5 Ways Minimalism Inadvertently Helped My Husband Leave His Job

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Hello my beautiful friend, I must confess this story is still difficult to tell. The reality shocks me a little that minimalism accelerated our journey to the place where a year ago my husband could leave his job of 12 years. When I donated my first box to charity, I never dreamed my minimalist journey would lead us to where we are now. 

I remember feeling anger and desperation at the workload and time he spent away from his beloved children. I am still seared by the feeling that it would never change. Every morning my oldest son woke up extra early to cry on the front porch of our log home as his daddy left for work. He would watch and wave and cry until the truck was out of sight. My heart is still seared. Yet, I did not realize that the small changes I was making in creating simplicity was actually paving a pathway that would change the course of our family forever. 

How Did Minimalism Inadvertently Help My Husband Leave His Job?

1. Minimalism gave me mental clarity and the belief that I truly could change my situation. I could make different choices. With each item I donated, I believed that change was possible. Instead of feeling trapped in a home full of very useful junk,  I came to understand that I am the steward of my life and my home.  I have a choice. This mental clarity led me on a "fast-path" to have more mental clarity to expand our real estate business, adding two more properties in three months' time. I never would've attempted that expansion if I had been drowning in toys and dirty laundry!

2. Minimalism allowed me to quickly and easily train my children to run the household. In a kid-friendly, simple environment, my children can reach what they need, find the items without my help, and be (mostly) peaceful as they often cook their own simple meals.  I never dreamed this benefit of minimalism would allow us the simple freedom to build time in for business. My son packs his daddy's lunch and dinner each day. My daughter cooks a simple breakfast for the other children each morning. It saves time and money for the children to accomplish those simple tasks in the minimalist kitchen designed just for them. Without their help, our progress towards our goals would've slowed to exhaustion. The children are not just a beautiful reason to work towards our goals; they are actually an intricate part of those goals. Minimalism sets them up for success with kid-friendly spaces and systems in the home.

3. Minimalism allowed us to live first on 80% of our income. Changing my mental spending habits was paramount! Not allowing discouragement and despair to trick me into buying one more item to solve my emotional strain. This was a milestone I'll never forget. Minimalism allowed me to look at a problem in terms of how I could solve it with what I already had, rather than turning to "retail therapy." Slowly, we moved from living on 80% to 75%, and soon after to needing less than 60% to support ourselves. Again, that self-discipline created a new confidence that no matter what the circumstances, a new life was possible. 

4. Interestingly enough, it was my journey into minimalism that brought me to the end of my frugality. Having reduced everything I could to the lowest common denominator, I quickly realized that I could not save my way to abundance. Now, I still practice all my frugal tricks; I just had to realize that I could not scrimp and scrape and save enough to get my husband home from his job. Although I am completely committed to minimalism, I realized that expansion was needed as well. Abundance is, first of all, a choice and a mindset. Minimalism allows me to expand my viewpoint; we use it's principles to create homes in our rental properties to be a haven for families in their personal journeys. I have had to expand the number of people I serve as a professional financial coach locally in our city and at a distance. Minimalism allows me less time cleaning my own messes and more time serving my family and my clients/tenants. 

5. Minimalism ended my long struggle with depression. I know that many factors can influence depression, but for me, depression was fueled by visual and emotional chaos. With a physical environment that was more calm, I was able to work through the emotional chaos much faster.  I also wanted to create a peace-filled home that my husband would want to leave his job for, so the emotional work and healing on my part was a vital component of that journey. 

A year ago this week, my children helped their daddy turn in his uniforms for the last time. As I carried baby six, due in six months, I watched my husband walk out of a job with full benefits. I knew that we would face obstacles (which we did in crazy ways), but I also knew that with the choices we had already made in minimalism, we had a firm foundation to walk into the unknown together as a family. 

If you are dreaming of creating a new story for your family, new simplicity in the home, or new stability in the finances, you are in the right place. Start today, one choice at a time. 

This Christmas, I'd like to warmly invite you to our log home for a LIVE Interactive Online Workshop. If you are ready to write a new story this year for your sweet family, you are welcome to come and ask and dream of what that would look like for you. 

Blessings for your new story,

Elizabeth

A Rainy Evening and What I Love Best About Minimalism

I wish that I could capture what night-rain breathes like in this cathedral of old trees and save it for you, dear friend. I've cracked open the window in this tree-top room of my log home. Three walls are all windows. The heat of Summer is washed away by the coolness and comfort of Fall rain. So much of life is like that, the heat and pressure of the moment seems suffocating and then suddenly rain comes. One small raindrop and then another and another. 

