18 April 2011

7 Pre-Bedtime Activities to Streamline Your Morning

Image Courtesy of alexkerhead on flickr
Normally, Sunday mornings are a buzz at our house.  Getting Tiny, the Tot and myself all out of bed, dressed, and fed in time to get to church before the music starts is nothing short of a miracle from God.  The Daddyman is an experienced morning person, but the ladies of the house prefer to live in our PJs and only get ready in an emergency ~ you know, like a trip to the supermarket, a run to Sonic, or a surprise lunch outing.

A few weeks ago, I started working part time.  I'm only working a couple of days a week, but that's enough to make me realize I need a morning routine.  A simple one.  So, we've been taking notes from the Daddyman and our Facebook fans:

1.  Lay out clothes the night before.  Put out everything you need from head to toe including skivvies, shirt, pants, belt, shoes, socks, accessories.  For the fancy-smancy guys out there, make sure you include your tie and cuff links.

2. Prep for breakfast.  We eat cereal so there's not much to prepare, but my aunt has to have her coffee.  She has the coffee maker preset so her morning starts without a hitch.

3. Premake lunches. I wouldn't do this if I was packing a sandwich because that's just a soggy mess waiting to happen, but fruit, veggies, string cheese, a sippy cup of milk (or Juice for Tiny), and a hot dog can all go in the night before. In the morning, all I have to do is drop in a reusable ice pack and a box of raisins. 

4. Make sure your bag is ready.  
  • If you carry a diaper bag: take out anything dirty (diapers, clothes, bottles) and repack diapers, wipes, snacks, change of clothes, bottles, sippy cups ~ whatever you normally pack.  Here's an article about what to put in your diaper bag.  They list a lot, so just consider it an idea list.
  • If you carry a laptop bag: power cord, mouse, jump drive, pen, files, id badge
  • If you just have a purse: wallet, keys, phone, lip junk and other "lady things"
5. Prepare for the weather.  Have your umbrella and a light jacket handy in the spring; your ice scraper, hat, gloves, scarf, and parka for winter weather.  My husband cleans the snow off the cars at night even if it is still snowing ~ I thought he was nuts at first, but it does make morning snow removal much quicker.

6. Charge your cell phone.  I'm a iPhone addict so this is a twice a day thing for me.  If I'm going anywhere for the day, I pack either my outlet charger, or my car charger.

7. Load the car. I've always got something that can be loaded the night before: a friend's dishes to return, a box of snacks for church, or a race car that was left behind.  Just don't put anything valuable in plain site.. it's probably wise not to pre-load valuables at all unless you park in a garage.

I have to admit, I started this post almost two months ago, and I've slacked since then. Rarely a morning goes by that I'm not scampering to get something together or looking for at least one of the Tot's shoes. It's a great goal though.... off to set the alarm. ~ Plain & Simple As That

15 April 2011

What is Minimalish

My Minimalish Living Room

I read a post recently about a successful thirty year old that quit a six figure career to join the minimalist movement. He writes a compelling story of a guy that left a high stress career to pursue his dream of being a writer. At first I was impressed, then I realized I pretty much did the same thing. Granted, I didn't make a six figure salary, but hey, I live in Arkansas, not California. My five-figure salary was probably somewhat equivalent. I didn't pursue a dream job; I went for my dream lifestyle. I became a real-life Stay At Home Mom. 
With the exception of our mortgage, we paid off all our debt right before I made my grand exit from the rat race. After carefully punching the calculator to figure out if we could support a family on one salary, we knew we would have to consciencly watch our wallet to make it work. That's where minimalism started for me.... it grew from there.
I'm a pack-rat by nature, but I despise the look clutter creates in a space. The visual and emotional weight of "stuff" wasn't inspiring to me during the baby blues stage of new mommy-hood, so the ongoing quest a more minimalist decor ensued. Being at home all day everyday meant I needed to create a home I enjoyed. Two years later, we added another baby to the mix and decided to move to a more kid-friendly community. I read every online article about staging a house for quick sale and the result was a minimally decorated home where I longed to spend time. This was just the encouragement I needed to continue down the road to minimalism. 
Living as a family of four (two of which have almost enough toys to charter a slow boat from China) in a 900 square foot duplex with small closets showed us it doesn't take much to survive ~ not even in the American culture of extreme consumerism. I learned the value of open space every time I tripped over the dining room table en route to the kitchen sink. 
Since then, we've moved into our "long term" house. While I still love the look of open space, I also love the warmth (and convenience) of purposely placed throw pillows and a coordinating blanket "styled" over the arm of the sofa. During the last 18 or so months, purposely living with less has forced me to consider purchases more carefully. Now we have space to buy & store the mega pack of paper towels from our "Club store" but I choose not to. I've found that having a surplus means I use more. I'm sure it's some scientific marketing tactic. 
Our family isn't completely ready for the extreme Minimalist "movement" just yet. We still splurge occasionally, but we have a better grasp on our spending habits. We don't drive new cars, we don't swap out the decor of home for every holiday, and we don't have special shoes for every outfit and we don’t have every nook and cranny of our home stuffed with stuff. 

