This is Our Call: On Writing, Social Media, Shame, and Mommy-Blogging

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I am a blogger. I am a mother. But I don’t really consider myself a so-called “mommy-blogger”.

My writing includes my experience as a mother, but does not revolve around it.

Also, I’m not about to tell you how to mother your kids.

Do I have opinions? Yes, and I almost always think I’m right–who doesn’t? But that’s not what my writing is about.

My writing is about my personal journey towards minimalism. My hope is that my writing serves and encourages you as you simplify life and invest in the stuff that truly matters (like mothering your kiddos the way you feel called to, for instance).

Sometimes my motherhood and my minimalism collide– in fact, they often do. And sometimes I’ll write about how what I’m doing as a mommy is helping me become more free and more focused on my current calling rather than what’s “comfortable”. But my hope and prayer is that this blog can be a place for all kinds of men and women at different walks in life– not just moms who use a specific kind of feeding/diapering/sleeping method that I personally subscribe to (or am just trying out–let’s be real).

Another huge reason why I’m not a “mommy-blogger” is because I am not comfortable with making my kids too much a part of my online presence. Their stories and their images are precious and private to me, and so I am very choosy about how I share them with the world. I also feel it is part of respecting my children’s self-agency and personal privacy to keep them off of social media at large until they can choose to share what they wish with whom they wish.

That’s my preference. I totally understand it’s not for everyone. I also totally get if my preference frustrates some people (as I know it may). And I very graciously tell those people that my choice isn’t an evaluation of their choice, and also: “tough– this is my call”.

I think all of us mommies, bloggers or not, could afford say this to some people in our lives: “tough–this is my call”.

I began this post by stating that I don’t consider myself a “mommy-blogger”, but I should clarify that this is not meant to shame any bloggers or mommies that do. This label has gotten a bag rap in recent years, not because bloggers are out there shaming other moms, but because we as moms experience a ton of shame already.

I think people in general experience a ton of shame, but moms especially. We are constantly and frantically trying to figure out what we are doing as care-takers of our children amidst the crashing tidal waves of their growth and development. We are drowning, even if our Instagram accounts look like we’re all smiles and Starbucks and cute mom-buns.

The Internet and social media can make motherhood seem even harder. Because we are constantly comparing our lives to other people’s, and also, overwhelmed with more information and opinions than we could even sift through, we tend to doubt ourselves and constantly wonder if we are “doing this right”. It makes us crazy–even crazier than we already feel trying to raise tiny humans.

While I don’t consider myself a mommy-blogger, I do understand why there are so many out there.

Being a mom is all-consuming and sometimes can feel utterly isolating, even in the sea of information and “connections” online. Your mind is constantly reeling about whether to use a pacifier, or how to get your 4-month-old past this awful sleep regression, or if choosing to co-sleep is an amazing way to bond with your baby or if it’s the lead cause of SIDS. And that’s just the “newborn” phase.

I can see why many moms turn to writing and seeking an online community to share and learn and reach out. And while social media and the Internet at large can sometimes make things harder, it also can be a lifeline in other instances.

We must remember that not all “mommy-sharing” is or is meant to be “mommy-shaming”. In fact, I think most moms are coming from a place of trying to be helpful by simply sharing their experience.

But it can be easy to forget that other people’s choices aren’t evaluations of our own choices.

What we as mommies (and as people in general, really) have to continually remind ourselves is that the way we choose to live our life is our call.

Just because one mom writes a post about cloth diapering doesn’t mean you should feel bad about buying Huggies.

Just because one mom balances a full-time job and raising her 5 kids doesn’t mean you are any less for being a stay-at-home mom of 1.

Just because one mom documents in her natural birth experience on Instagram doesn’t mean your C-section was any less natural.

Just because one mom posts articles about the necessity of vaccines for all kids doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dare voice any questions about what the CDC recommends.

Just because one mom proudly breastfeeds until her daughter is 3 doesn’t mean you should feel shame about weaning at 12 months.

And just because you disagree with these mommies doesn’t mean that they are wrong or bad or should be ashamed.

This is their call too.

 

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Minimalism vs. Convenience

minimalism vs convenience

Minimalism can help you make your life easier because practicing minimalism, in whatever capacity, helps to simplify your life. But there is a distinct difference between making your life easier with modern conveniences and actually simplifying your daily routine, schedule, space and finances.

The difference between making things easy and making things simple is usually just less stuff. This is often the difference between convenience and a practice of minimalism.

More stuff can sometimes make things seem convenient, but it actually complicates and clutters your life.

We could spend days coming up with examples of this in different capacities, but I wanted to share with you 5 ways I have found that minimalism trumps convenience in my own life.

1- French press over Keurig

My morning routine always involves coffee. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the stove to heat the kettle, which I always fill with enough water the night before. I used to have a Keurig, which was given to me by my grandparents, who upgraded to a larger one, and I totally thought this would be simpler and more “minimal”. Wrong.

While it was super easy to load the pod in and pour a mug of water into the machine, owning a Keurig meant that I had to also buy those little coffee and drink pods, or at least own a reusable one. Then, if I used the individual pods, I had to find a place to store them. I also found that I used way more coffee pods in a day than seemed necessary, since it only made one cup at a time. Also, the amount of waste that created, or work it created to keep cleaning out the reusable one, was tedious and obnoxious. What I thought would make my morning more convenient actually cluttered my time and space with more stuff–stuff to own and stuff to do.

