sell my items on this site when I am finished with them.

Kiwanis – in a neighboring town, we have a weekly Kiwanis sale.  You can usually barter here quite easily and find some nice things.  Our current couch and my E A chairs were purchased here.  They also have lamps, art, pretty much anything.

Frugal, earth friendly, simple, frequent upgrades.  What’s not to like?

Bad lighting.  Good furniture.  Total cost pictured: $75

Do you ever have the moment of panic, thinking “my kids are growing up so fast. Are they having a fun life?  Are they enjoying life to the fullest?  What are they going to remember most from childhood?”  I have those moments from time to time.  When the panic hits, its helpful for me to reflect on my own childhood, one that, from my perspective, was the most fun a child could have.  The things I remember and treasure are not necessarily the things that cost a lot of money.  I have a few hazy memories from the week spent in Florida when I was five, the beach vacation to Myrtle Beach when I was twelve and the handful of movies my parents took us to.  What I remember most are the traditions my family had, some more frequent than others.  Those are what hold the deepest and dearest memories for me.  Spending summers camping in Canada, the image of my mom washing dishes in that big green bowl with a baby in the backpack.  My dad making pancakes on a Saturday morning, just for fun.  Sweaty summer evenings racing through the neighborhood on my bike with my friends, singing at the top of my lungs.  More recently, my dearest moments are summer cookouts with my family, an afternoon spent at the park with the kids, “family breakfast” on our midweek mornings.  Kids and adults too really thrive on traditions, even just the daily routines of life.  They’ll remember most the dishcloth swinging from Dad’s waist as he flips bacon on the skillet, and mom singing “Princess songs” while brushing the little girls’ hair.  Childhood does not have to be a series of expensive activities or events.  Sometimes regular life makes the best memories of all.

“Family Breakfast” is a tradition we all love…mmmm bacon!

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Its WIP Wednesday!  My favorite blogging day of the week.  This is where I show off some of my Works in Progress.  Due to randomly making that pillow with my girls on Sunday night and waiting for some more fabric to come before putting together our patchwork quilt, I don’t have very many WIPs this week.  That being said, I do have a very special WIP – possibly the longest standing WIP ever.

F’s birthday crown WIP.  Not much early morning light for these pictures, bear with me.

J’s WIP birthday crown

Little birdy on J’s crown

Not sure why the colors are coming out so oddly.  I need some more inspiration for these birthday crowns…not sure what else to put on them.  Thoughts?

D’s birthday dress.  I’m losing steam on this project, I’m in the skirt section which is SO BORING until you get to the lacework at the bottom.  Luckily I have over a month til its “due” so I can take my time.

Now for the ultimate WIP – I began this sampler when I was 8 years old.  I found it in my parents basement and brought it home.  Now I’m not sure what to do…finish where my 8 year old self left off, or leave it unfinished?  It needs to be ironed.  I’m thinking of framing it.  My mom has a sampler (much more fabulous) that my Grandma made when she was a young girl.  It is one of my favorite things in my mother’s house.

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We visited the Thrift Store again yesterday, just for a bit of an outing.  I rescued a pretty JCrew button down with a spring-y floral print (not pictured) and a basket to keep all Husband’s odds and ends in (better than leaving them around the house!).  We also found these:

a precious little candleholder that just needs a beeswax candle

Not bad for 20 cents.

vintage lace ribbon – I think this will be used for F’s birthday dress’ straps.

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That’s it from me for today.  Have a blessed Midweek with your family!

Well it is finally Wednesday so I can show you all what I’ve been working on.  First, we have F’s birthday dress.  This is technically still a WIP since it lacks straps and the elastic threaded through the bodice.  It was an insanely quick knit.  I made the size 2T based on chest measurements.

Still unblocked, so a bit odd looking

a “Little Red” for F

These are my current “WIP”‘s.  I’m hoping to dig out from all of this crazy snow and head to the fabric shop for some elastic thread so I can finish F’s dress.  Then I’ll cast on for D’s and start all over again!

We were hammered with snow last night so today it is a winter wonderland outside!  F loves snow so much, she couldn’t want to get out in it.

The rest of us decided to stay indoors where it is warm and work on some Valentines.  D is my artist, so she was working especially hard.

So much love…

In the kitchen, I made some wonderful Snow Day soup.  We eat a lot of soup, stew and chili here, especially during the winter months.  My family loves soup and I love that most of it is very healthy, can be made inexpensively and can be altered to fit whatever you have on hand.  Today I used a few leftover chicken breasts, cut up potatoes, onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, garlic and added some chick peas as well.  I used chicken stock I had leftover and saved (always save your chicken stock!), although you could use some bullion cubes.  I love that soup can be left simmering all day and eaten whenever someone is hungry.  This helps a lot during our Midweek when mealtimes are not as regular as during our normal weekdays.  Add to it some homemade bread or biscuits and you have a lovely warm meal for a cold snow day.

Off to enjoy my family!  Happy Midweek!

I’ve had this post bouncing around in my head for some time.  I’ve been asked more times than I can count how we manage to live our lives on one modest income with 4 children.  My thoughts have been going around and around and I realized that it all really comes down to simplicity.  I can get specific about some things, but in general, simplicity sums it all up.

For my family, living a simple life fosters close family relationships while also allowing us to live sustainably.

In this instant gratification, gotta have it, fast paced world of bursting credit bubbles and housing market collapses, it is no wonder that many have looked at what I manage to do and say “how does that even work?”  I do not purport to have the corner on how to make it work, and certainly a large part of why it works for us is because we have been blessed in many ways.

I say it comes down to simple, intentional living.  Identifying the true differences between “needs” and “wants,” being grateful for what you do have and willing to compromise on the things you do not necessarily need.  I am not saying to live a life with no comforts at all, that is not my point, but to really take stock of what we believe to be necessary, beneficial and required for our lives.

This often begins with how we were raised.   I was so blessed to be raised in a family where my mother was dedicated to living a simple, frugal lifestyle.  Through my childhood, my observations of her helped shape my view on how to run a home.  She is still much more frugal than I am and I still stand to learn quite a bit from her.  Taking a good look at where we came from and what were considered necessities in our homes really does help us understand how we came to the mindset we have on what constitutes “the good life,” and is imperative to the next few steps.

Simplifying and “slowing” often go hand in hand.  For example, one of the ways we live slowly is by owning one car.  This requires me to “slow down” and cut down unnecessary trips outside the home.  It helps me to focus on my home life with my children while also saving us money that would have been spent if I were to go out every day.  Slowing down can also mean waiting to make a purchase until you have the funding for it.  Paying yourself slowly until the money is there may take a little bit longer, but you will be so happy to actually own what you bought!  Slowing is hard for a lot of people because it is living in direct conflict with our current cultural norms.

Over the next few weeks I’ll touch on how simplicity comes into play in all areas of our lives – from raising the kids and educational materials to cooking, homemaking and beyond.  If you have any questions you’d especially like me to address, ask away!

one way we save: one sized cloth diapers

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