Category: - Living Simply
I often struggle with what it means to "live simply" because life doesn't seem to be simple.  It actually just seems to get more crazy each day.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs: Frugal Granola and loved this post about living simply.  She says it better than I could.

Read the post here!

So, what things (activities and/or possessions) do you and your family need to "cut" to make time and room for the things that really matter?  Please share.
Continuing on with ridding chemicals from my family's life, I tackled lip balm and was pleasantly surprised with the results!  I think this recipe is sooo much better than Chapstix or Burts Bees and since it is petroleum-free my wonderful husband can even kiss me without dealing with his reaction to petroleum products!

I use my "improvised double boiler method" to make lip balm, lotion bars, lotion, deodorant so that I don't have to do extra dishes!
- Place all ingredients in a glass jar and place the jar in a pan of hot water on the stove.  You can easily keep the water hot (and melt your ingredients without dirtying a pan or worrying about burning your ingredients.  This is especially helpful since I have little ones and can't keep a constant eye on my projects :-)  When you are done, just cool the jar and leftover ingredients in the jar, put the lid on the jar, label the jar and save until next time.  Dump the hot water out of your pan and place in dish drainer to dry -- no dishes!

Natural Lip Balm
3 Tbsp Bees Wax
2 Tbsp Palm Oil or Coconut Oil
2-3 Tbsp Shea Butter
1 Tbsp Sweet Almond Oil

Melt everything together in your jar.  Use a small dropper or syringe to fill empty lip balm tubes.  Cool filled tubes and use!  Makes about 25-30 tubes.

I'm still trying to figure out how to add beet powder to make a tinted lip far my beet powder has not really mixed in and not really tinted enough to

If you haven't started menu planning, I encourage you to try it this year.  It has made my life TONS easier!  My husband likes me to make meals that we know we like -- he is not into much experimentaion and doesn't mind repetition so our menu plan might look a bit boring to your family, but it works great for us!  The daily themes give me some creative room if need be, then I can try something new but still in the same theme.  I can also switch themes from one day to another during the week if I need to because of schedule or supplies on hand.

Breakfasts -- Oatmeal (sometimes I make baked oatmeal)
Lunches -- sandwiches and/or leftovers
Suppers -- Monday (Beef); Tuesday (Beans or Lentils); Wednesday (Chicken or Turkey); Thursday (Eggs); Friday (Pizza); Saturday (Pancakes or Waffles); Sunday (Eggs) 

To download our actual menu click here.

Remember, we don't eat nightshade (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes), so if you do then you have lots of other things you can add to your menu!                                 
Eliminating chemicals is a bit tough to do, so we started with one thing at a time and once we "mastered" one thing, This was our first change.  Thanks to Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking for her great recipie that actually works!  Click Here for Lindsay's Recipie.  We've tweaked it a bit and really like it!  Here is our version:

2 parts coconut oil (softened/slightly melted)
1 part bees wax (melted)
1 part baking soda
1 part cornstarch (100% pure, now that I've used up all my cornstarch, I'll be buying arrowroot powder)
Mix together, spoon into an empty deoderant container, let cool to harden and use!

I usually make more than one container full and just save it in a glass jar to refill the deoderant container when needed.
As I've tried to make my lifestyle more healthy I've come to realize that in addition to changing our eating and cooking habits, I needed to change our personal hygine products to eliminate chemicals.  I also discovered that these "natural" and "green" products available at our local stores are often not "natural" or "green" and are expensive!  I've done some research, stumbled upon great ideas and experimented.  I'll be sharing what I've discovered and what is "cooking" in my kitchen for body care products. 
Laundry can be a seemilngly never ending task.  Just as you think you are finished, more appears -- as if by magic!  It is hard to feel like you ever accomplish anything because it is a never ending task.  I think I do at least seven loads each week (plus two loads per week of cloth diapers).  Here is what I have found works for me to simplify this process and make it seem less overwhelming:

Remember that laundry is another way that you can serve your family and glorify God in the process.

Sort when you take an item off.  I place three laundry baskets on the closet floor.  Then we sort dirty clothes as we take them off -- one for darks, one for lights and one for whites.  I choose baskets so that each holds only one load worth of laundry.  I have another basket in the laundry room (a closet really) that I put dishrags, towels and cleaning rags into.  When this gets full I wash it.

