3 Steps to Prepare for a Merry & Simplified Christmas

A Merry Little Christmas Allie Casazza

 

Christmas has the potential to be the MOST joyous time of the year. But it can also be the most stressful if you allow that to happen.

Every year, I sit down with my family to create a mission statement for our Christmas. We discuss things like whether it’s our beliefs that take center stage, or if we want to make it about giving or serving, or any other heartfelt experience that can increase our joy.

Once we have that mission statement in place, creating the holiday that we desire becomes easy. We’ve determined our “why" and that determines how we will celebrate our entire season. If people try to push back or veer us away from what we truly want out of the season, we have a strong leg to stand on and it doesn’t feel as hard to tell people no.

If you feel like your holiday season is being ruined by your kid’s stuff, it’s time to consider simplifying Christmas.

Many women turn to minimalism hoping that it will change their lives. But then the holidays come around and relatives begin asking what sorts of gifts the children would like, and before you know it your home is full of new toys again (and they’re still barely being played with).

If that statement sends you into a panic...

Mama, I gotchyo back! It doesn’t have to be that way!

How to Get Started

1. Be frank and honest.

If someone is coming to you and asking what your children would like for Christmas, be frank with them. Explain what types of things your child may be into. Maybe your daughter is really into drawing, so you could suggest a new art set.

I always find that it’s super helpful to make the other person feel like they’re going to be a superstar to my child. It makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

If you want to make this even easier, you could have your child create a wishlist. Then you can provide that to people who might be buying for them. I also have a list of toys for minimalist parents and their kids in a PDF right within my FREE course, A Merry Little Christmas.

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2. Remain Gracious and Selfless

You can’t expect everyone to jump onto the same page as you when it comes to simplifying things. Asking them not to get your child anything can be really hard. Especially if their love language is gift giving.

Try tweaking the gifts so that they are working for you.

Provide a gift idea that your child would absolutely love - maybe something that would pull them away from technology. Or you could always ask that they get your child a game for their game system they’ve been wanting.

Spin it in a way that helps you and still allows them to feel joy for giving your child a gift they will love.

3. How to Handle the Out-of-Control Gift Giver

It’s pretty common to have someone in your life who is out-of-control when it comes to giving gifts. They claim “it’s their joy,” but it’s your home, and your holiday, and you don’t want to be completely stressed out because someone won’t stop buying presents.

Communication is the key here!

Talk to them. Let them know you love their heart, and that you are grateful that they can give so much to your children, but that it’s overwhelming. You could even mention that your children don’t even get the opportunity to play with everything because they’ve received so much.

In the end, if they choose to give a crap ton of gifts, that’s fine. There’s NO contract that says you must keep everything. You can always donate some of the items instead.

Don’t allow yourself to become handcuffed to the idea of minimalism. Allow things to stay if you or another family member love them, and if it makes them happy. Don’t make minimalism an idol, because all it does is shift the way you’re handcuffed to your stuff.

Communicate with people, set strong boundaries, control yourself when you respond to people asking for gift ideas, and allow yourself to feel the true joy that this season brings.

A Merry Little Christmas Allie Casazza

If you’re ready to put a lot more purpose in your family’s holiday, you definitely want to sign-up for my free course! A Merry Little Christmas is a guide to a simplified holiday for moms pursuing less.

How to Raise Unplugged Kids in A Tech-Obsessed World

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I have always wanted to raise unplugged kids. When you live in a tech-obsessed world, where most kids’ weekends are spent beating the latest video game and even doing homework requires a screen, it gets hard.

Six years ago, finding minimalism changed my life and restored my motherhood. I got my time, my joy, and my home back. I also feel that I gave a huge gift to my children. First of all, they got their mama back. I was no longer spending every ounce of my time cleaning up and folding heaps of laundry, and they developed wild imaginations. What does that have to do with minimalism? Well, everything.

The thing about minimalism is once you start, it doesn’t really stop. It’s like pushing a large snowball down a steep hill - it just keeps rolling, collecting more and more snow as it goes. You begin to look at the way things have always been done with fresh eyes, and you desperately seek a simpler way of doing pretty much everything. Minimalism will touch every area of your life once you realize what a truly freeing gift it is. For our family, our use of technology has been no exception.

Now let me be clear - I’m not the mom whose kids never play video games or don’t know how to use an iPad. We have plenty of technology in our house. I’m a professional blogger for pete’s sake. My boys’ biggest obsession right now is the Mario Brothers (my littlest is usually tasked with being Bowser while the older two run away from him screaming). The difference is, there are boundaries around technology. There isn’t constantly some kind of screen on entertaining everyone, and tech time isn’t something that’s expected by my kids.

My boys spend far more time actually pretending to be Mario, Luigi, and Bowser than they do playing the video games that made the trio famous.

Most people think limiting technology has to feel like some kind of punishment, and that is simply not true. All things need to be limited - it’s just not good for you to have too much of pretty much anything! By limiting technology, we are simply setting healthy boundaries, teaching our kids how to be well-balanced human beings, and encouraging the power of their imaginations. That is such a gift!

Kids played happily (and a lot better) without technology for generations before us, and I think sometimes we forget that.

In 1950, 10% of American households owned a TV set. By 1954 this increased to 50% of households and by 1970 98% of households had one. We grew into constant entertainment very quickly, not realizing the effect it had on our family time and our kids’ imaginations.

Let’s take a quick look at the deep impact technology has had on our children:

  • A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours a day with cells phones, computers, televisions and other electronic devices. That means the only things keeping kids away from electronic devices are eating, sleeping and school. And, during the summer months, of course, you can generally remove school from the equation.
     
  • Childhood obesity has reached an all-time high. Tech time has surely contributed to that.
  • Imaginative play is also influenced by screens- instead of creating their own play themes they often reenact characters from shows in a repetitive and stifling way.

  • TV often creates a sense of detachment in our feeling life- for example, we sit in a warm house with plenty of food in a comfortable chair and watch a show about homeless people and our hearts go out to them but rarely does this actually call people to action. This detachment also happens for children- violence, sarcasm, adult-themed innuendos or jokes become the ‘norm’. You may argue action-packed books could lead to the same effect- but when a child reads, his mind creates its own pictures and has time to think about them, digest them and make them his own. These thoughts could lead to new ideas that lead the child to action. TV does not give time for this higher level of thinking. When children are accustomed to lots of TV they are not used to using their imaginative thinking at all and don’t exercise that part of the brain (the neocortex). By telling stories and reading books children are able to create pictures which inform our dreams, intuitions, inspirations and imaginations.

  • Recent studies have shown that regular screen time causes atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) of the brain.

  • When a child is watching a show or video or playing a game and it is then taken away there is a withdrawal period. They often become anxious, nervous or irritable. Their movement becomes impulsive, erratic and uncoordinated.

Compare all of this to when a child is in nature for a period of time- playing in the dirt or sand, digging with sticks, building with fallen branches, exploring, looking at bugs. There is a sense of groundedness, calm and steady energy about a child who has been outside playing freely versus inside looking at a screen.

You will be amazed at how easily a child fills up his day without a screen. “I’m bored” happens in our home on occasion but it’s not a common thing to hear.

Jean Piaget, a pioneer in child psychology said,

“Children should be able to do their own experimenting and their own research. Teachers, of course, can guide them by providing appropriate materials, but the essential thing is that in order for a child to understand something, he must construct it himself, he must re-invent it.
Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand, that which we allow him to discover by himself will remain with him visibly.”

Screens put everything on the table so that there is nothing to uncover. But when we get out of our children’s way and let them be bored they come up with all sorts of exciting things to do and learn.

I have seen absolutely incredible benefits of limiting screen time in our home, and let me encourage you by repeating myself - we do not ban tech time - my kids regularly enjoy screen time. It’s simply that we limit it. You do not have to throw away all your devices and forbid the TV be used by anyone but you. This doesn’t have to be a thing that turns you into a monster or a tyrant, I promise!

Before we get into how you can start encouraging your kids to play more and stare at a screen less, let’s go over the positive effect of limiting technology in your home…

  • My kids get along much better.
     
  • They are more grateful. What I mean by this is that my kids seem to appreciate what they have more. They play with each other better, seeming more grateful for their siblings, and they come up with new games to play together. They are more grateful for their Legos and blocks and simple toys that were "boring" before we limited toys and technology. Their imaginations and creativity expand.
  • They spend their time reading, creating art, running around outside, making up games and stories together, reading stories - independently and with you.

  • They just seem a lot happier. They are less moody/cranky/irritable - no withdrawal symptoms.

  • You are empowering your children to connect with nature, the seasons and real people.

  • You are teaching self-discipline through example- carving out specific times that screens are appropriate and disengaging at times when they are unneeded- prioritizing your life and time without wasting it.

  • You are creating more time to be together as a family.

  • When you are clear with the boundaries you decrease whining, bargaining or constant negotiating.

  • They are allowed to be kids! This means more messes, more energy to be expelled, more attention required from you as the parent but you are gifting them their childhood. They are not chained to a screen for your benefit- this limitation is actually totally freeing for them.

Okay, so you’re convinced. But…. how do you start? When you realize your kids are spending way too much time with screens and you know you want to begin limiting, what do you do exactly? Sit back and take a deep breath, girl, cause I gotcho back.

How to Get Started

1) Get clear on your family’s values.

You can’t copy mine or ask your neighbor about her’s. You need to be deeply connected to what matters to you for your family. Grab a journal or open a note in your phone (See? Technology isn’t all bad, it can be super helpful!) and write out what matters a lot to you. How do you want your kids to grow up?

Some of my biggest values are:

  • That my kids have wild imaginations and know how to play like kids should
  • That my home be a beautiful haven we all love spending time in

  • That my kids see my husband and I intentionally spending lots of time together

  • The pursuit of minimalism in our home, calendar, and lifestyle

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts from it.
— Joshua Becker

Get the picture? Now go and do this for yourself. Without a clear picture of what matters most to you, you’ll find it impossible to implement new rules and boundaries, especially when your kids push back. You need a super solid why in order to be in this for the long haul.

2) Decide how you’re going to do this.

You can go about the pursuit of less technology a couple of different ways. You can do a full-fledged detox and not have any in your home for a set amount of time, or you can slowly pull back from it, limiting it more and more as time goes on until you hit your personal sweet spot.

Personally, I think a detox is incredibly beneficial for most families, especially if you’re reading this post and feeling the tug to take action. A detox doesn’t have to be super long or extremely painful. My advice is one week of no screens (or as few screens as possible if you need them for school).

One week is a great amount of time because it’s just enough to reset your kids’ brains. Just know that if you reintroduce your old tech habits after this detox, you’re going to undo all your hard work, so be sure to reintroduce technology on a very limited basis. For example, Netflix and video games for one hour on weekends only, or whatever similar boundary feels good to you.

3) Plan your first screen-free day.

Grab that journal again and come up with a gameplan, girl.

  • How are you going to find a moment for yourself?

  • How will you handle “witching hour” when you and everyone else in your house are just done.

  • How will you help your kids find media alternatives?

Without a plan you are much more likely to cave, drink an entire bottle of wine, and think I’m a jerk for even suggesting the idea of a tech detox. We don’t want any of those things….

4) Create a connected and consistent family rhythm.

Rhythms in your day help everyone feel at peace. The kids know what to expect, you know your day is already somewhat planned and you aren’t trying to come up with on-the-spot entertainment for your kids. How will you fill your day? What are you going to do with each time block?

Start with the blocks that are filled for you - school and work hours, meal times, nap time, etc. From there, come up with ideas of how to fill your day with intentional, family rhythms.

Another thing to think about is balancing inside play and outside play. This can help you find a consistent rhythm for your kids’ play because it feels like a transition. Instead of just two hours of straight playtime, you can guide them to play for a bit in their playroom, then outside, then in the living room while you prepare lunch. It doesn’t take much to change things up!

5) Help your kids get into their play.

We can’t go about life doing things one way and then rip the carpet out from under our kids and expect them to know exactly what to do and how to be, right? Nah, that’s not gonna work! We can, however, gently guide them and offer them alternatives and new ideas. #MommingSoHard

  • Give your kids something tactile and new to play with

  • Provide them with a clean, uncluttered space to play in #minimalism

  • Have open-ended, simple toys on hand (think Legos, blocks, puzzles, dress up clothes, art supplies)

  • Be prepared to spend more time with your kids as they re-learn how to play

6) Set yourself up for success.

How are you going to handle this big change? You have to be prepared and equipped, and that takes a little preparation.

We talked a couple points ago about deciding how you’re going to have a moment to yourself in order to go the length of a full day without relying on technology. Here are some ideas:

  • Seek support from your “village” by reaching out to a relative or friend to come over, break up the day, and help a girl out!

  • Lay the foundation for good self-care or “quiet time” by setting time for yourself before the day even starts. This way, you sort of give yourself a “moment” before you need it, and it can really help!

  • Make sure you have a strong bedtime routine. This will give you the evenings to yourself.

  • Get outside. One of my favorite things to do when I feel overwhelmed and stretched super thin with my kids is head to the park with my headphones. I listen to music or an encouraging podcast while they play on the playground and I watch. Win win.

  • Play an audio story to give the kids something calm to entertain them while you drink some coffee and take a break. We love Story Nory!

  • Make or prepare dinner early. This gives you a break during one of the hardest, busiest times of the day.

7) Set up a home that allows you to be a present mom.

It’s hard to ditch technology and apply family rhythms when you’re overwhelmed by a long to-do list, endless chores, and that feeling of dread you get when you know you’ve got tons to do but are spending time with your family instead. I want you to be able to pour into your kids and know your house is maintained without you having to constantly catch up. Believe me, it IS possible!

Here’s how it works:

the clutter cycle

When our homes are cluttered, we have more to clean. When we have more to clean, we feel an inner overwhelm and a pressure to keep up. We wind up feeling like we are always cleaning, and unable to pause and spend quality time with our children unless we are willing to pay the price later on - catching up on the housework.

I used to tell my kids to “go play” almost constantly! I realized it just really wasn’t the type of mom I wanted to be. I’m all for unentitled kids who know how to play, and my kids do- they use nearly all their free time to make up stories and games and play with each other, but sometimes, especially when you first start this or your kids are very young, they need a little help. I started saying “let’s play” a little more often, and some of my sweetest memories were born out of that switch.

What takes up your space takes up YOU.

  • Less stuff, more joy.

  • Less chaos, more peace.

  • Less busyness, more intentionality.

I used to be a very unhappy mom. I struggled with depression, I always felt overwhelmed and like I couldn’t keep up with all that was on my plate. Every day felt like a battle I lost.

I noticed I was spending the bulk of my time wrangling the kids’ toys, so one day I decided to get rid of almost all of them. All the useless toys that were doing the imagining for my kids, all the mismatched pieces of toys, everything except toys that inspired creativity and constructive play was donated or thrown away.

I noticed an immediate shift in our home. My kids began to display the benefits of an intentional home. I brought my new minimalist outlook into the rest of my house and my whole life changed.

Suddenly my to-do list was much shorter on a regular basis, the laundry didn’t need to be done every day (even with six of us in the house) because I had also purged our clothes down to only what we needed, the house was almost always picked up and ready for company to drop by, and that was a great feeling.

