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Tag Archive: 31 Days of Less & More

Less Coming In, More Contentment

During the month of October, I’m following along with & on their . I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and , or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Coming In, More Contentment

Jesse was going through old financial statements not too long ago and we were aghast to read the numbers. During the first year he was in law school, there were six months when we made less than $900 — and some months it was as low as $650. I recall that season of our lives fairly vividly, but seeing those numbers on paper again after a number of years have past was a shock to our systems.

Our rent alone during those months was over $500. I’m still not sure how we made it on so little! No wonder we rarely ate meat and did so many other pretty “extreme” things. (Yes, we had money in the bank to cover most of law school, but that money was locked up in CDs and we’d both decided that it would be untouchable to us except in the case of a dire, life-threatening emergency.)

Our commitment to live within our means and stay out of debt was hard. There’s no doubt about that.

I remember we’d pay our tithe money, our rent check and our basic utility bills and then we prayed that somehow the rest of the money would stretch until the next check would come in. How we were going to afford basic necessities was constantly looming over our heads.

And yet, those months were some of the most precious and memorable in our lives. We saw God provide for us in amazing and unexpected ways. We learned to be wildly creative. We were forced to be incredibly entrepreneurial.

Most of all, we discovered that contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances.

We didn’t have money to buy anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. And often, we didn’t have money to buy even what seemed like a necessity.

It was so good to learn that stuff doesn’t buy happiness. It’s easy to say that, but living it really solidified it for us.

I tested and tried out the theory — out of necessity — and I learned that it’s really true. You can be wildly fulfilled and content even in the leanest times.

To this day, even though our financial state has changed a great deal, I just don’t spend much money. Because stuff is just stuff. Time with people and making memories matter so much more than the things we own.

Contentment is a choice. So choose today to bloom where you’re planted. Choose to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Choose to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being thankful for the many blessings you do have.

And remember, no matter what difficulties you might be dealing with today, .

For more on this topic, check out and . I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!


Less Holiday Stress, More Memories

During the month of October, I’m following along with & on their . I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and , or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Holiday Overkill

I love the Christmas season. I love the sights, smells, tastes, sounds… all of it. But you know what I don’t love? That so many people feel rushed, hurried, and frazzled during Christmas.

The heart of Christmas is not about impressing people or running around at a crazy, frantic speed. And making either of those things your focus is certainly not going to help you celebrate and savor the season!

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Here are three ways you can simplify the busy holiday season:

1. Pare down the gift-giving.

Evaluate your gift list: Do you really need to give a gift to your uncle’s neighbor’s dog? I’m pretty sure Fido will survive just fine without another fancy chew toy, so save your money and use it to buy gifts for those you really care about or want to bless.

Creating limits for how many gifts you buy helps to simplify things. I know some families who give their children three gifts in three different categories (such as: something to wear, something to read, and something fun).

Our family doesn’t have specific limits or categories for what we give our children, but we’ve opted to just keep it to a few really meaningful gifts for each child. This allows us to really savor each gift as it’s opened, instead of being overwhelmed by a massive pile of presents.

2. Prioritize.

If you want to have a stress-free and simple season, you aren’t going to be able to do everything. Take 15 minutes sometime in the next few days to sit down and write out what the important things are for you and your family this Christmas season. Each person’s list is going to look different—and that’s perfectly okay.

Maybe you love to make homemade gifts but you really couldn’t care less about sending out cards. Perhaps you want to volunteer your time to bless those who are less fortunate but you really don’t have any desire to attend a lot of parties with people don’t know very well. Or, you really want to do fun and meaningful activities with your children but you really don’t enjoy baking at all. Know what you want to invest your time and effort into this holiday season, then say no to opportunities and invitations that aren’t in line with your priorities.

3. Plan ahead.

After you’ve decided upon your priorities for this holiday season, it’s time to make a game plan. Look at your calendar and commitments for the next eight weeks and think of everything you can do to prepare ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Make sugar cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it so it’s ready for that cookie-decorating party or to give to your neighbors. Go ahead and buy all of the necessary items to make the goody baskets for the homeless shelter. Buy or make hostess gifts to have on hand for last-minute party invitations. Check your closet to make sure you have outfits for the holiday parties you’ll be attending. Finish your shopping early and avoid the mad rush of crowds and traffic the final few days before Christmas.

