the continual purge.


four easy steps for getting rid of stuff that’s cluttering your home:

1. get a big box or bin or laundry basket and hide it in the garage or a closet.

2. as you go about your day, be mindful of things you don’t need, don’t use, duplicates, things that don’t fit, etc. Take these to the box and toss them in.
Marla Cilley, aka The Fly Lady says, “You can’t organize clutter. You can only get rid of it!”

3. when the box is full, drive it directly to goodwill and give it away. don’t look through it again. don’t let your children see what’s in there. (it will inevitably be something they ‘have been looking for’ and ‘can’t live without’. don’t believe them.)

4. repeat as necessary for a calm, peaceful and decluttered house. okay, that might be pushing it, but at least you’ll have less stuff.


31 Days of Mindful Minimalism: Day 19



mindful minimalism: home

lost hope

…it got real bad right before we moved this spring. real bad.

Thanks for letting me drag y’all on my little journey of self assessment. So far, I’ve looked at me and my relationship with food and input. This week I want to think about home and how I can streamline and simplify life where we live.

This spring we moved from a wee little 3 bedroom downtown bungalow to a bigger space outside the city. Amazingly, we managed to fill this house almost completely with what was stuffed into Grace Cottage.

It’s made me think about how I hang onto things because they might be useful one day, or they mean something, or they belonged to someone I loved. I also accumulate stuff because it’s on sale or it was a great deal, not because it’s useful or sentimental.

This week I want to share a few ways I’m thinking through this. I’ll do a closet purge and talk about a few things that are working for us, like a chore chart. I’ll throw in a few bits of house-and-home-keeping philosophy (from yours truly and from others) for fun.


31 Days of Mindful Minimalism: Day Eighteen

input: temptation.

workshopSo. I was going to post a picture of a sweet vintage kitchen wall clock today. It belonged to my grandparents. It’s faux wood with burnt orange flowers and muddy green leaves. I had it in storage since we moved this spring and waited to find a spot for it in our new house. See that saw that says DELTA? The clock was right on the shelf above it a few months ago.

I realized this week that a huge reason I’m tempted to check input constantly is that I take my phone with me up to our school room (above the garage) so I can know what time it is. I quit wearing a watch years ago. But every time I check the time, I think, well while I’m clicking for the time, why not just check my email and instagram? anything new on feedly? ooh, a new text! I’ll just send a quick reply. this happened more often than I’d like to admit.

I could simply and quickly remove the temptation by putting that sweet little wall clock in my school room and leave my phone downstairs. When I wrote my schedule for 31 Days, I’d planned to take that clock today and put it in our schoolroom.

I went to grab it off that shelf and it’s not there. Scott cleaned up the workshop a few weeks ago and it’s been moved somewhere that I can’t find. I’m sure it’s there, but it’ll be a few days before we can locate it (I hope.)

The point is, sometimes the solution to input overload is to remove the source of temptation.

What quick fix can you do today to keep input within good boundaries?

gray31daysDay seventeen of 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism.  


fear and input.


detaching from input for a few days can do good things for your heart and mind. one thing I’ve realized this week is that sometimes input can create specific types of fear: fear of missing out on something. fear of getting behind on keeping up with the input. fear of letting people down by not producing input.

I’ve spent this week not checking facebook. and I haven’t missed much.

I haven’t looked at Instagram in six days. and I haven’t missed much.

I’ve probably missed 50 blog posts via Feedly. and I haven’t missed much.

Sure, I’ve probably missed some {interesting, encouraging, cool, yummy} things. but nothing that really matters in the short-term. the blogs of people I actually know and love, I’ve continued to read with intention. But the other blogs, the home and recipes and how-tos …. life has kept on ticking and I’m not behind on any of it. I know I’ve missed some pictures of a friend bringing her new baby home from Uganda- and I’m looking forward to catching up on her news and pictures. Now THAT matters!!

Those sources of input can be fun, refreshing, life-giving and entertaining. Within good boundaries, they can have a place in a life of purpose and productivity. For me, I think there can be a spot for a little input, as long as it doesn’t lead to compulsive checking. But I don’t need to go looking for things that invoke fear in my heart and mind.

Could you detach for a few days? What’s the worst that could happen?


This is day sixteen of 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism, a series I’m writing alongside 1500 other bloggers through the month of October. 

input: a balanced perspective


After yesterday’s post, my friend Suzannah sent me a text with some great thoughts about what input looks like in her daily life. I wanted to share it with you, and hopefully implement this style into my life as well. From Suz:

Love your perspective and it’s funny, because your mindless consumption could equal my thoughtful living.

Example…When I get up, in that quiet time before everyone else needs me, I check my Instagram, Facebook, and feedly. I get caught up on what’s important to my friends and in the world. (Well, limited world perspective, admittedly).

