building a minimalist wardrobe: tips and reflections

Over the past year, a goal of mine has been to do a closet purge. Instead of donating a clothing item or two, I wanted to go big this time. I was sick of hanging on to clothing that a) I wasn’t wearing b) I didn’t love. Recently, I finally had time to clean out my closet. Here’s a few tips that worked well for me when getting started:

  1. take ALL of your items out of the closet
  2. have three designated areas where you can place piles of clothing
  3. separate clothing into three categories: 1) love it & would wear it 2) not sure 3) this needs to go
  4. put #1 clothes back into your closet. take #3 clothes out of your room, put them into a box or bag and next to the door (or straight into your car). these clothes are being donated
  5. go through your #2 clothes, the “not sure” pile. try on every piece of clothing and see what you think. you’ll be putting some back in your closet and others will go to your donation pile
  6. if you are still stuck with some “not sure” items, sleep on it. but don’t put these clothes back in your closet. keep them someplace visible and go through them again in a day or two.

When I reflect on this experience, I’d say that it was the most productive and efficient spring cleaning that I’ve ever done. While I was overwhelmed to start the closet purge, when I finally got going it was simple and quick. I LOVE how my closet looks now vs. before. It’s a lot easier for me to find what I want to wear in the mornings.

Surprisingly, I’ve run into one hiccup post-closet purge. Remorse. Of all of the clothing that I donated, there’s ONE sweater that I miss. I attempted to wear it the other day and then realized that it was gone. I gave it away because it doesn’t fit me well (read: not flattering), BUT, there was just something about it that I liked. And it holds some sentimental value. I feel sad that it’s gone. Part of me wants to scream, “get a grip!” but then I remember why we have hoarding and cluttered homes. We DO get attached to stuff. To things. We all know that we shouldn’t, but we do. So what do we do when we find our self kinda sad that we gave an item away in the pursuit of minimalism?

For me, the following has helped:

  1. I pray for whoever wears my sweater next (& hopefully it’s more flattering on them than it ever was for me)
  2. I remind myself that even if I kept the sweater, it could get ruined (staining or in the wash) or lost
  3. I think: better to give it away now while it’s still in style than to keep it for many years and then no one wants it
  4. I remember that I can’t take material items with me when I die
  5. I smile when I think of a precious time when I was wearing the sweater and I’m thankful for the gift of memory

Thinking of cleaning out your closet? Go for it! Have reflections from doing a major closet purge? Please share. And for those pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, keep on keeping on. It IS a journey. But I’m so glad to be on this road.

Health risks of using baby powder

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Did you hear? A court ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay a family 72 million in damages. A woman’s death (ovarian cancer) was linked to using baby powder & shower to shower for decades.

While pregnant, I remember being told that baby powder is no longer recommended because of the risk of respiratory problems.

Baby powder can cause breathing trouble and serious lung damage if a baby inhales the particles. And the particles are small enough that it’s hard to keep them out of the air during use. – Jennifer Lowry (Pediatrician).

I wasn’t aware that it can also cause health problems in adults (cancer).

Here’s more on the story: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/court-orders-johnson-johnson-payoff-talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer-case-n524456

The real reason why having a child is both the hardest & the best thing

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Prior to having a child, I enjoyed hearing from others what having a child is like. I wanted  insight into the biggest decision a person can make (that will rock their world as they know it). The most common answer that I received was, “It’s the hardest thing that you will ever do but it’s also the best thing that you will ever do.” Hmm. This response was so vague. It left me confused. Why exactly is it the hardest thing? And why is it also the best thing? I didn’t receive specific answers from anyone.  It was like there was a code amongst parents to remain vague and not go into detail re:  why it’s so hard.  I did have one person say, “If people knew just how hard it is they would never have kids!” Again, wasn’t helpful.

