Homeschooling with Little Ones Underfoot

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I have lots of little ones, currently we have three little ones: 3 years, 2 years, and 10 months old with another little blessing on the way. We also have a second and third grader, and that requires a good bit of teaching and interaction with me since they are still in very formative years. So inevitably, one question people often ask me is “how do you homeschool with all these little ones around?” The general answer is that it’s not easy, but it is doable. And I have found some methods for getting it done, but it is often less than picturesque. The thing we homeschool moms of many eventually come to understand (otherwise we’d lose our sanity) is that we are running a HOME-school…. major emphasis on the home. We are a family in a home environment, and we happen to do school here, among many other things. It will not, and should not (if our priorities are in check) look like a traditional classroom.

Now mamas these are just methods, but we are talking about real-living, active, and energetic babies, toddlers,  and preschoolers….. so you know what that’s like right? There are interruptions, and often times those interruptions are put there for a very important reason. How we view those interruptions and respond to them is often times more important than what we need to accomplish with school that day. So with that little bit of encouragement, here are some methods for occupying little ones that do work for us most of the time so that we can get our schooling done.

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Methods for Occupying Little Ones:

big sister time/ one on one time : Often times I will have one of my older girls play with the little girls in the next room (babysitter style) while I have one-on-one lesson time with the other. This is usually in 15 to 30 minute increments, it works great for working in a quick reading or language arts lesson. Sometimes a snack time is needed to break up the switching of sisters, and sometimes if things are going well the switch can be made pretty easily.

play-pen, high chair,  gated independent bedroom play: This has worked for almost all of my babies, toddlers, and preschool age. I will say this is my primary go-to method that I use all throughout my day. It may take the child a few days in a row to get use to it, but they usually catch on and will learn how to play in the contained place with the assigned toy(s) that they are given. I put babies in a play pen with a few toys. Toddlers and preschoolers I put them alone in a gated child-safe bedroom (the gate is more of a reminder because they can get out if they want, but they are trained not to unless they need to go “potty”). I don’t give them full access to all their toys (this keeps the mess down), they usually only have one or two sets; sometimes I choose the toys for them and sometimes I let them choose. I don’t let my 2 and 3 year old play together in the room alone, that is a recipe for a melt down or for mischief. They do much better separated! High chair play is usually with things like coloring, puzzles, water painting, or play-doh. All of these can usually work for 30 minutes, and sometimes up to an hour unless it is at nap or meal time.

a learning dvd in a high chair: I’m not a big fan of media for kids, but one way that I do use media to my advantage is this. I put my preschool/ toddler children into their high chairs, buckle them up, and show them a carefully selected learning or Bible memory DVD. I use a small portable DVD player at our kitchen table for this since we do not have an actual TV. I like this method for many reasons: First because it forces them to actually watch the show instead of playing and having it as background noise to glance up at every now and then. I also like that it limits their time to that one 30 minute long DVD,  and when it is over it is over, and that is our “show” for the day. I like that I have full control of it, I’m very picky about what my kids watch and with the portable DVD player there is no opportunity to switch channels or click on another option.

My thoughts on “blanket time”: Some people swear by “blanket time”, but honestly I’ve never been able to have tons of success with that. “Blanket time” for those who don’t know is training your child to stay on a blanket and play with a specific set of toys. You train them to do it, and increase the time. I have trained my 2 and 3 year old girls to do it, and they can for a time, but it’s more trouble to me than it is worth, and it’s definitely not my ‘go to’ during the homeschool day. It works great at the park or at someone’s house if I’m talking with another mom and want my child to stay close, but it doesn’t buy me as much time as these above mentioned options, and it requires pretty close supervision and pausing to discipline when they eventually get distracted and climb off the blanket. I could possibly invest more training time in this and see more success, but for now I definitely prefer the other methods because for me they bring about less interruptions.

“Together time” (also referred to as “morning time”, “basket time”, and other names) : This is also a popular method that many of my friends and mentors love to do with their homeschool. I do this for a short time in the mornings for Bible, hymns, and memory work. This time also doubles as church training time for my younger ones. I require them to sit still and quiet just as they will be expected to do in church. This training time for the littles is so valuable! We use this time in the morning and our family devotions in the evening as our set aside time to teach them to sit still and quiet.

 

outside or inside free play : On nice days we will all go outside, I bring a few lesson books so the big girls and I can sit on the deck and work through lessons while the little ones play in the yard. Other days when it’s not as nice out, I let the littles have free play time in the living room while I do lessons with the big girls. Sure it brings a few extra distractions, but sometimes I think that’s good training for my older girls since real-life is not typically “library quiet” every time you need to use your brain.

nap time/rest time : This is definitely some prime time for homeschooling, but it’s also prime time for other restful and refreshing activities which is why I really try to do our schooling with the little ones awake. Sometimes we use naps for special lessons, crafts, science experiments, or read aloud time, but for the most part I have all of my children have a quiet hour right after lunch (even the older ones, they color and draw and listen to an audio book). This is when I get a chance to really dig into the Word, journal, and pray. Morning devotions are much more rushed and groggy for me and often times include morning snuggles with a baby or toddler which is lovely, but can be a bit distracting. I really enjoy having this scheduled time with the Lord in the middle of the day when I’m alert and when I really need a refresh the most. My kiddos do often sleep longer than an hour in the day, so after my set aside time in the Word, I often use that extra time for schooling or for chore training (teaching my big girls how to do a new chore, always time well spent!) And sometimes I use it that last half of naptime to get my own nap or a shower when it’s needed.

baby sitter/ mother’s helper : This is something we are pursuing this year for the first time (Lord willing! But we are still praying about who to hire for this.) Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m only imagining how I think it will work, but I can’t wait to find out first hand. After discussing it and praying about it with my husband, we really feel like it will be a good investment for us to have a Christian young lady come to be a mother’s helper two mornings a week. I’m planning for her to watch my three younger children in my home while I teach my older two in the homeschool room. Really this is such a win for everyone! This girl will get valuable experience learning about caring for children, homemaking, and homeschooling, as well as an opportunity to make money in a safe work environment.  And I will have a very needed extra set of hands to help with the little ones so that I can focus more time on teaching the older two, because like I said above, schooling with lots of little ones is not easy. There are ways to do it, but it requires a lot of intentionality, focus, and energy…. and let’s face it, some days we mamas just don’t have that in us and school has to take the back seat. It will be so nice to know that two days out of the week are truly set aside for teaching my older children. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s certainly worth praying about and considering. I mean, isn’t this kind of help all year long way better than a vacation? It is for me! One thing that helped us decide to pursue this was weighing out other potentially helpful options: I looked up some information on a few local co-ops where homeschool students would be taught core subjects in a classroom setting two days a week and have home school assignments for the others. We decided this was not a good fit for our family for three reasons: They cost WAY more than hiring a mother’s helper for those two days. And I would not be able to choose the curriculum I want. I also could not choose the teachers or the kind of students that would be influencing my children for those two days each week. We already have Classical Conversations one day a week and our church community at least two days a week, and I feel like that is all of the peer time that I want my children to have at this stage of life. That will likely change as they get older, but for now I see good fruit by keeping that time with peers and other influences limited.

So hopefully you got an idea or two for homeschooling with little ones. You probably also got a little look into how I think, so you either think I’m a nut or you totally agree with me. Either way, I hope this was helpful to you homeschool mamas and that it gives you a few good ideas for the coming school year.

DIY Picnic Farmhouse Table (no building required)

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Super simple diys are kinda my thing…. mainly because I’m not all that crafty, and I don’t have tons of free time either. I am convinced that every easy peasy diy has a story behind it, well here is the story behind this one. We had been needing another table for quite some time, I was dreaming of a farmhouse style table, but I had more of a craigslist budget to work with. My husband is certainly handy enough to build one, but he is already double loaded with projects. Adding a table to the list just wasn’t an option. I literally prayed about this, I’m learning to pray for things we need and to wait on the Lord to provide the right thing or idea. I had been shopping craigslist and many other options, but the right fit had not come along. I had found a simple farmhouse table with benches for about $600 a few hours away, but the drive really detoured me and so did the price. I also was concerned about the benches tipping over, and I pointed out to my husband that I would love for them to somehow be attached. Then it happened, we passed a Lowe’s and spotted these $98 wooden picnic tables out front. My wheels began turning….. what if we bought one of those, sanded it and stained it and brought it in the house. And that is just what we did! We ended up spending about $120 on the table, and putting in about 4 hours total. I couldn’t be happier with the result! I just love our picnic farmhouse table!

