[Destination]: Home…from vacation

This past week was spent just a few short hours from our home to celebrate the marriage of my brother-in-law.  It was a truly great time with some truly great people.  We got to spend the entire week at a little retreat in the woods (well, a wooded area of Mechanicsburg anyway), and we felt like we were able to just “get away” for a few days.  While we still had the rush of getting ready for the wedding and packing as much into 7 days with our West Coast family as we could, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

It’s amazing what can be revealed to you once you take a moment to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.  It’s in those quiet, albeit chaotic, moments that you realize just what you might be missing or what you really do need in your life.

Lessons learned during this vacation:

1. Slow down.  Life is not to be rushed through, and it also does not bend to my rules.  No matter how much planning you put into a day, something will always go differently than you expect.  Roll with it.  Enjoy it.  Watch your kids (and yourself) grow from it.  And don’t stress about the fact that things change in an instant.  Control what you can, but be ok with what comes your way.

2. Family is of utmost importance.  Ok, so I already knew this one.  I know it enough that I often tell my DH how much I miss his brothers who are now all out West.  Their families are growing, our family is growing, and my girls often ask if we can invite their aunts, uncles and cousins to their birthday parties.  It breaks my heart.  So, we will make it a priority to do what we can to get out there and visit.  Because life is all about your family and it needs to be a priority no matter what.

3. Live life simply.  Learn about what you need and what you can do without.  The simpler life is, the happier you will be.  Clean out your stuff, cut down on your bills, really take the time to think about whether you need that bigger house or more expensive car.  You’d be so surprised about what you can live without and what you really can get by with.  As an example, I know our lives have gotten so much better and more meaningful through simply turning off our cable.  It saves us some money each month, and we’re “forced” to spend more time as a family, connecting, bonding, and just plain talking to each other.

I’m so thankful for the time that we’ve gotten to spend with family over the past week.  Now, it’s time for us to unpack, decompress, and get back to our normal routine.  That routine will certainly be changing.  I think the girls have really like a more “relaxed” mommy over the past week.  My biggest hint was yesterday, on our way home, my oldest daughter Keira kept telling me she loves me.  Over and over again I got to hear those beautiful words from her.  I asked her this morning why she kept telling me that (not that I was complaining) and she said, “because I just love you”.  That’s certainly good enough for me.Image

[Destination]: A Happy Mommy

Boy, there are days (many, in fact) where I feel like a Monster Mommy.  I’m constantly telling my kids “no” and “don’t do that” and “stop it”.  And, of course, there’s the yelling and screaming.  My kids do not respond well to that.  Then, I feel bad when I’ve made them cry, start to cry along with them, and find myself apologizing for the way I acted.  It’s bad.  And I hate it.

You see, my kids are really good kids.  I’ve been blessed with two very loving, very strong-willed, and very well-behaved daughters.  I’ve even been blessed with a boy (who’s on the way in October).  So many people tell me how well my daughters play together and how nicely they interact with each other.  And, I have to admit, they really do.

So why does Monster Mommy come out on occasion you ask?  Because this mommy has issues.  There, I’ve said it.  I have issues.  Unfortunately, I have my own demons that I have yet to deal with, and they come out at my kids when they’re not acting exactly as I think they should be at that moment.  I hate it.  My girls are 2- and 4-years-old.  They act like 2- and 4-year-olds act.  And that should be ok.

Being a mom is a tough job.  I know that when I left my life in the corporate world to be a stay-at-home-mom, I got a lot of strange looks (especially from the men).  I left a fairly well-paying position as a manager where I got to direct adults, teach them new ways of doing things, and run my department, to instead go change diapers, clean up the house, and teach my kids to share their toys and wipe their noses.  I’m pretty sure that some of the men in my company thought I was absolutely nuts, and that I was taking the “easy way out”.  My former boss actually told me that I would be back in less than a year.  Nice vote of confidence, huh?

I’ll tell you right now, I would not trade my life for the world.  Yes, I’ve thought about throwing in the towel once or twice (or maybe twenty times).  But then I take a look at my kids, even when they are screaming and fighting and making a huge mess, and I know that I’ve made the right decision for my family.  I haven’t seen my husband more thrilled than last night when he walked in the house, dinner was in the oven, and there I was, barefoot and pregnant, vacuuming the living room.  That may sound like something out of the 1950s, but honestly, I couldn’t have been happier either.  Life makes sense now.

