Taming of the Toys

If you stopped by today in our neck of the woods, you'd see that our little log home is snuggled inside a towering cathedral of trees. The summer is quiet here. As you arrive, you may need to step over a baseball bat or two on the front walk - I told them twice. But if you come on into our living room, you may not realize there are six children who live here at all because often there are not toys in sight. Minimalism is more than style here. It is an ardent choice even in the area of toys. This, however, was not always the case.

I confess I was totally at fault for the toy explosion at our house. Not too many years ago, I could not safely walk through our home. The endless plastic junk from gifts, yard sales, freebies, and Christmas seemed to breed each night into a bigger monster. I resented it. I was angry. I yelled. And then, I got tired. Exhausted, down to the core of my being, and I decided to change. The toy monster had to be tamed for our family to move forward. So, I got rid of almost every toy. Not overnight, but deliberately over time. Throughout that journey, I had to come to terms with my own past, pain in my childhood, old, powerful loneliness that had held my heart captive to fear. Once I truly saw the problem was me, not my children, I could start over. The absolute best thing I got rid of in the area of toys was my insecurity as a parent.

I had to get rid of the fear that I wasn't a good mom. You see, I believed all of the lies that I had been told. Now, it seems silly, but let's just be real, markers are not necessary for a good childhood (yes, I might have been told that). Neither are Legos. Both are banned from our house to this day. I'm a happy momma and my kids are having a magical, wonderful, imperfect childhood. I do allow sticks, rocks, leaves, tons of wildflowers, and a feral toad that showed up one winter in a house plant - all are welcome to come visit. I love all things nature-play, zero-waste, imagination-rich-related for children's activities. I will no longer allow other people's gifts to determine my life or the life of my family. I know the complete and total misery of allowing other people to determine what I allow in my front door! Those days are done. I am responsible to God for the kind of home that I create. And while that may sound strong, I know in our mother's hearts, we all know it to be true. Mothers are always the ones who feel pain when the child falls. It's science. We can't help it. We are, therefore, the guardians of our homes. Not the media, not the grandparents, though we love them dearly, not the children, though we give them realms of authority as they grow. It was my watch to keep at the doorways of our home.

When my house was a wreck and the toys out of control, I realized my role to protect the peace of household was to say "no." No more freebies at the bank. No more stickers in the grocery line. No more migraine-makers plastic junk from relatives who thought it was funny. It's not. That simple concept, that I am the guardian of what comes into my home, created for me the freedom to truly change the entire tone of the life we lived. 

Instead of putting toys away endlessly, my boys now play with about 6 little airplanes and a few misc frogs and a tractor for most everyday. I can fit all the toys into my cupped hands. I have school activities in 3 organized baskets, math- u-see blocks, wooden blocks, and a Noah's ark wooden set. In the basement, I have 2 tables. One is Clayland with polymer clay which I loved as a kid. The other is covered with a board game called Axis and Allies on the
WWII strategy side of life. My boys wake up early to re-live each strategic move. Daily items of the children include 50 cent Composition notebooks and library books. I have a tub of costumes for the little boys and a small tub of stuff animals. That's pretty much it.
Each child has a "school box" but it's just their special items that they want to keep. Sentimental string. Maps from the zoo. Rocks, pine cones, seashells, and
swimming goggles are current favorites. My daughter kept some doll things for a future baby sister, but her main items are books and notebooks. She wants to
be a writer. Yes, I'm thrilled.  

Does this simplicity stop the fights over toys? NO! Human hearts have always struggled with sharing. A limited number of items cannot solve the issues of the soul. It does, however, CREATE the room and time to address the true heart issues.

The point being that toys are going to look different for each family, each season. Minimalism must be unique. Human beings are unique. Having a simple toy strategy, intentionally curating the home for the season and age of each member, provides the framework to truly address the character work so necessary for a secure and magical childhood. 

In that light, I teach these important concepts to my children. 

1.Keep only your favorites

2.At the end of the day, put it away - How could I yell at my kids to put stuff away? The toys  a) had no home

b)there was too much anyway it was overwhelming to us both and

c) it was plastic junk that wasn't giving them the knowledge I wanted about the beauty of our natural world.

3.Zero waste toys are best - who knew that avocado seeds are fantastic balls? So are wool dryer balls that I made with a woolen mitten I accidentally shrunk and covered
with wool yarn. Recycling items create endless fun, as do cloth napkins made into super hero capes. 

If you want a magical, secure childhood for your kids, you already have all that you need inside of you. I realized that my kids didn't need toys, what they truly
needed was me! To tell them stories, explain gravity, laugh at their jokes, look deep in their eyes and tell them "I always wanted a child just like you!"

