Friday, October 10, 2014

Glory Days

I was going to post my Given & Gained items for days 9-11, but here is the thing: my life is messy. My life is disorganized! My life is nuts. While my stuff can always be factored into the equation and blamed, the truth is, I woke up at 5 AM to a fabulous mess consisting of hemp milk (I am .63 hippie. Have I not mentioned this? My apologies), baking soda, toothpaste, toilet paper, toothbrushes, and a whole bunch of tampons. One of my children in inexplicably in the nude, and I have ascertained that the toilet paper I mentioned has been scattered to every room of the house. I will spend most of the day recovering my home from this disaster, even though I wanted to focus efforts on packing up my back shelf so I have a great "before and afters" to show you soon. It is okay. 

I am going to put on my boots. I will pour my coffee. I will read my love letters, and listen to Him speak. I will live this day as though it matters, as though there are epiphanies hiding in the mundane. My day will likely hold frustration, will carry sadness, anger, & shame. But it will also reveal joy and adventure, if I am willing to look for it. 

Have Peace, & Purge On.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


So, I have a confession. The title of my blog is a lie. I AM a mom, and I DO drive a minivan, but the truth is, if you walked into my home today, the word "minimalist" is not what will come to your mind. On the days I feel defeated, this hammers me down. But most of the time it serves as my reminder. "Minimalist" is my goal label, my muse. I use it because if I titled my blog "Super-Messy Borderline-Hoarder Minivan Mom" I don't think you'd read it. And because that is who I was, not who I am becoming. If you have a spare twenty minutes today, Watch this talk by Amy Cuddy. I know, it is titled something about body language, right? Well, it is, but it is also about so much more, and you should watch it.

It is amazing how something as simple as a few posture changes how the world sees you, for better or worse. In her personal story in which she has to "fake" her way through Harvard (You did watch it, right? Really. Watch it. Now). This experience has obviously fueled her work, and injects passion into her story. Amy's research and story confirms what I have heard for years from my pastor, teachers, and other leaders in my life. It is solid advice, and I am on my way to take it to the bank. 

I may not be a Minimalist yet, but each day I get up, I choose to wear this label, submit my plans before the Lord, process my emotions through writing, and act like I am one already. Because I am not going to fake it until I make it. I am going to fake until I become it. 

Have Peace & Purge On

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Given & Gained: Days SIX, SEVEN, & EIGHT

Given: A basket of random books that should have made their way out a long time ago. For reals. My hoarder tendencies are showing in this picture. These books are totally done for (they were accidentally exposed to a downpour after the Shed of Shame clean out), but a part of me wants to salvage them, keep them somehow.

But then I ask, "Are they worth my freedom?"

Discussion over.

Gained: TIME for messy art on the front porch,

Coffee Dates,

and Kittens.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Taming the Lion: A Minimal Kitchen

One of the ways I gave myself a jump-start on the clutter was attacking my kitchen. I realized the bulk of my waking hours seemed to be spent there, cooking and cleaning. It makes sense that being the "personal chef" for a family of six will , by nature, require time spent there. However, I wanted to limit that time as much as possible, while still providing healthy meals for my family.

 I decided the trouble was in the sheer amount of kitchen stuff I had. If I feel rushed and I have three non-stick skillets, guess what? I use them until all three are dirty, often with additional utensils, etc. Then I have a sink full of dirty dishes and it suddenly gets added on the "to do" list. If I take away two of my three skillets (leaving my favorite, right?), guess what happens when it is dirty and I need to use it? I take the ten seconds it takes to clean it and just clean it already.

 After pouring over tiny house kitchen pictures, considering my family's menu, and copying The Minimalist's method to downsizing, I packed up all my pots, pans, and utensils and stuck them in the garage. I selected a few I knew I could not live without, knowing the rest would be there if I needed them. And It began. 

After about a week, I had only gone out to grab one item. I think it is important to note that while I could technically eliminate even more from my kitchen, minimalism for the sake of being minimal is not necessarily the point. I am not trying to win a contest, I simply want to cut down my kitchen clutter and maintenance so I can spend more time and energy on what each day brings. 

Months later, this is what makes up my basic kitchen.

1. Non-stick skillet. Note: these puppies come in a two or three pack at Costco. I will probably continue to purchase them that way, simply using one at a time until they wear out.