So what’s the strategy from here on out in order to not be Scary Monster Mommy anymore?  I really don’t know.  There might be no way to avoid me this way, but I will try.  I’ll keep asking for help, look to God in times of need, stop and think about what I’m about to say, grow and change and become a better person all around.  But, for now, I have to accept the good with the bad and know that, while it’s not always easy, it is ALWAYS worth it.

Image

[Destination]: Clean Laundry

I still have intentions of doing some sort of organizing today; however, if I don’t get to it, I’m not too concerned.  An impromptu pillow fight that started out between my husband and the girls and then turned to just me and my four-year-old was just the medicine that was called for today.  It reminded me that, while it’s important to keep your home clean and only have what you need, it’s more important to have a pillow fight with your kids.  We laughed, ran into each other, stole each others’ pillows, and had a great time.  Our hair was a mess and we couldn’t stop smiling.  I’ll take that joy any day.

I know it sounds weird, but while I’m decluttering and removing the excess from my life, I’m slowly finding that I’m able to enjoy all life does have to offer even more.  In a recent post of mine, I listed a few physical and emotional things that clutter and excess can actually cause you if you don’t get a handle on it.  Depression, anxiety, weight gain, and a serious depreciation in our quality of life have all hit me pretty hard in the past.  I just never realized how much damage they were actually doing at the time.  I used to sit and think that this was just the way that I was.  Maybe depression and anxiety were just a large part of who I was.  

Just over the past five days, I’ve found that this is definitely not the case.  When I’ve said that I breathe a little easier now, I mean it.  I have more control over my life than I’ve ever felt that I have.  And it’s the little things like doing a load of laundry every day (and folding and putting it away), and straightening up and putting things back where they belong that has brought peace to my otherwise chaotic-feeling life.  Every donation bag I put into the back of my van provides a little more satisfaction of where my life is and where it’s going.  Clear thoughts, clearer vision, and happiness in the blessings I’ve been given…that’s the direction of this destination.  And I’m moving closer every single day.

Image

[Destination]: Less, Part II

So, a spending freeze means different things to different people apparently.  When I first decided to take on this challenge, I meant let’s spend $0 for 31 days.  Of course, both vehicles had to go into the shop yesterday for some expensive work, but at least we’re safe on the road.  Necessity.  On Tuesday night, I got a phone call from my dear husband saying that he had read my blog (he was away at a business conference), and he was excited to take on this challenge with me.  He didn’t ask details.  He didn’t question my motive.  He was just excited at the thought that he might have to work less.  🙂  Who wouldn’t be thrilled by that?

The other morning, after he got home from his conference, I was making pancakes for the kids for breakfast.  I used the very last of the Costco-sized vanilla we had in the house.  Dear Husband immediately looked at me and said “Guess we need a trip to Costco for vanilla.”  I looked at him with a rather puzzled look and explained to him that we would just have to do without vanilla as it wasn’t what I considered a “necessity”.  I found out then, that spending freeze to hubby meant something very different than it did to me.

It’s been very difficult for me not to pack the girls in the car and head to Ikea or Target for a shopping spree, especially with all of the organizing and cleaning out that I’ve been doing.  I have many grand ideas right now for how to add some storage to our newly remodeled powder room, a small linen closet in our bedroom that I just cleaned out today (pictures to follow), and a change in decor in our dining room.  I’m making a list for when this spending freeze is over!  Of course, it will need to be in bits and pieces.  But, boy, do I want to just go and spend, spend, SPEND!

While it’s testing my resolve, I’m sticking to my guns so far.  Hopefully, I will remain determined throughout the rest of these 31 days (only 27 left!) and keep on cleaning out and reusing things that I already have in my home.  Fingers crossed!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The past three or four nights have been pretty restless at my house.  Not only is the baby moving more, my youngest daughter is currently waking up at strange hours of the night and staying awake for 2+ hours at a shot.  Needless to say, I’m exhausted.  Today, I wasn’t going to do much of anything.  The girls watched a few movies, and I was just planning to rest and hang out.  That did not go as planned.

