Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Minimalism In A Not So Tiny House - Introduction

You've probably seen those shows about tiny houses and maybe you started dreaming of living in one yourself. But then all of a sudden you are snapped back into reality when you wonder, "where would I put my coffee mug collection and all of the children?"

You've followed fabulous instagramers who tour the USA in their adorable & cozy motor homes and stopped to wonder if your husband would let you sell everything and buy one of those. After all, adventure would be right around every corner. But then you remember that you get motion sickness just looking at the spinning rides at the amusement park...let alone riding in a large moving vehicle sideways, for that matter.

Why does this minimalist lifestyle seem to be catching on? 

I think that it's because every where we turn we are surrounded by more and more stuff with the promise that THIS will make us happy.

But then it doesn't.

And then we wonder...

Is there more to life than having all of this stuff?

Is there more to life than working overtime at a job, to be able pay for a really nice car, to be able to use to drive to work...and so forth, and so forth.

The minimalist life is all about simple and living with less and doing more of what you love

But if living in a tiny house or owning a hip, retro motor home isn't in your future, is living a minimalist lifestyle even possible? What if you want a warm & inviting home, space for friends to gather, have multiple people living in your home AND want a room of your own to sneak away to?

Can you own a "not so tiny house" and still live a simpler & fuller life by applying some of the same principles?

The answer is YES!

This past summer our family took an epic road trip from Minnesota to Mexico and back! All seven of us packed up our one tote each and hopped in our twelve passenger van. We logged more hours on the road and in the sun than we ever had before.

We had the time of our lives!

Two months before our trip we cleaned, purged and organized our home. 

We had one clear goal. 

Getting our home ready for numerous guests to stay there over the summer. We gave away a week stay each to two amazing families and filled in the rest of the time with guests through AIRBNB. 

This experience gave me a totally new perspective AND motivation like never before to clean and purge our home.

The outcome was epic.

We came back home right before school started and thankfully our house was still here. ;-) We had signatures left on the chalkboard guestbook wall with thank you's and little notes left where people shared how much they really enjoyed their stay.

We funded our whole road trip to Mexico and back because of opening up our home to others. 

When we returned I gained even more freedom as I continued purging and cleaning our home after realizing how AMAZING it felt to continue having quality family time, continue to open up our home to guests and NOT continuing to spend hours shopping for, cleaning up and organizing ALL OF THAT STUFF!

My home feels inviting and I feel free!

I feel even more able now to focus on what matters most...loving God and loving people.

Now, everything that is in our home is there because it serves an important purpose or multiple purposes or brings someone in our home great joy. 

Through this new series, Minimalism In A Not So Tiny House, I want to guide you through creating a minimalist home that you love (regardless of the size of your home) that gives you the freedom to do the things that you've always dreamed of doing!

Over the course of these next few months, I'll share advice on downsizing your stuff, give you a tour of each room in our house and give you meaningful tips for tackling your space and finding freedom from "stuff" for the long haul! 

I'm also writing an e-book that will launch this Spring! A manual of sorts on how to prepare your home, host well, and have a thriving AIRBNB listing. I'll share all of my behind the scenes tips and things we learned along the way that will help you prepare and list your home well, right from the start!  

But this whole minimalism thing is going to take work.

And a mindset change.

And you are going to have to get rid of some stuff.

But it is going to be WORTH IT!

Are you ready?!?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Simple Desk Refresh

This new year has me smiling from ear to ear! There is just something special about starting a year out fresh. Today feels even fresher as I write from a place in our home that I have never written from before. 

This new set up was such a simple refresh but feels HUGE in the benefits that were gained! It didn't cost us a cent, is super bright and airy and just involved some re-thinking of our space and working through the logistics of some dilemmas that we were having. I thought I would share a little bit about that story so that you might be inspired that the solution to one of your house problems might actually already be...right in your home!

Our popular DIY desk (made out of file cabinets and unused table leaves) has been residing in our home for quite a while now. It has occupied a corner of our dining room for years and was actually the first place I started writing at four years ago.

Once I started teaching essential oil classes, I needed a little bit more storage/office space so I relocated my work area to the second floor. We took the smallest bedroom (that had been our guestroom until we moved it into the basement, here) and turned it into a shared office space for Sam and I. Well, technically, Sam turned it into his office first and then I joined him a little bit later.

The dilemma however became that this room is also our catch all room. It is also a really small space...for two of us. So while I might have more room to organize things here, there is also another desk crammed behind me along with other random things trying to claim this space. 