Maximinze loads.  Once  a week, or so, I wash bedsheets.  I throw whatever else is in the same color family into the load until it is full.  Whenever a basket is full, I do that load.  It only takes a few minutes throughout the day to do a load of laundry.  This way I don't have to spend my whole day doing laundry and it doesn't seem like such a large task.

Pre-treat stains. We keep the stain pre-treater in the closet so that we treat stains when we take the clothes off and before they go into the laundry basket.  We also check pockets, zip and button pants, etc. so that it doesn't have to be done later.

Simplify! We use one type of laundry detergent for everything: Charlie's Soap.  It is hypoallergenic, good for the environment, tough on dirt and cloth diapers yet gentle enough for everything and is very frugally priced!  I don't buy fabric softener or dryer sheets -- if your clothes are really clean you don't need them!  I haven't noticed any problems with static; it only happens in the winter and then the dryer sheets didn't help anyway!  I do use oxygen bleach occasionally in the load with my whites -- it brightens dingy whites but is safe to use on colors too -- great for those "mostly white" loads!  Oxygen Bleach is also great to use with cloth diapers, especially if you have hard water -- it really gets them smelling clean!

Buy easy care.  We purposefully buy clothing that is easy care -- can go into the drier and doesn't need to be ironed -- for everyday wear.  The things that require more care are special items that we don't use as often -- mostly dress clothes for us but if you work in a business environment that you need to wear dress clothes daily, it is worth the extra money to invest in easy care pieces that do not need to be ironed or drycleaned.
Cooking from scratch is easy, quick and inexpensive with a bit of advance planning and the right recipies.  I marvel at all the magazines that boast "5 Easy Weeknight Meals in 30 Minutes or Less."  I look at these recipies and agree that they may take less than 30 minutes to make, but they require expensive pre-made "convenience" foods, are unhealthy, require things I don't keep stocked in my kitchen, or are something my husband will not eat, not to mention my toddler.  

I also desire that my family eats as healthy as possible.  This means I make most things from scratch because then I know what is in it -- avoiding processed foods and preservatives.  I only use whole wheat flour, brown rice and oatmeal (I'm working on incorporating a variety of other whole grains).  I buy whole milk from cows not given hormones, real butter, coconut oil, etc.

The key to cooking from scratch is to plan ahead.  Some things take very little hands on time but require longer cooking times or require soaking (dried beans) before they can be cooked.  I try to do as much of my supper prep as possible in the mornings -- my toddler is happiest then and this reduces a stressed and rushed dinner time.  I also like to make bigger batches and freeze the extras for another meal -- this takes basically the same amount of time and you made two meals at once!

Check out the Recipies section for some great and easy "Real Food" recipies!
We all want to look "in style" and "put together" but we don't want to spend lots of money and time to do it.  We want to look "in style" but not "too trendy".  Here a are a few suggestions:

Take a close look at your current wardrobe:
     What do you wear a lot?
     What do you feel looks good on you?
     What general "style" do your favorite clothes have?
     What is your lifestyle -- what kind of clothes do you need?

Get rid of anything that doesn't fit, that you don't like to wear, or that you don't think you look good in.

Focus on stocking your closet with things that coordinate (mix-and-match) well.  Stick to classic styles and colors.  Make sure that you have something appropriate for every occasion -- funerals, weddings, job interviews, work, everyday, etc.

Make sure that you have the "extras" that you need to go everything -- underthings (the "right" bra), nylons, socks, shoes, belts, purses, jewelry.  Remember, you are going for basic/classic and multi-tasking.

Next, fill in your wadrobe with inexpensive extras -- trendy shirts, jewelry, purses.  These things you will be replacing every year or more -- make sure they are inexpensive and that you won't feel bad getting rid of them when they wear out (which they will do sooner since they are made more cheaply) or go out of style.

