Meaningful Minimalism

I don’t like chaos!

I have never been one of those people who thrive on pressure or do their best work on a deadline. If you are one of those people – I admire you, but I don’t understand you. Not even a little bit.

Sure, a deadline can cause me to get things done because they have to be, but I can assure you that it won’t be my best work. I can also assure you that you don’t want to be around me during, or for a while following a time crunch. I get snappy and grumpy and more than a little yelly (it’s a word in my mom vocabulary). Even I don’t want to be around me then.

Just over 3 years ago, my oldest daughter caused me to take a good hard look at myself under pressure and how I affected those around me.

I have a bit of a side business during the Christmas Season where I bake and sell goodies. At this point I had not yet learned how to schedule orders properly and often committed to more orders per day than I should have.

This particular day I was extra snappy, grumpy and yelly and my then 3 year old just wanted my attention. I snapped at her far too harshly. She turned on her heels and headed straight for our bathroom. What I heard out of her mouth next was not only adorable, but wonderfully humbling.

Jesus,” she began, “I’m getting really frustrated with mom. I need some help here!”

She walked directly toward me with a confidence and purpose that I was unaware a 3 year old could possess.

Mom, we need to pray. Now!”

And we did. And I repented to my Saviour and then to my daughter. Both forgave me instantly and I knew that something needed to change.

I would love to tell you that I woke up the next morning a new woman and from that moment on my life was chaos free…nope. It has been slow.  It has backslidden more than once. It is still a work in progress, but progress none the less. One step at a time. No quick fixes or one size fits all solutions.

Here is how it started for me:

  1. Trimming the Excess

The summer following the above mentioned episode my husband and I sat down and took a good hard look at our finances and realized how we were being nickeled and dimed into living paycheque to paycheque. We looked at all the subscriptions we had and how little we really read any of them.

It was fun to get the latest issue of a magazine in the mail or the newspaper delivered daily, but we weren’t getting our money’s worth out of them. We would mindlessly flip through and read less than 10% of the actual publication. We cut out all but one and that one has become one of my husband’s birthday gifts since the renewal time coincides with his birthday.

My husband quit smoking. I don’t need to explain ALL the benefits of that one! I had quit previously when we decided to start a family.

We also took a look at how much he was spending almost daily at the local convenience store. $2 this day and $5 the next was adding up to $300/month! He started taking water with him to work in a giant thermos and cutting back on the other impulse items.

We cut down our cell packages. Huge savings there and we still had all the minutes that we needed.

The most difficult cut for us was our satellite TV. We had so many excuses but eventually came to the conclusion that BECAUSE it was so hard for us to give up was precisely why we needed to. TV had far too tight a grip on us.

We signed up for Netflix and after a bit of an adjustment period, I can honestly say we don’t miss having the dish. We certainly don’t miss commercials!

With this step done, we were saving hundreds of dollars each month. The benefit was not only monetary, but this relieved a great financial strain which relieved an emotional strain between us.

  1. Guarding Our Schedule

    I actually know people who's calendars look like this.  It makes me tired just looking at it!
    I actually know people who’s calendars look like this. It makes me tired just looking at it!

A few years ago I had a couple of girlfriends over for coffee and they looked at the calendar on my fridge and commented how nice it must be to have so much free time. It is not by accident or laziness that our calendar stays clearer than most people’s with young children. We work hard to keep it that way.

There are so many reasons to guard your time, and your reasons will not mirror mine. My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in Christian homes and it is of utmost importance for our children to have the same blessing. God comes first in our house!

That doesn’t mean that we spend every waking minute in bible study and prayer and live perfectly wholesome lives. Not even close. However, Sunday morning worship service is ALWAYS part of our schedule. We only miss church if we are out of town or very, very sick. Going to church doesn’t make us Super Christians, but it recharges us, teaches us, connects us to God and to others. My heart always grieves when I hear of families who have decided to trade church time for family time.

“Sunday morning is our only time to just relax and be together” is a common phrase.

I’ll tell you something – those two things are meant to go hand in hand! Relax together in God’s presence.

We also don’t over schedule our children.

Our oldest 2 attend BG Club twice yearly for 10 weeks at a time and we as parents love it and our children love it. If it conflicts with other activities, the other activities lose. Our oldest also does soccer in the spring. Our son tried it last year and did not have a good experience so he opted out this year.

I know my big girl would love dance, but it is more of a financial and time commitment than my husband and I are willing to give and she is just fine with that. We don’t feel like our children will lose out on their childhood if they don’t have EVERY experience available to them. Our belief is that they will gain more by having parents who are present and happy than they would by being rushed to and fro and having parents who are financially and emotionally drained.