I quickly went back to my French press. It sits on my piano (yes, we have a piano in our kitchen), and it doesn’t need to be plugged in. I usually fill it will coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is pour the hot water in, and sometimes I’ll empty it into an insulated carafe to keep it warm for when my husband wakes up. It makes enough coffee for both of us in the mornings, and it creates zero waste, since we don’t use filters and compost the grounds.

Simple. Easy. Efficient. But oddly, few would call a French press a “modern convenience”.

2- Cloth diapers over disposable

So, I am well aware that not everyone who reads this will identify with this one, as not all of you have kiddos, but since this is my personal practice of minimalism, I have to share this way that minimalism beats out convenience in my life. I started cloth diapers when my daughter was 3 months (the first three months I was just trying to figure out my life and try to get some sleep). By then, I felt like I could handle throwing in a new laundry routine into my schedule.

While using disposable diapers is definitely much easier than washing cloth ones, I still think that choosing cloth simplifies my life. I don’t have to buy disposable diapers. Ever. I also don’t have to worry about the size changes either, since I own cloth diapers that adjust to smaller and larger sizes with handy little snaps. I have less waste as well, since we just flush the “stinkies” (as my daughter calls them) down the toilet with the diaper sprayer, and throw the cloth diaper and insert in the diaper pail to be washed.

My laundry routine for diapers is simple, and by now I’m used to it. While washing diapers would hardly be considered “convenient”, I believe it ultimately simplifies my life and helps me embrace minimalism as well as sustainability.

3- Limiting “Monthly Subscriptions”

A few years ago it became very popular to start subscribing to monthly subscription boxes that mailed you all kinds of things you might need or want. These seem to be becoming increasingly popular, and I totally understand why. It’s so easy to sign up, and then all you have to do it wait for the packages to arrive. No going to the store, no searching the aisles, no waiting in check out lines. Many of these subscriptions also make great gifts!

Some of the subscriptions our family has been a part of have included: Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix (get $25 off your first fix), Madison Reed hair color (get $15 off your first order), Amazon Subscribe and Save, Imperfect Produce (get $10 off your first box), FabAthletics, Ipsy, as well as other non-physical subscriptions like Hulu, ESPN plus, Prime Music, Spotify, and Netflix. (Not all at the same time, mind you!)

After evaluating the quality of the items I was purchasing via these monthly subscriptions, as well as the drainage they placed on our bank account, I decided to limit our monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions so that we get quality “stuff” for better prices.

While it’s convenient to get perfectly styled and fitted clothes delivered to my door, I would rather go out in search for the items I really need, even if it takes me longer and is therefore less convenient.

However, I have found it to be worthwhile to have certain cleaning products and non perishable foods that we use consistently delivered to my door each month.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: the less monthly subscriptions I get, the less stuff I own. That always helps on a minimalist’s journey. So even thought it’s “easy” or “convenient” to have things delivered right to me, it’s not always going to simplify life.

4- Secondhand Clothes Only

This one probably exists more so because I’m interested in being sustainable than interested in minimalism. Just read my 10 Hanger Project posts and you will understand the lengths I’ve been to in order to curb my addiction to clothes.

It’s far easier to head to Target or Kohl’s or Anthropologie and purchase new clothing in the style and color pallet I like than it is to hunt for possible gems in my size at thrift stores, consignment shops, or even search online via eBay, ThredUP (get $10 off your purchase), or Posh Mark. However, I personally am tempted to buy less if I decide to only shop for clothing secondhand. If I want something bad enough, I’ll take the time to hunt it down, and I’ll spend less money on it since it’s slightly used.

This simplifies my wardrobe, budget, and time, since I only own a few items of clothing to choose from when get dressed each morning.

While it may be “convenient” to order a dress from Land’s End, or new yoga pants from Lululemon, it’s way more likely that I will end up owning more than I need this way, which doesn’t help me in my practice of minimalism. Buying exclusively secondhand also helps me create less waste in general, and allows me to support local businesses–added bonuses if you ask me.

5- Giving up the gym membership

I used to work at a gym. Actually, I’ve worked at three different gyms in the past few years. I love fitness and working out. So why would I give up a gym membership?

Well, this certainly will not be the case for many people, but for me, owning a gym membership was complicating my life unnecessarily. During this particular season of my life, I don’t have hours to spend at the gym. I have a small child who would need a babysitter, which I would have to arrange for, and I would also have to plan out my schedule around gym hours, or fitness classes, or open lap swim– something that’s hard to do when my life revolves around nap time, dinner prep, and a one-year-old’s intricate bedtime routine. Also, up until just a few months ago, my husband and I shared only one car, which also made it hard to plan for trips to the gym.

On top of the scheduling issues, a gym membership costs money, and so does finding a babysitter.

I have found that giving up the gym membership helped to simplify my budget and schedule tremendously. I still workout almost everyday, but I do so at home or out with my little one.

My workouts are usually pretty simple–running with a jogger stroller at the park, doing an Insanity Max 30 video during nap time, or practicing my favorite yoga poses before my family wakes up on Sunday mornings.

