Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Allure of Empty Spaces

A terrible picture quality-wise, but it exemplifies my point. My bedroom, previously one of the most neglected rooms of the whole house, is now a magnet. (Not pictured is my 2nd son on my bed). Nina is doing school at her desk my dressing table and Eli is writing a story while lying on my bed. I even want to be in there now which is unusual. Time to tidy up my room is now down to mere minutes if not seconds.

Next up, pallet desks and chairs so my niƱa can sit at her own desk in her own room. (What’d’ya think?)

 Nina says she can make her own stool/chair, but just in case… I would probably make a padded seat and seat back if I were to make this. The desk is cooool though!

Monday, October 05, 2015

My New Chore System

I can’t seem to stay in one place as far as chore systems is concerned, but I just go with what works at any given time. I think it’s ok to mix thing sup a bit, too. Adds variety.

In searching for chore apps in the Google App Store, I stumbled upon a new little gem of an app, MoneyOrc. Aside from the app being very useable and awesome, I have never worked with a more responsive bunch of people behind the scenes.

I set up my 4 with their rotating chore charts (the MoneyOrc team was very kind to bump up the rotation to 6 weeks from 4 to accommodate our needs, see I told you MoneyOrc is awesome!), and I even added myself with a child account so I could have a nice checklist of things I need to do each day.

The kids check off their chores as they do them, then I check their chores at the end of the day. You can view chores by week or by day which is my favorite view. If they didn’t do their chore or didn’t finish it, they don’t get credit for doing it and have to pay a penalty (of your chosing) which comes out of their weekly allowance.

You can also issue penalties for behavior which also cost them.

The whole point of the app is to teach kids about money using as many real world scenarios as possible (including investing, jobs, and insurance).

Check it out, give it a try. What can I say? It’s awesome :)

Minimalism and Me

I am so excited by how minimalism has effected me so far and I’m still near the beginning of my journey.

I believe that God has been bringing me slowly to this point for many years, but I’m so hard-headed sometimes that He’s gentle with me and is patient with my frailties. My mom is a cleanie, I’m a messy (so is my dad and so was his mom, so I come by that part honestly).

Our house was always neat and tidy and when I was young, we didn’t have too many things. But somewhere along the way I start collecting things. I’d see some pretty little thing and get it or someone would give me something and I never ever thought of getting rid of anything I owned. I was like a mockingbird hoarding all the pretty little things that caught my eye.

When I got married I already had things in boxes that I wasn’t using, but I still didn’t think of getting rid of them. When we moved to our first home, we didn’t downsize anything. When we moved to our 2nd home, we again didn’t downsize eough (aside from an attempted yard sale and one thrift store pickup) and some of the boxes that had never been opened up from the first move were carried along to the new house and put into our storage building to sit and rot.

After we had our first child, I was introduced to Flylady and tried her out for awhile, but for some reason I was never able to stick with her program. I do, however, remember some of her practices, one of which was decluttering every day for 15 minutes ("You can do anything for 15 minutes!"). I guess 15 minutes was never enough for me or maybe I didn't actually do that part, who knows.

When we lived in our last house, I had a friend who I now believe is a minimalist because her house was always neat and tidy and there wasn’t a lot of stuff everywhere. They had a couch/loveseat combo and some cushions in the living room, but not much else. I think she had 1 pair of scissors. I thought that was totally undoable, but it didn’t seem to bother her. Apparently her parents were the opposite of her and were consumers to the max, buying things all the time, filling their house with stuff so maybe she was reacting to this in her own way. She might not even have known she was a minimalist, she just was.

When we first moved to our current house, we moved gradually over several weeks. We came with the bare necessities (just enough clothing, just enough furniture, just enough kitchen supplies…) and it was lovely. The house was clean and light and lovely. And then we did the big move. Ugh. We were inundated with stuff. Our office was crammed full of boxes and furniture and stuff. That was the last time our house felt neat. We unpacked what we needed and a lot of it just stayed in boxes, but enough stuff came into the house for things to start to feel cluttered.

We were given some furniture which added more things into the mix. We were blessed with lots of free clothes for the kids, which was great. However, I wasn’t all that great about getting rid of clothes when the kids grew out of them. I have way more clothes for each size (especially for the younger 2), that they can’t wear them all.

Something else Flylady would say was, “You can’t organize clutter,” and that hoarding was a sin. Hanging on to things that you aren’t using when you could be blessing someone else with your abundance wasn’t right. That stuck with me, but I had a little kickback from D, “Shouldn’t we keep them ‘just in case?’”

He also thought we should have a yard sale and I kept balking at that idea since I’m not an organizer and didn’t want to try to plan something like that. Eventually he softened on that point and I did start sending things to the thrift store. We have taken several wheel bins full of things to the thrift store over the last 2-3 years which is great, but… Things are still just so cluttered and cleaning is taking too much of our time.

