Minimalism: Unselfish Self-love?

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I think that we are all always seeking freedom and rest because we know at the core as humans that we were designed for that.

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I started out on my journey to minimalism, in part, because I didn't want life to be so dreadfully hard. I wanted to be able to walk into my house without tripping over a weed-eater (it's the little things right?). I wanted to find my keys and to have clean dishes. I wanted the anger and despair to leave. And I wanted to no longer hate who I was; it was that simple.  

I didn't realize, then, who I really was. As a visual person, I know now that I am created specifically with a perfectionist eye for art and color and design. Clutter makes me have a hard time breathing. I had no self-awareness or appreciation for my learning style. I didn't know what self-love was then, and I probably would've told you "that sounds selfish. Minimalism is a stark art-form for elite, self-absorbed artists, right?" 

Let's just be clear, we are not talking about self-centered living when we talk about minimalism.

I think that we are all always seeking freedom and rest because we know at the core as humans that we were designed for that. Something in our souls knows that we require peace in our identity, provision in our homes, and freedom to love our families with all that we are. 

All of that begins in what we believe about ourselves. 

I remember the exact moment I decided to hate who I was. I remember the culture that told me I wasn't good enough, thin enough, successful enough - never enough. I remember believing that I wasn't worthy to be loved. I had to struggle through many dark days of depression to come to a place where I knew that I could not find that self-love in my own strength (I am a strong personality; believe me, I tried!) 

I found the foundation for self-love only comes from knowing I AM loved. As I dove into ancient writings, thinking back to how generations lived before me and handled the deep questions I was asking, I found great solace in seeking ancient pathways of simplicity and faith.

I found words that the Creator-God had spoken.

"You are His beloved." 

"You are chosen."

"You are worthy."

So worthy and valuable that God would come down to rescue me from my own darkness by His own suffering. The twisted-nature of religion never interested me; to be totally honest, it makes me sick. Yet, the healing brought by the reality of the cross of Jesus was exactly what I needed. His love came with the mix of violence and love and justice. I knew, in my depression, that I could not love myself without His love for me. 

My friend, I know that you understand the darkness that I speak of.  Maybe you've struggled deeply. Or perhaps you love someone who still wrestles with depression.

For me, I had to give almost everything away to find that what I truly wanted wasn't stuff at all. It was peace with God and peace with myself in my own soul. 

The path of minimalism still leads me straight to Him and all that I breathlessly needed in order to overcome self-hatred and despair. I needed this to be free to love my family as unselfishly as I can each day. Minimalism is not the source of self-love nor is it innately selfish; it is merely an unselfish method to clear a path to the Answer I needed. 

In your minimalist journey that you walk, dear friend, may you hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in in," and you will find rest for your soul. You will know how deeply loved you are.  And with every path you walk in this wide world, may it always lead you straight to the cross of your Savior. 

Blessings for your journey,

Elizabeth

 

Curate & Create: Why Minimalism May NOT Be About "Decluttering" After All

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Today, perhaps you are slightly burnt-out on decluttering. Perhaps it seems the clutter mysteriously multiples and every time you turn around there's more clutter. Or perhaps your mind is always going, thinking, planning, praying, begging for a way out of the stress and clutter. Maybe it's the mental clutter at night that keeps you awake. I understand; you and I can gently laugh together because if you were sitting here tonight in my snowed-in log home, you'd see that origami frogs have multiplied like the plague of Egypt across the floor! Even after 558 huge bags (2/3rds of everything) donated to charity, stuff sneaks in.

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Even after 558 huge bags (2/3rds of everything in our home) donated to charity, stuff sneaks in.

We are always seeking simplicity in this ever-complex world. And in the realm of minimalism, I have found that I dislike the word "decluttering" more and more. It sounds negative to me, and I don't think that only decluttering will lead us all to the peace and simplicity that we are seeking. It's akin to saying "pay off all debt and you'll be fine forever." While paying off debt is important (and possible) just being debt-free is not the end goal. Financial stability is a process that far exceeds just eliminating debt. Only decluttering the home is not the end goal. I believe it is merely the beginning, and the language that we use when discussing this journey to simplicity does make a difference. I believe the language and words we choose to describe our journey can literally make all the difference. 

