5 Principles We Follow That Simplify Our Home

5 Principles We Follow That Simplify Our Home

My husband and I have been married for over 12 years and in those years, I’ve learned and grown a lot.

The first seven years of our marriage were especially hard. We survived the last semester of undergrad, infertility, law school, then three babies in five years, multiple job changes, job loss, starting multiple businesses, moving multiple times, financial struggles, marriage struggles, postpartum depression… and more.

I struggled to figure out how to do this wife thing, this mom thing, this home business thing, and this homemaking thing. There were many rocky seasons and rough patches.

There were many days when I never made it out of my PJs (well, truth be told, I still have a few days like that here and there!), I always felt incredibly behind, I rarely ever got enough sleep, and the house was often near disaster.

In the past five years, I’ve made huge strides in my organizational skills, my personal self-discipline, and in setting up more structure and routine for our days. There are 5 principles we follow that have helped us to find our groove, simplify our lives, and have better order in our days:

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#1: Touch It Once

As I talked about yesterday, instead of moving papers and piles and clutter and stuff around from place to place, I’m a firm believer in touching things once.

If you pick it up, use it and put it away. If you get it out, put it away. If it’s trash, throw it out. If it’s a dirty plate, don’t just set it in the sink, rinse it out and put it in the dishwasher.

By dealing with dishes and trash and junk mail and papers immediately, you save yourself so much time in the long run. {If you missed my post on this principle yesterday, read it here.}

Now if I could just implement a Touch It Once system for my laundry, we’d be all set! The good news? I’ve stayed almost completely caught up on laundry for a WEEK. That’s massively huge for me — especially because we went on vacation and came back during that week!

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#2: Everyone Pitch In

If you are a member of our family, you are required to be an asset to our family. We want to raise our kids to be responsible adults, so that means we are working on training them to pitch in and carry their own weight as part of our family.

One way we do this is by having Non-Paid Chores and Daily Lists. Our kids know that this is what is expected of them and that there are consequences when they don’t do what is expected of them.

By all pitching in and working together, it makes our home run much more smoothly and it means that no one person is having to tackle the majority of the work involved in keeping our home clean and orderly. “Many hands make light work!”

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#3: Pick Up Twice A Day

This simple principle has made a world of difference in our home. I’m not exactly sure when it started, but I don’t plan to ever discontinue it!

Basically, in a nut shell, we aim to have our whole house picked up and company ready twice a day — this means all the main rooms all picked up, the kitchen cleaned up, the laundry started, the bathrooms clean, etc.

We usually have a household clean-up time right after breakfast when everyone does their morning chores, I work on the kitchen and laundry and oversee/inspect the kids’ work. Then, after dinner, we all work together to clean up again — this time with Jesse either overseeing the kids’ chores or helping with cleaning up the kitchen.

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#4: Stick With a Budget

From the beginning of our marriage, we’ve lived on a strict, written budget. This has simplified our lives, made decision-making so much easier, helped us in our communication as a couple, given us greater financial traction than we could have ever dreamed, and allowed us to be able to fulfill our heart passions to be givers.

If you’ve never had a written budget before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Some people think that it would make life miserable. On the contrary, we’ve found that it simplifies life so much — we don’t have to worry that spending money in one area is going to hurt our ability to spend in another area because we’ve already pre-determined and designated money for all of our budget categories. In addition, it cuts down significantly on impulse purchases!


#5: Shop Less

The less you own, the less there is to clean, dust, and pick up. We don’t do much shopping — except mostly for groceries and some online shopping for necessities like clothes and household items.

Before heading out to shop, I encourage you to really ask yourself why you’re shopping. Do you have the money to buy the item? Can you make do with what you already have? Is there a better use for that money?

It’s long been said, “If you’re not content where you are, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be content where you think you want to be.” So instead of focusing on what we don’t have, for years we’ve made it our practice to focus on what we do have and to bloom right where we’re planted.

It’s amazing how this goes such a long way in curbing the “I wants” and the need to run out and buy something just to to buy something. Plus, the more we stay out of the stores, the less we are tempted to think we need to buy things we didn’t know we needed or didn’t know even existed!