DIY Details:
We used an electric hand sander like this one. (aff link) This was a must because there were definitely some rough places that could cause splinters. We sanded all of it pretty generously.
After the sanding, we put on 2 coats of Poly Shades stain (aff link) which is a stain and polyurethane in one. It’s always nice to kill two birds with one stone. The shade we used was “honey pine”, and it is linked above, but there are more color options available. I loved this product! We got a beautiful natural wood shade and it was sealed well so I could wipe the table down when it got dirty, every single day. ;) We left the bottom of the wood unstained since the wood will be drying out as time goes by, we didn’t want to trap water inside.

This table is already well-loved, and holding up well.

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Suffice it to say this may be the easiest and cheapest way to get the farmhouse table look. And really, I LOVE that the benches are connected to the table because our dining room clean up is SO much easier than when we had a bunch of chairs to move around. We’ve also seen when guests come over that we can pile tons of people (especially little ones) on these benches. I even think that two of these could be attached to each other to make a really long farmhouse table, which we may have to attempt if our family keeps growing.

So if you’re in a pinch and need a new table, I hope this idea can help your family!

Have a blessed day!

,Stacey

The Pursuit of Minimalism : Part 2

1464292104275This is a bit overdue. Homeschooling mom life happened… oh and stomach bugs, and playdates, and fellowship, and meal planning, and you know how it goes. But here I am so let’s talk about this again. Last time I wrote about minimalism, I shared my story of pursuing minimalism and how it has drastically changed my life for the better. I shared the Scripture that inspired me down this path, and a few of the practical ways that I went about that. I’m very much still in the process, I’m not where I want to be but I’m well on my way, and way better than I have ever been before at being in control of our things. I wanted to come back to the topic to share a few other thoughts as well as a few more practical outworkings as to “how” to go about this pursuit. Although I think there are many ways to accomplish it, I will share how I went about it.

 Pursuing Practicals

When I finally caught the vision for minimizing, I began to hear of a book that was gaining popularity at the time and so I bought and read the book. You’ve probably heard of it, ” The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I’ll just speak candidly, I did not care for the book at all. She’s very new age in her philosophies and has some major quirks that actually weren’t endearing (as some reviewers describe them), but rather seemed superstitious and weird.She tells people to talk to their things, set them free, etc…. she talks about how many things to put in your shrine and how long the charms have luck or power. Yeah, not my cup of tea, hopefully it isn’t yours either. However the basic concept of how to sift through things and decide what to keep and what to get rid of resonated with me…. and I began to get an idea of the “how”, eventhough I didn’t fully agree with her philosophies, ideas, or even her methods. The idea of keeping things I actually *really* liked and needed was a good concept to be able to grasp through her descriptions of various clients and the things they had to process through keeping or not. As I said before, I didn’t care for her method much either…. her recommended process (which she believes is the one and only way to really go about it) is definitely more fitting for a single person or maybe a person with 2 kids tops. It is just impractical to pile all your books, clothes, etc in the middle of the floor when you have many little people about. Trust a voice of regretful experience, if you want order in your house, do not put all of your things in the middle of the floor to be sorted, I repeat do not. ;) If your littles are normal kinds of kids who can make toys of anything, your pile will just become the coolest new thing to ransack and your house will be an even bigger mess than when you started. I recommend finding an off limits (to children) room or area to sort things in.

Kondo says don’t do things by area, but instead by category and personally I disagree. I did my sorting by area and it worked great. It was very logical to me. Bathroom closet, under the sink, kitchen, and so on…. I tried to pick some one day projects and then would take a break and pick a week long project. I simply took everything out and put back ONLY what I wanted to have in that space, if it didn’t fit and didn’t belong somewhere else that I could put it away, then I got rid of it. Even if it was useful or neat or whatever our random reasons are for keeping things that don’t fit in our homes. I still got rid of it if I could not find a place for it. I have a small house and a lot of people, I was insanely picky. I have gotten rid of 5 trailer loads full of stuff to donate, more random trips to donate here and there, and even more to a burn pile. I used the method I shared back in November. It worked for me, I feel like it would work for anyone who is ready to let go of the junk.

Maintenance:

Here are a few of the ways that I maintain, and do not allow myself to become a minimalist backslider. This is such a wonderful way to live, and I’m determined not to go back to my old ways.

I have changed the way that I shop big time! I don’t buy things just because they are on sale or look neat or fun to have around. I try to be very intentional with all of my purchases. This has a double blessing, it keeps clutter down and we save lots of money. When I buy things for my kids for birthdays or special occassions, I either get them big items that I know they need and will use (like a bike or a new pair of shoes or a camera) or I buy them a crafty type thing that they can use once, keep for a few weeks, and then throw away.

I get rid of a few things each week. I have become hyper sensitive to things that are wasting time and space in my house. A few examples: I wore a shirt a few days ago, and at the end of the day I thought to myself, ” I always dislike wearing this shirt, it doesn’t fit right and it’s uncomfortable.” I washed it and added it to my donate bag. Easy peasy, now that’s one less piece of clothing to clutter my closet, and one less shirt that will bother me when I wear it. Often times if I put on an dress, top, or bottom and decide I don’t want to wear it, then I just put it in the donate bag. If I don’t like it, then there is no sense in keeping it.  I also recently cleared off my deep freezer where some random decor and vases had collected, I couldn’t find a place for them (although I did really like them) but I just donated them. It will bless someone else, and I don’t have the space. For me ultimately it has been about not being greedy and loving my things too much. I only want to keep the things I actually want or need in my life. Keeping a shirt I don’t like just because I bought it for $20 last summer is just silly. I wouldn’t pay $1 for it now, so why keep it? If I don’t like or need an item or have space for an item, not being able to let go of it only indicates a heart problem concerning my things. I just remind myself that we as Christians are not to love the things of the world…. yes that applies to a variety of sinful behaviors, but materialism is definitely one of them, I believe. If you are controlled by your things and can’t “give them up” then I truly believe you should examine your heart to make sure you aren’t loving the things of the world too much, and remember that love for the world is enmity with God. We can not have a whole-hearted pursuit of living for the Lord when our earthly belongings have such a strong hold on us.

Christian Minimalism

This brings me to a few quick thoughts. Minimalism is a huge buzz-word right now. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.I talked about this in my last post too, but I’m going to put even more words around it because I think it’s important. I want to distinguish what I am pursuing by adding the word Christian before it, because this is not for some selfish gain like having a perfect home or traveling the world fulfilling the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.

Christian Minimalism is getting rid of anything that hinders you from walking in full obedience to Jesus.

Here are some examples how this can play out:

If you are married, then by default you are a keeper of your home and should keep it orderly. That is a part of walking obediently to the Lord in that role.

If you are a mother, then you by default are teaching little ones how to live a life of order because God is a God of order and purpose and He calls His people to walk in this way as well.

That is not to say your house won’t get messy! Please don’t hear that! But it needs to be at a level you can maintain and tidy up each day. My house gets used and messy every day…. we dirty dishes, we fill trash cans, we pull out toys and books and homeschooling materials…. every single day. And that isn’t counting special projects. But every single day (unless there is an extenuating circumstance, such as sickness or a new baby, etc…), we do what is necessary to bring it all to order. My older girls and I have morning, afternoon, and evening chores which keep things pulled together. But to keep things at that maintenance level, I have to make sure everything has a place and can be easily put away and we just can’t have tons of stuff to have to deal with. So you can see how getting rid of things that don’t have a place and that won’t be used or loved has enabled me to more obediently walk in my roles as wife, keeper of the home, and teacher to my children on orderly living.

