Instead of gifts please send… ? 

   

Whether you are from a big family, a giving family or just have a lot of generous friends, you probably have run into confusion when it comes to gifts. While you are appreciative of the heart behind why people are giving your children many noisy toys and fun gifts, you dread having to find a place to store them. 

Then, in a year or two, you have piles and boxes of toys that are either gently used or never been played with that you have to figure out what to do with while your child continues to find cardboard boxes far more interesting to play with. 

Many friends who are also moms I talk to seem to be able to clear out their houses with confidence until it comes to kids stuff. “What about the kids room?!” 

The good news is : the toys cannot hurt you. They don’t bite – well most don’t. 😏 

You just have to show them who is boss. 

When I started to declutter toys I started with noise makers. Not only are they annoying for mama and pretty much any adult but they didn’t seem to encourage my daughter T to create her own songs. Noise makers with batteries = goodwill. At least for now at her age. Your kids may be different. 
Then I watched to see what she actually played with. While she had a few boxes of toys, only about 5 where regularly played with. I put all the rest into a box and placed it in the closet. I wrote a date for a few weeks into the future on it to be taken to the donation site. I decided If she asked for a toy I’d take it out for her. Not only did she not ask but she seemed to begin to play with her remaining toys with joy and created even more elaborate games with them. 

So great! Now all the toys where cleared! But then we still have holidays, birthdays and “just cause” presents to deal with! All your hard work of decluttering stands to be ruined! 😱

After brain storming we came up with a few ideas. Keep in mind that my daughters are young. I am no expert but these really do work for us. 

Hopefully these will inspire you to come up with ideas of your own! I’d love to hear what you come up with! 

1) Visits! My extended family is out of state and don’t get to see us super often. We decided that instead of sending numerous onesies or toys for the girls that they would put the money into savings for trips to come see us. You’d be surprised how the money adds up! Those memories of face to face visits are more important and lasting than any stuffed animal. 

2) College fund! My dad actually offered this suggestion. He’s never sure exactly what to get the girls so he asked if he could start a college fund. Um HECK YES! Way to go Daddy-o! 🎉
3) For family & friends that live closer this can be tricky. Remember to be respectful because after all – they don’t HAVE to give you stuff! They want to! Here are a few suggestions you can offer instead of letting them wander down the toy isle: 

– museum, zoo or other passes 
– Netflix subscription, movie tickets or iTunes cards (great for educational games or movies for T’s iPad) 

– dance or other classes

4) lunch or play date! I always like to ask if whoever is wanting to give the gift can come over for lunch or have a play date. This is a free and fun gift! (For long distance try FaceTime or Skype!)

You can also set up a wish list on Amazon. That way if you do need clothes or certain toys they know exactly what to get you 
A gift given is often a desire to be apart of someone’s life. Why not make lasting memories for your kids filled with experiences? Your kids may not remember every visit but they will feel loved. 
Again I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas below! 

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Getting more minimal move #3 & #4 

   
Move #3 was in state and quite uneventful so instead of boring you I will know jump to #4. The only thing super exciting was the addition of our first daughter into our family. For baby minimalist tips check out the other posts on my blog. 

Alrighty: move #4 : from the dusty nothingness of New Mexico (no offense New Mexicans ☺️) to the sunny palm trees & beaches of California! Immediately we could give away and sell all winter clothes as you do not need them in the wonderful climate of CA. This saved us a ton of space. As we looked at costs of renting trucks to move our furniture, we realized it would actually cost more to move our current furniture with rental fees than give it all away. Crazy isn’t it?! We began by selling off our furniture and placing the money into savings for new items in California. 
We packed our poor little Toyota Corolla to the brim. There was a little room around our daughters car seat but we had the rest of the car PACKED! To this day I can’t even really remember what was in there. Was that a good thing? If you answered “NO!” then give yourself a gold star. If you answered “YES!” well don’t worry! There’s still hope for you…
We embarked on our road trip and actually I have a lot of fun memories. Road tripping with a baby can be tough but it wasn’t too bad. Except for Utah – come on guys. That state goes on forever! 
We finally arrived in sunny CA at our gracious extended family’s house. We needed to stay for a few weeks before our apartment opened up. I was once proud of just bringing the stuff in the Corolla but now we had to unpack it into our poor family’s garage and any spare space they had. Unloading was awful. Instead of chatting and spending time with family we were unpacking. What a waste! 
As I unloaded boxes I began to realize something again:
STUFF TAKES PRIORITY. And those old tattered clothes or baby toys were taking a priority over family. That was just silly folks. 
After a few weeks we moved into our apartment but not before stopping by goodwill and dropping off a few unnecessary items. We were able to unpack our stuff fairly quickly and began to explore our surroundings. This is when it got fun. 
Because we had no furniture we were able to take the money we had saved and go purchase a few items that fit for THIS apartment. Instead of making something old work in a new space, we got to let the creative juices flow and set up new furniture. We found ourselves unburdened again. The freedom became intoxicating! 
Very little in our apartment also meant very little for me to clean. Our small wardrobe meant very small laundry. Our small apartment meant lower rent which meant more money. For important things, like Disneyland passes. You know – essentials. We came, we saw, and we conquered California because we had nothing weighing us down. 
So whether you read the entire article or skimmed to this point, I leave you a few questions that you may learn from my mistakes: 
1) Are the items you own currently serving a purpose? Or are they in the way of your true priorities? 
2) What items could you sell now that may inspire more space or money for things you do love? 

