Category Archives: Home

Memorial Day Plans

Here it is, coming on Memorial Day Weekend, and my vow to get the junk out is not completely finished.  We have cleared out quite a bit from our main living area, but it is currently stacked in our garage.  We have decided to hold a joint garage sale with a friend, and then what is left will be either sold on CraigsList (if we think it may sell there) or donated to the local thrift store.

But even getting it out of our main living area has resulted in some things that are just simply wonderful.

  • Simpler kids’ wardrobes
  • Contained and limited toys
  • Empty kitchen counters
  • Empty living room space – easier for the kids to play!
  • Empty stairway – does anyone else use theirs as a spot for “things that go upstairs”, yet they never quite made it up the stairs?
  • And a Master List of large furniture pieces that will be moved out
We are no where near finished and now I understand when other people have said they thought it would take a few weeks and find themselves now years later still decluttering.  It really is a never-ending process.  But even just this short period of time, I’ve learned a few things:
  • In regards to toys, better quality is better than quantity.
  • I need to buy an e-reader (and we are slowly saving for one), because we have way too many books that I am not willing to part with yet. I have my “these must go with me as hard copy in case I am stuck on a deserted island” few, but I still like having the others (you know, just in case I want to re-read the Twilight series again) around. An e-reader will solve that problem!
  • If I have not used an appliance, tool, whatever that we received as a wedding gift 6 years ago, there is little-to-no chance that I will ever use it.
  • Fewer clothes = Easier to keep up on laundry
  • For scrapbookers, the scanner is your friend!
  • That while we never use our desktop computer (seriously! Both my husband and I almost exclusively use our laptop), my husband is just not quite ready to let it go. And I need to be okay with that.
And so I continue on this path, hauling my family along for the ride. We are planning a multi-state move within the next year or two (or sooner!) and the less we have, the better!
Our next challenge is a No-Spending Challenge we are taking on for the month of June. We have decided that only essential spending will be allowed, which includes: gas (ugh! We’re paying over $4.50/gallon!), regular bills (mortgage, utilities, etc.), minimal groceries (dairy, eggs, fresh fruit, leafy greens + regular meat order from local organic farm – lasts us 3 months!).  Plan is to augment our savings, reduce some debt, and get some ground under us before July brings the dreaded salary cut.  Step One: spend the weekend planting a few vegetables in a container garden.

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Taking a Paycut

It’s almost become a cliché: getting layed off, taking a pay cut, being out of work. Sadly, it is touching every person either directly, or indirectly through someone they know.

This week it touched my family.

My husband went to work on Friday morning and was told that in a few months, his salary will be cut 25%. Thankfully, it’s not 50% or even a complete lay-off. But it will still affect our budget substantially.  We will rely on my income even more, and I carry our health insurance. But after crunching numbers and considering the lower cost of daycare (reduced pay = reduced time, so we can take another day off from paying daycare each week), we think we will break even.

One of my best friends works for the same business and was also advised of paycut. However, they are not sure that they will fare as well. Barely making it each month, they are afraid they will need to sell one of their cars (public transit in our area is practically non-existent and both she and her husband work out of the home), and if cutting all other costs doesn’t work, they may have to sell their house.

My husband and I, after a short conversation, invited this family to move into our house with us, should it come to selling their house. Suddenly, every bit of “extra” in our house really doesn’t mean much. We are willing to sell nearly every item in our bedroom and our children’s bedroom, plus our office, to make room for our friends.  We decided the only thing we would put into “storage” in our garage would be the dresser and cribs from kids’ room, because they were an heirloom item.

Our house isn’t large. In fact it is a 3-level townhouse with a garage/laundry room/storage on the ground level, dining/living room & kitchen on the main level, and bedrooms upstairs.  But it is still cluttered with useless items as I gradually attack each living space.  And watching my friend frozen with shock and terrified of having to sell every thing she owns… put it in perspective.