5 Principles We Follow That Simplify Our Home

What principles help YOU simplify YOUR home? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Need Some Help Simplifying Your Life?

I’ve talked some about The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle this week and I hope you’ve had a chance to check it out. It’s an AMAZING collection of resources — many that I’ve already read and benefited so much from and many more that I cannot WAIT to read myself!

There are so many great resources in this bundle, including:

You get all of these + many, many more ebooks, printables, ecourses, and free bonuses for just $29.97 total! That’s a steal!

Grab your copy of The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle here. It’s only available until Monday so you’ll want to get it while you can!

Best of all, these are all ebooks — so they won’t bring any extra paper clutter into your home! :)


(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)
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How to Eliminate 99% of the Paper Piles in Your Home


Recently, one of my friends who comes over to our house frequently commented about how she can’t figure out how we don’t have pile of paper anywhere. She wanted to know how on earth I accomplish that and what systems I have in place to maintain that.

At first, I told her I wasn’t sure; I just didn’t like piles so we didn’t have them. But being the analytical person I am, I spent some time thinking about it over the next few days.

Are there systems I have that I just don’t realize I have? Are there things I do on a regular basis to tame the pile monster?

I thought about it for quite awhile and slowly realized that I DO have systems. However, they have been in place for so long that I do them without thinking about them. I guess those are the best kind of systems, aren’t they? The ones that just happen without you thinking about them.

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So, here are my systems and how you, too, can eliminate 99% of your paper clutter:

1) Find Out Where the Paper Is Coming From

Start paying attention to where the paper piles are coming from. Are they school papers your kids are bringing home from school? Is it bills? Is it mail? Is it newspapers?

Figure out the source of your problem and see if there’s anything you can do to cut down on some of the inflow. For instance, can you automate your bills with online bill pay? Could you throw junk mail out in the outside dumpster before you even walk in the house? Could you cancel a subscription to the newspaper if it’s just piling up and not really being read?

2) Stop Hanging Onto Anything You Don’t Absolutely Need

Very few papers really need to be saved. Ask yourself: “If all my paper piles were all burned up in a fire tomorrow, what would I desperately wish I had saved?”

Only save those really meaningful papers and get rid of the rest. There’s no sense in letting things that don’t matter to you take up residence in your home and personal space!

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3) Implement the “Touch It Once” Policy

If you’ll stop to really pay attention, I bet you spend time each week moving paper piles. And you probably let them bog you down, too.

Here’s the truth: I rarely touch a paper that comes into our house more than once. For real.

I’ve determined that I just don’t want to spend hours of my life moving a pile from one place to another place, so instead, I institute the “Touch It Once” policy for all papers that come into our house. In almost 99% of the cases, this completely eliminates paper piles.

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Here’s how it works for me: When a piece of paper comes into our house, be it bills, kid’s papers from their activities, a magazine, an invitation, there are one of four things that will happen to it when I have it in my hand:

I either Trash It, Scan It (and then trash it), Display It, or File It.

Pretty much every single paper can fall under one of these categories. And doing one of these four things guarantees that it doesn’t become the start of a pile.

Practical “Touch It Once” Examples:

Some examples of specific kinds of papers and how I deal with them:

Ads: These are trashed immediately — as soon as I go through the mail. You can pretty much always find all ads online. I may glance through them and might jot a note on my Google Calendar about a sale or a reminder of something in them and then I trash them immediately (or, stick it in the recycling bin if you recycle).

Kid’s Artwork: I either display artwork on the fridge (I rotate these display regularly. When I take one down to rotate in another, I take a picture if it’s something I want to remember and then toss it), mail it to grandparents or our Compassion children, or take pictures of it on my phone so I have a record of it and toss it. If it was something really special — such as a very touching note or beautiful picture, I’ll store it in our Keepsakes & Mementos tub.

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Bills: Pay immediately and then scan and shred. If possible, switch to online bill pay so that you don’t even have to worry about remembering to pay bills.

Invitations/Notices/FYIs: Immediately make a note on your calendar of all the details you need to remember — times, due dates, details, etc. If you want to save the invitation for some reason, pin it to a board that’s designated for this purpose or display it on the fridge. Be sure to regularly cull these things on display, though. More than a few on display and you’ve sort of created a “Display Pile”!

