Cleaning House :: An Attempt At Minimalism

I’m going down a rabbit hole, folks.

I’m chasing this white rabbit named Minimalism, and while the chase is a bitch, I’m liking what I’m seeing on the horizon.

2017-06-02 Attempting Minimalism

A couple weeks ago I came upon Allie Casazza’s blog and joined her newsletter, and reading about a minimalist lifestyle just clicked for me. I ate up her every word, her encouragement, and now I’m on a mission.

Sean is skeptical.

But here’s the thing – we’ve moved three times in ten years. We’ve lived in four different homes now. Our first home was a one bedroom in a multifamily home. Our next was a shoebox two bedroom apartment, where we welcomed Lily into our family. The third was a two bedroom single family home with a nice sized yard. And now we’re in a two bedroom townhouse, with three full floors of living space.

It’s a lot of space. And we’ve filled it! When we moved from our first home to our second, we made several trips to Goodwill. We probably brought 4-5 car fulls of junk, things we didn’t want or need anymore. It felt so freeing. And then we had Lily at our next place, and a whole other person’s worth of stuff got added to our small space. So we moved to a bigger space. And we filled that. And jobs changed and we made our biggest move to a bigger space. And we’ve been here for two years now, had Andrew, and have filled the space and then some.

The last two moves? We didn’t really do a big cleanout. We threw stuff in boxes and off we went. So we’ve accumulated, collected and held on to things that we may have otherwise let go.

Does having kids add to the amount of stuff you have in your home? Absolutely. But it doesn’t have to be the insane amount of toys, books, clothes and other…whatever, that we are told we’ll just have to deal with for the next 18 years.

No, thank you.

I started looking around. I started thinking about what we have, and why we have so much. Why do I have a closet full of clothes I never wear? Why do I have 4 winter coats when I really only ever wear one, maybe two, regularly? Why does my daughter have 20 pairs of shoes when she only wears four or five? Why do I keep buying these little toys and games at Target’s dollar section, or whenever we go somewhere, as a “momento” that will only be lost under the seat of the car or forgotten in a bin of other small things that held her attention for less than a moment before she was on to the next.

Allie’s blog brought up another good point as well, which I relate to on so many levels. When you have so much stuff, you are devoting time in your life to that stuff, whether you realize it or not. Dishes, clothes, toys, things that need washing, putting away, care, and attention. I think about the value of my time and how I want to spend it. I certainly don’t want to be picking up a pile of toys that got strewn on the floor, but not played with. I don’t want to be designating tucked away dark corners of cabinets and closets to piles of stuff that I just can’t wrap my head around dealing with in the moment.

And kids? They don’t need much. Lil will spend more time with an empty shipping box or a towel tied around her neck like a superhero than she will with the $200 worth of toys we got her for Christmas. We recently spent an afternoon at a friend’s house and she spent a good 3 hours outside just running around, playing hide and seek, exploring, no toys and so much energy and fun. It’s like a lightbulb went off.

We want to give our kids everything, but the best thing we can give them is an appreciation of very little.

So I’m cleaning. I’m clearing out. I’m letting go. It’s hard, because we’re taught to hold onto things. And there are sentimental things that should absolutely be kept and cared for. But something’s gotta give. Lots of things have got to go.

My goal is to be able to start the homebuying process in the nearish future, and Lord knows we will not be able to afford a ton of space. The sooner I can get our current living space to a place of having some breathing room again, the easier it’ll be (I hope) when the time comes to pack up and move. And if I can start teaching Lily and Andrew now to appreciate being happy with less now, hopefully that will help them to have empathy for those who go without, and to find joy in spending more time outdoors, and inspire them to find creative ways to entertain themselves. Kids have SO MUCH potential. I really hope this helps our family find more time for enjoyment and quality time, and less time picking up every day or week.

I’m starting on my kitchen. Pray for me.

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I will be updating as I go along here, because Lord knows I’ll need to have a little writing therapy to deal with why I’ve held on to some of these things for so long. If you’ve ever done a major home purge or are interested in starting, I’d love to hear from you about your experience! Leave a comment below with what you found the most challenging, or the most rewarding!