Another huge blessing is that when I sit down to spend time with the Lord my house is not always beckoning me to clean it as it once did in the past. I am finally able to focus on what matters most. I treasure being able to come to the Lord with the heart of Mary and not Martha, that alone makes this pursuit so worthwhile!

Furthermore when I sit down to read to my children or to home school or to have a conversation with my husband, I am not constantly thinking about the endless piles of things that need to be addressed. I know that we have a schedule and I know that we will get to the duties that need to be done at the next chore time. I finally do not have to worry about what I will do with *that* huge pile of things that I just can’t ever seem to get cleaned up. Thankfully, those piles don’t exist anymore, and it is SO freeing!

You can do it too!

This probably sounds too good to be true. I know two to five years ago it would have sounded that way to me as well, and perhaps even a bit insane, if I’m really honest. I know what it’s like to live with clutter and to keep trying to organize it and clean it up to no avail. I know what it’s like to have a pile of things you feel like you have to or need to keep, but having no clue where to put any of those things. I know what it’s like to feel like a failure as a homemaker, and to keep wondering what it is that could fix the problem. But I promise you this is doable. It isn’t a quick fix, and it does take work. And it definitely takes intentionality! Begin to work diligently at de-cluttering various spaces in your home and you will begin to notice almost instantaneous difference in your daily workload. The project mode can be hard because at the time it is extra work, but when you finish that project is when you begin to reap the rewards. And don’t stop with one or two projects, be intent on de-cluttering every part of your home. It didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t be changed overnight, but if you will diligently pursue minimalism you will eventually get there. And I have no doubt that it will revolutionize your homemaking forever.

So there’s part 2. And I’m sure more on this topic will come in the future. Hope it helps!

,Stacey

Spring Day : Modern Modesty

It’s about time I put a spring outift up this season. :) I love when the weather warms up and I can live in skirts and dresses! So comfy, feminine, and modest…. perfect combo! This is one of my casual outfits to wear at home, for a play dates, or errands. Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with a6 preset skirt : ross
shirt : target
undershirt : target
shoes : chacos

Want to learn more about modesty? Check out a few of my posts.

 Modesty an Act of Love

Modern Modesty

My Journey to Modesty

Hope everyone is having a happy Monday!

,Stacey

linked up with The Modest Mom

My Journey to Modesty

Sorry friends, this about a month later than I said it would be. Life with five littles happened, but here I am now. And I am excited to share where I have come from and where I am now in this journey. I want to share because I want you to know this isn’t something I have always been aware of. If there’s anything I’ve learned since trusting in Jesus to save me, it’s that I have to be humble, ready, and willing to have my mind renewed from what it once was. It is good to make changes in areas of our lives that do not fully reflect the heart of Christ. We may not (and probably don’t) see all at once every area of our lives that need to be changed. It may be something we have to slowly grow into. It may be strange or uncomfortable at first. But shedding off sin and giving more and more of ourselves to Christ is always worth it! There should not be any part of our lives that we withhold from him.

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My Journey to Modesty

For many years I had NO concept of modesty…. even after becoming a Christian. I was saved at age 19. In those early years of my walk with the Lord when I was confronted with my immodesty I protested that pursuing modesty was legalistic. (I had no clue what legalism was, for the record, people who call obedience to God legalistic don’t know either). Truth be told, modest clothing didn’t appeal to me because I thought I would look frumpy and unattractive, and I didn’t really see a problem with my current clothing choices (they didn’t seem like sin to me). I didn’t want to look weird or ugly, and I wasn’t willing to even consider that changing the way I dressed was something the Lord desired for me. This is certainly not the way I would’ve articulated it back then, but it was what I can see in hind-sight was happening in my heart. Because of my aversion to modesty for myself I made assumptions about girls who talked about and pursued modesty; I believed their modest dress was just as much for attention as immodest dress; only it was that they wanted people to look at them and think “oh how modestly she dresses”. I thought it was prideful and assumed they had a “holier than thou” attitude. I reasoned that if it wasn’t for the praises of others or for self-righteous pride, that if they *really* felt it was Biblically necessary, then they didn’t understand Christian freedom. Turns out I was the one acting like a pharisee, judging the intentions of others’ hearts…. “thank God I’m not like those self-righteous modest girls!” (sound familiar?Luke 18:11) I shudder to think of my sinful heart back then, and I honestly had no clue. God is so patient and gracious with His children. He had saved me and He wasn’t about to let me stay where I was.

Another anti-modesty soap boxes I stood on back then:

I protested that men’s lust was their own problem, that they would lust no matter what women wore if it was in their hearts to lust. I thought dressing modestly to love my Christian brothers and assist in the effort to keep their hearts from lust was like saying they couldn’t help it and it was all the girls’ fault….. and I believed that line of logic lead to even more disturbing ideas; such as the woman being blamed if she was raped, and things of that nature. Maybe some modesty proponents think like that, but in reality I didn’t know any and was simply making a straw man up to build my case against the idea of Christian modesty.

If I’m really REALLY honest, it was all just a huge excuse to not give that part of my life up. I didn’t want to admit I was wrong for dressing the way I was dressing, and I didn’t want to change the way I dressed either. Truth be told, I liked my short dresses and shorts and bikinis and strapless & spaghetti strap tops. I looked cute in them (according to worldly standards). I turned heads. It fed my flesh and my pride. I liked it and didn’t see why I would have to give it up…. I wasn’t saved by works but by grace! (I had Ephesians 2:8 &9 down, just failed to read on to verse 10) “A short skirt wouldn’t make me unsaved”, I’d reason. And I didn’t want to admit the trouble dressing that way often lead me into. I was too stubborn to admit that it attracted the wrong type of guys with expectations that I knew very well were wrong. But again, that was ALL their fault, not mine.

It was very wrong thinking to say the least.

I had never been taught at my church or the college groups I attended that dressing immodestly was sin, so I had no real reason to give up the cute clothes I loved to wear. The conversation only came up every now and then with Christians I considered to be a little over the top, and so I never took them very seriously.

This stubborn mind-set went on for about six years after my conversion! (seems crazy I know, but as I said, the Lord was very patient and gracious with me! He would work in a perfect timing on my heart.) Eventually, some difficult circumstances in my marriage lead me to pursue the Lord much deeper than I had previously before. I began devouring sermons and the Word and spending much more time in prayer. The Lord was my only real joy during this time, and I wanted to be as close to Him as possible. His presence was the only place I could find joy. That was a good place for me to be, and I knew it! With all of this Biblical teaching and reading and prayer, my mind began to change about things, not just dress, but everything! It was unintentional, I didn’t set out to become a radically different person, but it happened when I began taking the Bible more seriously and reading it more earnestly. Life looked so different through the lens of Scripture! My mind was really being renewed, I no longer wanted to be conformed to the world. I didn’t know fully what that would look like, but things were shifting and the Lord was opening my eyes to see sinful ideas in my heart that I needed to turn from and sinful ways of life that I needed to quit walking in. I learned during this time that repentance wasn’t something the Christian does one time, it’s something the Christian walks in. We are constantly repenting of our sin and putting our minds, hearts, and bodies in subjection to Christ….. it’s just what Christians do. Christians aren’t perfect, but we are being made perfect! And by God’s grace we will be one day!