Now that I’m 10 months into mothering, I’m trying to give an answer as to why being a parent is both the hardest and the best thing. At first, I’d tell you that it’s the hardest thing because you just can’t fully understand how painful the extreme lack of sleep is or how annoying your child’s cry can be (and how they cry for a million reasons you’ll never fully understand). Also, no breaks. Did I mention no breaks? I just sat down to write this post and now I hear her crying…she’s awake from her nap. Parenting never ends. With everything else, you can turn it off/walk away/take a break. Being a mom is 24/7.

But the more I ponder the question “Why is it the hardest and also the best?” I’m forced to dig deeper than just the day-to-day of childcare. For me, I think raising a child is the hardest thing that a person can do because it requires you to model by example what you want your child to do, who you want them to be.

“It was clear from the data that we cannot give our children what we don’t have. Where we are in our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books.” – Brene Brown

Truth is, pregnancy and childbirth are hard. Sleep deprivation is hard. Being on 24/7 is hard. But that’s just the hard stuff. The hard AND the best is this: your child gives you the opportunity to be the best version of yourself. An authentic and vulnerable person. A person who sets appropriate & healthy boundaries. A person who loves others with actions and not just words. A person who loves self.  A person who lives with their whole heart.

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.” – Brene Brown

Here’s the truth behind “having a child is both the hardest and the best”…a child gives you a choice: continue living on autopilot, doing the same old, or stop and consider if who you are is exactly who you’d want your child to be. Raising a child is not, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Raising a child is, “monkey see – monkey do.” That, my friends, is hard. But this can also be the best thing that you ever do.

How I spend my time

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Time. Time has taken on new meaning now that I’m a mom. Oh how I value my down time. I don’t seem to have very much of that anymore! The introvert in me could spend all day reading and writing. I love solitude. A cup of coffee. A walk alone. Driving in the car with the radio off and having my thoughts keep me company. Yes, I’m one of those people!

As a mom to a baby, I struggle finding the balance between 1) getting things done and 2) recharging my batteries. And to be honest, I can waste too much time on facebook when I could have spent that time reading or writing (even blogging!).

I’m challenged by the following thought, “how will I decide to spend my time so that when the day is done I’m left feeling proud instead of discouraged?” It’s not so much a question of, “do I have enough time today to get things done” but rather, “how will I spend the time that I do have in front of me?” I’m on a journey to be better at how I spend my time (whatever I decide is the goal re: how to spend my time for that particular day). To be intentional instead of on autopilot (i.e I’ll just scroll through facebook….and 30 minutes goes by).

Time. We all have limited amounts of it. But we all get to start over each day and decide anew how we will use it.

If you’re tired YOU ARE tired whether you have children or not

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I will be the odd one to say that I don’t agree with this. If you don’t have kids and are exhausted, you still ARE exhausted. I believe you. Not sleeping for whatever reason sucks. And sometimes there’s a medical reason why a person feels tired 24/7. A couple of years ago, I had untreated hypothyroidism which made me feel sluggish ALL the time. No matter how much sleep I got, I was exhausted. A coffee or nap would NOT help.

Now having had a baby, I’m TIRED. She’s 8 months old and not sleeping through the night. The early days were pure sleep deprivation torture. But I would never laugh at someone who doesn’t have kids and tells me that they are exhausted. Yes, it’s a different kind of tired. But being exhausted no matter the cause stinks. And I will sympathize, dear one.