Every day this week, I’ve been determined to do one load of laundry, fold it, and put it away all in the same day.  So today, I changed the beds and washed the sheets.  Not really a big deal, but I got it done even though I wasn’t going to.  As the day moved forward, I was putzing around thinking about what organizing I could do today that wouldn’t take a lot of effort.  I started by going through my daughter’s closet shelf.  It was being used as a random storage area for stuff that did not have a home.  I only got through a little bit of that before nap time (hers, not mine), but nonetheless, I did some.  When I finally put the clean sheets away, I opened the linen closet in the master bedroom and cringed.  What a mess!  The proof is in the pudding:

Image

How on earth did I even know what was in there?  I’m pretty sure I found a Sham-Wow in the very bottom of the closet as well.

So, since I’m organizing and cleaning out, I pulled everything out of the closet and started from scratch.  I was able to get a full trash bag of donations together, and I succeeded in organizing/making this area look a little nicer.  This is just the temporary fix until I’m allowed to add some baskets or some other cute things in there to make it look even nicer.

Image

I was thrilled that this only took a total of 15 minutes!  Even though I wasn’t planning on doing anything specific today, I still got something accomplished.  Getting closer to having everything in my house have it’s own home.

[Destination]: Clean Fridge!

I’m so excited to be cleaning out my house.  It’s so refreshing!  And, trust me when I tell you, this is completely uncharacteristic of me.  For those that know me, you’re probably wondering who has taken over and where the real Michelle has gone.  Don’t worry…it’s still me.  I’m just on a quest for that ideal sense of sanity.  I’m inching closer each and every day.

So today was Clean the Refrigerator Day.  I really hate cleaning things out/organizing/cleaning in general, so this project was looooonnnnngggg overdue.  Here is my before picture:

ImagePretty basic refrigerator.

To start, of course, I pulled everything out and loaded up my small kitchen counter and dining room table. 

Image

It really is amazing how much we can actually fit into our refrigerator.

ImageSome things I had no idea we still had.  Scary.

Once everything was out of the fridge, I started pulling out all the shelves and drawers.  I wiped down the inside of the fridge, and then washed and dried all of the shelves and drawers.  All in all, this project took a full 2 hours of my morning.  Once everything was cleaned, I got rid of (my favorite part) all expired or downright yucky food.  My trash can is full…again.  Then, I figured out a much more desirable organizational strategy for my shelves and how to stock them.  This was the end product:

Image

Ahh…I literally breathed a sigh of relief.  I can see what’s in my fridge!

What a difference!  Now that I can see what we have, I’ll better know what we truly need in the future.  Hopefully, we won’t continue to buy 10 salad dressings at once, which mean we’ll use what we have…which means we’ll save money!  SCORE!

When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator?  Even just got rid of expired items?  Don’t let it go too long!

 

 

[Destination]: Less, Part I

Well, here I am at Day 2 of my Spending Freeze month, and it’s going pretty well.  It’s actually been pretty funny.  As I’ve been cleaning out my dining room today, I keep thinking about things I could buy in order to help me organize several rooms a little better.  Hmm, kind of defeats the purpose of a spending freeze, but at least I haven’t acted on those impulses!  I’m realizing more and more that this challenge will be a difficult one for me.

While cleaning out is good, I very much have the tendency to purchase things to “fill the void” that the now well-intentioned, donated item has left.  Sad.  So very sad.  Does anyone else have this problem?  However, I’m also finding that creating more space in my home and finding a place for everything that does belong there is causing me to create more space in my mind.  (I honestly thought there wasn’t anymore room up there.)  I’m feeling more free emotionally, physically and spiritually, all just from getting rid of the clutter in my life.  Just after cleaning out one small room…miracles do happen!  

I read this quote by Karen Kingston in her book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, and it really struck a chord: “Life is constant change.  So when something comes into your life enjoy it, use it well, and when it is time, let it go.  Just because you own something, it doesn’t mean that you have to keep it forever.  You are just a temporary custodian of many things as they pass through your life.”  A temporary custodiananyone else feel that like a smack in the face?  DUH!  How many times does the Pastor have to say it?  How many times do you have to see it from friends and family who have passed on?  You CANNOT take all the stuff you accumulate with you to wherever your afterlife leads you!  So why let it bog us down, cause us depression, anxiety, weight gain, and destroy our quality of life?  (And if you think it doesn’t do all of those things, I’m here to tell you that it does.  Take a close look at your own life to evaluate if that’s happening in your home.)  Yes, our acquired possessions connect us with many different things.  We associate them with memories, people, relationships, seasons and different events that have happened to us.  But just because we rid our lives of the excess that those possessions causes doesn’t mean that the memories we hold dearly will leave as fleetingly as the item we’re donating, selling, or throwing away.

