26 February 2011

Moving Day - Take 1 (Plan B)

As I stand here, writing this post.. yes stand.. all the chairs have been moved already.. I get more and more excited for my new home. I've been disappointed in a few things that weren't exactly as I expected, but I am reminded that we are moving to a home that is made up of 1000s of manmade pieces that have to fit together. It's not going to be perfect and I need to have a realistic expectation. That being said, our builder takes all my diva requests into consideration and his doing everything he can to make it perfect. Through this process of building, he has become a friend for sure.

So, yesterday was Moving Day #1. Due to weather delays (who could predict two FEET of snow in Arkansas), we had to wait past our closing date to start moving, so we didn't have the leisurely 10 days we had hoped for. This is forcing a slight change of strategy, but we are still culling as we pack and move. Instead of just cramming packed boxes into the house, we are moving everything to the garage and organizing into two piles: keep and sell. This strategy is giving us three passes to evaluate each item we decide to keep:
  • Packing: Before something goes in a box, it has to pass a certain criteria "do we need it? does it fit? will we ever use it? do I even want this anymore?"
  • Unloading: After being in a box for a while, my heart sometimes changes. Or, in the case of our  big leather couch, it didn't fit in the basement play room, so it has been relegated to the "sell" pile along with the matching chair and ottoman. I'm a bit sad about that, but will get over it now that I can justify some new furniture.
  • Unpacking and Reloading: As we move from the garage to the house, we will have yet another opportunity to sift through the remnant and decide if we want to keep it. 

I have to admit my sickness here: I love movingI love how clean everything feels in a blank space.  There's no better time to organize every nook and cranny of a home. Random piles of paper got sorted this week. The outgrown clothes in the kids' closets transfered to the donate/sell pile. Dark corners of the deep freezer and even the bottom of the garage are rediscovered. Okay, okay, so maybe a little bit of my love for moving is because I get to supervise and tell men where to put things. Anyway you dice it, I still think it's fun.. or maybe it's just a sickness.

Adios Duplex Alley! ~ Plain & Simple as That

Tell me your moving tips, I'd love to hear them.. or share some garage sale tips. Looks like I have one coming up soon!

22 February 2011

Unscheduled Vacation

I didn't mean to take a week of vacation. Sometimes life happens.

Thursday was my birthday ~ all day I was thinking I should do a post entitled, "Gifts for Minimalist: What to get someone that doesn't want anything."
Friday, we closed on our house. I'm hoping to have some good packing tips from that one.
Saturday, I spent the day with some amazing teenagers. You can see a cool picture here.
Sunday was jam packed too.. and then the week started on me again.

We are trying to move into our house by Thursday this week, and I'm hoping things settle down soon so I can get back to one of my true joys ~ writing.

My next few posts will be more about things I keep than things I discard because although I love the idea of living with less, there are some things that I can't let go. ~ Plain & Simple As That

15 February 2011

Prioritizing Relationships: The Key to Finding Joy

Image courtesy of Kabils on Flickr

On my Facebook page, I wrote that "'Plain & Simple As That' exists to inspire readers to find freedom from stuff and to seek joy in others." But are the two really related, or are these mutually exclusive goals? I feel like I've pretty much found my freedom from stuff, but as far as finding joy in others, it's still a struggle. Just this morning, as I sat down to a moment of quiet time with my Bible, my journal, and my tea before Tiny & The Tot woke up, and I focused on my frustration with relationships.

I think my frustration stems from having a breadth of relationships rather than depth in my relationships. The question then, is how do you find joy in others and how do you nurture friendships so they grow deeper rather than just adding more friendships? I'm no expert here, but I think the key has to be communication. Real conversations. For me, that means becoming a better listener, learning to "see" people beyond the words they share, finding compassion for the situations they face even if they are a result of poor decisions. God knows I've made my share of poor decisions. I'd elaborate that point, but my mother reads these posts and I don't want to completely break her heart.