A few weeks ago we went searching for a bigger dining room table after I shared this news. (Our current table seats 6 people comfortably and on a regular basis we are squeezing 7-10 people around it.) With no luck finding something that fits well in the space and using our current chairs, we are checking with a friend to see if he can build us something. Either way we knew how cramped it already was getting around the table with the desk in the corner so we decided to simplify our art/homework supplies (that were just getting thrown into those file cabinets) into this and broke the desk down and put everything out in the garage. 

Problem: Wanting a chaos free desk to write, plan and create. 

First Solution: I attempted to convince Sam that the office upstairs should become mine and he should find another space to use as his office. I didn't know where that space was...but that was my first suggestion. :-)

Problem: He shot that down, right away. He might have even suggested that I originally invaded HIS office. 

Second Solution: I circled the main level thinking really, really hard. And then told Sam that I was going to try bringing the DIY desk back in the house and put it in the living room by the window. I figured that I could still keep my items upstairs in the recently organized closet, but at least I could have a clutter free space to jump on my laptop from on the main level. A little shuffling down of the coat rack and it FIT!

I discovered through the whole process how much I dislike using my phone to email or message people back. It makes me feel like I'm always on it and I would much rather pick a few times a day to just sit down on an actual keyboard and type out my response. And that is a lot easier to do for me, when the computer is on the main level.

Now I have a place in the main area of the house to communicate, write and plan. 

And the view out the window is the icing on top!

Now the only problem is that Sam came home and saw my new desk set up in the living room and LOVED IT. He started trying to convince me that he should get the desk in the living room. 


I of course disagreed right away...but then as I took a little time to think about it some more, I realized that if he was serious and really did take this space (and stored his stuff in the file cabinets like he suggested) then the upstairs office would be ALL mine. Oh how I could clear out and decorate that blissful space!

I guess only time will tell.

I hope you enjoyed today's little tale.

My advice to you would be to face your current home frustration head on! Is there something that has been bothering you on a regular basis? Is there a way you could fix the problem by shifting furniture, removing something all together to create more space or bringing something back in from the garage?

Take a few minutes to circle your space, think about all of the potential possibilities and let me know what you come up with. You've got this!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tools To Help You Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet!

Christmas is over and New Year's is right around the corner: So, today I am sharing some of the tools that I am most excited to use in 2017!

First up are PowerSheets from the Cultivate What Matters shop. On their site they describe them as 


PowerSheets® help you uncover purpose-filled goals and plan action steps to make what matters happen. Perfect for anyone—moms, students, creatives, entrepreneurs—who needs a grace-filled system that works! Join the thousands of women who have changed their lives with PowerSheets!
It was probably nine months ago that I first heard about PowerSheets. At the time they were all sold out. So I started following Lara Casey on Instagram and have been eagerly waiting for the PowerSheets to come back in stock, ever since! This will be my first year using them and I am excited to start tending to my goals and the things that I have written down that matter most to me. And oh the sticker book...I highly recommend snagging a sticker book or two. It makes adulting and purposeful planning just plain FUN!

Another thing that I am super excited about for this coming year is beginning to read through the Bible chronologically. It is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. It has been years since I read through the Bible from front to back. I love the idea of reading it like a story as it unfolds in Genesis and hops around from there. I don't know about you, but never before have I wanted to read my Bible more than now. There are a LOT of great books out there...books that I really enjoy reading but there is nothing that will take the place of the truth that is in this precious, life-giving book! 
Our church is actually launching this chronological Bible reading program together. It will get you through the entire Old Testament chronologically in 2017. And then we'll be posting the rest of the plan in 2018 to get through the New Testament in about 6 months. I found the NIV Bible below at Sam's Club and knew that it would be a great tool for using this year. I love the idea of marking it up and really diving in!

It has sections on the side for jounaling and then also has different scriptures and pictures that are colored throughout. I love the pretty images and can't wait to dive in using my favorite erasable pens that I mentioned in this post. You can purchase them, here.

I also found an option on Amazon that actually is a Bible plus has pages and scriptures verses right inside to color is here. I really liked the idea of coloring and having a journal all inside. However after checking it out in person, I decided that this one was a little too bulky for what I wanted and so I decided to go with the first one above that is just for journaling and already has colorful pages inside.

