Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ISO Ariel Sock - Pls Contact Dish Nazi

I haven't posted a simplifying update, because things are not simple right now. Sometimes it's just that way!

We are semi-camping in our house right now. A plumbing issue has left us without use of our washing machine, kitchen sink and guest bathroom for about a week and a half thus far. It's likely that this is going to be a costly fix. Like really costly. Bill Gates would probably close off that wing of his house to save on that kind of cash. Ok, so it's not tragic and we can swing it, but we are not happy about it. 

Although the thought of having to spend that kind of money was staggering to me, what scared me more was going through an inestimable amount of time without a kitchen sink and washing machine with two littles. You can tell that I have both a love for adventure and that my priorities are in line.

We've had different plumbing companies in and out of the house for the past week making bids and killing naps. One to three PM seems like the best time to bang on pipes in the echoing hallway between two sleeping toddlers. Sigh. Anyway, we've been doing ok with it all. I'm now personally acquainted with several of my friends' washing machines and I plan to meet a few more over the course of the week. Talk about airing your dirty laundry. I'm trying to spread out our laundry needs so as not to over burden one person (cough, Phylis). Also, if anyone finds a pink Ariel sock in Katy, Texas - it's ours.

Speaking of Ariel socks, my daughter has had to confront personal challenges of her own this week due to a slower laundry pace. Her almost daily pink polk-a-dot dress is not always clean and mom is not making a trek to someone's house just to wash said dress. The struggle is real, folks. Is it ok to use the phrase '#firstworldproblems' with your three year old? Numerous teachable moments. Ahem.

I have also become a Dish Nazi. The children are limited to a daily sippy cup and if I so much as hear the utensil drawer opening, I immediately break into a high-pitched yell. Think battle cry. There is a dish ban in effect, folks. The Dish Nazi is watching. Currently, we're washing dishes in a little tub in our bathroom and rinsing in the bathroom sink. (The toilet is in another room, people, so we're staying sanitary here. I know what you're thinking. I'm a germaphobe so believe me, I'm on the lookout. Joey thinks I should be committed for my fear of raw chicken [this is a healthy fear, fear the chicken]). 

Our friends and church family are awesome. They've invited us over for dinner, made no clean up meals for us, offered their laundry rooms and homes and are constantly praying for this issue with us. Such a blessing.

We've really been doing ok with everything, but today I reached my limit. It's the tiniest of things that can throw me sometimes. I was driving home from Bible study...this is so weird y'all...and my one year old started screaming in the back seat. Fortunately at a red light, I was able to look back. He had several giant ants crawling on his body. Claire had them on her too. I immediately pulled into a parking lot and got both kids out of the car, getting ants all over me as well. Keaton had them on his face! When I got us all dusted off I looked into both car seats and saw several of these large ants. They were fast and looked like large fire ants (They were the size of tree ants, but looked different. Any ants on my babies are treated as venomous). I have no idea how these ants got in my car. I'm wondering if one of the kids brought a stick or branch into the car with ants/eggs. This is also how we had an asp in our car not long ago too.  I am now instituting a mandatory pat down before entering to make sure wildlife is not included.

No one was bitten thankfully. I couldn't clean out the car seats without putting my one year old down and we were in a busy parking lot. Thankfully, I wasn't too far from the church and my friend came to our rescue by watching the kids while I searched for and killed the ants. Poor Keats was traumatized and refused to get back in his car seat without a serious wailing fight (I don't blame him) so we ended up eating lunch at Target until the fear passed away and I could get him back in a car seat. Poor little guy is still suffering a little Ant PTSD on our second outing today. 

Getting into my car I stepped on a blob of sticky red gum and smeared it everywhere. The gum did it. I didn't lose it with tears, but I was mentally done. I put my head on the steering wheel and said God, I just need something to be easy!

Thankfully, his grace is always sufficient and perfect in my weakness. God reminded me of what I had just witnessed that morning. How quickly I forgot. A woman who is a refugee from a Middle Eastern country joined our Bible study today. She shared with us how she fled from her country because of intense religious persecution. Thinking about this reminded me of another woman of faith in our group who escaped becoming a child bride in her home country by the grace of God. And here I am, wallowing in my tiny issues of comfort. All because of gum on my shoe.

