Tuesday, November 4, 2014

First Month for Simplify-Your-Life Challenge

    For years we have been in the simplify-our-life mode but after a move to a completely different home with a whole new set of problems my well-thought-out-and-excuted-plans went straight out the window. We moved from a ranch with 1700 usable square feet to a 1500 sq ft in a 1850's two story farmhouse with little closet space and an oversized bathroom. Then to throw another curve ball into the mix we added 2 dogs and a baby! My 16 year old daughter gets her own space, we share our room with the baby(1) and my son gets a small bedroom size landing. It works for us. What doesn't work is where to store the creative activity supplies, extra homeschool supplies for K-12, my school stuff, toys for the baby and an office. We are slowly adapting to life on this farm. Baby steps right?
    As a family we decided to challenge ourselves this winter(since spring through fall is all outside work except for canning) to take one room per month to focus on. We will clean, repair, paint, declutter and organize that room throughout the month. Without going over a tight budget we are also trying to make the room function better. Like getting rid of my desktop and getting a laptop(may not happen till next year) and replacing an old lighting fixture with a much needed fan for summer heat. We are loosely using the book Organize Now! by Jennifer Ford Berry for a reference and tips. You don't have to have the book to start but she does have great tips and checklists.

    So here is the challenge for those who want to join us-

  • First step is to pick a room or space you want to work on.
  • Second is to write down your goals for that room. What do you have to repair, how do you want the room to function, what items do you never use, does it need a new coat of paint?
  • Then set a reward for yourself. This not only makes this exercise fun and motivating but it helps you to connect with your family or friends over the winter months. We pick things like going to a favorite museum, restaurant or a family fun center with laser tag. A coffee or dessert date with a friend or spouse would be fun too. 
  • So lets get started!!! Some tips in case you are still new to the purge... make sure you start out with some boxes and bags(we put canned items to donate, books and hard toys in boxes and clothes/stuffed toys in bags to donate) ready for any items that are leaving the house. Then make sure to touch everything in that space and ask yourself these questions- Is it expired? Do I love it? Does it serve a purpose or do I own something else that serves the same purpose? Have I used it or will I really ever use it? Is it broken? Does it fit? Can I live without it? And my favorite with repeat items.... will this expire before I can use the second, third or fourth bottle? I buy my husbands favorite toothpaste on Amazon since we can't find it in stores so there are usually three extra tubes lined up. This doesn't happen often in our home but make sure you have room and are organized for those situations. EVERYTHING needs a home. Envision what you want that room to look like. You want your home to be a sanctuary for you and your family from the stressful busy world. 
I will be posting before and after pictures at the end of each month. Let me know if your joining the challenge and how you are coming along during the month. Make sure to follow the blog so you get updates each month. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Simplicity in Playtime

     It has been awhile since I have been on my blog. Life kind of got the best of me. Once we had seen the glimpse of spring after a long cold winter we got started on outside work. The garden was better then last summer, lots of canning happened this year and baby is toddling around. We are still working on keeping life simple... goals towards minimalism. Lately I don't like that word because it makes one think of stark white rooms and only owning a few possessions. We are now a family of 5 so we own more then a few.
    This winter we decided that each month starting with November we will tackle a new room to continue simplifying life. As a family we will clean, repair, de-clutter and organize each room only keeping what we really want or need. We want to use all that we own and keep it in good repair. The more stuff you have the harder that gets. We live in an old home so some repairs and paint are needed this winter. We also have limited closet space so we are evaluating how best to store the items we want to keep so they are handy to use. 
    So in the mean time I will show you what Eli's play area looks like. Having a baby at 43 and having a 16 year old and a 12 year old already; I can say I am wiser about many things. One of them being toys. After my second child I learned that a cardboard box and some washable markers could be more fun then expensive electronics. So when we found out I was pregnant last year we decided that this child would be raised more like we were. Simple things like riding bike, playing in the dirt, building tents inside on rainy days and forts outside on long summer days was what we did.... was what made us who we are today. Imaginative, creative, grateful for simple things, not afraid to get dirty to get the job done..... working towards something we could be proud of. But what does that look like when a child is so young. Simple toys that excite the senses and fuel the imagination. Child size items for everyday chores. Below are photos of Eli's play area in our living room. We live in a small home(1500 sq ft) so the living room acts as school room, family room, play room and office. 
This is our reading/nursing corner, all the children's school books, play area and basket of blankets/pillows.
Here is a close up of his play area. Eli has three shelves with toys and books.  He also has a basket next to our bed since he co-sleeps with us.
This basket contains colorful toys. The wooden toys have movement, some are shakers and in the bottom are colorful links that we snap together.