I also have one day a week that I do my house cleaning. Of course I clean every day, but the dusting, floor washing, nooks and crannies cleaning happens every Thursday. My close friends know that if they show up unannounced they will see me in my cleaning dungarees with hair poorly pulled back and my kids probably still in pyjamas. They have been warned.

Again, I don’t like chaos and this ritual helps me conquer that.

  1. A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place…Even Papers

Oh vile paperwork. My nemesis!

Bills that have been paid, but need to be filed. An expense claim sent in to our insurance provider, awaiting payment. Home school marking/corrections.

Papers are so thin, but can create such an overwhelming presence in my home. It was so easy to just close the door.

A few months ago, I saw this thing on Pinterest. I tweaked it slightly but I now have a small hanging file box with folders for each day of the month and each month of the year. If the water bill needs to be paid on the 10th, it goes into the file dated the 10th. If I’m waiting for my expense cheque to come back I will file a note for the expected day to follow up if I haven’t received it yet.

Our mortgage renewal comes due in August so I have a note in the August folder to deal with that.

I go through the folder of the appropriate day and deal only with what is in there. When a new month starts I open that month’s folder and file everything according to the day it requires attention and start all over.

I also use this for my daughter’s lessons. She is in Kindergarten right now so it works. I know I will need something more complex as the years go on, but that’s a job for Future Wendy!

This is working and takes up minimal space!

  1. Meal Planning

I don’t mind cooking, but I have great difficulty coming up with ideas of what to make each day (I call my mother often and apologize for groaning at whatever she made for supper). This usually leads to procrastination which leads to either convenience foods or a quick trip to the grocery store. Impromptu trips to the store also usually lead to unplanned and unnecessary spending. Ugh.

I have admired the meal planners out there for a while now but was intimidated by the idea of it. I had tried before and failed, often because when I looked at what I had planned for the day I didn’t feel like making that. So I wouldn’t.

Four weeks ago I finally committed to not only planning our meals, but also STICKING WITH THE PLAN!

Guess what? I am loving it.

I do NOT get this fancy!
I do NOT get this fancy!

I do NOT post on a fancy chalkboard or other Pinterest inspired piece of art what the meal plan is. That only invites “helpful” suggestions from my family which leads to frustration (see: grumpy, yelly). Nope, she who cooks, plans.

I also do NOT let my feelings take me off course. If meatloaf is on the list, meatloaf shall be on the table even if I’m in the mood for chicken.

One weekend I didn’t get around to planning and for three days I was back into frustration and lack of ideas. I sat down and planned out the remainder of the week and the pressure just melted away.

Another beautiful benefit is that, because I plan with great intentions and before the weariness of the week gets to me, I plan healthier meals. Because I stick to the plan, we eat healthier meals.

  1. Wants vs. Needs

Marketers are just so talented and blurring those lines for us, aren’t they? And I find so many of their lines easy to swallow.

Just recently I was flipping through the Home Hardware flyer and saw a remarkable machine that combines and 12 cup coffee maker with a single cup brewing system that uses K cups.

Gasp. Where has this been my whole life? I. Need. This.

Why do I need this? Because it would take up 2 less inches on my counter than my existing 12 cup coffee maker and Keurig….that I already own. Hmmmm. I want to pay $80 for a machine that replaces 2 machines that I already own. Both of which are in perfect working condition.

But I could sell the other 2 machines for probably $30 so then the new one would really only cost me $50. Well, realistically I’d probably be better off to just put the other 2 in the camper….

Seriously. These thoughts went through my head. More than once!

This mindset shift is a tough one for me. I could come up with so many excuses why my want is justified, or why the purchase is really a need. The truth of the matter is that I just need to think things through more, and take more things to God in prayer. You may think that praying about buying a coffee maker is silly, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. Shopping included.

Saying yes to this purchase would have meant a no to something else either now or further down the line. That something else could be anything from extra grocery money, to clothes for the kids, curriculum or even just extra padding in the savings account.

That is the question I ask myself now before purchases (most times). If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to later?

It’s taken me 3 years to implement these changes and none of them happened simultaneously. Each was a step at a time with enough time between to get used to the changes and let them become our new normal. There are more changes coming, but not until we’re ready for them.

Wendy

 

How do you keep life simple?  I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

Author: Wendy Mehrer

I am the wife of a patient husband and the mother of 3 happy little kids. I home school our oldest child, work part-time outside of the home and full-time in it! I love coffee, reading, writing and I’m learning to love exercise.

2 thoughts on “Meaningful Minimalism”

  1. Love your blog Wendy! My husband and I are going through a similar process. One thing that works really well for me is to make a crockpot of soup/cut up 4 days worth of salad fixings on Monday and eat it for lunch throughout the week. I don’t mind having the same lunch everyday and its one less thing to think about!

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