What happened next:

Shortly after this the Lord brought friends into my life who didn’t look like the world, including in the area of modest dress.  Before I would’ve thought these people were too over the top, but now they were beautiful to me! They were never unkind or judgmental to me even-though I had not yet made the complete shift in my clothing choices, but their example and gentle exhortations were convicting and helpful for my growth in the Lord, especially in this particular area of my life. The Lord had already made my heart soft to the subject and I was ready to receive Biblical advice from others. It made me sad that I had never really been taught on it before. It made me sad that more ministers didn’t actually teach or preach about this common (seemingly acceptable) area of rebellion. I was sad that I had been so stubborn and unwilling to change. But at the same time I knew myself loved and forgiven by the Lord through the blood of Jesus; I was able to see how He faithfully pruned me and lead me in this journey. Sanctification is such a beautiful thing! The Lord used many people and situations to teach me the Scriptures regarding modesty and to show me the loveliness and beauty of modesty. It became overwhelmingly desirable for me to make a change in the way I had been dressing. So one day I went through my wardrobe and I pulled out everything that I (at the time) deemed as immodest. I tried to discern if I could layer it and make it modest, if so I kept it and if not then out it went. I put t-shirts under strapless and spaghetti strap dresses and tops. I tossed out my skirts, dresses, and shorts that didn’t come down to just above my knees. I tossed out my bikinis and purchased a few cute one pieces and swim skirts. I also purchased a few long skirts and long (tunic type) shirts to wear with skinny jeans. (I’m not trying to say my standards are what everyone is called to, but this was what the Lord had laid on my heart.)

Honestly, it was a bit of a difficult adjustment for me at first. My mind had been so conformed to the world, that it was hard for me to know what beauty and femininity really were. The first time I wore my one piece and swim skirt, I felt somewhat insecure…. it was SO different than my tiny little bikini that I was use to. I felt like people were staring at me (I’m sure it was totally in my head!). My body hadn’t changed at all, in fact I was the most fit I had ever been. Prior to my mind change on modesty, I believed a girl would wear a bikini up until the day she didn’t look good in one, then she’d move to a one piece, but here I was all covered up, but totally not insecure about the way my body looked. I was constantly having to remind myself of what was really true, and what wasn’t. In the beginning I also had to fight feelings of frumpiness. Sometimes I felt ugly in my modest clothes. I think this was two fold: one reason was because my mind was still being renewed to understand that tight fitting and skin showing didn’t equal beauty and the other reason was that I hadn’t yet learned how to be me and be modest. I thought I had to have the same style as other modest girls, and it took me a bit to learn how to have the style that reflected my personality and still be modest. It was definitely trial and error for a while. But it was definitely worth it! Even though I struggled to “like” the new look, I loved the freedom I had gained! Freedom from sin and worldliness, freedom to walk in obedience to the God I loved so dearly. It was a true victory God had won in my heart! And in time, I grew to see so much beauty in modest clothing. Now it is worldly immodest clothes that seem unbecoming to me.

5 quick reasons it was worth it to submit to God in this!

1. I was able to cast off sin and grow in obedience.

2. My walk with the Lord got sweeter because I was not withholding parts of myself from Him.

3. My husband felt more respected by me than he did before the change.

4. Other men and women respect me more than before the change.

5. I am able to teach my daughters by words and example how to worship the Lord with our clothing choices.

This is just my personal journey to dressing modestly. If modesty has been something you are considering, maybe you know you need to make a change and your heart is being drawn to honor the Lord more with your clothing choices. Pray about it, consider what your clothes say about you and the God you claim to serve. And then just do it! Get in your closet and make some changes. Do it out of love for the Savior who died for your sins. Do it seeking to obey the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37-39). Do it as an act of love.

I hope that gave you a little glimpse into why I’m passionate about modesty and why I’m doing these Modern Modesty posts. My hope is to help others see modest dress as beautiful too. 

So how about one wintery look before winter has completely passed us by (not that I will be the least bit sad about that!)

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I love to pair tunics with skinny jeans and boots! It’s one of my favorite looks!

top : rue 21 online

jeans : delias

boots : belk

blanket scarf : spoiled rotten (in Knoxville), a gift from my amazing mom

Psalm 16 bracelet : a gift from my sweet friend Jessica

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,Stacey

Spring Cleaning that will change your life : the Pursuit of Minimalism

1455654783537This is going to be a series. I sat down to type this out and quickly realized it would not all fit into one blog post. There is just way too much to say about it! Before we dive into a how-to post I have a few stories, clarifications, and persuasions for you. It may be tempting to skip over this part, but I think it will benefit you to read it. Mainly because minimalism is much more a mind-set than it is a method. You really have to have your mind reshaped to pursue minimalism.

I want you to learn how this can really help the home-maker who is struggling to keep her home organized. I want you to pursue it for the right reasons. I want you to know that it *can* work for you in whatever situation you find yourself in. (big house, little house, big family, small family, it can work for anyone!) I want to persuade you to view your belongings in a totally different way. I want you to know why you have to be “all in” committed to minimalism for it to really change your life. Then I want to tell you ‘how to’ pursue it starting now with your spring cleaning efforts. I hope I don’t sound like a sales-woman when I say, this could be the spring clean that will change your life!

I will share how to begin living a minimalist life-style, which I promise is not as hard as you may think! Once you change your mind-set, doing it is actually very easy! And I will tell you how to continue to grow in it and to perfect it, that is the phase I am in now, and it has become so easy and fun. It no longer stresses me out to organize or find places for things like it use to. I will help you get there, if you are willing to change your mind about your things!

Again this is a mind-set, not a method. I can give you steps (and I will eventually give you steps), but you can do the steps and stay in bondage to your things if you don’t build the foundation first.

How I Became a Minimalist:

So let’s kick it off with a testimonial of my personal story. I want to tell you how I went from an unorganized mess to a minimalist. I use to really struggle with keeping an organized home. I don’t any more. Now my house does get messy with toys and our daily things, but they are easily picked up; in about 10-15 minutes my house can be entirely clean. Not just look clean, but have stuff crammed, I mean actually clean! A few years ago this was not so, I really struggled with keeping my home clean and organized! It was bad! There were some areas I kept clean (my living room and kitchen mostly), but there were many areas that no matter what I did I could never keep organized and put together. I’m not talking about dirt and grime and cob-webs, I’m talking about our stuff. The task of organizing was absolutely daunting to me. I’ve never been a good organizer, I’m still not great at it, but minimalism makes it easier because there is way less to organize. Back then I hated it!!! Organizing was the bane of my existence. I wasn’t a hoarder or anything, in fact, I felt like I had the same amount of stuff as all the other people I knew. I just couldn’t manage it. I always had a room where I stored a few boxes of junk that I needed to sort through. I always had a mess of school and craft supplies and miscellaneous papers shoved in the corners in my office floor and piled all around my desk and shelves. I would spend hours picking up my children’s bedrooms, the toy/school room and my own, but in about three hours they would be destroyed again. I would pick up and organize all the time, but it never seemed to help! I constantly had an organization project going. It always flopped in the end! I’m not a lazy person, and I am passionate about my job as a homemaker, so I was perplexed by this whole cycle. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I put SO much work into it and yet the end result was *still* a messy house. I always questioned, “Why can’t I keep my house clean when I work so hard?” My husband would wonder what I had been doing all day, when in fact I had been cleaning and organizing all day. That caused conflict. It hurt him and communicated disrespect. It hurt me because I felt like a failure as a wife, homemaker, and mother. It hurt my children because they were learning my example, and they were witnessing the conflict between my husband and I. It hurt and it was very hard on my heart. I knew there were more important things than a clean house and I pursued those and focused on my areas of strength such as teaching my children diligently, but I believed a clean house was important too. I was suppose to be a keeper of my home. I was suppose to be building it, not tearing it down. A clean house is right, and I knew that. A clean house is a noble desire and we should pursue it! A clean house brings so much peace to the family! God is a God of order, and I knew that it would honor Him for me to run a home of order. I wanted it SO BADLY! But continued to walk in defeat no matter how hard I tried.