As I think about seeking joy in relationships, I realize I need to decide which ones are worth nurturing and then prioritize my time better to work on those few. Rather than spend my time reading and commenting on an acquaintance's Facebook status, I need to:

  • call my grandma who is in the hospital even though I don't know what to say.
  • call my grandpa even if he doesn't remember who I am.
  • make time to visit my best friends even though I have jealousy issues.
  • apologize for that thing I did when I was 14, even though the offendee might not think about it as often as I do.
  • engage in things that interest Tiny & the Tot even if it bores me to tears. 
  • spend more time with my husband and approach tough conversations even if it means we pay a babysitter.
  • pray more and seek God's direction, even when especially when I know I won't like the answer.

Living a life of simplicity should in theory free up time to do all these things, but it doesn't just happen. It requires time, patience, and effort. I guess in reality, it's not a really matter of simplicity after all; it's still a matter of priority. ~ Plain & Simple As That

I'd love to hear how you nurture your relationships and find joy in those around you rather than the stuff that may seem to surround you.

12 February 2011

Happy Thought

I thought I'd share a happy thought... 

THIS is just a few short weeks away!
Image Courtesy of Ian from Flickr 

11 February 2011

How A Sharpie Saved My Marriage - or at least my favorite jeans

I may be just a weensy bit passive aggressive.

Here's my side of the story: I appreciate help around the house, but not help that isn't done MY way (as if there was another way). One day, I was in tears (you know, the stupid I-don't-know-why-this-is-making-me-cry tears).

You see, I married a sweet man who loves to do stuff around the house: shovel snow, fix appliances, do the dishes (fly-ladies would love my man), air up my tires, mow the yard, paint stuff, change diapers, hang pictures, assemble furniture, move heavy boxes, and yes, even "help" with laundry.

I had gently asked him "not to worry about my laundry," but I think he thought I meant, "oh Honey, you do so much other stuff, you don't need to do the laundry. I'll take care of it." What I really meant was, "Please Dear, keep your man-paws off my DANG Levis." I can laugh about this now, but at the time, I was pretty mad. I have enough trouble getting my jeans on when they are clean. I don't need to extra challenge of wiggling into jeans washed in hot water and dried on anything warmer than "delicate."

This particular day, my jeans must have been exceptionally "clean," and it was affecting my mood.  So, rather than address the issue as an adult, I just whipped out the Sharpie to prevent a reoccurance.

For the record. I do my own laundry now, and I'm happy with that. ~ It's Plain & Simple As That. 

****UPDATE**** It has been brought to my attention that I need a sharpie with spell check! I'll work on that. 

10 February 2011

How Culling My Closet Made Me a Better Shopper

The act of intentionally living with less forces me to consider purchases more carefully. In the past, I would buy something because it was a good deal ~ but cheap jeans are a waste of money if they don't fit well. I won't wear them, and I'll have buyer's remorse every time I see them. I was on a never-ending cycle: purchase cheap item > bring it home > hate it > toss cheap it in a storage bin > purchase new item, cheaper this time out of guilt for the first one > bring it home > hate it... and on and on. Sound familiar? How do you change it?

Know Your Style
Reducing the amount of stuff in my closet to what I actually wear helped me discover my true style - if you can even call it that. I always gravitate to comfortable jeans, crew neck T shirts, and flat shoes. Now when I shop, if something doesn't fit into the realm of "comfortable, modest, & layered" I don't even need to try it on.

Be Picky 
Since I don't shop often, when I do go to the mall, I feel better about being picky and buying what I absolutely love. Before you say that finances are tight and you don't want to spend a lot, take a look at your closet. Add up the cost of all the clothing you never wear or rarely wear. Would that have been enough to justify just one perfect pair of jeans?

Be Purposeful
I don't shop aimlessly looking for something to love. I shop with a specific purpose such as replacing my favorite corduroys because the corduroy is worn off. When I find a replacement, I buy THE one I want. If something extra catches my eye and I really want it, I usually wait a few days. If I'm still thinking about it a week later, I might justify that it was meant to be mine. 

Stick to a Color Pallet
Find a color pallet that match your skin tone and your lifestyle, then stick with it. When you shop, don't even look at that beautiful sunshine yellow scarf if you know it'll make you look like you just ate your first raw oyster. You may find you can actually create more outfits with less pieces if everything in your closet coordinates. Bonus: a simplified morning routine.

