The Ten-Item Wardrobe

You need to go watch this short Tedx Talk on the 10-Item Wardrobe. It’s really inspiring and motivating — and just might challenge you to re-think your wardrobe and how many clothes you own.

As you probably well know, I’m a big fan of the minimalist wardrobe. Not only does it simplify my life, it requires less space, it makes packing for travel so simple, and it also saves money since you are shopping much less often, only owning things you love, and wearing the same things over and over again.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that I think it makes me more relaxed and able to just focus on people in a situation versus worrying about my clothes since I’m wearing something I love, look good in, and (usually) have worn many times before.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the video. Did you agree with the idea? Did you think it was crazy? Did it make you think of your wardrobe in a different light?

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5 Simple Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

5 Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post sharing 5 Reasons I’m Glad We Don’t Have Many Toys. So many of you commented and said you’d love to cut down on toys but you don’t know where to start or how it’s really feasible when you constantly have friends and relatives giving you new toys.

If you’re feeling like you wish you could have fewer toys, but you just don’t know how to pull that off — especially thanks to generous grandparents! — here are some suggestions:

1.  Set Boundaries

I’m a big believer in having a home for everything in your home. Meaning, everything has a place for it to reside — be a drawer, a cupboard, a basket, a tub, or a box. Not only does this help your house stay cleaner and more organized, it also allows you to place limits on what you have.

For instance, when we lived in a little basement apartment, we had almost zero room for toys, but I designated one of the end tables that had a cupboard door on it as the place where we kept Kathrynne’s toys. If it didn’t fit in there, we couldn’t keep it — otherwise we’d be stepping on or over it all day long!

Nowadays, we have a tub for LEGOs, a barrel in the garage for outdoor toys (balls, bats, etc.), a shelf in a closet where we keep games, and a few baskets in the kid’s closet for misc. toys (walkie-talkies, stuffed animals, etc.)

Need help getting started designating a place for your toys? Check out Five Steps for a Pared Down Playroom.

5 Practical Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

If you have more than one child, you could consider having assigned areas for each individual child’s toys and then a place for toys that everyone shares. You might consider having a tub or shelf labeled with each child’s name. Our rule at our house is that when the shelf or tub is full, you can’t get any new toys until you get rid of some that you already have.

Since my kids are really, really into LEGOs, we’ve had to put some measures in place to help them not take over a room or area of our house. The kids know they are expected to have them all picked up once per day when they clean up their room (where the LEGOs usually are).

If they bring the LEGOs into other parts of the house and don’t pick them up when they are done or if they leave them lying out in their room after they’ve been told to pick them up, the LEGOs are put up for 4-6 weeks — which is a pretty huge punishment for our LEGO-lovers. It’s happened a few times and it’s been enough to convince them to be very responsible in keeping them put away when they aren’t in use.

5 Practical Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

2. Only Keep What You Love

We love quality, versatile toys in our home: things like LEGOs, art supplies, craft supplies, outdoor toys, and educational toys. We try to have toys that encourage creativity rather than solely entertain.

And here’s the thing we’ve discovered: our kids would much rather play with cardboard boxes or build tents with old sheets, folding chairs and couch pillows than have the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos. The few bells-and-whistle toys we’ve had in the last couple of years served to entertain for a short while and then were abandoned for LEGOs, puzzles, and creative play.

5 Practical Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

We try to go through our house very regularly and get rid of things we no longer love, use, or need. There’s no point in keeping something around if no one likes it or uses it on a regular basis. Is it sitting around untouched for weeks on end? Is it broken? Does it have parts which can’t be replaced? Get rid of it!

If you have toys that are in good condition that you no longer use or love, donate them to a daycare or children’s home, sell them in a garage sale or consignment sale, drop them off at Goodwill, sell them on a Facebook Yard Sale Groups or Craigslist, or even have a Toy Swap Party.

