Freedom From Stuff: Part 2 – Capsule Wardrobe

Okay, let’s just start with this very important disclaimer: I have never been a fashion expert. I was befuddled by the art of tight-rolling jeans in grade school, never owned a pair of Z Cavaricci jeans, and eschewed skirts and dresses for at least a decade during my school years. Oh, and let’s not forget my obsession with black clothing in sixth grade. Oy.

Fast forward to my 30’s, and life was much more complicated – not only did I have to decide what I was going to eat, wear, and do each day, but I also had to make those same decisions for two other little people. Every. Single. Day. Throw in homeschooling, parenting, working, and running a household, and I was overwhelmed by the daily plethora of decisions that had to be made.

Enter the capsule wardrobe. The concept is simple: rather than looking at my wardrobe in terms of “outfits” (this shirt goes with these pants), the goal is to develop a carefully curated, scaled-back wardrobe of interchangeable items that I love.

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This was not an overnight change, but rather a change in mindset moving forward with my wardrobe. I had always shopped with the mindset of “I need one shirt/pants to match with the item I am buying.” My new approach is, “Do I have at least two shirts/pants/cardigans to match with the item I am buying?” If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance that I won’t buy it, as it won’t prove to be versatile enough for my wardrobe.

Right now, my daily uniform consists of a pair of leggings, a shirt, and a cardigan. This is a general overview of my closet:

  • Five pair of leggings: one black, one gray, two denim jeggings, and one pair of burgundy¬†(because I’m wild like that)
  • Six tunic-length cardigans: one gray, one tan, one cream, one black and white, one navy, gray and cream, and one gray and white striped
  • Five tunic-length shirts: one burgundy, one gray, one navy, one aqua, and one floral
  • One black dress (because hello, winter)
  • A half dozen cowls and a few statement necklaces
  • Three pair of boots: one black, one brown, and one floral
  • Two sets of comfy clothes that are banned from view of the general public ūüėČ

That might seem sparse to some, or excessive to others. Some say there is a magic number of items to have in a capsule wardrobe; I think it really depends on each person’s comfort level.¬†What I¬†do know is that I love being able to walk to my closet and easily choose my outfit for the day in less than a minute.

So, how does one develop a capsule wardrobe or daily uniform? Rather than trying to muddle through explaining it, I recommend checking out these links for clear, detailed information and inspiration. I have been following Audrey at Putting Me Together for years – she has a classic, comfortable, modest and budget-friendly take on fashion. Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy is also a wonderful resource…both for a daily uniform AND reading material. Check out these links as a starting point:

Above all, enjoy the process of getting rid of what doesn’t work and developing a simplified system that works well for YOU!

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A Tale of Two Cats

Something wasn’t right. We got home from our weekly AWANA night at church after dark, which wasn’t unusual. However, we were usually greeted by our pair of outdoor cats within 30 seconds of pulling in the driveway.

No cats tonight.

We assured my youngest daughter that they had probably just taken off on an adventure, as cats do. As my husband and my eyes met, though, we both knew that neither one of us believed the reassuring words we were telling our daughter. This had never happened before, and it was very unlike our cats to be far enough away that they couldn’t hear us when we called for them.

After getting our distraught girl settled into bed, my husband went out to search our property for any clues. He came in with the grim news that there were coyotes yipping up a storm on the other side of the creek near our yard.

Things were not looking good.

We spent a restless night in bed, wondering what could have possibly happened to the cats, and how in the world we would break the news to our girl if there were no cats at the door in the morning. My husband got up at 2 a.m., unable to sleep, and by the time I got up at 5 a.m., had already covered most of our small town on foot, searching for those two little kitties who meant the world to our daughter.

As we stood in the kitchen, exhausted and defeated, my husband said, “Let’s pray about it.” I have to admit, in that moment, my thought was, “Really? Pray about something as trivial as two cats?” I tend to feel that God is more of a “big stuff” kind of God. Got cancer? He’s your guy. Broken relationships? Give Him a call. Natural disasters? He’s on it. But cats? Umm…please hold while we transfer you to the next available guardian angel to take your call.

