Christmas and a ton of stuff

Well, it’s a new year! Christmas for us went better than expected. I was apprehensive going in on how the changes we are making would impact our boys. In years past we have always gone overboard with gifts, as I am sure a lot of parents do during this festive time of year.  We would buy them almost everything they asked for. They were always overjoyed on Christmas morning only to discard those beloved objects to the bottom of the toy bin within a week of receiving them.

Simplifying our lives is at the top of our priority list so we approached Christmas with this in mind. When the boys began making their Christmas wish lists we began by preparing them that they needed to think about what things they truly enjoyed and to make their lists based on that. They did well and were in agreement on most of the things they wanted.

We have family board game night twice a week and they asked for more board games so they can have more fun with us. They also asked for certain games for their Wii U, which is something they do with their dad for fun. The only thing they differed on was Britton wanted a BB gun and Keaton wanted a bow and arrow. Of course as Christmas neared their lists grew slightly, specifically Keaton adding that he wanted a puppy (more on that later). We explained they could ask for anything they want but that does not mean that they would get everything on their list. They had to prioritize their list to be sure the most important things were at the top of the list.

Thankfully, when they went to see Santa, on the Wednesday before Christmas, they only mentioned the items from their original list weeks prior.

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Santa brought them each a bow and arrow and each their own BB gun. We gave them a couple of Wii games and a few board games. To our surprise they were completely content in their gifts.

Here they are with their BB guns.

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And here they are with their bows minus the arrows of course!

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Santa was smart and left them safety glasses in their stockings. Keaton enjoyed modeling them for me.

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Christmas day we had beautiful weather so they were able to get outside and try out their new toys. They had a blast!

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Britton figured out, on his own, the best way to cock it himself. Turns out it was the same way his dad cocked his when he was a boy. Grip it between your feet and pull with all your might.

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The bow and arrow took some getting used but they mastered it pretty quickly.

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After all the Christmas festivities were over we told the boys they needed to go through all of their toys and get rid of as many old toys as they received new for Christmas., following our new “1 in/1 out” rule. To our surprise they filled 3 garden sized thrash bags full of old toys to donate.

We did a lot of purging this week as well. Our Christmas gift to each other was getting hardwood floors installed upstairs to match the hardwood downstairs. My husband has bad allergies and the carpet really needs to go. Hence, why we derailed the whole puppy idea for now. We’ll need to get an outside dog but we’ll need to build a fence first around the backyard. Keaton suggested Santa could build it when he dropped the puppy off. Can’t blame the kid for trying.

They are coming to install the floors next weekend so we decided to spend our break moving everything, with exception of furniture, down to the basement. This was a perfect opportunity to purge because why move it twice if we don’t have to. So we borrowed my MIL’s truck for few days and just started carting things off. It felt so good letting things go that we moved on to the basement and the garage. Might as well, since we already had the truck.

Wow! You would not believe the stuff we got rid of! You know that saying “we got rid of a ton of stuff”, well in our case we actually did! We hauled off 2 loads to the dump and 4 equally sized loads for donation. Each time we went to the dump we were weighed as we went in and as we left and it turns out that each time we got rid of 450 lbs. of stuff. We figured the donation loads were equivalent in weight and when you add that up it is literally a ton of stuff. I took a picture of the last load we took to the dump.

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I have done a fair share purging throughout the year. Based on donation receipts, we have donated 30 times since the beginning of the year. Only what the back of my Subaru Forrester would hold. Nothing to the scale of what we did this week.

Up to this point we have had one yard sale, but we mostly donated. I haven’t had the joyful experience, known as the landfill, until now. As if I were on autopilot, I would just put the discarded items in our dumpster for our trash guys to pick up. By the afternoon it was gone and forgotten. Easy enough. No worries for me.

I was in no way remotely prepared for the emotional impact this landfill experience would have on me.

As we pulled in, the mountain view was breathtaking.

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When I say it took my breath away, I’m not referring to the stench, though that too was horrifying. It was the man-made mountain before me and the breath was one of shock. This mountain was 1 of 3 and there was a line of 15 trucks waiting to add their treasures to these massive peaks.

I watched as a man wielding heavy machinery chipped away at one of the mountains. Pushing his captive to the back of the building loading it onto a truck to be hauled away. Making room for more mountains. For the first time, I was struck by my contribution to this waste. The movie Wall-E was the first thing that popped into my head as a gawked at what I saw before me. I thought of the “little” dumpster I have at home and then thought about all the other people in my community with their “little” dumpsters (some which have 2) and this is what all those little dumpsters add up to be. We sometimes forget to see the forrest for the trees.

Never will I allow myself to be in this situation again. We discussed it throughout the weekend and we are, more than ever, set on making even more life changes. We already recycle but are guilty of using the convenience of paper plates/cups, among other wasteful practices, that contribute to this picture that now haunts me. Thankfully, that will be changing.

Minimalism is the only way I can live life and feel good about myself. Before, I was only doing it to reduce stress but now I realize that this is the path I am supposed to be on, and for more reasons that I could have even imagined. I have to set an example for my sons. They will learn from what we do.

The events of this week had a major impact on my husband as well, which I was little surprised by. I have mentioned to him before about downsizing our house but he didn’t see any need. Our current home is over 2,600 square feet of heated living space which doesn’t include the unfinished portion of the basement (approx. 800 sq. ft.) and of course our two car garage. This much space for just 4 people. Don’t even get me started on the time required to keep up with the demands of a house this size.

He has always been onboard about paring down our things (which is wonderful) but he didn’t see any reason for a smaller house. Last night, out of the blue, he told me I was right and concurred that we need a smaller home. He is adamant that he can’t go below 1,500 sq. feet. That’s a start!

