Saturday, January 4, 2014

UPDATE: Decluttering & Kids - Artwork

*Minimalist Reading - NO time to read this long post? Just read the bold parts and you'll get the summary version! You're welcome!

I previously posted about decluttering, kids and artwork. If you haven't read that post, you could take a look at it HERE. I'm not going to recap everything I covered but I am going to update a bit and maybe streamline the whole process in a more condensed form of 'instructions' on how to make this work for you.

Why an Update?

It's just past the holiday season for us - that means Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year just wrapped up. Now the 5 and 6 year old are ....drum roll.... 6 and 7 years old! (Life is good!) but the art work has increased, not slowed down.

The girls have spent a solid 2 weeks off of school and now they are heading back (As in, this coming Monday!) so what should we do with our weekend but tackle 'The Beast' aka the Art Wall.

Previously, when I talked about managing the art work mess (because, really, that is what it is) I said that I was updating our scrapbook every week. Well...that fell flat quickly! Nobody has time for that!

I've settled for updating only during the girls' school breaks (or when the art wall gets CRAZY! but trust me...we just pile that art work on there if we can! One on top of another, over another, over another!)

I'm going to walk you through the actual step-by-step of what a ONE day digital scrapbook marathon looks like for me.

How often should you do this: Once or Twice a Year

Tools you will Need:

  • A Mixbook account (FREE) - Referral link ~ Thank you!
  • A Dropbox account (FREE) - Referral link ~ Thank you!
  • A Phone with the Dropbox app or a Camera with the ability to download your photos to your computer
  • A mountain of artwork that needs to be organized
  • If you are using your phone to upload your photos, make sure you are able to use WiFi to upload them or that you won't mess up your phone data plan by uploading a gazillion photos. Wifi = good.

Simplest Steps:

1) In your Free Dropbox account, set up the following file structure

Create a folder called 'Scrapbook' or 'Mixbook'
Inside that folder - Create the folder '2013' (or whatever year the photos were taken)
Inside the folder 2013: Create two folders 'Family' and 'Art'
Inside the folder 'Art': create one folder for each child. Only have one? Skip this step.
Do this for each year.

* Set up your phone to automatically upload your photos to Dropbox whenever it has access to your home/free Wifi. (Otherwise, you can easily go over your data limit)

2) Take photos of ALL the artwork that your child/ren brings home. I do this two or three times a year, not every week as I had said before. Weekly is just too much work.

3) Go through ALL photos after they have been uploaded to Dropbox and delete any that are blurry, out of focus, people are blinking, unflattering, or otherwise not something you would want in your scrapbook. Art work, you just make sure you don't have duplicates.

4) Delete ALL photos off of your phone/camera that you have uploaded to Dropbox.

5) When you have uploaded all of the family/art photos you are going to for the year, your folders are done/full!

6) Upload all the Family photos for the year into one mixbook (labeled correctly) and press 'Mix it' or lay it out manually in the way you want your scrapbook to look. Press save.

7) Upload all the Art photos for each child into separate mixbooks (labeled correctly) and press 'Mix it' or lay it out manually in the way you want your scrapbook to look. Press save.

You are done scrapbooking an entire year's worth of art/family photos in a matter of a few hours.

This is my process for scrapbooking. It's lazy, easy, and saves me a lot of time. I just 'mix' the artwork for the girls and don't bother laying them out. I *DO* put a photo of the girl on the cover of her art book, but that's it for customization.

Do you Print or do you Email?

Personally, I email links to family and friends. It has always been my intention to send these out as Christmas gifts but I never get around to it - because I'm lazy. One of these days, I might get around to it. But I think most people in our family prefer digital.

That's it! I've actually spent more time on this blog post than on doing the scrapbooks today. (I'm waiting patently as all 800 photos upload....*rolling beach ball* so...yeah. I hope this was helpful in tackling your artwork mess! Remember - Work Smarter, Digitally, not Harder!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Minimalist Gardening book by Minimalist Martha

You're probably wondering where I wandered off to. I wrote a book! My garden has done so well that I wrote down how I did it into a quick, short, sweet little book that you can buy on Amazon and read on your computer, phone or kindle. Sweet deal, right?