36 Week Update :: Beached Whale Mode

Happy March!

It’s officially THE MONTH OF BABY. Yes, the time is fast approaching. I have told Sean several times in the past few days that yes, any day could be The Day now. He looks at me wide eyed and turns on a video game or a Youtube video on building computers submerged in oil. I get it. I have had a hard time facing reality these days as well. I can’t even handle the fact that I finished the original Gilmore Girls series and am now watching Year in the Life.

I’ve hit full-on crazy mode.

With just a couple weeks to go, I have been equal parts wanting to clean like a crazy person and also lie down on the couch for extended periods of time and think about everything I need to do.

I have not finished cutting out fabric for his quilt. Instead, I started knitting a completely separate baby blanket. I’m about 1/3 done with it. I will finish it before we are discharged from the hospital.

I decided my bedroom looks like a dumping zone so I started a new Pinterest board to redecorate and further avoid reality.

I should be focusing on actual house cleaning, like dishes and laundry and making sure the bathrooms aren’t disgusting, and instead I have been staring at things that need to be cleaned, and then going and doing something else.

Rolling out of bed three times a night to pee is an Olympic sporting event.

I’m officially feeling huge. Physically, I have only gained a couple pounds (thanks, Gestational Diabetes), but my back aches, every move I make is accompanied with a grunt or groan, and I’m walking like That Pregnant Lady with the waddle while holding her back with one hand and rubbing her belly with the other.

All joking aside, I had a lovely maternity photo session last week where I felt beautiful and like a goddess who can do anything because I’m creating life and what is more big and amazing than that?!

Photography by Megan at Perspectives Photography.

Gestational Diabetes-Friendly Meals and Snacks

“You failed the 3-hour glucose test, so you are now diagnosed with gestational diabetes. You will need to meet with a nutritionist and get set up to take your blood sugars four times a day.”

I dreaded this diagnosis. It felt like being sentenced to a miserable prison for the final 2 months of my pregnancy. I wanted to be able to eat ice cream and a really satisfying cheeseburger and french fries, without a worry in the world. I was worried about having to deal with even more food restrictions in our already gluten free home. And I really didn’t want to prick my finger 4 times a day. Someone else needs to draw vials of blood from my arm? No problem. I need to do the needle? Nooooooo I don’t wanna!

Here’s the bright side: I’ve been following a pretty strict diet the past couples weeks and am feeling healthier than I have in a long time, and now I see it as a blessing in disguise. I am making good, healthy food choices not just for myself but also for the baby. And although I see a picture of a donut and my insides start screaming to just eat one, it is just not worth the feeling of dizziness and lethargy that will come with it, not to mention an awful blood sugar reading.

If you’ve followed my various blogs over the years, you know that we’re a gluten free family. Sean was diagnosed with Celiac almost 10 years ago, so food restrictions are not new to us. But I have also had the ability to eat non-gluten free foods as I wish. And now, living with food restrictions, I finally have an understanding of how he has felt for so long. I wander the grocery aisles seeing food after food after food that are simply not an option for me. I look at a restaurant menu and it suddenly feels like there is nothing I can eat without worry or adjustment.

The good news is, it is science and numbers based, so it’s not too much of a guessing game as to how to figure out of something is off limits or not. You have to read your labels, check carbohydrates, analyze portion sizes, and then decide if you can eat it. Some lower carb foods are fine in a small amount paired with a good portion of protein and veggies. In many cases, I just cannot eat something, which is why I have come up with a list of meal and snack ideas to work from over the next few weeks to keep things simple and clear. I thought I would share them here in case you are in search of diabetes friendly foods for yourself or a loved one. These are also, simply put, healthy meal ideas for anyone.

The biggest adjustment for me has been portions, and understanding that I can have a small portion of things that I love, but it must be a small portion paired with other healthier choices. More often than not, it’s easier to just avoid it altogether. And eat a salad.