6:30 a.m. rolls around, and the moment we were dreading had arrived. Our tousle-haired redhead came sleepily down the stairs and cuddled into my chair with me. As she inquired about the cats, my husband and my eyes met again.¬†Stay positive, we silently communicated.¬†There’s still a chance, slim as it may be.¬†

I opened my mouth to gently break the news to her, and as I did, two cats came hurtling across the neighbor’s yard and into ours! Disbelief and relief rushed through us as our cats came tearing into the house, devoured their breakfast and promptly plunked themselves in front of the fire, exhausted from the night’s escapade.

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Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT) God doesn’t put stipulations on what is too big or too small for Him to handle – I am obviously the one doing that. When I do so, I am displaying my own lack of faith in His power and His love for me. He clearly desires us to come to Him with anything and everything. He says, “Come¬†to¬†me, all of¬†you¬†who are weary¬†and¬†carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

As I was reflecting on the incident the next morning, I was reminded of the words to a hymn from my childhood:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

Lord, help me to remember Your greatness and power, and not to put human restrictions on an almighty and everlasting Father. Help me to carry everything and anything to You, knowing that nothing is beyond Your power and care.

 

Freedom from Stuff: Part 1 – Decluttering

Today we begin the next segment in the Freedom series…a three-part look at “Freedom from Stuff.” Hope you enjoy!

One year into our marriage, my husband and I moved from a tiny, second-floor apartment in the city to my grandparents’ spacious farmhouse in the country, trading in our one bedroom, two closet living space for four bedrooms, multiple closets, tiers of kitchen cabinets, and a walk-in attic. And did I mention that the garage was even bigger than the house? We had SPACE, my friends.

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Fast forward four years, and we found ourselves packing up our dreams to move to God’s plan for us – an affordable (aka run-down) fixer-upper in the small town I grew up in, downsizing from our spacious country home to a two bedroom, two closet house. TWO CLOSETS. Thankfully we still had a small attic, but we now had no garage. Space was once again at a premium.

It wasn’t until we made that second, unplanned move that I realized how much stuff two people could accumulate over the course of four years. Suddenly all the stuff that was squirreled away in a back bedroom closet in our old house was now staring me in the face every day, as we had no place to go with it. As our family grew to three, and then four people, we had to take a serious look at how to keep all of our “stuff” from overtaking our house.

Thus began a system of purging that we have been refining over the past dozen years. Now, when purging a room or cleaning the attic, I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Have I used it in the past year? If I go through a whole year without thinking about or using an item, I most likely will not need it in the future. Time to donate it so someone else can use it!
  2. Do I like it? This is a really important question to ask! Do I even like this item? Am I keeping it out of obligation or guilt?¬†Just because it was given to me, doesn’t mean I have to keep it!¬†It took me years, but I have learned to give myself permission to let go of those items and, instead, treasure the kindness and thoughtfulness of the gift giver.
  3. Does it have sentimental value? When we first moved into our current home, I had a huge Rubbermaid container of high school memories. Within that container were shoe boxes filled with paper football-shaped notes from friends, programs from various school events, senior pictures, dried flowers, and other random items from that era of my life. Each time I have gone through that container over the years, I have been emotionally ready to let go of more of those items. Today, that huge container has been reduced to one small shoe box of the most important memories from those years.

A fourth question that I ask, but this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, is whether or not the item is dual purpose. Living in a house with such limited storage, it has become important to me that the items I keep are not only decorative, but also useful. For instance, I love collecting vintage Pyrex, which I display on open shelves in my kitchen. These bowls also serve as my everyday mixing and serving bowls. Another example is mason jars. We inherited a plethora of mason jars with this house, both the clear and the blue glass ones. The blue glass ones line my window sills as decor, but can also be used as an impromptu vase or candle holder. The clear ones have become our drinking glasses as well as containers that can store a myriad of grains, pastas, and sauces as needed.

The beauty of decluttering is that owning less stuff means managing less stuff, which frees me up to pursue things in life that are more important to me…like drinking coffee and watching¬†Gilmore Girls reruns. ūüėČ

A Few of My Favorite Things: February

February is here, and with it comes the reality that winter is still very much with us, as well as the hope that spring is just around the corner. Somehow, the anticipation of warmer weather seems to make February that much longer and the weather that much crueler around here. Fresh snow makes us sigh instead of smile, the delight of hot cocoa by a warm fire is wearing off, and even cold sunshine seems like a rare and wonderful gift.