I just knew there had to be a way off of the hamster wheel! I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom. I would say, “Lord, you know my heart, you know I want to be a good homemaker and to work as unto you, please show me what I’m doing wrong!” (in tears, begging, pleading, I was desperate)

The Lord did finally answer. Almost a year and a half ago we took a long work trip with my husband to Western Canada (about 3 days of driving for us). We had four children and as anyone knows when packing for a trip with lots of littles, we had to pack JUST the essentials to last us for six weeks. So I put together all that we needed: a week’s worth of clothing for everyone (we would have access to a laundry mat), toiletries, our current home school curriculum, our current read aloud books, 3 small toy sets, a pack n play, booster, diaper bag, blankets and pillows, an ergo, a stroller, my camera, my laptop, our homeschool ipad, and my husband’s work supplies. It seemed a meager amount to me, but still stuffed the 12 passenger rental van pretty tightly. Once we settled into our hotel in Canada, I was AMAZED at how light my work load felt while I was there. Sure, we had room service to come in and make the bed and clean the bathrooms and yes the hotel provided dinner 2 nights a week (amazing!), but I could’ve managed those things easily. The lightened load wasn’t from my relief of chores or dinner preparations; it was from the constant organization and picking up, and from being surrounded by my junk. It made a huge difference in my perspective to not be surrounded by a house that always seemed to be reminding me that there was so much work to do. The truth was, I couldn’t relax in my own home! I loved the simple hotel room with just the things we needed! It was SO much more manageable for me! What amazed me was how peaceful it felt to be surrounded with only the things we needed. The whole place could be picked up and put in order in five minutes flat. I could actually sit and read to my girls and enjoy it without feeling like it was taking away from homemaking. We could take outings without me feeling like I had work left undone. I could have my quiet time undistracted by a lingering pile of junk in the corner. It was wonderful! And it hit me then and there, I don’t need those things we left behind, in fact those things were a hindrance! My stuff was the problem!  As I processed through this life-lesson I was learning, the Lord brought this Scripture to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1

 

I just knew this was the answer!!!! Yes, we lay aside sin, but not only sin, also weight….. to me that means anything (my belongings included) which caused me to not run the race with endurance. It was clinging to me, it was holding me down, it was distracting me from the Lord and my work for him, and it needed to be thrown off! Isn’t it so sweet when the Lord finally answers! It was like a glass of fresh water after being lost in the desert! I was thrilled to say the least.

This was before I had ever even heard of minimalism, I truly feel the Lord revealed this concept to me through His Spirit and by His Word first, then allowed me to learn more about it through other means later. He used my circumstances of the trip to Canada to graciously give me a taste of how wonderful it would be to live that way, which motivated me even more. It still motivates me!


How I got started:

While still on my trip and learning these things,I endeavored to get rid of everything I didn’t need or love as soon as I got back home. I knew it would be a lengthy process because I had accumulated a lot, but I was set on starting as soon as possible! When we returned, I chose an area (my office) which had been messy for years. I used the method I shared in my No Clutter November post. It worked! Four huge trash bags later, and my messy office was cleaned up in a day!!! It was the first time since I had moved into that house four years prior that the office had been clean! And I had organized it and worked on it countless hours in months and years prior with no lasting result of organization. It felt so good to have it really done! A few days later, it remained cleaned. Weeks later, it remained cleaned! I was amazed and relieved! This small victory motivated me to continue…. I started getting rid of more things. Every day I was throwing stuff away like crazy or putting things into a huge donation pile and taking trips to donate trunk loads at a time. “Ruthlessly Purge” was my motto. I showed no mercy for things. If I didn’t love it or need it, out it went. I had a lot of stuff and four children so this was (as I had assumed it would be) a long drawn out process. Becoming a minimalist isn’t something you can do in a week. It took you a long time to get all those things, it will take a little while to get rid of them. That was my thinking, and as far as I can see, that is the truth. I did it by areas; which later I found out wasn’t the best method, but that’s okay, it was still a huge help! In the middle of my homemaking reformation the Lord led us to sell our house and to buy our current farmhouse. I then turned my attention to packing up for the move. We had to do it quickly because the house sold two weeks after being on the market, It was such a rushed thing, and I was pregnant with morning sickness so my pursuit of minimalism was put on halt. We had to put most of our stuff in storage for about 8 months and I didn’t have time to purge as I packed; the farmhouse had to be gutted and reconstructed before we could even move in. We lived with the in-loves, with our basics and even still I felt like we maybe had too much with us for the space we had, my cue was that perpetual messes were becoming a distraction again. That is when I began researching for ideas on living with less, and that is where I stumbled across this wonderful concept of minimalism. It was exactly the life-style I knew the Lord was leading us to! The possibilities were inspiring me. The objective was becoming very clear. I knew where we were heading when we opened that storage building. I would be extremely selective about what I brought into my house, and I was. That storage building is still stacked full of stuff. We took out what we needed and wanted, and stopped there. And we have been living quite well with the things we have in our house for months now, in fact, I purge from this small amount we brought in all the time. I have grown to love the simplicity and order so much that I just keep pursuing it more and more. I plan to tackle the storage building in the spring (it’s just too cold for me right now), but I’m not planning to keep the stuff, but instead to get rid of it properly. There are only a few things I have remembered and wanted out of there that I plan to keep. The rest is going!

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I can’t tell you how much I love living with less! It seemed hard at first, but the more I got rid of, the easier it became to get rid of even more. My trajectory is definitely to continue in this direction and to teach my children to do the same. Minimalism has made home-making a joy to me again and I no longer feel like a failure.

what is minimalism?

So you may now be asking, “what is minimalism?”  I think some people have a misconception that minimalism is only for singles or for childless people who live in 500 square foot houses. The tiny house movement has made minimalism a bit trendy with the hippy crowd. Most people think of that type when they think of minimalism. It’s totally not like that for everyone! A basic definition of minimalism is:  living with ONLY what you NEED and LOVE. Also, I would add it is a whole knew way of viewing your things and your home. You become much more intentional about the things you purchase or receive as gifts . You do not allow yourself to feel obligated to keep anything (either a gift or something you spent hard earned money on) if it hinders you from doing what the Lord has called you to by causing messes that you are continually spending time and energy on. Minimalism looks a little different from person to person and family to family, but it’s premise is pretty much the same for everyone; living with the things you absolutely want to live with and having your space look the way you want it to look. Minimalism is like organizing in reverse: instead of deciding where to put things you have, you look at your space and decide the very things you want to be there. Everything else needs to go somewhere else that you want it to be or out of the house. You also reshape your view of “need”. Our culture has made things into a need that are certainly not necessities. Figuring out those things that your family actually does use and need is a process, but it’s worth it!

Do it for the right Reasons

A quick word of warning: if you begin to research “minimalism” you will sadly find very little Christian perspective on the topic. There are a lot of great “how to” articles out there, but the motivation for most of those authors is not living for the Lord, but instead living for themselves. That is NOT where I would encourage your heart to be in this pursuit. If you want to get rid of your things so that you can do whatever it is that makes you happy, then you are worshiping yourself, and that is very dangerous for your soul! (call me dramatic if you want, but it’s just the truth) You will hear a lot of selfish reasoning in most articles on the topic, and actually it can sound appealing to the flesh….. travel, see the world, focus on climbing the career ladder, sit in silence, read, meditate, sip tea, retire early to a life of leisure.  I just want to gently warn you that is not Biblical! That is not how Christians live or think. If your heart is being drawn towards living a minimalist life then let it be for the glory of God. Let it be to honor your husband and children. Let it be so that you can work less on organizing your stuff, and spend that (undistracted) extra time in prayer, the Word, diligently teaching your children, and in service to God. There is nothing wrong with silence and relaxing with a cup of tea or traveling, those are blessings to refresh us, but those should not be life objectives for the Christian.

Minimalism does work!!! It will get you the freedom from the mess that you’ve always been wanting, but I pray that you pursue that with a pure heart and not out of selfish ambition.

Can a big family live a minimalist life-style?