Hey, 31 week baby belly...

Hey, 31 week baby belly…

I would also invite you to add your favorite healthy meals and snacks in the comments. I am pretty good with eating mostly the same foods day to day, but I do get the yearning to mix it up and try something new every now and then.

Breakfast

  • egg whites (scrambled) with cheddar cheese and veggies (I like the Trader Joe’s frozen peppers and onions), side of turkey sausage
  • plain greek yogurt – I mix in a little vanilla extract and cinnamon, or peanut butter powder, berries
  • plain oatmeal, add in blueberries and cinnamon
  • small apple, sliced, with peanut butter
  • egg white omelette with veggies, turkey bacon, 1 small english muffin
  • low-carb toast (my mother-in-law found a gluten free cinnamon raisin swirl that is fairly low carb compared to most breads) with peanut butter
  • cottage cheese and a small apple/bowl of fruit
  • egg cups with chopped veggies, topped with melted cheddar cheese
  • avocado with baked egg

Breakfast habits to break: cereal every day, giant piles of pancakes, Dunkin Donuts drive-thru, large muffins and bagels, sugary coffee drinks, not eating breakfast at all.

Lunch

  • dinner leftovers
  • salad with lots of veggies, topped with grilled chicken
  • salad with lots of veggies, small cup of cottage cheese on the side
  • celery sticks with peanut butter, cup of plain greek yogurt
  • veggie sticks with hummus, small portion of multigrain crackers
  • half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, side of sliced veggies
  • homemade chicken soup (no rice or noodles)

Lunch habits to break: sandwich with chips every day, any fast food, forgetting to eat or eating too late into the afternoon.

Dinner

  • Homemade chicken soup with brown rice or no rice, side salad
  • Homemade pizza (1 slice) with large salad topped with grilled chicken
  • taco lettuce wraps, topped with cheddar, avocado and diced tomatoes
  • Baked chicken with roasted veggies
  • Bunless turkey burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato
  • Spiraled veggie pasta with chicken sausages, peppers and onions, marinara sauce
  • Spaghetti squash buffalo chicken casserole
  • Large salad topped with grilled chicken, veggies, hardboiled egg and crumbled bacon

Snacks

  • cottage cheese
  • greek yogurt
  • veggies (bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery) with ranch
  • small apple with peanut butter
  • celery and peanut butter
  • one slice of peanut butter toast

You’ll notice a recurring theme is lots of veggies, lean protein, some dairy, and limited bread/pasta/potato. This is not a bad way to live. It’s how we should be eating, but somewhere along the line we got consumed by Sugar and Processed Food USA. We stopped thinking about the food we put in our bodies and more and more went for options that taste satisfying and comforting and sweet and fatty in the moment, but do next to nothing for our health.

Now I do not claim to be a health nut. But that doesn’t mean I can’t care. And the past couple weeks has been a huge wakeup call to me and my health. HUGE. And I wish I cared more over the past few years instead of losing myself in day after day of garbage eating (not literal garbage, hopefully that goes without saying).

Do you struggle with food? Are you settled into a good, healthy routine? What are some healthy meals and snacks you enjoy? What keeps you motivated? 

How Music Heals and We Need a Little Hygge Right Now

I’ll start by saying that this is not a sponsored post. Remember the days when bloggers just raved about things they liked/loved/obsessed over, solely because they liked/loved/obsessed over it?

I’m about to do that.

You see, yesterday, an album was released. No, not a cd, not a hot track. An album consisting of eight musical tracks, when listened in succession, can heal and uplift a broken heart. Can give your soul a hug. Can lift you out of a fog and make you smile and cry happy tears.

I have tried so hard as an adult to be that person who waits until after Thanksgiving to allow Christmas to explode into my every day life. I turn a blind eye to the shelves in the stores. I ignore the twitch to start moving furniture and decor around to prepare for the bins of stuff I keep in storage to deck my halls.

But this week has been different.

This week, I’ve had a hard time laughing or smiling. I’ve had a hard time allowing myself to enjoy simple things, because little things seem insignificant compared to the deeply upsetting and horrific things happening in our country.

