Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pre-holiday minimalist mindset gut check...

I ended up bringing just a few simple fall touches in, after my recent post.  It feels just right, and not overdone in the least. Wanting that feeling, opposed to the fall craziness I see everywhere, was making me pause. I love that I had to stop and really think about it all before purchasing anything and dragging it home, which is a change I am really embracing these days. And thank you for all the sweet and encouraging comments you guys have been leaving on these posts!  They mean so much to me. 

I've been sharing about becoming minimalist, and how it's changing my life,  and somehow this post feels right in keeping with those thoughts. At least to my way of thinking.  Mainly because if we don't intentionally plan to set out and make changes, we do things the same old way by default.  When you begin making any changes, they force you to evaluate other areas and for me, the holidays are creeping up and I have a whole list of changes I want to make and see made!  I wrote a lifeline blog series, all through last year's holiday season, called "CALM Christmas" and I still go back and read those words sometimes.  They saw me through and pointed the way out of the hole that holidays tend to become!  Last year's holidays were a bit of a challenge for me, for obvious reasons... my daddy had died in October and grief was very fresh.  I found myself taking on EVERY ONE'S happiness as my own personal mission. (Have you ever done this? I'm a people pleaser by nature and I have to fight that like crazy naturally!) I'd no sooner set that self-appointed responsibility back down and remind myself that it wasn't my job, then I would pick it right back up again, and completely ignore my own advice. I'd walk away saddled with everyone's changeable emotions, their every expression and it all felt so heavy I could barely move. 

So, this post is really two parts as I work through and remind my own self of these things.  For the first part... this gut check question literally became my personal shield- "Is this MY problem to solve?"  I had to ask myself  those words, about a million times, especially last December... Most of the time "it" wasn't actually my problem.  If someone's attitude was off... not my problem, even if they had an attitude because of an unmet expectation I was somehow connected with, or something I did or didn't do, or some such. I had to realize that 1.) I will not please everyone no matter how hard I try and because I knew that my intentions are good, I can honestly let myself off the hook here, and 2.) people have control over their own attitudes no matter how I am doing, just like I have to control mine, no matter how others are behaving.  Recognizing that, rather than turning everything back on our own selves is key.  Sadly, I worked my butt off trying to keep all the attitudes around me, all GOOD, and in the end it affected me so much that I struggled to keep my own attitudes afloat.  I had become more of a reflection of those around me, rather than a reflection of Jesus and the reason we were celebrating all of these holidays with family gatherings in the first place.  I had to redirect and re-center my heart again and again as a work in progress.  

For the second part, I began asking myself "Why are we doing this?" What I meant by this question, was to ask and ascertain, whether we were doing something because it was a tradition or because we always did things a certain way... or did we do them because they meant something to us and directed our family and holiday mentalities the way we wanted them to go?  Hint, the wrong answer is, "It won't feel like (insert holiday) if we don't have (insert whatever food, activity, gift, décor, etc.)." 

 I had an epiphany on July 4th this past year.  We were driving home from our very favorite family place in all the world, and it was just us, the Brodeur four pack... and holidays came up. Both my kids started chatting about what they did and didn't like about the holidays and somehow, among many other ah-ha topics, it came out that none of us really liked turkey!  In fact, nobody liked leftovers and one person literally hated the food.  We kind of got to laughing and asking each other why we carry on every holiday the same way... when none of us are crazy about it!?  Suddenly I said, "Hey we can change it... what would EVERYONE like instead?" Immediately they all asked for the same food that they love, a specific activity that has meaning, and that was that.  We decided to change all of it.  It was freeing! Others might be put off by it, but this is my little family and we decided as a group, to make the changes we wanted for our futures! 

What thinking like a minimalist helps, is to begin truly thinking about the whys behind things.  Why we have this, why we keep this, why we use this, etc.  It applies to our mindsets in other areas besides our homes, and possessions, and if we do something without a good reason, we should pause and think about it.  If it doesn't make us our best version of ourselves, improve our quality of life, buoy us to better serve others (especially our family) or propel us to a more lovely way of living or being, it very well could be trapping us in bad habits, mindsets or baggage.

