4 Things I Learned From My No Spending Month

February was my very first, officially titled, No Spending Month. I had never taken on this specific challenge before, and on Feb 1st, was excited to tackle it and see what I would learn.

I had given myself the following guidelines:

  • The spending ban would apply to extras, not regular bills or necessities (groceries, gas, utilities, rent, etc..)
  • This spending ban did NOT apply to my husband (he may not even be aware that I did it until he reads this!). It was a challenge for myself alone, and did not feel the need to ask him to join me this time. So he was free to buy his extras as he liked, but I challenged myself to not ask him to buy something for me.¬†
  • I purposely chose a month with no family birthdays, travel, or gift centered holidays. For my first attempt at this, I really didn’t want to set myself up for failure.
  • My children are all little (four under four), so I did extend the challenge to them indirectly. No new toys or clothes. Only diapers if we ran out. I don’t think they even noticed…

So 28 days later (and no, I didn’t purposely choose the shortest month of the year…), during which there were no runs to Starbucks for lattes, no movie rentals, no browsing through Target, and no late night online purchases, I had made it through an entire month.

There was only one exception: we bought a new couch. Though, to be fair, this did fall under the guideline applying to my husband. I had promised him that this was the year we could replace our old couch. One sunny Sunday afternoon, he made a fun family outing of looking at couches, and was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to ask him to wait any longer (the poor man has been waiting 8 years..). I felt that that one exception was justified. You know the saying, “Happy husband, more grilled food”! …

Anyway, not only was I proud of myself for making it to the end of the month, a few thoughts struck me along the way:

  1. 9 times out of 10, you really don’t need that thing. Throughout the month, I would still save items to wishlists, but found myself returning to those lists again to diminish said items. Having gone a month without them, I found I didn’t really need them in the first place.
  2. No more thoughtless purchasing. By removing the quick buy trigger, I was forced to consider each possible purchase, both current (groceries) and future (wish lists). Do I really want this? Do I really need this? Will this actually bring value to our lives, or simply become a burden in a short time?
  3. I don’t need to own everything. There is a simple beauty in borrowing something. A ladder from a neighbor, a book from the library, walking to the neighborhood park instead of buying outdoor play items for the kids…I was once again reminding that there is freedom in enjoying an item for a time, then returning it. No need to always buy, always own, always keep. There can be beauty in the temporary.
  4. I want to set a new example for my children. My children may be quite young, but they do observe how I live, speak, interact, and….shop. By showing them that not every trip to the store deserves a treat, I can display not only self control, but contentment. I hope and pray that they learn to value each other more than things.

It was a good month. A reflective month….and I plan to challenge myself to another no spending month again in the future.

Have you taken on such a challenge before? What did you take away from it? –besides extra purchases ūüôā¬†

What You Can See…When the Clutter Is Gone

 

A row of tiny, shiny rubber rain boots. The lyrics of a song that bring back memories of anticipation and romance. The way light pours through old, decrepit windows. A gallery wall of creativity. A hallway, that, although not decorated or changed at all, happens to be one of my favorite rooms in this rental.

And three little fuzzy heads nestled together on the couch, giggling at cartoons.

These are a few of the landmarks within our home that repeatedly bring a smile to my lips.

For when the clutter is gone…you can finally see what makes you smile.

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What To Give When They Don’t Want Stuff

Christmas is coming!

Like most families, we’re making plans and collecting gift ideas. It’s a wonderful, joyful experience to give someone a gift-especially if you know it’s something that would truly make them smile.

But what do you give a loved one when they really aren’t too keen on “stuff”….AND you’re not too keen on only giving gift cards?

Welcome to a post on minimalism-gift giving edition!

You may have a family member or friend who falls into this category, whether they use the label or not. They’ve cut back on their possessions in order to enjoy more experiences and relationships, their homes have few to no tchotchkes, little clutter, and few items that serve only one purpose.

You really want to get them something…something they would enjoy, and is not likely to end up on the Goodwill pile a month after Christmas (sorry, that’s the truth of it). If this is you, then I have some good news for you!

There are PLENTY of gift ideas for a minimalist! But before we get to these ideas, there are a few points that need to be made, to help you understand your loved one’s mindset better:

  • They DO like stuff. They just don’t¬†enjoy the unnecessary or general excess in their lives, and are more selective when it comes to material items that stay with them.
  • A thoughtful gift will have more meaning to them, and likely be something they will always remember.
  • They recognize and respect¬†a friend who has paid attention to who they really are, minimalism included

Okay, now to the fun idea list! Gift ideas galore!!