The more you pare down, prioritize, and plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax and soak in all the memories and moments of the holidays — and focus on celebrating the reason for the season. And that’s what will really matter long after the elaborate decorations, fancy parties, and expensive gifts are forgotten.

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More Memories

One thing that has helped us to slow down and just enjoy December is to create a Christmas Bucket List. We all sit down as a family and choose a few things that each of us really wants to do for Christmas.

Last year, the girls wanted to build a snowman, play in the snow as a family, decorate Christmas cookies, and go ice-skating. I wanted to do an Advent project and take the girls to the Nutcracker, Jesse wanted to go look at Christmas lights as a family and watch one of our favorite Christmas movies together.

By the time we’re done discussing our Bucket List, we’ve come up with a great list of memorable activities to do together and since everyone gave their input, there’s something (or more than one thing) on the list that each person will really enjoy.

We spread these activities out during the whole month of December, doing a few items each week. Because our list is not long and overwhelming and because we have four weeks to do it, we’re able to really take time to enjoy each thing and create beautiful memories.

This tradition has been one of the best things we’ve ever implemented to help us stay focused, calm, and intentional during the Christmas season. And it also helps us to say “no” to most of the other ideas and opportunities that come up that aren’t already on our list.

Related Articles:

For more on this topic, check out and . I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

Less Surface Clutter, More Art

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During the month of October, I’m following along with & on their . I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and , or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Surface Clutter

As you probably already know, I’m not really into surface clutter. In fact, .

I’m positive that some people would come to my house and think it’s entirely too empty. But we love the uncluttered look. Here are four reasons we don’t have a lot of clutter:

1. It simplifies things because I have less to clean up. The less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to take care of.

2. It makes things easier to find. When you don’t have as much stuff, it’s easier to put things away.

3. It provides breathing room. I love wide open spaces — they allow my soul to breathe and make life feel calmer.

4. It saves money. The less you buy, the more you usually save. Plus, the less you have, the less you have to pay to maintain.

More Art

That said, I’ve come to actually love having a few things on my walls. I like to put things on the walls that remind me of wonderful memories, inspire me, or make me smile.

{Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve really ever physically hung anything on my walls — my friends and family are so great to help me out there! If it weren’t for them, I doubt I’d ever actually get anything up on my walls. It’s completely not a core competency of mine!}

Photo Canvas Deals

There are always floating around the internet and they are a fantastic way to pull off a big wall-hanging on a budget. I took advantage of one of these to blow up a photo I took on that amazing cruise my husband and I took. This photo hangs in our beach-themed bathroom and is a constant reminder to me of a special memory.

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This is my favorite wall in our home. I smile every time I look at the beautiful faces of my children and I am reminded that the years are fleeting as I see how much they’ve grown up since we had these pictures done late last year (the one with them in green is with their cousin and was taken three years ago — amazing to see how they’ve grown up since then!)

Photo deals abound on the internet or in the newspaper. We usually use a coupon or a to get a great deal and I only get professional photos done of everyone once a year.

You can purchase frames at the dollar store (you can paint them to match your decor, if you’re handy like that!) or with a coupon at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. Then, just switch out the photos every year or six months — and you have wall art on a dime.

Oh and that Family decal? I purchased it with a . Love it!

For more on this topic, check out and . I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

Less Kitchen Confusion, More Organized Pantries

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During the month of October, I’m following along with & on their . I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and , or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Kitchen Confusion

If you’re anything like me, you do a lot of baking and cooking from scratch. And this means you have to have an organized kitchen. Otherwise, everything becomes chaotic and messy very quickly. Here are a few things that help me have more organization in the kitchen:

Stick With a Few Appliances — Despite what manufacturers want you to believe, you don’t need a different appliance for every single thing you do in the kitchen. Consolidate your appliances and only have those that you use very regularly and that serve dual purposes.

Cut Down on the Cookbooks — With the advent of the internet, cookbooks are becoming less of a necessity. In fact, as much as I love cookbooks, I only have a few of them. Because I mostly just use Pinterest and blogs for recipe ideas.

Clean As You Go — One surefire way to keep your kitchen more organized is to train yourself to put things away as soon as you use them. It’s amazing how much more efficient and less messy cooking becomes when you clean as you go!

More Organized Pantries

I have to confess: I don’t have any fantastic system for organizing my pantry. I just basically make sure I can see everything and that it looks in decent order.