 I could seriously go on and on, but this is something I'm chewing on at present.  My heart is a deep well with what minimalism can and is doing for those who embrace it.  In a world where more is sought, less is appreciated and savored and I don't think that makes anyone truly happy. I would dearly love to hear your thoughts on this.  I know we're a ways away from the holiday season, but it comes a lot faster than we typically realize and I want the right heart going into the months, October through January.  How about you? 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Capacity + Party (Becoming Minimalist)

I recently had a little birthday & transformed this buffet table (that I've overshared like crazy), into a party zone in about five minutes time, and I wanted to share how easy that was, based on the lifestyle I've been adapting.  

I've been sharing different aspects of becoming a minimalist, I've shared how finding your own personal capacity can really help you in the home editing process, and after this particular party experience, I felt totally validated in my choices for paring down everything and holding onto ONLY that which I love and use regularly. It made creating simple festivities a breeze and because there was so much less available in my storage spaces to choose from, it made decisions simple. (Hm... anyone hear a familiar tone there... kind of like my ten item wardrobe thoughts! The less to manage, the less to choose from, the easier life is!)  Normally, I'd hang onto too many serving and party items that might get used once a year. What I'm finding works for me these days, is having pared down "stuff" to only that which can be used again and again, in a variety of ways, with very little fuss and bother, rather than keeping something that is seldom used, in case it's needed.  

(Most of the time, if it's not something I use regularly, I can do without it on the special occasions too.) I actually gave this a lot of thought as I was working through my most recent home edit. I almost always develop a system to help me think through any processes.  It's how my mind is wired and I do it for literally every situation, including things like grocery shopping and unloading those same groceries.  Always, a system happening in my brain. Haha! 
 Throwing a party without becoming a maximalist. (grin) 
1. Establish a space that can be easily adapted for occasions. (I found myself naturally using and decorating this little table space for every occasion, so this is my newly christened "party zone." I like this better than bedecking an entire home with party goo.) 
2. Think through the types of gatherings you like or tend to host and what all that requires. (For example, I dislike having people for formal dinners, yet I enjoy casual throw-togethers such as cheese trays.) (A short example to inventory and have on hand in your home, could be platters, cheese boards, small bowls, glassware, etc.) Then be ruthless with yourself, and donate or consign all the other excess that you actually don't use, but that is taking up precious space in your home! 
 3. Determine what party pieces, serving items and décor you need/don't need and then purchase or pare down accordingly. Consider dual purpose items, such as a glass container that could hold either flowers, or a candle.  Or a round serving item that can work both decoratively as well as hold a cake. 
So, based on my little system, I used the big white vase that I've previously shown with faux fig branches, to hold my birthday flowers... I adapted a glass vessel for some candle-light, and used this wooden round (Crate and Barrel) both for the cake, as well as for this little champagne station.  I used a simple party banner that I had on hand from New Year's Eve, and decided that I may keep using it again and again because it's fun! 

 I like to use my breadboards as decoration between uses, and I love that this table has a flippable shelf that doubles as wine storage when needed and is a smooth shelf on the opposite side, when not needed....  Anything with a reversible or dual purpose usually as me at, well... "dual purpose." 

I had a sweet birthday and have been loving this new way of life.  It touches every part of how I do things these days and I'm not even an extreme minimalist.  If you're on the fence about embracing your own brand of minimalism, just consider all the time you won't be spending doing things the same old ways!  One additional perk from living this way, is that you'll find yourself sorting out the broken, chipped, non-working junk, and you'll gravitate instead, toward choosing that which is lovely, pretty, useable, etc... it will actually improve your overall quality of life. 

You'll love and know what you have, and where it all is.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Fall cozifying with a minimalistic mindset

 Normally, about this time of the year, I'm bringing in pumpkins and branches and going a little crazy with the whole fall décor thing. This year is different because I've been working so hard on getting our home "just so" with less, (or at least my brand of less, since that amount is deeply personal & unique to each of us) that I found myself loving it the way it is, and not feeling like disturbing the balance.

