Hoarders as Motivation

Today there was a Hoarders marathon on TV and I got caught up watching a few of them.  Oh my.  After watching a couple of episodes I feel reinspired to clear out the clutter.  The people on the show had their lives turned upside down because of all their possessions and inability to let things go.   Devastating situations.   Of course those are extreme examples, but the show illustrates how possessions can ultimately control your life. 

Today I battled clothing clutter . . .again.  This time it was my baby’s out grown clothing.  I sorted them out by size and then photographed them to sell on eBay.  I came up with a strategy to sell the items with maximum ease.  I started by removing the designer name items and grouped them by manufacturer and size.  I will sell them as lots.  For example: a lot of used Gap clothing for girls sized 6-12 months.   I also separated out any pieces that were NWT (new with tags) to sell them separately.  Everything that was left I grouped into lots by size.  Photographing all the clothing was a bit time-consuming so depending on how well things sell will determine if I both with this again in the future or just drop this off at the consignment shop or Goodwill. If I clear $50 it will have been worth it.  Otherwise, probably not.  I will report back.  These items will be posted to eBay this week and hopefully I will have some successful auctions. 

Now that we have returned from vacation it is easier to focus on removing all the unnecessary stuff.  We are trying to have something leave our house each week.  As a working mom I never feel like I have enough time.  Maybe if I cull our stuff I will steal back a few moments each day.

C25K week 1 update

I was able to complete the first week on the Couch to 5k Program while I was on vacation.  I started the second week’s program yesterday and it went really well.  Because I was on vacation the first week was completed running outside on a paved path.  This week I am able to use my treadmill in my cooled basement.  It makes a huge difference. 

Unfortunately, I have not yet changed my diet so I haven’t bothered tracking my weight.  I do plan on making changes to my diet this week so hopefully the combination of change in diet with regular exercise will equal many pounds lost.    I plan on providing running updates weekly so I can easily see my improvements.

I downloaded an app onto my iphone for the program.  It’s called C25k by Bluefin Software.  It was $2.99 and well worth it.  It allows you to add your songs to be played during your run and at the  time frames, depending on which day you are on it will tell you to start the run or walk portions.  This is so much easier than trying to keep track of it all yourself while you are running.  Especially in the first few weeks when you are constantly switching from running to walking and vice versa.  The app also allows you to track your weight, speed, calories burned, running terrain, weather, and there is a section to journal about your run as well.  All the numeric data you enter is then graphed for you so you can see your progress.  This is all so handy.  so far I do not have any complaints

My ultimate goal is to complete the Broad Street Run in Philly.  It is a total of 10 miles so I have quite a long ways to go.  But really, if I am just able to run a 5k the I will be pretty proud and feel pretty accomplished in terms of my fitness level.

C25K

This blog was created so I could track my reduction in all the unnecessary accumulated things in my life.  I have started on the clutter reduction in terms of items owned, and now it is time to address another area of accumulation in my life – weight.  We are about to head off on a family vacation for a week and I am thinking this might be a great time to start the couch to 5k program (c25k for short).  I actually was doing the program a couple years ago.  I got as far as running for 24 minutes.  I never made it to 30 minutes which is the goal of the plan (if you are doing it for time and not distance).  Because I followed it before I know that it is doable.  However, I really don’t enjoy running.  That’s a pretty big obstacle to overcome since its a running program.  This is ultimately why I did not complete the program the last time.  But I am the mother of 2 young children who need me so I need to put it in perspective and push through.  I need to be a healthier person for my children so I can be there for them for many years to come and to be a good role model.

Even though I was not successful in my first try I am giving it another because it fits into my life.  Its only 40 min. and can be done anywhere.  Also we have a nice treadmill in our basement so on the really hot days I can use that.  Running is one of the quickest ways to get into shape and it is also inexpensive.   I figure starting it during vacation is a good idea because I will have lots of available time.   So, hopefully when I return I will have completed the first week and will be midway through week 2.

This would be a great time to post a “before” picture, but there is not way that is ever going to happen.

Cheap Eats: Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

For me, the best dish is one that is delicious, healthy, fast and inexpensive. I am forever looking for recipes that fit this bill and I have found one for my first recipe post – Chicken Tortilla soup. This is super fast to make and I generally have the ingredients on hand. The best part is that my whole family (including a 1 yr old and a 5 yr old) enjoys it.