But if you’re looking for a detailed list, be sure to check out . Or, read Ruth’s post on (she also has a wonderful free printable available).

What are your best tips for keeping your kitchen and pantry organized?

For more on this topic, check out and . I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

Less Paper Clutter, More Filing

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During the month of October, I’m following along with & on their . I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and , or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Paper Clutter

As you well know, I kind of despise clutter. Or, probably more accurately: I can’t stand clutter. And it’s no different when it comes to paper clutter. Here are some things that we’ve found to be helpful:

Adopt the No-Pile Rule — Except for my husband’s dresser, we try to strictly adhere to a no-pile rule. I’ve found that a small pile quickly grows—without any effort. If you don’t start a pile in the first place, you can avoid a lot of disorganization.

In the Door, In Its Place — Instead of collecting piles of paper around the house until you have time to deal with them, take care of them immediately. When mail or other papers come into our home, I go through them right then and there and throw out everything that we don’t have to keep. Then I put each item in its specific place. For instance, bills go on my husband’s dresser, magazines go in a basket in my office, freebies go in the household product stockpile closet, coupons in my coupon box, and junk mail in the trash.

Avoid clutter-collecting furniture — We don’t own furniture that tends to be obvious clutter hotspots. I’ve found that when there’s no place to collect piles, you are much less apt to make them.

Set up a special memorabilia storage space — I have two big storage containers with lids that I’ve designated specifically for storing mementos. Not only does this provide a place to put special cards or pictures that come in the mail, but it also keeps everything in one place and not overflowing into other parts of the house. When the bins start to get full, we go through them and pare things down a bit so that we can have more space.

How-I-Keep-My-Inbox-to-Fewer-Than-5-Emails1Though not exactly paper clutter, emails are something that are taking over many people’s lives. Need some help taming the email monster? Read my post on How I Keep My Inbox to Fewer Than 5 Emails.

More Filing

I have to tell you, I’m more a fan of trashing than filing. But I’d rather have a file than a pile. So here are some of the things that have helped me keep on top of paper clutter:

Create a Simple System — A system is only as good as it’s operator. Don’t over-complicate your filing system. Even just a few files in a file box can work. For more details on setting up a system for your important documents, check out the five-part series we ran last year on Organizing Your Important Documents.

When In Doubt, Throw It Out — Okay, so some people might disagree with me on this, but I think there is no reason to hang onto something “just in case.” Give yourself permission to just chuck it without guilt.

Use a Scanner — If you think you might need it later, scan the document and save it in a file so you’ll have it if you need it later. You can download an app for this or get a cheap scanner.

For more on this topic, check out and . I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

Less Television, More Reading

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During the month of October, I’m following along with & on their . I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and , or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Television

According to statistics, the average American watches . That’s a LOT of time!

Stop to think what you could do with that time. You could keep your house in amazing shape. You could exercise more. You could cook from scratch. You could have a profitable side business. You could write a book. You could invest in some close relationships.

The sky is the limit with what you could do with 30 hours per week!

I think we’d all agree that, in most cases, there are more productive things to do than to spend hours and hours each week sitting in front of a black box. But we have to be intentional in setting up our days so that television-watching doesn’t become our default.

Here are three practices that have helped us:

1. Turn It Off!

Okay, so this seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you have the TV on in the background as you go about your day? Try just turning it off. It will mean less distraction and less noise in your day — which doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me!

2. Don’t Pay for Cable

This is another simplistic tip, but it really works! If you can’t get that many shows on your TV, there’s a lot less temptation to turn it on or channel surf.

2. Have Set Times for Watching

We don’t watch a lot of TV, but we do have Movie Time at 5 p.m. every day. Establishing a specific time for having the TV on at our house has been so beneficial as then I don’t have to field questions all day on “when can we watch a movie”? And also, it provides a lot of motivation for our kids to get their school and chores done by 5 p.m.! 🙂

More Reading

It’s no secret that . In fact, I enjoy it so much that I sometimes put it as a higher priority than sleep (which I don’t recommend!).

Making good books a part of your life isn’t something that will just naturally happen. Again, it’s something you need to be intentional about — especially if you’re not much of a reader.

Challenge yourself to read for 15 minutes when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night. Listen to audiobooks while you’re driving or working around the house. Read aloud as a family.

Set small goals to make reading a part of your everyday life. I promise it will be worth the effort!

For more ideas, check out my post on .

For more on this topic, check out and . I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!