I'm very excited about it! I hope you're as excited as I am. I have a whole line up of short but sweet books on implementing minimalism to all areas of your life. I'll be sure to update you as soon as I finish each book. If ever I'm not posting - I'm just working on the next book!

I hope you've had a fantastic weekend and going into this new week be sure to lose a bit of stress by losing a bit of clutter!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kids - A Lifetime of Quilting in a Few Hours: The Jelly Roll Quilt

If you have basic sewing skills you can be an awesome mom that quilts.

Hear me out!

I hear that it is hard to toss out all those cute little outfits. I hear people get hung up on separating with the memories those little outfits hold. And sometimes you want to hold on to them - but wow what a bunch of clutter that can develop!

I have a solution for you and it works for children of all ages (even grown ups!) - the Homemade Jelly Roll Quilt. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, the 'jelly roll' quilt is a basic strip quilt. And that's really all it is. You take strips of fabric (all the same width and mostly the same length) and you sew them together. No matching, no planning really, very simple. Most people can do it in about a day. The HARDEST part is cutting the strips because
1) You need a lot of strips
2) They need to be the same size
3) Most people just buy the strips in a 'jelly roll' and so it's named the jelly roll quilt.

BUT what if you could take something that means a lot to you (the tiny clothes you don't want to part with) and embrace your procrastination in a way that WORKS for you? I assume you procrastinate because I do. ;D

Here is how it works. Get a box (Our girls have cute round hat boxes with their names inside) take clothes you KNOW are either too stained or worn, or you just hate to part with it - you know there are a few of them somewhere) but the kids are too big for and you wouldn't in a million years want to give it away. Okay. Now you need to turn it into one or more jelly roll strips.

"By definition, a Jelly Roll is a collection of 2 1/2" wide by 44" long fabric strips which come in a roll, usually with one strip from each print in a collection." -

Don't have small feet running around to give you an excuse to cut up and make a jelly roll quilt? Not to fear, has thoughts on that too - "One good way to build a supply of Jelly Roll strips is to cut a strip from every new fabric purchased." Great idea!

Just take the one or two or seven strips, however many you made from your new fabric or the clothes you've decided to preserve into a quilt, and stick them in your hat box (make sure they are labeled if you are working on more than one!) Tada! You're done! If you do it a little at a time, the hatbox will slowly fill. Just keep adding more strips as clothes are grown out of. When it starts to get crowded, just start to turn them into a 'jelly roll' to save space and keep on going!

When it is time all you need is a sewing machine with a basic straight stitch and a few free hours. I've heard of some people sitting down and sewing it all together in an hour or two. It's really very simple.

Now how awesome are you, Mom? You didn't hoard those mountains of clothes, you cut them up and made them into a beautiful quilt that you can give your teenager some day or keep for yourself when they have fluttered on out of the nest. Great for tshirts through highschool - you could end up with blankets for every room of any house they'll ever live in!'s not that hard!

The best tips I have to offer - Use a piece of cardboard as a template for all your jellyroll strips and keep it in the hatbox. This keeps them all the same. Try for the same materials if possible - all tshirt/jersey, etc. and last but not least - avoid a quilt of nothing but jean/denim - wow what a way to wear out a machine! lol

I hope this gave you some ideas, sparked some creativity and maybe helps you cut down on a little bit of small-children-clothing clutter. And the end result - recycle, reuse, reduce - Say hello to a quilt full of memories.

And remember - it's not cheating to just go out and buy a jellyroll to make a quilt! Nobody says you have to stash away strips over the years in order to end up with a beautiful quilt! But now you know how easy they are to make!

Final tip - Not a pro at backing? Me neither. Option one: Get a lightweight blanket and stitch it to the back of your quilt to 'finish' it - I say cheat all the way! Have the extra funds to spare? Contact a quilter - many will back your quilt as a service they provide. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cooking - Batch or Cooking Marathons?

After this past week I can say I have officially tried cooking both ways.

1. Batch Cooking - you make multiple batches and freeze or otherwise store the extras to eat at a later time. Like leftovers but a whole meal or more.
2. Cooking Marathons - You make a menu, have a list, do a big grocery run, do a lot of cooking, and make all your meals in one or two days.