Here’s a creative idea from The Bargain Shopper Lady:

My boys started a “friend toy swap” which is their idea of giving to their friends. Anytime they have a friend over to play, they let their friend choose one toy to take home. I approve all toys before the friend leaves just in case they are trying to give something away, such as “their brother’s favorite toy” or something that they just got and is still pretty new.

This method is great for us! We have friends over often and it really helps with the clutter! My children are also learning that they really enjoy giving toys they don’t play with as often to their friends!

3. Ask For Consumable Gifts

One of the biggest reasons parents have told me that they can’t cut down on toy clutter is because of their well-meaning and generous relatives and grandparents who are constantly gifting various things to their kids.

First off, if this is the case for you, I just want to encourage you to remember that this is a blessing that you have grandparents who want to give to and bless their grandchildren. Not all families have this. So be grateful for it instead of resenting it.

Always remember that the relatives are likely buying things for your children because they love them. In almost every case, they aren’t purposefully seeking to annoy or irritate you.

My Completely Honest Review of Kiwi Crate

That said, I encourage you to graciously and lovingly communicate your preferences to your relatives. Perhaps they don’t know you are short on space or really would love it if they spent less money. Maybe they feel obligated for some reason. Whatever it is, come up with a plan to talk about the issues in a calm and loving manner.

However, don’t just go to Grandma and say, “Sorry, we don’t have room for your toys. Please don’t ever buy another toy again.” Give your relatives some options.

Here are some consumable/no-clutter gift ideas you could suggest:

  • Bubble bath, crayons, & sidewalk chalk
  • A special outing with the grandparents
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Subscription to craft kit boxes — like Doodle Crate, Kiwi Crate, and Tinker Crate — our kids got these for Christmas/their birthdays and love, love, loved them!
  • Subscriptions to LEGO’s Pley membership — Kathrynne got this for her birthday and has loved it!
  • Craft supplies
  • Crayons, paper, coloring books, and other craft supplies
  • Gift cards for restaurants/treats
  • Memberships to Local Attractions

Check out the comments on this post here for many, many more ideas.

You could also ask for clothes, books, educational toys, outdoor toys, LEGOs, gift cards, or even for them to donate money to your child’s college fund!

At the end of the day, though, be sure you don’t deprive the grandparents of getting the joy that comes from giving. Just as you would like to see change on their part, be willing to meet them halfway–or more! It might never be perfect or ideal, by openly communicating in a loving manner and presenting some options and being willing to listen and show appreciation to them, you just might be able to come to a happy medium.

5 Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

4. Rotate Toy Collections

If you feel like you have too many toys, but you don’t want to part with what you have, consider a rotational toy system. Put away half the toys for a month. After a month, put away the toys you currently have and get out the toys which were put away. You could even do this on a quarterly basis.

This method can help you to see what toys your children really like and use. It also might help encourage more contentment with you already have since your children will probably feel like they are getting “new” toys quite often — when really it’s just the same old toys they’ve always had being presented in a new way!

Day of the Week Tubs{See Stephanie’s Day of the Week Tub System here.}

One toy rotation system we’ve used in our home when our kids were little was the Day of the Week Tub System. This idea has so many variations, but the basic gist is to divide most of the toys in your home into seven groups and put them in seven different tubs labeled with the days of the week.

Your children can then play with the appropriate tub each day. It keeps things rotated and fresh, while creating less mess.

5. Don’t Shop for Toys at Garage Sales or Dollar Store

I know, I know! There are so many supposedly “good deals” to be found at garage sales and dollar stores when it comes to kid’s toys. But like I often say, if you don’t need it and it’s just going to be cluttering up your home, it’s not a good deal for you — no matter how inexpensive the price is.

So unless it’s something you really need, it’s consumable, or you’re planning to get rid of it after they play with it for a few weeks, just don’t buy it. Because there’s no point it filling up your house with stuff that you then have to pick up, clean up, care for, organize, and (maybe even) get frustrated by!

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What ideas and suggestions would you add to my list? How do YOU cut down on toy clutter at your house?

