Minimalism on the Hard Days and Dealing with Depression

You and I have shared many cups of tea, laughing over crazy minimalist antics, watching children play in these woods, walking the lane with the cathedral of trees. If you were here this evening, as the sun begins to set in the west, you might need to hear this part of the story. I offer it to you just in case you, or someone you love, needs to hear it. 

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I had struggled with depression for a long time and never realized that my physical surroundings contributed to the overwhelm.

When I first came to the concept of minimalism, I was drowning emotionally. I had walked away from my corporate job with my baby's medical complications with no plan financially and no simplicity in my life. We lived in a 100 year old duplex that had rotting onions in it for 2 years prior to our purchase of it. It didn't have a backdoor and the snow came in. Needless to say, it needed a complete rehab. And, in all honesty, so did I.

I had struggled with depression for a long time, and never realized that my physical surroundings contributed to the overwhelm. Now, I'm not a therapist and in no way am I offering psychological advice. I am only sharing my story in the firm belief that the connection between our physical surroundings and our souls is strong. I knew that I needed to get my home in order for my sanity, literally. 

Maybe you can relate to that horrible ache of stress in the shoulders. Or the furious anger of not being able to be present for what you believe is truly important. I walked through all those emotions as I donated bag after bag. Sometimes, I would angry-cry as I shoved totally useful items into a box for the local charity. I asked myself questions of blame "how could I allow this stuff in my house?" and "why did I ever think all this stuff was a good idea?" or "I wish I could just enjoy my kids rather than always be cleaning up after them." 

I hope, dear friend, that you already have created a peace-filled haven, or maybe you are already on the journey and making great progress. Yet, maybe you know someone who is still struggling. Or maybe that's you. Here's some insight that helped me walk out of the darkest days of my life. 

1. Slow down but don't quit. I realized that part of the root cause of the mess was a pace of life that didn't work for me. I was saying "yes" to everyone except myself. I'm a giver, and maybe you are too, so it's hard when you see a need. I get it. Creating that sacred space for your own soul means having the courage to say "no" to what is too much. Too much stress, or stuff, or commitments. I chose to be in charge of my own life-pace. So many days, I wanted to quit and stay on the floor sobbing in despair. I'm not proud of that. My children knew. It was hard. The difference came with getting up again. Faster each time. And learning to set new, healthier boundaries. 

2. Ask for help. Oh dear friend, I know it's hard to ask for the help in the season when all hope seems lost. I know that sick feeling of being at the end of all strength and going through the day not in hope but out of sheer despair. It's time. Ask for help from family, friends, or your faith community. Be wise, obviously, and bold. Ask until someone listens. 

3. You were never meant to do this alone. As a strong personality, this was excruciatingly hard for me. I never wanted to admit that I struggled, and yet I longed to be truly honest with someone at how much a mess the house was and how deeply I was struggling emotionally, financially, and in every other way. I had pride that I could do it all alone, but I found in the end, I didn't want to be alone anymore. I finally came to a horribly dark place and my husband forced me to ask for help and actually receive it. I'm so thankful. Maybe having a trusted friend to come along side you is what you need right now. I found that I needed my own coach and a part-time nanny and cleaning help. I am such a frugal personality that it took every fiber of my being to allow such an investment in me. I had to come to place where my health, the condition of my family, and my well-being made it necessary. Everyone's journey is different, but you are worthy of help. Only you can decide what that looks like, but know that you, dear friend, were never meant to go this journey alone. 

And you will find, with those insights, you can change the course of your life and your home. Are there still hard days as a minimalist? Yes, absolutely. Minimalism didn't solve all my problems (just most of them). And the struggles that remain are those common to humanity. In my home, I cleared away enough clutter (500+bags to charity) to have the mental time and space to address the deeper issues of the soul. With each bag gone, clarity shone brighter. The depression lifted.

As you are building for a new tomorrow, you have the choice today to slow down, ask for help, and release the burden of feeling alone. You're stronger than you know. 