As I've journeyed through these years of giving almost everything away, I believe that the choices I made are like raindrops. Small choices. One by one. Over time. Then suddenly, the cumulative effort of all those small "raindrop" choices created a flood of relief, like Fall rain after a hot Summer. At least, that's how this minimalist journey grew for me. 

And still, even as a dedicated minimalist, hard days do exist when every last item I own is strewn up on the floor by a ornery toddler, like today. Today was a huge mess, including my art supplies, which produced a hot, angry mom.

Yet, I realized again, the overwhelm is gone. The anger is gone in one deep breath. I get down on my knees and work with my little one, instead of working angrily against my beloved child. There is less to clean up and so the effort and strain is gone for both of us. 

As I clean up the whirlwind of toddler-hood, I again realize how easy it is every single time. I find my emotions don't need to be angry anymore. 

Rain.

Relief.

Redemption. 

Perhaps what I love best about minimalism is that moment of entering my child's world and loving them in the midst of their mess, without anger.

 

 

Perhaps I love that moment because I sense a deep spiritual truth there.  

 

Perhaps, it's because that was not my childhood. Maybe it wasn't yours either. For those of us who had less than ideal childhoods, we need this kind of redemption. The kind that changes the script of the past, rewrites the story of "home," and out of blessed strength lives a completely new and better life.

Living well is often the best healing.

Instead of anger and rage, patience and grace grow. Instead of overwhelm and chaos, peace and simplicity build.  Sure there's frustration at times, but not the soul-cutting comments or accusations of laziness. No more the trying to escape a messy, chaotic, overwhelming shell of a house. The darkness of depression is lifted. 

With minimalism, my home now serves me, not the other way around.  

And even on my hardest days, I am still a better mother for giving everything away, instead of sacrificing my family on the alter of materialism and cultural expectations.

The change has been dramatic and life-saving for me. The healing is not just internal, but as the anti-thesis of pain, the healing actually spreads in every direction. The healing is for me and, dear friend, it's for you as well. 

It's because of that complete transformation in my life that I do what I can today to help others. As a professional financial + minimalist coach, I provide simple, gentle steps to create a haven in the home and stability in the finances. I worked for years in the realm of insurance, having trained in property and casualty insurance plus tax-prep and business start-up, yet I found my career empty without peace in the home.

Fast forward several hard years and giving almost everything away, and I now help that redemption happen in not just my home, but so many other precious families. And I am passionate about integrating minimalist principles into my professional financial coaching. In order to solve financial problems, the root issues must be addressed, and the transformation my clients experience is simply amazing. It is an incredible privilege, one that I take seriously because my heart was seared by the same struggle so many are facing.

The changes started slowly at first for me and quickly gained intensity when I finally had the help I needed. Small changes brought a freedom I never expected but I desperately needed, relief just like this evening of rain tonight.

Above all, dear friend, know that you don't need to walk this journey alone. There is relief for you and your beloved family. The answers do exist. Healing is possible. The rain is coming. 

Always believing for you,

Elizabeth

PS Part of what I love is hearing others' minimalist pathways and stories. Feel free to email me at elizabeth@createminimalism.com or  with me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/createminimalism/   

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

New Ways to CREATE Sacred Space Even in a Crazy World

View of the "Cathedral of Trees" taken by my daughter

View of the "Cathedral of Trees" taken by my daughter

Hello my dear friend, I hear it your voice that the last several weeks have been crazy. Really crazy. From international and national events to your own soul, there's been turmoil. A lot of it. How do we find Sacred Space when it seems the world has absolutely lost its soul? 

Maybe you are trying to declutter while working full time, commuting, and juggling the children. Perhaps you are caring for aging parents and trying to declutter their stuff AND your stuff. Or may be you are expecting a new little blessing and trying to declutter with babies and toddlers surrounding. Maybe, like me, you run a couple businesses, homeschool six kids, and have a dog, cat, chicken, pigeons, and a chinchilla. Maybe not. Regardless of what season you are in, my dear friend, you are not alone. You CAN create Sacred Space for your soul to breathe. I will never tell you it is easy, but it is so worth the effort. YOU are worth the effort. Here's how I created Sacred Space.