Last year my mom gave me the book The Power of Half about a family that cut their belongings in half and moved into a smaller house so they could help others with the money they got from selling their things. I got about halfway through the book, but life got so busy (taking care of stuff) that I stopped reading it. I think seeds were being planted, a little here, a little there.

We have had a dream, for awhile, of moving out into the country and, while for now it is still just a dream, but I want to lighten our load just in case we ever get the green light to “Go.”

A couple weeks ago I was feeling so overwhelmed with clutter and stuff and not being happy with my surroundings, but I just didn’t know what to do about it, I felt very unmotivated. I started searching for websites on decluttering and then I started looking for decluttering support groups.  I thought maybe having some people to hold me accountable or provide moral support would help me. I found a Yahoo group that looked promising so I tried to join and then sat and waited for a day or two for approval which never seemed to come. I started searching for “downsizing” and found a few articles about that, but I also stumbled on Light by Coco’s blog and started watching some of her videos on minimalism and immediately felt this might be a solution for me. I started getting excited, … and motivated!

In my bedroom I have a beautiful cedar chest from Malawi which is the place I keep our extra blankets, but we have more blankets than will fit in there so the rest were piling up on top of the chest. The first thing I did was to put all the blankets on my bed and sort out the less favorite or the bulkier/heavier blankets and I piled them all into a ginormous Space Bag, sucked all the air out of it, then snuck it under the boys’ bunk bed behind the under-the-bunk drawers. After I did that, I was able to get all the rest of the blankets into the cedar chest with nothing on top. Woohoo! (The front of the chest is decorated with stickers by Ana, at least for now.)

I started watching almost every YouTube video I could on minimalism* while I was doing my minimalizing/downsizing. This kept me motivated and inspired.
Here is a post I sent my sister (in-law) on September 25:
“Yesterday I tackled the closet and pulled out a few more things that I don't wear, won't miss and tossed a few pairs of old shoes which were falling apart. Then I neatened up the shoes. I took all of Ds clothes off his dresser (yes, they don't make it into the dresser, yet…), and re-stacked them neatly. I pulled out a few of his shoes which I thought might go for him to decide on. He did decide to get ride of a couple pairs, yay! I took the Tommy Hilfiger bedspread, ripped it apart, took out the old icky stuffing which was too heavy for us anyway and turned it into a temporary duvet cover for the bedspread that we had been using. Our bed look majorly better. I took everything off of D's night stand, dusted it and put it back neatly. I sneezed, sneezed and sneezed again, but it was worth it! I'm so happy with my room now! I don't mind the door being left open, lol.”

Somewhere in my searching I had stumbled on Project 333 so I gave that some more thought and tried to come up with a summer capsule (since it was ever-so-slightly summer when I started this journey) and put the rest of my hanging clothes in a Space Bag for the next few weeks until I feel the need of a Fall capsule. My girls had quite a  of clothes hanging in my closet that were too big for them so I went through them all, pulled out the one that might fit in the near future and put the rest in a Space Bag and then into a large wheeled bin for storage.

There was a plastic bin of cloth diapers in my bedroom taking up space so I pulled those out and I plan to wash them (freshen them up) and sell them. There were 2 bins of stuff that need sorting in our room taking up space and I was able to get them in the place of the diapers so they are there needing to be sorted, but are at least out of the way now. My dressing nook (with counter, 2 little drawers, and mirror) was piled with toilet paper and paper towels so I found better homes for them so I could clear off my counter. I cleaned out my drawer in my dressing nook and put my hair doo-dads/brushes/combs… in there. Then I was motivated to clean my bathroom and clear off the counter and top drawer in there.

We had brought in the winter clothes from the storage shed (all 5 huge wheeled bins full of them) and I washed them all (over the last month or 2) and I finally got around to sorting through them.
Nina (12) helped me go through the clothes and separate them into boys’ clothes, girls’ clothes, Mom & Dad’s clothes. The boys had 2 overflowing big wheeled bins full of winter clothes, the girls had a little less. Nina helped me further sort the girls’ clothes into her and her sister’s clothes and then helped weed her winter clothes down so that they now fit into 1/2 of a wheeled bin. Then I went through Ana’s clothes and got those down to the other 1/2 of the wheeled bin. Much better!

Ana does have some clothes that are too big for her that she will wear in the next couple of years so I put those into another Space Bag, shrunk it down and it’s also in the bin with the other too-big clothes. I went through the boys' clothes and anything (either boys’ or girls’) that was too small, but still in great condition, was set aside for friends’ children and everything else was put in the bin for the thrift store.

I downloaded & printed out the 2015 in 2015 Decluttering Challenge from Nourishing Minimalism’s blog and started keeping track of how much I was getting out of our house. So far we have gotten rid of (or will shortly) over 725 things! That is mostly clothes, but every bit helps.

