Learning to be Content with Simplicity

It’s almost September.  The leaves on a few of the trees in our backyard are beginning to turn color already. School starts in a week. It feels like it’s nearly time to get out some of my fall decorations!  Don’t worry – I’ll wait a bit yet.  But the changing foliage has got me thinking. It’s time to re-evaluate!

At the start of each new season, I like to freshen things up around our home with some eye-catching curios, maybe rearrange some furniture, and then…re-evaluate our belongings.  My aim in the assessment is two-fold.  The first is to strive for simplicity. The second, contentment.

Have you looked around your home lately and thought to yourself, “What is all of this stuff?” Do you find yourself exhausted from constantly picking up, moving around or covering over things? I understand, and thus my aim for simplicity in the home.

And yet, when you walk down the street or through the mall and notice something lovely, something enticing, are you are tempted to purchase it? It. Another something? I know. And it’s so pretty! But my true need isn’t another thing. I seek contentment.

Last summer I went through our home, room by room, closet by closet, and tried to pare down our belongings, to simplify our possessions.  I know that in reality, the less I have, the easier it is to keep it clean and organized. But I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy. I like to keep things “just in case,” or because of “sentimental value,” or for a “rainy day.”  But I tried to keep in mind my plan – simplicity, with contentment.

I had to make a lot of decisions. It wasn’t much fun. Taking a load of “extras” to Good Will that I might “need” or just “wish I had” in a few months was actually a bit daunting. The fondue pot we received as a wedding gift (that we put on our registry). The extra sets of bed linens. (Did I seriously need a second set for each bed?). The candle holders. The ones that haven’t held candles in several years (People with young, active children don’t burn them like they did in the pre-family stage!). The shelf full of puzzles that we’ve memorized or are simply tired of putting together. The box of trinkets and cheap toys that relatives think they should continuously gift us (Okay – that one wasn’t hard to get rid of!). I kept thinking to myself, “Do you honestly need any of this?” You know the answer. No!  The stuff I eliminated was, in a way, like a security blanket. One I had been too careless to throw out. I could do without it. I’d never intended to collect so much… it just happened. Of course, none of us start out intending to be “gatherers.” We don’t plan on increasing our appetite for material possessions. But it happens. And so, I re-evaluate, in order to fight this craving.

I once read that everything should by either USEFUL or BEAUTIFUL.  And if it’s not, then you can get rid of it. I’ve posted that on the tack-board in front of my desk. “Is it useful? Is it beautiful?”That has helped me when sorting through our belongings on a quarterly basis.

Is it helpful, practical, functional, handy…useful?  Is it striking, attractive, charming, lovely…beautiful?

Whatever I own, ultimately owns me. As I press forward, as I re-evaluate this fall, I want to keep this in mind. I want to be content with simplicity.

Sizzle, Scrub, and Flush – For a Cleaner Toilet Bowl

Today, I thought I’d share with you a trouble-free and natural toilet cleaning method. In fact, it’s so effortless that you’ll want to use it every day! Before I give you the ‘how-to’, though, I’d like to make a recommendation. If you get yourself a small bottle of essential oil*, you’ll make this super cleaning chore a super, pleasant-smelling cleaning experience! Remember, the essential oil is optional but I’d recommended it. Now, for the simple ‘sizzle, scrub and flush’ plan…

All you need to undertake the porcelean throne is a jug of (scented**) distilled white vinegar and a box of baking soda, a ½ c. plastic measuring cup and a good toilet brush.  Put a ½ c. baking soda in the bowl and add ½ c. white vinegar. Then, let it sizzle, scrub it with the brush and flush it down.  Job done!  Now, set the vinegar, baking soda and measuring cup in a bathroom cupboard below the sink (no need to place this cleaner on a top shelf or in a locked cabinet!) and you’re ready for the next cleaning.

Very simple, right?  And effective!  When you clean this way, your septic tank and nearby streams thank you, small children in your home are safer, and you feel good about what you’re doing to live a more ‘natural’ life! And hey, since producing a sanitary lavatory is this easy, you can even pass the baton (or should I say toilet brush?) on to most any member of the home and let them take a flush at it, as well!

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*A half-ounce (.5oz) bottle of essential oil can be found at Meijer for around $8.  This would give you enough to scent 8 gallons of vinegar!