We all want rooms in our home to be beautiful and pleasant to look at.  And with all the options out there, this can become a daunting task.  Here are a few tips to help:

1. Begin by choosing a "neutral" color as your main color.  It doesn't have to be a "traditionaly" neautral color (brown, white, gray, black) but a color that you really love and that you want to live with for a long time.  I really like the warmth of chocolate brown but obviously I can't paint all my walls chocolate brown, so I found the color I really liked on a paint card and choose one several shades lighter.  This is my base color -- my walls and furniture are one of the shades of this color on the paint card.  Now, if I left it like this it would all match but would be a bit boring, because I like color!  I chose colors I loved as accent colors for things like curtains, throw blankets, pillows, etc. that are inexpensive to replace should I want a new look or simply to change looks by season or by holiday.

2. Save bold paint colors for bathrooms and bedrooms.   Non-public areas are the best for bold paint colors because if you tire of them they can be changed without the expense of having to change multiple rooms also. 

3. Incorporate live plants into your rooms.  Plants bring warmth and life to rooms.  Choose ones that are easy to grow needing minimal care (unless you really enjoy taking care of house plants, then choose whatever you want!). 

4. Choose furniture that is comfortable and durable for daily use.  We have young children, so everything has to be washable, cleanable, and durable.  We also don't have much money to spend so we have found most of our furniture at yard sales and thrift stores.  Choose pieces you love -- it doesn't have to match perfectly and it can be painted/refinished/recovered to create a unified look.

5. Consider how you use a room to determine how to decorate it.  Furnish and decorate a room according to how you use it -- not according to how the architect designed the room to be use (not what it is "called").  During my teenage years I spent quite a bit of time at one of my youth leader's homes.  Her kitchen had an area designed to be used as a dining area and her home had a separate dining room.  Her family used the separate dining room or the kitchen island to eat at and rarely used the table in the "eat-in" area of the kitchen.  So, she got rid of that table and moved in a couple of comfy chairs -- a new family hang-out area!  It became a favorite place in the home for the family (and the youth students) to hang out in...something about being near/in the kitchen...

6. Provide plenty of storeage for the things you want to keep handy.  Things like bookshelves, baskets, small dressers, tables with drawers, coffee tables with storeage, trunks, etc. work great for providing storeage and as well as places to display photos and mementos.

7. Choose accesories carefully.  I hate "dustables" -- things that sit around as decoration with no useful purpose besides needing to be dusted.  So, I choose things I really love to display -- things that I love enough to dust!  Mostly this is pictures of my family, quilts made by my mother-in-law, plants, etc.  Remember: too many accesories leave a cluttered look.  You need free space on table tops and level surfaces to achieve an uncluttered look.

To declutter and organize your home is everyones goal, but rarely does it happen.  It feels like an overwhelming project that can never be accomplished.  We urge you to take the time.  It will greatly reduce the stress in your life to have an organized and clutter-free home.  We were forced to do this when we moved into a 670 square foot, one bedroom house -- with a toddler!  Now we are living in this same house with a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old!  Here are some of our tips to help you with this project (and to prevent the re-acculmulation of stuff):

1. Don't let the seeming enormity of the task overwhelm you.  Take it 15 minutes at a time.  Take 15 minutes to tackle one closet or one cupboard or one drawer.  Even organizing one small thing will feel like a great accomplishment and will motivate you to tackle the next project.

2. Anything you don't use on a daily (or near daily) basis consider getting rid of.  Or at the very least re-assigning it to another location that is out of the way and not taking up prime real estate in your drawer, closet, or cupboard.

3. "A place for everything, and everthing in its place."  If you organize according to this and continue to live according to this principle, your home will become clutter-free and organized AND will stay that way!

4. Instigate the no-net-gain rule for most things.  Once your home is clutter free and organized you want to keep it this way.  This means returning things to "their place" and not accumulating things you don't have room for -- things that don't have a place!  Your clothes closet and dresser drawers is a good place to start.  Most of us have many clothes that we do not regularly wear and we tend to keep accumulating more.  Edit your wardrobe to what you wear often and to what you need to keep on hand for special occasions (weddings, funerals, holidays, etc) and get rid of the rest.  Each time you get something new consider getting rid of something you already own -- preferably a shirt for a shirt, pants for pants, etc.  Give your extra clothes to a friend, put them in a consignment shop, or give them to a thrift store.  This is also a good rule for those of you who tend to accumulate kitchen gadgets -- if you use it often, keep it; if you don't, get rid of it!