Shopping has become a part of our culture - it's a passtime in America. I'm not anti-shopping, but going to the mall just for something to do is like going to the grocery store when you're hungry. When you go, at least go with a plan. Buy what you love and nothing more. That's the bottom line for me. It's Plain & Simple As That.

08 February 2011

A Tale of a Spice Cabinet Decluttered

T-2 weeks until we move. 


Two moves in one year lends itself to some awesome stuff-cleansing. We have three weeks be out of our duplex, so I'm packing more intentionally than every before. Today's focus. The elusive...
Spice Cabinet
Okay, mine wasn't really that bad.
 (Image courtesy of Collin Anderson on flickr)
I must have discarded all my duplicates during the last move; I noticed I'm down to one small jar of cinnamon. I distinctly remembering having up to four at one point. The extra seasoning salts are gone too. 

*insert a little self pat on back here*

Not so fast. There is more work to do.

Today, I took a look at the Spice Cabinet with different eyes ~ eyes that could read expiration dates.  Anything that expired prior to the fall of the Economy in America.... Gone.   

Starting with... the "gourmet" Dill Weed in the glass jar. I'm sure I paid at least $6 for it.  The plastic safety seal was still intact, but it expired shortly after Pope John Paul II. Rather than feel the guilt of a dumb purchase every time I open the spice cabinet, I sprinkled it in with Tiny's nasty diapers and left it to stew until friday when the trash man comes.  

06 February 2011

8 Tips To Simplify Your Morning Routine - Ladies' Edition

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. I have finally accepted the truth. I need a morning routine. A simple one. So, I've been collecting notes from my husband (an official morning person) and my Facebook page:

1. Consider a coordinating wardrobe. I have a friend that mostly mixes black, white, and gray with her colorful accessories. I look sick in white and baby snot shows up too easily on black. My pallet is more brown/tan/beige/cream, with navy and red mixed in. Check out The Project 333 to see one approach to a streamlined wardrobe. Note to self: Must remember to stop even looking at black shoes.

2. Choose dual purpose make-up. I love my MaryKay tinted moisturizer. It saves me a step, it's the perfect amount of color, and my face hasn't been this clear since I was 10. I'm also a big fan of Burt's Bees tinted lip balm in Watermelon. It's the perfect color for this pasty white girl with the added benefit of keeping away the winter chaps!  

Contents of my makeup bag: 
Tweezers, Mary Kay tinted moisturizer, Mary Kay Mineral powder/brush, 
2 Mary Kay eye-liners (I have one too many), brow brush, shadow brush, 
3 pony tail holders, 3 hair pins, Clinique blush, 
Neutrogena eye shadow (it's old. I know. Don't judge), Burt's Bees tinted lip balm, 
Cover Girl Water Resistant Black Mascara.
That's it. (.. and I know I need to wash my brushes.  Don't look so close, and quit judging.)
3. Grow your hair out. Short hair is super cute ~ especially for those of you with the perfectly sculpted face. God must have been in a hurry and just skipped all the extra little pinches ~ the cute nose, the high cheek bones, the long neck, etc. He just wadded up some clay in a ball, stuck it on top and called it good enough. 

It's okay. 

I'm not bitter. 

alas... I digress... back to my point. 

Long hair. It's much easier to go with a ponytail or a scarf when you're in a hurry than to have hair you absolutely must style. 

4. Pick easy-to-wear jewelry that can be casual or dressyPasty white girls look even more ghostly in silver, so I wear either small gold hoops or diamond studs. Both work perfectly fine with jeans & a t-shirt, or my fancy smancy "Christmas Casual" outfit. I love Nashelle's custom jewelry for moms, and this mini pendant ~ super simple yet elegant.  Bonus: this is the kind of necklace you never have to take off or match to an outfit.   

Square Plate plus yogurt & a banana = Square meal.
5.  Eat the same breakfast everydayShhhhh, don't tell the FDA. I'm sure it isn't the most healthy thing to do, but you can make up your fruits, veggies, etc at your other meals. Besides, unless you live somewhere along the Mediterranean, you probably don't live by the perfect diet anyway.  At our house, Tiny & the Tot get oatmeal or yogurt and a piece of fruit.  I eat cereal.  Everyday.  Occasionally, I buy a different kind for variety.  If you're a protein girl, keep some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for an on-the-go breakfast.  

