Becoming Minimalist: Easy Pantry DIY

I’ve been purging a lot lately.

Getting rid of the past feels good! Getting rid of the junk feels good! Getting rid of all those maternity clothes feels amazing!

I saw a post on organizing your pantry a while ago, and I finally got kind of started on that project. I don’t like investing a lot into my organization though. Spending tons of money on baskets and glass jars for my pantry just doesn’t ring true to my miser’s heart. I’ve been putting a lot of it in Mason jars, but often those aren’t big enough so it’s still not really helping.

Then I saw a Pinterest post (probably) on making your own “baskets” out of cardboard boxes and rope. Brilliant.

So for the price of several glue sticks and a couple pounds of jute twine, I was able to go from this:

to this:
I just used construction paper with white colored pencil as labels. These are up high in the pantry so all you can see are the “baskets”. It really helped a lot, but I’ve got a ways to go 🙂
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Autumn Mantel

Our old farm house was built in 1850. You would think being built before the Civil War and only being a few years younger than the first school in Iowa, that it would have a fireplace in every room. Not so. Our builder was apparently an up-and-comer and put the newfangled wood burning stoves in instead. We used to have two chimneys, but the part sticking up out of the roof have been removed and covered up, better for leaks, but not so great for aesthetics.  We have the brick part of our chimneys, plastered over still in parts of the house. Anyway, no fireplace.

I think it should have a fireplace, don’t you?

 And now it does.

Kevin did some welding for a friend of ours who is completely gutting a house and he gave us the fireplace. Although it’s gas and not wood and while I’m not keen on the brass, it will be warm and cozy and inviting once we get it up and running. It’s currently missing a few pieces because Kevin had it in the garage at the same time he was painting some pieces to the family closet and ooops! Oak trim got heavily misted with  white paint.

We are still waiting on our plumbers (yes) to run a gas line and hook it up for us.

I couldn’t wait any longer to decorate it. I am not a huge decorator, mostly out of practicality (and I’m also cheap). The down low places never stay ‘decorated’ because of the small ones and the up high places get undecorated pretty quickly when they get cluttered up with stuff taken away from and put out of reach of the small ones.

But my mantel will be sacrosanct.

For fall, I decorated with a lamp we had on an end table, a cake plate with a pumpkin and field corn. I leaned a window original to the house against the mirror. I put some pheasant tail feathers my dad saved for me in a triangular shaped jar (which happened to have dirt in it from a science project). In a vase we got for our wedding I put an oak tree branch I snipped in our yard and put some stuffed pumpkins in front of that. Cost: $0.

I love my autumn mantel. It makes me happy whenever I look at it. And I really like to be happy.

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A book I’ve been waiting for at the library finally came in. I’m reading a book on scheduling. As in Scheduling Your Day.

I am somewhat of a free spirit and I don’t like something/someone telling me what to do (even if it’s myself via a schedule) (or a recipe telling me how far apart to place the cookie dough). I’ve always mentally fought the idea of a schedule.

We have a routine to our day. I thought that was good enough.

But when the author of the book said, and many other mamas quoted within said, that scheduling their children’s day led to less bickering, well! I decided to give this a prayerful look.

And I promptly ordered the book.

I haven’t even finished reading my borrowed copy yet, and yet I decided to try a bit o’ scheduling for the Farm Fresh Fam today.

It was superb.

Basically, I just set the timer for 30 minutes and then we moved on to the next activity, whether it was “craft time” (paper dolls), “kitchen helper” (Irish soda bread), “chore helper” (putting away their laundry and picking up their room, to my standards), it was the best day we’d had in a long time. I started with just a few goals in mind–

I wanted to do Bible time with all three at 9. Check.
I wanted to do a craft with the girls when Cadrian was asleep. Check. (I’d been saying we would for several days, as soon as I get the kitchen cleaned up, as soon as…and it never happened)
I wanted to spend some one on one with each child. Check.