While it used to be convenient to head to a gym that had literally every piece of workout equipment I could want, or to drop into a yoga class on a Saturday morning, my time and budget is limited these days, and so too have my workout options become.

Rather than see this as an annoyance or something that complicates life, I am grateful for the reminder that all I really need to stay healthy is the desire to do so. I can easily stay fit by moving my body and using my own body weight. No special equipment, studio, or even attire is required. Simple and minimal.

Easy vs. Simple

I am all about making life simple and easy with less clutter and more time and space for the stuff that really truly matters. However, it can be very easy to confuse convenience with minimalism in the pursuit to be “more free”.

For me, “more free” doesn’t include the modern convenience of a coffee maker or Keurig, even if I do have to boil my own water for coffee. I does include a pretty intricate laundry routine for my baby’s diapers, even if that might seem like the opposite of simple. It doesn’t include a ton of monthly deliveries, even though not having to shop at stores sounds way more convenient. It does include hunting down necessary clothing at consignment stores as opposed to simply finding my size and color at a retailer. It doesn’t include an easy-to-swipe gym card or fitness classes already scheduled in my day.

These “rejects” might be what make your practice of minimalism easier to embrace. That’s okay. I share my experiences simply to inspire others to evaluate those “conveniences” in life that might actually be complications.

Because minimalism and convenience is not the same thing.

What are your 5 ways minimalism (or simplicity of any kind) trumps convenience in your life? Tell me please, I’d love to know!

(Please note: this post contains referral links but was not written for the purpose of using them. They are there incase you are interested; feel free to ignore them completely.)

Never A Failure

Never a Failure (1)

I began my career as a high school English teacher with an unapologetically idealistic attitude about the difference I could make in my student’s lives and in Chicago’s far South Side community as a whole. After all, when you’re young and energetic and still on an academic high from all of what you’ve learned as a recent college graduate, there is literally no passion you cannot chase successfully.

I think I envisioned myself as one of those young, inexperienced, yet unexpectedly inspiring and successful teachers you always see in the movies. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to achieve, but I also had no idea how hard it would be.

After three years of teaching in Chicago Public Schools and living in the Roseland community, that passion I had clung to so dearly dwindled from a raging fire to barely a smoking ember. What I believed to be God’s calling for my life now felt far away – lost, even.

I was tired; I was bogged down with paperwork; I had too many classes; I had over-crowded classrooms; I had a steep cultural learning curve that I was barely getting over the hump with, and on top of that, being a recent hire made my job security slim to none. Some students consistently skipped my class; I struggled immensely with getting certain kids to listen, or to even pick up a pencil; many of the tests I gave came back with dismal results; I was constantly sleep-deprived and over-stressed, and I got sick more times in a single year than I had in the past four combined – in short, I felt like a complete failure.

So, when I left the teaching profession at age 25, I felt disillusioned and disheartened about passion as a whole. I thought that if I couldn’t live out my perfect dreams of being an inner city educator, then how could I hope to live them out in any other area of my life?

But mostly, I was just afraid – afraid that because I had quit, that meant I would forever be labeled a quitter – afraid that because I had given up on a past hope, then all hope was lost for me – afraid that because I hadn’t achieved this dream, I would never achieve anything of value.

But more than anything, I was afraid that all of this meant I was a failure.

Two years later, when I found out I was pregnant, those fears resurfaced. I was afraid to have any expectation of motherhood at all, or of my child, for that matter. I didn’t want my passions to be killed yet again.

And I didn’t want to fail.

But how could I hold a new life inside of my own body and not have wild and courageous dreams for her? How could I not hope for so much in this tiny person’s future? How could I not cling to the promises that God had made to this little baby, and also to me?

 After quitting teaching, and especially after becoming a mother, I was pitched into a new season of life where my motivation was very different than it was when I was fresh out of college. But I’ve come to realize that isn’t bad.

We would never say that the little girl who dreamed of being a ballerina at age 5 failed because she ended up becoming a doctor at age 27.

In the same way, God showed me that I wasn’t a failure simply because my dreams in college changed into different dreams even just a few years later.

My passion for teaching impoverished urban kids has grown into a passion for raising my own kids to befriend them and advocate for their rights and for their futures. My passion for living in the Roseland community of Chicago has grown into a passion for pushing myself to see things from other’s perspectives, and learning to love all people where they are, not where I think they should be.

It would take more pages than I can count to recall all of what my former students have taught me, and all of what I am still learning from my Chicago neighbors and South Side friends. But I know that God has used these experiences to mature me and help me see that his perfect plan for me is never just one thing.

My daughter is toddling around now, and a new life is growing inside of my belly, along with new passions and new hopes. I know not all of those fleeting and idealistic dreams will come to fruition in this lifetime, but some of them will, at least to some extent. The rest can wait for heaven.

Passion, in the form of tentative hope, peeks forth from already-fertilized soil. Dreams have grown and died and been stripped away to make room for a new and freshly pruned crop. It’s the way things grow, and it’s the way we grow. And I know now that it is never a failure.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog

Learning to Say “No” Without an Explanation

No is a complete sentence

I had this section in my Bullet Journal that I absolutely love. It’s about three and a half pages of graph paper with Washi-tape sectioned off squares and rectangles—it’s my quote page. In the tiniest of squares is one of my favorite quotes that I keep having to go back to time and time again, especially during seasons when I get caught up in the people-pleasing hamster wheel.  The quote reads:

“No.’ is a complete sentence.”