Blessings,

Elizabeth

*As always, if you need professional psychological help, please ask for that help today. 

Simplifying Learning: CREATE a Home of Fun and Simple Joy

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In this small log home, I love cultivating a life of learning for our wild (often muddy) children. Today, they studied geography for fun because they wanted to know about Great Britain.  Isn't learning supposed to be filled with joy? Shouldn't children have awe and wonder at the incredible world we live in? How can we as parents model and teach all that our children need to know? If you'd like to rest a moment here in the living room of our log home as the children giggle and read, let's chat about creating fun and simple joy in the precious days of childhood learning.

I went to public school.  And while I had several incredible teachers, I did not love being forced to learn.  Later, I worked in a primary unit, then taught at both a business college as well as a hybrid school. I understand each family will have their unique path for education, yet I truly believe every family can cultivate a deep respect for learning and a wholesome joy as their children learn and grow. 

When I first started homeschooling it was actually by accident. My oldest child was 3 and I didn't know why she was into all sorts of toddler mischief until she sat down and wrote "Happy Birthday." I didn't know she could write. Suddenly, I realized my mistake. She was bored! She needed more educational activities in the home. Amazingly, the naughty behavior disappeared when I gave her more structure and new information to learn (and cut out screen time entirely). I'm sure there's a cultural lesson in there somewhere. I found that simple rhythms brought peace to my days as I was raising children and running our businesses. 

Creating simplicity in the home is key to long-term success. A gazillion different systems, fancy, expensive, and complicated materials promised to simplify my children's learning experience. And there are great resources out there, but I found that I had to come back to basic principles that worked for my family. So here are my favorite tips:

1. Start young with your little ones. Even my babies have "school" time with the older children. Blocks on a blanket are a great baby school activity. 

2. Focus on the basics, reading, writing, and arithmetic (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing). Coming back to this cut through the "mom burn-out" for me. I absolutely love learning and I didn't want that joy stolen by piles of to-do lists and complex schedules, technology, or weird requirements. Basics are better.  Whether your children are in public, private, or homeschool, basic subjects are the foundation. 

3. Build a rhythm, not a timed schedule. No rushing here, just joyful learning in the same order everyday. I do not watch the clock, but I do the same things in the same order. Obviously, this will look different for each family, but creating a rhythm that is not rushed is vital to bringing joy into learning. Are the children always going to leap for joy at long division? No, but they at least will know that they have plenty of time and a patient parent to walk them through each step. I lay out our current day with teens to toddlers in my free email series Pathway to Simplicity: Schedule Edition. 

4. Enjoy the content you are learning with your children. Do you love horses? Study horses. Are you passionate about the environment? Take a year and go zero waste (we did). Do you want to have compassionate kids? Volunteer at a local charity. Include what you love in your homeschooling. Deep joy comes from sharing life and learning together as a family. 

5. Love your children by listening to them and set rewards for them. Hearing their hearts' desires is so important to creating a childhood experience that is fun and simple for them. Do they struggle with math? Set a simple goal to have horse lessons when long division is conquered. Do they want to learn to read? Set a goal and game plan for that special reward when they reach a certain level. Cheer them on! Keep the goal reasonable and age-appropriate, of course, but let them learn to work hard to gain that victory. 

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Today, my dear friend, know that you have all that you need to grow a love of learning in your children. You can have fun, (minimalist) rewards as they reach new levels. Visiting local libraries in surrounding cities is a favorite free adventure of ours. You can show your children all that you are passionate about in this incredible world. Begin anew to avoid rushing these learning moments when the simple joy of learning is so precious. Savor the excitement at butterflies. Hug the children close when they bring fall leaves. Breathe deep. The  journey is worthy of you taking moments to create and enjoy together! 

 

Blessings,

Elizabeth

Frugal Fall Decor: CREATE Simple Color in Your Home

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The change of seasons has begun and the sweet smell of Fall rain has filled the towering woods around my home. Tonight the air is delicious. You can almost taste Fall through the breeze ruffling the curtains. 