2. Pressure Cooker. These things are awesome, seriously. Fresh chili from dried un-soaked beans in 45 minutes, chicken cooked tender, roasts…do not get me started. And when I don't need to pressure cook something, guess what? It doubles as a pot. Oh yeah.

3. Cast Iron Casserole. I began using this more and more after my crock pot busted. So I rid myself of an unnecessary appliance and have the perfect pan for cooking steak in. I found mine for $5 at a yard sale, but someday I may grow up and get a fancy one. Or maybe not. I kind of like this one now.

3. Sauce Pan. Because it is so stinking useful.

4. Extra Pot. I really, really only wanted to use the pressure cooker pot and small saucepan, but various situations kept me going back to the garage for this pot. So I admitted my need, and it made the cut.

5. Good Cook Spatulas. I love these spatulas so much. And I've owned the red one since 2002.

6. NutriBullet. I am a wee bit embarrassed by this, mainly because my mind conjures up images of greasy late-night infomercial guys when I hear "____ Bullet." Whatever. It was a gift, and it is amazing. I own a Vitamix, but the bullet does not take as much counter space, is easy to clean, and does a great job for being a little blender. There. I said it. I use a Bullet instead of a Vitamix or Blendtec. Sue me.

7. Strainer. Because straining noodles, rinsing quinoa, draining chicken stock, and washing vegetables is hard to do with just your hands. And you might get burned.

8. Roasting Pan & Rack. The pan is from IKEA, the rack I have had for ages. With these two I can roast veggies, finish chicken before serving, and bake cookies. For the record, I generally do not allow felines so close to cooking equipment, but Susan was very invested in my kitchen photo shoot.

9. Pyrex Measuring Cup. I was raised with the understanding that this was a "must have," and I agree. I don't even have a picture of it clean. Here is a picture of it becoming clean instead. 

10. Toaster Oven Muffin Tin. Weird, right? But what little baking I do is in small batch muffin form, and how I use it most is as an egg poacher. It fits just right in my non-stick skillet, works perfect for poaching eggs, and I was able to get rid of a bunch of those silly silicone ones that always tip over and make my eggs all watery.

11. Big Lid. It fits on my skillet. Bonus life advice found in reflection.

12. Various Cooking Tools. Can opener, wine opener, ladle, pancake flipper, wooden spoon type things, knives, and scissors. I love using scissors in the kitchen. A few things are not pictured because they were in use or being washed.

13. Tea Kettle. I got mine secondhand for $6.99. Maybe when this one dies I will upgrade to one I really love, but in the meantime, it sure works to boil water. Also, it is best friends with my french press.

13. Chemex with Kone FilterCoffee is pretty important around here. Okay, it is very important. This combo will not only set you up for one of the best cups you have ever poured, but I will shamefully admit that Able Brewing's perfected stainless steel Kone filter gets used at least ten times a day for things other than coffee. After all, it is a filter. So home brewed kombucha, slow-simmered chicken stock, tea, etc all get improved by this finely engineered item. I have not purchased cheesecloth since this loveliness came home to me. The Chemex is sadly missing from this photo because I broke it yesterday. Never fear. It will be replaced.

14. French Press. Because I LOVE FRENCH PRESS. There will always be room for you. Public service announcement: If you like french press and Ikea ever makes these again, buy one. I have had it for eight years. It is double wall stainless steel and has probably lasted longer than anything else I have ever purchased there. Best $25 I have ever spent.

15. Scale. This little guy was introduced to the lineup for coffee preparation, but gets used often for all sorts of awesome now. Check out my radical countertop. It is original. Yeah it is.

So, That's my kitchen. I can prepare anything on our regular menu rotation with the items listed here, and it has not made cooking difficult. I have a shelf on my garage still for the "special" items that I need occasionally, but just removing them from the premises has cut my time in the kitchen by over half. I do not miss a single pot or pan, and when Thanksgiving comes, my platters and roasting pan are in the garage, hanging out with my pressure canner and canning supplies. Out of my everyday way.

Have Peace & Purge On!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Trajectory Check

I am a firm believer in reassessing life at least every three months. If I do not, it is so easy to find myself living amiss, not even realizing my actions do not line up with my goals. The thing is, there are seasons. Some things that have importance for a while might not matter in another few months. Other passions become true life goals to attain. It is time for me to look forward to January and decide who and where I want to be. My specific goals are:

1. I want to be able to clean my whole house (sweeping, mopping, etc) in one hour. Note: progress has already been made in this area. It used to take us a full day to get the house in shape. We are now down to a little over two hours. 