I’m not sure who first said this, but many have taken this concept to heart, and I am one of them.

For a long time I struggled with feeling like I always had to explain myself.

Many times these explanations came off as lame excuses. “I’m so sorry I’m late to lecture; I my roommate locked me out of my dorm this morning when I got back from my run.” 

Many times these explanations actually included very helpful information. “I won’t be able to make it to your baby shower because my father-in-law’s funeral is that same day. I wish I could be in two places at once.”

But sometimes these explanations were unnecessary and were born out of a desire to tell people what they wanted to hear when I couldn’t give them what they really wanted. 

If they wanted time, money, or really anything else from me, but, for whatever reason, I could not give it to them, I felt like I needed to explain why. If my choices went against what someone else would have chosen for their life, I felt like I needed to justify my decision. If I even got a whiff of disapproval from pretty much anyone, I felt like I needed to go into all the details so that maybe–just maybe– they would understand and not be disappointed in me.

All in all, these tugs to explain myself were coming from a place of not believing in who I was or what I was doing with my life. I needed validation from others to feel like I was worthwhile or that my decisions were “good” ones.

But I have come to realize that “no” truly is a complete sentence. And while sometimes further words are needed for the sake of sensitivity and comprehension, the idea behind this quote, for me, is that I am allowed to do what’s best for myself and my family and my life without needing everyone else to approve or even understand.

We all desperately want a fulfilling life. Yet the more we fill it with things—items, busyness, worry, unnecessary commitments, debt, pressure, stress, people-pleasing–the more cluttered and unfocused and empty it becomes. We have to say “no” to these things.

Explaining myself was one of those things that was emptying me. It left me feeling like I could never please the people in my life. It left me feeling unsure about my choice to say “no”. It left me comparing myself to other people’s schedules and commitments and lives in general. I wasn’t confident in my choices. I wasn’t sure of myself. I didn’t stand my ground in what was best for me or what I knew I needed to do, despite what anyone else wanted.

There are times when we need to sacrifice and say “yes” when we don’t want to. There are times when saying “yes” is joyfully easy.

There are times when saying “no” is the hardest thing we have to do, and there are times when we say it as a knee-jerk reaction. Most of the time, it’s hard. Even if we really don’t want to do something, often the pressure to say “yes” makes saying “no” difficult. But after we do the hard work of saying “no”, we need to be okay with that choice.  We need to know that we don’t owe anyone an explanation if it comes from a place of pressure and people-pleasing.

We can say “no”.

We can let people think what they want about it.

We can know in our truest selves that we made the right choice.

And then we can have room to say “yes” to something even better.

On Unkindness and Cowardice and How Truth is Essential to Defeat Both

white and pink flowerson a book beside eyeglasses

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I am not the kindest person I know.

I am sometimes socially shy to the point of rudeness; there are moments when I value my own comfort over making others feel comfortable; I can be extremely harsh and judgmental, to my own self as well as to everyone else; I often have mean thoughts about other people that pop into my head.

I share this with you all today lest you think this post is coming from a “holier than thou” place. It’s not. I’m a pretty mean person sometimes. I think we all can be.

I recently went to a wedding this past year that was beautiful. The ceremony was heartwarming, the music was fun, the food was tasty, and the decor was gorgeous.

But the people… the people were mean.

No, not the bride and groom… I’m talking about their guests, whom I was one of.

There were countless times at the wedding where the guests made a snide remark about the wedding itself, or even the bride herself, or the way they chose to order the events. Overall, I got a sense of extreme judgment going on, and it was very unkind.

Being a pretty mean person myself, this still baffled me.

Why on earth would you attend a wedding where you didn’t love and support the couple getting married? Why in the world would you expect someone’s wedding to entertain YOU rather than be the bride and groom’s special day? Why, oh why, turn the happiest day of these people’s lives into a haughty evaluation session of their clothes, taste in music, wedding budget, and food choice?

I was astounded at the unkindness I saw from the so-called “guests” at this wedding.

I know that in American middle-class society, there is are norms of what a wedding should be. Sure, there are subcategories of style and location and theme, but there are some expectations about what happens at a wedding these days. I don’t know if I was ever aware of this before I got married myself, and I know that many of these key expectations were not present, or were dramatically altered at my own wedding.

So, self-centeredly, the unkind guests at this wedding, an event which I thought to be pretty standard with societal norms, made me wonder what on earth was said about my own wedding, and my own choices for one of the biggest moments of my life.

Was my choice to walk down the aisle in sunglasses to Hall and Oates’ “You make my dreams come true” scoffed at? Did people roll their eyes when the guests were asked to move chairs from the wedding location a few yards to the reception tables? What about the buffet of Hy-Vee catering– did people turn their noses up at it all? Was the dollar dance seen as cheap? Was our music contemporary and trendy enough? Did people think a dry wedding reception was lame?