I had so much free time! I was able to play with my kids, take them on hikes, pour into them, homeschool them, even start a business from home (something I never would have been able to add to my plate before minimalism) and I was so much less stressed. I finally felt like I was looking more like the mom I wanted to be.

A life of less freed me and allowed me to be more intentional, more present with my family, and to fulfill some life-long dreams as well!

Eliminating the clutter and the chaos in your home gives you a firm foundation for raising unplugged kids because you are more able to pour into them! You’re able to be centered, calm, at peace with yourself and much less stressed. You’re freed up to replace some of the TV time with family adventures, sitting outside together, playing together - better things than sitting in front of a show.


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Feeling like this is totally you?

Let me help you get started! Download my FREE Minimalism Starter Kit.

It's designed by me to help you find freedom, white space, and more joy in your home. Free your motherhood and give yourself the gift of more time with your family!

Don't give stuff that kind of power in your life. 

 

 


I want you to feel capable as this long post comes to an end. This doesn’t have to be a burden, a stress, or scary. Let it set you free to confidently and happily limit technology, throw away the crutch in your motherhood (do we really want to go through this thing relying on Paw Patrol to babysit whenever we get uptight?) and step into present, sweet, abundant life as you raise your sweet babies.

You were chosen out of every woman who has ever lived in any generation for all of time, to be the mother of your children.

- Allie Casazza

Three Lessons I Learned the Hard Way as a Minimalist Mama

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A guest post from Lisa Avellan of Simple & Soul

Minimalism isn’t about the stuff we get rid of; it’s about the life we uncover.  That lesson came hard and fast in my minimalist journey.

In fact, minimalism swept up my old life with such a fury that I hardly had a chance to properly welcome the new me – you know, with a bottle of wine and a pedicure.  It was more like a pressure wash of the soul, as if to test the resilience of my resolve to take back my motherhood.

Everything I thought motherhood would be had faded behind the constant to-dos and the overwhelming pressure to lose the weight, wear the brands, play the part, volunteer and participate, play-dates and socialization… I couldn’t get comfortable in the role of my lifetime as Mom.

I stepped into minimalism expecting more time and energy to spend with my kids and husband and what I got was an overhaul of my identity – my soul came alive. 

My soul awoke to all the ways it hadn’t been living fully, and it pushed me into a series of reboots and refreshes and power downs and restarts. And thank God it did because now I know what minimalism is really about.

There was a lot of stuff we decluttered and donated, and we were free of the excess, clutter, and overwhelm in our home.  But I also found freedom from living in that place of expectation and comparison and performance.  It was hard, really hard – still is sometimes – but these three have been the most grounding and liberating experiences minimalism has given me:

3 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

1.     I am only this moment.

When I detached my worth from the things I owned and my need for validation from out there I had to sit with my soul in its rawest moments. Exposed and tender, I battled guilt for having abandoned it for so many years and shame for having believed I wasn’t worth more than the things I owned or activities I planned.

It was in this process that I learned I can’t be anything other than what I am in this moment.  I spent most of my moments either in shame or regret of the past or in worry and preparation for the future.  I was missing the life happening in front of me, the only moments I could do anything with.

I can only be this moment, this breath God has given me. I began asking questions like who am I in this moment? What can I bring to this present that will matter in the next?

Every moment is a possibility for the soul.   That means this moment – any moment – is sacred space to become fully present; aware of the opportunity for something really amazing.

2.     I become whole by emptying myself.

I had to learn what whole meant for me. Before minimalism it meant fitting in, receiving validation from others, and being self-sufficient. Simplifying showed me those beliefs were the cracks where my joy and purpose leaked out.

The more I emptied drawers and cupboards and toy bins I felt renewed, filled up with a whole spirit of simply becoming myself.  It turned out, the security I’d been searching for by buying and doing and comparing was within me the whole time. It was buried underneath all the things I filled my home and life with.

The joy of surrender – ceasing to resist the spirit within me – was the key to becoming the mother I hoped I could be.  The pouring out was filling the cracks with light.  Not only was I able to be present and available for my girls, I was confident that the light-filled cracks mapped the way to the center of my best self.

3.     I am not perfect.

I didn’t realize it, but I was striving for perfection as a mother.  I was determined to spare my girls the struggles that burned inside of me.  I’d never say a negative word about my body out loud, but my internal voice body shamed me constantly. I’d plan the perfect birthday party and justify the cost later. I’d always be happy and willing to help but inside I was depressed and introverted out.  I determined I’d never show my vulnerabilities to my girl, for fear they’d adopt them for themselves.

Perfectionism was killing me. Inside, I hated my body, I spent money we didn’t have, and I couldn’t admit that I needed space and quiet to recharge.  But I thought I had to be perfect to give my kids the mother they deserve.

Minimalism taught me to embrace my imperfections, to find the lessons in them. I stopped being afraid to fail and stepped into not getting everything right so that I can get right on grace.

Getting rid of the things is a tool to recover what’s been inside all along. The life we hope for isn’t out there waiting for us to do enough or be enough to have it, its right there – under that list of to-do’s and weight of expectations.

It’s in the moments we least expect, when we open ourselves to experience the now, the present, and the perfect imperfections of becoming minimalist mamas.

10 Ways to Simplify Your Groceries & Meal Planning

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I have kind of a funny history with meal planning and cooking. The thing is, I always hated it. When Brian worked his dawn-to-midnight job, I was super overwhelmed. I would get to dinner time and be...done, to say the very least. Dinner often meant cereal or protein plates or snacking around because Brian was the only one who really cared, and he was very rarely home for dinner.

Fast forward to last year when we lived in Arkansas and I started my business. Brian’s job was less hours and he was usually home for dinner, which meant more cooking for me. However, I really needed time to work as I grew my business. Things very quickly moved forward and it became a full-time thing.

In order for me to focus on what was most important in that season of our family’s life, we decided that Brian would take over dinner time and all things grocery. He’s basically a chef and enjoys cooking, so it made the most sense for us.

We lived that way for about a year, and now here we are, back in our home state of California with a thriving business that I am no longer running myself (I have five amazing team members I delegate tasks to) and I have taken back the part of my role that entails meal planning and preparing.

I actually started to miss it! Preparing food for my family is important to me and something that makes me feel good, even if it wasn’t elaborate. Plus, I never want to stay stagnant in any area of my life. If I suck at cooking then I want to get better, so I am.

Now that we have the business to run together (Brian does all media work, so he’s actually busier than I am most days), plus four kids, a house, and extracurricular activities to juggle, it’s more important than ever that I keep this area of my life streamlined.

Brian has taken up Crossfit recently and is even training for a competition, so he needs A LOT of food prepped and ready to grab and go. He also needs big meals to provide the protein, energy, and stamina his body needs to perform during his workouts.

I can’t have gluten, have to be careful with dairy, and generally have to eat extremely clean because of my gut and skin issues.

All of this is enough to be super intimidating for someone who took a year off and is already not a natural at this area of homemaking, but I’ve figured out a pretty solid routine (thank the good Lord), and since I get asked about this a lot, I’m sharing my tips with you today!

10 Ways to Simplify Your Groceries + Meal Planning

1. Choose a few pre-planned meals, just get staple ingredients for the others.

I think a lot of us feel the need to know exactly what we’ll be serving for dinner every day of the week. If that works for you, stick with it! But for me, I’m a little too sporadic for that, and whenever I plan my week that way we end up not cooking one or two of the planned dinners and groceries get wasted.

So now, I only choose about three exact dinners, and then get basic ingredients like chicken breast, bacon, sweet potato and other veggies to make a spur-of-the-moment, simple meal the other nights.

I might also make those other nights a repeat meal that we have all the time, like tacos.

2. Get all your planning done in one day each week.

Every Sunday night, I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down with a notebook, my cookbooks, and a pen. I choose my meals, make a shopping list, and map out exactly what I’ll be buying for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.

I make sure I’m planning all the way through the following Monday (the day I shop) which leads me to….

3. Choose another day for all shopping.

On Mondays, I do my grocery shopping. What isn’t being delivered by Amazon Fresh (more on that below) is purchased and ready for the week.

4. Prep immediately after shopping whenever possible.

Instead of bringing in groceries and putting them straight in the fridge, I’ve started washing and slicing and prepping everything as soon as I’m home from my errands.

I got this handy trick from my new favorite book by Brooke Sailer, (I’m Failing At) This Thing Called Home.

5. Food prep, don’t meal prep.

Meal prepping may totally work for you, but it doesn’t for us! We’ve found that food prepping is much more doable. Food prepping looks like sauteed potatoes, sliced fruit, cooked and shredded chicken, baked sweet potato fries, all stored in the fridge, ready to use. It’s pieces of meals that you can grab, reheat, and eat based on what sounds good and how much time you have.

6. Base it on your schedule.

If you know Wednesday nights are super crazy for your family, have that be a Crockpot or take-out night every week.

7. Keep a running list of everything you’re out of.

This one is obvious and overstated, but worth saying one more time! My list is on my fridge and in my phone. I check both on Sunday nights when making my shopping lists.

8. Amazon Subscribe + Save and Amazon Fresh.

Amazon is KILLING IT. They just bought Whole Foods, so more organic goodness is surely coming our way, and they now offer subscriptions for your most-used food and household items. Some things on my Subscribe + Save account include; toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, snack bars, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning sprays.

With Amazon Fresh, you can do your grocery shopping from your couch (if it’s offered in your city) and get organic fruits, veggies, and pretty much anything. Amazing!

9. Don’t overthink it. Know what works!

Don’t over complicate meal planning because it’s daunting or you dislike it. Streamline, simplify, cut out the things that aren’t working and stick to what is.

10. Stop being afraid of repeating meals.

No shame in repeats, yo. I know a friend who rotates ten meals, exactly that way, all the time. It’s been that way for years and her family has no complaints. It’s easier for her, too! Win win. If that works for you, embrace it and count yourself as one of the lucky ones!

Other Things That Work For Our Family

- Prepped food becomes lunch plates we can fix up in less than ten minutes.

- Breakfasts are the same meals rotated.

  1. Coffee and a bar (cereal for kids)

  2. Smoothies

  3. “Big healthy plates” (this is what we call eggs topped with avocado, uncured bacon, grilled tomatoes with salt and pepper, and sweet potato hash).

  4. Pancakes + bacon (GF, of course!)

- Bars instead of lunch for the really busy, on-the-go kind of days (our favorites are Lara and RX).

- Prepped foods that work on-the-go.

  • Fresh sliced fruits
  • Grilled chicken (cold in a Ziplock)
  • Snackable veggies

- We always have a couple easy/frozen meals on hand for “emergencies”. Like when the babysitter shows up on time and you were so excited for date night that you forgot you have kids….

  • Mac + Cheese
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Frozen pizzas

- I (try to) always have kid & adult snacks as well as water bottles in my bag or in the car.

Phew! That pretty much sums up what I’ve been doing to keep meal preparation as simple as possible with four kids and a Crossfit hubby. I hope it inspires and helps you!

What do you do to simplify meals in your house? Let me know in the comments!

How to Do A Digital Declutter

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When we think of decluttering we often picture our clothes, our kid’s toys, or other stuff in our home. But how often do you take the time to look at all of your digital clutter? 

I think that a lot of the time digital clutter gets forgotten because it isn’t physically in front of your face. It doesn’t often bother you until you open your computer, or start looking for a file only to stop halfway through because you’re so frustrated with being unable to find anything you’ve saved on your computer’s hard drive.

It’s about time that we stop ignoring the digital clutter and instead use the digital world in a way that can not only keep our online world in sync and organized, but also help us declutter our homes.

Are you familiar with cloud storage?

I’m sure that the majority of you are. It is a magical way that you can begin digitizing your family’s life, plus when you have everything stored virtually it becomes really really easy to share files and pictures with just a few clicks.

However, just like the junk drawer in your kitchen, without a system in place it can easily become a complete disaster. Systems aren’t just for physical things, mama!

Create a System for How You Will Organize Your Files

There’s no right or wrong, here. Just create a way to organize your files that makes sense to you. Maybe you organize by purpose, so: work, family, recreation, etc. Or, you could even organize based on events, vacation, parties, family, etc. Or, get really basic and just organize by month and year. Honestly the sky’s the limit, as long as you choose ONE consistent way that suits you best.

One thing to note, please don’t overcomplicate things! Just don’t do it to yourself!

For example, choosing to save everything by day or week will likely lead to burnout. You’ll get so sick of having to go in and label and file everything by the appropriate date.

By grouping the types of folders needed together, you’ll make it easier to keep up with. And, the biggest part of living in a minimalist way is to be able to enjoy life more, not create more burdens.

An example would be to start with the year, and then branch off from there. So...

2017 > September > Family > Photos
2017 > September > Family > Documents
2017 > September > Vacation > Photos
2017 > September > Vacation > Documents

Of course you can always come back and change anything, but if you use a method you really love from the beginning, it will help you stick to the method for the long-haul, and help remove the headache of needing to start from scratch down the road.

Resist Saving Every File

Just like it is unnecessary to save every piece of mail that you receive, it is unnecessary to save every digital file.

Take the time to go through what you already have saved, maybe take 30 minutes a day. Move everything that are MUST KEEPS into the appropriate folders so that you can easily find pictures, documents, etc in the future, whenever you might need them.

I’m sure it goes without saying, but it isn’t worth saving every blurry image, or a video that is inaudible, but at the same time don’t blindly start deleting files. Doing that could lead to accidentally losing something important or sentimental.

Then, once you’ve completed your file purge, be sure to periodically check-in to be sure you aren’t allowing clutter to build-up again. Make time to go in weekly, to quickly move things into their corresponding folder. If you keep up with this process, it shouldn’t take much time at all!

Awesome! Hopefully you’re starting to feel like your digital life can be easily brought under control. Remember, nothing needs to happen immediately, take it step by step.

Your Beloved Photos

These days it is SO easy to take and keep pictures. You no longer need to buy rolls of film, nor do you need to get them developed. Now, it’s as simple as plugging your SD card into your computer, or going to the camera roll on your phone.

However, with the ease of taking photos, comes the overwhelming urge to keep every single one. But, mama, that just isn’t necessary!

The days fly by, and your children grow up fast, but you really don’t need 8 pictures of the same scene at your daughter’s birthday party.

Instead, here’s my advice, if you have an excessive amount of photos on your phone or on your SD card, go through some each day.

If you have many different shots from about the same moment, choose ONE to keep, make it your favorite one, or the one that makes you laugh, or it can even be the one where you feel the prettiest, but make it JUST ONE.

Once you’ve pared down all of the ones on your phone and on any other storage device you have, you need to upload these to your cloud storage, using the method you chose above.

Stick to the system you created. It will make the images easier to find later on, plus you’ll keep everything clutter free!

Love Your Children’s Artwork Without It Taking Up Space

Let’s face it, our kids will be creating and bringing home artwork for many many years to come. And, we love it all! We love the little reindeer heads made out of baby feet, and the quickly colored pages that were created during library story hour, but our homes just do not allow us to keep everything.

Here are two things that I recommend you try doing.

1. Use a Folder.

Have a folder where you keep all of your children’s artwork (one for each child), but every piece of art into that folder. Then, at the end of each month, go through it with your child.

Have them choose their favorite piece that they want to keep, and then you get to choose 1 piece that you want to keep.

