Small Steps

Two months until our family expands by one- and from what I remember from having my son 5 years ago- our time management will need to radically adjust. From late night feeding, to extra loads of laundry- and even time for simple luxuries like showering- all will now revolve around the needs of a little one who cannot articulate in a spoken language what she wants.

I am taking a step back and thinking about how I can survive those first few time crunched, penny-pinching,  sleep deprived months- and my journey in Minimalism can help me.

Some small steps to sanity I am taking now:

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  • Pre-cooking meals:  I like to have a hot breakfast for my son.  It’s something I’ve done for him ever since he’s had solid foods; a Continental breakfast of sorts. But let’s face it, who has time for that?  Today is Saturday- so I spent some time cooking waffles ahead that I can portion and freeze for the week ahead.  Same thing for bacon (if you are the meat-eating kind).  During the week I can then re-heat, add some fresh fruit, or quickly scramble an egg and he can have a warm breakfast to start his day.  I could buy these things in the frozen food section; but I prefer to make my own and add his favorite touches to it (fresh blueberries or strawberries) and it does end up being a little less expensive for me.
  • Refillable Foaming Soap Bottles:  Something my Mother always did while growing up, before being frugal or Minimalist was trendy.  I purchased empty foaming soap bottles- and from there you can fill with whatever variety soap meets your needs or budget.  I currently use a bulk soap from an essential oil company (which I then also dilute with some water to stretch out the value of).  But you can use any brand you choose. I figure besides saving $3-5 every time I need a hand-soap, I reduce some waste by reusing the soap bottles.
  • Speaking of Bottles: My husband is the King of repurposing plastic containers.  Sometimes too well, so some end up in recycling once I have done some cleaning.  Some now hold small toys, others hardware or supplies in our tool area.  The point is, we at least try to think of a use before we throw away empty containers- but I won’t allow hoarding of empty ones “just in case”.
  • Furniture Polish: I was tired of commercial polish for our dining room table not cleaning and leaving behind a streaky mess.  I found some different recipes online- my favorite at the moment is Olive Oil on a cloth with a drop or two of Orange Essential Oil.  We had some minor surface scratches that this mixture sealed up quite nicely, and the shine has held for two weeks now.  Wipe down with mixture, and then buff off excess with a microfiber, lint free cloth.
  •  Mirror Cleaner: My days working at a cosmetics counter at a department store taught me many things.  My favorite tip was to use 93% rubbing alcohol to clean mirrors- it was less expensive than the blue stuff, and left a streak free shine behind.

Some of these are time-savers, some money-savers. All help me stay focused on what’s important these days- Spending the bulk of my time with my family and enjoying their company.

Small Steps

Have It All

“Mommy, what are you writing?”

“I am writing about what I want to be when I grow up”

“But you are already grown up. You can be anything”

“What should I be?”

“You can work around the house on chores.  And then you should be an artist.  That would be good.”

I’ve been awake since 4 am, mindlessly scrolling thru Facebook and Instagram posts- back and forth, looking for what? Today, it seems like affirmation that I am not ‘enough’.

Some examples of my feed: “Bossbabe” Memes and Quotes.  “Dream it and you can Achieve it”.  “MLM” is the same as working for a company. “Don’t let a man take care of you, earn your own money” “Buy your own Chanel Bag, don’t let a man do it for you”. “You can have it all- travel a few months a year, take your son to school, download my e-book”.  “I replaced my income with (Fill in the blank MLM of the week).

To top it all off, instead of feeling empowered, these and other posts, made me feel sick to my stomach.  I have failed, I have not been able to work a full time job,  have a few side hustles, clean a house, raise a child, be a wife, a writer, an artist.  Why can’t I do it all? Not enough positive affirmations each morning? Did I forget to write in my goal orientated planner all I want to accomplish?

Some days, I am thrilled to manage a hot breakfast for Vince, feed the dogs, and get two cups of coffee (decaf these days, baby is on the way).  Other days, I feel like I can take on the world.

Why the guilt? From what I can remember, my girlfriends are all very successful career women raising wonderful families.  We were raised by Mothers with high standards, who told us to have our own money, and go to college for what we wanted before settling down with a family.  They were probably raised by Mothers who were housewives, limited to careers that were in education or nursing- and when the 60’s and 70’s rolled around, told our Mothers to break free and be independent.

For the bulk of my life, that’s the route I went.  A great education, a fantastic career before and during marriage before starting a family.  My ‘own’ money (which led to fights with my ex about his ‘own’ money, and what was a fair way to pay bills).   And bought with my “own” money- a house, two cars, piles of electronics and expensive makeup.

And with that career, I lost track of being a Mother to my son. He spent a large chunk of his first 4 years at my parents home while I worked (out of necessity for several years as a single mother).  I can remember telling him to be quiet when I needed to run a conference call.  I remember taking him to Mcdonald’s drive thru and running a conference call from my car while he sat in his car seat munching chicken nuggets.  Who knows what little gems I missed by shushing him and telling him to go to another room when I had ‘an important call’. I am glad he saw me working hard; In other ways, I can’t forgive myself for the teary eyes he would get when I hustled him to a spot in front of the tv while I worked.  I spent an hour or so with him in the morning before I dropped him off at my Mom’s; then another hour or so at night for bath and bedtime-  what did I miss? I will never know.   I was a single Mother- and those who have spent time as one know the struggle to balance putting food on the table and giving attention to the one you are working to feed.