Another person I really enjoy following on Instagram is Emily Ley. I just finished reading her book, Grace Not Perfection. It had some great tips in it, was simply enjoyable to read and looks gorgeous (it is one of those pretty books to put on your night stand or coffee table.) Emily Ley also created the Simplified Planner. You guys, google calendar captured my heart years ago (Sam and I can instantly see and edit any of our three synced calendars: Sams, mine & our family's.) I knew I would never go back to a paper planner again. BUT these stripes had me at hello. 

One of the things that we started this past fall was taking one Saturday a month to do a fun family outing together (making memories now and not just waiting for the summer!) and then Sam and I have been taking one Friday a month for a date day to explore the city. I love the fact that I can plan out those days (and other things that I am prioritizing like a once a month social-media free weekend and rest and teaching essential oil classes, etc.) into this and see a month at a times worth of activities. Once I know that I have planned the most important things then everything else can get filled in on my google calendar. And the idea that came with the box that the planner came in was to use the box as a keepsake holder for the year. I'm planning on putting ticket stubs, brochures, a few printed pictures, etc., in it from our adventures in 2017!

The planner also has daily "to-do" lists where you can jot down the things you want to do that day and it even has a place to check them off. "Write a blog post about the helpful tools I found to use in 2017." Check

Finally, I heard about this gorgeous calendar through one of my favorite podcasts, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. The calendar comes from May We Fly, and is darling in every way. My main use for this calendar is to help keep our kids in the loop of a few things coming up in 2017. Each month I fill in family members' birthdays as well as any family trips we have coming up. 

They love counting down to things like that. And because Sam and I both travel separately and together for different events throughout the year without the children, we are able to jot down the places that we are going as well. The kids always love seeing where we are headed to next and it reassures them that even though we are leaving, they can see exactly what day we are coming back home.  

What goals do you have for 2017? If you are looking for tools to help you plan, prioritize and stay on track this coming year, check out some of these helpful tools!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Organizing School Uniforms - A System that Works!

If I have learned anything over the past almost five years (since we went from having 2 kids to 5 kids in just seconds) it is that having a system for everyday things is GOLDEN! 

In our house, wearing school uniforms five days a week is a thing, so I wanted to find a simple and easy solution to keeping everyone's uniforms clean and wrinkle free. That desire of course came out of all of the past times that I was asked by a child in the morning "where is my uniform?" Only to discover that some were at the bottom of the laundry pile and who knows where the rest of them were! 

This system allows me to feel at ease that everyone is covered and by not having to track down school uniforms every morning I feel like I got a little piece of my life back.

But Sarah, it is right before Christmas...why are you sharing this now?!? Because Christmas break is about midway through the year and the time that I find it most helpful to re-evaluate whose pants are now too short or whose pants might now have holes. So feel free to bookmark this to read after your Christmas celebrations or you could even share this post now with a friend who has kids in school uniforms...they just might tell you that this was the most thoughtful present that they ever received. Because every mom is looking to gain a small part of their sanity back and for moms with kids in uniforms...this is it! 

It all started because I had a clothing rack that we didn't need anymore. We used to use it as our guest room closet until we did a little remodeling and put an IKEA unit in there instead. I was so close to donating this rack until I discovered that it might be a great place to corral all of the school uniforms. I realize that space limitations might affect some in their ability to try this rack idea, however hopefully this post will still give you some helpful tips. You can find clothing racks just like this at Walmart or Target. I purchased the white pant hangers from Target.

Corralling everything together in one place my friends, is the key!

I keep the rack in our laundry room. That way as clean uniforms come out of the dryer I can collect them close by. I usually lay them out flat, on top of the dryer, and collect them over a few loads and then spend a minute or so hanging them up. We used to take them up to the kids closets to hang up but they never seemed to all be in one place that way (how do they get lost within a 100 foot distance?!?) We were always searching for somebody's uniform or they would get wrinkled and never hung up in the process from taking them from the laundry room to the bedrooms. Now each morning the kids come downstairs and grab their clean outfit. 

One thing I found helpful was grabbing some labeled dividers so that no one was confused whose uniforms were whose (they do after all look mighty similar.) Then I hang them up all the same way with each person's shirts first and then either their pants, jumpers, or skirt. This helps keep the clothes all being used & worn the same. 

I'll explain.

I always hang the clothes that come out of the dryer up on the right and then the kids grab their clothes from the left

It took a few days of me coming downstairs and reminding them to grab their shirt (on the left) and their pair of pants (on the left) but after that they got it. It is especially helpful for cycling through the boy pants evenly with how prone to getting holes they are.