2. Store Digitally

Once you’ve gone through each piece once, go through them a second time choosing some of the best, or some of your favorite ones and start storing them using an app like ARTKIVE or canvsly.

This way you are able to store their work forever, without it taking up a substantial amount of space in your kitchen.

3. Ditch the rest (and the guilt).

I know, I know. It seems impossible to get rid of anything that your children create. You worry you’ll miss that one single item, but it is completely unnecessary to keep every single piece.

By completing the previous two steps, you’re allowing yourself to remove the guilt from getting rid of the papers with just a few scribbles, or stickers on it.

Replace DVDs with a Way to Watch Videos Online

Now, I want to talk about a potential eyesore in your home-- The spot where all of your DVDs are housed. Kids love movies and cartoons, and even if they don’t watch a ton, allowing them to watch it on occasion is necessary, things need to get done around the house, and let’s be honest, sometimes mama just needs a break.

The great thing is that there’s no longer a need to keep every single DVD. With services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu you can find many of the popular cartoons and older movies there, without needing to house the physical disc in your home.

You might then be asking, what about all of the new movies that I’ve purchased, but aren’t available anywhere else?

Well, there are a couple of different things you can do, many new videos come with codes that can then be used to download digital copies on apps like VUDU. And, if you no longer have those codes, or it’s an old movie that didn’t come with one (and it isn’t available on Netflix), you can always buy a digital copy. Spending the extra money may not be your favorite thing to do, but if it helps to remove the dreaded clutter and it is one of your children’s favorite movies, it might be worth the splurge.

You could also allow your children to choose 2 or 3 movies each. Find or purchase those movies digitally, and then donate the rest.

It can be tough to get rid of beloved DVDs, or gorgeous pieces of your children’s artwork, but if they are taking up space that is leading to a clutter problem, which in turn causes you stress, it’s time to buckle down and go through everything. With the advancement in tech these days, it makes it pretty easy to keep the items that mean the most to you, nearby.

How do you digitally declutter? Leave a comment and let me know!

10 Ways Minimalism Helps the Very Busy On-the-Go Family

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Motherhood is a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. As my kids get older, go to school, and realize the activities that interest them (and in turn, sign up for them) I find that my life just gets fuller and fuller.

I really enjoy having a full schedule. I’m an introvert, and I love being home, but I don’t like doing nothing. I need one “nothing” day per week. That usually means going to church on Sunday morning, eating lunch and then enjoying a family nap and a leisurely afternoon with my family. Other than the occasional need for a week off, I truly thrive when my calendar is full and my days are packed with a life lived on purpose.

Kelsey and I talked on the podcast recently about how the idea of “a simple life” doesn’t really appeal to either of us, and the difference between a simple life and simplicity applied to each area of your life. If you want to listen to that episode, click here

When you have kids who are interested in sports, activities, and extra classes, your schedule will get full fast! Unless this goes against your core values for your life and your family, this is a good thing! Kids are so much fun and motherhood is something to be celebrated in every season.

There’s a big difference in being too busy and in simply having a full life. Embrace where you’re at and if you find yourself overwhelmed, find ways to simplify wherever you can.

Minimalism is one way to do this.

I started my journey to minimalism while I was in the baby phase of my motherhood.  I was a stay-at-home mom who spent lots of time at home (usually with no bra because #momlife) and I didn’t have a lot else going on. I had three kids under three, and my babies were all-consuming. That’s the season I was in, and minimalism helped me in different ways than it does now.

It kept me afloat and simplified my to do list in a very chaotic, uncontrollable time of my life when babies dictated everything, all the way down to how much sleep I got.

Now my “baby” is almost three and we’ve got baseball, horseback lessons, a business to run, meetings and media interviews each week, photo and video shoots on a regular basis, and minimalism helps me even more now.

No matter how many kids you have and what season of motherhood you’re in, minimalism lifts a huge burden you may not even know you’ve been carrying. It’s such a gift! I think it’s especially helpful for the family with a full calendar. Let’s talk about how!

10 Ways Minimalism Helps the Very Busy On-the-Go Family

1. You spend a lot less time cleaning.

Like, a lot less time. I typically spend about 30 min a day maintaining my house (which I prefer to be very clean) and we have a weekly cleaning day as a family that usually ends up lasting less than two hours. That’s it.

2. Your house is always ready for people to come over.

When another mom from the soccer team stops by to drop off your son’s forgotten knee pads, you can invite her inside without throwing a bunch of mess in the closet. When your church asks for volunteers to host Bible Study, you can raise your hand and be confident that it won’t be a panicked screaming match between you and no one else who cares as you clean all the things the night before every week.

3. You have more time to actually enjoy this season of your family.

You can be present. Imagine that!

4. Your life is way less stressful.

Managing a family meal plan, running errands, and playing chauffeur is a full time job on its own, and these things will stress you out a lot less if you don't also have a house full of junk you’re constantly picking up.

5. Your kids aren’t overstimulated.

Scientific studies done all over the globe have shown us time and time again that kids don’t function well when they have a lot of options surrounding them. A cluttered room to come home to after a long day of school full of toys and junk they don’t even use just isn’t good for them. Add in screen time and long school days… no wonder they’re in terrible moods sometimes! Simplify their space. They’ll be in better moods in general and they’ll start enjoying their days a lot more (and you will too).

6. Your life is centered around relationships, not stuff.

No explanation needed.

7. When you want to say “yes” to something, you usually can.

When you’re not bogged down by a ton of home maintenance time, you’re a lot freer to be involved in the things you want to be involved in. You can volunteer more, spend more time with your kids, help your community more….you get the picture!

8. It teaches your kids to enjoy experiences over things.

I think we all want our kids to grow up knowing the value of living a good life, of experiences. None of us wish our kids would grow up materialistic. Minimalism draws all attention to relationships, family, and spending time living life.

9. You know where everything is.

When you live out minimalism, there’s a lot less time spent looking for things! Every mom knows how frustrating it is to desperately need to find your daughter’s other cleat and be fifteen minutes late to practice because it was wrapped up in a blanket behind the sofa. Less stuff means less mess, less chaos, less clutter, and more owning your space and what’s in it.

10. Less decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a real thing, and it sucks. All the little decisions like what to wear, when should I clean the bathroom are made a lot less overwhelming when there’s simply less stuff. A smaller wardrobe means less choices (you weren’t wearing 80% of it anyway). These little tweaks in your home really add up to a totally different life! Trust me, I’ve seen it in my own life and I see it every day in my business ;)

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Ready to unburden yourself? 

This small, straightforward course is everything for the mom who feels like she needs a total overhaul, but is too overwhelmed to start.

Huge, Major, World-Changing Announcement!

I’m a big believer in the power of words and the power of prayer. At different points in my life, I have seen both totally transform people, circumstances, and relationships. I am truly honored and excited to share one of those times with you today!

About a year and a half ago, I was working on turning my little hobby blog into a business. I wanted to do more- to start a movement among women everywhere.

I prayed that God would help me take the right steps forward, and gave everything over to Him. Mothers from all over the globe began joining my community and experiencing the freedom of simplicity. It was record-breaking website growth, and it had zero to do with me.

A little while into this growth, I realized this is so much bigger than me. This isn’t my thing, it’s God’s. This isn’t my business, it’s His.

Feeling the weight of responsibility in leading this tribe, I started praying over the women I was reaching, and God laid something very specific and powerful on my heart. It was a sort of oath, a mission that I knew was to be kept in my heart as I worked, grew, and expanded my reach.


I am using you to change the world with this twice - once with this message for mothers everywhere, and again with the revenue this business creates.


Those words rested on me - both heavy and freeing at the same time - and they haven’t left me since.

As things continued to flourish, my community began to feel too big. My Facebook group hosted over 30,000 members, and although that’s amazing and I’m so happy to get this message to so many mamas, it started to feel impossible to connect with people on a more personal level.

My fellow women are my heart. I serve the mothers of the world and they are who I feel a pull toward. While I want to reach as many of them as I possibly can, I also want to be able to connect with them on a little bit of a deeper level. I want to lead them in reaching specific goals, making real, tangible changes in their lives that lead to less stress and more joy.

At this point, I felt it on my heart to start a paid version of my community - a membership program. This would provide a smaller community within my community where women could join me in monthly focus areas and we could work together toward goals in a space that feels a little tighter-knit.

The words echoed in my head every time I thought about the idea, and it wouldn’t leave me alone.

I am using you to change the world with this twice - once with this message for mothers everywhere, and again with the revenue this business creates.

As I prayed about how to work out the kinks in making this new project happen, it hit me.

Women empowering women. That’s what this needed to be, in more ways than one, and suddenly it all fell perfectly into place in my head, and I knew exactly what to do.

And so, friends, I am so very happy and honored to announce to you, my community that I love so much, The Purpose Society.

The Purpose Society is a monthly membership program designed to help moms with full lives get intentional, reach their goals, simplify, and live well.

Instead of sporadically trying to balance it all and change all the things, we focus on one area of life per month so you are reaching goals and making steady progress, all while connecting with like-minded women around the world in an exclusive community. 

Mothers are literally raising up the world. We are raising the future, and how we live out this role, what we do, how we feel, the way we spend our time and what we focus on… it matters so much!

We are changing the world, girls. That’s what The Purpose Society is all about.

And then what happens? We change the world again. 

Through my new Society, I’ve partnered with International Sanctuary in order to free women around the globe caught in sex trafficking. These girls are not living well, they are not living their abundant life, and they need our help.

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In the Society, we are action takers, warriors, and we make things happen.

We don’t let the blessed role of motherhood become an obligation, we create a life we love and we live it well, tweaking it as needed to be simple and awesome and beautiful, not a burden.

We don’t watch our fellow women get mistreated, neglected, abused, and harmed. We DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. We put our money where our mouths are and we fight back, hard.

In the Purpose Society, we change the world twice - once with the way we do motherhood, and again with our money.

And that is incredibly powerful, friends.

Here are the details of joining:

  • It’s $15 per month (there is a yearly option in which you get one month free).

  • It’s a totally separate website and community, but still a branch of my business of course.

  • Each month, I choose a different focus area and we all work on that area of our lives together. There is strength in numbers and power in sisterhood, so get ready to see some real results!

  • Every month you get all kinds of things - video, checklists, calendars, worksheets - all designed by me and my team to help you take action and implement real changes in your life.

  • 10% of monthly revenue created from this Society goes to International Sanctuary to help them fund more safe houses for girls enslaved. Once we have 2400 women enrolled, we will give 20% of revenue thereafter. Let’s make this HUGE for them!

There is so much more information on the website, so if you want to read more, head right over here and find out what you need to know.

Let me encourage you though… there is never going to be a perfect time to start making changes in your motherhood. It’s always going to be “too busy” or “too tight” or “just not right now”.

Let me encourage you to stop the cycle of never getting anywhere new and say your time is NOW! The doors are open and they are not opening again until well into next year.

So are you coming with us?

The doors just flung wide open, but they close quickly. Enrollments are happening, and I want you to be one of them!

 

 

This is it, friend.

It’s just $15 a month and that’s going to change for the next round.

Get in here, join us, make changes and be a part of changing the world for women everywhere!

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Packing Your Diaper Bag the Minimalist Way

A guest post from Kelsey Van Kirk of Simply, Life On Purpose

Something that can feel really intimidating and challenging to do is practice minimalism as a mama with a kid (or four!) in tow.

When it’s our job every day to show up and be responsible for small people who haven’t yet learned how to care for and fend for themselves, it’s easy to go overboard thinking we need to do and have #allthethings in order to keep it together as a mom.

Case in point: the overstuffed diaper bag!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a poor mom hunched over, lugging a ginormous diaper bag filled to overflowing with who knows what, while carrying a baby carrier and grasping her toddler’s hand as she simply tries to make it into the store for some groceries.

Poor, sweet mama - I just want to run up, take that diaper bag off her shoulder, give her a big ‘ol hug and tell her she doesn’t need to carry all this weight around with her through motherhood!

This overwhelmed, overburdened picture of motherhood has become the commonplace expectation for many women - and ladies, it needs to stop!

We think that, because we are moms, we have to live up to Mary Poppins-level standards by being prepared for everything and ready to handle any possible calamity with a sweet smile and snappy song.

(Random side note: can we all take a deep breath and remember ourselves that Mary Poppins wasn’t even a mom!!)

We’ve grown to believe that being “supermom” is the standard of expectation….and anything less would mean that we are less.

And so, we pack in more and take on more, trying desperately to be more for our kids and our families.

That is, until the weight breaks us and we completely fall apart (which is NOT what abundant motherhood is all about, friend!)

So, back to the point...diaper bags. How does one approach packing a diaper bag with a “less is more” perspective, so you’re prepared with what you’ll need, without being overburdened by anything unnecessary?

I’d say the answer is by following these three guiding principles:

1. Pack only what you’ll need and use

This, in my mind, is kind of what minimalism is all about….tuning in and being mindful to only give space in your life to the things that are necessary, useful and loved.

Take a few moments to mindfully consider what you actually need anytime you go out with baby in tow.

Better yet, maybe think about it like this: if you were stranded somewhere without your diaper bag, what are the things you’d be seriously missing?

Make a quick little list of the staples you want to keep in your diaper bag at all times, that way getting out the door with your kiddo(s) isn’t a bigger ordeal than it has to be.

2. Don’t let fear or worry drive your decision-making

Something I’ve found as a mother myself, and in observing other mamas, is that too often we allow our decision-making in motherhood to be driven by fear and worry.

We want what’s best for our kids (and honestly, for ourselves too) and the idea of being in scary, uncomfortable or inconvenient situations isn’t pleasant.

So, we’ll often go overboard trying to avoid any possible unpleasantness by over preparing and overpacking….you know, just in case.

Friend, let me ask you how many times those “just in case” moments actually happen?

Let me ask you something else: have you proven yourself capable of making it through those “just in case” moments, relatively unscathed?

Here is the truth: you will never be able to predict and foresee the future, so stop trying!

Being mindful and prepared is one of the hallmarks of purposeful motherhood, and I highly recommend it.

Just don’t let fear and worry steal your peace and make you do crazy things….like pack enough stuff in your diaper bag to last you a full 2-week vacation!
 

3. Learn to let go

We don’t live in a perfect world. Your kids aren’t perfect, you aren’t perfect, and your diaper bag won’t always be 100% perfectly what you need every time.

The sooner you can learn to let go of the things you can’t control, and be okay with showing up and doing your best, and can trust in your ability to do hard things and push through challenges when they arise…..the happier and lighter you’ll feel as you continue to journey through motherhood.

It’s time to dump that back-breaking diaper bag out, and let it all gooooooo!

Diaper Bag Essentials for the Minimalist Mama

Now, since I know that the reason you clicked on this post is because you really just want someone to tell you what to put in your dang diaper bag, I’ve got you covered ;)

Here’s a quick checklist of things I recommend packing to make sure all your bases are covered without being excessive.

  • Keys, wallet & phone

  • Small toiletry bag for mom (chapstick, hand sanitizer, female “supplies”)

  • Diapers & wipes

  • Changing pad

  • Outfit for baby in a large ziplock bag (to put soiled clothes in)

  • Burp cloth

  • Nursing cover (if breastfeeding)

  • Bottle with water & ziplock with formula (if formula feeding)

  • Snack for baby (if solid feeding)

  • Water bottle & snack for mom (snack bars or trail mix are great)

  • Pacifier (if you use them)

That’s it! Of course every mama, baby and family are different, but this is a good checklist of the basics that will see you through on an everyday basis while running errands and taking care of business with your little ones in tow.

