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.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Tall Glass of Water

One of the more surprising elements of purging my home were the voids that were revealed. As I began to rid myself of the excess that we were not using (or were only using because what we really liked was not washed, easy to find, etc), the "holes" started to surface.  The first one for our family was simple: water glasses. I currently use and purchase cheap glasses from IKEA. I know they will not stand the test of time, but the reality of having a load of little kids is that nothing will. Okay, plastic and stainless steel would probably weather the storm, but I like glass, alright? Not everything I do is practical! Trouble was, we had three tall glasses, and one short one. Not even enough for us to each drink from at dinner. Mugs, on the other hand, we had. Lots of mugs, even though I have been purging them since before it was cool. We also have an abundance of canning jars. Jars too, they can hold liquid for drinking as well. So what was I to do? Did I truly need more drinking glasses? Not really. But it would be awfully nice. I prayed and pondered, and decided if God wanted me to have water glasses, He would give them to me. Considering the process I was going through, I just did not have peace about going out and buying them. So I left it at that, and drank from Trader Joe's Salsa Verde jars. No big deal. If drinking from a jar was what it took for me to reach simplicity, fine.

A week later, guess what? A lovely friend was packing to move, and in the process chose to post items on Facebook for others to enjoy. Included in the stash was a dozen water glasses, just like the ones I already had. A day later, they were at my home. Her husband worked near our business, so he dropped them off, and the next thing I knew I had glasses. Without even leaving my house. Boom. 

This simple provision fueled me. How silly was I to hold onto the things I may need someday, when God so clearly meets my silly "wants" in a heartbeat? He even did it through the process of someone else giving excess away. Clever move.

Who have I been holding blessing from by keeping what I currently do not need? What if I begin looking at my compulsion to keep items as a visual representation of my lack of trust in God to meet my future needs? Ouch. Okay, I'm off to go pack a donation box now.

Have Peace & Purge On!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Given & Gained: Day TWO. Managing Kid's Clothing

Happy Thursday. My day started out with three of these bins overflowing with pink girlie goodness. We have been so blessed with hand-me-downs at this house. I cannot go without saying this because my last desire is to give the impression that I am in any way ungrateful for the abundance. I am not. I am over the moon! However, in my effort to relentlessly pursue freedom via simplicity, I have to come to the point where enough is more than enough. So a few months ago I made my "list." I specified exactly how much of what I would keep in each size, then I trimmed down to that list (or close to it!). Funny thing was, the clothes still managed to multiply, and now that we have crossed the threshold into fall, I am ready to purge again so I can actually find the clothes that best suit my kiddos. And so I have less laundry to do. 

By the way…I want to make sure you all know I have three little girls quite close in age-hence the need to cover all seasons in each size! 

Without further ado, here is my list. I keep the clothes limited to this list in *each size*

4 pairs of jeans
4 long sleeved shirts
4 tees
4 tanks
2 hoodies
4 pairs of shorts
4 winter sleepers/jammies
4 summer sleepers/jammies
6 summer dresses
6 winter dresses
3 sweaters
2 jackets
1 warm coat
2 skirts
2 swimsuits
6 leggings
For sizes 12-18 months and under I add
4-6 rompers/all in one type outfits

Shoes (for those walking):
1 pair of sandals
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of casual dress shoes
1 pair of boots
1 pair of dress shoes

This list. I have no idea if it will seem long or short to you, dear reader, but it is my thread to sanity. It is NOT a list to complete. If I only have three winter dresses in 3T, I do not go out and buy three more. But if I have eight "adorable I cannot believe how cute they are" summer dresses in 2T, guess what. That is two too many. They must go. I have found if I make room for one thing, I will compromise again, and the next thing I know I have a jillion little girl clothes. 

So today, I boxed up all the summer stuff for all the kids (including swimsuits for next year I found super cheap online-hooray!), and it is now in a well-labeled box in my garage. As a result of going through this list again, daughter number one's bin had to lose two pairs of jeans. Therefore today:

Given: 2 Pairs of cute 3T jeans. 