This is a question I get sometimes when I explain to people that I am a minimalist. It is asked in a variety of ways, “is that house going to be big enough?” “don’t you need…. (fill in the blank item)?” ,but the big question above is at the heart of all the other questions, and so I think it a profitable thing to answer. In a word, yes! A big family absolutely can live a minimalist life-style! And let me explain, In truth, a big family only *really* needs a few more things than a small family with only two children. In fact, I had way more stuff when I just had my first two children than I have now for all of us (with the exception of beds and carseats). Kids don’t need every gadget and toy that comes along! They only need a few toy sets and puzzles. I promise they play in a much more content fashion with less than they do with more. I have seen the fruit of both first hand; I saw clearly that more toys only makes them play less! It doesn’t seem like it would be that way, but it definitely is! They don’t need a closet full of clothes and accessories.  And (this is a big one!) you don’t have to keep everything someone gives them for Christmas and birthdays! Gifts are a great way to see what toys work best for your family. If a toy becomes a nuisance or a constant mess maker, then get rid of it. The person who gave it did not want to give you something that would make your life hard, they wanted to bless you. So feel no guilt and donate it or give it to someone who will actually be blessed by the item. Give thanks to the person who bought it when it is received, give thanks to the Lord for the way you feel so loved by the person giving the gift, teach your children to do this because we give thanks in all circumstances, and then if you don’t love or need it, get rid of it! If people ask what you want, tell them exactly what you want! I recommend crafts (which can be done and then thrown away) or good books that you want in your family library, or experience gifts like season tickets to a local theme park or zoo or art classes. It most certainly can work for a big family, but you can’t have it in your head that you and your children must have whatever people and the world tells you that you need. You really probably don’t need it!

I believe this can work for anyone and any situation if you want it to and that it can be altered to fit various life-styles. If you have a huge house and lots of space to put things, then you can likely have more things than someone like me. And sure, there are things I wish I could buy and find a space for, I’d love to have some work-out equipment, but I don’t have the space for them so I will just workout outside and chasing my kids. If I don’t have a place for it, then I don’t get it. However, if you have space for a work-out room, can afford it, and you want one, go for it! That is still minimalism. It just looks different depending on the space you have to work with.

Now I will say minimalism is not for everyone. If you are a great organizer and you easily keep your house in order….. then keep your things. But I’m not bent that way, and for me to continue down the path I was on was like trying to shove a circle puzzle piece into a square spot. Nothing lined up! If you hear this concept and think it’s not for you, then great, but don’t quickly discount it because you are not ready to get rid of your things. If you are struggling with organization, at least give this a go in a few areas of your life and experience what a difference it makes. Try out my no clutter method, and get rid of everything you don’t need or love.

This conversation will continue…

I’m going to stop here for now. This series will definitely continue with the things outlined above. I am simply trying to whet your appetite. And so I will leave you with this bit of inspiration. I’m an instagram girl! I love it (do you follow me by the way?) it’s kinda my happy little creative outlet to share pieces of daily life, and it’s a place where I can be inspired by the lives of others. This lady on instagram, Amanda Watters has a beautiful feed of her lovely minimalist home. I always feel inspired looking at what she has done with her space! You should click over and get inspired. And she’s a mom just like many of us! This is possible!

I’m trying to get you hooked, to convince you. We will dig in deeper next time, I can’t make promises for when I’ll post the rest so be sure to subscribe!

Now here’s something fun!

Spring Cleaning IRL Blog Hop!

Spring Cleaning IRL - Love these tips and ideas for spring cleaning I can actually do!

I’ve joined together with some friends to bring you a BIG giveaway and a great set of spring cleaning posts to launch your efforts! Spring Cleaning IRL (in real life) is brought to you by these lovely ladies. Be sure to visit each one!

Spring Cleaning for the rest of us

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The Busy Mom's Guide to Decluttering(+Giveaway & Bloghop)

 

Spring Homemaking Giveaway!

SWEET! The InstantPot pressure cooker has been on my wish list, and Amazon gift cards are my love langue. :) Awesome spring homemaking giveaway!

Enter to win the Spring Homemaking Giveaway to bless your home and family! The winner will receive an Instant Pot Duo 6-quart 7-in-1 pressure cooker! ($234.95 value) AND a $50 Amazon gift card!

Giveaway runs until 11:59pm PST on 4/10/16. Winner will be notified via email and has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you win!

-Stacey

 

Modern Modesty

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31

I’m super excited to introduce something new I’m staring here at Abiding Woman.

Modern Modesty

In a nutshell, these will be modest fashion posts to inspire the modern woman to dress to the glory of God.

Why modesty?

I’m passionate about modesty, partially because I think it’s greatly untaught about in many Christian circles: perhaps for fear of offending people, or legalism, or both, but it just seems to be a taboo subject for many. But the thing is, we need to be taught about this! It is important.  I’m also passionate about it because of my own personal journey leading me to care about modesty which I will be posting next week.

Why modern?

As I’ve pursued modesty, I have learned that it is very possible to dress in modern clothing and be modest. BUT (and to be clear, this is a huge “but”) ultimately if being modest meant that we had to wear old fashioned clothes, I would be completely content to do that. Now I want to be careful here, I have grown to see a beauty in older styles of clothing, and many women and their husbands love that look! I think it is quite lovely too, it just my first preference for myself.  I have found that I enjoy dressing modestly with affordable clothes that are currently in fashion. It may not always be this way, but for now clothes that are currently sold in stores like Target, Old Navy, local boutiques, and more can absolutely be worn in a modest way. You just have to be intentional about it. You can’t always (or often) wear it like it’s advertised on the models. Take the style you love and layer it so that you can enjoy your clothing and be modest. That is what “modern modesty” is about on this blog. I have a deep desire to teach the why of modesty with Scripture and to demonstrate the how of modern modesty with “modest fashion posts”.

Now let’s get one thing straight

I am not a model. I’m 5 feet even and a mom of 5 (and hoping for more kiddos one day). My size and weight change often, and I am having a really productive day if I find time for a shower and makeup. So I am nowhere close to being a model, and I’m good with that!

But here’s the thing I’m not going to let that stop what I’m trying to do here. I’m passionate about helping women see that modest dressing can be beautiful, stylish, and even demonstrating that our creativity and care we put into our clothing choices can cause people to delight in the Lord.

How this will work.

I will share a few photos of my outfit and I’ll share where I bought the items I’m wearing. Not necessarily so you can go and buy the exact thing, because it’s likely that most of it won’t still be available, but instead so that you can see “how” I piece modern modest outfits together. I have some old posts (here and here, back when I was pregnant) where I did this sort of thing, but I had not yet caught the vision for “Modern Modesty” fully. I went back and re-labeled them as “Modern Modesty” because my heart for it was there, just not the full workings of the idea. So this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this type of post with me, but it is the first official Modern Modesty post.

Styles and Standards:

I know that we all have different styles. I’m not sharing these to say my style is the best. You may not even like my style for yourself. These styles are just what I like and what I wear. I tend to be drawn to slightly bohemian styles. You probably have your own style preferences, but that doesn’t mean these posts still can’t be helpful. I want to encourage women to find the styles they like and to wear them in modest ways. I love how God made us all different, and I love to delight in the different styles of my friends. Some are more classic, others casual, others sporty, and others vintage. I love the variety! Christian women don’t all have to dress the same! :) And I really believe we can dress with our own style preferences in a modest way.

Furthermore, we will likely have different opinions about modesty, my standards are just that…. my standards, granted, I have come to my standards through the Scripture and through what I consider to be sound teaching on the subject. Aside from this so many things have shaped my personal standards, and I’m sure the same is true for you. I realize others may have a different take, even on the exact same Scriptures. I always want to be careful that I’m not adding to the Scripture in any way. I look forward to posting on what the Scripture says about the way we ought to dress and even sharing my standards eventually, but even still I will share them as my personal standards and nothing more.  My standards may change or shift as I grow in my understanding of the Scriptures. I want to be ever-learning and ever-growing…. don’t you? So changes and humility are par for the course in the Christian life in all areas, even in the way we dress.

Finally, with this introduction to what modern modesty is about we’ll kick this thing off in one of my favorite dresses.

So here we go….

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dress : Rue 21 (online, I always shop their store online because call me crazy if you want to, they have some ridiculous music in their store that I can’t stand, so there’s that.)
scarf : Rue 21 (online)
belt : Target
leggings : probably Target ;)
boots : Belk (watch for the boots to go on sale soon, usually March or April you can get them for super cheap ((like 75% off)), that’s how I got these.)

A few reasons why this dress is one of my favorites. First of all, it’s cotton and feels as comfy as pajamas! Secondly, it’s black and white and pretty much goes with every accessory I own. Third, it’s knee length and flowy. I love the style and shape of it!