Typically I shoot for having 3 bottoms and 3 tops for each child. That means that if I only wash one time mid-week the kids are good to go and it means a lot less inventory of clothes that I am keeping around. With five the amount of clothes we have can really add up and I don't want to buy more (or less) than we need. So given the colder weather that we experience in Minnesota, I usually do a combination of 1 short sleeve shirt and 2 long sleeve shirts for each of them. My kids in particular don't mind not having a cardigan and I certainly don't mind since we tried that once before and it got lost on the very first day. I think the feeling of insanity would come if this mom was always trying to track down five cardigans.

The thing I like about this system is that it is really low maintenance and since starting it I can only remember one time that a child was looking for a uniform shirt one day with no success. And that ended up being because mommy didn't have enough whites to run the load and I forgot that all of our daughter's uniform shirt are white and ended up in there. Note to self: Wash the white load mid-week even if it is small.

Christmas break is the time of year that I check-in on everything to see what is still in good shape and fitting the way it should. I like doing it then because it is almost half way through the year and typically gets us through to the end without having to re-evaluate again. Plus all of the kids are home to try on items that might now be too small AND they aren't in school so I can wash everything and inspect it all at once.

This morning I spent about 30 minutes going through all of the uniforms. I like to keep all of the extras (sizes we aren't currently using) in one giant tub. 

I went through the clothes and tossed the ones that were stained badly or had major rips in them. Then some of the pants were still in good enough shape that I was able to repair them slightly with an iron on patch and they were good to go! 

As I weeded out the stuff that was too small or too damaged I made a list of a few items that we needed to bring us back up to the 3 tops, 3 bottoms count for each person. Now, I've already placed one order from Amazon and plan on shopping online tomorrow at the uniform store since they are currently offering free shipping. 

By the time school starts again in January we will be all set to get us through the end of the year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Modern & Portable Homework/Art Station!

It all started the other night when my son asked for a glue stick to finish up his homework. You would think that this was a simple request, but as I was in the middle of making dinner and juggling 7 other things, I told him that I had no clue where a glue stick was and he would have to figure it out himself. My tone was probably sharper than he expected. I can picture him now being confused and wondering to himself, "I was just asking for a glue stick." 

I quickly came back with an "I'm sorry" and "hey, here is some tape...why don't you try that." 

Later I did a quick inventory of our homework/art supplies and realized that the pencils were mostly all missing erasers, but one, the crayons were all broken and there were zero glue sticks. I usually try to buy some supplies like this to throw in the kids' stockings at Christmas but this year I decided to do something a little different. I decided to create a modern & portable homework/art station as a joint/family stocking gift for all of them! (I'll still throw in a little candy, fruit and my favorite lip balms into their individual stockings for good measure.)

First I grabbed a few main supplies...

1) The tote with a wooden handle is actually a Magnolia Home piece by Joanna Gaines that I found at Becker Furniture World. You can check out this site to find a local retailer near you.

2) Then I purchased a set of regular mouth pint size mason jars like these.

To fill the jars I picked out all of the basics that I thought the kids would enjoy.

1) I recently found these pens after my friend Ginna told me that there was such a thing as "erasable pens." These might just be my recent favorite thing since sliced bread! You can find them here

2) I typically ration out the tape so that the kids don't go wild and use it all up in 3 seconds flat, but I've also learned to buy it in bulk since we go through lots. You can find a 6-pack here or go all out and get the 12-pack here.  I think I snagged the white tape dispenser at Target a few years back.

3) On a recent Target run I grabbed some Yoobi glue sticks

4) Modern inventions at their finest! The twistable colored pencils here and the twistable crayons here are brilliant. No more getting colored pencil pieces stuck in our pencil sharpener or dealing with hundreds of broken crayons. Thank you crayola! And they fit mighty nicely into those mason jars to store with some colorful flare. 

5) Basic washable markers for the win, here.

6) Staple item, pencils of course. I snagged these ones at Target but my all time favorites are the bulk option of pre-sharpened pencils like these. It is amazing how quickly they fly through those pencils.

7) Any basic stapler will do. And now the modern ones have a built-in staple remover, so less items are needed to store, which is a win in my book!

8) A few pink erasers like these are helpful for when those pencil erasers quickly disappear.

9) And last but not least, a handy, dandy ruler. I snagged the one pictured above from Target but you can also find lots to pick from here

I realized after the fact that I forget to grab our kids scissor stash and add those to the tote. But as you can see, all of my jars are filled. In all practicality we have had some issues with the kids cutting things that they shouldn't, so I'm actually thinking of just keeping those in the kitchen with my scissors and having them ask to use them when needed. 