INGREDIENTS

Soup:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 lb chicken cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 small can chopped green chilies

Toppings:

  • Crushed baked tortilla chips
  • Low fat shredded mozarella cheese
  • Chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

In a dutch oven, or any deep sided pot/pan add olive oil and garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Next add chicken, onion and cumin. Cook until onion is tender and chicken is no longer pink (about 5 min). Add water, chicken broth, diced tomatoes and diced green chilies. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 min. Ladle into bowls and top with crushed tortillas, cheese and chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

Review of The EveryGirl’s Guide to Life

The EveryGirl’s Guide to Life, by Maria Menounos is straightforward and practical, which I appreciate.  I first heard about the book when Maria was promoting it on Howard  Stern. It piqued my interest so when I saw it out on display I flipped through it. My original thought was that it would make a good gift for my niece who was turning 17 . Later in the day I flipped through it some more and realized that there were tips I could use.  So, I went back to the bookstore and purchased one for myself the next day. Maria makes many recommendations throughout the book, quite a few of which I am incorporating into my life.  These include purchasing a steamer (so that I can avoid ironing), and creating a binder that contains all vital information including names, addresses, credit card info, insurance info, etc..  The section on her skin care and make-up regiment was particulary useful to me as I am make-up challenged.  Maria recommended specific products and gave detailed instructions. I have since purchased some of those products and I think her tips are making some aspects of my life easier. (i.e., I am loving the Neutrogena face wipes, purchased bulk on sale at Costco).  I am also planning on trying some of the recipes she included. 

Now, I don’t agree with everything in the book of course. The section where she talks about the type of car you drive and the impression it leaves made me literally LOL. She sounds pretty pretentious there but I just chalked it up to the LA celebrity lifestyle. 

I would love to see a follow-up book from Maria if she should ever become a mother. She is hyper-organized and I think she would probably come -up with some great tricks and hacks for working moms.  For me that was one of the problems with the book – some of her recommendations just won’t work for a mom of young children.  For example, she uses the “stacking approach” for running her errands.  In theory this a great idea.  However, in reality I can not spend that mouch time lugging my toddler around in one day.  I would love to knock out all of my errands in one day and be done with them, but my toddler just doesn’t have the patience. 

 All in all it is a fun, easy, useful read.  It makes an excellent graduation gift for High School or College grads.  It also works for women like myself,who still are struggling with some aspects of organizing their lives even though they are in their mid 30s.

Babies and Minimalism

 

I started writing this post back in October when I started this blog. Then life got in the way and I never finished it. Now that its 7 months later I have some greater insight into what was useful and what was not. The original post is below:

 

This week I have realized that babies are antithetical to minimalism. This is not a groundbreaking observation I know but it bears repeating. Babies bring with them lots of gear. Every three months (or quicker if your baby’s growth is in the upper percentages), they need a whole new wardrobe. And because they are constantly drooling/spitting-up/having diaper blowouts, they go through a couple sets of clothing a day. Then there are all the lotions and potions.

 

I know that babies in other parts of the world do not have all the accoutrements that American babies do and make out just fine. I took pride in not registering for a wipes warmer or doubling up on the entertainment centers. However, I still have a swing, bouncy seat, bumbo seat, and play mat. How many places to sit does a 3 month old need?

 

So what’s a minimalist momma wannabe to do? I will be pondering this question over the next year as my baby grows and then share my conclusions on what items I found useful. I am all for minimizing the brightly colored plastic contraptions currently taking up space in my home.

 

Fast forward 7 months later. My baby is now 10.5 months old. I am through the newborn phase and approaching the toddler stage. This is a good time to think about the items I relied on heavily in those early months and share my all-stars with you. I would say my “must-haves” for the first 6 months are:

 