How to get yourself out of a funk

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Saturday was a bad day for me. While we rarely fight, Derek and I had an argument first thing in the morning. Even though we resolved the insignificant conflict, I remained in a funk for the rest of the day. I’m not at all blaming my husband for this. It was a gloomy rainy day – I could blame the rain! But that wouldn’t be accurate either. It seemed to be everything and nothing that caused my mood to majorly drop. The entire day was a struggle. Sunday was better. Much better.  Here’s what seemed to help me our of a temporary major funk, I’m hoping it can help if you or a loved one find yourself in such a state:

  1. Journal. Writing out your thoughts and feelings can do wonders. It’s like a free therapy session! Also, as a social worker, I understand the importance of being able to identify when significant mood changes first began. Often, clients comes to their first appointment with no timeframe of when they started to go downhill. Writing in a journal can help you to process and cope as well as have a record should you need professional support.
  2. Exercise. For me, this was a walk in the pouring rain with my dog. I walked fast. I enjoyed seeing how much my dog was loving walking (despite the rain). I noticed ducks on the river not at all phased by rain. I may have felt gloomy on the inside but it was encouraging to see animals enjoying the rain. And the change of scenery + exercise was good for my mood as well.
  3. Read. I picked up a book that I had hoped to finish before baby arrived (and I didn’t!) and read a few pages. It was helpful to “escape” in a good book. To put aside feeling glum for several minutes.
  4. Get a break. For all of the above to happen, I needed a break from caretaking. My husband and I traded off caretaking for our daughter though out the day. I haven’t left her for more than 1 hour but if the funk continued into the next day, I may have had to get in the car and go somewhere for a couple of hours to see if that helped.
  5. Sleep. During my funk, I wanted to go and hide under the covers but I refused to go there. Sleep is necessary for survival but can work against us if we use it to escape. My advice would be to anyone in a funk to try and use sleep to recharge your batteries and not to as a way of hiding from the world. Also, remember that tomorrow’s a new day. Even if you don’t sleep great, things often seem better the next morning.

The above list if fairly biased re: what has been helpful for ME when experiencing low mood or being in a funk. I’d love to hear what you’d add to this list. Remember that just because you’re in a significant funk today doesn’t mean that it will be just as bad tomorrow. It could be MUCH better. Take good care of yourself. And if the funk lasts for 6 weeks or you experience any thoughts of suicide (no matter how fleeting), seek professional help. Funks can come and go. They can be very short lived. Or they can last awhile and turn into clinical depression. Taking good care of yourself as soon as you notice mood changes can sometimes turn what could have been ugly into a short lived episode. In your experience, what’s been helpful for you?

Purchasing your next vehicle: Principles to consider that will Save You Money

If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember this post from a month ago: A Minivan instead of a SUV? Well, we have an update! Here’s my FB status from yesterday:

There’s no cheaper vehicle than the one that you own. While this is true, eventually it’s time to walk away and say good-bye. The Jeep (15 yrs old) has served us well. We are now proud (and unashamed!) owners of a minivan. Yes, we only have one child but you can’t find a better value for your money (when comparing to SUV’s). Looking forward to picking up our new-to-us vehicle on Monday!

As we say good-bye to trusty rusty, I’ve been reflecting on some principles re: owning and purchasing a vehicle that are wise to consider. Here are some of those:

  1. keep driving your vehicle after you’ve finished your monthly payments. the cheapest vehicle really is the one that you own. even if you put $1,000/yr into your vehicle in repairs, you are still farther ahead than if you had car payments. many people trade in their vehicles before they are paid off or as soon as they are paid off and lose out on the financial freedom that zero car payments provide.
  2. when you no longer have car payments, put the money you are saving now into savings. you will need another vehicle at some point. instead of increasing your living expenses, set aside that money for your next vehicle and you may never have a car payment again! Amazing, right? It is!
  3. unless there’s unusual circumstances (ex: you work for a car company and get a significant discount), don’t buy a brand new vehicle. the greatest depreciation for your vehicle is within that first year. we bought a 2014 dodge caravan. it’s only been on the road for 15 months. we paid anywhere between $14,000-$20,000 less than what the original owner bought it for new. Crazy.

I hate spending money on a vehicle. They are a horrible investment. But given where we live (no bus system), we need a vehicle to work, shop, etc. We hope that our new purchase will last us 15 yrs. Who knows, maybe our daughter will learn to drive on this minivan. Now that’s a crazy thought!