I love how this little homework/art station turned out! In fact, I'm having a hard time keeping it hidden in our closet until Christmas Eve, when the kids will finally get to open up their stockings.

I'm already picturing this sitting on our dining room table in between meal times and all of the creating that will be taking place around it! In fact, I might finally break out my adult coloring books more, now that I have those twistable colored pencils on hand.

Thanks for asking for a glue stick son, who knew it would have turned into this.

Happy Coloring!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The BEST Thing About An Artificial Christmas Tree...

There is something dreamy about picking out a real tree. The adventure, the discovery, the memories of finding that perfect tree and bringing it home together. And oh the smells, those dreamy aromas and fresh scent!

But there is one pretty spectacular perk about having an artificial tree.

It doesn't change in size...






Even if they do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Priorities, Being Intentional & Our New Favorite Show

Our time together this summer in Mexico was a treasure

As we drew near to the end, I began thinking about what changes I wanted to make once we returned back home. (I love how getting out of your norm can give you a fresh perspective and cause you to reflect on life and priorities and what is most important to you.) I knew that school would be starting, Sam would be back to work, and then suddenly we would be in the full swing of things again.

Have you ever heard someone say, "plan your life or someone else will?" 

I have too. 

However, the hardest thing for me about that phrase is that it always sounded so limiting and confining. As if I have to plan out my whole entire life (when I barely know what is for breakfast the next day) or at the very least...I need to plan out every hour of every day this week in order to not have someone else planning it (or filling it up) for me. 

That never sounded like freedom...and that is coming from a natural born planner!

But I think our trip to Mexico caused me to realize that when I came back home I didn't have to have my WHOLE life planned out. I simply needed to prioritize and be intentional about the most important things to me. And that if those things were planned out, the rest of life could just be.

So I started making a list and one of the things on my list was being intentional about spending time with my kids.

But if spending time with them looks a lot like tracking them down to clean up their room or finish their homework or unload the dishwasher, then I knew that something had to be missing. Sam has talked for years about wanting to do karate again. So he decided that this fall he would look into taking a karate class with all of the kids...just them and daddy. He found a place where they can all take a class together and it makes me smile ever so brightly every time they come home all wearing their matching gis.

But here is the thing. 

If I want to spend some quality time with my kids it isn't going to be doing something active. It is going to involve rest. And while rest and 5 kids might seem like an oxymoron, I have found that it is sometimes achievable. 

In fact, I stumbled across the perfect solution when I purchased this box set of Little House on the Prairie. It was one of the first packages that arrived at our door after our trip. 

And we have loved it!

Maybe it is the fact that we weren't going to be able to binge the entire show because there were 48 (FORTY EIGHT!) discs. So instead we have been forced to savor one episode every week.

Maybe it is the fact that my first thought was that even if it was just the girls and I watching together it would still be some special (and restful!) quality time. And then I discovered that the boys enjoy watching it just as much as the girls do. And ok, even Sam enjoys it, but I keep telling him, "this is MY thing with the kids." :-)

Maybe it is the fact that each episode seems to teach a little life lesson that everyone can grasp, even our five year old.

Maybe it is the fact that they have chickens and do chores and walk to school and savor all of the normal, routine activities of every day life. 

Maybe it constantly reminds me of how special a family bond is and how imperfect we are as human beings. Yet we all have the same daily choice to choose love. 

Maybe it is the fact that friendships are shown growing and developing over time and not just because you met someone, found them on facebook, and now call yourselves, "friends".

Maybe it is the beauty in watching them build their home from the ground up and then watching Caroline put her one, singleporcelain doll on the mantel and seeing the joy that she radiates on a regular basis. Not because of the things that she has but because of the people that she loves.  

So for three months now, one of our new Sunday morning traditions (during our weekly Sabbath) is to stay in pajamas, gather together in the basement, grab blankets, snuggle, mommy grabs coffee and we watch one new episode of Little House on the Prairie...together.

And maybe I just kind of also love that the container is cute and small and...isn't that creative?!? And that it reminds me every day when I walk passed it to get to the laundry room that life is sweet and to keep things simple and to treasure those that you love.

Because everything in life can teach you a lesson. 

Especially if it involves watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie...together.

To purchase a set for your home or as a gift for a loved one this holiday season, go here.

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