I wanted to do a different type of home fall tour and I hope you enjoy... The more fall clutter I see on social media, the less I want to invite that same clutter in my own home, so mine is more about the feel and coziness.  (I call it Fallitizing or Cozyifying.) (Feel free to adopt my made up words.)  I may at some point bring home a pumpkin, but I kind of need to think it through first, because I have no idea where I would even put it at this point. I have no desire to just purchase for the sake of purchasing because it's what I've always done. Which brings us to the becoming minimalist mindset... This is a big change in my thinking so I'm celebrating it.  I think about things BEFORE any purchases are ever made, whereas before I would often just see, grab and buy.  Now, I need to visualize it in my home first, see how it makes it better, (does it?) and then I still think about it, not getting it about eighty percent of the time!  (My budget is much happier these days... which brought me to today's post.) 

 (This is how the room looked before all of the changes I'm sharing today.)

Because I'm not even remotely casually spending (not that I ever went buck wild with spending, just so you know) I have forced myself to think differently when I do spend, if that makes sense.  My past self would never have considered spending a little more to get what I actually wanted, as I was content spending less to get something "close" or a "knock off" and then I noticed that because I spent less in the first place, and didn't think it through, planning and plotting to save up etc... I could more easily replace, toss, discard... and it created a weird cycle that cost me more in the long run.  

I am sharing two sweet examples today, and bear with me for all the wordy explanations but I do think it's important to share, as many of you are following along and working to become minimalists in your own spaces and minds.  We used to have a thrifted chair in our office. (Top photo) I painted it, recovered it, added casters and it was fine.  Not horribly comfortable as an office chair, but fine. When my husband closed up his old office, several good pieces I had purchased came back home to me.  Some went, some stayed.  Four linen covered dining chairs stayed and one of them functions as an office chair when not needed at the dining table. (Our dining table has six chairs at a time, one resides in the master closet, and the other is in the office, so if need be, we still have eight dining chairs to arrange.) I couldn't part with this thrifted chair so it got moved into the bedroom and I removed the casters on the bottom.  But the cushion needed recovering, and the paint needed retouching. I really wanted to add masculine elements because the chair felt a bit "too sweet"  and feminine with all the curves, white and soft colored upholstery. (I do try to keep a neutral balance of feminine and masculine in our bedroom.) I pulled out the deep gray chalk paint that we used to stencil our laundry room floor (here) (best choice ever btw.) and it was instant love.  As I shopped for fabric to recover the pillow and seat cushion, I used a coupon but purchased exactly what I really wanted.  A textured gray wool that wasn't inexpensive.  I figured it would wear like I wanted, and be more timeless.  I was right.  However, then it came to me, that the chair might be better suited in our living room as it really went better in there now, with the changes.  So I swapped places with the big upholstered armchair and had a moment of heart pitter patters.  (Please note, this room functions like a dream, but it doesn't photograph like I ever want it to.  The floating chair never looks right in the photos but it does in person.)
 (Little side note... I scored this wood planter at Goodwill for six dollars and it inspired a gathering of simple, yet favorite treasures on my "mantle" shelf here.  As I rethink what I'm keeping, I find myself feeling quite a bit more sentimental about that which stays... as though all the excess kept me from truly appreciating that which has meaning?  I'm  not sure... but maybe.) 

 Example number two is blankets.  I needed to replace a beloved furry throw that we used nightly but was coming apart and couldn't be washed any longer, along with a ratty knit one that had been washed one too many times.  I had seen a sale at West Elm (one of my favorite stores) and decided just to look and see, even though I had never purchased anything there.  I immediately found two throw blankets that were just what I wanted with soft and chunky textures, so I worked out the splurge, something I would seriously never done before. (With the sale, they weren't much more than I would probably have spent before, but the quality was miles beyond what I would typically have gotten, so I'm figuring they will last.)  I could not be more thrilled with these choices.  (This chunky soft gray one... oh my!  I'd take this over a bunch of pumpkins any day. Haha!)

 And that brings me to today's wrap up.  No, I haven't added a ton of true fall décor yet... and actually I might not, who knows.  Instead, I've got yummy candles and tealights sprinkled here and there that I light nightly.  I've got the perfect mix of pillows on the sofa (I actually only have these pillows now... all others have been consigned.) along with those soft throws. (One old one that I kept in the mix with the two new ones is velvet... oh my!) I have added lots of pretty texture in each room, while keeping colors muted.  When I walk into our open concept space, I think I can feel my heart beating slower.  My steps calm.  Fall cozifying at it's finest, inviting me to slow, savor and enjoy.  