I’m so glad that I didn’t think about these things the day of my wedding. I was too focused on becoming Mrs. Florine, and how grateful I was for all the things I wanted my wedding to be. What others wanted my wedding to be didn’t really enter my head. Maybe that was another sign of my self-centeredness, but if you ask me, that’s the way it should be for the bride on her wedding day.

A wedding is about two people getting married. 

It’s not about how fancy or expensive things are or even how smoothly everything goes. And while I think it also should be a fun party for the guests, I really think a wedding should be whatever the heck the bride and groom want it to be, and the guests can deal. It’s not about them. 

But regardless of what you believe a wedding should be like, I have to wonder how being kind plays into the lives of these guests I keep referring to.

As I stated earlier, I am far from the kindest person I know. But this is something I am not content to sit in.

I hate my unkindness. I hate my selfishness. I hate when my reflex is to be mean or judgmental or harsh, even if it’s behind someone’s back. No–especially if it’s behind someone’s back, because that means I don’t even have the spine to tell someone to their face that I think a certain way about them (which usually would imply that the way I think is cruel).

Or there is another option. Perhaps I don’t tell them something to their face because I’m too much of a coward to do so. Even as I write these words, I think there might be fear behind much of this blog post. Fear that stops me from telling these guests to their face that their comments are unkind and rude and downright mean.

Sharing the truth isn’t easy, and often we don’t get rewarded for it. Perhaps this is why we even have the temptation to gossip or talk poorly about someone behind their back: because telling someone something negative to their face is hardly ever appreciated, even if the comment is true or warranted.

The comments that these guests made were not warranted, and most of them weren’t true at all. They were just cruel evaluations and harsh opinions.

But here on this blog, where I evaluate these wedding guests and share my own opinions, harsh or not…. is it really much better?

While I refused to participate or even listen long to the gossip I heard, and while I didn’t make a cruel remark myself, I certainly didn’t call out these people for their unkind behavior.

I’m doing it now… behind the shield of a semi-ambiguous blog post.

And it’s now that I realize that truth has a huge part to play in the remedy of both unkindness and cowardice, two things I think we all struggle with from time to time if not everyday of our lives.

When we are unkind, the truth is we are often just masking an insecurity we are feeling. We do this by putting another person down. It makes us feel elevated ourselves because “at least we’re not like so-and-so”. Or sometimes it’s because we are masking a deep wound that we feel from the other person’s actions, and instead of addressing the hurt, the sadness, or the betrayal, we simply lash out at them and are either unkind to their face, or behind their back. Covering up these truths only makes the wound deeper, and the insecurity’s power over us stronger. It does no one any favors.

When we are cowardly, we hide from the truth that needs to be exposed, either in our lives, or in the lives others. We refuse to look at our own mess in the light and shy away from facing our fears. And we won’t speak up when someone else is being oppressed or abused or even just gossiped about because it means confronting someone else’s unkindness and potentially alienating ourselves, or becoming the brunt of more unkindness. Refusing to act out of cowardice hides the truth and allows others to become victims. It makes us into guilty bystanders instead of advocates for the less powerful. It also does no one any favors.

I am guilty of both unkindness and cowardice.

And so are you.

We all are.

To be kind means to speak the truth in love. This is also what it means to be courageous. 

To the bride and groom: I truly hope your day was everything you dreamed it would be. You both looked beautiful and the whole day was so special. I’m extremely happy for you both.

To the guests at their wedding: I truly hope that your unkind behavior is exposed to you in some way so that you can examine the root of either your insecurity or your hurt. And I truly apologize about not being courageous enough to speak truth to you at the time. While you may have been offended in the moment, I know that it’s my responsibility to be honest and loving and kind, and part of that means saying things that are uncomfortable but true.

This blog post is an attempt at sharing truth, feeble and untimely though it may be. I should have said something simple, kind, and true in the moment, and not allowed my cowardice to stop my mouth in the face of someone else’s unkindness.

I will try to do better next time, as I hope we all will.

A Minimalist’s Wish List

Wish List

A minimalist having a wish list seems like an oxymoron. If the idea of minimalism is to own less, then why have a laundry list of more “stuff” you want?

I get that. I really do.

But hear me out, even though I’m just a “wannabe” minimalist.

Having a wish list helps you be a minimalist in a few different ways:

1- It saves you from impulse buys.

I recently went to a consignment store with a friend. We were looking for very specific things: she was looking for a leather shoulder bag and I was looking for cloth napkins. Looking for extremely specific items can be a total hit or miss when it comes to resale shops, and as expected, we ended up walking out of the store with nothing. However, I doubt it would have been that way if we hadn’t had very specific purchases in our heads. In my browsing, I found a number of blouses that I would have loved to try on, and my friend noticed two extremely cute dresses in her size. This often happens to the average person at the grocery store: if you don’t come there with a list, you’re likely to leave the store with more than you planned on getting. This also puts a stress on your budget! Having a wish list, or just a single item you are in search of, can help you when you feel the urge to purchase something on impulse–just because it’s there and looks like something you’d love. Since there is a list of things you KNOW you’d love, you aren’t as likely to stray from that list for impulsive decisions you may later regret and may add up to break the bank.

2- It allows you to really think about what it is you want, and gives you time to decide if it’s worth it.