I went through the coat closet near the entry and cleared non-winter clothes out so now there is plenty of room in there for winter coats/jackets.

I also got a bee in my bonnet to get rid of my dresser. I was only using about 3 drawers in it anyway and that was before I decluttered what was in it so I was pretty sure I could live with something smaller. D is convinced that Eli needs a dresser (beyond the 3 drawers under his bunk) so I decided I would move my dresser into his room (at least for now) and move in the antique dressing table, that was out of place in the music room just taking up space, and use that for my dresser. With a little help from my boys, I got them swapped out (much to the chagrin of Geo who wasn’t jazzed to have another piece of furniture in “his” room).

I moved the dressing table to the same wall that the chest is on (the dresser was on the wall catty-corner to where it is now (just to its right but you can see it better where it is now and the mirror helps to make the room look larger). I have my undies and slips in the right drawer, T-shirts and shorts in the left drawer and I moved jammies to the bottom drawer of my nightstand. I put a few things on the shelf of my closet, but otherwise, everything fit just fine. I love it in my room! (The little popsicle stick frame is something Nina made for me, waiting for some of her artwork).

Today I bagged up all the clothes I’ve gone through that are waiting to go to the thrift store to get them out of the music room where I was sorting. The music room still looks like Hurricane Joaquin made a pass through there, but with one of the bins out, there is more room to walk. I will get through it all, there is still much less in there than there was. Yay!

We have amassed too many sheets (fitted & flat) for the beds we have, but I’m still not sure D will be ok with me getting rid of them, so I put at least half of them into quarantine in the bottom of our hall closet and in 3 months or so, if we haven’t needed them, we might not need them ever.

That reminds me, I also quarantined a bunch of stuff in our kitchen. Actually, that was probably the first thing I did, even before the blankets, come to think of it. Our bowls… cupboard was overflowing and every time I would open the doors, bowls or measuring cups, etc. would jump out at me. I pulled out things I didn’t use, thought I could get along without… and put them all in quarantine. I weeded out our kitchen utensils and either quarantined them or stored a few in a high cupboard to see if we ever find ourselves reaching for them.

I also bagged up all our extra bowls and silverware and issued one spoon and one bowl to each kid and myself (D is exempt). We are responsible for washing our own dishes after each meal (if we want to have clean things for the next meal). I’ve also paired up forks & plates to everyone as well. Dishes were such an issue so I’m trying to think of ways to lessen the load on the dishwasher (Geo at this point) and to keep the dishes moving along so we don’t have to have a perpetually messy sink.

There is still a lot that needs to be done, but I’m so spurred on to keep at this until things are as minimalized as I can get them (within reason) so that we can live a more peaceful life. I still need to go through Ana’s summer clothes, go through our books, go through all the things in the office which aren’t in any particular “home,” go through our storage house…

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

See my next post about a chore system that is working for me.

*Some of my favorite YouTube minimalism videos:
Darci Isabella
Abundantly Minimal – Sarah
Light by Coco – Coco
A Rich Life with Less Stuff – The Minimalists
"Minimalism, Spirituality, and Why it Matters" – Joshua Becker
5 Reasons Minimalism Changed My Life - Samantha Lindsey
My Green Closet - Verena Erin
Simple Living - Love Raw Vegan

and favorite blogs:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mommmmmm! Water!!

This was heard yesterday from two of my blessings who thankfully were near the laundry room when my washer decided to not stop filling with water. My quick-thinking 8-year-old jumped up on the washer and pushed the off button and was also the cool head that suggested “Dad’s wet vac!” as a solution to the wet. Ya’ think? I was using towels. His idea was much better.

So after I got the floor mostly dry again, I took a look under the hood. At first I had assumed that the pump had gone, but the tank was FULL of water so I realized it just hadn’t stopped filling. I took the dashboard apart and I immediately saw a hose unhooked from somewhere… Eli, the 8yo, spotted where it was supposed to go (on the back of the level selector, made sense) so I plugged it all back in, did a test run (a small load, lol) and we’re back in business. Again. It’s always something.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ode to Zacusca

A friend of ours is originally from Romania and introduced us to zacusca, a traditional eggplant and red pepper dip, and we really liked it. DH, the chef, went home and whipped up something that came close, but with a few additions. I’m no chef, but I made my version yesterday and it was yum. Here’s basically how to whip up your own zacusca-ish goodness.


red pepper(s)

garlic cloves

tomato paste

salt to taste

celery stalks (not in traditional zacusca)

garbanzo beans (not in traditional zacusca)


olive oil (about 1 Tbsp.)

