Tag Archives: minimalism

Children’s Books Featuring Simple Living

Here at Striving Stewardess, we talk a great deal about books for adults that feature simple living, minimalism, financial knowledge, and even books on chickens.

We haven’t really discussed books that are good reads for kids that encourage these ideas (though I haven’t yet learned of a good chicken book for kids!), but that does not mean such books do not exist!  Quite the contrary, children’s books that feature topics such as simple living are numerous, and serve as a great teaching tool for the littles in your life.  Here are a few to start with:

511mhgnbxwl-_sx367_bo1204203200_The American Girl Series/Anne of Green Gables/Little House books. Although each of these are a very different book series, all three encompass the “historical fiction” genre, and discuss encounters with simple living, minimalism, and even thrift.  I first became acquainted with the “Kirsten” character from American Girls as a first grader, and came to love the simple life lessons found in each book of the series.  Anne and Little House soon followed.  These would probably be best suited for those in elementary school, or older (as in the case of the Anne of Green Gables series).

51ugghaxdal-_sx370_bo1204203200_The Clown of God.  In this retelling of an old legend, Tomie dePaola reaches out to the picture book crowd, helping to teach youngsters that what matters are the gifts of yourself and your talents, not the fancier, earthly things.  This books seems especially well-suited for preschool age children and older.  Our son loves the illustrations in this book, and I love the religious undertones of the story as well.

The Bible (and many other religious texts).  I find it interesting that the common theme found among many religious books is the theme of simplicity (Jesus encouraging the rich man to give away his possessions, for starters). The great thing about books of faith is that there are different ways to present the material, from children’s Bibles, to religious instruction, that can be presented in an age-appropriate way.

I would love to hear what children’s books you know of that encourage simple living!

 

 

Apartment Modifications Part 1

unnamedWith the move in progress, the kids and I visited Riley in Texas recently for a whole week.  He has been in corporate housing (housing provided by his work until he gets more established), and will be for a couple more weeks.

This housing arrangement, while temporary, was a bit of a shock for me because it is a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment.  There is no yard, there are people around us to be respectful of (tough to do with two little ones who enjoy running and hearing their voices at full volume), and not as much space.

While there can be benefits to apartment living (not having to worry when things break, for instance), our weeklong visit got me to thinking of ways in which my current simple living strategy would need to be modified for apartment dwellers, especially those with kids.  The rest of this list will come next week!

Playing outsideWe were lucky–the apartment we were at had both a balcony and a park within the complex.  That said, it was very warm, wet, and mosquito-y during our time there, so we did not spend as much time outside as we ordinarily do.  I can absolutely sympathize with those who cannot just open their back door and enjoy a backyard.  Modification:  We planned thirty minutes of outside time each day, and shared that expectation with the kids–a sort of accountability program.  And we packed the bug spray, so no excuses!

Keeping stuff in checkExtra stuff takes on a whole new meaning when you have a smaller space.  It enforces the “one in, one out” rule.  Modification:  There would be no room for error on this, if we were staying in an apartment for longer than a month:  we would have to pare our possessions down even further, and keep them pared down. Honestly, this is something that we would benefit from, regardless of where we were moving to.

GroceriesI had to haul four days worth of groceries up three flights of stairs, with both kids in tow.  That was enough of a feat in itself–I can’t imagine doing that with a couple of weeks worth of groceries.  Modification:  If I were staying in an apartment long-term, I would back off the “buy as much as you can to avoid shopping more often” rule, and would instead focus on saving money other ways, such as a store loyalty program or coupons.

Living in an apartment with kids for one week was a good lesson for me, and reminded me that everyone’s situation is different.  What works for one person, may not work at all for the next.  Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Giving Yourself Grace

With the moving process well underway, I wanted to share some ways that my minimalist/stewardship practices have changed.

unnamed (3)1.  The kids spend quite a bit more time with screens.  I am not thrilled that we have already exceeded Bean’s two hour per week screen time limit for this week, but the need to clean the house before showings, and the fact that we are stuck in the air conditioned car during the showings (due to the two 90 pound dogs that have to get out of the house and the heat outside), means the kids get to indulge a bit in their screen time habits.  It isn’t perfect, but we try to compensate with outside time and reading time.