  • movie tickets
  • concert tickets
  • sport event tickets (you get the idea)
  • paid membership for something they enjoy (gym, dance class, climbing, etc…)
  • if you’re a really close friend, personally contribute toward something you know they have been saving for (car, travel, house, etc…)
  • If you know they’re traveling in the upcoming year, gift them something they can enjoy there (wine tasting, dinner, hotel upgrade, special tour, ect…) Many of these can be booked ahead of time
  • Netflix/AudioBooks/Amazon Prime subscription for a determined time
  • Cooking classes
  • Special dinner for two in their city
  • A “Stay In Date Night” package: wine, movie rental, popcorn, candy, etc…
  • Overnight getaway to a local spot
  • Hire a cleaning service for a month for their home (if they have little¬†kids, this is awesome!!!!)
  • Offer to come over and do laundry one week
  • Meal deliveries (homemade or paid for)
  • Spa/massage certificates (yes please!!!!)
  • Offer to the pay for or be¬†a babysitter for their next date night (that is HUGE!)
  • If you’re a handy person, offer to come over and help with around the house projects for the next month
  • Pay for a car detailing or offer to do it yourself
  • Schedule flower deliveries for the next month (a special thing in January!)
  • Zoo membership
  • Swim classes for kids
  • Offer to carpool for a week
  • Offer to help with all the prep/set up for the next birthday party
  • Donation to a cause they’re passionate about in their name
  • If you’re friend/loved one is pregnant, offer to help with “nesting” to prepare for the arrival of the new baby (a nine month preggo lady climbing up and down chairs is not a good time…)

These are all gifts that, although do not always take material form, are extremely meaningful. And, in addition to all the above, there are always gift cards, which are wonderful gifts!

One last thing, if none of the above strikes you, or perhaps you still would rather just give them SOMETHING…..then all you have to do is ask. Seriously, just be honest. Say, “I know you prefer to have fewer things around, but I would really like to get you something for Christmas that you would enjoy. Would you give me some ideas?” Boom! Done! Odds are, there is something they would like, or would like to replace/update, but may not be something you had thought of. Always ask. It’s greatly appreciated.

I am one of these people. A minimalist in my own way. The older I am, the less I enjoy things….or rather, many things in one place. This past birthday, my mother took the above approach and asked me to put together an Amazon gift idea list for her to use. That was one of the best gifts in and of itself to me. I appreciated that she recognized how uncomfortable I am now¬†with clutter. She¬†wanted to give me something I genuinely wanted.

So I did. It was fun, low pressure, and I knew I could put anything on the list and not worry about how it came across. Some items were practical, others were updates to household items I already had. And a couple were lovely extras. It made my birthday feel all the more special. And she got to choose ultimately what she wanted to give me. Win win!

So maybe think outside the box this Christmas, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the joy you bring and give!

Unless something else pops to mind, this may be my last post for a little while, as I prepare for baby #4’s arrival in just a couple of weeks!!

Merry Christmas to all!!

 

A Note on Kids

So here’s the thing…

I’m still a young mom, and definitely do not have this whole motherhood thing figured out yet (or ever will...), but there are two absolute truths about children I have learned:

  1. If there is a room that is clutter free and open, they will always gravitate there to play.
  2. More toys out and about= more complaining and boredom from said kiddos

(side thought: I’ve noticed many adults function the same way…)

Anyway, our family seems to go through a cycle (and I’m sure many of you fellow moms will recognize it): we have a season of accumulating more toys (birthday, Christmas, hand me downs, visits from grandparents, etc…)-our play/spare room becomes cluttered-kids lose interest in toys/playroom and gravitate to the nearest open space (living room)-more complaining and boredom ensues

We have recently been swept into this cycle once again. Take exhibit A:

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This was two weeks ago. I know it doesn’t look like an overwhelming amount of clutter, but after one container of toys was dumped out, the kids would soon after vacant to the living room (cue whining…).

Enter Mama Bear.

I took some time one afternoon and executed a quick sweep/purge:

  • zebra push¬†toy was stashed on a shelf in the closet until baby #4 needs it (Little Bear is fairly confident in his walking abilities now and rarely notices it anymore)
  • baby activity center (we like to call these the command centers) is also no longer being so used, so moved to guest room along with the empty plastic container for the next Goodwill run
  • play rug is adorable, but I quickly noticed that the kids don’t actually play on it, they just trip all over it while running around. So I rolled it up and stashed that in the closet until my mom’s next visit (she was lending it to us)
  • quickly sorted through toys and removed anything they have not recently played with, and added those to the Goodwill bag

After all was said and done, take exhibit B:

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Again, may not appear drastic, but it always is enough to the draw the kids back into this room. They once again have more space to play, run around, and be more creative with their playing.

I noticed that I’m the same way too! Space to think, create, and simply LIVE is a wonderful thing…but requires seasons of ruthless examination of my own possessions.

But you know what?

I never regret doing it.

 

 

Simple Project-Back Patio

Remember my list of simple, achievable goals for our little rental? I have finally taken care of updating our back patio!