I make notes in Google calendar of all events and details and then will put a reminder a few days before if I need to buy a gift, write a card, make a dessert, etc.

How to Eliminate 99% of the Paper Piles in Your Home

Cards/Letters: Want to know the truth? I don’t keep very many cards and letters from people. This might sound incredibly unsentimental of me, but the reality is that I’d have boxes and boxes of cards with signatures if I kept all the cards I’ve received in my life. So my rule of thumb with cards and letters is to ask myself, “Will I wish I had this in 25 years from now?”

If the answer is, “Yes!” than I’ll put it in our Keepsakes & Mementos tub. If not, I just toss it. You could also scan cards and letters to have an electronic record of them.

I dare you to try the Touch It Once System for two weeks just to see if it makes a difference. If you hate it, you can always go back to piling. But you might find, as my husband did, that it saves so much time and effort and keeps your office, countertops, tabletops and more much, much cleaner!

What are YOUR best solutions for dealing with paper clutter? I’d love to hear!

How to Eliminate 99% of the Paper Piles at Your House

Need Some More Help In Eliminating Paper Piles?

I told you about The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle yesterday and I hope you’ve had a chance to check it out. It’s an AMAZING collection of resources — many that I’ve already read and benefited so much from and many more that I cannot WAIT to read myself!

One of the books in the series is called Paperless Home Organization. This ebook is designed to walk you step-by-step through using your gadgets to organize your life, putting technology to work for you so you can be organized and get rid of your paper clutter.

And if you’re looking for even more help, three other books in the collection that I highly recommend and that will help you with your home organization and reducing paper clutter are: One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler, Project Organize Your Entire Life, and Your Simple Home Handbook.

These 4 ebooks alone retail for over $35! And you can get all four of them + many, many more ebooks, printables, ecourses, and free bonuses for just $29.97 total! That’s a steal!

Grab your copy of The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle here. It’s only available until Monday so you’ll want to get it while you can!

Best of all, these are all ebooks — so they won’t bring any extra paper clutter into your home! :)

P.S. Be sure to check out the free bonuses that come with this Bundle! You’ll get a free Craftsy class of your choice, a free $80 exercise class credit, a free book from Tyndale publishing, a free 3-month subscription to the She Plans dinner menu-planning service, plus more!

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)
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Why I Turned Down Thousands of Dollars This Past Year

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This past year, I’ve turned down thousands of dollars in paid opportunities.

Some of you might think I’m crazy to do so. And when our business expenses are up and our business income is down, I sometimes will question those choices, too.

But then I quickly remind myself of why I’ve said no. For instance…

  • I’ve said no to credit card companies who want to pay me to write posts about their offers… because, in good conscience, I just can’t bring myself to endorse credit card companies.
  • I’ve turned down many opportunities to add more ads to the sidebar, header, and footer of my blog… because while advertising helps to pay the bills, I am adamant about keeping it to a minimum on the blog.
  • I’ve turned down many lucrative opportunities to add pop-up ads to the blog… no matter how much the advertiser wants to pay me, I can’t bring myself to put something on my blog that I know will just be annoying to most readers.
  • I’ve turned down numerous requests for me to write an underwritten post on a topic that isn’t in line with my core beliefs or that might possibly compromise my integrity… or even just that might pay well, but offers no benefit to my readers.
  • I’ve turned down many partnership opportunities because it would suck my time and keep me from being able to make my family and writing here a priority.

Please know, I don’t judge or criticize other bloggers who have made different choices than me in this regard. I’ve seen some of the above work well for different bloggers with different audiences, but for me, I am 150% committed to always putting my specific readers and their specific needs first in making blogging decisions.

Why I've Turned Down Thousands of Dollars This Past Year

And not just my readers take precedence, but more importantly, my relationship with the Lord, my husband, and my kids.

If it’s not a win for you, if there’s not any value for you, if it means I must neglect my family or lose my health and sanity in the process, I don’t care HOW much a company wants to pay me, it’s not worth it.

I also am very careful what I choose to heavily promote or highly endorse. I want you to know that my words have weight.