CREATE SACRED SPACE IN YOUR HOME

When overwhelmed in my decluttering and the press of life, I did not even know that I needed Sacred Space. When all those 500+ bags of junk was still all over my home rather than the local charity, I couldn't see anyway out. I had to start digging. 

With each box to charity, I found more of myself. I was crafting who I was, no longer in terms of what I had, but in terms of what I believed. My priorities. No more of worrying that people would judge me because of what I didn't have. I pitched out the door the concern if people saw I wore the same outfit to church each week (it was clean!). I love my capsule wardrobe because it reflects me. My values. I did NOT need to keep everything just in case the world ended tomorrow. I could walk out my life in faith, keeping what was needed for my journey in the relative near future and being wise, but not living in fear. 

ACTION STEP: Set aside 10 minutes each day for decluttering and then STOP to rest. Rest is key.  Give yourself a cup of tea or a walk outside. Read your favorite book of poetry for the first time in years. The point is to work and then rest. Rest is as necessary as the work. Reward your hard work, not by spending a gazillion dollars, but by being good to yourself. So many minimalist resources talk about the work side of creating space but for some of us, the rest is the important part. Others need the work part. Understand who you are and do both. 

As you are decluttering, you may find that you are getting overwhelmed because you keep seeing the next area that needs tackled. And it needs done faster. This is totally normal, all of my coaching clients feel this way, and I felt that same frustration. I wish that I could say I was peaceful and kind all through decluttering. Let's be real, you and I are friends. I was angry. Furious and desperate while I decluttered. Mostly angry at myself that I had let other people determine what I kept in my home. I had to forgive myself and others in order to create that Sacred Space in my home and my soul. 

ACTION STEP: Forgive the past. As you are decluttering, you CAN forgive yourself and others. This is a powerful step so don't skip it. Forgiveness is power. Maybe you spent more money on an item that didn't turn out how you had planned. Maybe the financial stress now turns your stomach. Forgive. You did the best you could and you've learned and grown from that experience. Perhaps the bills are high right now and income is low. Keep forgiving and look at what can be learned. Maybe you didn't spend the money but someone you love did. Forgive them. Holding onto resentment never solved anything. There is accountability, absolutely, but bitterness will only hurt you. Releasing all the negativity will make room for you to grow the peace and Sacred Space you are looking for. 

 

Walking the lane

Walking the lane

CREATE SACRED SPACE IN YOUR DAILY LIFE

Here in our little log home in the woods, we are surrounded by nature, but we didn't always live here. I used to live on "Ambulance Alley" the busiest road in my city. The sirens rang all day and all night and the traffic was relentless. I learned in those hard days to find beauty wherever I was. Sacred Space in my physical environment became vital as well.

ACTION STEP: Find nature and beauty in hidden spaces.  Finding physical surroundings that bring peace to your soul is important. It can bring a keen awareness of beauty. Perhaps it's a neighbors' garden. May be a local park.  I hiked and trail ran on a local pike path and Metro Park. An urban courtyard often provides green space to just breathe again. Find your spot and use it! 

The world does seem to have lost so much of the goodness of humanity these days. The news is toxic on all fronts. Even the normal grocery line conversations are often negative.  To create new patterns in living and thinking, this negativity has to be held at bay even though it may seem at tsunami proportions. Taking these small action steps of work and rest, forgiving the past, and finding beauty in natural living spaces will carve out for you your unique Sacred Space. 

Blessings for your journey,

Elizabeth

How I Minimized My Highest Expense

I'm all about minimizing expenses around here, as you can probably tell from my minimalist log home to my crazy antics in trying to save money.  When I first started my journey towards greater simplicity in my home and my finances, I tried everything! Just not always the RIGHT things.

Come on in, relax at my kitchen table, and let's chat about how to minimize the biggest expense you may not even realize. I'll give you a hint, it's not your home. 

As a professional financial coach offline in "real life," I've worked through this question countless hundreds of times. And although each household is unique, I do see a pattern. The #1 expense is often totally overlooked. So, if you stopped by today we'd let the kids play adventures in the woods while we tackled the topic of taxes.  Every single family I work with needs a "wholistic" tax strategy. In many cases, I work with families that pay between 30 -70% of their income in taxes. No wonder it's hard to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle! 