“Mommy! Look at this!”

These days, I can stop what I am doing and truly look at what he is showing me. I am blessed just for the precious ability to stop and put down whatever I am doing to really listen to my child, and give him my full attention.

What will I teach my daughter? I hope to have enough self confidence to be secure in whatever dream she decides to chase- whether it is a high power, high paying career; or a stay at home mother to her children, or some combination of that.  I just hope to teach her not to listen to the constant stream of what the world thinks she should be- and to some extent, what I would want her to be.  She will have plenty of role models to choose from as she makes her way in this world- but I want her path to be one she chooses- not one that a Facebook Feed tells her to take.

Have It All

New Year Cleaning

Many people save a full house cleaning for Spring or Fall.  I will do that as well, but my favorite time to clean is immediately after New Year’s Day.

I know that in a perfect Minimalist home, there would be no need for a full house cleaning- but I am in training here, so there’s always something to work on.

I feel like the cleaning of the home after New Year helps to wash away any bad vibes or leftover hard feelings from the previous year. It truly makes the New Year a clean start- mentally and physically.

Paperwork gets scanned and shredded.  Clothing gets sorted and donated. Floors get a second wash (in this case, we may have to hire a pro to tackle the tile floor that the previous owners neglected).  Corners are dusted, decorations are put away.  I run a diffuser with citrus to freshen the air.  Toys are recycled, new ones stay, old ones donated.

Here’s to fresh starts, new beginnings, and cleaner home to face 2018.

New Year Cleaning

Minimalism as a Single Mom

Today, a post on a Minimalist Facebook Group got me thinking about my time as a Single Mom.

At the time, there were some drastic changes that had to be made- I was downsized out of work due to a corporate merger, and at the same time became a single Mom to a two year old- while still managing a mortgage and car payment.

Some of the items on my list I have reinstated in life as my circumstances have changed- but I do remember that those few years as a Single Mom were some of the most stressful and joyful of any I have ever had.

  • Dropped cable television: I replaced with slower internet and a Netflix account so I could still job hunt and have some entertainment for my son.
  • Text Only Prepaid Phone: This one I sometimes wish I had stuck with. Once my income dropped, I switched to a $25 a month prepaid plan with a text only phone.  It is amazing to be free of the constant notifications of email, but still just a phone call away.
  • Sold Items on Ebay:  Once my corporate job was done, I was able to sell off a collection of gently used tech products (old phones, tablets) and ‘career wear’ clothing or purses- In one month I ‘made’ around $1100 on these items.  You would be amazed what people will buy on Ebay.
  • Bought and Sold at Consignment Shops: The good and the bad of small children is they are constantly moving up in clothing sizes. We almost exclusively shopped at consignment stores, and I was able to sell back an amazing amount of clothing once my son outgrew them.
  • Donated nearly 100 Books:  A splurge during those times was a book on Kon-Marie; and part of it was dealing with the volume of ‘stuff’ I had collected.  Namely, my precious library. But after sorting it, I found multiple copies of books, and in the end, donated about 100 to local charity.  While I didn’t have a ton of money to donate to favorite causes, I felt better being able to give back something during this time.
  • Dined In- Gardened Out:  To save money, my dining out budget was slashed to- zero.  During the summer, my son and I planted a small garden- enough to keep both of us busy and to provide fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, onion, and carrots. He enjoyed the benefits of nature and fresh air, and I saved money on fresh veggies while having quality time with him.

I have a very supportive family and circle of friends who helped me navigate all the changes in my life during that time.  But even with the stress of it all, we survived and thrived- and once we were back on our feet, I could look back and be happy with all that we accomplished then.

Minimalism as a Single Mom

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Resolution setting has always made me feel like I need to fundamentally change myself- which was intimidating. I normally fail at sticking with the resolution, somewhere near the end of January.  Sometimes a change must happen quickly- such as a change in lifestyle due to a medical issue, or perhaps a job change.  Typically though, life moves along smoothly enough that any radical changes (such as the ones resolutions bring) makes me cringe. 

Instead of resolutions this year, I have decided to write a  2018 To-Do List.  I have more success writing a daily list of items to accomplish.  I enjoy crossing them off at the end of the day when I review my journal before bed.

I am going on the assumption that if a To-Do list is working for me on a daily basis, it may translate well to a Yearly To-Do.  Again, years of management kicking in here- if you

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Hoping 2018 brings a bright start to you.

want employees to reach a target, it had to be one that was easy to achieve, relevant, and measurable- (some blend of George T. Doran’s S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system).  So I make my To-Do list items ones that match this system.