What about you? Are there any diaper bag essentials you love and swear by that didn’t make the list? Share with us in the comments below!

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To help you get started on your journey with purposeful simplicity, click here to download my FREE Simplicity Starter Kit, a workbook and resource guide designed to help you simplify your life today so you can experience more peace, purpose and joy every day.


Kelsey Van Kirk is a blessed wife, mama to four beauties, writer, podcaster, and joy-seeker on a mission to help women embrace purposeful simplicity in everyday living. She is the Founder of Simply, Life on Purpose, Co-Host of The Purposeful Home Podcast, and a lover of good books, good wine, and salty sea breeze. You can connect with Kelsey more on Facebook, Instagram or in her online community, The Simply Life on Purpose Sisterhood.

Tips For Decorating A Rental

Leather flower pouf: Etsy
Leather sofa: Overstock
Teal love seat: World Market
Coffee table: Threshold for Target
Gold side table: Target
Rug: Target

I don’t know much about interior design, but I do love to decorate. My goal is always to have my home feel very me. I want to spend my time in a space that I love, that inspires my writing, that makes me happy to take photos of my family inside. I need to feel really good about how my home looks, even if it’s not perfect.

I can’t stand having plain walls or temporary furniture that I don’t love. My home is very important to me, and I want my family to feel safe and cozy here. I also want to make sure that I like what I see and that I spend my days in a place that shows my personality and style.

I don’t know how one would officially describe my decorating, but I like to think of it as cozy and modern. I appreciate white, straight lines, and trend. I also appreciate cozy throw pillows, a shelf full of books, and a couch you can curl up in. I never want my family or my guests to feel like they can’t come in and relax.

Since I’ve been getting asked a lot about my decor as we’ve been transitioning out of full-time travel and into our little apartment (a temporary home while we figure out what we want in terms of buying or renting), I thought I’d show it off a little and share where I bought things and how I decided how to style the main areas.

Since this is a very temporary home (and an apartment), we couldn’t change much about it. Instead of finding creative ways to cover the things we don’t like, which is what we usually do when we know we’re staying longer-term, I found ways to distract from the not-my-favorite features.

I’m sharing my tips and tricks with you today!

1. Distract from the features you don’t like.

Our apartment has dark beige carpet. I despise carpet for many reasons, but in this house I’m glad we have it since another family lives below us (bless their hearts. And ears…). However, that doesn’t mean I have to just deal with it. My goal was to use decor placement and color to draw the eye to other parts of the house in each room. My gallery wall, plants placed up high, colorful loveseat, and rugs all help accomplish this.

2. Oversized rugs and rug layering.

Rug: World Market
Jute rug: RugsUSA
Table & chairs: IKEA

Rug layering is a newer trend I started seeing a lot on Pinterest last year. I love the look and decided to be brave and give it a try as part of Mission: Distract From the Carpet. The trick is to use two totally different patterns that compliment each other, and let me tell you… it is terrifying to do this at the store or online when you’re a visual learner. I really wished I could’ve seen it in my living room first, but everything I risked ended being exactly what I was going for!

I bought oversized rugs to fill two of my rooms almost wall-to-wall (because again, the carpet). In my office, I put an IKEA rug and in the kids’ room, I used a Rugs USA rug with lots of color.

3. Put a gallery wall in your living room.

Thin black frames: Target
Colored frames: thrifted and painted by me

Gallery walls are a great way to showcase your style. I did this by choosing mostly thin, black, modern frames and drawing most of the attention to my photos. They’re also great for bringing a little personality to a room.

If your landlord doesn’t want you to use nails in the wall, use Command Strips. There’s an entire aisle at Target dedicated to those things- they’re amazing and you can now decorate however you like, even in a rental because of them.

When it comes to the living room, I like mine to feel personal and cozy, so I wasn’t going for clean, perfect lines and matching frames in a neat row with this wall. I chose some of my favorite photos of our family, some printables with words I like, and I stuck family artwork in there to really relax the look of this wall.

For a subtle pop of color amongst the thin black frames, I included a really happy yellow and a pretty, soft pink frame as well. I also intentionally placed the colorful pieces toward the center of the collage to compliment the bright frames on the outer edges. There’s nothing to a gallery wall except eyeing it.

I laid all my frames out on the floor in front of this wall and placed each frame where I wanted it to go before hanging them, and it still somehow came out different than it had looked, but I ran with it and fit things in as needed until it looked right.

I also did a huge InstaStory as I decorated this wall and people found it really helpful. If you want to see things like that and my daily cup of coffee (I mean, who doesn’t want to miss THAT?!), click here to follow me on Instagram.


Is clutter your real problem? Been there!

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4. Fill space with oversized art.

We scored this Pottery Barn bicycle art from Brian’s dad when he was moving a few years ago. My old timer Instagram followers know it’s my staple piece. It’s so big that it instantly fills an entire wall in an empty space when we move and makes the room come together and feel “lived in”. You can score oversized art at estate sales, online, thrift stores, garage sales, really anywhere that fits your budget. Just keep your eye out for the perfect piece.

You can also make your own oversized art (maybe not as big as the bike canvases….) for super cheap! I talked all about how I did that for the main wall in our bedroom, and you can even view my tutorial by reading this post. 

Chandelier: World Market

5. Swap the statement rental pieces that aren’t a big deal to put back when you leave.

When will landlords and rental companies start decorating in ways that fit most styles?? It’s always either outdated or severely contemporary- so not my style. When I come into a new rental, Two things I almost always do is swap the blinds for curtains (or put curtains over the blinds to hide them), and store whatever hideous pendant light they have hanging in the dining area and replace it with a statement piece that fits my style.

6. Base your decor on how the room will be used.

Hanging plants (fake): IKEA
Sofa: IKEA
Rug: IKEA
Fur blanket: IKEA
Throw pillows: Target
Basket: Target
White bookshelf: handmade by my hubby

My style tends to shift slightly depending on what the room I’m decorating will be used for. For example, my living room is much cozier than my office. In my office, I need to be inspired and feel productive, so I opt for lots more white, lots of clean lines, less color, and less coziness.

7. If the kids share a room, keep everything neutral, but sneak in personal touches.

In our last house, my kids all shared one huge room even though they had the option of splitting up a little. In this rental, we decided they’d keep sharing one room so that we could make an apartment work for a few months while still having a workspace to run the business. We ordered double bunk beds, and to keep things from looking chaotic in a tiny space, I got them all matching white quilts.

To bring each of my kids’ personalities into the room, I let them pick out their bed sheets while we were at Target. The Pillowfort Kids line is to die for! Each child has their own set of sheets, so when they pull back the covers to crawl in for the night, it feels a little more them and not just a neutral white zone without personality.

Throw pillows: Target
Floral sheets: Urban Outfitters
Side table: Target
Macrame wall hanging: Target
Curtains: IKEA
Reading light: Target
Planter: Target
Headboard: IKEA
Printables: made by me

Note: I get asked a lot if having white is a pain to keep clean with four kids in the house. My answer is always that it’s actually easier. Kids spill no matter what, and knowing that I can throw some bleach in the wash and easily get every stain out is much more comforting than a patterned or colored piece that I’d have to be careful stain-treating.

8. Use temporary tricks.

There are so many more options for making a rental look more like you nowadays. If your rental isn’t as temporary as ours, you can really go crazy! Use these anti-mold subway tile stickers to cover an ugly backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom (we used these in our camper and they’re great!), put this peel and stick wallpaper to give a room more personality. These items won’t damage your place when you remove it and it makes it feel SO much better!

A temporary home with details you don’t exactly like (like brown carpet) doesn’t mean you have to just grin and bear it until you move. You can make any rental look beautiful and put your personal touch on it without causing damage you’ll pay for later.


Is clutter your real problem? Been there!

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How to Make Your Own Modern Wall Printables

My decorating style is super simple, so when it comes to wall art, I walk on the minimal side. Less is more!

I also love words (I’m a writer, so, makes sense) and want them all over my house, so last year when I was redecorating, I started looking for ways to implement them.

The first thing I did was put together a wall of inspirational words for my office. I spend a lot of time in here first thing in the morning, and sometimes coffee and powerful reminders are the only things keeping me focused!

I wanted to keep things black and white and super simple. This is an office for a minimalist, after all, and I feel distracted when I’m surrounded by visual clutter.

Some of these prints were found on Etsy, but I made most of them myself. I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, and so many options were way too colorful for what I wanted to do in this room.

I decided that I’m not totally inept and could probably make my own simple wall art.

How to Make Simple Printables

Option 1: Google Drive (or similar program you prefer)

Option 2: Canva

I still wanted another way to bring words into our home, specifically in the master bedroom. I wanted something that was different from what I did in the office.

Our wedding song was “Yellow” by Coldplay, and it’s always been really special to us. Brian once figured out how to play it on his guitar and took me to a hilltop on date night and performed it for me (sweetest. ever), we played it in the car to calm down as we waited for a very scary doctor appointment to start, we’ve danced in the living room to it… it’s just one of those super special songs.

I really wanted something to fill the space above our headboard, but it needed to be pretty big… a couple of wall prints wasn’t gonna cut it. I’d heard that you could get things printed on construction-sized paper for super cheap, so I thought I’d give it a try. Most places I saw info about oversized printables mentioned going to Staples because it only cost like five bucks. However, we lived in Arkansas at the time and didn't have a Staples anywhere near us, so I went to FedEx to see what they could do for me.

I had already bought some simple black frames in the size I wanted, so I brought them with me and asked if they could please print my files to fit the frames.

I got three 22x34 prints for less than nine dollars. I was pretty happy with that.

The only issue I ran into was that I had overestimated what would fit nicely in this space, and only needed two. I put the third one in the master bathroom :)

How to Make Your Own Oversized Prints

1. Follow the same instructions for the first tutorial (I made my oversized prints in Google Drive. I haven’t tried these ones in Canva yet).

2. At FedEx (or somewhere similar near you), bring a USB with your file(s) on it and ask them to print in the appropriate size. It was super simple for the FedEx guy to print my stuff according to the frames I had in hand, so I’d suggest having those with you!

Other Helpful Tips + Links

For fonts and graphics, I shop at Creative Market.

My favorite minimalist frames can be found here.

If you’d rather buy your printables, I always use Pinterest and Etsy to find mine!

For a tutorial on how to use your downloaded fonts in Canva, click here.

For a tutorial on how to use your downloaded fonts in Google Drive, click here.

Decorating your walls can be really intimidating (and expensive), but don’t let that keep you from having a home that makes you smile when you walk in. That’s really important!

Leave any questions for me in the comment section below!

How I Simplified Clean Eating & Healed My Gut

My entire life, I’ve had a very sensitive stomach. That’s all I thought it was. I got sick to my stomach a lot, and I have loads of embarrassing memories having to do with my stomach issues. As silly as it might sound, I just learned to deal with it rather than dissecting it and getting to the root. That’s what kids do, usually.

As I grew up, got married, and had kids, my health was not a priority. I ate fast food on a regular basis and we were on a very tight budget, so eating the cleanest of food didn’t feel like a possibility even if I’d cared. Honestly, I used junk food to cope with a lot. I was an emotional eater for sure.

I started getting these intense headaches several times a week, sometimes every day for a period of time.

My spine would start to ache every late afternoon, and I couldn’t even keep my eyes open (Not exaggerating here. It was terrible.) once 2pm rolled around.

My periods were absolutely unbearable. I would cramp so bad I passed out more than once. I would vomit from the pain and cancel 2-3 days of plans because the bleeding was so heavy I couldn't leave the house.

My skin was breaking out with these huge, cystic pimples that hurt so bad and would linger for weeks and weeks.

Weird things started happening to my body and it all got worse when I ate.

It got to a point where anxiety formed around eating. I was afraid to eat unless I knew I wouldn’t need to feel good the next day. I realize how sad that sounds, but that’s where my head was at with four kids and a lot else going on. And then the anxiety started to spread like this terrifying cancer in my life. I was anxious about leaving the house because I might get sick. I was anxious about money. I was anxious about everything all the time. And in this weird way in my head, it was all based on food.

I was afraid of my own body. I spent every day trying to keep it quiet so I could live my life, but nothing worked. I would eat healthy and feel better for a bit and then something would set it off and I’d get super sick and anxiety would flood in again. I felt like I couldn’t pin down what exactly was bothering me.

I knew I didn’t handle heavy dairy well at all (like ice cream and lattes) but other than that I felt at a loss. I had cut out greasy foods and bread and all kinds of different things but would only be okay for a little while before terrible stomach issues would flare up again.

One day last year, I had had enough and went to see a naturopath who specializes in gut health. I sat in her office a sobbing mess. She listened to me and was very gentle as she explained that this is not how I was meant to live. It reminded me of how I am always seeking to live abundantly, not just get by, and I realized I'd been just getting by because of my stomach. I was ready to get to the bottom of this.

She had me lay on my back and felt around my intestines. There were a couple of very sharp pains as she did this, telling her what parts of my body were reacting to my diet and giving her clues about why.

She ran a few other tests and gave me the following diagnosis:

  • Adrenal fatigue. My body was exhausted. I knew anxiety had a lot to do with that. Anyone who has struggled with it knows how tiring it can be. The naturopath explained that when your adrenals are fatigued, your body is focused on keeping your energy up, so everything else. Including digesting food properly, goes on the back burner and the bare minimum gets done.

  • Dehydration. I wasn’t drinking enough water, and it was contributing to my upset stomach too. I felt like I was drinking plenty of water, but with my life, the day often got away from me and I was only drinking a bottle or two each day.

  • Gluten intolerance. A few months later, I would visit a doctor who officially diagnosed me with Celiacs, but I found out from the naturopath early on that my body does not tolerate gluten at all. This is what made me get really intentional about cutting it from my diet.

When we talked, we uncovered that these three things coupled with the fact that I just wasn’t taking proper care of myself and eating “junk food” often was making me sick. My body wasn’t doing well and I had to make a change.

Getting information like this is really overwhelming, especially when you’re a busy mom and business owner who’s (at this time) living in a camper and traveling full-time. I felt like it would be impossible for me to make the changes I needed to make when eating out was a very regular part of our lives in that season because of traveling. I was determined to get serious and find a way to simplify clean eating. I truly believed it was blown way out of proportion and people were overcomplicating it. After all, this is the way God designed us to eat… it could be simple, right?

Well, not at first.

Eating clean is fine, but eating clean in this modern society full of fake additives and gluten in literally everything felt nearly impossible the first few months.

Over time, I found ways to take my motto, “simplify” and apply it to eating well and healing my sick gut. I ended up losing 40 pounds (so far) and I can’t put into words how I feel now versus before. I went from an XL to a Medium, I have way more confidence, and I’m a much happier person.

My periods got so much lighter that a few months ago, I started without even realizing it was that time of the month. Normally, my cramps would be so bad for a few days before starting that it would completely interrupt my life.

My skin cleared up- finally! This probably made me happier than any of the other good things that happened. My skin was a huge burden for me for years and years and years.

Here’s what I learned, and I hope it helps someone reading this who’s struggling in this area!

1. Clean eating boils down to choices.

Making one good choice at a time will move you forward one small step at a time, and it all adds up.