So yesterday, I made a decision to do something to take care of myself. I lit a warm, delicious smelling candle on my desk. I put on my cozy warm slippers and wrapped a blanket that my grandmother knitted for me around my legs. I hung a couple pictures of Sean and Lily on my bulletin board next to my desk, and I sat down to work. I made myself a fresh cup of hazelnut creme coffee.

And here’s the important part: I went to iTunes, dropped 7.99 on Leslie Odom Jr.’s new album, Simply Christmas, pressed play, and let the warmth and coziness of my little office nook and music wrap me up in a hug full of hygge.

Huh? Hygge? What’s that?

Hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’), essentially means a feeling of coziness. The Danish practice ‘hygge’ by creating an atmosphere of comfort, warmth and love amid an otherwise chilly, bleak season. Hygge is good for the mind, body and soul and typically entails surrounding oneself with the warmth of candlelight and cozy blankets, good food, and the love of friends and family in the home. There are things that you can do to help practice hygge, but the important thing to remember is that hygge is a feeling. It’s peace, and goodness. It’s nostalgia of childhood.

It’s happiness.

(More info on hygge here and here.)

So why is a new Christmas album so important? I needed some comfort, and for me, music heals my soul. It helps me feel less broken. And this album? It is comfort, healing, soulful music that let’s me sit and listen and feel all the feels, including happiness.

I imagine what it must’ve been like to be of the generation to hear Nat King Cole sing for the first time. The smoothness of his voice, the ease at which he sung a melody or phrase, so beautifully, so simply, so elegant and classic. It moves you. It embeds itself into your heart.

Photo Credit: Susan Stripling

Photo Credit: Susan Stripling

The same can be said for Simply Christmas. Familiar songs you know all the words to, with a smooth jazz style, with LOJ’s vocalizations, brings a feeling of warmth a comfort. It’s not just one or two tracks. It’s listening to the album from start to finish that unleashes good feelings.

Whether you’re an avid Hamilton fan or have never heard of Leslie Odom Jr, now is the time. If you buy one thing for yourself this season, treat yo’self to some musical chicken noodle soup for the soul.

As Dumbledore said, “Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here!”

Simply Christmas will be in regular rotation for me this season and probably for the rest of my life. Here’s the track list:

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  2. First Noel
  3. My Favorite Things
  4. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  5. The Christmas Song
  6. Merry Christmas Darling
  7. Winter Song
  8. Ave Maria

My personal favorite? Winter Song. I didn’t expect to feel so moved, but by the time I reached the 7th track, my heart was ready to emerge from my chest, get a bear hug from this melody, and be safely tucked back into my chest as a lump slowly rose in my throat.

To my husband, I’m sorry, Christmas come early this year. And it’s not a bad thing.

To Mr. Odom Jr, thank you for this beautiful gift and sharing your talent with the world. If you make another holiday album (is next year too soon?), please consider River, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (duet with Chris Jackson?), and White Christmas.

So if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will, but if you come to my home this holiday season, you’ll likely be listening to this album. I’ll give you cocoa and a warm blanket and we’ll soak up some happiness together.

Happy hygge.

Cape Cod and Celebrating Friendship

Lily and I just got back from a long weekend in Massachusetts, and I’ve come to realize that I’m just plain bad at spending a weekend doing nothing. It’s not a bad thing to keep busy, but I realized that I do need to make sure I find a weekend soon to go visit and do no work. Like, off the grid. My parents have this little slice of heaven property and we love getting to spend time there catching up and enjoying the pool, the garden, some fishing, and beautiful sunsets. And since it’s a quiet little beach town on the water, there’s always something to do!

I was able to sneak away to Cape Cod to celebrate my girlfriend’s 30th birthday, and it was the perfect day. Great food, fun drinks (and cocktail pops!), and time spent with friends I don’t see nearly enough. I’m a lucky girl to call these people friends, even after years and distance have put us in various new places. I know they will be my friends for life.

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