Keep in mind, that minimalism can be about having next to nothing... and for some people that is what it means to them.  For others, it's more about having less, better quality, and only what is used and enjoyed regularly.  I'd say I fall more into that category. How about you? What does minimalism in your space look like? 

(Up next, I'll be sharing my birthday and how I practice capacity in my home, while adding in party elements!) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Food Minimalism (Becoming Minimalist)

I'm still kind of writing this series by the seat of my pants, as I continue to uncover what "becoming minimalist" means to me.  I'm loving this, you guys!!  I'm realizing that there is a ton of overflow from the practice of becoming a more minimalistic thinker and today, I'm sharing how I have seen it bump into my household running, specifically with food management. 

I mentioned in a recent post, that I had stopped the giant overstocking of food from Costco.  I got a ton of great feedback from that so I know that many of you are tracking with me on this.  I mainly quit doing that, because; 1) it was expensive. 2) It required management- in that I didn't have a great place for all of that excess storage so I was constantly breaking down boxes, moving half of the items into the pantry, trying to find containers for the rest in the garage, etc. 3) Our freezers were full to overflowing and meats were getting lost and wasted from freezer burn etc.

So it got me revamping a lot of our food items.  I put three little storage bins into the freezer that is attached to our fridge.  One for veggies, one for dairy (shredded cheeses mostly) and another for meats.  There was a pull out drawer at the bottom which became bread products, as those seem to be the largest.  I labelled all of the bins and we mostly stick to that storage in the inside freezer.  If it doesn't fit, it probably needs to be dealt with. Outside, I have a really tiny model of an additional freezer.  It's so small that it doesn't hold much, but it's handy to have.  It's a great place for storing the extra casseroles or soup that I often split in half to freeze for later!

I guess the point I'm making, (same point I've been making all along) is that in all of life the more you have the more you'll have to spend your time managing it and minimalism for me... is all about freeing up that time for anything else!  I grocery shop weekly, I meal plan, I budget, I allow for leftovers but keep in mind a great meal I can sub in, in the off chance there aren't the leftovers I had planned.  Mostly, I try to cook fresh, delicious things that won't go to waste and will nourish us.  Because I can open up my fridge and see the organized plan, rather than old foods rotting and hiding behind crowds of bottles, containers and other things... I'm better able to do that.

I'm also better able to enjoy the process.

Remember this post I did, where I decanted my spices? It freed me up to truly consider what I needed, get rid of what I didn't, and then enjoy a more streamlined process, using what was left.  It was so worth it... At some point, I just decided to stop the madness in every area of my life and this is one more of those areas of massive positive.

I get asked a TON of great questions but here are my top two lately...People keep asking what happens if the jar I'm decanting product into doesn't hold it all. Answer: I just tuck the ugly packaging in front of the pretty jar and use that remaining part up first... but it doesn't happen very often, as I do try to use containers that are sized correctly in the first place. (If you're not buying huge containers of spices at Costco (I'm sorry but I'm totally calling this one out)... you'll need WAY less space to manage things like THAT!) (I can't tell you how many homes I go into, where the bottles of oil and vinegars and spices are totally, 100% out of control. Too many... who needs that much taco seasoning before it all goes stale, anyway?!) (Maybe the taco truck guy... I bet he uses that much seasoning.) (Palm to forehead.) (Just saying.) I run a family of four and we do just FINE with regular sized spices and things.  (They do have a good price on their vanilla extract...  But I like Trader Joes' better. So.)

The other great question, is that when getting organized, it really costs something.  Bins, baskets, drawer dividers.. not cheap!  People ask me how to get minimized and organized with out it costing a fortune.  Answer: Little by LITTLE!  Minimalists don't tend to jump quickly and make stupid purchases that go to waste next week when they 1. see something they like better 2. see Joanna Gaines's next collection (oh yes I DID.) (And for the record, I do adore her stuff and own two of her items...) (I'm just saying, and I know you know.) or 3. haven't thought through the whole space and planned the RIGHT thing.  Minimalists purchase better, just less.  Minimalists purchase carefully, so less waste.  And, minimalists commit longer to what they do buy, because of those first two things. Get the right things, think it through and take your time.  (When I began deeply organizing my home a few years ago, I would often buy one acrylic drawer tray per grocery shopping trip.  Or just do one drawer at a time.  I knew what I wanted and it took me several years to hit every space in our home.)