No, I'm not a minimalist, but I am Minimalish. ~ Plain & Simple As That

Check out My Page: Minimalish for more posts on this topic

08 April 2011

How to Reduce Your Laundry Load

A few Quick Tips to Reduce the Amount of Laundry you do:

  1. Worn does not always equal dirty. Your jeans, in particular,will last longer if you wear them a few times in between washes.. plus, they're always more comfy on Day 2 or Day 3 of being worn! :)
  2. Hang up your wet towel. If it dries fast, it won't smell mildewy. If you showered well, you were clean when you used the towel, so you don't have to wash it after each use.
  3. Protect your clothes from the elements - and by elements, I mean babies and dinner. Daycare workers have learned that wearing a smock keeps baby droll and snot at bay, and every chef knows to wear an apron to keep from being splattered.  
  4. PJ Day! This is my favourite. Call it an environmentally friendly day or just a relaxing day at home. If you aren't going anywhere, why waste an outfit?... wear your PJs all day. The kids will love it! 
It's not a new idea... this photo was taken in 1965. I think she looks like she is having a great day. Little does she know how environmentally friendly she is. :)
Image courtesy of Todd Ehlers on Flickr

~ Plain & Simple As That

06 April 2011

Five Essentials for a Minimalist Mama

Babies may be little, but their stuff is huge... and it takes up a ton of space in your house.  With my first one, I was so excited to register for all the latest baby gear and gadgets.  By the time Tiny came around, I was ready to donate it all to other unsuspecting first time moms.  However, there are a few essential items that even a minimalist mom should consider.

1. Plastic bags. Recycle most of your grocery bags, but save a few. These can be used to line the small trash can next to the changing table, because face it, you don't want a large stash of used diapers in the house. The DiaperGenie and DiaperChamp are common registry items, but they require special bags. They eat toys (trust me on this, when Baby is old enough to figure it out, it's fun to drop your stuff in there and watch it disappear), and they don't really capture the stench all that well anyway. Stuffing a plastic bag in the diaper bag won't take up a lot of space and it won't add to the weight you're toting around, but it will give you an emergency container for dirty clothes, dirty bottles, or even a used diaper if you had to change Baby on the go.

2. A wristlet size purse for Mama's personal items. I use this cute pencil case (only I didn't buy it from a UK website) that easily transfers from the diaper bag to my book bag to my larger purse on date night.  It holds my wallet, my keys, my phone, a lip balm, a travel hand lotion, and a few cough drops. It keeps my things from getting lost in the diaper bag, and it's easy to pull out when I drop my kids off at the church nursery. Plus it's cute enough to be used on it's own when you go out without your littles. Can you say.. late night trip to the grocery store while the daddyman keeps the kiddos? That's what I'm talking about!

3.  Sling. Strollers are great when you are out for a walk, but for everyday errands or just holding baby around the house I chose to use a Maya Wrap. It was great for carrying my baby, but also worked to strap her to a grocery cart or a highchair. It'll also work as a nice cover-up if you get stuck somewhere in public with a hungry infant.

4. Baskets. Baby's have a lot of stuff, but so do toddlers, preschoolers, little girls, tweens, & teens. Choose storage containers that will look good anywhere in your house, any season of life. I use these baskets from Target to hold diapers Tiny's room, socks and underwear in the Tot's closet, & toys in their playroom. As my girls get older, I can see them using these for their fashion accessories (purses & belts). They are pretty enough to use for winter gear on the coat closet shelf or even to line up across the top of the kitchen cabinets. I don't know what I'd put in them, but I've seen other kitchens with baskets for extra storage and it looks pretty. :)

5. Cups and boxes. Not just for drinking, cups are the ultimate toy. A cup can be a drum, a bowling pin, a (very temporary) hat, a sand box mold, a bath toy that also works great for rinsing baby's hair, holder for tiny hair accessories, snack dispenser, stacking/nesting toy, etc. Empty boxes are great for hours of free entertainment. Toddlers will enjoy decorating them. Then, they'll hide inside, or turn it upside down and set up a tea party on their "table." We even turned three diaper boxes into a play kitchen! For more ideas on How to Repurpose a Cardboard Box into an Afternoon of Fun before you recycle it, check out my post on Oh Baby! Foods blog.

Everyone is different and everyone will have a different set of "essentials" that make raising a baby easier. My point in this post is just to say, you don't need everything. Beware of marketing traps ~ a wipes warmer? really? because today's babies are too wimpy for cold wipes? (Don't be offended if you bought one, but please share if you did and still feel like your baby wouldn't have survived the diaper-years without it.) It's expensive to raise a child from birth to empty nest. My advice is this: Don't go nuts in the first few years and save nothing for a time they'll actually remember. Maybe even college.
~ Plain & Simple As That