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca02632.  I spend less time on elaborate meals.  I love to bake and cook, but depending on the time a showing happens, I am not always able to prepare anything elaborate.  There have been times in the past three weeks (the time since the house first went on the market) where our suppers have been YOYO (You’re On Your Own) nights, and other nights when we have gone with something to-go.  The family gets fed though, albeit not with all organic/local/carefully crafted ingredients.

ad30d24f-c63b-466d-baca-b555b048b25b3.  We got a second car.  I wrote about this last week.  It’s still sort of a touchy subject with me, but we had to do what we had to do.  Hopefully it is temporary!

In a nutshell:  we are in survival mode.  My non-moving, minimalist self cringes each time I have to compromise a bit on my ideals (see:  cloth diapers and other things that are too green for me), but that’s where I am at right now.  And I have to remind myself almost hourly that this is temporary.

I want to continue to strive to be the best stewardess I can be. However, I am learning that one of the lessons of this move is the fact that we need to give ourselves grace, especially when it comes to working through major life changes.

What Minimalism Means to Me

If you spend much time in the “simple living” corner of the Internet, you no doubt have encountered many definitions and expressions of minimalism. As it should be: if you’re really going to practice something, it should be personal.

While the name “minimalism” emphasizes what you’re doing without, I think most would agree it’s about clearing out the unwanted so that you have time to focus on what you want.

Writing my life plan has helped me to focus this further. I regularly review what I’ve decided is the most important and am constantly reevaluating my life choices against that. It’s helped me pare down my grocery list, DVR and extracurricular activities. (With a lot of areas, I simply ask myself, “What one thing am I most willing to give up?” and repeat that over and over until I’m comfortable with what is left.)

Pine LakeAnother aspect of minimalism as I see it is to prioritize only what will help you reach your goals (see, the life plan again). For example, if  I want to hike 15 miles at the end of the summer, I have to work up to that, starting now. If I want to own a home as soon as it is financially healthy for me to do so, I must set a limit on how much I’m going to spend on my garden. There’s nothing wrong with a weekly 4-mile hikes or a garden full of new pots, but these don’t help me reach my goals.

I absolutely am (or want to be) a minimalist with my possessions, too. While I do periodic purges (Marie Kondo‘s method has been a practical way to do this), my main focus has been to limit what I bring into my home. By doing so, I have been focusing on long-term change, rather than having a spotless, bare-bones place in the short term.

I find that minimalism is a natural outworking of my Christian faith. After all, I worship the King who once lovingly told a rule-following young man, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21 ESV).

And in another passage I read, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1). While “stuff” (material and not) isn’t all that he’s talking about as “encumbrances,” I can’t help but think that’s part of it.

What does minimalism mean to you?

The Minimalist Wardrobe

20150301_222253Recently I had the opportunity to buy some clothes, and not from the thrift store either.  (Though I still prefer to do my shopping that way!)

I wanted to utilize my money the smartest way I could, so I searched and asked around to try to determine what, exactly, makes a good minimalist wardrobe.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  Go timeless.  I hate clothes shopping, so the longer I can make these clothes last and be “on trend” the better.  I kept the colors fairly neutral, staying with blues and pinks (which look best on me) and blacks and whites.  Nothing too loud or garish for this gal!

2.  3/4 sleeves.  ‘Nuff said.  At Ronnica’s suggestion, I stuck with 3/4 sleeves for most of my tops, because, as she correctly noted, “It is appropriate for all but the hottest days of the year.”  I bought sweaters to layer with when things get too chilly for just 3/4 sleeves alone.

3.  Research what pieces are “must haves.”  In doing a quick internet search, it became apparent that “every woman” should have a few items in her closet, including but not limited to:  a little black dress, white blouse, and nude heels.  These and other must have pieces provide a good foundation for a wardrobe, and have served me well so far!

4.  I only purchased what I needed.  In my case, I really needed new tops and a couple more pairs of jeans.  I saw some clothing articles that I really liked, but refrained from buying them–they would have blown my budget, and wouldn’t have achieved my “minimalist wardrobe” goal.