Gained: the JOY of passing on blessing. For real-six months ago we had NO 3T pairs of jeans. I gave the shout-out, and had four hand-me-downs within a week. Since then the girl had a birthday (and received two pairs), I found one on clearance, and I redeemed a $10 off Khol's coupon to buy her best pair AND a Hello Kitty shirt (she freaked out) for $0.37. Now I can pass these jeans that are in great condition to another momma who is now in my previous shoes. You double the happy when you give & receive!

Have Peace, & Purge On!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Given & Gained: DAY ONE

October 1st, day one of my fourth (yikes!) minimalism game. I realized in the last week that I want to turn the heat up a bit on myself and make even more headway. I am loving the freedom of less, and this far into my journey I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here is my plan. I am going to play hardcore. It goes, that day, by midnight. If it cannot, I need to find something to go in its stead. I have also decided my goal is to play for three more months. I honestly think this will take me exactly where I aim to be. And that takes me to January. Guess what will not be on my resolution list for 2015? Clutter, baby! I am hoping it gets a bit harder for me in December anyway, because why should it not? A time of consumption, a time where gifts abound while so many are in need. If I end up giving till it hurts in December, all the better. It will be worth it to me and my family.

While this whole process boasts and aims to eliminate what is unnecessary in my life, I cannot help but notice the abundance that is now covering me and my home. Therefore this month as I participate I am going to partner it with at least one thing I have more of in my life now, because I have chosen to minimize. So to kick it off, Day ONE. 

Given: A Metal Privacy Screen. 
My mom gave this to me for my birthday last year, regretted it immediately, and has wanted it back ever since. I have spent the last year trying to make sure it does not topple on a small child and brain them. I think it is time for her to have it back.

Gained: Shared Smiles. 
Less stuff, more time for me to gaze into the eyes of these sweet wee people, and to laugh at their silly antics. The love we share makes my heart almost burst. Sigh. 

Have Peace, & Purge On!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Each day is fresh, is new, but sometimes it begins deceivingly. Dishes in the sink, emails screaming to be answered, and phone calls to be made. None of those things make me feel refreshed. They make me feel smothered by yesterday's troubles and tomorrow's agendas. 

I have learned over the past three months that while I can slither out of bed several times after the snooze goes off, it takes a good deal longer to get my motor started, so to speak. Alas, if I truly sleep in, it adds extra stress and chaos getting my seven year old dressed, fed, lunch packed, and spit polished in time for carpool. I have learned these are not the mornings I enjoy most.

My ideal morning? I still slither out of bed, but after the alarm goes off. The first time. Okay, maybe the second. Then I get dressed to the point that I can put on my boots and not feel like a weirdo if I had to run an errand. (Read: NO YOGA PANTS). Add some black coffee, enjoyed before the family is awake, a little quiet time to dwell and read, and I am all in for the day. I have come view my boots with great fondness. I slip them on, and I feel like I can get things done. I know they are not magical, but they may as well be. I do not know what it is, but when I sit down during the day (without a purpose), I end up feeling all antsy inside. I have to get up, get going, to do things. Somehow, by the end of a busy day, I survey my home, feel satisfied with work well done, and only then I sit back and kick up my heels. This is not a new idea. Props to Fly Lady and all her fabulousness for the "put on your shoes" concept. When I need a little pick me up, I love perusing her site. It is packed with sage advice on the art of keeping your home. She recommends lace-ups, but I bet if I told her about my magic boots, she would be cool with it. 

Tomorrow is the start of a fresh month, and a brand spanking new minimalism game. Maybe you do not have boots, but perhaps you have your own ritual, your own "magic feather" for routine? I aim to have as many boots on days as possible this month, and 
I hope that you do too.

Dear friends, may you find your "boots" each morning, enjoy a great cup of joe (or tea), and as always, 

Have Peace and Purge On.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Today is Sacred

This day is sacred. No really, it is. As I have been ridding my home of the unnecessary, the unused, and the forgotten it has been compelling to find so many things I saved "for a special occasion" or "a rainy day." Items such as Ahava body mud from the Dead Sea that I purchased, well, at the Dead Sea. Just sitting in my bathroom closet since 2004. That's ten years folks. I kept telling myself I was saving it for some kind of reward, some glorious spa night I would throw for myself. But since I purchased it I got married, opened a business, and had four babies in my living room. Yet none of those things seemed to warrant earning the privilege of using this particular bath product. After that list of accomplishments, what was I waiting for? Winning the presidency?