With over 1 million pages of the tax code, taxes can feel overwhelming. Even if you read www.irs.gov for fun, you could never read it all. Full disclaimer: I am NOT a CPA, I am trained as a tax preparer and insurance advocate, and I DO read IRS.gov for fun. For real. And often. We can still be friends. Stay with me, keep drinking your tea, and read all the way to the end. Minimizing taxes is worth it. 

I actually do read pages and pages of tax code. Honestly, I do it to protect my family and yours from serious tax errors.  Because I know what it's like to be a full -throttle mom. I know you juggle a ton with career, business, children, marriage, or aging parents. I also know that taxes may not be your favorite topic, to say the least. 

As you are clearing and minimizing your home, you are always going to need that special spot of "important papers," especially tax returns, receipts, and stuff they send and you're not sure if you need it. Just start small. Put everything in the same filing spot. Even if the spot is a mess, put it all together. Grab my Pathway to Simplicity Guide to start simplifying that area.

Next, pull out last year's tax return and look for the form 1040 at the top. This is the center of the bicycle wheel of the tax papers. All other forms, mostly, orbit around this form. As you are creating a wholistic tax strategy, you know that your goal is minimize your tax liability (the amount you owe) and maximize your deductions (stuff that lowers your taxes that you owe).

As we sip our tea and laugh at silly children playing, we should discuss that there are two totally different tax systems within our complicated tax code. If nothing else, you need to know this. One tax system if for the employee and one is for the business owner. Many people are in both categories and that is totally fine. Just understand that the taxes function very differently. Here's the basics of how:

As an employee, you are subject to tax on your wages first. Your taxes and "pre-withdrawn" from your pay check. Hence the reason it's hard to get ahead. By the time it's direct deposited into your account, the government has already started the processes of "re-directing" your hard-earned pay. There's a huge back story on how this came to be historically, but just trust me you'll want to know how to make educated tax decisions for you family because taxes are withdrawn first from a traditional W-2 paycheck. 

As a business owner, you receive payment for your product or service from your customer so the money works completely different than from an employer. You may charge your customer sales tax as applicable, but you now have some choices that you can strategically make with that money you've received. In short, you can make your money work for you and create more income for your household BEFORE you must pay taxes on it. This is through legitimate, strategic tax deductions. Maybe continuing to expand your business. You pay taxes last, instead of first as you do as an employee. That's a very simplified version of it, but I just want you to get the basic concepts here. 

Next you'll need to understand those important deductions. Deductions are legitimate expenses you pay for that then lowers your taxable income. As an employee or a business owner or both, you need to be very cozy with deductions, what they are, and their rules. Go to www.IRS.gov and search "deductions." There are two deduction headings you are going to see there, itemized and standard deductions. Now there are advantages to using one or the other but eventually you will probably want to itemize. This itemizing will again lower your taxable income to take full advantage of legitimate tax deductions. 

As a business owner, you are going to want to track mileage, advertising expenses, and product costs plus many others. Good book keeping is key. Do you use your 2nd cell phone only for business? Do you drive to meet with clients? Save receipts and track that mileage. If you are a sole proprietor, you probably will look for the schedule C. As our economy moves more towards the "gig" or "sharing" economic structure, more of us are needing to be fully educated on our own tax strategy. The IRS even promotes a whole page on the site to the "sharing" economy. 

Here are a few simple steps to begin today to minimize your largest expense:

1. Change your mindset towards taxes. No, you don't have to repeat a mantra that you love taxes, but you do not need to be intimidated any more on the topic. You CAN get educated information on this important topic. You CAN begin to understand concepts that will protect your family. Trust me, with the type of money you are paying in taxes, this needs to be at the top of your list to learn.

2. Pull out your last years tax return. Yes, I know it's much more fun to do a thousand other things, but trust me. When you keep more of your hard earned money, you will be so happy with the time you spent getting cozy with your 1040. 

3. Looking at your return, read through line by line the progression of what you pay in taxes and how it is figured. The 1040 is the main form around which all your other forms will rotate. It's the center of the bicycle wheel. Search www.irs.gov for anything you don't understand. 

4. Look at your deductions. Do you take a standard deduction? Do you itemize on a schedule A? Are there deductions that you aren't familiar with. Write those down. Just because something is tax deductible doesn't mean it directly lowers your taxes. Some deductions are certain percentages and have different rules depending on what it is so it may be an indirect benefit to lowering your taxes. If you look on www.irs.gov in the search box you can read up on the rules to see if it applies to your situation. Can you tell I adore www.irs.gov? Crazy, I know! I do because KNOWLEDGE APPLIED = POWER.  I want you to be empowered as you are protecting the financial stability of your sweet family. 