  • Arm’s Reach Mini Co-sleeper — I purchased mine on eBay for about $50 less than I could have purchased it in a store. The item was like new. I saved the box I received it in and plan on selling it on eBay if it does not sell at my yard sale.
  • Bouncy seat — these are great to keep your baby safe and secure near you. I purchased an inexpensive one and it was very easy to move from room to room. I also had two used ones that were passed down to me when my oldest was a baby.  I placed one on each floor of my home so I have a safe place for my baby when I am in the basement doing laundry, or taking a shower in our upstairs bathroom. I also used it as a bed when we traveled to see family when she was 3 months old. Much easier than lugging a pack and play (which I do not own anyway).
  • Sleep sacks — these are great but a little pricey. You only need a couple of them. They keep the baby warm at night without the risk traditional blankets pose.
  • Papasan swing — I received this swing when I was pregnant with my first child. Both of my kids really loved it. The seat swing direction has two options. There is a mirror for the baby directly above their faces, the music is soothing and the colors muted. It has gotten a lot of use between the two babies and it has held up well.
  • Avent bottle brush — this is a small thing but you will have to use it frequently if you breastfeed and have to pump for daycare or if you bottle feed. I went through lots of bottle brushes with my first daughter; non of them held up. I bought this one based on the reviews on Amazon and I have not had to replace it yet. I just toss it in the dishwasher on the top rack to clean it. Its really sturdy and I plan on keeping it once we are done with bottles for cleaning other glassware like vases.
  • Anita Nursing bra — I found this brand by looking at reviews on Amazon. These are pricey bras at $60 a piece but they are worth every penny. I cheaped out on my first baby and bought a $20 nursing bra and hated it. This one is really well made and I continue to wear it even though I am no longer breastfeeding, its that comfortable.
  • Portable play-mat — I originally registered for one of those enormous play mats for my second daughter. But then I remembered that my first daughter only used it for a few months and the large size was a pain to deal with (which is why I got rid of it as soon as she outgrew it). So I found a travel sized one on walmart.com for about $15. It was a great purchase. My baby loved it, it was more manageable in our cramped quarters and I didn’t feel bad that she only used it for a few months because I paid so little for it. Plus, it was really convenient to take it with us when we were visiting family and friends.
  • Bright Starts Around We Go Activity Center — I am not sure when she started using this item, probably around the 5-6 month mark. We had this from our first baby who loved it and our second daughter is no different. I have it in our kitchen and it keeps her happy while I cook dinner in the evening or pack lunches in the morning. There are a good variety of toys to keep her interested. Now that she is a bit older the snack tray and cup holder come in handy. But her favorite feature is that she is able to “run” around with her older sister. They play a cute game of chasing each other. I have recommended this to other moms and their babies have also loved it. If you are going to get a baby entertainment-center type thing, I recommend this one. Plus, once your baby is older the seat detaches so she can stand and play with the table component.
  • Under the Nile Organic cotton soft toys — my high school BFF purchased these for my first daughter and I absolutely adored them. First of all they have the sweetest, little, happy faces. Very simple but so sweet. And because they are made from organic cotton, I felt comfortable with my babies putting them in their mouths.
  • Gerber waffle knit receiving blankets — these are simple and do the job. They were a nice size and the fabric has a little bit of stretch which allows for a good swaddle.

 

So these are my favorite baby items. In another couple of months I will list my favorite items from the 6 -12 month stage. I love lists and I particularly loved reading lists like this when I was pregnant and trying to figure out what items I would need. I hope others find this useful.

Oops

Well, its been 7 months since I last posted.  Returning to work had a larger impact on my blogging and decluttering than I anticipated.  I did however continue to declutter. So here is my quick update: I took my clothes to the adult consignment shop and they accepted about half of them.  I think I made around $30.  I also took my fall/winter maternity clothes to a consignment shop.  I believe I made around $40 on those.  I have also begun entertaining the idea of having a yardsale.  I had a bad experience about 6 years ago where I made virtually no money on my yardsale and so I have not attempted another one.  But because my baby is now 10 months I have quite a few large baby items I would like to get out of my house.  I have been reading yardsalequeen.com to psych myelf up about it and to learn some tips so that I actually make some money this time around. 

Other future plans include  another round of clothing drops for my summer clothes.  I still have warm weather maternity clothes to purge and my youngest’s outgrown infant clothes.   I also want to try to sell some of our unused electronics through one of the websites like gazelle.  I will do my best to provide follow-up this time around.

Clothing Purge Update

Well, the clothing purging has been more time consuming than I originally thought. Part of the problem is that we have clothes in multiple locations (our closet, laundry room, storage boxes, guest room closet, kicked under the furniture, etc.), so just when I thought I had made a dent in it I came upon another stash. Add to that my children’s clothes and it started to feel overwhelming which is the point I usually give up and quit. But because I started this blog and made a commitment to finally get rid of all the extraneous stuff in our lives, I have stuck with it. My other problem is that I greatly overestimated my free time, or at least the time I would be willing to devote to purging. While I do want to eliminate the unnecessary clutter from my life, I do not want this pursuit to rule my life. I have been using my last week of maternity leave to connect with family and friends and spend time cuddling my kids. Once I return to work I won’t have as many free days to see family and friends and my cuddling time will be drastically reduced. So these things took precedent this week.