And tonight, you have my permission to stop decluttering.

Yes, as a ardent minimalist, I just gave you permission to stop. Instead, if we were chatting by the fire place tonight (as my oldest clears the frogs) I would offer you the alternative of "curating" your best life instead of just decluttering it.

Let me explain. I have many friends in the art world and several who make amazing decisions for shows and exhibitions. I adore the process they get to participate in as they are both artists and curators. It is through their choices of what to include and exclude that they actually create a whole new art - the show or exhibition itself is also art as much as the paintings and sculptures contained in it.

Your home is your canvas, a living, changing canvas on which you have the joy and responsibility to create. Not self-centered and cold, sterile and perfect so that no one touches it, but quite the contrary.

Home is a stunning masterpiece meant to be lived in, touched, tasted, enjoyed, shared, and created over and over again.

The art of our lives comes from the continuing act of creating, not merely decluttering. We are not just cutting out items for the sake of eliminating clutter. It seems too much like a diet left to a binge-and-purge-cycle. You and I both know that's wrong on so many levels. Instead, I would rather dream and create and work and replace, eliminating the unnecessary and the no-longer-applicable to showcase the current journey in simple, beautiful ways.

Let's be real and specific. Two simple steps to begin to "curate" your home. 

1. Get rid of junk because you want to, not because you think you should. Stop decluttering only to have it sneak in again. Change the emotion of your journey to simplicity from frustration to awe. See the beauty in the process and use the frustration to fuel courage. Changing how you view items coming and going begins also with guarding the door of your home just like a security guard only allows the masterpieces to enter the exhibit hall. Now, I don't mean everything in your home should be expensive at all or stuffy and untouchable like a forgotten museum. However, you can see beauty in the normal, daily-used items. You CAN clear space to showcase the stunning beauty in the humility of daily living. 

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2. Focus on what you want to keep and why. Is it beautiful? Enjoy it! Do you love the fading of roses that probably should be composted like I do? Keep them longer. Do you see beauty in old books? Or towels folded right, thank the Lord, the towels were folded right today!

Create a list today of your criteria for what to keep and what to share and why. Also, add a portion of that list for items that are simply no longer reflective of your journey. Permanent markers with toddlers are no longer part of my journey in my home with log walls, just as a fun example. 

Home need not be perfect and it need not ever be completely done, as no piece of art is ever complete in artist-eyes. Almost done is plenty "done." Did you take time to write today or play cars on the floor with your kids because the laundry was (almost) caught up? Did you write down that dream non-profit idea to serve those desperate for hope because the dishes were (almost) done? Good enough opens up possibilities to create anew. 

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Do you love the fading of roses that probably should be composted? Keep the the beauty that feeds your soul regardless of what others may say. 

Can you join me in no longer decluttering? Instead, we can together curate our homes and lives for the joy set before us.

 

Blessings for your unique journey,

Elizabeth

Frugal Fun: Zero Waste, Minimalist Toy Frog Tutorial

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Can you hear this sweet frog singing? Oh, the fun and joy this little frugal project has brought to my high-intensity household of six children! I never knew when I started cutting up worn-out pants into shorts that my frugality would bring such fun as making frogs.

If you stopped by our little log home on any given day, you may see one of these frogs peeking out of a couch cushion. Or you may see a little blonde boy carrying it with its pocket filled with rocks or small cars.  We don't have many toys around since I gave most of them away. However, these homemade frogs are a family favorite. 

The irony of this fun project is that I'm terrible at sewing. I give myself barely a passing grade. I know enough to be dangerous, not enough to be good at sewing. However, my boys look forward to Christmas when we secretly work on frogs for the younger siblings late into the night. Whispering and laughing with my 11-year-old boy is a precious treasure to my soul. This year, he told me "Mom, this is my favorite part of Christmas!" After a long day, that was healing balm to this momma of six. 

The instructions for this project are easy, I promise. Remember my sewing skills are below average. 

1. Cut off boys pants after they have shredded them beyond being patched. Cut the fabric so it's open and wide. You can also use old sheets or shirts like I did here. I cut out the pocket of my own pants for this particular frog. 