6.  Invest in an insulated mug. Those stops to visit your morning barista really add up both in $$ and time.  Make your morning tea (or coffee if you are a sinner like that) at home.  If you are a coffee drinker, follow my aunt's tip and set the coffee maker ahead of time.  Although, my friend, the microbiologist, encourages you to clean your coffee maker, or else...  WARNING:  Don't click that link if you are easily grossed out!  

... you clicked it, didn't you?  

I warned you. 


Now maybe you'll drink tea.  

Again, I digress... 

7. Last tip. Create a night-time routine
  • pre-make your lunch (and the kids' lunches if you are dropping them off), 
  • make sure your purse, diaper bag, and/or laptop bag are decluttered and repacked. 
  • set out clothes for yourself and the kids so there's no early morning decision-making pressure
  • Put your cell phone on the charger in a dedicated spot near your keys and purse/wallet.
8. Okay, one more. Make a check list for everything you need to have in hand before leave the house so you don't second guess yourself or have to come back for a forgotten item.  

Follow these ideas to shave a few minutes off your morning routine, take away the stress of making a lot of decisions while you're still groggy, and keep the kids from experiencing the trauma of the unknown.  ~ It's really Plain & Simple As That.

What makes morning easier at your house?

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01 February 2011

Tiny Is Quiet... Uh oh!

Photo by: JoshBerglund19
When the baby is quiet, consider it an alarm.

Gazing across the living room today, I noticed some marks on Tiny's face today, but I didn't think much of it since she had recently been playing with some new Tadoodles markers.  However, as she got closer, the stench grew stronger. That's when I noticed the "marks" all down her legs, coating her hands and smeared all over her face. My baby ate poop.  Nasty, runny, stinky poop.

After promptly scrubbing her down in the bathtub, I returned to find more of the offending stench smeared across the carpet. My visible frustration prompted the Tot to offer this tardy, though always valid, advice to her little sister, "you shouldn't eat poop."

Just today, Tiny has tossed chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, cheddar cheese, Cheerios, pears, oatmeal, and yogurt off her tray. But the poop, she enjoyed. Little Stinker. We're having liver and onions tomorrow night.  ~ It's Plain & Simple As That. 

3 Quick Tips for Documenting Noncash Charitable Donations

Sample 501(c)(3) receipt
Yesterday, I met with my tax man to look at my 2010 taxes and ask some proactive questions about my 2011 tax situation. He said that with a receipt from my 501(c)(3) organization and my list of noncash items stapled to the Salvation Army Value Guide, I had proper documentation to deduct $1013 on my 2011 taxes. In the meantime...

I had a list for my 2010 donation, but it wasn't nearly as detailed (because it was a LOT more stuff, and at the time, I just wanted it gone). I listed things like "Ladies' Clothing - 1 bag," "Men's shoes - 1 bag," "Box of books - 3." He estimated it to be a $2395 deduction. It seemed like a high number to me, but since we moved during the same tax year, it will be more "acceptable" to the IRS.  

If you plan to use charitable donations as tax deductions, there are three things you need to know incase you are audited later.

1.  Keep your itemized list, and maybe even a photo of the lot. You don't need to mail your list to the IRS,  but do save it for the recommended seven years.

2. A little trick, especially if you are doing your own taxes: don't use even numbers. If you estimate your donation to be worth $500, it might be a red flag for an audit, but $508 or $496 is more realistic.

3. If your total is over $250, you need to fill out Form 8283. Most tax services charge you based on the number of forms they submit for you. Make sure it is worth it before you agree to use your donation as a deduction. My accountant will flag situations like this and give me the option; if yours doesn't, find a new accountant ~ an honest one.

Giving to charity is definitely "giving that gives back." Find a cause you can get behind, take them your unloved (but still in good to excellent condition) items. They'll turn it to good (like food for the hungry) and you get a discount from the IRS! It's a win-win situation. ~ Plain & Simple As That

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How I Made Money From My Unwanted Stuff
Donate or Sell: How To Decide