Fun fact, side note...I read somewhere that if your kitchen area is decluttered and organized, you'll likely weight about 25 lb less than those who don't keep a kitchen tidy! 

What?! WOW! I just wanted to end on that motivating thought.  

And please don't hate me for calling out the size of Costco spices.  

Friday, August 24, 2018

Interrupting with white...

 Last week, I tackled a project and decided to interrupt my becoming minimalist series with a small post to share the details.  I painted my DeLonghi espresso maker white. 

(I like what I like, and what I like is white.)


It was a really quick, one day project and I've had lots of questions about my process, on Instagram so here is the nutshell.  For this specific project, I did a TON of careful cleaning, then taping off my machine to cover the stainless portions.  That part took at least an hour.  No lie, and very important. 

Once prepped, it got two very light coats of a good spray paint primer, with two or three hours of drying time in between coats. Then I used a spray paint meant for appliances and followed the directions to the letter, working on multiple, light coats, letting it dry for about six hours.  And that was it.  I peeled off the tape once dry.  

I got asked about how we painted the kitchen aid mixer as well, and for that, just research it like we did on YouTube.  There are a ton of amazing tutorials on taking it apart, hanging pieces in a spray booth, and using things like auto grade sandpaper in between coats, etc.  It was more like a four day process but also worth it, just know it's work and you have to do it very specifically which is why I'm not sharing the processes here.  Research and follow the good instructions out there and then rejoice when it's done like we did. Ha! 

 I love that the espresso maker now matches our white and black electric tea kettle (tucked away in the tea drawer after our ceramic one broke sadly) and it also matches all of my white coffee accessories as well as the black and white mugs that I pull out when the weather cools!  It may not be everyone's taste to paint things a cohesive and soothing white, but OH HOW IT IS MINE! I loved the turquoise these many years, but I love this more.  So happy to have taken the time to make the change. I'll be back soon with more of becoming minimalist! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cutting boards & Towels (Becoming Minimalist)

When I began this series, I kept circling back to my cutting boards.  I used to keep two ratty looking plastic ones, with corners melting from dishwasher misuse, and one day I looked at them and wondered why I still even used them.  They looked horrible, and tucked away, not being used, were two darling wooden cutting boards that would have worked just as well.  I immediately tossed the two ratty ones into the trash which should have long since been their resting place.

Which is a piggy back from my previous post about appearances...  We keep an excess of things without even thinking about why, often keeping our best things in hiding for some reason, not using them up and wearing them out.  Instead, we use our ugly looking muffin pans with rust on them instead of the nice one. (Er. Maybe that was just me...) In becoming minimalist, my first thought was more or less, "Do I actually need all of these things (example: cutting boards)?" Once I realized that my own personal capacity was really about two cutting boards total, (I mean, I only use one at a time anyway...I can't remember ever having two cutting boards sitting on the counter in use at the exact same time, ever.) (And I don't tend to use one strictly for meats because my habit is to hand wash them all immediately in really hot, soapy water, though I know some households have one just for meats.) I decided to evaluate my stash and keep only that which was in good condition, and would be used.  I can't say that I miss those two plastic cutting boards at all.

So that leads to a similar mindset about towels (and really all of life, when becoming minimalist). Do you want to venture a guess, how many homes I've walked in to organize, and found myself staring at a leaning tower of way too many towels? I get, that some people use a fresh towel daily. (My opinion on this however, is unless you're not cleaning yourself in the shower, you're just wiping clean skin down with the towel, and probably only need to change it on laundry days, which in this house is about twice a week.) That means for our home, we all really only need two towels a person, per week, but I keep inventory at three, to include those times when random extra teen boys need showers, or we have some overnight guests, which is also rare.  The total bath towels I have to manage in this family of four is twelve. Really, it's actually only four towels on laundry day, plus hand towels.  Not so bad.  I can handle that, and that's my capacity.  