 I found cloth napkins on clearance two years ago for next to nothing (thanks, Target). I "discovered" them as I was gathering donations. I had at least twenty of them, brand new, tags still on. Again, I had to ask myself, what exactly was I waiting for? Thanksgiving dinner with my grandchildren? 

So I slathered myself in mud from the Dead Sea. It made me itch all over as I waited the suggested twenty minutes. As I sat itchy in my tub, I thanked God I was full of breath and life, able to feel the very sensation that was about to push me into crazy town. Then I washed it off, enjoyed the softness it left, and went on with my life.

I ripped the tags off the napkins, washed them, and ironed them. Now I use them as often as possible. Because I think they are beautiful. If my use of them leaves stains, I will simply be reminded that I have a messy, creative life full of things and people that keep me busy cleaning up disasters and surrounded by love. And if they get destroyed, the world has more napkins I can buy.

Lesson learned. Today is a good day, today is a worthy day. Whether it be filled with joy, frustration, or sorrow. So I will drink good coffee, use my cloth napkins, and soak in whatever luxuries come my way.

Have Peace & Purge On!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fresh Air

The last two weeks have been just that. A breath of fresh air. First a ladies weekend at the coast, giving me a chance to get away from home for a bit, listen to the roar of the waves and the soft voice of God, and then a family wedding in Seattle, once again giving me a breather from the daily routine of motherhood. But what has not seemed fresh? Well, in the hubbub of schedules, I have not had the chance to do much purging. I hate it. It has become a comfort to get rid of a little more of the excess, chipping away at it each day.
But I come to Monday once again and discover myself frustrated that there is still a pile of laundry in my recently purged garage-Grrr! And I have not yet set aside new piles to drop by for donations this week. Fear creeps in. I have come far, but have so far to go! What if I do not make it? What if I return where I have already crawled? My natural tendency is to be discouraged, but instead I am going to step back and evaluate.

1. Where I have come from. Since June, I have cleaned out my closet, donated more items than I can count, rid myself of two dumpsters worth of junk, and now have a relatively clean garage and shed.

2. Realize I have a few items just waiting for that final kick out the door. I discovered the errancy in keeping piles of "donate," "sell," and "trash" items the first round of the MINSGAME. Unless the stuff actually went out the door, I still felt owned by it. For example, scrapbook stuff.  I have tons. I know it needs to go, I just have to take the time to post it up on Facebook, give it a week, and then pass it on if no one wants it. It is time. I will write it on my calendar for next week, and gather things together. There are three boxes of things I simply need to load up in my car and drop off. I will load up and drop  off today so I can experience the freedom of having those things actually GONE. 

In the meantime, I am thankful for the anxiety they are causing me. A year ago it would not have bothered me, because cluttered was "just who I was."

But no more. I chose to reject that label, and prayerfully persue who I aim to be. To be who I aim to be.  

Have peace, & purge on!

Friday, September 5, 2014

How it Began (Part Three)

Okay. If you did not catch Part One and Part Two, feel free to use the links to do so. Or just read on.

So here is what finally pushed me over the edge, onto the floor, where God picked me up, dusted me off, and gently adjusted my trajectory. It is sad. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have a dear friend that I have for many years admired greatly as a mom. We became friends in jr. high, and continued on through high school, college, marriage, and kids. She got me my first job. We worked saturdays at a medical scrub company. It would have been the most flat-out dull job on the planet. But as two dorky private high school girls, we had a pretty good time, arranging the scrubs, vacuuming the taupe low-ply carpet, and restocking inventory. We played volleyball together at school, sang in ensemble, and babysat church kids at Bible study. I graduated. She graduated. I travelled and worked at a coffee shop. She married one of the guys from our high school. I visited them in their little apartment in Corvallis. She prepared a home cooked meal and the three of us talked about their hopes and dreams of someday being cattle ranchers. They moved, and we lost touch for a few years. Then their family moved back in my area. By this time they had four great kids, and I had one of my own. I loved getting to know her on this new plane. Her kids were a joy to be around, truly. The sort of children that make you want to have more of your own and work even harder to raise them right. She moved again, and we kept in touch through Facebook. We each had another baby, and her family moved back into the area. I was overjoyed. Not only did I love her company, but I loved watching her patience with her kids in action, and picked her brain as I sought my way with my husband through the wild crazy woods that is parenting. She wasn't a perfect mom (psh. Who is?), but she was one to be emulated. Shortly after they moved, she went in to the chiropractor's office to have her back adjusted.  She figured she had strained it somehow during the move, and it just wasn't feeling right. The chiropractor quickly referred her to their local hospital, and on her 30th birthday she found herself at OHSU, diagnosed with cancer. 