And after walking away from BOTH of these methods a little less than impressed I'm going to tell you what I think and my solution. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it wont. We'll see.

The Deal with the Batch Cooking - 

I like batch cooking. The premise being that you are spending the time you would normally spend in the kitchen preparing your meal but just make a double or even a quadruple batch. (Enough for 2 or even 4 more whole meals). THAT is way more efficient than making one dinner - which you were going to do anyway!

If you don't want to plan much, if you don't like a strategy or you don't mind cooking  - this is a great way to have emergency meals prepared in the event that things don't go according to plan. They are also great as last minute additions for parties, holidays, luncheons, dinner guest additions, etc. You name it, an extra meal on hand that just needs to be popped in the oven or microwave is a sure crowd pleaser.
NO additional planning
NO additional time spent in the kitchen than you already invest
You already love what you're eating or you wouldn't be making it to begin with
You use recipes you already know and love
* Very little variety (You'll end up with 6 of the same types of dinners in the freezer - it gets old)
* If you didn't don't regularly plan dinners, you may not want to make a quadruple batch of 'last minute' dinners that you put together because you have no idea what to make
* Your current recipes may or may not freeze and reheat well - you'll want to see if your recipe can!

The Deal with Cooking Marathons -

Can I just say that after the first day, I couldn't walk. The fiance had to rub my feet for thirty minutes just to get the pain to stop. That is how long we spent in the kitchen. I remember looking into his loving eyes and gritting my teeth with affection saying 'We are never doing this again' and he nodded along with me. What's more? He participated for two days (the weekend) and I was still chugging along a third day!

You get all your cooking done up front. The rest of the week or more is a breeze!
(Looking a little light up here!)

You'll end up forgetting a lot of things you need - we did this on three recipes and they didn't turn out great.
You will have to prep and cook and freeze EVERYTHING almost as soon as you get it to make this work - say goodbye to your time off. You'll be in that kitchen - so get in there!
If you don't plan your dinners out on a weekly or monthly basis - you won't survive this. You won't.

What is My Solution?

Sometimes how you react to a terrible solution can be insightful into what your solution could or should be. 
What did I do when I was running my cooking marathon?
1. Wishing my recipes required less prep-cooking
2. Wishing I had weeded out all the recipes that required a LOT of precooking
3. Wishing I had quadrupled instead of doubled the recipes that required a LOT of cooking.
4. Wishing I had a lot of recipes that required less than 20 minutes of cooking at all.
5. Quit before everything was done and put the rest of it off until the next two days
6. Finally decided NOT to finish the Cooking Marathon at ALL and just revert to Batch cooking for the rest of the week. That is - I waited until the day a recipe was needed and doubled the batch, freezing half for next week.

What is my Final Verdict?

1. I had too many complex recipes. Complex and long prep/cooking hours may taste good but it's not a requirement!

2. I don't want to spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen cooking ANYTHING.

3. I needed to cut down my list of elaborate recipes that I never use.

4. Have healthy meals that I won't feel guilty about giving to my family because I want to skimp on kitchen time.

The Final Solution:

I'm making a cook book. 

It's only logical...

I threw out all my old recipes and started from scratch. I started with what I had been marathon cooking this past weekend. And I got rid of every recipe that was a pain to cook. That doesn't mean toss them forever - but for daily cooking, it's time to get real.

Real food - I needed recipes that I could make from scratch in a short amount of time. But still taste GOOD! Best way - copycat recipes. Make a list or print out a menu of your favorite restaurants. Find the copycat recipes and see which ones are actually pretty easy to make.

Freeze it, jar it, can it, store it - I needed recipes that I could make in large batches and were easy to pop in the freezer. Anything that goes into a slow cooker is great but I don't want to limit myself. I wanted to add appetizers, breads and sides to my list. Because nothing says "Thank goodness" like taking out a bag for each part of dinner, throwing it on a baking sheet and turning on the oven. Dinner. Is. Done.

What does this cookbook mean for you?

Well, for one - I'm going to be testing this first hand. It's "My" cookbook in the way that I'm adding recipes as I prove them for my family in my kitchen.