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9 Ways Busy Moms Can Find Time for Quiet in Their Day

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So, awhile back, I wrote a post on Why Moms Need a Time Out. Some of you loved the post, but others of you said something like, “I want to love this post, but I just don’t think it’s possible for me to find quiet in my day.”

And I want you moms to know this: I hear you. The last thing I wanted to do with that post was to burden or discourage you. Instead, I’d hoped to inspire you to make filling up yourself more of a priority so that you could be more energized to pour into your families.

Because here’s the thing: if we just give and give and give and give and we never take time to replenish our supply, we’re going to end up completely drained and exhausted.

One of my favorite times of each day is in the quiet morning hour before the house is awake. I spend time in God’s Word, I write in my Blessings Journal, and I often read a chapter or two from the current devotional/spiritually encouraging book I’m reading. This is my fuel and foundation for the day.

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However, one of the reasons I’m able to get up before my family wakes up is because I’m not waking up multiple times in the night with babies and toddlers. I’m in a season of life where my three kids still go to bed fairly early and they (for the most part) sleep through the night.

A few years ago when I only had babies and toddlers, I was pretty much always behind on sleep and it wasn’t wise or healthy for me to wake up an hour before everyone else got up — because I needed every minute of sleep I could get.

So I get it that there are seasons of life when quiet is hard to come by and sleep is a premium. And I wanted to write a post for moms who are in this kind of season to give you some practical ideas and suggestions on how you can find time to refuel your soul — even when life is very, very full.

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1. Make it a Priority.

It has well been said, “If something’s important to you, you’ll make it happen. If it’s not, you’ll make an excuse.”

We moms are really good and taking care of everyone else long before we’d ever consider investing in ourselves. I wholeheartedly believe that motherhood is supposed to be a selfless act, but not to the point of breakdown and burnout.

The first step in actually finding time to have quiet in your day is to understand why it’s a priority and how it can make a difference for you and your family. Once you get this, then you can guilt-lessly commit to finding a way to make it happen — even if it’s just five minutes every other day.

2. Keep it Simple

This is important to understand. Making time for quiet doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to find an hour-ling block of time in your day. If you wait for an open hour block, you’ll probably be waiting a very long time.

Instead, find ways to just soak up the little bits of quiet you have in the season you’re in. Pray while you’re cooking or nursing or changing diapers, listen to the Bible and uplifting music on your phone throughout the day, listen to podcasts while you’re cleaning, turn on music during your commute… sneak in moments here and there to refresh and encourage your heart!

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

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3. Streamline Your Life.

Take inventory of your current time usage. Are you wasting pockets of time watching TV, surfing Facebook, blog-hopping for no purpose, or volunteering for things that are just draining you?

Are you cramming your day full of things you don’t really enjoy just because you feel obligated or because you think staying busy will make you more fulfilled?

What are you spending time on that you don’t love right now? What’s taking a lot of your energy and effort and not bringing you any fulfillment? Is there a way you could eliminate, streamline, or delegate any of that to make more room for quiet?

4. Get Up a Little Earlier or Stay Up a Little Later.

Okay, so I hesitate to put this one on this list, but hear me out: Maybe you could get up 5-10 minutes before your family does so you could have just a tiny bit of time for quiet before the three-ring circus of the day begins?

Or maybe you could stay up 15-30 minutes after everyone goes to bed and invest some intentional time into doing something that fills you up? {Just promise not to get sidetracked onto something and then stay up way past your bedtime and end up completely dragging the next day! I’d recommend setting a timer and maybe telling your spouse or your friend in order to help you stay accountable and focused.}

If you’re not getting enough sleep at all, please go to bed early and stay in bed as long as possible. But if you feel like you might be able to spare 5-15 minutes of sleep without a problem, experiment with getting up early for a few weeks and then experiment with staying up late for a few weeks to see which end of the spectrum fuels you more and which allows you the best quiet.

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5. Swap Babysitting With a Friend.