So our goal now is to get rid of even more things and work on getting our current home ready to sell. Not sure of the timeline yet but we know for sure we want more land and less house. We just have to find the right property.

 

 

What are my core values? That’s the question….

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Well, I made it my mission the last few days to determine what my core values are. An overwhelming task, but I think I have come up with a list that will guide me.

I used the values list on Live Bold and Bloom as a jumping off point. Reading through the list, I wrote down every word that spoke to my heart without question or judgement. At the end I had a list of 30 words out of the 400.

I knew I needed to narrow the list down much more. Just like purging your home, the first purge is easy but as you advance, you have to delve deeper and ask your self “Is this important to me or is it something I feel ‘should’ be important based on how people will perceive me.” Tough to distinguish sometimes. I successfully got it down to 20. To help me prioritize this list of 20, I wrote each value on a separate index card so I could easily move them around.

There I was, sitting in my living room floor, with what felt like a ‘sea’ of values, Each felt just as important as the next, but time is finite so I had to find a way to narrow it down further.

After awhile, I grew tired and decided to leave my ‘sea’ of cards floating there. On Monday, when I came home from work, I wandered over and stared at each card intently. A card plucked here, another one there. I did the same thing each day thereafter, until I was left with seven values. Below is my list prioritized by importance:

#1: LOVE

No explanation really needed for this one. Spend more time with my wonderful husband and my two precious boys.

#2: HEALTH

Exercise. Meditate. Eat healthy meals. Journal each day, focusing on what I am most thankful for.

#3: BALANCE

Leave work on time every day. Most importantly, leave work at work. Do not even think about work unless physically there.

#4: CREATIVITY

Get back to writing. Something I have put on the back burner for too long.

#5: MINDFULNESS

Work on being present in every moment of the day. Good, bad or mundane.

#6: ADVENTURE

Do things that take me out of my comfort zone as much as possible.

#7: SIMPLICITY:

Continue purging my home, until all that is left are things I absolutely love and/or need.

 

Hopeful. That is how I am feeling right at this moment. That’s all I need.

 

 

A Road Map Called Values

Research minimalism…
Purge a little…
Research some more…
Purge a little…

This cycle has been going on for quite some time and despite how much junk I have purged, I still feel like I am spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. I started this blog last year to document my journey of letting go and learning to live the life of my heart. To be more present and appreciate the little moments. To focus on the things that matter the most to me.

It started off pretty good and then there it was, the thing I feared the most. Crickets…..

I just stopped. Absolutely no blog entries for a year.

Now I am sitting here about the same time I was last year. Thinking, why did I fail? I knew what I wanted right? A simpler life. That’s it. So why did I let another year slip away and find myself still stressed out, still surrounded by clutter (less than last year but still clutter), still unhappy in my job, still not stopping to savor the sweet moments with my boys, still researching simple living hoping to find the quick fix that will make me start living the life I truly desire.

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I look at this picture of my boys and they have what I am searching for. The ease of laughter. The ability to live in the moment. How do they do it so easily? What is their secret?

Desire, that’s all I thought it took.

Then, a few weeks ago I read this blog post on Becoming Minimalist:

That’s when it struck me why I was unable to be successful. I went in guns blazing but I had no plan of attack. It was like going into a gunfight blindfolded. I was just aimlessly firing.

Values….easy enough. Just write them down and get started.

Not as easy as it sounds. Believe me!

Honestly, I’m not sure what mine are at this point.

I started writing values down, but then it struck me. Are these MY true values? Or are they values I think I should have based on what other people think. The reality is that for me to reach my goal, this is the road map needed to get me there.

Goal #1 – Determine what my core values are. Once I have that then I can set Goal #2.

I have bought a journal to keep with me for the next few days to log my thoughts and hopefully I can determine what those core values are. I found this list of values on Live Bold and Bloom that I will use as my starting point.

2015 Annual Christmas Cookie Swap

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My sweet neighbor and friend, Jeannine, always hosts an annual Christmas cookie swap. She is the most wonderful host and I have been honored to be included in her tradition for the last 10 years. She announced at the party that this would be the last year. Even though I am sad to see this annual tradition come to a close, I completely understand.  Thank you Jeannine for always making this a fun time for everyone. I meant to get more pictures but when you are having so much fun with friends, new and old, time seems to slip away and I was hustling at the end trying to document what I could. I even borrowed a couple from Jeannine’s FB page so I apologize for the quality in advance.

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My friend Jeannine and I.

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These were my boys favorites! Gingerbread cookies with german chocolate icing.

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Strawberry Chocolate Chip cookies won the most original.

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Yummy snowballs.

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Another version of snowballs.

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These were my turtle cookies. I won the prize for “best looking”………cookie that is.

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One of the ladies baked some of the Pioneer Woman’s oatmeal bars. They were delicious. But how can you go wrong with a Pioneer Woman recipe!

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Jeannine had these adorable ornament party favors for everyone. She thinks of everything.

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One of the photos I borrowed from Jeannine. We all loved the Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Cranberry Mimosa Punch.

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A picture of almost everyone at the party. One of the ladies had already left before we snapped this selfie. Such a wonderful group of ladies.

Thank you Jeannine for 10 years of fun and sweet memories.

Jeannine is an awesome wedding planner. So if any of you live in the Atlanta area and are in need of one please check out her website Honeysuckle Wedding Company. Her weddings are absolutely gorgeous.

Now check out who enjoyed the rewards of the bounty I brought home. Definitely owlet approved!

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Do you have a love of cookie swaps? I am thinking of picking up the torch from Jeannine for next year’s cookie swap. However, those shoes will be impossible to fill! I would love to hear your ideas.