This basket contains high quality animals. We have a bigger bin of them but for this age we put out this small basket to explore. Many are black and white but some are momma and baby.

The soft basket is one of my favorites. It contains some small dolls, a small blanket, a soft book, a small silk bag and some finger puppets.

The natural basket contains Montessori wooden baby toys, two rattles, a soft brush, and some teething rings.

I love these wooden stacking bowls! They are high quality. We play with them by filling them with other toys for Eli to empty. He loves when we stack them for him to knock down.

The bottom shelf contains some first sounds blocks, shape sorter,  Two metal bowls, textured plastic balls, a few large piece puzzles, and some soft toys like the crocheted stacking baskets.

    As we get new toys and he grows out of some of these then we will change them out. Under our ottoman is a bin of blocks/stackers and a bin of animals. These shelves will change as he grows. As Eli's area of exploration expands to other rooms then we will very purposefully add items for him to participate in everyday life. In the kitchen we will add a little wooden kitchen and cleaning tools. In the bathroom a seat reducer and tray of Eli's hygiene tools. His clothes are kept in a basket to make it easy to teach him how to dress himself. We will have a water and sand play area in the garden. Next spring we have plans to build a tree fort with slide, rock wall, swing and stairs to share with his brother.
    So now that you see our main play area can you see how simple it is to teach clean-up! It is not overwhelming for me or for him. It is a joy to play, sort and learn together.  

Below a few links to some favorites sites. 

Wonderful wooden toys made by Grimm of Germany but also lots made right here in the USA. Also the small baskets for storing toys were purchased here- http://www.atoygarden.com/

I also like to buy wooden toys on etsy.com to finish myself.... I will share that in a future post. 

Amazon also has lots of wonderful toys and books. 

Not just toys but tools for everyday life and educational materials. http://www.forsmallhands.com/

This site also has a great blog with healthy recipes and fun ideas. I love their book and browsing the seasonal catalogs. http://imaginechildhood.com/    

Monday, February 24, 2014

For the love of spring

    The other day as we drove to pick up chicken feed... one of our monthly errands this winter; I smelled a skunk! Yes, a skunk. I also took notice of the variety of birds making song... could it be, right around the corner is SPRING! I can't remember feeling quite this exciting about breaking free from our snowy den. Maybe it is having a baby in the colder months, or maybe the fact we got so much snow this year, or that I am homeschooling a high schooler. Well what ever the reasons we are excited to see the snow starting to melt(yes, I know there is a little more to come) and the temperatures starting to rise during the month. So do you see signs of spring yet?
    Even though the temperatures aren't where I would like them to be for being outside for hours with a baby they are however warm enough to take him for a walk to the mailbox and back. All the way we listen to the sounds we did not hear just a month ago. A month ago it was so still, quiet and very white with snow. What do you hear?
    Things to do at the end of winter- make bird treats with mealy worms, put out suet cages with yarn scraps so they can build nests, look for signs that animals have broken hibernation, take a walk, build a rain catchment to water plants over the summer, make a garden plan, clean out bird houses so they are fresh for the season, etc. What things do you like to do at the end of winter?
Finn and Willow, our two weimaraners waiting to run free in the spring grass!