So when I’m invited to a party, my best choice would be to prepare ahead of time by:
a) politely asking if there will be anything served that fits my diet
b) eating a meal before I arrive
c) bringing a healthy snack in my purse just in case

I have several options and any one of them is better than showing up unprepared and panicking when everything being served will make me sick and letting it ruin my experience at an event I was looking forward to.

There have been times I’ve found myself in a situation- starving and unprepared- in a place with junk food only. I just make the best choice I can in each situation. This one is not ideal, and I needed to prepare better, but in that moment I’ll probably find a piece of something offered (like the fruit served on the side of the sandwiches) to hold me over until I can leave.

2. Preparation is key, and just because my life is very full doesn’t mean I have an excuse to fail.

Preparing ahead of time for things is not my strong suite. I’m a pretty spontaneous person, and committing to things ahead of time kinda freaks me out.

When it comes to clean eating, though, preparation is everything. You will not successfully eat a clean diet without preparing food ahead of time. Period.

Telling myself this and owning up to my new reality, as much as it cramped my spontaneous style was key for me. It’s a reality-based pep talk I had to give myself several times in the beginning stages of “going clean”. And once I started preparing better, eating well was so much easier.

3. Food prepping works better for me than meal prepping.

I first heard about food prepping during a coaching call with Amanda Wilson. She told me about it after I complained for several whiny minutes about how much I hate preparing meals and then they don’t sound good when the time comes to heat them up and serve them. #spontaneousgirlproblems

Basically, food prepping is slicing, preparing, and storing basic foods you can use as ingredients or just snack around on. For example, potatoes, cucumber, zucchini, strawberries, things like that.

I started cooking whole chickens, shredding it, and storing it in the fridge. I cooked red potatoes, seasoned with butter and garlic and stored them for later. I wash and sliced berries when I came home from the store rather than just putting the whole box in the fridge.

This had me prepped with lots of food and snack options so that I was putting meals together with already-made ingredients instead of a) cooking from scratch with zero prepared or b) having to eat a meal I prepared for tonight that didn’t even sound good.

P.S. Amanda is a wellness guru and she shares the most practical, amazing clean eating tips on her Instagram (and her InstaStory). Give her a follow and be inspired!

4. Food should get higher financial priority.

Eating clean is more expensive than not eating clean. Everyone knows that. We can complain about it all we want, use it as an excuse to make not-so-great choices, but the fact is we live in a time where convenience food is cheaper and food that God put on this earth to sustain us costs an arm and a leg.

I say we all stop complaining, realize that it is what it is, and do what we can in our specific circumstances. If that means you can buy every single thing the cleanest you can get it, great! If that means you pick and choose which fruits and veggies you buy organic and which ones you can skip because they matter less, okay then, do that.

There are so many resources of eating clean on a budget- look at Pinterest! There’s really no excuse. Maybe you cut back on meats, maybe you shop the sales, maybe you cut back on other expenses in your budget, but don’t let money rule your stomach if you need to eat clean.

I get asked a lot what our budget is for food and groceries, and the truth is we really don’t have one. Eating clean is a high priority for our family not only because of my story, but because my husband has his own story and a very unhealthy family history. This takes priority and we have decided to do everything we can to make eating clean enjoyable, delicious, and as simple as possible.

5. I cannot do what God has called me to do if I don’t feel good, and that’s more than reason enough to be disciplined.

I’ve learned that my stomach problems (and the anxiety they led to) were directly impacting my purpose. I was shying away from opportunities with my kids, in business, as well as socially because of anxiety and worry and stomach aches.

God showed me that I am unable to live my life, be a woman of influence (a duty He gave me that I do not take lightly), raise my kids to the best of my ability, and fulfill His calling on my life if I don’t feel good.

If I am riddled with anxiety and pain I am nearly worthless. I shut down and just need to sleep while I wait for the pains to pass. That is not living an abundant life and that is certainly not how I’m called to live.

There is no food on this planet that’s worth sacrificing that for. That is what I remind myself of when everyone is eating cake. There’s no use for a pity party.

This is the way I was made, and I’ve learned to be truly grateful for it. It made me lose weight and feel better, it made me a more disciplined person, and it forces me to take great care of my temple.

My hope for you who are reading this is that you feel capable and inspired. Clean eating doesn’t have to be this over complicated, mapped out thing that takes over your entire life. Simplify where you can, make healthy choices as you go about your day, and keep learning. As you learn and know more, do better. You CAN do this, and it’s so worth it. I promise!

Want more ideas to help you simplify healthy eating? I've got 10 ideas to help you get started!

How to Simplify Your Morning Beauty Routine

 

When I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, there was so much to do and no time boundaries if I didn’t make them myself. This meant that a lot of the time, I rolled with the day as it took its own turns. And that meant that a lot of the time, I did so braless. That was a really awkward way to say that I didn’t get dressed every day…

Getting dressed was reserved for the mornings I had Bible study or was meeting someone at the park. Most days I’d wake up and get into my routine, then it was time for breakfast and another cup of coffee and before I knew it, I was eating “lunch” at 3pm with a top knot (not at all like the super cute Pinterest-y ones) and the tank top I slept in the night before. #momlife

Don’t get me wrong… not getting dressed is such a luxury and something I look forward to every now and then! But when it becomes a habit, it starts to feel yucky pretty quick, and can even lead to a little bit of a depression-like lull. For me, at least.

We all get in ruts in different areas of life- it’s normal. But when you can get intentional about something you used to just deal with, that’s when purpose is born. Things get lighter, easier to manage, and you feel better inside.

When I started my business and had to get dressed for interviews and live streams almost daily, I started to feel really good. I looked forward to getting dressed and choosing what to wear. I felt like the CEO of my life, and at the same time I started looking forward to lazy days when I knew I wouldn’t have to get dressed- all the simple things in life got sweeter and I just felt happier. It was something I wished I’d known when I was solely a mom.

I started managing my time better. I started going to the gym a couple times a week. I started getting my kids fully dressed every morning after breakfast. I was able to grab my keys and run an errand with the kids if I needed to without “getting ready” for thirty minutes first. Such a simple change was making me feel so good, and it had made a hard transition (from SAHM to WAHM) so much simpler.

If you relate to this post but feel like getting ready in the morning takes a ton of time and effort you don’t have, you might just need to simplify the process. I know I had to! Here are my tips to simplifying your morning beauty routine…

1. Have a hair routine.

I know that I can go five days without washing my hair. It doesn’t get greasy very fast, It holds curls really well, and it handles dry shampoo beautifully, so I have a five day hair routine (skipping washes is healthier for your hair anyway).

Know how often your hair needs to be washed and come up with a weekly routine of your own! It takes the brain work out of it and allows you to plan around events easier. Here’s my weekly hair routine:

Day 1: My hair is freshly washed and air dried from the night before. My hair’s weird on the first day and I’m not a huge fan, so I’ll only style it if I’m going somewhere. Otherwise, it’s a great day for a side braid or a hat until more of the natural oils have built up.

Day 2: My hair styles much better now, so I’ll use my 1.5” barrel curling iron on it and style it like normal. This takes me 10 minutes. I have two favorite hair tutorials on curling hair. Here’s one from The Small Things Blog and here’s another great one from Mac House Blog.

Day 3: This is my favorite hair day! My hair looks great and is super easy to style on this day. My loose curls have softened but are still sticking around, so I add a few touch-up curls to the face-framing pieces and use a little dry shampoo at my roots if needed.

Day 4: My hair needs another mist of dry shampoo (or the first mist if it didn’t need it yesterday), so I give it that and then usually pull it half back, adding a couple of curls to the bottom half to refresh my look.

Day 5: Hat day! Then wash and air dry at night.

2. Streamline your daily makeup look.

If you don’t wear makeup every day, great! But if you’re like me, you do. I have pretty severe scarring from a rough battle with teenage (and adult) cystic acne. I feel my best when I have my makeup on, and I like to feel good as often as I can. However, I certainly don’t want to spend thirty minutes every morning on my face, so I simplify my daily routine.

Allie’s Simplified Daily Makeup Routine:

  • Moisturizer/sunscreen

  • A lighter, day foundation or tinted moisturizer

  • Under eye concealer

  • Powder

  • Bronzer to contour

  • Eyebrow pencil

  • Mascara

 

Allie’s Full Makeup Routine:

  • Moisturizer/sunscreen

  • Foundation (heavier than my daily one, so no need for primer first), concealer. Full coverage.

  • Under eye concealer

  • Under eye brightener

  • Powder

  • Bronzer to contour

  • Blush

  • Highlighter

  • Eye shadow

  • Eyebrow pencil & stay serum

  • Eyeliner

  • Mascara (extra coats, depending)

  • Lip color

  • Makeup setting spray

See the difference? How can you do the same? Find small ways to simplify and cut out the unnecessary. Want some amazing makeup tips from a pro? Follow my friend Jaime’s blog here. So much of what I learned about makeup is from some tips she shared with me- she rocks!

3. Banish decision fatigue by limiting your wardrobe.

Whether you realize it or not, you’re making small decisions all day long, and that gets tiring. It’s most likely the reason you go from “good morning!” at 8am to “blech” around 5pm. The day’s taken its toll on you and you’ve made a thousand decisions about if your three-year-old can or can’t have a snack, if you should go to the gym or watch The Office, and if you should make Mac and Cheese or pork chops for dinner. This is decision fatigue.

I like to limit decision making, especially first thing in the morning. One way I do that is by limiting my wardrobe as much as I can. I’m not a fan of the capsule wardrobe idea (I love to shop now and then, and my job requires lots of different options for photo and video shoots), but if you think it will work for you, here’s what you need to know to get started.

It might help you to lay your outfit out the night before (kinda like you did in grade school… or was that just me?) and just wake up knowing what you’re wearing and put it on. Even if it’s a cute pair of sweats or yoga leggings and a tee shirt- get dressed. Put a sports bra on. Do something. You’ll feel so much better!

4. Develop weekly rhythms for the time consuming things.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time you know I am all about rhythms! They can help here too. Create rhythms for things like shaving your legs (and um, whatever else you shave), whitening your teeth, oil pulling, facials, masks, etc. I try to have one day each week that I spend a little extra time taking care of myself with these areas, but I’m not always successful. However, having rhythms like this helps my body feel “maintained” so that all I’m doing in the mornings is getting ready for the day at hand, not also shaving my legs and plucking my eyebrows. Ain’t no mama got time for that.

Do you have a simple morning routine? Share your tips in the comments!

How Simplifying Saved Me from Drowning in My Own Life

A guest post from Kelsey Van Kirk of Simply, Life On Purpose

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
— Hans Hofmann

Gripping the edges of the farmhouse dining table my husband had built me a few years back, my eyes were scrunched tightly shut and my mind raced a mile a minute.

“So this is what it feels like to go crazy,” I thought, as I desperately tried to grab hold of anything that would keep me tethered to the here and now.

Gasping sobs ripped right through me, and all I could do was be there, in that moment, surrendered to the unbidden and intrusive emotional tidal wave that I’d been suppressing for a very long time.

“Why now? I can’t fall apart like this right now.”

As I was experiencing this untimely unraveling of all the stress, overwhelm and exhaustion that had been building up inside of me for months, my precious daughters sat quietly in the other room watching their 3rd episode of the Magic School Bus for the day.

“How did I let this happen? How did things get so bad? Where had I gone wrong?”

I’d always been the girl who had it together. I could be counted on to get things done when others couldn’t, picking up the slack when others dropped the ball.

For years I’d been successfully juggling laundry and dishes, bath time and tummy time, grocery shopping and nursing sessions, birthday parties and date nights.

I knew how to get the most out of my time and energy, planning, preparing and running our life and home as effectively and efficiently as possible.

After I had my fourth baby, I vividly remember laughing and responding to people who questioned how I kept up with it all by saying, “Well I don’t have much choice, do I?!”

Somewhere, at some point in my life I’d come to believe that my worth as a daughter, a friend, a wife, a mother, and a business owner was directly tied to my performance….and that anything less than keeping up with it all was unacceptable.

“Well, I don’t have much choice, do I?!”

After a lifetime of martyring myself on behalf of everyone else’s needs, desires and expectations of me, I finally broke.

Rocking back and forth, a blubbering mess of tears, chaos and disillusionment, I knew things couldn’t go on like they had for another minute.

I was overloaded, overwhelmed, exhausted and depleted after trying to live on the fumes of constant demands and endless responsibilities.

This wasn’t the life I wanted. This wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I was running myself into the ground, as everything and everyone around me suffered because of it.

And I’d had enough.

Something inside me changed that day, despite having pushed through so many others like it before.

There’d been days that made me feel like a worthless failure as a wife and mother, and days that made me feel so hopeless that I thought about what it would be like to drive my car into a tree.

But on this day, I realized that there was no way this was the kind of life God intended for me to be living...and the only reason it was the life I was living was because I’d been choosing to live that way.

All along, I did have a choice….and I’d been choosing poorly.

After years of trying to tread water all on my own, I knew I would need some help figuring out how to simplify my very full, very complicated, very stressful life.

 

Need help figuring out how to start simplifying your own life?

Grab my FREE Simplicity Starter Kit, a workbook and resource guide designed to help you simplify your life today so you can experience more peace, purpose and joy every day.

The day after what I chalk up to having been a bona fide nervous breakdown, I called my chiropractors (who also happen to be functional medicine doctors). I told them I needed help getting my body and mind healthy...that I needed them to tell me exactly what to do, breaking it down as simply as possible, and then I would do it.

I also made some phone calls to clients letting them know I needed to step back a bit, and make some changes to the way I’d been working up until that point.

My husband and I had some tough conversations about how I’d been feeling and the parts of daily life that felt overwhelming. Then, we came up with a game plan to simplify our life and create space for me to heal so we could move forward as a family.

For too long I’d lived without proper boundaries in nearly every area of my life....and the first step in choosing to walk down a different path, was learning how to honestly communicate with both myself and others.

When I look back at the way I was living life before….making decisions and saying yes haphazardly, never questioning why I was making the decisions I was or giving a second thought to the cost of my decisions, it’s easy to see how I wound up where I did.

What I’ve learned through this whole crazy journey is that the way we choose to live our lives is entirely up to us….we always have a choice.

And I believe that choosing to embrace purposeful simplicity, letting go of anything that is holding us back or keeping us stuck, is the best choice we could possibly make.

As I systematically rearranged my priorities and eliminated the non-essentials from my life, I found that I finally had the space I’d been craving for so long.

I had breathing room, margin, and exactly what I needed to truly flourish in every area of life. By choosing less, I’ve been able to make room for more of what matters the most.

Things like getting enough sleep at night, nourishing my body with real food, drinking plenty of water, moving my body daily, breathing in fresh air, soaking up vitamin D, basking and worshipping in the presence of my Heavenly Father, laughing and playing with my kids, dreaming with my husband, going on adventures to see the world, and making an impact in other people’s lives through the work I do each day.

These are the things that fuel my life now. I feel lighter, healthier, and free.

Life feels exactly the way I want it to, and while it’s not perfect, it’s real, and it’s full….filled only with the things that are essential, and good, and life-giving in this season.

It was Leo Tolstoy who said, “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth,” and I think I’d have to agree with him.