Why do we own all of these unnecessary things?  I watch the news reports of the tornadoes in Alabama where people just lost everything and think – what would I want to save from a storm? I look at the one-too-many tablecloths, extra t-shirts-from-some-event, and even the fleece blanket my sister-in-law has given us for Christmas (for the 3rd year in a row!) and think: If a tornado was coming, would I grab this? If there was a fire, would I be upset if this was lost?  More often than not, the answer is no.

So, as I sit and start collecting items to sell on Craiglist (my first venture in this! Help me!) or put up on Freecycle, it’s getting easier to let the Stuff go. It’s just Stuff. And most Stuff can be replaced.

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The Delete Button

I have to confess that it has been about 4 weeks since I have *actively* read my personal email.  I use Gmail and have it set up with the Priority  Inbox, so everything from my mom, other family, and closest friends was read right away – and all the JUNK just left.  Made me think about it this morning as I sat and saw 6,000+ (yes that is a 6 in that number!) UNREAD emails. Dear God, why do I even have that many?


There are many blogs I like to read: minimalist blogs, homemaking blogs, money-saving blogs. Kinda ironic, isn’t it? I had been subscribing to these in Google Reader, but found that the time to read them wasn’t there. So, I changed to subscribing by email, because I see my email more and would be more inclined to read them. Wrong!  Now I have a cluttered inbox, whereas before I had a cluttered reader.  I still like to read these and get updated, so I’m torn on how to proceed. Unsubscribe from everything? Hmm..


I do save an average of 50% on my monthly grocery bill using coupons and so subscribe to quite a few coupon & money-saving blogs. Or from companies with printable coupons embedded in the email. Do I really need these? I have my favorites that I check regularly because they don’t have subscriptions. Maybe I should just stick to those.

Emails to Myself

Does anyone else do this? Maybe I’m just strange. LOL! If I see a website, a recipe, an idea that I want to save for later – I email it to myself.  Often, it just sits in my email, because I don’t have the time to look at it again. So a lot of the pending emails are from ME.

There is absolutely no reason to have 6,000+ emails, unread or read, period. None. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Recently, I went through my work email and only have urgent things in my viewed inbox, with archived emails in their respective subject folders. This has helped clear my mind tremendously.

Do I really need to keep the emails with wedding plans from 5 years ago? Or the pictures of my then-new nephew when he was born in 2004? Seriously. These are emails I have in my inbox right now. Why am I keeping these?

I really want to just CTRL+A and select all and then Delete, but there is this FEAR. Fear that I will delete something that I didn’t really mean to delete.

I did it. I just did it. I Selected All and hit Delete. Wow – what a feeling.  I know that if I need something, I can do a search for it and Google will look in the Trash, too.  But my inbox is now empty.

Self, there is a new rule in town: if it’s not important to read and act on right away, it’s not important enough to keep.  And if it’s not important enough to keep, why am I receiving it anyway??

The Next Step: Unsubscribe from all of the noise.

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Simple Ingredients: Cleaning

Parts of this post were previously posted in full on my previous blog: Green & Frugal Mama.


While I’ve been examining what I have been bringing into my home, I’ve come to realize that the fewer ingredients, the simpler the recipe, the better it is for my home, my health, my family.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • White Distilled Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Borax
  • Washing Soda
  • Liquid Castile Soap
  • Citrus peels (saved from peeled produce, stored in a jar in the fridge)
  • Citric Acid
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Essential oils (optional)

I’ve learned that with these ingredients, I can make nearly any cleaner for my home and clean nearly every surface in my home, and more! Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Glass Cleaner #1 (Homemade… book)

  • Ingredients: 1/2 c. White Vinegar; 2/3 gallon water; 1 clean gallon container, 1 clean 32oz. spray bottle.
  • Directions: Mix ingredients in the gallon container. Fill the spray bottle & spray on windows & glass items as needed. Dry glass with crumpled newspaper.

Multipurpose Cleaner (Homemade… book)

  • Ingredients: 3 1/2 c. Hot Water; 1/2 c. White or Apple Cider Winegar; 1 t. Borax; 1 t. Washing Soda; 1 t. Liquid Castile Soap; 1 clean 32oz. spray bottle
  • Directions: Fill spray bottle first with hot water; then add vinegar, borax, washing soda, and liquid castile soap. Shake well. Spray on surfaces. Wipe down with a clean cloth or damp sponge.