 

Part of my personal “2018 To-Do” list:

  • Once a Day painting for 30 days
  • Once a month shipment of donations to charity
  • Twice a month digital scan of paperwork and dispose of hard copies
  • Drink 40 ounces of water per day

Each of these items I can set a reminder on a calendar as a “To-Do”- keeping in mind I can be flexible enough to move the date if it overlaps something I can’t move, lets say a doctor appointment for my son.  At the end of the month, I can then see if the item has been accomplished; and if it hasn’t, set a new date and adjust my thinking as to why I wasn’t able to do it.

Follow up is key- You can set as many goals or targets as you like, but if you forget to measure them along the way, or track your success it makes it impossible to know when or if you have reached these goals.

Here’s to a brand new start with a New Year, and a new way to track my progress on this journey.

 

 

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Simplify the Season

I felt out of place yesterday at Preschool drop-off.  The parents were in line waiting and discussing their gift-giving issues: namely, that Santa has left sooo many packages from Amazon, they are running out of places in the house to hide the gifts for their kids.  Another Mom moaned that she hasn’t even started shopping and the lists keep growing.  More complained that they will never get the gifts wrapped in time.IMG_1597

So much stress.

I didn’t offer my own experience this year, I stood quietly and listened, thankful that my gifts are here, and wrapped – all in a single cardboard box on my dining room table.   We had 11 people to purchase for this year (more than most years).  We didn’t “minimize” the gift giving- it seemed as though most gift ideas for people we were given were for food related items, or things that can be used nearly year round.

My son, who is 5, only requested a copy of Minecraft, which we did purchase for him.  I also got him a set of Tinker Toys since he enjoys building things. For stocking stuffers, I got him a few new toothbrushes, some glitter glue and craft items, and a checker board from Dollar General.   I think because we don’t have cable, and what tv he does watch is on Netflix, he wasn’t exposed to as many commercials for toys.  His list was short and true to what he really loves.

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Gingerbread House Mission Complete

Thanks to shorter lists, and the use of online shopping, instead of stress from rushing from store to store, desperate for the latest item, I spent more time baking cookies and building gingerbread houses with Vince.   Our family spent an hour or so wrapping gifts.   It has been one of the few holiday seasons I did not feel completely overwhelmed and burnt out.  I was able to make memories with my son and husband that I hope to remember for a lifetime.

It’s not to say this season will be picture perfect-  My husband will be working on the actual holiday.  My son will be at his father’s house the entire Christmas weekend.  My parents are over an hour away, and my sister and brother in law will be working and live out of town as well.   We have real logistical issues for even celebrating together this season.

Had I faced that, and also the stress of crazy shopping, I would not be able to calmly sit and enjoy what time we do have together– And the time we spend together is the most precious gift I’ve been given this year.

 

 

Simplify the Season

Big Tree, Little Tree

‘Tis the season for decorations- At least in this part of the world.  As a Minimalist in training, this time of year poses challenges to me as I am torn between enjoying the abundance of decorations, and the need for quiet reflection on the season’s meaning.

Two years ago, when my son was 3, I downsized our holiday. I was in the middle of a divorce and will admit my mind was having a difficult time focusing on the holiday between attorney phone calls and unpleasant texts with my ex-to-be.   My sister donated a small, sky blue Disney-themed tree to me- the tree couldn’t have been more than two feet tall or so.  I happily took it- a reminder of how I was stripping away the unnecessary in life.  I smugly thought I could also use it as a teaching moment to my son.  We didn’t need ‘things’ or big flashy Christmas decorations to celebrate- that’s not the meaning of the holiday.

“It’s not big enough”.

That was my toddler’s comment when he looked on the little tree, contempt written all over his tiny face.  “Grandma’s tree is bigger. This one is too small. I don’t like it”.

2017 Xmas
Big tree or little tree? Which, or none, did you go with this year?

I explained to him what Christmas was about.  I explained the gift of baby Jesus to the world.  I explained there were many people in this world that had less than us and we should be grateful for what we had.   No luck.  “It’s not big enough”-  Every single time he walked by that tree, that was the comment that humble little tree received to it’s shiny lights and perky color.

Why couldn’t I change his mind? Why couldn’t he see that my way of viewing the world, and the holiday, was the right way to celebrate the season?

Part of the reason is that he was 3 years old.  There’s a lot of brain development yet to go.  Maybe my intentions were misguided-  he was also going thru challenges with the divorce in the household, and to disrupt one more thing wasn’t the best idea. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to ‘force’ my ideas on simplification on anyone.

In any case- that little tree left it’s mark on both of us.  Now 5, he still reminds me, “Do you remember that little tree we had for Christmas? It was so tiny”.   I will never forget it.

Our new family will gather around a decidedly non-Minimalist, 9 foot tall tree this year, and make more memories.  While it towers over us, instead of being frustrated that we aren’t ‘downsizing’, I choose to let it remind me of the woods of Northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up.  I will try to take time to focus on the simple side of Christmas, the quiet  peace in a church service, the family and friends we will spend time with.   The debate on the merits of a Minimalist aesthetic in decorations can wait till after the holidays are over.

My son’s reaction to the tree reaching so far over his head?

“It’s perfect!”

Big Tree, Little Tree