Not so minimalist move #1 & #2

  

When my husband and I were first married we had dreams of grander. We wanted to be able to live in many different places – we just didn’t know where. We loved New York and Denver. We even went there on our honeymoon! Upon arriving back from 2 weeks of newly wed bliss we joyfully opened our front door to … dun dun duuuunnnnn…stuff. Many wonderful people gave us so many wedding presents. Our tiny living room was full! Instead of being able to enjoy each other we began unpack and taking trips to the dumpster to get rid of all the boxes. Not brilliant. 

About six months after we were married we had some opportunities open up in New Mexico. We were gonna be able to work on what we wanted but also get to be closer to friends. We began packing. I wish I could say this was a joyful time but all I remember is so much stuff and so much cardboard. I had to sort through everything, find boxes, then pack what I needed. I would forget where I’d packed certain items that I had packed too soon or would find more stuff hidden on shelves that I just “had to bring.” It was a nightmare.

 My parents had agreed to help us drive down there. Two cars & a UHAUL truck full of stuff! It took us seemingly forever to load everything into the truck. Then once in New Mexico we then had to UNLOAD. Instead of being able to go out to dinner or hang out with our new friends we had to unpack. For ever. Well maybe not forever but for several days. Our pristine apartment soon became cluttered with furniture that didn’t quite fit and pictures that seemed a little out of place. It was technically all our stuff put felt oddly unsettled in our new space. 

This is when we began to evaluate what we had: 

Did we really need to keep that plate because aunt whoever would be offended if we threw it out? Then why would she give it to us in the first place? 

At the time I was vegan and disliked to cook. So why did I need 3 roasting pans? 

Were those files of paper actually necessary or could the essentials be made digital? 

We began streamlining. 

If someone needed dishes we would keep a set of 4 and give the other pieces in our 16 set away. When others would comment that they liked the art on our wall we asked them if they wanted it. Not only did it show who was complementing honestly but it helped our apartment to feel a little more like us. 

Once we began getting rid of stuff it became addicting. We were always on the lookout for people who needed items we had and didn’t use. We also began selling extra clothes or furniture to the local consignment stores. This provided money (something we didn’t have a lot of) for bills or even date nights! 

We looked around our empty place and realized that our apartment was far too large for what we actually owned. We decided to downsize to a 350sq foot apartment for a third of the rent we were paying. That’s right – MUCHO savings. 

This move only took one truck and our sturdy Toyota Corolla. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was this time around. Although it still felt ridiculous for 2 people to have so much, we were able to unpack fairly quickly and go out to dinner with friends after. It was a step in the right direction. 

Early questions we learned to ask ourselves: 

– Do you really need what you have? 

– Do you really use what you have?

– Could someone you know benefit from what you own and rarely use? 

–  Is there something you own that you could sell and use the money for a hobby that is actually important to you? 

– Is it something you find beautiful or useful? Then get rid of it. 
 (This is definitely a stolen quote so if you know who said it originally – comment below!) 
Stuff takes time and money to move and maintain. I had to view the things I owned this way. Some where important to me but most were not they weighed me down and kept me from living free. 

Second move and same state. Already my husband and I felt more like us and not like an idea of what we should be. Which was important because soon two would become three… 

Minimalist before Baby 

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It starts the moment you believe you are pregnant. First you have to buy the test – a device you never thought you’d need or you’d just be in doctors office finding out – am I right? Ok moving on. 

Then you see that plus sign or if you are really fancy your pee stick will say “pregnant”. Dang! Adventures are about to begin.

Or it may start with a decision to adopt. Which just kicks ass but also comes with stacks of paperwork that all seem to require large sums of money.