I noticed this the most when I created a baby registry for my first child. I started the registry very early, not because I was eager to pick out things that I wanted, but because I wanted to spend a lot of time deciding upon the essential and best things I knew I could use and enjoy. I ended up changing that list so many times because I had time to sit with it, research, and reevaluate every item I placed on that registry. In the end, I don’t think I had any items from the registry that went unused. If I hadn’t spent as much time with it, I think I would have registered for a ton of things I didn’t really need, which is not the point of minimalism at all. When you create a wish list of any kind, you get to spend time really evaluating what it is you want, what you really need, and what would be useful to you.

3- It allows you time to decide if this particular item is even in your budget, and if it’s not, it gives you a goal to save towards.

If you aren’t registering for something or creating a birthday wish list of some kind, then a wish list ends up being a list of things you plan to buy yourself. If you plan to purchase something at all, among other things, you need to factor in how much it will cost you and if you can afford it. For the majority of us, if we don’t ever evaluate these things, we end up in serious financial strain or credit card debt. Having a wish list helps you decide if these items you want are even in your budget, and it gives you time to price compare as well. If something ends up not being in the budget, it can remain on the list until you save enough money for it. If you have to save for it, it also helps you evaluate if this is something worth all the time and effort in saving in the first place. If it’s not, then you probably don’t need it and it can come off the list.

4- It gives others ideas for useful, meaningful gifts to give that would not simply add to the accumulation of “stuff” in your life.

If you have a wish list already carefully made, then you can easily help others give you thoughtful and meaningful gifts. I know that minimalists can be hard to buy for since the accumulation of “things” is something we try to avoid. However, when someone asks you what you would like for your birthday or Christmas, having a wish list will allow you to clue them in on things you actually need. Of course, you don’t ever need to share your wish list with anyone, but at least it gives you an option to give friends and family a little guidance. Instead of getting the usual Bath and Body Works lotion and yet another cute coffee mug, they can get you those reusable cotton produce bags that you will use and appreciate the heck out of (or whatever is on YOUR wish list!).

There are a number of ways one can keep a wish list. Here are my top four ways:

1- Amazon Wish List: it’s so simple. Just go to Amazon and create one. You can also create private lists for other items so you can save gift ideas for others, or create a list of things to price compare. I currently have a personal gift wish list, a list of items my daughter will need soon, a list of gift ideas for my hubby, and a shopping list of things I will need to save for.

2- Written out on paper or in a bullet journal: way too simple and arguably the most minimalist. However, it’s not as easily shareable or editable. I used to have two in my bullet journal–one for my wishes and one for gift ideas for other people. I’d also have a column for locations to purchase and the price I found the items for.

3-An Etsy list: the only drawback to this one is that it’s limited to Etsy items, much like the Amazon lists, but you can find way more items on Amazon. This is good for vintage wishes or handmade items you would want made for yourself or others. You can also make different lists for different things. For instance, I have one for gift ideas for myself, but also one for gifts for others that I plan or buy or will consider buying. I also have a board for my daughter, because who doesn’t love handmade baby girl clothes?

4- WishList.com: here you can add anything from any website. I don’t have one myself, but my sister-in-law uses this to clue her Secret Santa in each year when we use Elfster to exchange gifts with my husband’s family. It reminded me of my baby registry (babylist.com) where I also could add anything from any website and categorize it all. If you aren’t a pen and paper person, this is probably the most appealing to a minimalist because you can have everything in one location that is easily managed and shared. You can put things from Amazon or from Etsy and it’s all on one place; you don’t need to have multiple lists going on different websites.

Before you get started making your “minimalist wish list”, a word of caution: remember your own personal reasons for a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t know what those reasons are, but I’m assuming they help you to get rid of the access stuff in your life, rather than aid in adding to it. If your wish lists ever start to make you crave a more materialistic lifestyle or clutter your life with more stuff, then they aren’t working for your pursuit of minimalism and, ultimately, freedom.

How about you? Do you have a wish list? How do you decide what goes on it, and of course, I’d love to hear what types of things are on it! Leave a comment below!

$70 Per week Grocery Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

The month of June is coming to a close, and I have successfully completed my minimalist money challenge to only spend $70 on groceries each week.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- Grocery shopping every week is HARD. 

Up until this week, my husband and I only had one car to share between the two of us. His work schedule is different almost every day, and so planning times to go grocery shopping every single week was pretty difficult. It was also tough brining my daughter with, since I had to be very meticulous in calculating the prices and sticking to a list. It was hard to be so distracted while shopping, and I know the trips weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

I think that sticking to a budget is doable, but I might have to go grocery shopping for two week stints at a time. This way, I’m not having to drag my baby to the store each week, and I can save myself some stress in the meantime.

2- While I’m not a coupon-clipper, shopping the sales is totally worth it.

I usually wouldn’t pay attention to sales at all. I’d just stick to my list or throw whatever looked good in the cart, regardless of the price. But I found that shopping the sales at Aldi was very helpful in allowing me to stick to my budget. It also made me try some things I normally wouldn’t try, and that leads me to my next point…

3- I can form my meal plans around what I can afford, rather than try to afford all I want to meal plan.