Later, around 10, after I’ve taught my 3rd and 5th graders, I have a 45 minute planning period before my 4th graders come. Rather than jump right into copies, emails, planning, restroom breaks, etc, I take 10-15 minutes and check my phone. What cute baby pics have popped up on Instagram that make me smile?  What recipes on Feedly look promising for next week?

Then I play my daily Set game, and by totally checking out for a short while, I am refreshed and ready to move to bring productive again.

Sometimes a mindful mindless break is what I need to refocus me, you know? Of course, my time is limited by my schedule so I CAN’T get sucked down a wormhole of links and comments. But I feel like giving myself 10-15 minutes every few hours helps me focus and be less distracted when I’m away from that “input”.

It’s not all bad, as you disclaimed – it’s all about managing it. And that might include some mindful mindlessness!


This is day fifteen in a series called 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism.


input: why i quit blogging.

reading girlI started blogging a few years ago because I felt like I needed to be heard, validated, understood,  known and loved.

My kids would say, “Mama, take a picture of this for your blog!”- hoping for a spot on the posting schedule. Their awareness of the time Mama spent taking and downloading pictures and writing began to disturb me. I didn’t want to believe it consumed any significant amount of time in our day, but in reality, it did. This is partially because I am not tech savvy enough to know how to quickly upload pictures and insert them. But also, every minute at the computer seemed to melt into an hour or more, spent sitting and scrolling, clicking, just checking.


The bottom line is this: I was missing out on what mattered most. Blogging was the pinhole in the pail of my day. I loved the feedback I received. I constantly checked the stats to see my blog traffic. It was instant validation. It was an open forum to share my heart to total strangers, and yet most of what I posted, I didn’t even talk to my own family about.

I didn’t want to hear again the harsh reality of my children saying to me, “Mama, you’re always on the computer.” That phrase used to make me really angry. Why? Because it was true.

Last week I feel like I came face to face with some realities in my life about my relationship with food. It’s led to some simple changes that have already been so life-giving. This week, because my little hand-held idol isn’t attached to me, I’m seeing how compulsively and mindlessly I consume input. These days spent without checking blogs on feedly or instagram or facebook have been completely liberating. 

I don’t want input to make me miss a childhood. I want the freedom and joy that come from embracing what’s real.


This is day fourteen in a month long series called 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism. 

{disclaimer: I love reading blogs.  I love blogging. And I love instagram and feedly and I mildly like facebook. I’m definitely not hating on them or trying to condemn anyone for reading them. This is my journey towards thoughtful living, instead of mindless consumption. Just sayin.}

input as productivity thief.


A pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. ~Ann Voskamp {source}

Thought for the day: Are little moments spent  clicking, scrolling,  just checking~ adding up to hours spent missing things that really matter?


This is day thirteen in a month-long series called 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism. 

input as life source.

mason jar chandelier

not all input is bad. some can be inspirational. i’m totally copying this pinterest inpired mason jar chandelier… one day.

You are known and loved.

You don’t need media input to be understood, known, appreciated, validated, accepted, or loved. You already are. Knowing this can free you to be inspired and encouraged by what you read, instead of looking for it to be a source of life to you.

I’m spending some time this weekend deleting sources of media input that aren’t life-giving.  I’m also deleting a bunch of email subscriptions  from places that fill my inbox daily and take up brain space in the processing of input. Yes, even Groupon. I don’t need to spend time thinking about spending money on something I didn’t know I needed.{hurry! ends today! act now! don’t miss this deal!}

What source of input can you delete today? What will you gain from letting it go?


This is day twelve in a series called 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism.

You might be interested in this post about how media input can steal your joy.

input as escape.

escapeI wrote this a year ago and shared it with my writing partner, Ellen. I intended to post it but then I quit blogging (more on that later this week)– my eyes were opened to how much I was using input to escape. and this was before i had an iPhone. It’s a real struggle for me. Hope it will encourage and inspire you.

Way of Escape

i just survived a trip to the store with all three kids. we’re home and the heavy bags have been brought in and set on the kitchen floor, ready to be unloaded. fridge, pantry waiting to be filled.

but. first i just need to check my email. no, i’m not waiting on any urgent information or special invitation. not looking for a reply or news.

just checking. feedly. facebook. pinterest.

i don’t want to face the tasks at hand. the present needs. the bag unloading. eggs and spinach and cereal in their place. move the laundry. start the lessons. sweep. straighten.

just checking. twitter. instagram.

i want to transcend responsibility and slip away into another place that carries me off with each click. the words. the pictures. the ideas.

a way of escape from those bags. those piles. those needs.

a way of escape that harmlessly fills me and subtly empties me all at once. where present needs are pushed aside by the new, the exciting, the different.

the other.

anything other than this.

this is the lie of just checking: what’s there will give me a way of escape.

it’s just that- a lie. there is no escape. only the harsh reality that just checking is no different than getting a fix, taking a hit.

i’m hooked on the escape. I need it.

here’s the hope of the way of escape: we already have a way of escape. God promises that when we are tempted, He will provide the way out. I don’t need to click. I don’t need to just check. I just need Him.