Almost every month (or sometimes more than once a month!), I get asked to be a part of a Bundle Sale — where a bunch of authors put all their downloadable books together into a package and offer it for a special sale price and then split the earnings. I have said no to every single one of these but two so far: The Healthy Living Bundle Sale and the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale.

Why? Because I know that your resources are limited, your budgets are tight, and I can’t be highly recommending that you buy a new Bundle offer every month.

I’ve specifically chosen to promote the Healthy Living Bundle Sale and the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle sale because I know the folks who run those sales very well, have worked with them closely for years, and believe that they are offering you a top-notch bundle at an incredibly low price.

They are the real deal. And all of the amazing testimonies from my satisfied readers who have purchased from them in the past are proof of just that.

I tell you all this, because through Monday only, the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is available. This is a never-before-offered Bundle packed with 99 different resources. And I am participating in this sale because I firmly believe it is worth every penny of the price and much, much more.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a sneak peek at the ebooks, e-courses, and free bonuses and have been so inspired and motivated by what I’ve read and learned.

In fact, The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is a complete library of carefully selected eBooks, ecourses, audios, online conferences, and printable packs designed to help you turn your house into a home… without all the overwhelm.

It’s 99 resources in all. (A total value of $984.74.) It includes:

  • 76 eBooks
  • 6 eCourses
  • 1 audio download
  • 2 online conferences, and
  • 14 printable packs

Now please note: There is a LOT of information in this bundle. It could feel overwhelming if you were to try to read all the ebooks, go through the ecourses, sign up for the freebies, and implement all the changes and ideas the authors tell you to make.

I want to encourage you to NOT read all the ebooks. That information overload could just produce major stress and guilt.

Why I've Turned Down Thousands of Dollars This Past Year

Instead, I encourage you to look at the list of ebooks and e-courses and pick 10-15 that you feel would be highly beneficial. For instance, here are the ebooks I want to read ASAP:

There are many more ebooks that I hope to read in the future, but I’m trying to pace myself and not be overwhelmed with ideas and information.

It’s better to baby step your way along and actually make small and steady changes, than to try to overhaul your life overnight and end up stressed and burnt out.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

Want to win a FREE bundle?

To help manage your home and life better, I’m going to give away an Ultimate Homemaking Bundle to two readers here in the next 24 hours. Here’s how to enter to win:

1) Head over here and pick out two ebooks in the bundle that you’d love to read.

2) Then, come back here and leave a comment on this post telling me which two ebooks you’d love to read.

I’ll choose and post two winners tomorrow afternoon and will buy you each a copy of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!

The winners are: Susan (susanay2626@) and Kristen (kmueller14@)

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)
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Free coffee at Starbucks today? And I knew nothing about it??!

Free coffee today at Starbucks?

So, after a rather, um, eventful travel day back from our trip to Maine with my extended family today (read all about it here), we saw this sign at the Starbucks at the airport.

And frugal me flipped just a little bit that I didn’t know about free coffee at Starbucks!! That just felt like a travesty!

However, I had not seen this free coffee at Starbucks deal advertised online nor did anyone email in and tell me about it. I just Googled it and it looks like some news sites did advertise it, but it doesn’t appear like it was widely advertised.

I know they’ve offered it in past years on Earth Day, but they always advertised it pretty heavily. So now I’m wondering if it were just at select locations or if Starbucks purposely didn’t really advertise it? Anyone know?

Did anyone else find this deal at your Starbucks today?

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6 Ways We’re Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low — Without Using Coupons

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low Without Using Coupons

So, I figure it’s high time I let you in on something that’s changed for us this past year. Some of you have probably already guessed this was the case. Some of you might be shocked and disappointed.

But regardless, I need to come clean about it. Because I don’t want you to assume something is the case when it isn’t.

So here’s the truth: I’ve basically not clipped or used any coupons on groceries this past year.

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

I had slowly been easing out of “extreme couponing” the past few years as life picked up its pace, we baby-stepped our way to fewer processed foods, and I fell madly in love with Aldi.

Then we moved to TN and lost our wonderful full-time assistant/babysitter. I had every intention of getting back into couponing, but with all of the transition and processing involved in moving + writing another book, Jesse ended up taking over most of the grocery shopping and cooking for us.

