Call a friend.

I recently worked with a client who didn't want to have people over to her home because she was embarrassed by the mess and the stuff everywhere. She had inherited and collected many things but she didn't have a home for them and they were in different piles all over her house. Maybe you can identify with her. I think we all long to be known for being hospitable, for opening our home to others and it serving as a place of peace and refreshment for all weary souls that enter its dwelling.

But how can we do this when our guests have to step over piles just to reach the powder room? The prescription is a good and hearty purge session. This is what my dear friend needed the most, and while she knew what she should do, she was having a hard time getting it done herself. Sometimes in life, we need someone to just hold our hand and walk a little distance with us on our journey. Life is easier in pairs.

Maybe you can't afford a professional to help you. That's okay. All you really need is a friend. Find someone who loves you and will hold your hand for just three hours. That is a great place to start. This friend will help you get the ball rolling and once you see the dramatic difference, then you will be strong enough to face the rest on your own. Gather some big black trash bags and boxes. Arrange for a local pickup from a thrift store for later in the afternoon after your purge session. Then fix yourself a cup of tea, admire what you accomplished, and remember, this is the start of a whole new chapter in your life. An abundance of possibilities lay at your feet now.

Excess. It can happen to dogs too.

A client of mine recently told me that her husband was making the family dog de-clutter his bones and toys. My client was appalled. I was cheering him on. :) I told her that there was nothing wrong with a dog having a capsule bone collection. In the end, Jack kept the largest bones and let the smaller ones go. Good dog!

So even dogs have excess just like us humans. When I think of excess generally one thing comes to mind: clothing, particularly for Americans. Last week, I mentioned the talk I gave recently about simplifying. Another key area that I addressed was the capsule wardrobe. So I thought I would post a few points here about it. I'm sure I've already mentioned them here and here but I like to say, there's always room for fresh revelation from the Holy Spirit in any area or on any topic no matter how much you have heard it before.

De-cluttering my wardrobe was the first step on my minimalist journey and it set the stage for everything else that I did in my home. It believe it's the most powerful thing you can do for yourself and it's the starting point for clearing the excess from your homes and lives.

Here is what a capsule wardrobe will do for you:

- It gives you peace
- It removes stress
- It frees up space in your closet
- It removes materialism and self-focus

3 key points:

1. Have a few pieces that you love and wear - We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time because we will always gravitate towards those pieces that we feel beautiful and stylish in. The number one key to this is knowing your colors. The colors that are most flattering for your skin tone and hair color. You will find that this book is dead on 99% of the time. Remember, you can generally go up or down a shade.

2. Buy classic investment pieces and cheap trendy - I recommend to my clients to buy the highest quality that they can afford within their budget and lifestyle. There are certain items that I'm willing to pay more money for like pants but not shirts. My pants seem to last a lot longer for me but my shirts not so much probably from the wear and tear of toddlers pulling on them. I like to buy trendier pieces at discount prices as they generally don't last past a season or two.

3. De-clutter your wardrobe and use numbers to slim down your items - I've discovered that I only need two sets of pajamas, the same through summer and winter (I'm cold natured at night). I also only need one swimsuit, one sunhat and one cover up. Experiment and determine what's right for you.

You can't go wrong with a capsule wardrobe. You're in charge and if you find you need an additional item then just buy it. But here's a warning: once you start dressing this way, you won't be able to stop. Freedom is addictive. :)

Simplifying dinner time

I recently spoke to a group of young women gathered in a friend's home for a weekly bible study. The topic was simplifying. I covered three areas: clothing (capsule wardrobe), routines and finances. One of the most flexible and easy ways to gain control in the area of finances is to make a menu plan. A menu plan is your road map to a less stressful dinnertime and week.

Here's what a menu plan can do for you:

- reduces stress at dinnertime
- makes shopping easier
- reduces food waste
- saves money

There are any number of printable templates floating around on the Internet so I won't bother posting some here. Or you can just keep it really non-fancy like I do, and just take a pad and pencil and just draw your own columns for the days of the week and three main meals.

I think it's important to plan out breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a special snack or dessert. It certainly would be a downer to get up in the morning, start making waffles only to realize that you didn't have enough eggs. That's why it's important to include breakfast too. Each meal takes ingredients. I realize this is not new information, however I think people have forgotten how important this tool is in their domestic tool belt.

Here are my steps to making a menu:

1. I start first with my calendar. Are there any meals that are already provided in the upcoming week, say a church potluck or date night at a restaurant? Then I schedule those meals first in the meal plan.