We did make some progress in another area of clutter – our garage. We have a one car garage that has literally NEVER had one of cars parked in there, well, unless you count my daughters purple princess car. Today I helped my husband begin the process of sorting through it all. I organized all our extra paper towels and toilet paper courtesy of Costco, as well as, a bag of things from a previous job I left 2.5 years ago. I also came across a bag of items that belonged to my deceased mom. Dealing with items from a deceased loved one is a post in and of itself so I will save discussion of that until later. Our goal with the garage is to get it cleared out to the point where we can easily move around and then next Spring begin a major purge. I did find some baby items I never used with my first child that I am going to post on Craigslist or eBay so there may be a financial payoff to cleaning it out. Hopefully next week the clothing cleanout will be complete and then we can focus solely on getting the garage in better condition before cold weather arrives.

Getting Started

I have decided that the first area targeted for the assault will be our clothing. We have a walk in closet in our bedroom that ironically enough, we cannot walk in. I never thought of myself as someone who likes to shop or has tons of clothes. I always roll my eyes at those people on one of my favorite shows, House Hunters, that consider walking away from a otherwise great home because they don’t believe there is enough space for all their clothes. Clearly I am disillusioned about my clothing situation because the current state of our closet shows that we don’t have enough room for all our clothes. I am ashamed of this both because it is so chaotic and messy but also because it is so wasteful. How much money and time have I spent shopping for clothes I never wear?

I am in the process of sorting through all our clothes, as well as our children’s, to get rid of all those items that no longer fit and/or we no longer wear. This is all easier said than done. So far I have I dropped off clothing to a couple consignment shops, one specializing in women’s clothing and the other in children’s clothing and maternity. For anyone who hasn’t used a consignment shop, most only accept clothing from better labels and they have to be in excellent condition. Then you usually earn 30%-50% of whatever they sell for. There are also consignment stores that pay you upfront for your items. Will likely try to sell some my daughter’s nicer, dresses (for Christmas and weddings) on eBay because I think I will make more money for them there. I looked into selling my maternity clothing on eBay but after checking out what maternity clothes were selling for I realized it wasn’t work my time to photograph them all and create the listings. It was much quicker to drop them off for consignment. I have used the children’s consignment shop in the past and have made between $15 and $40 each time. Not a large amount of money but it’s something we can put toward reducing our debt and it’s always great to get unnecessary items out of my house. This is my first time using the women’s consignment shop so I don’t have any sense as to how much I will make. I plan on keeping a tab on who much money we raise by selling our unused items. I think that will serve as motivation for those times when I’d rather not deal with decluttering. The remaining items that can’t go to consignment I am placing in bags to drop off at Goodwill. I hope to be done with the entire process by the end of the week. My maternity leave is ending in a week so it will be nice to actually enter our closet when trying to get ready for work. With a newborn and a preschooler, my mornings will be chaotic enough.

So my journey to having less has begun. It feels good.

Hello World

I am a 30 something, married, working, mother of two, living in suburbia. Sound familiar? I believe I probably fit that soccer mom demographic that was popular back in the Clinton years. Everyone in my position knows that juggling caring for 2 small children, managing a household, working 40 hours a week and maintaining a happy marriage is at times exhausting. Distractions in the form of clutter only complicate the process. I tell you all of this because I am proclaiming an assault on all the extra stuff in my life and I want you to understand my starting point in this journey of elimination. Through this blog I will chronicle my experiences at paring down the extra clutter, extra pounds, and debt in order to have more space, time and money so that my family can focus on spending time together pursuing the things we value.

My inspiration for this journey came from other bloggers. For the past couple years I have been following various blogs on minimalism, personal finance and fitness. I believe it is time for me to take the plunge and start putting into practice all I have learned. I am sharing it with you because I noticed that many of the minimalist bloggers I followed (although certainly not all) are younger and do not have children. I think the longer you wait to hop on the minimalist bandwagon the more luggage you bring. So with that in mind, if I can make a meaningful change in my life through adopting various minimalism tactics, then you will see that you can too. It is my way of paying it forward. I was inspired by others and so I hope my successes, and likely failures too, will inspire whoever stumbles across this blog to take the next step to moving toward a more minimalist approach to living. And truth be told, it’s a way to keep me moving forward by making me more accountable for following through on this assault on my accumulated stuff.