Laura Story's Blessings came on the radio:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless night
Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if trials of this life
Are your mercies in disguise?
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear

We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love

As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we have faith to believe

Thankfully, God's response to my cries - even those that are so small- isn't "#firstworldproblems, deal with it". Sometimes I'm not too far off from a little girl who stomps her foot because she can't wear her favorite dress each day. He gently reminds me of those who are going through so much for his name and yet, he doesn't dismiss my somewhat trivial concerns. In fact, he welcomes them and invites me to lay them at his feet. He is sweet to give perspective when we can't seem to see past our own self.

I wish I could say the day was all roses after I snapped to, but I have had to purposefully fight for perspective all day. Come what may - from gum on both shoes to Godzilla Ants in hair, my prayer is that my perspective becomes His. Come what may. And long that we have faith to believe.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How We Started Minimizing in a Nutshell

Yup, those are all empty hangers. I couldn't even get them all in the frame. I'm a closet clothes hanger hoarder. Say that five times fast. Makes our moleskine addiction seem tame.

Alright, so the latest update regarding our minimalism experiment. Today I'm taking another five garbage bags and two boxes to our local charity. These are items we cleared this week and my husband tackled his closet. I've sold a handful of items as well. I shared this post on Facebook last week and received several text messages as well as had many conversations on the topic because of it. Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels overwhelmed by stuff and craves simplicity.

A couple of people asked for tips and let me be the first to say, I'm new at this! I can only tell you our experience thus far. Also, I think this process will look different for everyone as well as their reason for why they are pursuing less.

Here's what I'm hoping to get out of it:

  • Less time tending to our stuff. Such as cleaning, repairing, picking up stuff, researching, cleaning, organizing and oh yeah, picking up stuff. Can I get an amen?
  • Space. Breathing room. On the walls, in the cabinets, in the closets. Most importantly, in my head. Cluttered life, cluttered mind. Or at least that's how it is with me.
  • Time to focus on the things we really want to: time with family, experiences with kids, reading, Bible study, writing, our marriage, our friends. A big one is being freed up to be available to others as well.
  • Focus on eliminating debt. Now, we are not in major debt. We have what's called "good debt" - i.e. car, mortgage. Here's the thing though, it's not true that you will always have a car note or a mortgage payment. At least it doesn't have to be, so this is both short-term and long-term financial goals. We want to be freed up to be open to opportunities for which God wants us to be financially available.
  • Change my mindset. This may be the toughest of all. I want to be more conscious of what I'm pursuing and why. For me, this is pursuing what Jesus wants for our life. Thankfully, I just need to be open and he will do the heavy lifting.

Regarding those tips...

I'll start with the first question of where to begin. That's the reason I just shared the list above. Start with your 'Why'. Think about it a while. Come up with a list of why's and share them with someone.

Read a few minimalist blogs. I like Nourishing Minimalism, Becoming Minimalist and Simplify and Pursue. There are many more that I have been reading, but these are just some of the ones with which I can relate.

[Actually, you may want to reverse the order of these first two steps simply because you might find benefits listed in minimalism posts that weren't on your radar.]

I started with one area: my closet. It was a big, yet easy one to tackle. Big as in big return. Easy, because in the past three years I have gone between four clothing sizes (had two babies during this period) and I have quit a professional job. Also, I'm now a stay-at-home mom and what I much of what I wear is on repeat. There were clothes that hadn't seen the light of day in three years. It took me several sweeps to truly clear it out. I think I am probably at 80% of my original wardrobe.

From there I was hooked and on a mission because I saw so much space and it felt so good! I gradually moved all over the house. The sentimental stuff was by far the hardest and going to have to revisit those. (more on that later) There are a few small spaces that I still haven't touched, a bin here or there. I would also come back to areas I had previously gone through to weed out even more. And then there's the garage. Whoa. It's been my holding area and it was bad before I started this process. It will be the last frontier.

Also, know that this process will most likely occur in waves. It has for me. Since this process began in October, there have been few days that have gone by that I didn't get rid of something, but I would say I've gone through my house once and now I'm on my second run through. I've become better at this, but I've finished with the low hanging fruit and moved on to "the hard stuff".

Those are my nutshell starter tips.

Remember the 'why' list I made above? So far, positives all around.

One last note. Something that I have discovered in browsing minimalist blogs and considering my own nature. Yes, we can make gods out of our things. But, I also have to be very careful not to make minimalism a god as well. I could become addicted to editing my life because I feel like something isn't right, when truly, it's that I need more. More Jesus. I could use it as a way to control my life instead of allowing God to bring me peace in the midst of chaos. I just wanted to make sure you know that - if you want to pursue peace, there's only one place you can really find it. We will never find true peace outside of Jesus Christ.