2. Cook once, eat twice. I always try to pick recipes where there are enough leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

3. Once meals and snacks are planned out, I go block by block of my menu plan adding the ingredients for each dish to the backside of my menu plan so nothing is forgotten.  I like to shop with mine in case I'm in the store wondering why I'm buying a can of adobo chilies.

4. I keep a menu plan started in my junk drawer so as the week goes by and we run out of a staple (for us, that's raisins, oatmeal, honey, etc.), either Steve or I can add it to the list because we both know where it is.

5. Post my plan on the fridge where everyone can see it. Not only does this help to clarify any confusion about what people are eating, what times and what days, but it helps the other spouse to know what they need to do in regards to starting dinner prep one night if necessary. For example, if my plan says spaghetti and I'm working late afternoon and stuck in traffic, then my husband knows to go to the freezer and pull out a jar of spaghetti sauce and start boiling the noodles.

Planning a menu can generally take around 30 minutes but it's so worth it in the end. Happy planning!

De-cluttering make-up brushes

Today I'm writing about some items that I'm de-cluttering in my home and why. I think sometimes we just need another perspective on how we can live without an item and why we don't need yet another thing busting out of our cabinets and closets.

This week, I'm getting rid of 11 (yes, I know it's ridiculous) extra make-up brushes that I have had for years. The truth is I have my favorites that I always use and these were just on standby in my bathroom cabinet in case I ever needed them for, oh I don't know, some fancy gala that I plan to go to and I want to really perfect my make-up. Okay, so let's dissect that for a second.

a. I don't go to galas anymore. I go to the park, date nights (movie and Mexican) and baby showers.

b. If I do at any point get the opportunity to put on a ball gown and get dressed up for a night on the town, then I'm probably going to make the most of the experience and get my make-up done by a professional.

c. Because of a. and b., I decided that's it's time to let go of those brushes and the what ifs.

I mean if I ever really decide that I need a specific make-up brush for something then I can just go buy one. For the past few years, I haven't used any brushes that are in this make-up bag. So then why am I holding onto them? Out they go.

A teenager getting interested in make-up or maybe a new mom who wants to re-invent herself or freshen up her look can obtain my old brushes at my local thrift store for pennies on the dollar. It's just a shame for me to hold onto things when it could be the very item that someone else has been looking for.

So here are my current brushes that I'm keeping in my make-up bag.
1. Blush brush - doubles as a powder brush. I haven't been using powder lately - going for a more dewy, natural look. I mostly use cream blush so I may be able to do away completely with this brush soon. Which, as you probably know makes me happy. The less stuff, the happier I become and I'm a fan of anything that I can apply with my fingertips.

2. Eyeshadow brush that can also be used to apply highlighter on my face. Right now I'm using my fingertips for applying highlighter so I typically only use this for eyeshadow, but it can do double-duty when needed. I generally only wear eyeshadow at night or for special occasions.

3. Eyebrow brush and honestly the eyebrow brush could potentially be used as eyeliner brush but I just haven't tried it yet.

So that's it. That's my make-up arsenal. Not fancy but certainly functional and minimalist. Just the way I like it. I like to fit all my toiletries and cosmetics into a small bag in case I need to quickly jet to the city (which almost never happens) or hop a plane to Paris. You know in case my husband invites me on a spontaneous getaway to Europe, I can grab my one make-up bag quickly. Hey, one can dream right? :)

Simple is the answer

I often work with clients who have trouble with depression and anxiety. Add to that someone coming in their house and going through their things and it's enough to send anyone into a frenzy. So this is why I advise clients who are struggling with feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious, to simplify. Removing the burden of choices from your life will in essence remove anxiety. It sounds stupidly simple but the truth is, it works.

For instance, I was recently working through a client's jewelry collection only to discover that she had many options or variations of almost the same earring. They looked so similar that really she just needed to pick her favorite pair and toss the rest. When someone is struggling in depression and is just surviving day to day, the last thing that person needs is to be burdened by options. Pick the simple earrings: your favorite ones. Your go-to pair. Maybe it's the diamond studs or that favorite pair of gold hoops. In this case, for someone who needs room to breathe in their life, I recommend coming up with a comfortable number for your jewelry. A capsule jewelry collection perhaps. Pick 5 classic earrings and donate the rest. Here's an example:
1. pearl studs
2. diamond studs
3. silver or gold hoops
4. a funky earring (either in color or style)
5. dressy earring (something appropriate for cocktail attire)

All 5 are excellent choices and would for sure work with any number of outfits. I feel like you can't go wrong with these classic pieces.