In light of the doldrums of February, here are a few little things that are making this dreary month a little more bearable for me!

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  1. Darn Tough socks. There is nothing like warm socks to combat cold weather. My husband has been wearing Darn Tough socks for a year or two now, and I was so very excited to receive multiple pairs of them for Christmas so I could start building my own collection! They truly keep my feet warm, come in an array of cute designs, and have the most incredible lifetime guarantee (we have used this with great results). Check them out here!
  2. Rereading Little Women. I received this beautiful edition of Little Women for Christmas, and although I had read the book many times as a teen, I had never read it as an adult. I picked it up recently and Oh. My. Goodness. Reading it as a parent rather than a teen was a completely different experience. Rather than just enjoying the story line as I did during my teen years, I was struck by the amount of real wisdom that Louisa May Alcott tucks into the pages and surprised by the depth of emotion it invoked in me.
  3. Percolated coffee. I had been a French press coffee girl for years, but grew tired of the somewhat tedious process of making it every morning. (Mornings are hard, people!) Thus began the search for a coffee-making device that offered the convenience of a traditional coffee maker without sacrificing the smooth, rich flavor of the coffee. Oh, and it had to be fairly inexpensive, too. Enter the electric percolator. I can prep it the night before, plug it in when I wake up, and within minutes I have a delightful, smooth cup of coffee.
  4. The First 5 app.¬†Again, mornings are hard, and I have struggled for years with developing a consistent quiet time with God in the morning. The First 5 app¬†is perfect for me right now – it gets me in the Word and shares practical life applications related to the reading, and it is all right there on the app. Because even opening books and turning pages is sometimes beyond me in the morning…
  5. This Is Us. I am completely hooked on this show (and I am not normally a TV watcher). The plot line, the depth of the characters, the unexpected twists and turns…Jack’s death (a mystery no more!). It is all SO. GOOD.

So, those are a few things that are taking a little out of the “brrr” in February for me…I would love to hear what a few of your favorite things are right now, too!

Freedom from Money: Part 3 – Contentment

When I think of the word “contentment,” I picture my grandparents in their mint green kitchen. They are sitting at the kitchen table together – my grandpa in his everyday uniform of a plaid shirt and striped overalls, my grandma in her wheelchair wearing a floral top and polyester pants. The kitchen floor is a worn gold and white flecked vinyl; the honey blonde kitchen cupboards are scarred from years of a wheelchair rubbing up against them. Everything about the picture is worn and had been out of style for a good twenty years. And yet, if you would mention replacing something to my grandpa, he would just shrug his shoulders, crinkle his forehead and say, “Why? It works just fine!” They lived by the simple concepts of using things until they wore out, and making do or doing without. They knew contentment.

13925365_1242980755736493_2375424257928460579_n(My grandpa’s well-worn boots)

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered contentment, but that is far from the truth. I have spent much of my adult life seeking and striving for the next thing – whether it be a promotion, a newer vehicle or a nicer house. God has gently grown me over the years by continually placing me in humbling circumstances that are quite the opposite of what I had been seeking. Rather than a promotion, I was let go. Rather than a nicer house, we moved to a fixer upper. Rather than a newer vehicle, He provided an older, more reliable one. The list goes on and on.

Through His refining, my desires are changing. Sure, new and pretty things would be nice, but I’m learning to be content in His wise and timely provisions.

The philosopher Epicurus said, “The secret of contentment is not to add to a man’s possessions but to take away from his desires.” In other words, true contentment comes not from having more, but from wanting less.¬†When our wants are fewer, that will have a direct impact not only on our bank accounts, but on our entire outlook on life. Contentment brings about appreciation for what we have, thankfulness for all that God provides, and peace in the knowledge that He will continue to provide for all our needs.

As we finish up this segment on freedom from money, more than anything, I hope that you find contentment in God and His provisions, for then you shall be truly free!

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping Out With Fear and Trembling

I have a tremendous fear of heights. It is so bad that just thinking about heights can give me sweaty palms (yes, they’re sweating as I type this). Painting the trim around the nine-foot ceilings in our house makes me more high strung than a kite on a windy day.