2. Draw freehand a pattern of a frog onto the pants legs or largest part of the fabric. Cut only once a doubled piece of fabric so you have both the front and back of the frog. 

3. Make silly jokes with your child about frogs singing and coming to life (this is a vital step, not to be skipped). 

4. Sew the pocket on what will be the outside of the frog. Turn the fabric so that it is inside out and sew around the edges leaving the bottom open for stuffing.

5. Turn the frog right-side out and stuff with whatever kind of stuffing you have. I used bulk raw cotton that was "seconds" online. I also have used old couch cushion stuffing or shredded t-shirts. Basically, anything can be stuffing if you cut it up small enough. 

6. Stuff the frog and use a knitting needle to evenly distribute the stuffing. 

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7. Sew up the bottom of the frog securely. 

8. Name the frog and sing a frog-song.

9. Give your sweet frog to your precious child.

10. Talk about using what you have in new and creative ways. Share your heart for being a good steward of natural resources to protect real frogs and their habitat.  Hug the child and frog close to your heart and ignore the muddy face and crooked stitching.

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This moment is precious.

Giving doesn't need to cost money.

Gifts of time and experience and stewardship principles are precious.

 

Blessings for your sweet family,

Elizabeth

A minimalist Christmas bedtime story

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"We are the stories that we tell." ~ the late John Enright, Zambia, Africa

"Once upon a time, there was a little family who lived in a little log home in the woods. The daddy was a hard-working, loving man, and the mommy raised their fast and wild children who loved to run in the woods.  The children did not believe in Santa because they knew that their daddy was a delivery driver, and he worked nonstop to bring Christmas presents to all the little boys and girls in their town. They did not see their daddy between Thanksgiving and Christmas because he was gone before dawn and home long after they went to bed. Their mommy put up his pictures in their room so that they would remember what he looked like. The children would leave him voicemails because he was not allowed to even call. He had no lunch breaks. The mommy would wake the children in the middle of the night sometimes just to see their daddy while he tried to sleep a bit before leaving again. This little family cried a lot at Christmas because they just wanted to be together.

Then, one day the daddy told the mommy he felt trapped and she started packing their things in desperation to leave that little log home in the woods. As she packed, she cried and prayed for a way out of debt and out of mountains of useful stuff they did not need. She realized that her children just needed their daddy. As she packed, she found she did not need hardly any of the items in their house. She thought about selling them but realized others were in need, too, so she donated 557 bags to the local Catholic charity.

She found minimalism.

She started saving money like crazy cutting their bills to 75% or less than their income. The house was clean and frugal but still lonely. Then, one day she realized that expansion was needed as well minimalism. Since she wasn’t cleaning all the time, she expanded their tiny business. It grew and grew until one day, this little family found it was almost enough to pay their bills. Then, with a wild series of events and lots of prayer and help, the family paid off the last payment on their little log home. Finally, the daddy and mommy decided to take a big risk. They made a plan. They worked all night and all day and all night. Sometimes they made great progress and sometimes they got way behind, but the whole time they were thinking about Christmas. They wanted to give their children the best Christmas gift they could - the gift of being together. The daddy wanted to be home for Christmas. By this time there were a few more children waiting for him at home, five plus one on the way to be exact. At last, by Thanksgiving, the daddy turned in his uniforms with his five children carrying in the last boxes of uniforms. The mommy cried.

That Christmas, the fast and wild children decorated the little log home in the woods and could not believe their shining eyes as their daddy didn’t leave from dawn ‘til night. They clung to him for days, afraid that their dream wasn’t true, but it was. It was a Christmas prayer come true!

Now, that little family in the woods still works all night and all day and all night in their little, now growing, business, but they do it together. The children help their hard-working daddy build and fix and paint. Their mommy still keeps donating items to the local charity, now and then, so she can keep working with the daddy in the little business. Today, this little frugal minimalist family has new dreams and new challenges, but they chose to believe and pray and work hard to create a completely new life where this Christmas time, they have the deep joy of being together."

Of course, this is our story. And, we are deeply grateful for the path our family has paved for us in living to the fullest. We honor my Uncle John Enright in this post as this week; he suddenly began his new story in Eternity the day after Christmas.  We know that all great stories begin and end in deep faith. 

Blessings for living your best story,

Elizabeth

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