Aura Cacia Essential Oil - Peppermint - 1 Bottle (.5 oz)

**How to make scented, distilled white vinegar (OPTIONAL): To scent 1 gallon with peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil add 50 drops (½ tsp.), with tea tree or lavender essential oil add 75 drops (¾ tsp). Of course, fewer drops will produce a lighter scent!  How about a combo of lemon and lavender?  Math alert: if you’re using less than a gallon of vinegar, use less essential oil.

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P.S.  I also keep a bit of the scented vinegar in a small squirt bottle to occasionally clean around the base of the toilet or on the lid/seat.

P.P.S.  My favorite essential oil to add to distilled white vinegar is peppermint! It makes my bathroom so ‘peppy’!

We All Scream….for Ice Cream

During the warmest months of the year, ice cream is our favorite family treat. Mint chocolate chip. Strawberry. Cherry-chocolate. Even plain old vanilla with a few toppings will do (except the newest topping – bacon bits – which my husband insisted I try last night. Ugh! Not for this gal!).

Long ago, when ice cream was made at home with milk, eggs and sugar, having a bowl now and then didn’t do much harm. But today, if you’re accustomed to simply reaching in the local grocery freezer to bring home a tasty dessert, you may be surprised at just what you’re ingesting.

As is true with many food products in our mass produced, synthetic age, what you “assume” you’re eating (based on the label, the looks and the taste) may be a mirage. Ingredient lists can be helpful, but be aware that ice cream manufacturers are not required to list the ‘additives’ used in their product.

I’ll refrain from unleashing all I’ve learned about this scrumptious topic, but if you’d like to know what antifreeze, lice killer and oil paint solvents have in common with a banana split sundae, check with the PPNF Health Journal.

Homemade ice cream has never been difficult to make. It’s gotten even easier since we’re no longer required to crank it by hand. A modern, electric ice cream maker can be purchased brand new for $25 or $30 (although they can run up to $93 I’ve noticed!). However, I’ve seen them on numerous occasions at second-hand stores for around $10 (what a steal!).

Recipes on-line are plentiful. Even dairy-free versions (which we make using Almond Milk). With a few common ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, you can make a batch of ice cream and surprise a special someone in your life with a cold, appetizing and refreshing dessert – that you can eat with a clear conscience! After all, it is summer… I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM

Now is the time…

Now is the time to get things done…

wade in the water,

sit in the sun,

squish my toes

in the mud by the door,

explore the world in a boy just four.

Now is the time to study books,

flowers,

snails,

how a cloud looks;

to ponder “up,”

where God sleeps nights,

why mosquitoes take such big bites.

Later there’ll be time

to sew and clean,

paint the hall

that soft new green,

to make new drapes,

refinish the floor –

Later on…when he’s not just four.

Irene Foster, “Time Is Of The Essence”

 

What a powerful reminder!

Busy doing what?

The most common response to the oft asked question, “How ya been?” is “busy”. Really?  Sure.  Busy. An exhausting answer, but one that is true… for all of us. Each one of us can legitimately state that we are busy. Busy doing ‘what’ though?  Anything of lasting value, I wonder?

Deciding how I want to be able to answer the question ‘what keeps me busy’ has been a catalyst in helping me to choose priorities.  We do have a choice, don’t we?  I’ve had to be purposeful in making decisions with my husband for how I will use my time and how we will invest our time as a couple and as a family.  What I will and won’t be involved in.  What we will and won’t make a priority in our home and for our family. It’s been something that is very intentional.  And if it isn’t, “life” will just take over – or rather run us over. And before we know it, we’ll be looking back and saying ‘if only…’ or ‘I sure wish…’

We’ve decided that we will purposefully be home more and away less, play together more and watch TV less, make more meals from scratch and eat less processed food, make more memories and spend less on frivolous items, work together more and compete less, attempt natural healing more and ‘practice’ medicine less, focus on character more and beauty less. The list could go on and on but suffice it to say that without any plan, it would be very easy to fail… to be ‘busy’ doing things that are not going to matter years from now. Because we are all truly busy.  But busy doing what?

Maybe it’s time for a bit of reflecting for you. Look back over the past week.  If you’re ambitious, look back over the past month or even year.  And as you look back, as you reflect, ask yourself “are the things that have kept me so ‘busy’ things that are really important?  Are they going to matter in 10 or 20 years?”  I hope the answer is yes… but if you’re like too many of us, the answer you give in honesty probably more closely resembles a downcast face and mumbled phrase, “No, not really.”

Here’s the good news.  You can start today with a plan. A plan to make the way you live your life a true reflection of the goals and desire of your heart. A mirror of what you actually believe is worth the investment of your time, energy, and resources, a life with purpose . Choose one thing to “add” to your life that is a true priority for you – and implement it.