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This past summer, we put new siding on our house. (Please note that whenever I say “we” in regards to a house-related project, I am mostly referring to my husband. He does the hard work. I make him brownies and tell him he’s doing a good job. It’s a good system.) There came a point in the project where my husband was tackling some particularly long pieces of siding and really could have used my help to get them up. All I had to do was step out on our second story porch, grab one end, lock it in place, and hammer in a few nails. No problem for the average homeowner.

And then there’s me. I approached the door, hands sweating, heart pounding, arm pits pouring rivers to rival the mighty Mississippi. I stepped out to the porch, hands and legs trembling, and staying as far away from the edges as possible while still being somewhat useful, I grabbed a piece, locked and hammered it into place. I took some deep breaths while my husband cut the next piece, and repeated the process over and over. When it was all finished, I stepped back into the house, lightheaded and wobbly, but still standing.

Friends, as I share my heart and this humble little corner of the internet for the first time today, that’s exactly how I’m feeling. My heart is pounding, my hands are sweating, and I’m scared out of my mind. But I’m stepping out in faith, trusting that the God who planted this seed of a blog in my heart will see me through. He has a plan and it is good!

So…all that to say, welcome! I pray that this will be a place where we can¬†settle in, take a deep breath, and say “me, too” without fear of condemnation. A place where we can grow and be strengthened, but also a place that provides rest for our souls from the everyday busyness of life.¬†I am so glad you are here and hope you will continue on this journey with me!

Freedom from Money: Part 2 – Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping

I. AM. SO. EXCITED. Guys, I realize it is the bane of many people’s existence, but I stinkin’ love grocery shopping! The aisles full of choices…the unexpected sale items…the new products…the Costco samples. I love it all!

In my post several weeks ago, we talked about developing and living on a budget. The reality is that food takes up a pretty good chunk of our living expenses, and, if you are on a tighter budget, you are most likely eating at home more than not. Even with eating at home the majority of the time, groceries are still going to cost a small fortune. However, there are a few simple strategies that we can put into place to help save some dough.

Before we begin, let me just say that I am not a pro at this! There are people out there who are extreme sale seekers and coupon clippers – I am happy for them, but I don’t have the time or desire to invest myself in those endeavors. Consider this the barebones guide to saving money on groceries, and feel free to expand upon it as you see fit!

  1. Identify which stores consistently have the lowest prices on quality food, particularly meat and produce.¬†This doesn’t need to be a huge research project – no need to apply for a grant or take a sabbatical from work! Just peruse a couple flyers each week, or keep your eyes open when you’re shopping, and you’ll become familiar with where the best deals can usually be found. In our area, I have found that Aldi and Costco are my best sources.
  2. Create a file of consistently used recipes.¬†This might look like a binder of printed recipes, a Pinterest board, or a good ol’ recipe box! I find Pinterest to be wonderfully helpful for both finding and organizing recipes. Looking for some great recipe sources? Check out a few of my favorite blogs:
  3. Plan your meals.¬†I like to sit down for an hour or two and plan a month’s worth of meals. Admittedly, that can be a little overwhelming at times! Planning a week or two at a time works great, too – whatever works for your schedule. To keep things simple for planning, I follow a rotation, which gives me a loose structure with room for variety:
    • Mondays: Pasta
    • Tuesdays: Tacos/Mexican
    • Wednesdays: Soup or Salad
    • Thursdays: New Recipe Night or Leftovers
    • Fridays: Homemade Pizza or Eat Out
    • Saturdays: Brunch
    • Sundays: Slow Cooker (lunch), popcorn for dinner
  4. Make your list. Once I have my meal plan in place, I take a look through the recipes to see what I need for ingredients. A paper list works just dandy for this, or you can use an app like Out of Milk, which is my preference. When you shop from a list, you know what you need and what you don’t, which can add up to significant savings!
  5. Go the extra mile…plan for leftovers! Another way to save a chunk of change is to bring your own lunch to work, which is much easier when you have leftovers on hand. Make a double batch of one meal and enjoy the leftovers for lunch throughout the week!

This can be a lot to take in, so don’t try to do it all at once! Start by observing prices at the places you shop – or maybe check out a few stores you don’t normally shop at. Slowly put together a collection of recipes. Then maybe try planning a week’s worth of meals, making your list, and shopping for those items. With time, it will become second nature, saving you both time and money in the long run!