I would go to the store with a rough list that was roughly priced out, but if I saw sale items, I would alter my list. In doing this, my meal plans would usually get bungled. But this month I learned that I can create my meal plans around what I can afford within the budget, instead of just buying things I want to make, which may or may not be the best price at the time. This made me go a little out of my comfort zone and try some new recipes and combinations of foods. I think I’ll probably stick to this method of meal planning because it’s helpful to the wallet, and it’s not too much trouble for me to do. It also limits my options so I don’t get too carried away planning out crazy-intricate meals that are probably unrealistic to make anyway.

4- Rationing snacks is very helpful in preserving their “life” for  the week.

I came up with a system to ration snack items so that they lasted more than one week. This way, I wasn’t always having to buy Lara bars, cashews, and veggie straws at every single trip to the store. I packaged the dried fruit and bars so that only what we could eat for the week was set out in the pantry, and I did the same with the chips and crackers and other items that usually go fast. Then I hid the rest in a basket up high on the shelf that was clearly off limits. This way, nothing got devoured in too short a time.

I actually started doing this before this month-long challenge, but I found it to be very helpful for June as well. Some things were still weekly purchases (like OJ and spinach), but this helped me save money and helped get our snacking a little more under control. I’ll be keeping this up for sure.

Here are some pictures of the great deals I found at Hope for Joliet (read more here):

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Here are some of my family’s favorite meals I made this month:

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And there you have it folks! That’s what I learned on my month of strict grocery budgeting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure and have been challenged to save some pennies while you shop for your family’s food.

 

June Minimalist Money Challenge: The first 2 weeks

It’s been two weeks of grocery shopping with a $70 per week limit. If you’re new to my version of this challenge, check out my last post for a quick overview.

My first grocery shopping trip totaled to $69.98. I cut it that close. I am not kidding.

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Reusable grocery bags are a must for trips to Aldi. And no, that blue bottle of window wiper fluid was not included in our trip…

It was a bit longer of a trip than I usually like to take with my 15 month-old daughter, as I had to write down the prices, add up the total, calculate sales tax, and put some items back so as to keep within our budget. But we left the store with four cloth bags full to the brim, and one giant watermelon that was on sale. And Esther still had some of her veggie straws left to munch on during the drive home. I’d say it was a success.

 

You can sort of see some of the sales on the meat are marked (those red stickers in the first photo say “$1 off” or “$2 off”). Watermelon, blueberries, spinach, and asparagus were also on sale.

While I didn’t document my second week of groceries, I did only spend $68.40, and was pretty pleased with how many leftover items we still could use from the first week.

I’ll be sure to snap some photos this week, but some of the meals we made these past 2 weeks were as follows:

For Breakfast: Veggie frittata, peanut butter apple oatmeal, eggs over baked potato and leftover roasted veggies, toast with peanut butter and banana, hard boiled eggs with avacados.

For Lunch: Salami spinach tomato wraps with watermelon, mango chicken panini’s with carrot sticks, ramen noodles with peas, carrots, green beans, and corn, leftover pulled pork on top of sweet potatoes and veggies, apple and swiss curry panini’s.

For Dinner: Blueberry waffles, bacon, and over-easy eggs (yes, breakfast for dinner is amazing), bacon wrapped steaks on the grill with roasted asparagus and macaroni, homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, pulled pork with potato wedges and steamed broccoli, brats with potato wedges and roasted veggies, shepherd’s pie with watermelon, ground turkey tacos with avocado, salsa, black beans, and roasted onions and peppers.

You guys. These are pretty amazing meals right here! I could really get used to this. So far I’m finding that shopping with this type of budget just takes a little more effort, planning, and flexibility in meals.

I’ll share more of the benefits and drawbacks when I can look back on the entire month, but so far so good!

Tomorrow I’m headed with my daughter and best friend to Hope for Joliet, a location where food items that are almost past the sell-by date are sold for a fraction of the price, and ripe produce is literally GIVEN away. I have no idea what things will be there, so I’ll have to be pretty flexible in what I plan for this next week’s meals. But I do still have leftover frozen chicken, ground beef, some cauliflower, and a bunch of other things I can use as a base for a few meals.

Next week I am also cooking for 10 college students, so my shopping may include extra so as to feed those hungry mouths (I will be reimbursed for this, so it will not be included in the $70 budget). I am also going to make a meal for my friend who just had a baby! This will be included in the $70 budget.

I’m excited to do more documenting of meals and of our shopping excursion tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Minimalist Money Challenge: $70 a week for Groceries in June

I’ll be honest, I was inspired to do this challenge by a blogger I admire and read pretty consistently: Crystle Paine from moneysavingmom.com. That said, I cannot claim credit for this idea AT ALL. If you want to check out her challenge, here is a link to her site.

This is also my version of the challenge. Unlike Crystal, I can’t spend even ten minutes a day scoping out sales or store hopping for the best deals. Because of my current car and baby situation, I can only really do one store a week, and then the rest has to be online delivery options, for the sake of my sanity and schedule. I also noticed that, while Crystal has more children than I do, her kids are older, and they can grab one “snacky” dinner a week pretty much by themselves. This isn’t the case for my family. We also only eat out about once per month for a date night.

So I’ll clue you in on how my version of this challenge may be a bit different than her’s.