May be this has been a hard season for you, the ending of summer brought storms of all kinds to our nation. Hurricanes, Cyber-security breaches, Personal turmoil. Perhaps you could use the cool refreshment of Fall in your home. 

Coming here today to this little log home filled with wild children, you might see the fort built right by the driveway. As the children were building, they tip-toed inside to deposit these precious leaves on my desk. It reminded me of you, dear friend. It reminded me that friendship and beauty often come as surprise gifts. Unexpected. Much needed. 

As you are simplifying and creating your home anew this Fall, you may want to consider frugal ways to celebrate how seasons change in our homes and our lives. In my journey towards minimalism, I realized that the decoration in the stores this time of year were expensive imitations of the real items. I was shocked at the prices and the seeming insanity of my previous choices..... I had decor that was plastic leaves. I'm embarrassed to say I had hundred of plastic Fall leaves that were given to me! Plastic. Leaves. The materialist culture we live in has trained us that "plastic" decor is normal, when truly the most frugal options are the ones grown and given outside our front doorsteps. Or brought in by muddy children. Beauty I was just stepping over or sweeping away, inconvenienced by the truest of gifts. 

Perhaps you are in a new season or grieving the messes of previous times. Maybe you could use a fresh start, the coolness of a new perspective on life and home. What would it look like to clear away the fake, plastic parts of life and use the real instead, the beauty that is brushing your fingertips? What if you could find beauty (and wealth) in hidden spaces? 

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I had to ask myself if shopping the clearance racks was my best life anymore. Didn't it make more sense to hike the Metro park and pick up real leaves instead? I asked myself how could I clear away all the seasonal decorations I had stashed in the basement and just use what was truly available in that season. Asking the right question was key. When I saw that I could use what was in season, everything changed in an instant! I saw beauty everywhere. The wildflowers beside the road. The pine cones in the ditch next to the corner stop sign. Vines wrapped around the garden gate.

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I brought the outside world inside to CREATE anew without the price tag, without the plastic that kills our world's resources and our souls, without the press of having to look like my friends' homes that were magazine perfect. My house has dirt. I'm guessing perhaps yours does too. I don't apologize and neither should you. 

My real family lives here, and suddenly instead of pushing the kids aside so I could decorate, I brought them right into the celebration. If the leaves got shredded, it's o.k. God will make more. Pine cones chewed on by the toddler? Gross, but there's more outside. Sticks used as swords? Take that back outside boys! Now! 

Decor should mark a celebration, not an expense. Color should come when you decide it's time, not based on when a consumer culture starts it's seasonal sales. Your home, and your life, should reflect your principles and values, not that of a retail chain. You can CREATE a frugal, and yet powerful, cohesive decor that brings delight and joy in each changing of season. If you are ready to dive into more simplicity in your home, schedule, and finances, you are welcome to pick up my free 3-part guide to simplicity below. 

May you collect color and joy-filled memories with your family today by engaging with the natural beauty provided around you.

Blessings,

Elizabeth

Top 3 Money Saving Strategies for a Simple Babyhood

Sweet baby snuggles

Sweet baby snuggles

Hello my lovely friend, come on in and bring that sweet baby of yours, too. This little log home in the woods is home to my 6 wild, amazing children. Of course, babies are always welcome here! My youngest babe is just starting to roll over. With having so many babies, I have often been asked about how "expensive" babies are. And I love being a financial + minimalist coach in real life because I get to help parents soak up more of those precious baby moments by saving money during babyhood. Let's chat about my 3 Top Money Saving Strategies and you might be surprised at how inexpensive babies can be. 

#3 Money Saving Strategy: Ask for what you truly need. Less of what you don't need AND more of what you do.