So that was the first official Modern Modesty post.

Ultimately, I hope these will be an overarching encouragement towards your pursuit of modest dressing, whatever that looks like in your current stage of your Christian walk, take a step… evaluate your clothing, be intentional to love God and others with the way you dress. And while you do, give grace to others in the process. We are all learning here.

Hope everyone has a great week!
Abiding in Christ,
-Stacey

PS These will NOT normally be this long.

linked up with The Modest Mom Blog

No Clutter November : Everything In Its Place

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How is No Clutter November going for you thus far? (I realize I’m asking this on the last day of November, some hypothyroidism followed by a terrible cold really threw me off my game.) I have been taking it slow anyway with the No Clutter endeavor because with an already full schedule that is just how I have to do things. I have been purging things and putting other things in a keep stack from my three selected areas. The good will pile is huge, but that is a great thing for me! That was all for phase one. Now if you are following along, we are ready for phase two which is the final step: finding a place for the things in our “keep” stacks. If you haven’t done phase one then go back and do that before starting this one, but if you are ready for this, let’s dive in!

Everything in Its Place

In the past this has been the most difficult part of the process for me. I would get rid of the things that I no longer wanted or needed and then I would have this remaining stack of stuff that I had no idea where to put. Inevitably, I would stall out right here and leave my keep stack in a pile in the corner of the room, it would accumulate more junk, and then I would do phase one again…. the whole vicious cycle would repeat every few months. I had a corner of my office in my old house where this happened for years. I finally figured out the secret to breaking through phase two and when I FINALLY cleaned up that corner it felt SO GOOD! Organizing is a weakness for some of us, and for others it comes naturally. I am one of those people who struggle with knowing where to put things, but pushing through this phase is the only way to kick the clutter for good!

{Phase Two}

Evaluate Your Space

Look at the space you are trying to declutter, what SHOULD be there? If it is a pile of stuff on the floor then perhaps you will answer with “nothing” ,and will need to shift to organizing the things which were there onto a shelf or into a closet. You may need to purchase a shelf or something to put the things on. Maybe it’s a counter top and you just want a coffee maker, a cutting board, and dish drying rack to be there; then you will need to think of a good place to put the other things that were once kept there such as in the cabinet or pantry or another room. I know that this seems obvious, but you HAVE to have some sort of game plan for where the things you want to keep will go and what you want the outcome to be. If you aren’t very good at this thing (like me) then ask for ideas from your organized friends or look at organization ideas on pinterest. Pinterest is ultimately what helped me most because I searched for specifics like “organize office” or “organize pantry”, I chose the idea that looked and sounded the best, and then I did it. One thing I have learned over the years is to quit trying to reinvent the wheel…. if a mom has figured out something that works for her big family, then it will probably work for mine too. This is true for organizing as well as many other areas of life. On that note, when I’m gathering ideas for myself, I choose bloggers of big families because their situation is going to be most similar to mine. Reach out to bloggers and other moms who are very similar to your circumstances and ask them how they do things. I recently emailed with a mom blogger of 8 kids inquiring how she did her daily schedule. It was so helpful! This could turn into a whole other blog post, but all of this to say, you don’t have to come up with everything on your own! So save time and do what someone else has come up with.

Putting Things in Their Place

Look in your keep stack and put the things you really want or need in your designated space first. With each putting away you should seek to put like items with like items. All the books together, and if there is a book series keep that together, all the art items together, etc… And remember to put the things used most in the easiest place to access and put away, preferably close to where you use them. For example: My homeschool shelves…. I put in the current curriculum and books we are using in an organized and accessible spot on a shelf close to our table where we do school. This will help the cleanup process which will keep your area uncluttered in the long run. Next, put away the things you really like and plan to use, but maybe you don’t use it every day. Put that stuff in a spot you can access but it will be out of the way of the things you do use every day. Back to my homeschool organizing example: I then put the curriculum, activities, books, and things we use sometimes or things I really love and want us to use in the near future in an organized, but not as accessible spot on a difew rent shelf. Like with like examples: in a kitchen keep all of your baking supplies together and all of your pots and pans together, and all the food together and place them close to the spot where you will use them. For example my baking supplies (mixer attachments, cup measures, baking pans, spices, flour, etc.. are all in different cabinets close together and close to the countertop which I use for baking prep. I also keep my Kitchenaid mixer on that counter. You may have to grab a pen a paper and make notes for your specific area and then put away things. After putting the important things away, evaluate your space again…. is it full? if not then keep putting things from your keep stack neatly in the space. By the way, things do not have to be beautiful to be organized. Remember that Pottery Barn bookshelves are staged to appeal to the senses in order to sell products: most people don’t live in a world where all the book bindings and color coordinated, fancy book ends are displayed, and there is plenty of extra shelf space for adorable little trinkets and potied plants. The reality is for most of us that simply isn’t reality. Don’t get discouraged or defeated trying to make it look like the cover of a magazine.

The Random Leftover Stuff

Now you have come so far, don’t stop here! We all know the random things left at the end of a declutter project, right? Something like… a hairbow, a spatula, curriculum for fourth grade when we are on in second (but it was free so we took it), an extra phone charger, a canvas you plan to use for that pinterest project one day, kid art and completed worksheets, puzzles, a few dimes and pennies…. you know, the really random stuff. These things will now need to go to one of 4 places:
-to a specific spot where that kind of thing belongs in another room or area
-to the purge pile
-into the space being organized (but perhaps the back top shelf or somewhere very out of the way.
-to a “probation area” which is the place for the “I’m going to fix this” or “I’m going to diy this” items.

Let me explain the Probation Area

Place the item that you will fix or diy in a specified area. Give the item a 30 or 90 day probation time, and if you have not done with it what you planned by that time then purge it. This stuff needs to be kept in a logical and organized place that you see often so that you do not forget about it,but out of the way as well. Keep post-it notes on the items with their purge date written in large letters you can read from far away. When you see this it will prompt you to not procrastinate. It’s good to have a project day each week (mine is Saturdays) to work on things of this sort.

The Trash Bag Method:

There is another alternative for the people who struggle with this final step in the declutter process. If the final step seems too difficult (too many random things and you don’t know where to put them and you feel stressed and overwhelmed by it all), get anything very valuable out and put the rest in a black trash bag. Put the whole trash bag in a probation area and label the date; if you haven’t put the things away or needed anything out in 30 days then throw the whole bag away (don’t look inside! Just take it out to the trash can and forget about it.)

A word about sentimental items:

This is an area that can really mess people up when it comes to decluttering. I know some take a more minimalist view and say to toss it all, but I see some value in holding onto a select few things as long as they have a good place to be kept. I have one medium sized rubbermade tote that holds mine and my husband’s childhood sentimentals. Each of my children have a large binder; and I only keep my VERY favorite schoolwork and art in there as well as their tests and reports. (I call this their portfolio). We will likely end up with more than one binder per child: I think one elementary and one for middle and high school might work. Again these are VERY favorite which makes me seriously selective. I also keep some very special cards that some of my closest sisters in Christ have written and some from my family and husband; they are filled with Scriptures and encouragement, I keep them in a drawer by my bed. These mean a lot to me and I reread them from time to time. I keep a basket at the top of a closet which holds embroidered shirts my children wore for their birthdays and special occasions; one day when all my kids are grown out of the embroidery phase, I plan to pay someone to quilt them for me. I also keep photo albums and scrapbooks. Bottom line is, figure out what is very important to you and a find a box or folder to keep that kind of stuff in. Don’t keep too much! Remember that you can’t keep everything; and you should not feel guilty for throwing away birthday cards, kid school work, and other items like these. I have seen some great ideas for these things on pinterest. If you have a major surplus you just can’t part with: take pictures of children’s art and keep online or in a photo album on the computer. Some use scrap books and smash books, but be careful that you actually do the project and don’t just think about it. If you plan to do this, but those sentimental items in the probation stack.

Time to finish!