5. Call your tax preparer and ask to review your taxes today. Ask how you can make changes to pay less in taxes.  The year is still young. You have time to make adjustments now, proactively rather than re-actively come tax season. Did you pay more in taxes than you thought you should? Do you have a plan to optimize your tax deductions according to the IRS guidelines? Are you keeping accurate records? All of this can be found on www.irs.gov, but having a real, live person to walk you through this topic is key.

This is where I started with my largest tax deduction, through taking full advantage of owning a business (we own two different businesses). I educated myself on the charitable donations that were tax deductible and followed the rules exactly. I worked through the 1040 and took the tax preparer training because I found I loved it. Now I am working on the Enrolled Agent exam simply because it is vital to the families I work with.

Working this tax strategy together with my CPA, plus better financial information plus my own financial coach produced incredible financial progress while making my own toothpaste did not.

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Whew, see it wasn't that bad, talking taxes right? The sun is still shining through the trees, birds are singing, children playing. And in those 5 steps you are beginning your journey to truly save huge percentages of your hard earned income through understanding your unique tax situation. 

Blessings,

Elizabeth

 

***Disclaimer: None of this is official legal or tax advice. Each situation is unique and, of course, I highly recommend long conversations with your personal tax professional over a delightful cup of tea. 

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Minimalist Money Mishaps: Funny Things that Happened Along the Road to Minimalism

Some days, you may just need to laugh. Some days, you may need to know that other people aren't perfect, especially on the road to minimalism. If you were here today, we'd probably chat outside because it's beautiful, almost Fall weather here. We'd let the children run and dig in the mud on the other side of the garage while we sit on the stone steps leading to Dogwood Grove, a quiet realm of trees. I'd probably tell you how good it is to laugh along this journey. Deep, belly, tears-in-the-eyes laugh. It's one of many things I had to learn.....

When I first started sorting and donating and giving everything (500+ bags) away, I wasn't laughing. It wasn't funny. We were completely broke and looking up at the poverty level, wishing to be poor. Along the way, I had to learn to let go of unrealistic expectations. Yes, we expect to have a clean and tidy house most of the time. Yes, I reasonably expect to find my purse every day and keys and kids. However, I had to accept that sometimes I would mess up, BIG TIME. Here's a couple quick examples.

So in my minimalist journey, I thought it would be a good idea to build a couch. I watched You-Tube videos and thought that I could totally build my own couch out of a thrift store wooden door. I found the door of my dreams for $20 and I was inspired! I had great aspirations of building a "dream minimalist couch" with old cushions from a previous college-thrift-ed couch. I went to Lowe's and bought several pieces of wood with lots kids in tow. Lowe's cut it for me because I am not good with power tools and plus, well, toddlers. I brought it all home and screwed the boards into a rectangle...how hard can it be right? Then just put the door on top. Easy, right? Wrong! Nothing was straight. The baby was screaming and my husband was working at the time. I think I laughed and cried, both, and at the same time. But I stuck with it. I finally got the whole thing stable enough to just throw the cushions on this wooden box thing and then I put two sheets and my grandmother's lace table cloth over top. What was I thinking? The cushions slid off, the kids wore the sheets like togas, and it wasn't at all comfortable. You'd think I would've gotten the hint that it wasn't working, but I kept trying! We had that couch for over 6 months trying different variations of a failing theme. My husband sweetly said, "Honey, it feels like we are sitting on a door....." Ouch. Literally! Not my most costly experiment, that was yet to come....but the whole thing did cost me $50 and lots of ridiculously wasted time. I can laugh now at how silly my mindset was. If I had put my time into making income, I could've at least bought the pre-made thrift store couches we have now. (Kurt talked the manager at the local thrift store down in price, but the couches are sturdy and match and are, oh-so-heavenly comfortable compared to the door couch.) My next minimalist experiment cost quite a bit more for the lesson I learned!