Let's not make life harder than it is. We all go through tough times and tough seasons. Give yourself a break and treat yourself to simple. Simple everything!

Re-focusing my priorities

In the midst of the worst and challenging season that we have been through with our son, I overhauled our entire file system. We recently received the diagnosis that our son has speech and developmental delays and that he is on the autism spectrum. So, you may be wondering why in the midst of all that, would I be working on house projects, organizing and deleting files. But what do you do when you are stressed? Some people run, others cook and still others get a coffee with a friend and some of us: well, we organize.

With my son's diagnosis, I had no idea whether I would need to buy special items, toys or materials to work with him and help him cope. I had re-organized his closet but I felt the need to have my house very organized and to clear out the clutter to make room for what was coming in terms of physical space but also emotional. I needed our filing system to be so detailed and organized that if I needed to locate something for my son's therapist or doctor then I could immediately put my hands on it.

This isn't your typical Chic Planner post but I hope it still inspires you anyway. No matter the problems you face in life, don't be a slave to your home. Let it work for you and not the other way around. When life throws challenges your way, I find that scaling back and making things simpler makes life easier for us. With all the therapy and doctors appointments coming down the line for my son, my husband and I have determined that we have two goals right now and we measure all future commitments and activities against them.

first goal: to be debt free including our mortgage. The burden of debt weighs on one's marriage, physical health, emotional health and ability to live and enjoy life to its fullest. It also inhibits generous giving because how can you give what you don't have or what your paying to car loans and student loans? Steve and I recently paid off my student loan from college but now we are working on paying off his very expensive master's degree from a private school. When trips and potential dinners come up, they are measured against this goal. Will this opportunity help us in achieving our goal or not? This is the question we ask ourselves before we commit to anything.

second goal: to get help and therapy for our son. When we take care of our family first and make sure that everything is being done to get family members the help they need, then the impact will be a better and stronger marriage, a more peaceful home and living environment, improved relationships and less stress. So in this goal, we ask ourselves, how will this activity/opportunity help our son/family? If it won't, then at this time, we may say, "no". And that's okay. Because these goals may only be for a season until we get over this hurdle.

I encourage you to consider what is your top priority for your life/family. Are you measuring all future commitments against this?

A few ways to save money

I like to think of Steve and I as fairly savvy shoppers and consumers. We go into great research on every item that we buy making sure that it is going to do exactly what we need and that we get the best deal we possibly can. But there are also lots of little ways to save a few dollars and that adds up as well. Here is a list of some of things we do.

1. Utilize your local library for all your entertainment needs. Instead of purchasing books for your child, why not give them the experience of rotating books out each week or so from the library. That way you don't have a ton of books piling up in your home and there is always something new and exciting to choose from. Instead of Redbox, we head to our local library on a Friday night to find something that interests us.

2. Share an appetizer for date night instead of ordering separate entrees. Since my husband and I are trying to eat healthier and watch our portions, this works great not only for the waistline but the wallet, too. You can even take advantage of discounted prices by dining late afternoon/early evening. Many times on an early Friday evening last summer, Steve and I could be found dining al fresco at Chuy's which overlooks this gorgeous view of our city for a bill total of $12. They offered a full cheese dip buffet (honestly, I do have a love for cheese dip) and by sharing a salad or appetizer it was the perfect amount of food for us.

3. Utilize blow money. When each adult in your household has a specified amount of blow money then it is up to him/her to use it at their discretion. But when it's gone, it's gone. So if someone opts to pick up Wendy's on the way home instead of eating the food in the fridge, then that's $5 less blow money they will have to spend elsewhere. By carrying this in cash, it will actually keep you from spending it. I hold onto my blow money for as long as I can because I never know what might come up. I don't want to blow it all in one day because what if someone invites me to meet them for lunch later in the month. This principle works in our favor because we become even tighter on the purse strings and it forces us to get creative. One friend of mine started doing a picnic in the park for lunch with friends instead of restaurant dining. I thought that was a genius idea.

4. Use the envelope system. When we pay with cash we have routinely found over and over again that we are spending way less than we used to. Also, we don't borrow from the different envelopes and many months end up with some extra money in them to give us a little extra cushion. Who doesn't love finding a $20 bill in the pocket of their jeans? This time, it's already in the way you do your accounting. :)

What are your tips for saving money?

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