Here is what it looked like a short while ago:

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A little messy, right? And that lovely strip of dirt (that never grew any grass!), would become a lovely strip of mud every time it rained (which of course, always seemed to fall on grocery day…)

Something had to be done.

This was the first time we have ever had a patio, and I was excited to make it into a more livable, fun space! So after a couple months of subtle changes (gifted patio furniture from the parents, found a temporary shed in which to place all the lawn equipment/toys, moved the grill, and rounded up some new + used stepping stones to fix the mud path issue) and scrubbing the vinyl siding clean…..

Here is now how it all looks:

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The kids have far more space to play, and enjoy the backyard, and the seating area makes it feel more grown up (it’s amazing how “adult” you can feel setting up patio furniture…), and a bit more….well….OURS.

I’m excited for autumn weather, leaf piles, walnut gathering, and more opportunities to relax in our little outdoor nook with mugs of tea, watching the leaves gracefully fall.

And….I’m also excited for next year’s changes that I’m already planning: more potted plants on the patio, pillows, and maybe a chalkboard hanging on the fence for the kiddos.

Simple, subtle changes. Sometimes, they’re the best ones.

 

Simple Project-Master Closet

This is our master bedroom closet.

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Well…..this was our master bedroom closet. (Ahhh, the beauty of that tiny little word).

As you can see, it had become a wreck-a catch all area for donation items, papers, boxes I couldn’t remember what they held, random items for sale-as well as housing our regular clothing and shoes as a closet should.

And-though I don’t have a picture to show you-our bedroom was showing similar treatment with little random piles here and there.

I was really really tired of it.

So a couple days ago, I finally tackled what I knew had to be done. It took me one afternoon and all of $0 to accomplish, and thankfully all the kiddos napped well so I could.

Here is the “finished” product.

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  • IMG_20160817_170616661donation, sale, and project items moved to empty guest room (to hopefully be disposed of or used within the next few weeks)
  • box contents reviewed and sorted (some into donation pile, others for sale) two of those white boxes are empty now!!!!
  • clothes shifted for better placement within the closet
  • diaper bag hung for easier access
  • regularly accessed boxes moved for easier reaching

Better, right? Even the Bear noticed (yay!). Amazing what a little time, a chair, and my strange little minimalist mind can accomplish when our own space becomes a priority again. Our bedroom/bathroom/closet is ours (the Bear’s and mine), for conversation, connection, and rest. Our little haven shouldn’t be clutter with the leftovers our of days and weeks; it should feel welcoming.

I’ll keep working on that. Little baby steps. Simple steps.

Permission to Say “YES”

Let me set the scene.

It’s one pm-lunch is finished, and all the munchkins are down for their naps. I have some decent energy for once, so I stare at the blank wall in the living room. I’ve been longing to hang pictures on it since we moved in this March. ¬†My brain commences to formulate placements, colors, arrangements, etc…

And then….

“I really should wash another load of laundry.”

“The bookkeeping needs updating.”

“The sink is full of dishes from both breakfast AND lunch.”

“The entire yard needs cleaning up and mowing.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Odds are, if you’re a mom of little munchkins (or children of any age), you too have dealt with the mental battle of duty vs desire. And when you have a VERY TEENY TINY bit of time to handle anything alone, more often than not, duty wins.

Now don’t get me wrong, household chores, meal prep, caring for your husband and children need to be and should be done. It’s one way we show our family that we love them dearly, a way to serve and grow. But they also need us to be…well….US.

I realized recently that I had stopped giving myself permission to do things that I loved to do! Obviously no one had asked me to do so (I did it all by myself..) God has given me passions and loves, and expects me to use them for His glory as well as enjoy those gifts. And I had suppressed them under the guise of caring for my family, when ultimately, my family needs me to be me, not a robot version of what I thought I should be.

They don’t need a wilted¬†Natashya.

So I decided to start giving myself¬†permission to say, “yes”.

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Do not attempt while toddlers are awake….

 

“Yes” to hanging the picture frames.

“Yes” to planning and researching how to¬†decorate this house, even though we may not be¬†in it long.

“Yes” to reorganizing closets (because I LOVE to organize, whether it really needs it or not)

“Yes” to setting aside the chores for a while so I can sit and marvel at the life moving within me.

“Yes” to turning up some¬†Sia and getting my preggo samba on for ten minutes.

“Yes”

And surprisingly, since then, I have found it easier to say yes to the kids.  Jump on the bed for a while? Yes! Drink your morning cup of milk using the play tea set? Yes! Wear your princess dress and dance to Disney music? Yes! Drag out all the beach towels and name them? YES!

Can I tell you something? It feels good to say “Yes”.

Give yourself permission today, fellow mama. Permission to do something you love, no matter how simple, silly, or unproductive it may seem. It will produce more than you know.