Perhaps you have another mom friend who’d love some kid-free quiet once a week. Ask her about the possibility of swapping babysitting once a week — where she’d watch your kids for an hour or two so you could have some quiet and then you’d watch her kids so that she could have some quiet.

This means a little bit more work while you’re babysitting, but it might be worth it for the quiet it buys you — free of charge.

6. Institute a Household Quiet Time.

If your kids are old enough to be in a pack-n-play or their room, you could institute an afternoon quiet time for everyone that lasts 30 minutes to an hour.

This will look differently for different families. It might mean that everyone takes a nap or rest time. It could mean that the kids watch a DVD for 30 minutes. It could mean that the kids get to play quietly in their rooms with a special basket of toys or a Busy Bag.

One thing that we’ve done sometimes is to have a Reading Time, where everyone reads quietly in the same room. This allows me to get some reading done and soak up a little bit of quiet, too.

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7. Leave the Kids With Dad.

When our girls were little and Jesse was working really long hours and we had no family or babysitters nearby, I knew I needed to get out of the house by myself for at least an hour or two every week. So Jesse decided that Saturday mornings were Mom’s Mornings Out.

I’d go to Panera down the street and enjoy a bagel and a cup of tea and just read, plan my week, and get some blogging done. This one or two-hour block of time made all the difference in the world for me — and it gave Jesse some focused time with the girls in the middle of a very busy work schedule.

8. Hire a Sitter or Mother’s Helper.

This option might not be financially feasible, but I still wanted to mention it. Consider if there’s wiggle room in your budget to have a sitter or mother’s helper come over for an hour or two ever week.

Oftentimes, a young teen girl will only charge around $10-$12 per hour (or even less!) and paying her to help out so you can run to the store, work on an organizing project, or even take a shower, can feel almost life-changing and every bit worth the extra expense.

9. Get Creative.

There are so many other outside the box ideas to consider such as:

  • Putting your kids in a double stroller and going for a walk (it might not be completely quiet, but it could be a refreshing change of pace).
  • Taking your kids to the park and watching them play while you sit on a swing or park bench.
  • Reading aloud with your kids while they play with LEGOs or Play-doh (again, not completely quiet, but it’s still quieting to my soul to read aloud).
  • Popping in a DVD for 20 minutes while you sit in the other room and read and savor a cup of coffee.

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Remember, even 5 or 15 minutes can make a big difference. Don’t keep living life barely surviving. Take time to nourish and feed your soul and refresh your spirit and body.

What ideas do YOU have for making time for quiet even when life is really full? I’d love to hear!


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21 Surprising Stats About How Much Clutter We Really Have

21 Surprising Stats About Clutter

Woah! This article on Becoming Minimalist was pretty astounding.

Here’s a snippet:

Today, increasing data is being collected about our homes, our shopping habits, and our spending. The research is confirming our observation: we own too much stuff. And it is robbing us of life.

Here are 21 surprising statistics about our clutter that help us understand how big of a problem our accumulation has actually become.

1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

You’ve got to go read the rest of the 21 Stats on Clutter over here.

Thanks to Amy for the link to this article!

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6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

6 Things

Recently, I wrote a post on 6 Things Our Family Has Chosen to Splurge On. This post was one of the most-read posts I’ve shared the past few months and many of you asked if I could do a follow-up post listing things we don’t spend money on.

So, today I present you with the flipside post — 6 things we rarely spend money on:

1. Kid’s Clothes

I’m constantly asked how we save money on kid’s clothes and, to be honest, this is an area where we keep things really simple. My kids could care less about brand names right now.

They do have their own unique styles, but they willingly wear pretty much whatever I find for them on used clothing sites or through online deals. In fact, I can’t remember them really ever complaining about not having certain kinds of clothes.

It probably helps that we homeschool (i.e. they don’t feel left out or less than that they don’t have whatever is the current “hit item” or “hot must-have” item that everyone at school is wearing/talking about). I think it also helps that Jesse and I both are really simplistic when it comes to clothes and we wear the same things over and over again. So they pretty much follow suit.