5.  For every item brought in… another item went out.  My closet is itty bitty, so I couldn’t keep everything!

What are some essential clothing pieces for you?

Making the Cut: Spring Cleaning Edition

I tend to fall on the “fan of organization” end of the spectrum.  No big secret there.  I have written more than once about what fall and spring cleaning looks like in our house, even down to my “rules.”

But what do those rules look like in action?  Below is a list of some of the things that made it during spring cleaning this year…and those lucky items that are off to people who can actually use them.

11178539-6386-4f83-8a02-ad17cc4386871.  Favored toys:  Safe.  I’d have been in some pretty hot water if I’d tossed Peanut’s beloved Baba (pictured here), or any one of Bean’s baby dolls, so those highly preferred toys definitely stay.  Still, there were some that were either no longer age-appropriate, were duplicates, or long forgotten that are on their way to the thrift store or nearby charity.

2.  Devotional materials:  Safe.  These are getting a boatload of use since we implemented family devotional time in the evenings.  The only reason they were briefly considered for disposal is because they are getting a bit tattered and worn.

3.  Wedding dress:  Safe.  Sigh.  Read all about my quandary here.  The dress is safe…for now.

05d5d770-1bed-4cf0-af6a-6c44084e49914.  90% of school papers:  Gone.  As hard as it was to get rid of the dozens of scribbled coloring sheets from Bean’s first year of school, I also know that we have over a decade left of school papers to look forward to, not just from her but from Peanut as well.  I kept the super special ones, like this artistic rendition of a lamb, but everything else got recycled or given to people (ahem…grandparents) who may get pleasure from them.

5.  Holey blankets:  Gone.  I don’t know why I didn’t donate our “loved” linens to the local animal shelter sooner–perhaps I was attaching too much sentimental value to them–but these are gone, and our hall closet is far more spacious as a result.

6.  One of our coolers:  Gone.  I’m still baffled as to why we had two coolers, but now we are down to a much more manageable number:  one.

What made the cut in your home this year?

The Wedding Dress

Depending on how you look at things, I may have a problem.

I have made it known on this blog that I appreciate a good possession purge now and then, and clothing is no exception.  We live in a relatively small house, and my closet is downright minuscule by 2016 standards.  I don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to emotional attachment; if something doesn’t get used, then out it goes.

Therein lies the (possible) problem:  I have little emotional attachment to my possessions. (Side note:  the exact opposite is the case for my kids’ things.  I have the hardest time ever letting go of their little baby clothes or former favorite toys, so I tend to hang on to those things…please tell me I’m not alone!)

The possession that dredged all this up?  My wedding dress.

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I spent four figures on this little beauty of a garment, which also includes not one, not two, but three veils of differing lengths, a tiara, black sash, and “sash pin.”  Not included in that four figure price was the cost for preservation and shipping this grossly overpriced dress to my home after our nuptials.

Four.  Figures.  Four figures for a dress I will never wear again, that is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my closet, and truly has no bearing on my marriage at all–we will be happily married regardless of the dress.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 24-year-old self to take the clearance rack purchase, but what’s done is done.

So why hasn’t it gone the way of other clothing items?  Our daughter, Bean.  Because one never knows if she may want to have the option to wear an outdated dress when or if she gets married.

I’m still waffling on this one, though would not be surprised if the dress continues to collect dust in my closet; some things are just harder to let go of than others, even for a professed minimalist.

Free of “Free”

For the month of February, I decided to keep track of everything that I brought into or out of my apartment. I had hoped to get a sense of the things that tend to become clutter.

To be honest, this project wasn’t eye-opening, like I hoped. There just weren’t any revelations or areas of improvement identified. Still, I think it was good to do this exercise as it is always good to take some time to focus on a specific area.

Though the results didn’t yield much, I was on the right track: after all, everything that is currently in my apartment got there because someone brought it in. Instead of keeping a formal list, I think the best thing is to mindfully consider each piece as I consider accepting it or buying it.

Obviously, buying less will limit what you bring in, but I think “free” things are more of a problem. Somehow, we think that if we don’t pay for it monetarily, there is no downside.