When I first left my corporate job to come home with my baby's medical complications, I was not prepared for the tsunami of first baby "stuff." I was blessed by the love and support I received, but I had this sick feeling in my stomach with each gift. The truth was that my baby didn't need another cute outfit. My household just needed money to keep a roof over her head. Let's be honest, you and I are friends, it's hard to ask for what we truly need, isn't it? Hardly anyone knew how deep the struggle was financially. Looking back on when I was broke(n) and drowning in chaos of stuff, I wish I had been given permission to ask for what I truly needed. Food, money for gas, help to declutter, someone to hold the baby while I showered. A hot meal, please Lord, just one hot meal. Anything, except more baby junk.  

Oh my dear friend, you totally have the right to ask for what you truly need. Obviously, do this with grace and kindness and discernment. But it's o.k. to be honest with what would be helpful when family or friends offer. How I wish I had learned to accept help sooner! 

#2 Money Saving Strategy: Do things as naturally as possible.

There are so many products out there telling us that the product will make our mom-life easier. I found the exact opposite to be the case most of the time. I thought carefully about how my grandmother had raised my father and his siblings in the heart of Central Africa. She didn't have all the equipment, but she did have help. Human arms of dear friends to hold her babies when she needed help. She nursed her babies and cloth diapered. My grandfather would rinse the diapers on a little ledge of the huge ocean liner as they traveled across the ocean between the States and Africa. I figured that truly, my grandmother knew best. Not that disposable diapers aren't helpful in certain seasons, it's alright, of course. However, if naturally feeding and diapering are possible, do it. I use cloth diapers that fit from newborn to toddler. I bought them used off eBay to start with. And I practice Elimination Communication where I take my babies to the restroom from birth. So easy and no cloth diapers to even wash! Totally worth it. We seriously paid off our student loans by all the money saved by EC'ing and cloth diapering.

Newborn cloth diapers are so adorable AND money-saving!

Newborn cloth diapers are so adorable AND money-saving!

#1 Money Saving Strategy Tip: Think of the world from your baby's eyes.

Slow down. Babyhood only happens once. What does she need right now? Starting with the baby's perspective does re-frame an understanding of babyhood. Allocate your resources according to what kind of babyhood you want for her, and she will respond with what her preferences are.  As you are evaluating what you need for your unique baby, try to think in terms of what babies naturally need, not what the baby industry tries to sell us. Does your baby love people? Is she always shy? Does she love new places or staying close at home? This will change as baby grows, but you can start to see the uniqueness of your little one. THEN, create the systems and tools that you need. We love hiking so a carrier was a must.

I must have a high-quality sling for my high intensity life!

I must have a high-quality sling for my high intensity life!

I travel often for business with my husband and we take our baby along so a extra comfy car seat was a requirement. Craft your equipment to your baby and life. And don't be afraid to sell items, even gifts, if it doesn't fit what you need. I sold my high chair when pregnant with baby #6 and haven't bought another one. It didn't work for our season and so out it went! 

Here's a few tips in evaluating baby equipment:

I change my little man on a towel in the bathroom for quick easy clean up.

I change my little man on a towel in the bathroom for quick easy clean up.

  • Is it a multiple- purposed item? For example, I use towels as my changing station. It can be a towel, blanket, spit-up rag, or changing station cover. The possibilities are endless.
  • Is it wash-able? I always look for cotton/durable fabric.
  • Is it gender neutral? You always want it to last long term.
  • Is it made with quality materials to last? Many German made items have superior design and last longer in my humble experience.
  • Is it made to grow with the baby? I love items like Baby legs and the Lotus bed (not affiliated just a happy customer) that grow with the baby. 
  • Is it made by a company that I can support in good conscience? 
  • Can I buy this item used or ask for it for a holiday gift rather than purchasing it right this moment?
  • Is this problem that I want to solve able to be solved by something I already own? I sewed baby sleep sacks out of fabric I already owned (I don't sew much but it took 5 minutes) rather than buying expensive ones online. 

Be free to design your best babyhood for you and your sweet baby! Saving money AND cherishing these moments with your baby is possible.

Blessings for your journey,

Elizabeth