In less than two years, she was gone. Just like that. Oh, we had lunch a few times with the old group of gals from high school, prayed at the hospital, chatted at church while the kids ran around. But it went so fast. So very, very fast. For the bulk of her illness, I held out an optimistic hope. Because mothers of young children cannot die. They are not supposed to die. Not a sweet, devoted woman, who loves Jesus, her husband and children faithfully. Nope. All the boxes were checked. She should live at least into her 70's or 80's, growing old with her husband, living their ranching dream. I still do not know why the Lord chose to bring her home. I have asked him why, but have not yet heard a reply. It remains an unfathomable mystery to me. As each day goes by and she comes to my mind, I pray for her husband and five children, now holding tighter to one another.

Grief is a different beast to each individual. Since her illness, I have had dreams. Sometimes it is the old gang from school. We are all together, youthful and healthy again, laughing. Then, as her death has sunk in, I began having other dreams. 
The one that changed it all came in June. In it,  I had two days to live. I was walking through my home, and all I saw were things. I was raging mad in my dream. All I wanted was to spend time with my family and in my dream, I felt responsible for all this stuff. I felt robbed, cheated into believing what I had invested time and energy in saving was valuable, when the reality was, it did not matter at all. I awoke boiling angry. I had similar dreams since, but from that night on, the veil had been lifted. My view began to drastically change. I no longer saw piles of memorabilia to cherish. I did not see "collectable items" that might someday be worth something. It was just stuff. Stupid stuff that was in my way, keeping me in one spot, trapping my today, enchaining my tomorrow. Suffocating me with no mercy. I had no desire to leave my kids a huge pile things of mine to keep. I wanted to overflow their days with experiences, memories, love, and joy. I wanted that to be my legacy. I did not want to keep running out of inspiration, energy, and space to create for and play with them. Do you know my most precious memory of my (still living) mother? The years of bedtime stories she would read to me. Books upon books, those hours were perfectly invested as far as I am concerned. I do not care what she leaves behind for me physically. My heart will remember what it will. 

I knew from the onset of summer that I had to begin purging after our family vacation. I looked up "steps to purging" and "how to downsize to a tiny home." I still felt a bit aimless. Then a friend posted on Facebook a link to The Minimalists #minsgame. She asked if anybody wanted in. It was not even a choice for me to say no. I was compelled. Honestly? It was easy. I would walk through the house, picking things as I went. I could not explain it, but things that once had power no longer held that authority in my heart. Halfway through the month, I knew the shift was happening. I decided to "face my fears," so to speak. My storage shed. It was my dirty (big) secret. Chock full of stuff. I poured myself a cup of coffee early one morning, put on my boots, and went out to have a look. Just a look, no commitment to touch anything required. Ugh. It was quite as full as I remembered from the last time I had attempted to "go through a few boxes." But I prayed over it, and gave it to the Lord. I shut the door to it, and walked away. I knew in my heart I would spend the rest of that month building my "minimalist muscles" to a day of purging it. And it would happen, this time. It would. 

As July wore on, I recognized that I was starting to evaluate everything. Really, what did I need for a fruitful and happy life? Each item in my home began to come under scrutiny. I had a series of questions I began to ask myself about any item I encountered.
1. Can I live without it?
2. Can someone else use it more?
3. Is it really something of value?
4. Would it bring more joy to someone else than it does me?
5. Is it worth my freedom?
So, that first question is minimalism at its most basic core. But I confess. My son's paper mache coke bottle from preschool that sits on my windowsill? I can live without it, but I can also use it to hold a flower. Can someone else use it more? Nope. A donation center would toss it into recycling. Is it just trash? Hmm, kind of, but not. Would it bring more joy to someone else than it does me? Well, that is where it gets interesting. My mother-in-law has next to no crafty preschool goodness from our kids as of yet. Truthfully, I get to enjoy the little stinkers every day in the flesh. So my should-I-keep-it coke bottle suddenly became a sweet, practically free gift I can mail her across the country. It will make her day brighter, and I will hardly miss it. Okay, so I am afraid I will miss it, at least a little. Do I love my son any less, simply because I give his art project from three years ago to his grandmother?
 But that last question. Is it worth my freedom? Is a coke bottle worth feeling enslaved by my stuff?
The more I asked these questions, the less power my belongings had. There is a lot of neat stuff in this world, but there is very little I am willing to trade my freedom for. 