Are you afraid that you might forget those all-important memories one day?  Fair enough; we all might.  But there are many ways to document those times.  Think you don’t have enough hours in a day to do something like write your memories in a journal or take pictures of your things and write down why they’re important to you?  Start with just setting 20 minutes per day aside and see how far you get.  Make a scrapbook.  Then, make sure that book has a place of it’s own.

I’m writing this all from just two days of decluttering.  Two days!  It seriously does feel as though I can breathe a little easier.  I’m slowly starting to put things into practice (such as a regular cleaning routine…which I’ve never successfully had…ever…in my life) that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  My sister will tell you that I’ve never wanted to clean a day in my whole life, and while I can’t say I’ve desired to clean, I would like to keep my house in a working order so that I don’t feel embarrassed to invite people over on a whim.  I’m getting so much closer!

Item number 2 on my to-do list today is to write out some recipes that my family enjoys eating.  Once I do that, I’ll start pairing items I have in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to those recipes and trying some substitutions if I don’t have something.  Then, the menu planning begins!  It’s starting to scare me how much I’m enjoying this whole organizing/spending freeze.  But hey, who knows…you might just like it as much as I am starting to.  Give it a go.  Again, you’ve got nothing to lose!

Image

I challenge you today, perhaps before you go to sleep tonight, to write down one thing you want to do tomorrow towards decluttering your life.  Then, set aside just 20 minutes to do that one thing.  That’s giving up less than one TV show tomorrow.  If you don’t get the entire thing done, don’t worry about it.  Just spend 20 minutes on it.  Set a timer if you have to.  And, let me know how it went!

Here’s to finding less in your life so you can enjoy the important things more!

[Destination]: Sanity

Wow…I am really terrible at this whole blogging thing.  Oh well; things have been busy, and my life has been utterly disorganized.  Such is life.  However, I’m searching for some sanity, and I’m slowly on my way there.

Image

I am determined to get my life/home in order before this next baby comes.  We have too much stuff, so in order to get my life on track and not feel so overwhelmed, I am simplifying…everything.  We finally completed the renovation of our downstairs powder room.  Now that it’s finished, the entire downstairs looks uniform and has really come together.  Check that one off the list.  It has also inspired me to begin a spending freeze.  Not because it cost a ton of money to renovate a small powder room (not that it was cheap either – it was a total gut), but it put things into perspective.  In order to prepare for the reno, I had to clean out the ginormous cabinets that were in there.  For about the five-hundredth time.  It felt great to get rid of stuff, but it also reminded me of how much of the same thing we often accumulate.  When I don’t know where stuff is, the common thought is that we don’t have any; therefore, I must go buy more.  Well, I have more than enough of just about everything.  Hence, the spending freeze.  But, what does that actually mean?

For the next 31 days, I am purging things, organizing things, and cleaning things to find out what I already have.  This includes food.  I’ve already inventoried my pantry and freezer.  Now, I’m going to make meals from whatever I currently have (I’ll buy some necessary staples as needed like milk, eggs, bread, and fresh fruits and veggies), and eat through some of the excess that we’ve acquired.  And I’m not kidding when I say excess!  You should see the lists I wrote for both areas of my kitchen!

I got this idea from Living Well, Spending Less, a blog that I really enjoy following and have taken a lot of tips from already.  Ruth has done a great job of showing just how to accomplish the goal of spending $0 over the next month, and I’m looking forward to giving it a shot.  

I’m also looking forward to the sanity that will come from all of this simplifying.  Her other tips have been really excellent and helpful as well, but I haven’t yet put them into full practice.  I’m ready to let go of the excess and everything else that results from it.  Call it nesting, call it crazy, call it whatever you want…but think about a few things that you could get rid of that could cause you a little less chaos and a little more relief in your own home.  Give it a shot; you’ve got nothing to lose!