Either way. A new life is coming to you.

As you are anxiously awaiting the arrival of your bundle (and most likely puking your guts out – what? Adoptive mothers can puke too! ) you will begin to get asked many questions.

“You guys are gonna move right? You can raise a baby in the city!”

“One bedroom?! Where is the baby gonna sleep? You need at least two rooms.”

“You have to get at least two strollers. What happens if one breaks?”

“You have to use organic cotton baby clothes and make your own wipes! Do you really want to introduce toxins to your baby so young?”

All of a sudden your happy bundle of joy becomes a laundry list of “must haves” with an endless supply of guilt.

If that isn’t enough you head into a baby store and your head explodes! Why so many choices? Does a baby really need at least one thing from eighteen different categories? If you don’t get the right stuffed animal as an infant will your kid have to repeat kindergarten??? In an effort to love your child and set him/her up for success you end up registering – and receiving – endless amounts of baby stuff.

Enter baby shower. Instead of being centered around celebrating baby and enjoying your friends, it is centered around things. Target and Babies R Us will puke all over your living room and it is not a pretty sight.

Once your guests leave now you must go through and sort all the gifts. Two piles – wants and no thank you. Now not only do you have too much stuff but some of your “I’m not gonna buy from the registry” guests have bought you a trip to Goodwill.

ARGH!!! So much stress and baby isn’t even HERE!

Don’t worry mama. It happens to us all. And quickly before you can even realize it. Let me assure you that if you don’t have thirty five outfits have your baby will still look into your eyes with sheer adoration. If you decide to get a wrap instead of a stroller you don’t instantly become a hippie and your child’s teeth will not grow in funny if they don’t have the right pacifier.

In order to make as much money as possible companies prey on new mamas. They make you believe you NEED many products that they sell – how convenient eh? I guarantee you will never see an ad that says “We care about your baby. And we know they need a snuggle blanket. We sell it but our competitor has a better price. Here is their address and phone number. Buy it from them.” Ah but I digress….

So what’s a mama to do?

One. Rejoice.
You have a baby in your belly?! What the what?! That’s exciting! A new little one is joining your fam bam via adoption?! That’s amazing!!

Two. Relax.
People love you. They want to bless you. We will talk about how they can do that in our next post. For now just relax. Don’t register or read any “needs” lists online. Just draw a bath with a small glass of wine. Take a walk or shoot off a few rounds at the range.

Are you relaxed? Ok – read step three

Three. Speak your mind.
Oh no. Yep – I just gave mamas permission to speak up! You don’t have to be a raging hormonal mean queen – unless thats your thing. But there are nice ways to speak your mind. If you really don’t want your little girl in lots of pink ask nicely for more neutral colors. If you don’t want all sports theme stuff for your little boy you have a right to ask for other options. Remember, that baby is in YOUR belly or taking YOUR last name. You choose what you want in their environment.

Four. Explore.
If you are a new mama you may already have friends who have little minions. Invite yourself over to their houses and observe their natural habitats. Some may feel like complete chaos. You say “thank you for having me over” and get the heck out of there. That system and schedule may work for them but if it stresses you out its not for you. Not all is bleak though. You may be able to learn from each mama that you meet and create a cocktail of choices for your own life. (Safari hat and binoculars not required but sure as heck super fun)

**This is where I advice real life mamas and not online only. I know. I’m a hypocrite because you are reading this online. But Pinterest and Instagram only show one side of the story. You may see a mama post a photo of their adorable kids but only in real life do you see the toddler bite the baby after the picture is snapped. Not only will it be a more realistic story but it will also make you feel better when you make the same mistakes in the future. You can’t hide real life with a filter 😆
Ok. That’s all I have because I think that’s a lot. We can discuss more specifics next post.

Congrats on the new bundle 💛

Hello!

Welcome!

Have you ever felt like you have too much stuff? Usually it’s when you can’t find your keys and have looked through your junk drawer which has grown from one to every drawer. Or if your toddler can’t find their favorite stuffed animal and you realize they have about 25 that never get played that block you from finding Mr Bear in that moment of crisis. Or you want to watch a DVD and realize you have about 250 sitting on shelves collecting dust but can never quite find the right thing to watch.

As you can see – I had an excess – whether I  realized it then or not. I began to purge my things and in the process found joy. Now with a husband and two kids we continue the adventure. We have lived in four states and continue to be on the lookout for new opportunities – unincombered by earthly possessions. We are not rich – we live on one income. What started as necessity now has become an exciting way of life

This blog is mainly about one family’s journey to de clutter and live free.