True, you will probably have to “eliminate” at least one thing on your already full plate… but I’ll bet you can find something to cross off that will actually make you feel a little more ‘free’.  Maybe it’ll require setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier.  Maybe you’ll need to plan out a health-conscious menu and then only go shopping once a week, around the perimeter of the store. Maybe you’ll need to spend less time on-line or in front of the television. But if you want things to change, you are going to have to plan and then implement a change!  Believe me; it’ll be worth it… in the long run! You will still be busy – but at least you’ll be busy mirroring priorities that truly match your heart.  Start today.  And start at home.

 

Routine Responsibilities

Morning and evening “routines” should be just that – routine!  Customary. Habitual. As adults, we know that the same things need to be done each morning before officially “starting the day” and each evening before “climbing into bed”. For kids however, it is often helpful –and sometimes necessary- to have the expected routine posted…and for pre-readers especially, to have it in word and picture form.

When my oldest child was around 3 years old, I began using charts with pictures I’d clipped from magazines to show him what needed to be done each morning and evening. The morning chart had a crowing rooster on the top of it to let him know that this list was to be followed in the a.m.   I put images on the chart of the things he was to do such as getting dressed, making the bed, eating breakfast, brushing his teeth, and putting away his pjs.

The evening chart (topped with a yawning child) pictured cleaning up toys, using the bathroom, getting that last drink of water, putting pjs on and dirty clothes in the laundry basket, brushing teeth and choosing a book for us to read together. Those two charts have been fun for the kids to “read” on their own, and gave them a sense of pride and accomplishment in their little independent ways.

Many families have found other means to accomplish the same thing – the training of their children to become responsible little people.  I’ve seen some parents take photos of their own children following the expected schedule and then print and post these pictures for their kids on a chart. A wonderful idea.

The ‘instructions in images’ were very helpful for us. But as the kids grew and my older ones didn’t need that cute picture-chart any longer (and became responsible for more things), I tried a new tactic. I listed whatever needed to be done on hole-punched cardstock and attached them to a ring clipped on a lanyard. They kept the lanyard on a hook in their bedroom and put it on each morning and evening, wearing it around their neck or waist until the items could all be checked off as successfully complete. This method allowed me to make changes to their chores with ease – to add or subtract chores (depending on the schedule for the day or an earned reward), to switch up who was responsible for certain jobs, etc. It also helped the kids because they always had their “list” with them – rather than having to return to a posted chart in a certain location every time they finished a chore to see what else they were to do. The last item on their morning list was to come to Mom for a hug. I loved it…and it let me know when their chores were done! In the evening, I could check with them as we said good-night.

Currently, neither of these systems is being used in our home. But not because they were unsuccessful.   We’re just in a new stage of life and are on to a new technique! And it, too, is working well. It really isn’t the mode we use… it’s simply finding a process that fits our home/family for our current stage in the journey of life…and then implementing it. It takes consistency on our part… first in the training and then in the expectation. But when we look back, and we have raised responsible kids that are helpers and true blessings, we will be so glad that we took the time today to focus on routine responsibilities.

You Don’t Need Conditioner…

Here is one way that I’ve found to save some time and money…and to use something that is all-natural on my hair.  I put away the conditioner bottle and replaced it with a simple “rinse”.  The recipe for the ‘Rinse’(a.k.a. Hair Clarifier) is 2T. apple cider vinegar and 1 c. water.  {For a larger batch, ½ c. apple cider vinegar and 4 c. water.} Pour or squirt it on the ends of your hair after regular washing, let it rest, and then rinse.  It leaves my hair feeling smooth and tangle-free! My husband and children use it as well.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “doesn’t it STINK? Have you ever smelled apple cider vinegar?”  Yes, I’ve smelled it.  In fact, I use it often (both for my hair and in baking!), but I promise you – your hair will NOT smell after you rinse it out. Give it a try!

FYI – Vinegar is used in many homemade recipes for cleaning as well.  This is always ‘distilled white vinegar’. However, in baking and in recipes for body care, go with the apple cider vinegar!

Okay – one more tip!  I also keep a combination of water, a.c.vinegar and a few drops of essential oil in a squirt bottle to use as a hair detangler for my girls.  It definitely does smell if you just use the vinegar and water as a detangler (since you’re not rinsing it out!) but a few drops of essential oil (like peppermint or sweet orange) cover up the odor and make brushing a breeze (a friendly smelling breeze, I might add!).