If you were here today, you'd see the wild, crazy antics of the high-intensity kids I love. You'd see they floated the wooden Noah's ark for hours in the tub, only flooding the house twice. They did build a fort in the living room with cushions, but mostly they read on the couch and fought over boy-things I don't understand. Then, one cries when wounded or laughs at a silly joke. It's childhood. It's possible. You can CREATE a magical and secure childhood without being flooded with toys. 

Blessings for your journey,



Minimalist Menu: Real Food on a Real Budget


Welcome to my Minimalist Kitchen! I'd love to have you come over to our little log home in the woods and have a cup of tea at my kitchen table. You would definitely be greeted by the smell of fresh bread and the infectious giggling of children. Aren't your children always hungry it seems? Mine sure are, and thankfully a Minimalist Menu makes it easy. 

 When cooking for a large or small household, simplicity is key and it saves money in totally practical ways. Here's my best tips:

1. Buy quality ingredients as basic as possible. Children don't need processed snacks, fruit is better. Sugar cereal? Total waste of money. I'd rather shoot myself in my foot! The resulting behavior is bad and so is the nutrition. I choose 50 lb bags of oatmeal for $25 each. I do quick oats so that the kids can soak it in milk and eat it uncooked with peanutbutter and yogurt.

2. Add water. Seriously, this is my go-to for everything. If you were sitting here in my kitchen chatting, you'd see me add water to swish around in the yogurt container. Then, I add that water to the bread dough pictured above. Mind you, the yogurt container was pretty much emptied by my 4 year old power-eater. However, instead of scraping it out, water is faster. Minimalist that I am I cannot let it go to waste and it makes my honey flat-bread soft. Keep reading for the recipe below.

3. Plan simple meals. Often I will declare a "Snack Meal." This means we have smoothie and oatmeal. Or all the leftovers in the frig must get eaten no matter how weird the combo. The kids laugh and put ketchup on everything. No problem! I have a hard-core rule in my kitchen, "Eat what you have and then you can have more." This principle has literally saved us thousands of dollars!! Before you've finished your first cup of tea, you'll probably hear me quote this rule at least six times to my 4 year old just because he needs to hear it again. Truth.

And here is my Minimalist Menu. By having "Theme nights" the children know what to expect and I can be flexible depending on what is in season locally:

Monday: Ethnic night

Tuesday: Lentils in the Crockpot

Wednesday: Soup and Salad

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner

Friday: Protein/Rice/Veggie

Saturday:Homemade Pizza

Sunday:Leftover/Grilled Veggies

I always make enough of the main meal to have for lunch the next day. That means, whatever we eat for Monday night is Tuesday lunch also. This pattern is a complete life and sanity saver!! Breakfast is oatmeal, yogurt, leftover pancakes, or self-serve eggs (again kid-cooking skills are the best!).

And finally, my favorite easy bread recipe that saves time and money.

4 cups of oatmeal or spelt flour

1/4 to 1/2 cup of yogurt or whatever amount is left in the container. Plain Greek yogurt works best. You can rinse out a large plain yogurt container with water to save from having to scrap it out. 

2 cups of warm water, stir into the flour and forget about it on the counter as you chase away a 2 year old who wants to play cars in the dough. Feed the baby, listen to the teenager, and remember about 2 hours later that the bread is soaking. Don't worry, you SHOULD forget it because it turns out better that way. No yeast needed. The yogurt acts to soften the dough.

 Add 1 teaspoon of Himalayan Sea Salt

1/4 cup local honey. Stir and plop a bunch onto a coconut oil greased pan. This is FLAT bread so you can make it pretty much anyway your heart desires.

Bake at 350 degrees until cooked in the middle about 20 minutes. Super easy, super cheap, and yummy. For the photo above I used Spelt, although we are almost entirely gluten free, it works out fine for our family. These are not set in stone amounts or ingredients but high quality ingredients always work best.

What are some of your Minimalist Menu ideas? I always love to swap recipes and share a good cup of tea.



3 Ways to Never Say I Can't Afford It Again


Confession: when I left my corporate job due to my newborn daughter's medical complications, I worried about money. I knew that although we lived as frugally as we could, I was leaving a secure paycheck to care for my daughter and I was scared. During those years, I often said, "No, I can't afford it." I quickly realized that although kids don't need to be expensive, I was the one who was truly expensive. My time was expensive.  And I began to focus on everything in my life that I couldn't afford. Maybe you know that awful, hollow feeling as well. It's terrible. Fast forward 12 years + six kids total, and my life is totally changed.

Waking up every morning in house that is paid for, not being in debt for student loans or credit cards, and being available to my kids....that feeling is priceless! 