As I was trying to minimize my home, I decided it would be a good idea to label everything using a washable black crayon to save time and ultimately money. If I was organized, I reasoned, I wouldn't lose things or buy duplicates. I was so excited when I found one at an art store for $1.59. I labeled my kitchen cupboards so that the kids could put items away correctly. I label my glass jars and felt the thrill of organizational victory....until the day I forgot my beautiful black crayon in the laundry. Now, I'm sure many a momma has washed a pen or crayon or something in a load of whites. Which is, of course, what happened. I could've lived with that. However, after I washed the load of whites with the high-end washable black crayon, I accidentally dried it too. My money-saving, super-great washable crayon did NOT wash off the inside of the dryer. Not with soap and water, not with rubbing alcohol, not with any abrasive chemical laden cleaner I was trying so hard to avoid. I completely ruined the dryer because the only time that the black crayon came off the inside of the dryer is when, of course, I put clothing into it. Everything we owned had black crayon on it. I had to buy a new dryer AND new clothing! That was possibly a $500 mishap, but I sure did learn a few things. Keep track of black crayons.

Then, as you and are laughing over that one, we would probably listen to the soft singing of birds in the cathedral of trees. We would probably try to giggle quietly...shhhh otherwise the kids will come running, curious about why we are laughing. I'd tell you next about my DIY make-up experiments. Like the time that I tried to make green eyeliner out of Spirulina, a health-food algae I use in smoothies. My husband came in to kiss me and didn't notice the green tint to my eye lids, but did ask me why I smelled like "fish food?" Yikes! That wasn't working. It was expensive and tasted terrible, even though I did get it on sale. That was a $25 experiment.

My money saving -minimalist antics may seem a little extreme, and I haven't even told you about all the things I have trash picked (everything from dishes, mattress/box springs, furniture, foaming soap pumps, and I've even found 5 dollars in change in the trash).  I made my own baby blankets pictured above, and I tried to make curtain rods from sticks and fishing line. It didn't work but I've got more ideas. I may yet build another couch or reuse the door for a coat rack. I had sheets pinned with safety pins as curtains until my friend hemmed them this year.  Finding wealth in hidden places is life-giving to me, all the while keeping only what creates my best, inspired life. It is a delicate but doable balance.

And not that I'm totally proud of my crazy tendencies toward DIY frugal adventures, but I want you to know that if things don't always go as planned, that's o.k. You are still making progress. It doesn't need to be perfect to be moving you forward. You're learning. Set your goals high. Dream big. Debt freedom is possible. A simple home that works for you is completely within reach. And you may need to rest for a moment and laugh along the way. You're in good company. I made my own dish soap today...somehow it's green. I'll let you know how this one goes.....

Blessings for your journey,

Elizabeth

How I Tamed the Laundry Monster....Minimalist Laundry Even With 6 Kids!

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Ahhhh laundry! Yes, I know it can be so overwhelming. If you were to stop by today, you would get a full tour of my little log home. It would only take a minute since it's 1400 sq feet, but you might ask where all the laundry is for these wild (often muddy) 6 children running around. That's a great question and I don't mind showing you the closet because for years I felt like the laundry monster was going to be the death of me. I want you to know that you can conquer this too! On your minimalist journey, your laundry system is key. It's going to look different for every family and every season of life, but you CAN have clean clothing without the laundry explosion.

First of all, full disclosure, I used to collect clothing. I seriously saved everything just in case. Hence, I used to have 8 overflowing laundry baskets plus the clothing in closets and dressers and off-season/sizes in the basement. That was when I only had 2 kids. Yikes! To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. Closer to paralyzing.

Now, I have 2 laundry baskets for a household of 8. And I don't spend hours a day folding, sorting, not-finding-what-I wanted, laundering.  How did that happen?

WHERE DO I START?

I was there, covered in Mount Laundry, crying on the floor trying to sort through the mess and I truly didn't know where to start. So I started with me. I got rid of my fear of "what if I need that" or "I don't have anything to wear" which never was true on either fear. Then, I realized that I needed to trust and believe that I would have enough. I could be creative and use what I had wisely. Slowly and desperately, I peeled away layers. This might help you as well......

Layer 1 : Get rid of any stained, ripped, or non-fitting clothing for every family member. Seems easy right? That's what everything I read told me to do. It was HARD. I wanted to fix it, to sew it, to make it work again. I have this frugal, redemptive twitch that is hard to turn off. Maybe you feel that too. Here's what I did to be my authentic self. I DO save high quality clothing that needs sewn but then I schedule a sewing day just because I love to do it. Not because I HAVE to do it. And if it's a busy season, I simply don't sew until I can find joy in it again. I do cut off boys pants into shorts.  I only dress my boys in khaki's so it works out great. 