This is not so much of a recipe as an ingredient list because I was trying to use up some leftover eggplant when I made this and was just throwing things in. I put about 1 eggplant’s worth (maybe a little less), 1 1/2 – 2 red pepper’s worth (diced from the freezer so hard to tell), a bunch of tiny garlic cloves which probably equaled 4-6 regular-sized cloves, 1 pint of canned chick peas, a couple tablespoons (didn’t measure) of tomato paste, 3 celery stalks, about 1 onion’s worth and salt to taste. My ingredients made about 4-5 cups.

I put everything in a pot and cooked it all together till all ingredients were nice and soft and most of the water had boiled out, then I blended it with my stick blender. The recipes I saw didn’t call for blending the zacusca, but I like the smooth blended texture so it works for me.

I put in more eggplant than red pepper, but I have seen recipes that called for much more red pepper than I used. Some called for tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes instead of the paste and most called for the eggplant and peppers to be roasted. I didn’t roast either and it was still delish.

I hope you try it and if it comes out anything like mine did, you will not be disappointed!

The Washer Tanked Again

I need to rename my blog The Washer Diaries or Saga of a Failing Washer or something like that. Seriously, my washer keeps raising it’s ugly head, way too often for my liking. And yet, I love my washer (when it works) and I just wanted to share how God helped me fix it once again.

A couple of weeks ago DH was doing laundry and the washer blew the GFCI outlet it was plugged into. Now, some of you will know that washers and GFCI outlets are not the best match and, while I didn’t know that till now, it had never given us trouble in all the nearly 8 years we’ve been in this house. Suddenly it was tripping the little breaker every time we tried to run it. Oh the humanity!




I did not feel like dealing with that washer any more. It’s always such an ordeal just to find the source of the problem, even though the people on the various forums I turn to are great; it just takes quite a lot of time and I felt quite defeated. I think DH realized this and for the first time since we got our washer way back in the late 90s, started to really consider replacing it.

The problem is that we just don’t have money for a new washer and, from what I read, used washers are not the best investment, especially the newer washers which seem to suffer a myriad of issues ranging from leaking to electrical malfunctions to more major part failures, often after only 3 or so years. They certainly don’t seem to have the longevity of the old workhorses that used to be built. Our washer would be considered one of the older ones though it doesn’t look that old, but the controls are all manual and much easier and less expensive to repair than the new, electronic driven ones. After nearly 2 weeks of no washer and behemoth piles of laundry, I finally decided I’d let my forum buddies have a crack at my washer’s symptoms.

There were a few different ideas ranging from a bad timer, bad GFCI outlet, bad capacitor, gunk in the motor connector causing grounding problems. The first thing we did was replace the GFCI outlet. The reason we put another GFCI outlet in is that the outlet is in a bathroom next to a sink.

Awhile back we bought a backup of our washer for cheap with the thought that if our washer needed parts, scalping them from the backup washer would be cheaper than buying new parts. So I pulled the timer out of the backup and put it in our washer. No change.

Next I pulled the washer away from the wall and tipped it back so that I could get to the underbelly. I got the pump out of the way, pulled out the motor to check the drive coupler and found a nearly spent coupler gasket, but more importantly, I found that the mounting plate that screws into the transmission, which the motor mounts onto, was being held on by one loose bolt!

Geo and I looked everywhere for the other bolt and could not find it. Where could it have gone? I’m still scratching my head about that one. So I asked DH to get me more bolts so I could fix that. I was hoping that it was the odd angle that the motor had to be at that put some strain on the motor causing it to trip the breaker.

As soon as I had the bolt, I put it all back together (both bolts present and accounted for and very snug) and … it was still tripping the breaker. Frustration. The next thing that I could try was to try swapping out the motor so I did that.

I went out to the backup and pulled out the motor from it. It was all rusty and not very convincing-looking, but I tried it anyway. You know what? It worked! The breaker held and did not trip. Hooray! I was still a little unsure about the backup motor because it seemed so tight/hard to turn compared to the zapped motor, but one forum guy suggested I let it run by itself, unattached, to see if that would loosen it up a little. It did seem a little easier to turn after I did that so I hooked it all up and I was back in business!!! I think what happened was that the missing bolt caused the mounting plate to hang at an odd angle which put pressure on the motor, causing it to blow out. I feel a little bad about that because I was the one who put in the transmission last so the missing bolt has to point to me though I do know how to put it all together and I’m just not sure how I would have missed that. :\

For the first week or so I had been praying multiple times a day for a new washer, that God would give us a new washer. It turns out that God knew what was best for me and when I submitted to the possibility that a “new” washer may not have been God’s will, I quickly found the cause and was able to remedy it. For the cost of a few bolts, I am back in the laundry business, praise the Lord!

I don’t know how long this motor will last, but when it dies, we can still replace it for much less than the cost of a used washer. The washer has a new transmission, relatively new clutch & timer, new drive coupler, new feed dogs, new lid switch. There’s only a few other things that might likely fail in the next few years and we basically have a mostly refurbished machine which might give us years more of use. God is good and I thank Him for all His help!