I'm sure you could guess that it has been a long journey to get here. Maybe you are still on that same journey and it feels. very. very. long. There's hope! Along the way, I found 3 key ways to change that horrible feeling of not being able to "afford it" into a feeling of gratitude, ultimately leading to a place of abundance. 

1. Change of Mindset

I redefined what I needed. What is truly necessary? Children need their parents' love in the form of time, patience, attention, discipline, and a huge amount of affection. Children don't need a gazillion migraine-making toys or a string of stressful activities. It took me a while to learn that. Looking at all of the abundance that I did have, rather than focusing on the areas of lack,  was a huge shift and one that I still remind myself to keep. It's too easy to slip by into scarcity and fear. Abundance is first a choice.

2.Change of Patterns

In my journey to affording the time with my loved ones, I found I needed to change my patterns. First my mindset, but next my actions. I changed what I did for fun...no more shopping even if it was sales or thrift stores or *gasp* upscale neighborhood garage sales. Instead I found I loved hiking and trail running. Maybe you might enjoy free museum days in the city or walking the beach like I do. Quality experiences can be free! I changed my pattern of eating to more homemade, wholesome foods. I changed my social obligations to working with families and business owners so that my calendar correlated with my desire to help others. All of this reflected my new attitude of abundance. I found wealth in hidden places. "I Can't Afford It" began to stop coming out of my mouth!

The path to freedom

must include right choices....

3. Asking the Right Questions

All of these changes happened as I was searching for more income and for more time, less stress and more happiness with my family. And these changes of mindset and patterns brought me to face serious questions. I found that I questioned what I truly needed as far as material possessions and ended up giving away 2/3 of everything I owned to charity. I questioned relationships that weren't life-giving, and allowed those negative relationships to diminish. I found that with asking the right questions, I got the results I was looking for...more time with the ones I loved and less time worrying about affording it. I know you're probably thinking that's not rocket science, but for me, asking the right questions changed everything.

Instead of saying "I Can't Afford It" I began to ask .......

  Does it move me closer to my dreams and vision for the future?

  Does the item/event/service create value or solve a problem to get me closer to my dream life?

 Does this decision provide something that is an asset, creating addition income or making it possible in the future?

You may rightly wonder how these questions wiped away the worry about affording things. Changing my mindset, changing my patterns, and asking the right questions led me to find all the answers I was looking for. I was able to use our resources better. I balanced our finances without fear. I worked from home to expand our residual income with adding new rental properties because I had the time and vision (a ton less time cleaning with 2/3 of everything donated).  I was able to start coaching families and business owners in the area of finances through my training and my work with a financial publishing company.

I changed that hollow ache of not "affording it" into an abundant attitude of sharing and loving and living intentionally because I was willing to take the leap of faith and do the work to change.

What faith decisions have you made on your journey to simplicity?

Clean House & Happy Children - YES! You Can!

If I could write a letter to my previous self, I would tell her "You CAN have a clean house and happy children." Seriously I had never seen it done! I did not grow up in a minimalist home. I was raised to be a career woman. When I had my daughter, I was not prepared to leave my corporate job, but I knew that I made the best choice for my daughter as she had medical complications at the time. Choosing to come home was the right decision, but it wasn't easy.

You see, if you fast forwarded several years,  I was floundering as a mom. I did not have good boundaries for allowing well-meaning family to "store" items at my house. Maybe you have family like that. I'm sorry. I totally understand. Seriously, I couldn't walk through my house safely - toys, furniture, too many clothes, dishes literally to the ceiling. I'm not proud of that and I was miserable. My children weren't particularly peaceful either. We were a huge, hot mess in more ways than one.

The changes started slowly at first. I think it's called the compound effect. I stopped allowing others to redecorate my home. I donated bag after bag to the local charity. Furniture started to go the mountain of toys. Anything with batteries and noise was on my "hit list."  I was like a woman on a mission to get rid of those migraine making toys!!

Slowly, our true life emerged from under a mountain of "stuff!" I took nightly walks with my children as the evening sunset painted the sky. I read book after book instead of screen time. The behavior improved, in me actually first and then my children. I started to see our home from their eyes. If I was upset about the toys being out everywhere, I realized that I was totally responsible. I realized they needed a system, each activity needed a home. Suddenly a clean home became possible because every item HAD an actual home. Now, please don't judge! I know this is common sense and I have a high level degree. I get it that I should have known this, but how did I actually do this?

Maybe you have wondered if a clean home is possible with children, you are in the right place. I wondered that as well. I wasn't willing to give into the sarcastic sayings on FB about blaming the kids for a messy house. Like you, I also wasn't willing to let the kids trash the place either. Not going to happen....ever.