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

{A few of Kaitlynn’s favorite pieces from our free Schoola order!}

So the truth is: in the past two years, we’ve gotten most of our kid’s clothes used from Thred Up and Schoola using credit that I’ve earned by sharing deals here.

You might be thinking that that’s not really fair since I do have a blog that a lot of people read and you don’t have a blog. Well, I bet you have some mom friends who would be excited about the current deal from Schoola where they can get $15 in FREE credit + FREE shipping just by signing up.

Sign up and share your referral link with friends and they can get free clothes shipped for free and you can get $15 in free credit for every person who signs up and orders! Score!

We also sometimes use our Amazon gift cards earned through Swagbucks to supplement kid’s clothes purchases — especially if I’m not able to find the right size, etc. on ThredUp or Schoola.

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

2. Snack Foods

Other than tortilla chips and Greek yogurt or yogurt tubes, we buy very little other prepared snack food. Instead, we usually make our own snack foods.

Some of our favorite quick and easy snacks are cheese quesadillas, popcorn, Energy Bites, hardboiled eggs, and fruit. I also try to have at least a few snack items pre-made and frozen all the time — whether that’s muffins, Banana Bread, burritos, cookies, or Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches.

We save a lot of money by eating mostly homemade snack foods. And as a side benefit, homemade is almost always healthier, too.

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

3. Professional Pictures

Confession time: We almost never get professional photos taken. I know, I know, that probably makes me a “bad mom” by some people’s standards, but it’s just never been a priority to us.

We do take lots of pictures and I try to document our daily lives on this blog, on Instagram, and on pictures I save on my computer. I prefer the real-life pictures that show some of the mess and chaos over staged pictures in a studio.

The few times we’ve gotten professional pictures done, it’s been so. much. work to get everyone looking presentable and smiling in pictures. The whole experience felt exhausting.

Plus, I’ve not really been too happy with the final results. So, for now, I’m just happy to mostly stick with taking pictures on my own camera and phone.

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

4. Nice Dinners Out

We budget for eating out once a week — which is definitely a luxury but something that we really enjoy. However, it’s usually an inexpensive meal at Chili’s, Chipotle, Cracker Barrel, or Chick-fil-A.

I can’t think of a time when we’ve taken the kids to a fancy restaurant and Jesse and I usually only going to a nice restaurant maybe once or twice a year, if that.

I’d rather stretch our eating out money as far as possible, instead of spending it all on one dinner every other month. :)

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

5. Movie Tickets

Going to the theater to see a movie is also a very rare occurrence in our family. I’d say we probably take the kids to 1-2 movies per year and Jesse and I probably go see one ourselves maybe once a year.

Some of the reason is that it’s expensive, some of the reason is that Jesse and I don’t get babysitters very often, and some of the reason is that we’re so picky about movies that it’s hard to find a movie we think would be worth seeing in the theaters.

Plus, while I love good movies, I usually find it more relaxing to enjoy them all snuggled up together on our L-shaped couch with blankets and popcorn. And when it cost us pretty much zero out of pocket to do so (thanks to free Redbox codes, free Amazon Prime movies, and other shows that are available free online), it just always seems like a better option than going to the theater.

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

The last movie I saw in the theater was Unbroken and that one was definitely worth paying to see in the theater.

6. Household Furnishings

You all know how minimalistic I am at heart and how much I just plain don’t care when it comes to furniture and decor. I mean, I like clean and uncluttered and I like fresh flowers, but other than that, I care much more about functionality and practicality than I do about how nice something looks.

So over the years, we’ve spent very, very little on home furnishings. The majority of our furnishings have come from Craigslist or have been given to us.

We have kids and we live here all day, every day, so wear and tear is inevitable. Because we’ve paid very little out of pocket for most of our furnishings, I don’t have to worry about something getting ruined or stained or ripped or nicked.

6 Things We Rarely Spend Money On

What about YOUR family? What are some things you rarely spend money on? I’d love to hear your list!

6 Things vertical

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