People look at you funny when you turn down free things. My dental hygienist keeps trying to force a bag of goodies into my hand upon each dental visit, but I have to say no.

As a general rule, I say “no” to free items, just as I do to items that I could buy. I don’t mind saying “yes” if:

  1. It is something that I need.Bose speaker
  2. It is something that I have already identified a home for in my apartment.
  3. It will meet a want or need, at least for right now.

For example, I recently got a lot of swag for work. A lot of it was completely worthless to me and ended up in the give away pile. But I did decide to keep a wireless Bluetooth speaker because it could be more useful than the Bluetooth stereo I already had. While it wasn’t something that I would spend money on, I can still benefit from it and the money I can get by selling my stereo (now I just need to take the time to do it!).

I don’t always follow my own rules, but it has helped me not feel guilty about saying “no” to free.

Where do you stand when it comes to “free” things?

Clearing the Clutter

One of my neighbors regularly keeps large appliances and pieces of furniture in his pick-up truck. Occasionally he must need his truck bed for other things, as I’ll see these items sitting alone in his covered parking spot.

I don’t know my neighbor’s story, but from where I stand, this seems completely ridiculous. Regardless of the value he sees in these items, they clearly are costing him time as he’s having to regularly move them out of the way. Of course, when he drives around with these things in his truck, he’s also costing himself money in reduced gas mileage.

But aren’t we all like that guy?

Diet Dr Pepper cartons

No, I don’t have any appliances or pieces of furniture in my car. But until a few hours ago, I had 7 empty Diet Dr Pepper boxes (completely useless, especially as I gave it up) in my trunk. Looking around my apartment, I have Christmas notepads in a pile on my shelf, dishes to be washed on counters and table, a jacket I haven’t used in months on a chair…

Clutter.

I try to keep my life free of knick knacks, which definitely helps in the clutter department, but how many times have I walked by that jacket and not hung it back up?

How easy is it to come home and to throw things down in a pile instead of putting them away?

For me, I know that getting my foundational habits in order is the first step (and I’m doing better on these, though not great). But I think my next step is to put something away every time I’m up from my usual seat at the couch where I read, blog and watch TV.

How about you? How will you cut down your clutter?

As for me, I’m off to put that jacket away. (And strongly consider which things I can get rid of altogether.)

Things I Don’t Splurge On

When it comes to writing, I have a thing for opposites.  You knew that after this post, a post outlining its opposite would be on the way, right?

We do splurge on various things–living the simple life doesn’t have to involve abject poverty and deprivation.  However, what one chooses to splurge on (and not splurge on) requires a careful evaluation of priorities and finances.

Careful evaluation of our family’s priorities and finances have resulted in the following “non-splurges.”  (For some families, these may well be listed as priorities, but remember that each family is different!)

We choose not to splurge on…

unnamed (2)Cosmetics.  Ronnica writes a bit about this topic here.  Admittedly, this is something that tends to affect only myself, although Riley and I have been known to enjoy some cologne/perfume at times (that falls under “cosmetics”, right?).  I have never been a huge fan of the way make-up feels and what it does to my skin, so this isn’t really a sacrifice for me.  Castile soap and deodorant are pretty much the extent of my cosmetic usage.  That said, Bean has developed a huge interest in nail polish…but hey, Christmas is coming!

Clothing.  The vast majority of my clothing comes from thrift stores, with the rest coming from gift cards and saving up as needed.  Riley and the kids also ask for (and, especially in the case of the latter, usually receive) clothes for holidays and birthdays, so we are typically set in this department.  Name brands and the latest fashions are not a priority for us; as long as we are clean and sufficiently clothed, we tend to be pretty content.

Pets.  I suppose this one could be up for debate, as we do splurge on their food.  That said, our dogs don’t have big expensive beds (they sleep on old blankets and pillows on the floor…or the couch!), and except for the occasional rawhide, they don’t have any legitimate dog toys.  They do play with tennis balls, which we seem to have an abundance of in our garage.  They also don’t get have any dog treats, with the exception of a carrot or broccoli piece here and there.  That actually works in their favor–their weight (and health) stays in check without the treat temptation!

What do you not splurge on?