Layer 2: I worked with the children to choose their favorites. I realized that they were really only wearing the same 5 outfits anyway because those outfits were comfy. Go figure! So I saved those 5 outfits and donated the rest. 5 outfits for summer, 5 outfits for winter. Done. I also gave up on pajamas entirely. Never worked for us. Clean comfy clothing works best to sleep in at our house. Choose how you like, but for me that saves a ton of time and headache. 

Layer 3: I got rid of dressers. Little hands couldn't close the drawers anyway. I pulled a metal shelf from the barn. I'll admit, I was nervous that the "flinging" tendencies of the toddler would create a clothing explosion. I taught him one time and it hasn't happened since. He is a good citizen. (Don't be too impressed, though, as he did flood the house last week twice. He is still a toddler!). My point is that whatever physical arrangement you do, make it easy for you and your household to keep it neat. 

This is not pristine but real life isn't. The children fold their own clothes so I call this a win. This is all 6 children's clothing for summer and winter ages 13 to newborn.

This is not pristine but real life isn't. The children fold their own clothes so I call this a win. This is all 6 children's clothing for summer and winter ages 13 to newborn.

Socks are in little buckets placed in age-order by the door just below the shoes. This is a kitchen cupboard so it's not the normal usage but it works for us.  

Socks are in little buckets placed in age-order by the door just below the shoes. This is a kitchen cupboard so it's not the normal usage but it works for us.  

Next, I looked at our system. I put all the clothing in one closet in the boys room by the main floor bathroom. Socks go by the shoes at the entry door in the kitchen. Underpants for the kiddos go in the bathroom. That's it. Making it easy on myself and thinking through the pathway of laundry was supremely important to creating a minimalist system that worked for my household. 

With the laundry close by, the younger children can even help!

With the laundry close by, the younger children can even help!

Finally, I took a hard look at our washer/dryer situation.  I just did this 3 months ago after my clothing system was under control for a several years. I realized that hauling laundry to the basement was a serious problem, so I moved our laundry hook up to our coat closet upstairs. It cost a little bit of money to do that, but the time and effort it saves....priceless! 

So whether you do laundry for one person or one hundred people, having a simple, intentional system for clothing relieves the overwhelm. And I found that I was more free to laugh and enjoy the muddy moments of childhood, without anger or tears towards my precious children.  

Blessings for your journey!

 

Minimalism & Money: Crazy Extreme Things I've Done to Save Money & Why You Shouldn't Do Them (Unless You Want To)

As I walk through my days in our log home deep in the woods, I think of you, my dear friend. I can see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice. With my work as a financial coach, I know that look..... money is tight right now for you. I get it. For years, we were looking up at the poverty level thinking it would be nice to be poor. At one point, we had 4 pennies left in our budget. The next month, 25 cents. I called it "increase!" During this season, I began my journey to minimalism. Even as we were struggling to make ends meet, I felt this overwhelming drive to get my home, and life, in order.  I was desperate to be able to find my purse even if there wasn't anything in it.

My dear friend, maybe you are struggling to pay the bills, or maybe you make six figures+ but have debt that keeps this horrible sting in your soul. Maybe you just want to have enough time and space to sit down and eat a meal with your family. Without rushing. Without yelling. I understand.

I think of you as I make bulk tea.  I keep thinking I should really tell you how much money it saves. My laundry baskets (2 for a household of 8 people) are from the half-off day at a local thrift store. I should tell you how I used to have 8 baskets overwhelming laundry mountains on the floor and deep depression in my mind. I should tell you it's possible to change everything in your life, including your money. 

I saved money during that hard season of financial pressures in every way possible. I made my own toothpaste (see the earlier blog article for the recipe) and my own deodorant (a new blog coming..) I didn't label them for my sweet husband and that had disastrous but funny results!! I made my own soap, diaper wipes, line dried laundry in winter in front of the wood stove, and made everything from scratch. I even gathered plants from the woods to cook, fun but a little risky! I buy food in 50 lb bags. In a household this size, it lasts a week! I saved the littlest scraps of fabric to make pillows and even made DIY mattresses that were cheaper and non-toxic. Once I built my own couch from an old wooden door. Yikes!  I went for 2 years without owning my own socks, I borrowed my daughters if needed in winter. I cut my own hair (still do because You Tube videos can teach anything).  I went without a vehicle for 9 months and prayed my husband's van he drove to work would last with 356,000 miles on it. It did. I sewed my own baby clothes and had 2 homebirths after a c-section (not a recommendation just saying it was right for us).  Homebirth is much cheaper than a c-section, but that's not obviously the main reason we chose that path. I canned and scrapped and scrimped and saved and tried every way possible until I was exhausted. 