2. That our home would be simplified enough that it could be packed in one day, if needed. For so long I felt chained to this house through the possessions in it. No more. We plan on staying forever, but if not, I want us to be ready to roll.

3. That our home would be ready to be used for hospitality. My husband and I love to host, but when you take into account our family size, we do not have what most people would consider "room for it." But I bet if I get rid of enough things, we will have room for more people. I do not need a perfect home, but I want to feel at rest in it and ready to receive whoever God brings my way that day at a moment's notice. While we are a full enough house that we cannot easily accommodate visitors for an extended stay, my goal would be that we have room for them temporarily. 

4. That the outside of our home would mirror the in. My hubs added this one. Right now, it is kind of a wreck, quite honestly. While it would be easy for me just to push it on my spouse, the fact is he has spent years working on the inside of our home, trying to manage the clutter. My clutter. Now we are getting to a place of simplicity, and our goal as a team is that the inside can be my domain, and the outside, his. To many this may seem old fashioned, but we kind of are. And I hate spiders. There are way more spiders outside than in. Enough said.

For now, that's about it. If those four goals were true, a whole host of other things would naturally fall into line. Alright. I am off to gather some donations.

Have Peace and Purge On!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Given and Gained: Days THREE, FOUR, & FIVE


I have often found that once you have made up your mind, the rest is just easy. I have had my sights set on these vases for a while. I used two of them regularly for years (and the third is a new addition), but not in ages. I set them out on my porch, and by dinnertime two had been nabbed by my lovely neighbors (really, I have the best ones. Honest), leaving one vase. I had the hubs grab a bunch of flowers on the way home from work, and once the groceries were in, my daughter and I walked over to my folk's house to surprise Grandma with flowers.

Given: Three Vases

Gained: Cupboard space and brownie points.


Given: Three Old Canvases
             Four Pieces of Outdoor Decor
             One Small Table
             One Pretty Plate (to be gifted back)

Gained: A cleaner porch, and less thoughts about how to "decorate" it. A comfy chair that invites a neighbor to come sit is one thing, but none of our outdoor paraphernalia was comfy to sit on. Off go the decorations, and maybe next year we will use the space wisely to extend hospitality.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

In the Dark

Community. It is a word and a concept we hear everywhere. From church, school, the gym, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google Plus, our workplaces, and yes, our neighborhoods (the original community), we are invited to engage. We have come to understand the many benefits of community. Healthy peer pressure, inspiration, and encouragement can be found there.

 If surrounded by those less gifted than us, we can become leaders, teachers. 

When working alongside our equals, we engage in (hopefully healthy) competition. 

Next to those wiser than ourselves, fire can be ignited, bringing us beyond the places we can reach alone. I hold the belief that community is a natural, necessary element in my life, and I treasure it. Yet I have one thought that gives me pause. 

Recently I reconnected with a friend I was in community with for three years. Having recently relocated, this friend was starting over fresh, without the people who had walked through the fire with him. In less than three months, he had completely changed. His new community was of very different mold, and he morphed to it without question. Without specifying the exact circumstances, just imagine we had been a part of a weight loss group and he had lost 150 pounds. He is now back eating super-sized big macs with fries and a coke, and he dropped his membership to the gym. Imagine my dismay. Community had taken him so far, it seemed. Community had challenged and loved him through pain and trial. But who he was inside remained the same. He worked hard when we could see, and his work produced fruit, but he had been secretly sneaking twinkies. Once away from caring people, he could do whatever he wished without the guilt and inspiration of community. The very pressure that kept him inspired and growing, when removed, seemed to sway him the opposite direction.

One of my favorite quotes since childhood is "Character is who you are in the dark." This kept twelve-year-old me walking my bike on the crosswalk and hand signaling my turns, even when no one was there. It makes grown-up me return my shopping cart whether anyone is looking or not. I love my church, neighbors, and friends, and there is plenty I do that is fueled by them. But if that is the depth of my motive, I walk a fine line. I want to be the same in the dark as I am in the light of my community. If there was no Facebook group to post to, would I still play the Minimalism Game? If no one reads this blog, will I still write with care and passion?

Who are you in the dark? Who do you want to be?

Have Peace, & Purge On.