When I have determined that something takes LESS THAN 15 minutes to throw together then I will add it. If it is too much hassle - I'm a minimalist, I'm going to throw it out.  There are hundreds of thousands of ways to make different foods- there has to be a couple hundred ways to make healthy dinners in less than 15 minutes! Right?!

Not your basic "open the can and throw it on top of the chicken" but real ingredients, real food, and being able to recognize everything that goes in the pan, pot or dish as a real food.

And I'm trying to go inexpensive - not cheap quality, inexpensive - there is a difference.

The Recipes...

Want a good one? Here is my go-to when it comes to dinner that is healthy and takes roughly 15 minutes hands on and no supervision.

You'll recognize this bad boy from olive garden...

That's a page right from my new cookbook (logo added) - I'll post a new recipe once a week!
Feel free to share it, print it, pin it or eat it!

I don't have plans to print this lovely book but I do plan to make it available in digital format.
Stay tuned and don't forget - I warned you about those darn Cooking Marathons!
Until the easy cookbook is finished - just double up your favorite dinners to make your next couple of weeks a breeze.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Preplanned Crafts - Paper Folding Fans!

This is a great preplanned craft because you don't need much.

Where did I get the inspiration? I've been trying to teach my girl's lots of artsy-things. My inspiration is from Pride & Prejudice - those girls are always doing something with ribbon and needle and thread!

We already have daily (most of the time) tea with cute little cookies and sugar cubes. But we need crafts - boy do we ever! And I don't want lots of specialty items - and since it is summer, I need something pretty easy!

The girls have actually been asking for fans since it's warm outside at least once every two weeks. But I have been waiting to get them hand fans because I sort of wanted to get BLANK paper ones and have them color them! And now I don't have to buy the fans themselves - we can make them, start to finish!

We are doing this as a planned craft this week - I hope this has given you some inspiration!

You can't go wrong with construction paper (We're going to use thin paper and add some ribbon to the top!), ribbon and Popsicle sticks! A little bit of glue gun and we're on our way!

Did this give you an idea? Make sure you gather up the supplies for this craft and stick it in your planned craft if you don't plan on doing it later. Just a few items stuffed in a box or bag and with instructions printed out (Found HERE) and you will have a last minute craft that can be LOTS of fun!

Don't forget ... add some small details or lots of details! Im going to watercolor a scene and then fold mine up! Get creative!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gardening - Seed Organization

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best solutions.

I have a lot of seeds. There are only a few things I 'hoard' - digital books and seeds!

Because knowledge and the ability to grow your own food are pretty darn important.

Storage of my digital book collection is a snap - obviously.

Storage of a seed collection can get a little more complicated... use what you have on hand unless something else better comes along.

Normally I store my seed collection like this...

In a box, thrown in, inside of packets - some open, some sealed, some knocking around in the bottom to create a 'surprise mix' for next spring. I also print out my own seed packets off of the computer to customize with our family name and so I can keep the seeds I save from our own garden and maximize our garden year after year.

But the can become really concerning.
And I kind of like the idea of having my seeds organized by WHEN I'm supposed to plant them! I can't help it if I'm a bit OCD and like to organize with 'tiers' in most cases. I don't just want my seeds organized, I want them organized by expiration date, alphabetically and chronologically by when they should be planted. That should be easy enough, right?

Eight months into my seed collecting - because I hit the bargain sales at the end of the last season - and Im still a mess! Today I was picking up clutter I've left around the house - 5 minute or less guarantee- and I had a stack of empty and unused baseball card organizers (for folders).

Why? Coupons of course - I'll save that post for another day.

While I don't *Love* having to fold the seed packets I currently have, I am able to print out my own seed packets and keep them small - so that they fit a baseball card slot. This is perfect! (I'm so OCD I might repackage the seeds I have just so they fit).

Here is a great example - I'll post a photo of mine after I'm done today adding my own collection to my binder.

And that's what I'm sharing with you today. Cost? Very low - I spent no more than $2 on a binder just like the above, and about $10 last year on the baseball card holders. (I bet you could find them cheaper! I didn't shop around!)