So here is my challenge to you if you ever find yourself overwhelmed, stressed out or stuck in a life that no longer feels like your own:

Have the courage to let go of anything that is taking away from what matters most in your life.

Give yourself the gift of time and space, whether that means calling someone to stay with the kids while you go sit on a park bench and watch the clouds pass by, or taking a few days off from work and having a staycation to refresh your mind, body and soul, reconnecting with the people and things that matter most to you.

Ask yourself the important questions and give yourself space to breathe, think and respond.

What do you want? What matters most to you? Why does it matter? What is essential and necessary in your life right now, and what could you let go of?

Life is too precious and too short to go one more day stuck in broken patterns of sacrificing the things that matter most.

When you make the brave choice to simplify, saying no and letting go of the non-essentials, peace and joy will overflow your heart and quench your thirsty soul unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.

I’m not promising it will be easy. In fact, it will likely be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your life.

But it will be worth it. Because you are worth it. All you have to do is decide to start, and there will never be a better day to start than today.

To help you get started on your journey with purposeful simplicity, click here to download my FREE Simplicity Starter Kit, a workbook and resource guide designed to help you simplify your life today so you can experience more peace, purpose and joy every day.

 

Kelsey Van Kirk is a blessed wife, mama to four beauties, writer, podcaster, and joy-seeker on a mission to help women embrace purposeful simplicity in everyday living. She is the Founder of Simply, Life on Purpose, Co-Host of The Purposeful Home Podcast, and a lover of good books, good wine, and salty sea breeze. You can connect with Kelsey more on Facebook, Instagram or in her online community, The Simply Life on Purpose Sisterhood.

How to Declutter Your Kids' Wardrobes

For me, the purpose of minimalism isn’t to count my items or to let go of things for the sake of being “minimalist”. I can’t do much of anything without a purpose behind it- it feels empty. And for me, minimalism holds tremendous purpose - it’s the pursuit of less, to make space in my home and, in turn, my life for more living, and less cleaning up after memories I wasn’t a part of.

It’s a learning curve though. It’s hard not to hold onto things “just in case”, especially when it comes to your kids’ clothes. Maybe you fear that you might need it later. Maybe the weather changes a lot where you live (we used to live in Northwest Arkansas where the weather was different almost every single day, so I get it). While these concerns are valid,  remember to be real with yourself.

What do your kids really wear and need on a regular basis? What’s truly serving a purpose in their wardrobe and what’s just filling space, making you feel safe?

How to Declutter Your Kids’ Wardrobes

1. Go into their dressers/closets and pull out what you know they haven’t worn in two weeks or more.

This doesn’t count out-of-season items you know you’re gonna need when the time comes. If your kid has a winter coat you predict will still fit when that season hits, hold onto it! Minimal does not equal wasteful. Or stupid.

2. Let go of what you think they can do without.

Don’t be afraid to be ruthless. It’s better to simplify to the extreme, box up what you think you can let go of, then wait a few weeks before officially donating any of it. If you had to go out to the garage for that fourth pair of jeans, maybe you need to hang onto it. This is a great way to declutter without terrifying yourself before officially donating clothes.

3. Don’t let socks and underwear overthrow your kingdom.

To help give you a visual of what works for our family, here are some photos of my kids’ wardrobes. These were taken during a mild season, and they do not include their winter coats or swimsuits.

There are also a few items (like dressy shirts) missing from these photos because, laundry.

My 8-year-old's wardrobe

My 8-year-old's wardrobe

My 6-year-old's wardrobe

My 6-year-old's wardrobe

my 5-year-old's wardrobe

my 5-year-old's wardrobe

My 2-year-old's wardrobe.

My 2-year-old's wardrobe.

I’ve got four kids, three of them are boys (messy, dirty, wild boys) and this is what works for me. I hope this makes you feel safe that it can work for you too!

“So… how often do you have to do laundry with a minimal wardrobe?”

A lot of people think that having fewer clothes means doing more laundry, but it’s actually the opposite. Less clothes, less to wash, less laundry. Do I do laundry more often? Yes. But listen…

There’s NO POINT in holding onto clothing for the sake of doing laundry less often. It’s much better to only keep what you know you like and your kids are actually wearing and get into a rhythm of doing a load in the morning, or every other morning, or twice a week, or whatever works for you.

I can get away with doing laundry once a week, even with this minimal amount of clothes, especially with re-wearing jeans that aren’t destroyed and things like that.

Note: Never heard of rhythms? Need help setting some up for your household?

Rhythms are life-changing habits that keep you from bottlenecking in your role as a mom.

In my FREE “Developing Rhythms” workbook, I help you work through the tasks in your life that would be better if they were systemized a little. It’s super easy and will free you up, not tie you down to routine, I promise. Click here to get it right now. (link to Leadbox for rhythms workbook goes here)

“What about hand-me-downs?”

From other people:

This is one reason it’s important to be ruthless when you purge. When you create this much white space, it’s much less stressful when new clothes come in. You can rest easy knowing it would take a lot to set you back. You don’t have to feel uptight when a friend brings a bag of clothes over out of generosity.

If you hold onto every single thing you “might” need later, you’re honestly wasting your time. If you’re dedicating time to declutter your kids’ wardrobes, use it wisely - go all in, be ruthless!

When someone gives me a bag of hand-me-downs, I graciously accept it and sort through it when I have a chance, setting aside anything I think might be truly useful. I donate everything else or pass it on to another friend whose kids fit that size.

Sibling-to-sibling:

Most people assume I don’t save clothes from one kid for another, which is silly because I have no desire to intentionally waste money. If there’s an item of clothing that’s somehow still in good condition (rare) I will hold onto it for my next kid. I only buy my kids things I like, that I want them to wear, and that work for our lifestyle, so if it’ll work for a sibling there’s no sense in getting rid of it!

Keep in mind though, that I have three boys back-to-back-to-back, so when one outgrows something, his brother is right behind him, and that piece of clothing isn’t going to be stored for long. If your kids are spaced out further and it’s going to sit in the closet for years, it isn’t worth it in my opinion. Styles change, fabrics fade, and that’s space in your home you’re giving to something that will save you maybe ten bucks. It’s up to you what you do (#youdoyou) but that’s my opinion.

“What about baby clothes? What if you anticipate more kids in the future, but don’t want to hoard?”

I keep the same philosophy with baby clothes as I do for sibling hand-me-downs. If there’s something you used, that served you through your baby days that is still in good condition and makes you excited to have another baby in the future, keep it!

Do not ever get rid of something solely for the sake of being minimal. It’s a waste, it’s legalistic, and it’s not purposeful. Get rid of things because they no longer serve you and very likely won’t serve you in the future, because they’re used up, because you’re leaving that particular season of life, or because their purpose has been served, and their time with you is done.

Ready to declutter your kids' wardrobes? Get started with my free Wardrobe Decluttering Action Guide!

Our Time Living in A Camper + Traveling with Four Kids

My family and I recently wrapped up a few months of full-time travel in a super tiny travel trailer. This post is really long, and it’s a summary of how it went and why we stopped. Keep reading if you’re interested in this, otherwise, head to the archives to read posts on the things I usually write about!


Late last Fall, my family and I were in Northwest Arkansas- the place we’d called home for one very difficult year- looking for a house in Southern California. We’d followed God’s call across the country and gone on an incredible, wild journey. We’d started out as a stay-at-home mom and an internet technician and ended our time in Arkansas in a very different place.

I was now an entrepreneur with an armful of high-profile media features under my belt (I talked to friggin Jenny McCarthy in my living room! What is happening?!), a book agent, and the possibility of a reality television series on the horizon. Brian was still shell-shocked. Did this all really even happen?! Our lives had totally turned around so quickly. He was no longer bound by the job that had kept him away from his family for years- missing soccer games and prenatal appointments. We had no more ties in this beautiful state, and we could feel our hearts being pulled back to our roots. It was time to go back home and be near friends and family again.

We sat in our office on the phone with landlord after landlord hearing the same words over and over. Nobody wanted to rent to an out-of-state couple with a brand new business (no matter how much we had sitting in the bank), a dog, and not-so-great credit (we had struggled so hard to get to where we currently were).

We sat there feeling frustrated. I mentioned that one idea we’d always talked about since four years earlier… living in a camper and traveling a little. We tossed the idea around a bit but it didn’t really stick because we were tired and needed to sleep and start fresh tomorrow. The next morning we went to church and then took an afternoon drive. We saw a vintage Airstream travel trailer on the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign on it, and it seemed perfectly timed, so we pulled over. It was unlocked, so we snuck inside for a peak. It was so amazing, but so old, and it needed tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of work. Not for us!

Seeing that trailer made last night’s idea catch a new spark though, so I opened Craigslist up on my phone and we found another trailer for sale just down the road from where we were. We called the couple that had posted it and headed over. We talked, bursting with excitement about what it might be like to leave everything behind and live in a camper, visiting friends around the country. Even the kids were into the idea!

The trailer was perfect. It had a little water damage, but nothing my handy hubby couldn’t fix. It was decorated, well, like a camper, so we decided we’d renovate it. We still weren’t sure about living in it, but we knew we could at least use it to get back to California until a house worked out. We were feeling excited and a little trigger happy, so we handed them cash and left with a camper attached to our Suburban. Crazy.

December came around and we wanted to spend Christmas with family, so we said goodbye to the friends we’d come to love, packed our furniture into a POD storage container, and rolled out. December and January were spent on renovations, and finally, after what felt like years of painting and fixing and planning, we were off to live beachside for awhile.

It was sort of a weird place to be in… we’d just finished renovating our camper, but our hearts weren’t quite ready to go. We’d just come back from more than a year away from family; we found ourselves wanting to be around them still. The city Brian and I grew up in is just forty minutes or so from the beach, so we landed a site at a beautiful RV resort in Oceanside and decided to spend some time there so we wouldn’t be too far from loved ones.  

We’d also realized, after renovating the camper and getting all the furniture and belongings we needed into it, that it was WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAAAAAAAAAAY too small for a family of six (plus a dog) to be living in. Like, way way way way way (okay, you get it) too small. Honestly, neither of us had a clue about camping, travel trailers, what kind of RV’s were even available (we now know there are basically estates on wheels out there), and like I said… we were a little trigger happy and just tried something crazy and ran with it. So we would keep running with it even if it was hard and imperfect. Because this camper was ours and it was special to us.

With what I do in my business, it was a fun challenge - minimalism to the extremest point. And that it was…

We spent two months living literally on the beach in beautiful So Cal. We would wake up in the morning and walk to get coffee and breakfast at the Buccaneer Cafe, watch the waves while we talked and ate eggs, go back to the camper to get some work done, and every time the kids needed to burn some energy or we felt cramped, the beach was right there.

We quickly learned that it’s hard to be productive in work and homeschooling when everyone around you is on vacation. You have to create your own boundaries and structure, and that’s really hard to do when the beach is outside your window. I’d hired several people to take on important roles in my business (a VA, a customer service rep, and a social media manager) in order to make my work load lighter, but working without an office was still a challenge that I was determined to figure out.

We had made an amazing deal with a huge website- they wanted me to create a mini course for their audience (a bite-size version of my full decluttering course). This was a huge opportunity for us and we were so excited about it! Brian had taken courses and learned to do the video/photo/media work I really needed done, so we worked as a team and took this project on.

It was terrible. There were so many problems and hurdles because of our lifestyle. The situation made us look so frazzled and unprofessional...we needed an office.

We tried renting a cute house in LA to record the course at, but the neighbor was working on his roof and it was so loud we couldn’t record, and we couldn’t convince him to stop either (he was kind of a jerk…).

$350 down the pipes.

We borrowed a friend’s adorable shop in Oceanside and spent an entire day recording with the camera set up on auto-pilot (so Brian could be with the kids while I recorded), and the footage turned out unfocused on fuzzy.

Seven hours of me sitting in a chair talking into a camera, for nothing.

We spent another $500 on furniture and set up a faux living room in the empty cottage my parents had in their backyard. Third time’s the charm I guess, because this time worked. However, we had leaked money on this very simple project and it had taken so much extra time… all because we didn’t have a home office to work from. We started to feel worried. Could we really do this with the type of business we had?

Pretty soon it was time to leave- we could feel the urge to travel and do what we’d bought the camper to do, so we planned a trip south and rolled out again. Our goal was to end up in Florida. My best friend of twenty-three years lives in Clearwater with her husband and two kids, and I hadn’t seen her in way too long.

We planned to stop in Arkansas for a week on the way to visit the friends we’d made while we lived there. We hiked, laughed, had slumber parties, met friends for lunch, and had a blast! We did all the things we couldn’t do while we lived in Arkansas because of the chaos of starting a business.

We left Arkansas feeling grateful for friendships but very behind on work. No matter what we did, this felt like vacation and it was nearly impossible to balance visiting with friends and not being “home” with getting steady work done. One of us needed to be with the kids at all times and we both had a list of work tasks to handle.

The camper was so small and cramped we really couldn’t all be in it at once, which was a really difficult problem to have. Every day felt like a battle we were losing and it really sucked the fun out of traveling. We decided to work harder to find a way to make this work because this life was a dream (and it seemed like everyone else’s dream) and we didn’t want to feel ungrateful.

I started staying in hotels whenever I had a live workshop to host or needed a couple days to catch up on writing. There was (pretty) reliable WIFI there and a nice background for videos versus the kids’ bunk beds or my tiny, always-messy kitchen with way-too-bright-and-unflattering lighting in the camper. Can you guys feel my stress as you read this? It was so. stressful. All the time!

As we traveled from Arkansas to Florida, making stops along the way, I had meetings while in the car with my four (very loud) children and spotty service and dropped more calls than I can remember. I wrote while Brian drove, and Brian edited videos while I took the kids to get dinner, I even hosted a live webinar from the camper pulled over in the parking lot of a Denny’s. Even though we got by and accomplished the bare minimum, none of it was really working. The stress of doing this and making it work wasn’t quite worth it to us, and we were really starting to realize that. 

We saw some neat places, spent a day in Nashville (which I LOVED), and finally made it to Florida. We spent nearly a month there with our friends. It almost felt like the whole process- buying the camper, renovating it, traveling back across the country- like all of it had been to get to Florida to be with these people we loved so much. And if that’s true, it was so worth it.

I think we would’ve stayed in Florida longer if we hadn’t had a deadline. My little sister was graduating from high school and I didn’t want to miss it. We drove all the way back across the country in just three days. Our car made a huge difference though so don’t be too proud of us, ha! We ditched our beater Suburban and got a shiny new Yukon that came with a DVD player…. Yeah, road trips are much easier with a TV! But I’m really grateful we didn’t have one until last month. We had so many wonderful conversations, listened to great audiobooks, and built road trip habits that will last forever, DVD player or not. My kids don’t expect constant entertainment and they know how to busy themselves and have conversations during a long stretch of driving.

We’ve just gotten settled into a three-bedroom apartment on a short-term lease while we wait for the house hunting chaos to settle after summer is over. At that point, we’ll start looking into settling somewhere more permanently, and I can’t wait.

All in all, we feel that full-time travel isn’t for our family in this particular season. We think if we had known more going in and purchased a much larger travel trailer or RV with a space that could’ve acted as an office, things would’ve been easier. But that’s only part of it. We ached to be home. It felt like we weren’t home the whole time. Yes, wherever my family is is “home”, but we ached for a place to come to after a long day or travel. A place with the things we loved, a place to invite friends over to, a place to stretch out and not feel so squished, a place near family, a place with my personal touch all over it (I love to decorate and to live in a place where I feel inspired). The camper just wasn’t those things for us, as much as we wanted it to be.