This is day eleven in a series called 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism. there are over 1500 writers sharing their thoughts for 31 days this month.

your thoughts: vegan for a day.

mmm animals

{ a typical text exchange between me and my pesky little brother}

So proud of my awesome friends who tried my little Vegan For a Day challenge! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

Kristi from And Babies Don’t Keep had this to say:

1- I’ve done this for a day or a week before, and I’m always amazed at how much good food is available, even with the restrictions of something like a vegan diet. We have access to SO much. I had yogurt make from coconut milk for the first time this morning and it was AWESOME. I’d really like some ice cream right now and I know I could find something satisfying that meets the requirements of this particular diet. We have food in abundance…so what else am I eating? Mostly crap, although not entirely. So, this was a good reminder to reach for something real and whole first, rather than something boxed and processed.
2- I love cheese. {editor’s note: word to that, Kristi. I’m still not over it yet!}
Kristi gets major bonus points for getting her vegan on while pregnant with baby #3! You go, mama! Y’all, read Kristi’s blog. I love the way she writes!
Another mama-to-be, Jamie, went vegan for a day and had this to say:

One thing I learned about eating Vegan (or any strict diet for that matter) is that you have to do a lot of planning, at least at first.  I kind of just went with what I had and I ended up starving all day. 🙂
I had oatmeal for breakfast, grapes for a mid morning snack and then I went to chick fil a for lunch. I did a quick search on my phone for “vegan at chick fil a” and quickly and excitedly saw that their fries are officially vegan, so I went with fruit and fries for lunch.  I didn’t want to eat salad because I had a big salad waiting for me for dinner.
That afternoon, I felt pretty hungry so I scrounged for something that my body would tolerate  (pregnancy cravings and distastes) so I ended up with some chips and salsa.  (is that really vegan?)  For dinner I had a lot of squash (pre cheese).   I felt really sick and couldn’t handle a salad at that point! 🙂  But, I am proud of myself for at least trying and learning more about the foods I eat.  I usually try to eat as much fresh food as possible and the least processed food as possible and I found myself wanting to cheat and eat (vegan) things that I would never dream of eating on a usual day.
The biggest lesson I learned is that I need to plan better so I can eat better! 🙂

Our friends Erin and Brandon went plant-strong together earlier this week. They both said they felt no different but were surprised by how easy it was to be full, and they didn’t notice that meat was missing from their meals. Brandon said that the food was good and peoples’ reactions were dramatic. It forced him to try new things. Erin said it wasn’t that hard but that it would require some serious adjusting with regards to grocery shopping and menu planning to continue plant based eating long term.

I agree- it definitely rocked my world to start thinking about meals differently. Vegan cookbooks and blogs majorly helped me. Happy Herbivore even sells vegan meal plans that do all the work for you!

In case you missed them in the comments, here’s Brandon’s play-by-play:
A day in the life of a vegan
8:00 am: Realize that Jiff Peanut Butter with Honey is not Vegan. Looks like I’m fasting until lunch. Good thing coffee’s vegan.
1:25 pm: Mention to my coworkers that I’m heading to lunch and they ask where. No one takes me up on my lunch invitation so I rush off to the vegan cafe.
1:30 pm: Starving. I park and rush for the door, but not fast enough to miss the “Pork chops stop a beating heart” car in the parking lot. It’s parked two spots down from the BMW with leather seats. These vegan folk sure are a diverse lot.
1:50 pm: My philly cheese steak arrives. It has no steak, no cheese, and we’re a long way from Pennsylvania, but it tastes amazing. The candied yams on the side rival Grandma’s. I leave stuffed; I’ll be back again, even if I don’t stay vegan.
2:25 pm: Back at work, I suddenly have to defend my lunch choice. I’m trying this diet for one day and I still get smart remarks and smirks. But I feel fine, I’m full, and so its the smart remarks that are the most unsettling. Mention you’re trying a vegan diet and everyone suspects you’re a paint-throwing member of PETA.
6:15 pm: Back home, ready for dinner but feeling normal so far. I grabbed some vegan Oreos and Erin made a great pasta/tomato dinner.
9:00 pm: Beer time. Not sure I could go gluten free, but vegan? Not so bad.