There you have it. This is a brief sum of what has brought me to today. Now you probably want to know more about the shed of shame, right? Alright. I will give you the scoop soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How it Began. (Part Two)

So, if you are reading from How it Began (Part One), you know I was in a place with outlined goals and desires. I knew how I wanted my life to idealistically be, and I even had some ideas for what should go on my "To Do" list. But let us take a moment to appreciate Hoarding and some of what blocks it is built from. 

What do you really picture when you hear "Hoarding Disorder?" I think of a crazy cat lady with piles of animal refuse in every room. I imagine homes so filled with newspapers and magazines of a bygone era that the inhabitants cannot sleep in their own beds. I picture an old man with a garage piled with canned goods from 1964, and so many records that he cannot use his oven. Nothing like my home. More like an an average episode of "Hoarders," am I right? 

The Mayo Clinic defines Hoarding Disorder as "...a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs." This is such a neat and tidy definition, isn't it? Really, I think a LOT of us can relate to feeling distress at the thought of getting rid of certain things. When it is in the terms defined above, it suddenly feels a bit closer to home though, does it not? Now, please do not get me wrong. I do not think everyone who wants to keep their family photos is a hoarder. There are certain components that seem to really define the disorder as a "problem" that should be treated. Here are the basic things professionals say to watch for:

1. Inability to throw away possessions.
2. Severe Anxiety when attempting to discard items
3. Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions.
4. Indecision about what to keep or where to put things.
5. Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions.
6. Suspicion of other people touching items.
7. Obsessive thoughts and actions, fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future, checking the trash for accidentally discarded items.
8. Functional impairments , including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards.

In the interest of transparency, I will openly admit to you all that I strongly relate to numbers 1-7 on this list. While we have always joked that I am "a collector," I must admit I do not meet the important difference between collecting and hoarding. While a collector proudly shows off their organized belongings, I felt shame. I hate shame. My house was not a filthy pit, I didn't have rats and stray dogs everywhere, or the aforementioned newspaper collection or canned goods from the 1960's. However, I knew that I had an extra-special over-the-top connection to most of my possessions. Things that I could justify keeping to any one of you. Things I knew a "normal" person would probably have passed on to someone else (or trashed) long ago. What could I do? I had tried several times to "go through" things, but it was exhausting, truly draining. I would pull one disorganized box from the garage, then spend an afternoon trying to incorporate the "very useful" contents into my already too full home. Then I would look at the mountain that was still left, my home that was still disorganized, and feel completely defeated. I did not know how to move forward, and something had to change. But what? I was unhappy with where I was at, and the limitations from feeling this way. I tried to analyze the reason for my desire to hold so tightly to things in the first place. You know what I figured out? That I still have no idea why this is my personal compulsion. I have guesses, but no spotlight, hallelujah chorus that's the reason

Okay, now that we've covered where I was at, I will bear my heart and share the major catalyst in my paradigm shift. Tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I know. It looks like a regular old notebook. But it is not. I found this in August when I was cleaning out my "shed of shame." I had (no joke) at least forty spiral notebooks. They dated back to first grade. This was nestled amount them, and I did not recognize it at all. But I flipped it open, and within minutes realized what it was. The travel journal of my childhood friend. She chronicled her first plane ride in 1995, a visit to Washington DC for the wedding of a relative. It is packed with pictures, and entries carefully written in the handwriting of a young girl. I have no clue why I have it. Maybe she left it at my house during a sleep over? Did I borrow it? I have no recollection of it whatsoever. But my heart stopped a little when I realized what I had in my hands, and I'm mailing it to her daughter this week. Because as cruel as it may seem, my beloved friend passed away leaving her husband and young children behind over a year ago. I cannot ease their grief, but I hope that this is a blessing to her beautiful young daughter (who will soon be the age her mom was when she took this trip).