Here's 3 things that will help CREATE a happy, kid-friendly house:

1.See your home from your child's eyes. Follow their footsteps through an ideal day. Do they need their socks with their shoes? Done. Move the socks to the shoe cupboard. Kids always asking for drinks? Done. Step stool in the kitchen with stainless steel cups. Always finding toys on the floor? No problem. If found on the floor, the toy goes to the job shelf. Each child must work to earn their toy back. Clean house? Done.

2. Teach the concept "if you want to get something out, put something away." I also have a play pattern for each day. It's not strict but I am the one to direct their activities. In the morning after breakfast it's math blocks. Afternoon time is outside play or art in the basement. I am in charge so that there are no roaming bandits flooding the house....it has happened twice, just saying.

3. Encourage the children to keep their favorites. And share! Blessed day, my two year old is finally learning to share.  Discernment takes time to teach and model as does sharing and decision making. We often joke as moms about how difficult it is to teach sharing but we have a great opportunity in decluttering to practice what we preach. Ouch. I have shared items that I didn't want to share and it was so, so good for my children to see it. A mom in need asked for cloth diapers. Silly, I know, but I had a hard time letting go. When I did, I was so excited that my children saw that I shared even when I truly needed that item for our own family. Shortly afterwards, we received "upgraded" organic cloth diapers as a gift. Sweet poetic justice.

The systems in a home help CREATE a deep trust and happiness that I cannot quite explain. Children enjoy rhythms and dependability. And happy children, a clean home, aaahh this CREATES the sacred space that our family needs.

Blessings for your journey!!


How Minimalism Saves Our Family Time AND Money

If you are like me when I first heard of minimalism, you are probably curious about how minimalism really works. I thought of empty houses and museums right? Could the concept of minimalism ever be practical for real people? And I also wondered, would it seriously solve any of my problems...the two big ones being TIME and MONEY?

When I started this journey, I had three children ages 5, 3, and 1 years old. My amazing, hard-working husband had a job that took a ton of his time and I was doing different side gigs to help make money without having to compromise raising our children. In the almost 7 years since I started that journey toward living with less, I have given away 500 + bags to charity and 10 huge pieces of furniture. And yes, we still have couches to sit on and live in a "normal" home (see the tab market HOME TOUR). And I wondered if it was worth the time and money of giving it all away....

What I wanted in the beginning was some sanity in my home and life. What I gained has completely blown my mind.

As I peeled back the layers of 6 tubs of scrap fabric I was never going to use and mismatched dishes that I hated, I slowly and painfully and ironically questioned the sanity of "why am I doing this? It's taking forever!" I felt it was my penance for having allowed all this junk in my house in the first place. I felt like God was punishing me! Stuck in my basement or head-first in my disaster closet, I felt like I was being punished and miserable for allowing other people to determine what I kept in my home. I determined that I would change. My thinking was the problem. And then, the miracles happened...

Suddenly, small miracles. I could find my keys. I could find my shoes and purse every single day. Items had a permanent home. I could see progress. The anger and overwhelm that had plagued me slipped out of my heart and mind quietly leaving like an unwelcome guest finally told to go. The children were happier. With every bag gone, the burden began to lift. And I got my time. Seriously, I wish I could yell this from the mountain tops....everything took less time!! Can you believe it!? So simple yet so revolutionary for me.  Less time to do dishes, laundry, cooking, and kid chores. Less time looking for things. Less time sorting and putting things away because there was simply less things to put away. Halleluiah!!

Then, another miracle happened. Opportunities opened. I had the time to work on our investment properties and triple our rental income in about 4 months by adding additional units. I had the time to really get to know our tenants who became dear to our family. They would feed our kids grapes and cheese while we chatted and changed furnace filters. Seriously, who does that? People with time. People with time invest in other people!

Because of the compounding impact of minimalism, I also was able to work with my husband and start another business helping families and business owners with financial education and game planning. I found all my skills from the corporate world brought much needed help to underserved communities in our area where financial mentorship and hope is truly needed. And because I had the mental clarity and I was spending less time with "stuff," I could spend more time serving people. That simply makes my heart sing.

In terms of exact numbers, I have on a consistent basis saved 20+ hours per week compounding by donating all those bags of very useful items. 20 hours X Years of Freedom = So Worth It!

As far as money is concerned, saving money is one category. It regularly saves us about 50% of our household budget by choosing a minimalist lifestyle. But that's not all, not only do we SAVE more money, we have CREATED more income as well. By being free to work on our businesses, I estimate that the amount exceeds double my salary in corporate world. It's significant. And I am still raising my children rather than commuting into the city.

And although I am a huge advocate for Creating Minimalism, I am also a realist. This will take work. It took giving it all away to find the life I was looking for all along. May you find your best life as well. Blessings for your journey!