Air Freshener (Facebook fan)

  • Ingredients: 1 c. Activated Charcoal (about $10/bottle at Walgreens, but also available online)
  • Directions: Use 1 c. of charcoal in each room. Change every 6 months.

Floor Cleaner (Facebook fan)

  • Ingredients: White Distilled Vinegar, Water
  • Directions: Mix together. Mop.

Automatic Dishwasher detergent (Facebook fan)

  • Ingredients: 1 c. Borax; 1 c. Washing Soda; 1 bottle of CitriShine (found in the dish aisle. Any citric acid could be used)
  • Directions: Mix together in a container and seal tightly. Use 2 T mixture for each load.

Fake Jet-Dry (Facebook fan)

  • Ingredients: White Vinegar
  • Directions: Use in jet-dry hole in your dishwasher.

Oven Cleaner (Homemade… book)

  • Ingredients: 2 T liquid soap; 2 t. Borax; 2 c. Warm Water; 1 clean 16oz spray bottle; 1/2 c. Baking Soda in an open bowl
  • Directions: Pour the soap & borax into a spray bottle. Add warm water. Shake well to dissolve. Spray solution on oven surfaces. Let mixture set for 30 min.-1hour. Scrub with a damp scrub pad dipped in baking soda. Rinse with clean water.

Garbage Disposal Cleaner (Homemade… book)

  • Ingredients: 1 qt. White Vinegar; ice-cube tray
  • Directions: Fill an ice-cube tray with white vinegar and freeze it. Remove cubes, place in a sealed plastic bag and return to the freezer. Once a week, run 2-3 vinegar cubes through garbage disposer.

Garbage Disposal Freshener (Homemade… book)

  • Ingredients: Orange, Lemon or Grapefruit peels
  • Directions: Store in a sealed plastic bag in refrigerator. Once or twice a week run a few peels through the disposal.

Scouring Powder (Homemade… book)

  • Ingredients: 1 c. Baking Soda; 1 c. Borax; 1 c. Salt; 1 clean 32oz plastic container with cover.
  • Directions: Combine ingredients in container & mix well. Close tightly to store. Sprinkle some on a damp sponge or directly on surface. Scour, rinse, dry.

Dishwasher Cleaner (Shopping Thrifty)

  • Ingredients: 1/2 c. White Vinegar; 2 T Baking Soda
  • Directions: “Simply pour the white vinegar and baking soda into your empty dishwasher. Next, start the dishwasher and allow it to run through a complete cycle. Repeat this process once a month to remove hard water buildup, stains, grime, and odor.”

Any one of these is an inexpensive and health-friendlier option than their branded counterparts. And they are also things found in my home on a regular basis, can easily be acquired at almost any store (only a few items require a specialty store, or purchase online).


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The China Shepherdess

They were all happy that night. The fire on the hearth was pleasant, for on the High Prairie even the summer nights were cool. The red-checked cloth was on the table, the little china woman glimmered on the mantel-shelf, and the new floor was golden in the flickering firelight. Outside, the night was large and full of stars. –Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The china shepherdess. I remember this from my childhood. Ma would pack her up so carefully and she would survive the trips back and forth across the Midwest.  The only decoration aside from Pa’s fiddle. And she would always have that red-checked tablecloth in each home they lived in.

Pioneers. The original minimalists.

There are tales of families having to leave chests of books and china and even furniture alongside the trail as they traveled west by covered wagon.  As we contemplate the possibility of a several state move, I stand in my home and look at all of my family’s possessions.  Would they even fit in one large U-Haul? Or would it require two? What if we only took our cars?

The endless knickknacks and dust-catchers that adorn my walls and shelves and nearly every flat surface. Do I really love them that much?

The peace that came with having exactly what was important and what was essential is so apparent in stories told from the frontier. If an item didn’t have a use, it was not purchased. Or it must have great sentimental value to be kept.

What is my china shepherdess?

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