While a part of me hates that I even had this in my possession in the first place, I stand in wonder at how God can use me in whatever awkward stage of growth I am in. If I was not such a pack rat, I would not have had this in my possession for nearly twenty years. If I was not going through this transition process right now, then perhaps I would not have recognized its value, tossing it into recycling. I like to think God has used even my "keep everything" illness for His glory, to allow this to pass on to her family at just the right time. 

How it began. (Part One)

Let's go back together, about three years ago. There I was, sitting on my laundry covered couch. Pregnant with my second child, I was almost ready to pop and had just finished my last few shifts at the small business I had helped found four years before. I was now, officially, a "Stay-at-home-mom." Go me. I had somehow convinced myself that once I was able to write this title as my job description, I would naturally be endowed with all the gifts a woman with that job should possess. Meal planning? A snap, I would totally figure it out. Laundry? All I needed was a system. And crafts? Scrapbooks? Specialty made costumes in everyone's favorite colors? Oh yes, it would all happen. And housecleaning, I was sure, would just fall in line with the rest of my ambitions. I knew so many amazing S@HM's, why shouldn't I be able to tow the line as well. 

But reality: I was sitting amidst piles of laundry,  looking at Pinterest in my messy home. I had organizational tips to drown in, but I felt so stuck. My house was cluttered, my mind was cluttered. I was surrounded by failed attempts at organization, because surely that was the problem. I just was not organized. But between daily tasks and life in general, when did I ever have time to tackle anything? The latest of my obsessions on Pinterest was the Tiny House Movement. The irony barely hit my radar at the time. I was in LOVE with tiny houses. I really, really wanted to build on in my yard. You know, to put my craft stuff in. Or maybe my books. Or maybe as a guest house. Whatever, I just needed one. I knew that I should probably get rid of a few things first before adding a guest house, but it was so hard for me. Every memento, every receipt, note from childhood classmates, artwork, essays, textbooks, etc was just such a part of ME. And it's not like it was ALL just random junk. Some of it really would be useful, someday. I knew it. 

But back to Tiny Houses, and fast forward a few years. I had been through several life occurrences at this point, one major one that I will comment on further in my next post, but in the meantime my love for tiny houses was still strong. However, reality had set in. I had three kids, and one more on the way. People were starting to ask us when we would be buying a bigger home, not when were we going to become nomads and live in 350 square feet. If it was so unrealistic, why did I still desire it so badly? I felt that there must be a deep seated reason. So I prayed, and thought, and prayed more. Then I sat down and I pinpointed what it was that I loved so much about the Tiny House Movement. 
This was my list:
1. Simplicity of life-there was only room for so much in a Tiny Home. If it didn't fit, it didn't get to come inside. less things meant less time invested in taking care of them
2. Clarity-I am very easily distracted. The lack of all the extra things that simply do not fit in a smaller home made me want to cry. 
3. Less reminders of perceived failures-I wouldn't have to walk past three unfinished products on my way to the kitchen from my front door. My closet wouldn't have to space to fit the clothes that were poor purchases so I never wore them. Just what I needed, without the excess.
4. Correction of my time spent to life goals ratio-I felt like so much of my time was spent doing laundry, & cleaning the kitchen. Can I tell you where these things land on my list of goals? Not very high. I know, I know. Being a S@HM is valuable lifelong work that is a beautiful mosaic made up of the mundane. I get it. But seriously. My kitchen, the vortex. There were so many things I passionately wanted to do. But I was up to my elbows in dish soap, and by the time I cleaned off my kitchen table the next meal was due and I had no place to put the sewing machine or journal.
5. Dropping out of the "Race"- You know the one. The one we all seem to be in, simply by existing in middle class America. You have four kids? Well, you're going to need a house of a certain size. You are doing well financially? Then you're expected to drive a certain type of car, live in a decent neighborhood, and should have a playroom with all the fixin's for your kids. I was done with the expectations.

So, it dawned on me that in our home, all 1400 square feet of it, I could actively pursue and achieve these goals I wanted so badly for my life. I did not need a tiny home. I needed less stuff. I could see what I wanted, but how could I get there?