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." - John 10:10

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Our Life Edited

Hello, faithful readers! Oh wait, you need to be consistent in your writing to instill faithfulness? Writing two or three posts a year doesn't count? Oh well. I really want to get back to consistent writing again. We'll see how it goes. I'm not committing to it yet because...kids, but I am so excited about what we're doing as a family and I want to document it. Warning, I may be going crazy - but I think it might be a good crazy. Only time and the ability to persist will tell.

We are simplifying our life. Minimizing. Editing. Getting to the good stuff.

I started this process about three months ago when our life was in full chaotic swing. Good, but frenzied. A blogger who writes on preschool education and whom I follow regularly, took a break from her traditional topic of learning to share her journey of having enough. Enough of stuff, chaos and distraction. She began minimizing their life in every area. Pulling decorations off walls, giving away toys, clothes - all of it to get down to what their family really needed and loved. I was intrigued and felt the exact same way. My toddlers' toys were taking over the house, our closets were bursting, counters constantly cluttered. My mind was consistently distracted with the mess. Much of the day was spent just moving stuff. I have been craving simplicity.

Her post led me down a rabbit trail of minimalist lifestyle blogs. It is fascinating to see how some of these people live. Among the completely counter cultural lifestyle blogs, I came across several that were more in line with doable for our family and goals. There were a few posts that really made me think. One writer said something along the lines of "Instead of getting a bigger house, why don't you just get rid of your stuff?" Wait, what? Why hadn't I thought of this? I just re-organize and re-organize. I look for better storage systems. You do this or go bigger, right?

Let me go back.

When we found out we were expecting our second child two and a half years ago, we decided to sell our house. We needed more space as we were outgrowing our home. Or this is what we thought.

So, we sold our 1690 square foot "starter home". What I mean by sold is that we signed on the dotted line and the verified buyer signed as well, only to find out hours later that the loan didn't fund. (If God doesn't want you to move, you're not going to move.) By this time, I was seven months pregnant and we weren't willing to go further through the process. We were not feeling very Joseph and Mary, so homeless and giving birth was not an option, deciding to stay for at least a year and revisit selling later. We are so thankful God put us in this position. He knew just what we needed and it turns out that it wasn't a bigger home.

Maybe we didn't need more storage space. Maybe we needed less stuff. Could we live with less? Could we stay in our home and completely pay off our mortgage? Could we eliminate the distraction in our lives and focus on what is the most important to us - our relationship with Christ and our family? So began our experiment.

I've been working at editing our life for three months now. I'll fill you in on what that looks like hopefully in another post. So far, I have gotten rid of probably near 1000 items, this includes 80% of my wardrobe and 70%ish ('ish' is so helpful isn't it?) of our toys. I've taken things off the counters, walls, floors. I've sold lots of stuff and given away even more. More on that later. I've only just dipped my toe into this, but I am really liking the result. Haven't missed one thing.

The process has revealed a lot of yucky stuff about my relationship to possessions. I've discovered emotional attachments to things that don't make sense. It has forced me to deal with my "internal stuff" during the process. Like the Rich Young Ruler, I have slowly become attached to my possessions without realizing it. I've put a lot of stock in things that "thieves can break in and steal and moth and rust can destroy". This process has revealed a lot of things about my heart that need adjusting.

The first couple of edits of our home have had many other benefits as well. Things are easier to clean
The kids are playing more with their toys, yet toys aren't everywhere. I know where most things are so I'm not wasting time looking for things. I'm saving money because again, I know what we have and don't end up buying extra things by mistake. We're also being more intentional with our money and resources because we're conscious of what we're letting into our house. Our house now feels spacious for our family. After the initial big purge,  I've had more time to spend on the things that are important. That's the best one of all.

We're taking one day at a time in this experiment and not planning on becoming Tiny House people who live in a 186 square foot home without an inside toilet (what?!) or all sleep in bunk beds across from each other...yet. Just kidding. We're looking at experiences and time that we can give our kids instead of stuff. I just want to cut the distraction and focus on what's important.

Am I crazy? Maybe. I could rebound to start hoarding in few months, who knows (oh, please no!). At the very least, I've uncovered a terrible Moleskin collecting habit that definitely needed to be addressed. In seriousness, contentment is a beautiful thing and the best fruit yet is thankfulness. So far, less is more.