Brian and I are so glad we bought the camper! It’s paid for and renovated and it gave us some amazing memories and adventure, and we will use it often (it’s being stored nearby). One of the biggest benefits to our business is that we have full control over planning the workload. If we plan ahead, we can take a very extended vacation, use the camper, and leave work behind while we take the kids on another adventure. But that is a totally separate issue from living and trying to manage a global business in it ;)

There are a lot of questions I get asked about living in a camper and how it worked, so I’m going to answer the most common ones here to clear the air.

Camper Living Q+A


Q: How did doing this change your family?

A: We are so much closer! My kids' relationships with each other is much closer, Brian and I are closer, and we each feel closer to our kids as well. It bonded us together in a way I didn't think was possible. We've always been a very tightly knit family since we've homeschooled our kids and are always together, but this brought us to another level that I'm very thankful for. 

Q: How did sex work in the camper? TMI?

A: Not TMI- I get it, you’re curious how we could make it happen with the kids literally RIGHT THERE in their bunks. Let me first say that where there's a will, there's a way, and Brian and I defintiely had a lot of will! Here’s how we got it on…

  1. Quietly.

  2. Behind what Brian calls the “security curtain”, haha! This was a doubly thick black curtain with sound-reducing cushion sewn in between the layers. The curtain was up 24/7 and closed like a bedroom door every night at bedtime.

  3. Thanks to stabilizers. If you’re going to have sex in a camper, get the best stabilizers you can find. We did, and the camper didn’t budge. It took a huge worry off me and helped me enjoy the ride ;)

Q: I noticed you stayed in hotels pretty much every night you were traveling from one state to another. What’s the point of having the camper if you’re going to stay in hotels?

A: What most people don’t understand is that we were not camping, we were living on the road. This means that we didn’t just have a week or even a month’s worth of stuff in the camper… everything we needed to have with us for living was in there. When we were actively traveling, bins of clothes, chairs, tables, our rug, everything that lived outside against the wall when we were stationary went inside the camper and you could barely squeeze in to use the bathroom! Hotels took a ton of time and work out of the experience for us, and obviously we lived in the camper once we got somewhere.

Q: What was your daily routine like while you traveled?

A: It was constantly changing depending on where we were, what time zone we were in, and what we had planned for each day. But a typical day looked pretty normal. I didn’t wake up very early while we lived in the camper because it was such close quarters that I’d wake the kids and they’d be grumpy later (although some days I did rise early and just head to Starbucks right away before waking anyone). We’d wake up together most days and start with coffee and breakfast, then spend the late morning getting work done before moving into some homeschooling, then spend the afternoon exploring our area.

Q: What was the hardest thing to get into a rhythm with while living in the camper?

A: Homeschooling, actually. By the time we did breakfast and cleaned up, worked for a few hours, made lunch and cleaned up, the last thing any of us wanted to do was school.

Q: How did grocery shopping and meal prep work with such a small fridge?

A: This was almost my answer to the last question- it was HARD. We ended up choosing to eat out a ton. It ended up taking a burden off of us. We eat very clean most of the time (for me it’s a necessity because of health issues) so when we eat out the price difference isn’t very much more than when we shop at Whole Foods. We grocery shopped every other day for fresh produce, snacks, and breakfast foods and still barely had enough space to store things in the fridge and pantry.

Q: How much did it cost to renovate the camper? Was it worth it?

A: It cost about $6,000 - $7,000 in renovations. Yes it was worth it! I recently did a really long Instagram Story about how home matters and I care about how I feel when I walk into where I live. I want it to be decorated well, to feel like mine, to have my touch all over it. Whether we're in a home we bought, an apartment we'll live in for less than six months (currently), or a camper, I want it to make me happy when I walk in. That's why we renovated the camper, and it was worth it. 

Q: What was most surprising to you about the full-time travel lifestyle?

A: How expensive it is. I’ve always heard a lot of people say they live in campers and travel to save money, but this doesn’t make much sense to me. Yes, rent is less. I mean, we lived beachside in Southern California for $1,000/month. And we bought a Thousand Trails membership which let us stay at their sites free of charge, but they didn’t have many sites in the states we stayed at. There’s also a lot that increases in price when you decide to travel full-time, like the phone bill. We needed to have constant access to strong internet connection because of homeschooling and running the business, and the best way to get that is through your phone (personal hotspot), so our bill went up to $280.

Q: What size trailer do you have?

A: A 26' travel trailer with no slide-outs. 

Q: How did you do laundry while living in the camper?

A: The resorts we stayed at always had laundromats. Once a week either Brian or myself would spend most of the day there catching up on all the laundry. With four kids and basically camping full-time, it was hard to not be able to wash whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, but we made it work, just like everything else about this lifestyle!

Q: How did your kids feel about this lifestyle?

A: They loved it. It was such a sweet adventure, even with all the hard parts. Brian and I were afraid it’d be too squished and they’d hate it, but they loved snuggling into their little bunks every night and giggling themselves to sleep. They were constantly telling us how much they loved living in the camper. Towards the end, they started talking about “going home” and missing everyone. I think we all felt the pull to call it quits at the same time.


So there's my super honest post all about our time in the camper. I hope it answered your questions! Now back to my laundry, which I can now wash anytime I want to in the machines inside my house.... ;)

xo Allie

Giving Your Kids the Gift of Less

Motherhood is a crazy blur with a few quiet moments thrown in that make you realize how time is fleeting and you should quiet down and enjoy it more. 

Most people don’t though. Most people wake up the next morning to the crazy blur and let it erase the memory of that sweet, quiet moment. They let it take them away from what matters most - the hearts of the people they love. They get re-busy and don’t slow down again until the next quiet, scary moment when they realize once again that time is fleeting and they’re missing things.

None of us want to be “most people” - I sure don’t. But isn’t it so hard?

There are things that need to get done and places we have to get to… it’s just, busy. What are we supposed to do? 

I’m no expert, but I can tell you one thing for sure. Simplifying everywhere I can has transformed my entire life. 

I simplified my whole house and became a different person - one who doesn’t yell so much or feel stretched super thin every day. A person who walks into her house and feels at peace instead of overwhelmed.

I simplified, eating clean foods and moving my body more often, and quickly lost forty pounds.

I simplified my kids’ toys and the way we do childhood in our house. My kids have closer relationships with each other, and with the other people in their lives. 

They know how to imagine worlds, make up stories, create art, and explore the outdoors. They’re more in tune with their natural gifts and skills, they’re more grateful, and they’re more self-sufficient. 

I learned through experience over the past five years in my search for simple in all areas of life, that those most deeply impacted by the gift of less are the kids. 

Let me ask you, what do you want as you raise your children? And based on that, where are you currently going? 

Do you want your kids to grow up a little differently than kids today are growing up - with imaginations and the desire to get outside and play? 

Do you want to understand why less is truly more when it comes to your kids’ toys?

Do you want simple, applicable ways you can declutter the toys without scarring them?

Do you want to inspire imagination and creativity in your home?

Do you want solutions for remaining uncluttered once you’re done purging when kids seem to bring home so much STUFF all the time?

If your answer is yes, you’re in the right place, friend. I so understand those desires.

I’ve found a way to get there in this crazy modern world, oversaturated with technology and loud, distracting toys that do all the imagining for our kids. You CAN simplify here and give your kids the beautiful gift of less.

I recently hosted an online class all about minimalism, simplifying the toys, and what it all does for your kids. If you want to learn how you can move from where your family is now to actually decluttering the toys in a way that doesn’t have anyone crying, this is for you.

Just click the button below and you’ll get access to the class recording. 

In the class, I go over why minimalism is such a gift for your kids, and even talk about scientific experiments that have been done to prove it. Then we get into the nitty gritty of HOW you can make the changes in your home, because I want you to take real action, not just sit and listen then leave feeling like you don’t know what to do.

Give your kids the gift of less clutter, of more imagination, more play. Kids were made to play - they’re naturals at it! We just have to get out of the way and clear a space for it to happen. :)

How Minimizing My Kids' Baby Stuff Made Me A Better Mom

A guest post by Lisa Avellan from Simple and Soul.

I stood in the garage, hands on my hips and my weight shifting from one leg to the other. What if, I asked myself, I just never come in here again? That might work. I’ll just forget we have a garage at all.

Eighteen months ago, at the start of this minimalism journey, I said this was the place I’d never touch. This was the forbidden area – the corner with my kids’ baby stuff. It wasn’t bothering anyone, neatly stacked with Tetris precision over there… no need to worry about it. Minimalism doesn’t need to go that far.

Yet, there I stood in the center of our garage, all other garage clutter removed, and I realized I’d reached a chasm in my compartmentalized philosophy: is partial freedom enough?

It was time to get serious. Not because minimalism is about getting rid of all the things, but because my “never-get- rid-of- stuff” was holding me hostage in my own motherhood.

If I’ve learned anything from minimalism it’s that minimalism questions everything. It’s not shy to call out the stuff I’ve refused to surrender. I had to choose: go further, deeper, and wider with my minimalism than I thought possible, or cut this trip short, pick up my chains, and go back inside.

The impossibly small onesies, the party dresses hardly worn, the first family photo outfits, and bins of all the things my babies used for every ‘first’ up to this point of their lives. Along with the cradle, the sensory toys, the high chair, swing and bouncer, and swaddling bags and blankets. Wraps and carriers, footie pajamas, and handmade summer dresses from Great Grandma.

Were these the things that my freedom teetered on?

I stood on the precipice I didn't know if I'd ever be ready for, and yet as I neared the ledge I felt a confidence, an acquired sense of surety that came with the months of minimalism prior, that this call to go over the ledge wasn't going to break me.

I felt safe, even, as if this was the point of the journey – travel the slow and steady road, growing confident and strong, until it arrives at the cliff of complete transformation. I was ready to go over, but how? And to what end?

I remembered a quote I heard a couple years ago.

If you’re falling...dive.
— Joseph Campbell

My feet neared the edge, and I had to make a choice. Will I fall over the edge, or will I dive?

Will I fall into this next leg of the journey and miss the entire adventure in the chaos of flailing limbs and closed eyes? Or, will I dive with purpose, heart first and head strong, noticing the wild and free nature-songs and the artful sediment layered beneath the surface?

Minimalism, the removal of distraction and clutter in order to fully love all that remains, is always a dive.

It’s a lump-in- your-throat surrender to be present and vulnerable and fully here, in the moment.

If you’d like to go deeper in your minimalism, I created a great resource to guide you. Click here to download your Home & Soul Declutter Kit!!

That day I dove into my kid’s baby stuff, and these are the lessons I learned about letting go:

Gratitude is the heart’s salve

My pursuit of minimalism has pivoted on gratitude. It's my centering point and as I approached my kids' baby stuff, my impossible to minimize stuff, I drew near to gratitude.

I knew that if I faced this impossible task unprepared I'd lose heart. My emotional attachment to the tiny hats and itty bitty skinny jeans and Mary Janes that never stayed on their chubby feet would outpace my resolve to let it go. Gratitude was my healing salve.

Gratitude eased the pain of letting go with joy - a joy for having had it and joy for the babies that once were so small. Gratitude replaced the ache of change with the comfort of provision. It reminded me that memories are not kept in things, but in the heart.

Blessing others with it keeps the love alive

After packing up the boxes of clothes and toys for donation, I bent over to rest my head against them and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. Overwhelmed with what I was about to do, I could only pray gratitude for the opportunity to give these clothes a second life.

I still hadn't decided where I would donate these precious things, but I knew that giving it away would keep the love alive. My hope was that my gratitude for my ‘impossible to let go of’ stuff would bless some baby girl the way it had blessed both of mine.

Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - precedes the miracle.
— Ann Voskamp

The miracle came a few hours and an Instagram post later – a church friend expecting her first daughter wanted it all. Just like that, the love would transfer from my mama heart to hers, from my babies to her baby girl. A blessing for this sweet family, and for me, a mother releasing the past while watching a new baby girl grow up in it all.

This is how we keep the love alive.

Holding on to our kids' pasts distracts us from who they are becoming

Every time I thought about my kids’ stuff in the garage my heart would ache a bit. Where has time gone? Where did my babies go? I'd lament the growing up of my kids. Then I'd lament that I was lamenting because it felt ungrateful.

I don't want my motherhood to be focused on what was; I want to be a mother who is un-doing to witness my children’s becoming.

Involving kids in minimizing their own stuff is healing and (sort of) helpful

I admit that, for sanity's sake, far too many times I prefer to do things myself rather than involve my kids. But when it comes to minimizing their stuff, I've found involving them in the process heals my heart and helps me process it all.

My girls loved looking through their baby clothes, asking who wore what and if they really were that small once. Their playful laughter and running off to get a doll to put the baby booties on filled the room with a healing joy for my weary heart.

What they lacked in actual helpfulness, they helped me understand the practice of simplicity isn't heartbreaking; it’s heart-freeing. It's a process fueled by love.

Now I see minimalism for what it really is. It is nothing... nothing but love, my friend.
— Courtney Carver

Letting go creates space for hope

Kids need space and kid stuff steals space.

A flagship principal of minimalism is creating physical space in our homes. This white space becomes a refuge of restoration and hope; two things clutter manages to steal from us. Letting go makes our home a place to dream and discover our true self with freedom.

But it's not just physical space; it's mental and emotional space that our kids need. I believe that my kids will benefit more from my mental and emotional clarity of being a present and purposeful mom, than by the bins of baby stuff stacked in the garage. I believe their security and self-image will flourish in a home with less distraction and self-discovery.

My kids won't remember the day we gave away all but a few of their baby items, but I have more hope than ever that the space we created that day will impact their childhood (and my motherhood) in infinite ways.

 

Everyone has their own cliff that minimalism will bring them to; it’s part of the journey to freedom. It’s a safe journey, of love and gratitude and hope. My hope is that if you are nearing yours, you will dive. It's where the best of minimalism is found.

Click here for an awesome resource to help you dig deeper into your stuff and your soul. The Home & Soul Declutter Kit is almost 30 pages of purposeful decluttering and soul discovery tools. Minimalism isn’t about stuff, it’s about soul.

Lisa Avellan believes minimalism isn’t about stuff, it’s about the soul. She writes at Simple & Soul, a blog to help you simplify life and discover your best self. She is a stay at home wife and mom of two in California.

You can find Lisa on Facebook and Instagram.

When Minimalism Becomes Ingratitude

Minimalism is sweeping the world in a refreshing wave of less. It’s an idea that’s very close to my heart. Five years ago, before I knew it was called ‘minimalism’, before there was a documentary and a thousand other blogs on the subject, getting rid of the excess in my home saved my motherhood.

Minimalism is basically a lifestyle of purposely choosing to live with less stuff in your home so that there’s less to maintain and more time and space to focus on what really matters.

For moms, this is everything, which is why I started a movement for mothers based on this idea. I spend my days encouraging hundreds of thousands of my fellow women to ditch the clutter and the chaos and get intentional about how they’re spending their mom lives. And it’s incredible!