My girl Suzannah sent me an amazing recap of her day:
Vegan Day 2K13 was a success!  I found a day was plenty, and yet also not enough time.  It was plenty in that I’m not sure I could do it for a week or more.  I can take or leave meat and milk, and usually drink almond milk anyway, but am a big fan of eggs, yogurt, and cheese, glorious cheese.  Cholesterol has never been my issue (luckily, although I have others) so I make and freeze a batch of breakfast burritos (eggs, pepper jack cheese, and whatever veggies need to be used up) on the weekend for breakfasts all week.  I frequently have yogurt for a snack or in smoothies, and oh, cheese.  I love it.  Melted, stinky, powdery, sharp, creamy, I love it all.  So although I was able to do without for a day, and I suppose I could for longer if necessary, a day without was survivable without approaching miserable.  On the other hand, a day wasn’t enough time.  I found myself thinking way too much about the things I “couldn’t” have, just because they weren’t in the day’s plan.  Normally, for a snack, I may have apples and peanut butter or string cheese, and not think any further till the next meal.  Instead, I thought about food all. day. long.  I imagine I’d need a few more days or a week to turn that thinking off and readjust.
Besides my obsession with forbidden foods, planning was a minor challenge, although in an unexpected way – I had already planned and grocery shopped for the week when MB threw down the vegan gauntlet, so I had to figure out a way to adjust my planned meals to accommodate my newfound veganism.  I figured breakfast would be easy to do – swap out oatmeal for my usual breakfast burrito or hard boiled egg – and lunch was doable too.  I’m a teacher, and because I’m frequently tempted by the hot lunches our cafeteria serves (square pizza, y’all!), I keep a stash of Amy’s organic vegetable lentil soup and Amy’s frozen black bean burritos at school.  Both happen to be vegan, although I often add a stick of string cheese or something to go along with them.  So, dinner was the only thing that remained to be factored in, and thus a night at Chipotle was scheduled.    
Here’s a brief run down of the day:
Breakfast – Doing my early morning hall duty with a bunch of 4th graders, eating steel cut oats with a blob of pumpkin, a shake of pumpkin pie spice, pecans, and Craisins.  Text MB and tell her that I’ve been a vegan for 7 whole hours already!   No problem.
9:00 – Ooh, I would love some Cheetos!  When’s the last time I even had Cheetos?  Why am I even thinking about food now?  But seriously, I could put down some Cheetos.  Wonder if any of the kids brought Cheetos?  I don’t even normally eat a snack till 10, but I have a handful of almonds.
10:00 – Planning period.  Eat my popcorn.  Then eat some more almonds.  Then eat my apple.  Thank goodness planning ended or I would have eaten straight up until lunch.
Lunch – Soup.  Student having a birthday brings snack size bags of Skittles.  Eat mine, then freeze, wondering if Skittles have gelatin and are thus not vegan.  A quick internet search reveals that I’m safe, at least of animal products, if not sugar.
3:00 – Dig around in my emergency stash and find a Kind bar which appears to be vegan.  If it’s not, I don’t want to know.
5:00 – Text MB a picture of my preemptive celebratory glass of (vegan) wine.  I think I’m going to make it!
Dinner – Chipotle burrito bowl with rice, beans, salsa, lettuce, vinaigrette, and lots and lots of chips.
Annnnnnd…done.  I could definitely do this day by day, but pretty sure it would take a few days (or more) to get over the craving for all the things I wouldn’t normally eat anyway but suddenly wanted.
Major props to MB for making such a huge change and embracing it, and thanks for encouraging me to give it a try!  Love my happy herbivore homie!
{MB: aww, thanks, Suz! love you too!!}
Here’s my friend Lorien’s take on the day: 
i went vegan for a day. it was today. at first i was completely overloaded with what was legal vs. illegal. actually most of the time i thought about veganness, that it was i was thinking about. but when i stopped to eat, i was completely fine. i’m a meat eater. not gonna lie. i love meat and cheese. and ice cream. but! eliminating so many ingredients actually made my food decisions easier. i could see our family having a vegan dinner once or twice a week. if nothing else, it will stretch my cooking rut i’ve been in. 🙂

Shani gave it the old college try, but kids’ sickness sidelined her and she had to kick into survival mode. Proud of you for giving it a go, Shani!
And my dear buddy Shawna made it almost to the finish line… then her dear mother cooked chicken for supper so she minded her manners and ate what mama served! She said though she felt hungry, she felt lighter all day! Way to go, Shawna! 
Big Thanks to everyone for participating, and for telling us about your experience! I think it’s always fun and eye opening to try doing life differently, even for a day!

And now…. the winners of the Vegan For A Day Challenge are:
ERIN AND BRANDON!!! Way to go, team! 
(Since you live down the street, I’ll be hand delivering your delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies!) – and no, this isn’t rigged- I gave you each a number and had Scott pick one randomly! 🙂

gray31daysthis is day ten in a series called 31 Days of Mindful Minimalism.  Start here to read from the beginning.