I would have never seen my husband as someone who would rock out as a chef (when we got married, I’m not even sure that he knew how to make toast!), but the guy has taken to the kitchen like white on rice.

In fact, he now runs circles around me when it comes to recipes. He loves experimenting with new ingredients and spices and he finds great delight in cooking things that require many pans and steps… which is the complete opposite of me!

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low

As a result, we more than doubled our grocery budget and we eat much healthier. However, we’ve still found many ways to keep our grocery budget relatively low without using coupons and while eating a diet comprised of lots of quality, whole foods.

I’ve been surprised and excited that we’re able to eat very healthfully for our family of 5 and only spend an average of $100 to $120 per week.

Here’s what’s working for us:

1. Shop at Aldi

I know I’ve sung the praises of Aldi over and over again, but I cannot help but include them on this list. When Jesse first started doing the shopping, I encouraged him to try doing most of the shopping at Aldi and then just shopping at Kroger for anything he couldn’t get at Aldi.

It took a few weeks of suggesting it, but he finally tried it. And he came home all stoked exclaiming, “I saved SO much money by shopping at Aldi!”

He’s now a diehard Aldi fan. Which is just one more reason to love him all the more. :)

6 Ways We're Saving Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons

Aldi has introduced so many new features and products in the last few years, including gluten-free foods, organic foods, and more. If you have an Aldi nearby, I cannot stress enough how much you need to go check them out. Just do it and maybe soon you’ll be singing their praises along with us!

2. Keep It Simple

While Jesse continues to add in new recipes to our weekly rotation, we still keep a lot of things very simple.

Breakfast is usually oatmeal, bacon & eggs, or cereal. Lunch is often sandwiches or leftovers. Dinner is usually just a main dish and veggies of some sort. Sometimes, we’ll throw in a side of fruit or sweet potatoes, too, but we’re good with just having a few options at dinner time. It saves time and money — and makes for less food waste.


3. Eat Up Your Leftovers

Speaking of food waste, one thing we work hard to do is to use up leftovers or to re-use leftovers in a creative fashion. We’ll often have leftovers for lunch and, if there are quite a few different leftovers, we’ll serve a Leftover Smorgasbord for dinner one night.

Our philosophy: why make new food when you have food still in the fridge waiting to be used up? Save yourself cooking time and money and eat that instead. :)

4. Make Things From Scratch

We don’t buy many boxed or canned foods these days. We slowed weaned ourselves off of them over the past few years and now we not only love homemade so much more, it also saves us money.

Plus, since we keep our means simple and Jesse and I both help out with the kitchen/cooking, it really doesn’t take a lot of extra time to make things from scratch.

6 Ways We Keep Our Grocery Budget Low

5. Cook With Inexpensive Ingredients

As I mentioned earlier, we keep food pretty simple. We do buy higher quality ingredients, but we stick to recipes that use (mostly!) inexpensive ingredients — and mostly ones that can be purchased from Aldi.

We eat a lot of eggs, sweet potatoes, oats, fruits and veggies that are in season, beans, chicken, and some beef and pork. Those are the basic staples that many of our meals include. Jesse does branch out and try new recipes, but he usually only buys a few new ingredients every week. The rest of the ingredients are things we may already have on hand or things that we routinely buy at Aldi.

6 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill

6. Pay for Specialty Foods With Swagbucks

We do buy a few specialty ingredients — such as protein powder, Trim-Healthy-Mama approved sweeteners, and olive oil — and we get these with Amazon using gift cards earned through Swagbucks. It’s a great way to be able to afford a few of those high-quality ingredients we love to use in recipes.

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low Without Using Coupons

How do YOU keep your grocery budget low?

P.S. If you are looking for some more encouragement to lower your grocery budget, check out the amazing Homemaking Ebook Bundle. It’s a collection of 99 different resources, courses, ebooks, and free bonuses for just $29.97 total!

Included in this bundle are the following ecourses and ebooks:

Find out more about this incredible bundle here (and stay tuned for more about why I’m highly endorsing it — coming tomorrow!)

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