In doing what I do, there are a few things I see on a regular basis that make my heart ache. One of them is when a desire for minimalism takes over and becomes ingratitude.

In a world saturated with materialism, we have to fight to live with less, and it’s dang hard. I get it.

But sometimes, in our fierce attempt to simplify and be more aware of what’s coming into our homes, we become ungrateful guardians of our domains that make other people feel like we don’t appreciate their gifts. And maybe that we don’t appreciate them.

I know where the passion for less comes from. It’s like an inner uprising- a deep desire for a simpler way of living when you figure out what works and you’ve been living in the clutter and chaos for so long… you just want out. You found a way and you see the light and you’re not stopping for anything.

If you find yourself in this place, sister, let me encourage you to press pause.

Why are you doing this?
What brought you to this place of desiring simplicity?
What is the root reason for you seeking out minimalism in your life?

The root for most of us is relationships. Our relationships began to suffer because we were doing all the things, cleaning up constantly, running on a treadmill fueled by an endless cycle of stuff.

We want to be closer to our children, we want to stop being nagging, stressed out wives. We want time to be better friends with the other women in our lives, we want to have the time, space, and focus to love others and be present for them.

Let’s not get so caught up in being the editors of our homes that we hurt those around us.

Obviously, there’s a huge difference between someone giving a gift to you or your kids and someone who is blatantly against the way you’re choosing to live and continuously brings things over when you’ve kindly asked them not to. But what we’re talking about here is making minimalism into some legalistic law you follow to the death, no matter who you take down in the process.

It’s easy to do as we fight for the motherhood we want, so I encourage you to take a scoopful of grace if you’re feeling like you’ve gone down this path.

When it’s your child’s birthday, have a grateful heart.

Be honest when people ask what he’d like as a gift, but don’t keep other people in your life from blessing your kids. Ask for an experience gift over a material gift, tell them how much he loves *insert child’s favorite activity*, but don’t be upset when the day comes and he receives toys you know he doesn’t need.

Minimalism, the way I teach it and the way I believe in it, isn’t about only having what you need. Where’s the joy in that anyway?

When you get a basket of lotions and candles from your mother-in-law, give her an authentic hug. She cares about you! It doesn’t matter if the gift was totally obligatory or truly heartfelt- it’s a gift, and gifts are exclamations of love. Value your relationships over the state of your home- that’s what you came into this for in the first place, right?

Plus, I can tell you having spent years on the “other side” of minimalism with four kids… if you simplify your home and live this out day to day, gifts can’t set you back!

You don’t have to fret over the little things or stress out about how many presents your kids get for Christmas. When everything else is truly simplified, there’s room for holidays and birthdays and tokens of love from the people in your life. It’s okay.

My advice to anyone looking to implement minimalism is this: walk away from the legalism of it.

Don’t count your things, don’t guard your home from gifts like a lioness guarding her cubs. Just focus on simplifying what you can control and remember what matters most in this life- loving the people in it.


Are you struggling to become a minimalist mama? It’s hard! But like any labor, so worth it. When you say “no more” to the cycle of clutter and chaos, you get your life back.

You can be the mom who sits down and plays with her kids, the mom who isn’t stretched so thin all the time.

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My course, Your Uncluttered Home,  is the A to Z of realistic, doable minimalism for mothers. In it, I walk you through the issues you’ll face during this lifestyle change (what if your husband isn’t on board, what if your kids aren’t, do you sell or donate your things, etc) as well as the decluttering process for each and every room in your home.

There’s a section just for your kids, taught by my daughter Bella. There are checklists and worksheets and interviews and videos for you to make this happen in your life. There’s a reason this course has earned me global attention and interviews on multiple national news networks and websites- it works!

If you’re ready to dive in and make a forever impact in your home, yourself, and your family, I’ve got your back, mama. Let’s make it happen!

A Beginner's Guide to A Minimalist Home

How do you feel when you walk into your home? Seriously, answer right now.

Do you feel happy? Calm? Overwhelmed? Upset? Depressed? Resentful? Blessed? Like you just don’t even have time to give two craps?

Grab a pen or your smartphone and jot down the first emotion or thought that pops up for you when I ask you that question… how do you feel when you walk into your home?

Now answer this - how do you want to feel when you walk into your home? Write it down.

Do your answers match? If not, this is for you today, mama. I know how you feel because I have so been there. But let me give you a virtual hug and a big scoop of hope… it doesn’t have to be like this anymore. Really! It doesn’t.

I’m not going to offer you some kind of ridiculous cleaning schedule or set of tasks to check off every day. I’m here to give you something that will last- the gift of less.

While magazines and Pinterest graphics everywhere are telling you to get organized and rearrange the way you have things set up, I’m here to tell you that none of that is going to help you one bit. All that’s gonna do is have you moving things around that are still in your way. I want you to actually let go of the stuff you have in your home but don’t need- the things that aren’t adding to your life or helping you fulfill your purpose. When you have less in your way, you have more time, energy, and space (emotionally, mentally, and physically) to focus on what matters most.

New here? Read my story to learn more about how I got here and why I do what I do.

I’m here to tell you with the biggest smile on my face and a hefty confidence that you can feel at peace, happy, relaxed, and fulfilled when you walk into your home on any given day. You can breathe and know that you don’t have to run around like a headless chicken trying to keep things clean, because they just stay cleaner when there’s less stuff. You can spend thirty minutes of your day on housework instead of four hours.

You can spend your weekends enjoying your family instead of catching up on the laundry. Seriously!

What does your home feel like to your family? Ask them.

If you’re afraid of their answer, I’ve been there too. I remember nagging my husband about how hard keeping up with my role was and how I wished he helped more. I remember being the mom who yelled, who was always behind, always cleaning up, and rarely enjoyed her family.

Your home can be a true haven for your family- it all starts with you, mama. You set the tone. If we can get you simplified and feeling lighter, it’s going to show on your face and in your voice, and that’s going to have a massive, positive impact on the people you love who share your space.  

So many of us think that keeping our home needs to take up the bulk of our time. But when you choose to let go of what you don’t need, of what isn’t serving you, you have less to maintain in your home and less time spent on it.

Most of my students who have gone through Your Uncluttered Home say the same thing- that they only spend about thirty minutes a day cleaning and maintaining their homes (the exceptions usually have extremely large houses).

Step outside of your current reality for a moment and imagine that… only spending half an hour at the end of your day cleaning up, with a few simple rhythms in place (wiping the counters and table after meals, etc) during the day. What would change for you? What would you do with your time? How much closer would you be with your children? The whole world opens up!

Minimalism is so much more than a clean house (that’s a perk for sure though!). It’s about creating the time and space you need to be a present mom; to live a purposeful life you love. It’s about getting to your eightieth birthday and knowing you were there; you didn’t just clean up after a life you wished you’d lived.

But how do you get there? Obviously you have to do some work on your house and get to this point, right? What does this look like room-by-room?

The Kitchen

I don’t think any room is as integral as the kitchen. Everything happens here! School lunches are prepared, family dinners are made, coffee is brewed… this room is Grand Central Station for the busy mom.

Start simplifying in here by getting rid of some dishes! Most of us have way more dishes than we need, and it’s kinda weird. Why do we feel like we need three different sets all the time? Unless you’re the Duggars, you don’t.

Take a look at your cups and mugs the same way. How many do you have? Why do you have so many? What do you really use and love? Let go of the excess!

Look at your appliances. Those are such space hogs! And a lot of the time, we don’t realize how many we’ve been storing for years and not using at all. Sometimes you’ll find that one appliance has the same features as another appliance you own- you don’t need duplicates, so pick one!

Get my free guide to decluttering the laundry and dishes! This is one of my most popular downloads because it’s straightforward, but detailed and helpful for the two biggest time-suckers in your home.

The Kids Rooms

Most people think kids equal clutter, and there’s not much you can do about it, but I disagree. :) I think kids means messes, but not clutter. I believe mothers need minimalism more than anybody, and kids need it too!

Start by simplifying your kids’ wardrobes. So often we keep way too many clothing options and hand-me-downs for our kids, and all it does is give us overstuffed drawers and extra things to clean. Let it go, girl! Pare down to what you know your kids like, fit in, and actually wear.

Next, take a look at the toys. I know this is a really sensitive area because there’s often a lot of guilt that comes with simplifying the toys, but listen to me… your kids will play so much better with less to choose from.

Start by getting rid of what you know isn’t played with. If it’s broken, missing pieces, or just no longer used, let it go.

Keep things positive by talking to your child about how their toys will change the life of another child who is less fortunate than they are. When I make decluttering about blessing others, my kids light up. It’s a win-win. Let your kids be a part of the process- show them where you take their donations, make them aware of what kind of kids are getting their old toys and teach them to give.


You buy stuff with your time, not just your money. Less clutter equals less stress and more time. It's as simple as that!

Your Uncluttered Home is my most popular, globally-praised decluttering course, designed for moms who want to live their lives more than they clean up after it. 

It's truly the A-Z of minimalism - every room, every area of your house, totally uncluttered. 

This super extensive, extremely detailed course is literally everything you need to become a minimalist mama who's able to be a lot more present for what matters most. 


The Bathrooms

The bathroom is a fantastic place to start if decluttering totally overwhelms you.

Not a lot of people keep precious memories stored in the bathroom… it’s usually just old eyeshadows and hair tools you never use anymore. This makes the bathroom a great place to build some confidence and momentum, so you feel inspired and ready to move forward.

Here are some of my tips for taking on the bathrooms:

  • Don’t let the kids’ bath toys take over for one more day. Choose two of their favorites (or let them choose) and get rid of the rest.

  • If you haven’t used it in the last month, it’s probably not something you should hold on to.

  • It’s unsanitary to keep old makeup. Use that as your excuse for trashing it and let go of the guilt. It’s gross, girl!

  • Keep what you know you use regularly. Be honest with yourself!

  • Only keep one of each toiletry- one shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, etc. Buy a new one when you run out. You don’t need multiples.

  • Every bathroom-dweller has a secret grooming product obsession; they buy multiples of their fetish item. When faced with more than three of anything in the bathroom, invoke the Law of Numbers: Keep two favorites, declutter the rest.

  • If you haven’t used it in the last month, it’s probably not something you should hold on to. Things like make up you only wear to fancy occasions are your call, but know that it’s unsanitary to keep them, so use that as an excuse to let them go guilt-free.

The Master Bedroom

I used to use my master bedroom as a holding cell for all the crap I didn’t have time to put away. I used it to dump clean laundry I didn’t feel like folding, too. Basically, at the end of a very long, draining day of mom life, I would climb the stairs and enter an abyss of stress. Perfect, right?

Your bedroom needs to be a place where you can rest and recharge. It just does. Mom life ain’t easy, and we need somewhere we can go to be revived. I don’t think we need to go outside of our houses for that; I think we can make that happen in daily life right where we live, and I think that’s the main purpose of this room. (it’s also where the “magic” happens, and the magic is a lot more magical when the floor isn’t covered in crap, am I right?!)

Start by removing all the things being kept in your bedroom that don’t belong there! What have you thrown in there because your mother-in-law was about to drop by? Use my favorite trick and grab an empty laundry hamper. Put everything that doesn’t belong in your bedroom in the hamper, then take it around the house with you delivering things to their proper homes.

Next, clean up your nightstands. These tiny tables are such clutter collectors! What do you need next to you when you start and end your day? Clear everything else off.

Pare down your wardrobe by using the reverse hanger trick. After you wear something from your closet, hang it back up and reverse the hanger so it’s facing the opposite way of the rest of the hangers. After a few weeks, look and see what’s still forward-facing. You probably don’t need those items as much as you thought you did, huh? Simplify!

your uncluttered home allie casazza

If you’re sitting there wanting to just go all-in and makeover your motherhood through minimalism, check out my online course, Your Uncluttered Home. It’s earned global praise for the simple, busy-mama-friendly philosophy of realistic minimalism for families.

In it, I will take you through every step, A to Z, room-by-room until you come out the other side, and then even further through maintenance mode and lifestyle shifts like dealing with relatives who won’t stop giving and things like that. I’ve got your back, girl. Let’s make this happen together!

Decluttering 101: The Problem With Selling Your Stuff

allie casazza decluttering 101 the problem with selling your stuff

Selling your stuff can be a great way to reward yourself for your hard work. I have someone in my community who made enough money to take her family of seven on a vacation! It can feel like it’s all worthwhile when it seems like you’ve wasted so much money. I totally get it.

However, selling the things you aren’t keeping can also be a major hurdle, and I’ve seen it hold people back so badly that their decluttering actually comes undone.

Depending on your method of selling, you have to wait for another person to take interest in each item, which is totally separate from them actually coming to pick it up with cash in hand (or you taking time from your day to go to the UPS store and mail it to them).

When you’re decluttering, the last thing you need is a reason to hold onto your stuff longer. Someone in your family sees the pile of “to sell” in the garage and suddenly that old toy they forgot existed and haven’t played with in years is their most favorite thing in the entirety of this world, and out of the pile it comes. And so do twelve others.

The stuff in the piles gets moved around and pulled back into the house and before you know it, hours of your hard work come undone and you kind of just let the whole thing go.

It’s a slippery slope.

Here’s what I want you to take from this post - value your time and the hard work you put into decluttering more than you value the money you may or may not get for the items you’re letting go of.

Where are you at in this process? Is it all fresh? Are you having anxiety over all the money lost from buying all this stuff and wishing you could somehow make it better or make your husband less angry about it?

Know yourself.

And remember this - you did not waste money when you decided to declutter. You wasted money when you bought a bunch of stuff you didn’t really need.

The decluttering isn’t where the waste happens, the purchasing is.

One thing I usually advise people to do is sell the big ticket items at a killer price. For example, one of my clients sold her Kitchenaid mixer for $85. She posted it to a Facebook “garage sale” site and it was out of her house that night. Done and done. That’s the way to go!

Things like furniture and big ticket appliances are great items to sell if you really want to, but things like toys, clothes, plates, etc just take up time and aren’t really worth the money in my opinion. The risk outweighs the possible benefit here.

One great way to make some money without risking undoing your work is garage sales. If you live somewhere where the weather currently allows, host a garage sale and make some cash! Make the decision to haul whatever’s left away to be donated, no matter what it is and don’t let yourself waver.

When I was purging my home, I held a couple of garage sales throughout the process and it was nice to make a little something (we needed it bad at the time anyway!)

Think about the other side of this, too.

Who will receive an amazing deal on the things you donate?

Who will be so blessed by these things for free? (some places you donate don’t resell items, but rather give them to the needy at no cost)

When I was doing my initial purge, I was on a first name basis with the people who worked at my local donation center.

I had brought in a bunch of my daughter’s shoes and toys, and the next day when I was bringing in another load, the woman who worked there told me that I had just missed the sweetest, young, single mama who bought most of her stuff for her baby girl for just a few dollars. She told me she’d been so grateful to find stuff that was her daughter’s size and that she’d needed it so bad. It warmed my heart and reminded me why donating is awesome.

I understand that sometimes, you might be in the position of that single mom- in desperate need of some cash. I understand that some things are worth a decent amount of money and you’d like to make that money. I understand as I was there before too!

Just remember to know yourself, know where you’re at in this process, think of who you could bless by donating, and don’t compromise your success or waste your precious time to make a few bucks.

Have you sold anything in the process of decluttering? Share your experience in the comments!

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