My challenge also includes a no Starbucks rule. You guys. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on coffee. Coffee that I can easily make at home. Coffee that I don’t need. Coffee that is way too over-priced, yet enticing because, well, I’m a “gold card” member and so I can collect stars and do menu challenges and get bonus stars for future free drinks (which I also do not need). I’m telling you, Starbucks is probably the most ingenious marketing system out there. So while my challenge will not include our monthly date night, it will include other little excursions, so Starbucks has got to go.

Since I won’t be store-hopping or sales-hunting, my physical store purchases will be limited to Aldi. Anything else I can’t find there, I will get those delivered.

I currently am loving Amazon’s Subscribe and Save monthly options, and I manage to get my lactation vitamins, specialty cat food (because my cats are apparently high maintenance), and some household staples (plant-based laundry stain remover for cloth diapers, chia warrior bars, Spicy V8, Honest Company baby shampoo, organic flour, and Tiny Footprint coffee) delivered in a huge box to our doorstep. It’s such a great tribute to my minimalist shopping ritual, because it takes almost no time or effort now that it’s all set up!

But please note: my $70 a week spending goal does not include these items from Amazon’s Subscribe and Save.

However, if I can manage to grab the bulk of our food necessities at Aldi for under $300 a month, this is great progress from what we’ve been spending at the grocery store the past year.

Maybe once I complete this challenge for the month of June, I’ll be inspired to cut costs even more, or just differently. I do know I will be working on a process for buying our meat in bulk for the fall/winter, so stay tuned for that adventure sometime in August.

So here are the sales at Aldi for this week! I will be taking advantage of these sales, plus purchasing some other items to complete our meal plan for this week.

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I have made a semi-specific list of items to get tomorrow (the first day of June, and the first day of my version of this challenge), but I will show you all what I actually end up purchasing and how much the total was so you

can see how I did! It will hold me accountable and hopefully inspire you too.

I will also share with you my meal plans for the week and perhaps some recipes, especially if I make something really tasty (and cheap!).

If you want to join in on ANY version of this challenge, comment below! I could use the accountability, and we all could use encouragement to spend less, couldn’t we?

 

 

Let It Be Enough: the prayer of a minimalist

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Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

A few years ago, I started the practice of a breath prayer, very similar to the contemplative practice of centering prayer, if you are familiar.

It includes a name for God that is especially meaningful to me at a specific time, and then a very simple request for something that I can only receive from Him.

Some of my most common breath prayers over the years have been ones like these (so you get an idea of what I’m talking about):

“Prince of Peace, comfort me.”

“Lord of Hosts, be my defender.”

“God of the universe, keep me present.”

“God who sees me, remind me I am loved.”

In my minimalist journey, the simplicity of these prayers has been essential. They focus me throughout the day and allow me to connect with God without having to have this intricate, hour-and-a-half-long “quiet time”. They also have helped me get through those early stages of having a newborn who nurses every hour. I remember being up at 3am with Esther, and praying a breath prayer over and over as I nursed and bounced her back to sleep. I couldn’t think of much else to do or say, but having a simple heart-felt prayer truly centered me during those hard moments of exhaustion.

And now, I find myself reflecting on these prayers as part of my journey towards minimalism. See, I’ve recently gotten into another kick of purging things. It’s been so good to simplify again. And being able to get rid of the access clutter in my life has helped me address some other areas of cluttered baggage, worry, and stress that I don’t really need.

I feel myself reawakening as I continue to let go of physical things. It’s almost like…since I can let go of these material possessions, then I can more easily let go of the other heavy burdens.

I can let go of the expectation for my parents to give me only what God can give me. I can let their best efforts and their love be enough.

I can also let go of the expectation for my husband to give me only what God can give me. I can let his love, leadership, and overall character be enough.

I can let go of the expectation for myself to be perfect as only God is. I can let my personality, my capabilities–really, myself be enough.

I can let go of the expectation for this life I’m living to be picture perfect and neat, or exciting and adventurous 24/7. I can embrace the chaos or the monotony or the less-than ideal circumstances, and let this beautiful life that God has given me be enough.

And I see now that God has given me another centering prayer to say in one breath– another breath prayer: “Be Enough.”

Or perhaps, “Let it (him/her/me/them) be enough”.

It is not a command to be good, kind, cool, pretty, sexy, pure, clean, happy, or whatever else enough. It is an invitation to let each moment, each person, each item in my home, each piece of food I consume, each word I say, each action, and each situation God brings me— to let all of it be enough.

That is contentment.

And in my quest for minimalism, I realize that it is not about creating a certain aesthetic or getting rid of things just for the sake of being less cluttered. It is a quest for contentment with what I have, and actually requiring less to be content in the first place.

To allow my possessions to be enough.

To allow a simple schedule to be enough.

To be content enough not to “buy” into the message that I am what I have.

The truth is, I am enough. I can, through Christ, be enough.

Today, like all days, I need to breathe this prayer in and out each moment.

Let my milk supply be enough. Let the babysitter’s care for Essie be enough. Let the sleep I end up getting be enough. Let the training for the 10K I get done be enough. Let the snacks I bring to MOPS be enough. Let the time Esther takes to walk be enough. Let the money my husband makes be enough. Let the groceries I purchased this week be enough. Let my attempts to fill our CRU table be enough…. 

All of these are enough ultimately because only you, Jesus, are enough.

You hold all things together. You make all things enough.