In the end, all of your things have been placed in their correct spot whether that is the trash can, donation, another room with like items, in the space, or in probation. See each part of this through completely! Finally, to celebrate, consider buying or making something lovely to add to that space. Perhaps a little mason jar with fresh flowers or a small piece of art…. it’s like the icing on the cake.

To keep clutter from recurring you will need to be diligent to put things away daily, to not pile things in your newly cleaned place that do not belong. If your family does this, consider buying each person a basket and gathering the stuff they sit in the area and deliver it to their rooms for them to put away. If they need help finding a place for these things then offer some tips. If it’s the hubby, don’t nag, but do offer ideas if it’s welcomed by him. Stay on top of the clutter zones in your house. And periodically go back through already organized shelves, cabinets, and closets to purge items that have never or rarely been used. Take it from a girl who use to really struggle with this, it does get easier the more you do it! We have to choose to live with intention and not out of habit; make it a point to do things differently and stick to it. You will be so happy that you did, and it will probably bless your husband and children too!

Happy Uncluttered Day!
-S

No Clutter November : Less Stuff, More Peace

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I’m very excited to introduce the very first Abiding Woman homemaking challenge. I plan to periodically do these to encourage myself and other women in our homemaking. Throughout the month of November I be will blogging about the why and how of decluttering.

No Clutter November Phase One

Take a deep breath ladies, no need to grab a glass of wine or a can of gasoline and matches to deal with that mess of stuff that’s been driving you nuts for months now. We’re going to tackle it one phase at a time. We’re going to do this together. And we’re going to be done in time for the holidays. Are you with me? Are you ready? This really won’t be as hard as you think.

Step 1: Choose 3 places in your home that need less clutter and more peace. I want you to choose three different areas: a small high traffic area, a large monumental never ending mess area, and a hidden area.
For example:
My small high traffic area is my counter tops.
My large never ending mess area is my office/homeschool area.
My hidden area is my daughters’ shared closet (4 girls clothing in one closet is bound to get a little cluttered, right?)

Now phase one can be the hardest step for some, but it is the first step in cutting the clutter out. This step is to ruthlessly purge. That’s it… seems simple right? Wrong. My problem and most people’s problem is that we view non valuable items as valuable, and hence we hold on to them…. moving them here and there and everywhere. We spend our valuable time moving around things that we don’t even really want or need. But in the thick of the cleaning and organizing it is often difficult to discern whether an item is worth keeping or not.Now all hope is not lost, I have good news….

It is actually as easy as asking yourself 3 simple questions:

1. Do I need this currently?
Does it have a true purpose, function, and reason for being in your home?
2. Do I love this?
Is it beautiful, inspiring, and/or valuable to you? Would you pay money to keep it?
3. Do I have a place for this?
Is your space limited? If so then you may have to part with an item even if you feel you need or love it. I will try to help you out with ideas on this one later, so if you are running into items you need and love, but don’t have space for them, then put them in a box or basket and be sure you are subscribed by email because No Clutter November Phase Two will offer help for these very things.

As a part of the No Clutter November challenge I want to invite you to Domestically Challenged Divinely Equipped facebook group. There will be a thread starting tomorrow for us to post our goals, our before and after pictures, to ask for decluttering advice, and for general homemaking encouragement and accountability. I look forward to seeing you there!

Homemaker’s Holiday Challenge

This is just one post in the Homemaker’s Holiday Challenge series, brought to you by the bloggers behind the Domestically Challenged; Divinely Equipped Facebook group. Join us there for daily encouragement through this 5-day challenge and become a part of an awesome community of Christian homemakers!

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge

Check out the rest of the posts in the Homemaker’s Holiday Challenge below. 

How to Create a Memorable Christmas on a Small Budget from Jennifer at The Purposeful Mom

Holiday Homemaker's Challenge

No Clutter November: Less Stuff, More Peace from Stacey at Abiding Woman

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge - A 5-day challenge to prepare and plan for the holidays.

A Simple Plan for the Holidays from Tauna at Proverbial Homemaker

A Simple Plan for the Holidays Free 20+ page holiday planner PIN

Using Traditions to Draw our Families Close Together from Becky at Purposeful Homemaking

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge - A 5-day challenge to prepare and plan for the holidays.

Create a Season of Rest (+ABCs of Thanksgiving Poster) from Clarissa at Counting our Blessings

Homemaker's Holiday Challenge - A 5-day challenge to prepare and plan for the holidays.

Help for the Homemaker

Help for the Homemaker When I first got married I had no clue how to keep a home, I did not even know how to crack and cook an egg. It was seriously a pitiful situation! I saw my mother do it, but of course did not pay very close attention to *how* she did things. I lived on my own with roommates in college, but still college living in no way prepares a lady for homemaking…. I lived on speghetti-Os and grilled cheese sandwiches and I had like one load of laundry a week. I must have called my mother almost every night of my first year of marriage asking her questions about cooking and cleaning. It took me a while, and little by little I learned and mastered the basics. Then I had kids, talk about a whole new ballgame! Now I had to learn how to care for, teach, and train a child on top of caring for the home. We had our first child and I managed okay, 16 months later our second child came, I began to feel extremely overwhelmed. Managing a toddler, a baby, and a home seemed nearly impossible! I struggled and I thought I could not do any more, thankfully I have grown to do much more now! I never would have imagined managing five children, homeschool, and the home back then.

So how did I grow in my abilities to manage my home and children?

  • First, I found some wonderful blogs that really encouraged me. Back then pinterest didn’t exist, and blogging was very new, but there were some helpful places. The two that really helped me were Women Living Well and Fly Lady. Women Living Well helped me understand my Biblical role as wife, homemaker, and mother. Fly Lady taght me how to create routines and habits for keeping a clean home.
  • Second, I prayed for God to equip and help me to be the homemaker I longed to be. I honestly cried out for help in this area of my life. I confessed sins of laziness, I asked for wisdom and self-discipline. Admittedly this should’ve been first, but it didn’t happen that way for me. It took me a few years of struggling before I turned this over to the Lord . I know without a doubt it has made all the difference in the world! He has truly answered my prayers and continues to grow me even more. I am so thankful for His grace and help in this area of my life!
  • Finally, I also had friends who did Fly Lady with me. We kept each other motivated by talking about our housework routines and shiny sinks. Later I went through marriage and homemaking books with other friends, we discussed our home situations and prayed for eachother. Homemaking together side by side (although in our own homes) was so encouraging to my heart.

All three of these things helped me tremendously in my growth as a homemaker!

Fast forward a few years, and now I have my own routines, and I have found even more resources and help. Now that the mommy blogger world has exploded there is SO much good information out there. Many moms accross the web have shared what works for them, and that is so helpful! I still grow in my homemaking by reading the blogs and advice of other moms like me. I pin recipes, cleaning tips and tricks, homeschool ideas, and more…. and I really try to implement them and see which ones work for us. I love discovering a new and more efficient way to do something in my home! I still do not do this homemaking thing perfectly, in fact I’m currently learning how to get into a whole new homemaking groove right now as I adjust to our new baby, new house, and new farm responsibilities. But I’ve seen it happen many times, what seems hard at first gets easier with practice, perseverance, researching the best way to do it, and with support and prayers from friends and others who are seeking to grow as homemakers too. I have some of this in real life, but as a mom I can’t always pick up the phone and talk to a friend. I have recently become an admin and participant in a wonderful online homemaking facebook group called “Domestically Challenged, Divinely Equipped”. If that doesn’t describe most of us then I don’t know what does? This group has already been such a help and encouragement to me and I think it would encourage you as well!

I am so excited to partner with the other admin ladies of the group to host this giveaway and to invite you to come and join the homemaking discussions and daily challenges. I am so looking forward to how much more I will grow as a homemaker by participating in this group, and looking forward to helping others grow as well by sharing what works for us. So join the giveaway and the group below and I will chat with you all there!

Enter the Domestically Challenged; Divinely Equipped Homemaking Giveaway!

DCDE Giveaway

The Domestically Challenged; Divinely Equipped administrative team is blessing a winner with this fun prize pack worth over $100, including great resources and and goodies. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway