Archive for January 2014

Q&A series, part 4 - what is your legacy

This is the final post in my Q&A series, and today I thought I would put a different spin on it by submitting my own question. This past weekend, I spent time working with my father on helping him to de-clutter areas in his home. He lives in the house he grew up in and when my grandparents passed away, all their items and collections just stayed in the house along with anything that my father had accumulated. My father has four other siblings, so for sure, there were lots of photos and memorabilia highlighting them as well in the home. I decided that tackling the enormous bookcase in the living room would be the best use of our time. We sifted through photos, photo albums, books, travel books from all the countries that my grandparents had visited, pamphlets, framed pictures of awards and honors that my grandfather had received as a businessman. From time to time, my father would pause as we sifted through the items asking me if I needed this or that or had a use for it. My answer was a resounding no.

I've been thinking lately about my legacy and what I'm leaving behind for my family to sift through. If I take on possessions that belonged to my grandparents, and then one day the things that belonged to my parents, plus my own items, that's a lot of stuff to be traveling through life with. Do I want my children to feel a burden to keep all these things when I'm gone just because they were sentimental to me? What do I want my legacy to be? Do I want it to be collections of stuff or albums...? These are all questions I'm asking myself as I try to navigate what I keep and what I discard.

Truth be told, I want my children to know what it is to travel light. I want them to experience the rush of selling everything they have or giving it away, to travel to another country and live simply among the culture. I want them to know the freedom of one of life's greatest adventures to give up yourself and go to another land to serve the way I experienced it. And it's hard to do these things when you are tied to a lot of stuff.

I'm thankful for God's abundant blessings in my life. He's given me a beautiful home with beautiful things in it and I'm grateful for it. But at the end of my day and the end of my life, let it be said of me, that I chose to serve the Lord, I was kind to others, I was generous and focused on people, not material things. I want to pass on a legacy of faith to my children, a heritage that God has blessed our family and taken care of us no matter the circumstance. I don't want it to be that I was a person who collected stuff and was focused on keeping it clean, storing it, and taking care of it. I want to be a person who lived life with the most gusto and love that is possible.

I'm reminded of my most favorite book, "Appointment in Jerusalem". It's the story of Lydia Prince's legacy of faith, provision and how God fulfilled her yearnings to be a wife and mother but mostly to fulfill the unique purpose that God had for her. I think if I had to pinpoint exactly what I want my legacy to be - I would point to that book. I want my life's story to be summed up in a book that speaks hope, encouragement and passion to inspire others to live out their lives fulfilling the purpose for which God created them. I hope I'm on that journey.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Q&A - part 3. Making sense of the Pantry

I recently went through the closet in my guest bathroom on a periodic purge looking for more things to donate. There was a box with some travel supplies in it, sunscreen, ear plugs and that sort of thing. In there, were 7 tiny holders of dental floss - the kind that you get for free from your dentist. I literally had a hard time going to sleep that night because I couldn't stop thinking about all those packs of dental floss. You may laugh, but it was driving me nuts. Why did I even have those? Was I saving them up for some kind of dental emergency? We don't even use dental floss tape! We always buy dental picks because I have found they are stronger and I can re-use them.

Alas, the next morning I went straight to that bin and flung all that floss into my bag designated for the thrift store. I told my husband it was like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. He looked at me like I was crazy! But it's a prime example of the type of items that will continue to add up all over the house. Before we know it, we are living with clutter, which as you may know, is my nemesis.

I mention this story because in today's post, I'm addressing an area that I think will benefit us all including me. I am not perfect, and even I continue to organize and de-clutter on an ongoing basis. As people, we change; therefore our needs change. Just organizing a drawer or closet one way does not mean that it will fit your circumstances a year from now. That's why it's important to always be evaluating whether your current system works for you.

Chic Planner reader, Leighton, requested that I show a picture and talk about how I organize my pantry. When she submitted that to me, my first thought was "oh no, now I need to re-do my pantry." :) I knew the system I had wouldn't be one that could easily be adapted by everyone so I needed to come up with a way of organizing my dry goods that could be adapted in each household no matter the pantry or cabinet size. I have worked with clients who only have cabinets to hold their dry/canned goods with little to no pantry space whatsoever. The first thing that I tell clients who are operating with limited kitchen storage is not to buy in bulk at large box stores. You simply don't have room to stock up on cans of soup and rice. You need to purchase what you need on a weekly or biweekly basis so that:
1. You can see what you have and that you don't have groceries falling on you every time you open a cabinet and 2. you will actually eat what you buy instead of pushing it to the back of the cabinet. This technique will actually save you a lot of money as well. 

My second recommendation is to organize your pantry based on your needs and the way your brain works. When I say baking box what does your mind think of? I think of pastry bags and tips, vanilla, cookie sprinkles, cookie cutters.... but I had a client say to me that she thought of a meat thermometer, twine for tying turkey legs together, a baster, spices and rubs. So the point is to organize by what makes sense to you, not the way I do it or even what you have seen on Pinterest. In this example, I'm using 4 main shelves in my Pantry. I did not design this Pantry nor would I recommend wire racks but I'm using what I already had to work with.

Shelf 1: From the left, I have kitchen towels and cloths, baskets for fruits and vegetables, a box for spices, and a baking box with sprinkles, pastry tips, cookie cutters etc. I only access this box when I'm making birthday cakes and desserts for special occasions. Honestly the box holding my spices is too small for the number of jars, but it was an extra box that I already owned. I like to use things that I already have instead of buying new, but I'm still considering a new home for them and just haven't decided on the perfect spot yet.

Shelf 2: From the left are baking ingredients including: vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, yeast... next I have canisters of wheat berries and sugar. Since I bake a lot from scratch then this is the shelf that I use all the time, so it needed to be the lower shelf that was easy for me to access since I'm vertically challenged. :)

Shelf 3: I reserve the 3rd shelf for my rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, crackers, beans.... The 4th shelf houses my blender since we rarely use it, extra glass jars and bottles, whole wheat berries that wouldn't fit in my containers and some leftover birthday party supplies. On the floor, I keep my shopping bags and a box containing my vinegars and oils. I can assure you that I will continue to tweak and change this as I do everything in my house. :)  Just having re-organized my pantry has given me a happy heart. Now go forth and organize. :)

Q&A - part 2. How to de-clutter when you don't have time

For those of you who think my house is in perfect working order, spotlessly clean from top to bottom and that I have this whole thing running in tip top shape - you are wrong. I still struggle like the rest of you with mountains of laundry, frozen chicken that I forgot to thaw in time, and children up under my feet all the time so that doing my floors feels near impossible. Thus the need for this blog post. Chic Planner reader, Catherine, wants to know how I get it all done and if I have a wand that I can wave over her house so that every drawer and cupboard will be finally de-cluttered. Catherine, if I had a wand, I would use it first, I promise. :)

For those of you struggling with life's distractions then I'm sure you can understand. It may not be little ones up under your feet, but you may be putting in overtime at work. Or maybe you are caring for an elderly parent or a sick family member, sickness and aging can for sure eat up our time. There is always going to be something that we are going through in life. A wise friend said recently, "we are either going through something, coming out of something or about to enter something. It's all cyclical."
To sum it up, we all have distractions in our lives, no matter the form they take and we have all been given the same amount of time each day.

There are some days that I'm so exhausted by the time we finally get our children to bed that even just turning on the dishwasher takes more than what I have left to give. So let's not get into a comparison game with what others are doing or what we think we should be doing. Give yourself some grace and tackle each cabinet or drawer in 15 minute increments. Lately I've been finding time between dinner and bedtime when my husband is playing with the kids and I have a few moments of focused attention. I can generally carve out 15 minutes a day, but if I can't for some reason, then no big deal. I will try again tomorrow. I learned this philosophy from The Flylady, Marla Cilley. Marla says that when embarking on de-cluttering a whole house, stop doing any deep cleaning except for the basics of dishes, laundry and the bathrooms and just focus that time on de-cluttering your whole home. Once it is is de-cluttered, then you start your detailed cleaning that helps you to maintain a clean home. When unwanted items enter my home, I discard them immediately into my giveaway bag that I mentioned last week.

I have been so impressed and encouraged by all the reports that my readers send me about the progress made in their homes. Please keep it up and don't get discouraged if it doesn't happen as quickly as you want it to. Rome wasn't built in a day. :)

Please continue to send your questions through for our Q&A series. I love hearing from you so please keep me updated on your de-cluttering progress. 

Q&A series - part 1. how to reduce unwanted gifts

Welcome to my Q&A series. Throughout January, I will be answering questions that Chic Planner readers have submitted via the blog, facebook or by email.

Chic Planner reader, Mallory, asks what to do when you have adopted the minimalist lifestyle but people continue to give you gifts that are not congruent with your new way of living.

Mallory, thanks for the question! I think it's important to recognize that the most important change is the one that has happened on the inside of you. Just by adopting your new lifestyle, not only have you reduced your carbon footprint, but you have created visual creativity in your home and reduced stress. As an added bonus, you are now saving money, because you no longer mindlessly shop and bring things home to your newly pristine and de-cluttered environment.

I also think it's important to remember that people show you love by giving gifts. I think that the public in general and America especially, have become so caught up in materialism that they can't imagine giving a coupon for a service instead of a cashmere sweater at Christmas. However, there are so many wonderful ways to show love instead of a tangible item like: cooking a meal for someone, mowing a neighbor's yard, babysitting kids so an exhausted couple can have a date night, having coffee with someone who needs a friend or maybe it's writing someone a note to tell them how much you care for them. One of my most treasured possessions is a hand-written note from a friend that I received last year. In this note, she referred to me as a Proverbs 31 woman; the highest compliment in my book. I still pull that note out from time to time to read it and it encourages me and makes me smile every time.

As you continue to pursue your new lifestyle, friends and family will catch on, and become more sensitive to your needs and wants. But I encourage you to think outside the box as well when it comes to gift giving, as it is reciprocal. This Christmas, I gave my father a coupon for two hours of de-cluttering services provided by me and authorized by my husband. :) My father is in the midst of a major house renovation so that gift was timely, much needed, and not only will it give me quality time with him, but will help him in his current house project.

Don't fret about little odds and ends that enter your home on the occasional basis. Just set aside a shopping bag in your closet and then deposit unwanted items until the bag is full and can be donated or dropped off at a thrift store. I can't hold every person responsible for compliance with my lifestyle but the changes that I have made personally in the way I shop and run my household are enough for me. Best wishes!

The Q&A series continues through January so submit your questions on the blog or you can email me:

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