Seriously, those are some crazy things to save money but none of that relieved the financial pressure entirely. I realized abundance is a choice first and always! Especially with our economic and materialist system, you cannot "tight-wad"  your way to freedom. Mathematically impossible due to our tax code and financial structures.  The change had to happen in my heart first, before provision would come. 

My sweet friend, I had to change my view on money and ultimately how I viewed God and the world. Everything shifted as I opened my heart and my hands, beginning to share almost everything we owned to charity. I donated over 2/3rds of everything not because we had tons of money in the bank. I gave it away because I was desperate to create my best, inspired life. Somewhere deep in my soul I knew that holding onto "stuff" was keeping me from incredible goodness and gratitude. 

I've done some extreme things to save money. And I still do them today (minus the homemade door-couch, we did buy the couches in the photos from a thrift store) because the money-saving rhythms just became part of normal life for us. And I love to do them, but I don't think you necessarily should work yourself to exhaustion just to scrimp a penny. That's not efficient.

My conclusion on saving money may surprise you! It's this. "You can't save your way to abundance." Truth.

As I wake up in a house that is paid for, I crack my eyes to see the high wooden beams of our log home and I still am amazed at the incredible journey it took to get here. I had to become open to new information about money. Even with my high degree and having taught at a business college, I knew I didn't know everything! I started seeking answers. I also knew I needed help, a real live person along the way. I found my own financial coach (she's amazing and has tons of kiddos as well!). I was able to help my family by creating additional streams of income, eliminating debt, and re-creating our entire life. Oh my dear friend, we have had so much help along the way!

You don't need to make your own toothpaste unless you want to. Just becoming open and teachable for new ideas and believing a new life is possible......that is the first essential step. Then, start learning. Be a hungry student, evaluate how to save AND create money in a way that works for you.  

Blessings!

Create Your Haven Today, Don't Wait For Perfect

A typical day now....keep reading for a "before" photo shown below. 

A typical day now....keep reading for a "before" photo shown below. 

You may be new here to my little log home or maybe you've been a dear friend for years visiting my home through this process. Perhaps you've seen my journey up close and personal or maybe you're just joining me now. However you and I have met, I want you to know that I am a real person who had a real mess to overcome. And there's a few things I learned in the midst of my journey that might just encourage you along the way....

First, my friend, don't be ashamed that you aren't where you want to be yet. Understand that part of your victory will be that you had immense obstacles to overcome. Don't apologize that you are working hard to declutter your home. Remove the "I'm sorry the house is a mess..." thought entirely. Stop worrying about the debt you keep chipping away at, hoping no one will notice how overwhelmed you feel by it all. Now is the time to shove that weight off your shoulders.

Welcome those you love in the midst of your "sometimes messy" journey and say instead, "Come on in, it's not perfect but I'm making progress each day." Love in the midst of the process. Welcome those who need a haven even while your haven is being created. That's part of it. Don't wait to create a haven until it's perfect, that day will not come until eternity. Start loving and creating a peaceful, unique, imperfect haven right now!  Serve pancakes for lunch because pay day is long way out yet. Love now! While there are still dishes piled high. While there are still toys that must be shoveled out of the way. 

A "before" photo from 2 years ago....notice the toy explosion. This is how my home looked while hosting a weekly gathering for 25 beloved friends. It was FAR from perfect. The struggle was intense!

A "before" photo from 2 years ago....notice the toy explosion. This is how my home looked while hosting a weekly gathering for 25 beloved friends. It was FAR from perfect. The struggle was intense!

Share your heart and your vision with your family and friends. Let them see that you are working on it a little at a time. Don't be shamed by your journey. Don't apologize and don't back down. This is your path! It's time for false guilt to be decluttered. The best thing I ever got rid of was the guilt of the past. Shame must be defeated. Personal responsibility is absolutely required, but shame is not. There is a difference. Responsibility says, "I'm taking charge of my life, my home, and my finances and moving forward." Having a home and a life that is full of peace starts first in the heart. 

My lovely friend, I want you to know deep in your soul that you are worthy. You CAN do this, even if it's not perfect. Keep going.

Cheering you on!

Blessings!