What I see in the homes where they have stacks and stacks of towels bulging from their overstuffed linen closets, is this.  They tend to rotate through a few towels that get kept in the bathrooms, but the majority of them stay in the closet, never getting used, always looking new, and they keep washing and rehanging the same old towels, never dipping into their excess stash. It's true... so these lovely piles of towels just sit in a closet, getting that musty closet smell, and eventually they hire us to come in and take them to a donation site. Waste, from not living minimally.  Very common.  

 (RANT: And please don't even get me started on saving special towels for  guests.  For crying out loud...if the towels you're using for your LOVED ones in your own home aren't quality enough to offer guests, 1. Your guests should probably go to a hotel because they probably are a bit too much for the rest of your daily life and 2. Your loved ones are precious enough to get a nice towel, don't you think so perhaps it's time for an upgrade? You can get a decent towel for $3 at Target if you have to keep things on a low budget. Just saying.) (I prefer to get my fluffy white ones at Costco because they don't cost a fortune, bleach up great and last forever.) 

So I guess all this to say that if you're striving for a more minimalistic lifestyle with less clutter, less to manage and less stress overall.. these are the general guidelines behind every single minimalistic mindset out there-  Get rid of the crap.  Keep the quality, but keep the quality at a minimum so you have less to manage and store. 
Ahhh, minimalism helps one breathe... 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Decanting (Becoming Minimalist)

You guys. Your comments and emails on the previous post were the BEST.  (Seriously, go back and read what people said if you haven't yet!) I love that we're all on board in our hearts, as we work out what our own personal capacity is.  I think my ideas for more posts have grown now, so I'm going to try and cut them down to size, in smallish bites.

Today, I'm focusing on appearance, and why it matters with minimalism. (It's not what you think.)  One thing I've noticed about minimalists, is that because they have less to manage... they tend to make what they are managing appear appealing. As in, living in the details, appreciating the beauty in the everyday, taking the time to slow and make something lovely just for the sake of the lovely.  (This is why the Danish Hygge movement has become huge by the way.) I read a passage recently in my favorite book series (The Madame Chic books, and yes I am going to reference those books continually until each and every one of you have confessed to not only reading but also loving them as deeply as I do.) about this. The author was making a strawberry tart with Madame Chic, and just dumped the berries in. She was chided by Madame Chic, do this task "avec precision!" This was an ordinary evening dinner- just for family, but what I loved, was the message about living well because you can.  

These days God gives us on earth are such a precious gift, and the people we serve in our homes matter so much... why not offer them the best of your details and services.  Make that tart beautifully with artfully arranged berries swirling in a circle, saving the best berry for the center. Our homes can reflect this same heart of serving and doing, through the process of becoming minimalist and making that which we are managing lovely.  It makes the job more pleasant, which in turn makes our attitudes more pleasant, and it's all connected and spilled out as we go about our tasks. Oh I triple LOVE this!!

So after this occurred to me, I decanted my supplies.

Seriously, it's all connected.  Go with me.  Remember this post, a couple months ago, where I edited my spices (I honestly only used about half of them for crying out loud) and the ones that got kept, were all regulars, but I decanted them into matching jars, and made them all look pretty? It is my favorite kitchen drawer.  I've even seen my kids showing it off to their friends so don't think that living this way, organized, intentional, pretty details in the minimalism, doesn't have an impact on kids of all ages.  It DOES!

I decanted my baking supplies into mason jars with simple labels.  Nothing expensive or fancy, just neat, tidy, and glass so I can see at a glance, what I'm running low on! Efficiency goes along with minimalism and makes life all around easier on the back end, once a system in in place. Less waste and less excess. 

Beyond that, I'm also showing above, that I also edited my oils and vinegars so that I only kept those I use.  I'm also showing my extracts, since I keep them handy and tidy, in a small tin that I repurposed.  (You could house them in anything, and I liked the way this looks, plus I had it on hand so it was a zero expense change.) Everything works so well on a lazy susan by the way. 

Small changes, no matter how small, can make a huge difference in your quality of living.  Have you seen this in your home as well? Do you decant ingredients or pantry items so that you waste less? Do you, like me, love something that serves a purpose, has a low cost and low effort, but high impact?  Minimalism gets a certain reputation and I'm hoping that if you're on the fence about it, you can see that it's more about how you work with what you have, rather than what you do or don't have!  I'd love to hear more of your thoughts in comments.