I'll continue to refine and update you about my storage ideas - like this one.
Remember - improvise, think outside the box, and work smarter instead of harder if the situation presents itself.

Need some Baseball Card sized mini Seed packets? Print them! These are the ones that are my favorite, scaled down to fit baseball card inserts (A bit prettier than the yellow mini-envelope and perfect for saving your own seeds!)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Decluttering - Hoarding Organizing Systems

This week I want to talk about something close to my heart that I feel most would embrace if they called it a different name. Don't call it organizing, don't call it decluttering, don't call it cleaning. 

You are not a hoarder.
You are not a bad person.
You are not lazy.
But you just can't seem to keep it all together, all clean, all organized.
Heck - you can't even find a place for it. 
But you need it. 
So you'll Organize it.
Is this You?
The picture above is your last stop organizing system. And there is a chance that your basement looks close to this. But if this is how any other room in your house is starting to look - it's time to take a step back.

It always starts with taking a step back.

Now if your living room doesn't look like the picture above but you are still struggling with decluttering I'm going to help you out a little. I'm going to give you some mind blowing insight that is both common and not common.

If you can't find a place for it, if you can't find it, if you have more than one but don't know where the others are, if you don't know where you put it down, if you don't know where someone moved it - you are one step away from the picture above.

Because you're going to hit a wall and finally say "I need to get ORGANIZED" and that is not the answer.

It happened to me ten years ago. I spent HOURS shopping for new organizers because if I just got another organizer for my socks, for my shoes, for my dishes, for my papers, for my furniture, for my EVERYTHING then the mess would disappear.

And I would always find that perfect organizer, the made of wishes and dreams, that was going to fix it. And it would for a while. But you know what would happen? It would only organize one thing. My socks would be organized...until I got more socks and I had to get a different organizer.

An example - I needed more closet space but I had already filled four closets...yes, I had a problem. Did I address my problem? No, I *NEEDED* all of this stuff. What did I need to do? I needed to get ORGANIZED, I told myself.

I did what most people did - I organized the problem away...temporarily. I bet you're wondering how I got around running out of closets after filling four...I bought four rolling clothing racks. Problem solved! Until about three months later when those were filled and I had mess again.

I was an absolute extreme - I will admit that. But this is where it starts. You organize away the mess one mess at a time and it takes FOREVER.

When I stopped and looked, I was able to fill boxes with organizing systems I had bought, filled and outgrown. And it finally clicked - if you can't organize it, you have too much stuff.

Do you find stuff with stickers, tags or receipts still attached? You have too much stuff.
Do you have clothes that are a size bigger and a size smaller just in case? You have too much stuff.
Do you have more than one of something but can't find them all? You have too much stuff.
Can you name something in your house and find it within thirty seconds? You have too much stuff.
Does it take you longer than 15 minutes to pick up your living space? You have too much stuff.

The following excuses are obsolete:
I have kids - Me too! A 5 and a 6 Year old - let's teach them healthy habits now!
I have a spouse - Get them on board! Want to convince them? Box everything up...
I don't have time - Prevention and 10 items a day and you're clutter free before you know it.
We want a cozy home - But Can you can SEE the cozy instead of the mess? Be warm and Minimal.

Next time you try to figure out how to 'Organize' your room - ask yourself if you are trying to organize a life or organize a mess? Contrary to mainstream concepts - life doesn't have to be a constant mess. And you're not a maid. Make more time for yourself.

How do you become an Extreme  minimalist in 30 minutes per room?

Walk into any room with a laundry basket and pick the things in that room that you CANNOT live without. Rule: You only get what fits in the laundry basket. (Furniture are an exception at this point) You are done.
Donate the rest. Let your family have one basket for the room and see what it is you really want to save and make excuses for - and double and triple check:

Do I NEED it?
Do I WANT it?
Will I USE it?

More often than not, the answer is no.

How do you get rid of what is left?

  1. Get big boxes or bags
  2. Throw EVERYTHING in the boxes or bags without organization or review
  3. Donate it by driving it OR having them PICK IT UP FOR YOU!
Done, done, done!
And I mean it when I say done, it's exactly what I did with 4 closets, 4 clothing racks, and the rest of my apartment.