And I’m not even implementing the whole program. This is just me thinking about the ideas and values espoused in this book.

I can’t wait until my kit comes with all my fancy colors and charts. I am so excited to make a positive change in my home.

Or at least have another day like this one.

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What a breath of fresh air…

…today was.

For the first time all week, we didn’t have to go anywhere, so it was declared a pajama day.

While the children did a couple of crafty type things nearby, I organized my new cabinets. They made All About Me collages for my Power Binder. Aviana’s mostly featured ice cream, while Brielle’s had lots of fruit. Interestingly enough, they both included a picture of a bed.

I had also boiled eggs for our noon meal, but it turned out I needed to boil another half dozen because we ate several for a snack and then the girls decorated the others so becomingly with markers, they couldn’t bear to part with them for lunch.

A Power Binder was introduced to me by a MOPS speaker for corralling all those papers you need to know where they are.

Mine is basically clear three ring pockets to which I taped (beautifully pink striped) tabs in categories like Aviana, Brielle, Cadrian, Baby D, MOPS, Coupons ect. Essentially any piece of paper I had had in my desk without a specific home.

I also took a tip from that speaker and put all our Compassion children’s letters and info in a binder instead of a basket. And put all our Samaritan Ministries information and news letters in yet another binder.

I also put my underutilized Control Journal in there as well. Now that I’m feeling better, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. Especially since my Rubba Sweepa, Rubba Swisha and Rubba Scrubba came yesterday.

Kevin came in for lunch and I dashed off to the library for a quick pick up and return and a blessed hour of thoughts to myself.

I read all our wonderful new books to my chickadees (recommend: The Gingerbread Doll, The House that was Tidy and Neat, and this version Old MacDonald, Circle of Seasons and the Parable of the Lily.)

Then we had an hour of quiet time during which I mostly tried to keep the boy from using my belly bump as a step stool while IMing my mom, but there was a little relaxing in there too.

After Aviana’s reading lessons, we watched The Magic Flute, which is part of this superfabulous series the girls just love. I didn’t realize we were about to watch an opera, but they loved it! I enjoyed it too, and I don’t consider myself at all “cultural”.

Then it was time for our Friday night ritual of pizza and snuggles.

Now it’s time to relax and embark on the beginning of watching Centennial. I remember watching it as a kid on TV, so much so that I even read the book, which is not my usual genre choice.

Not much bickering, disobedience, arguing or tantruming or tears today. What a breath of fresh air, to get to the end of the day feeling like I accomplished something and feeling like I am so in love with my family.

Oddly enough it usually is one or the other.

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Messies Anonymous and other steps to freedom

I picked up a book at the library on Friday and God has used it to give me a huge breakthrough to walking closer to him in more freedom than ever.

You see, I thought I was a Messie. According to Mrs. Felton, on a scale of 0-10, on which 0 is disaster and 10 is perfection, Messies are 1-3, Cleanies are 7-10 and average housekeepers–those whose homes fall into disarray on occasion, but not often and not for long, merit a 4-6 rating.

0–No one cares to enter your house.
1–Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
2–If you had to, you could at least find one clean towel.
3–The dishes are clean, but stay out of the upstairs bath!
4–At least once a week, everything’s spotless- for a day.
5–You can read a book without overwhelming guilt.
6–The minister’s wife can drop over unexpectedly without panicking you.
7–You can hold elaborate luncheons twice a week and have everything neat by 3:30 p.m.
8–You gave away the dog and made the kids understand.
9–Your children aren’t allowed downstairs, except to eat (neatly).
10–No one dares to enter your home.

She implores us to strive to be a 4-6–a successful, average housekeeper. Their houses are satisfactory most of the time, varying with the circumstances. They don’t even think a lot about their houses; they just keep them up.

This is what is astounding for me. This is the revelation. Are you ready?

I already AM a successful, AVERAGE housekeeper. If anyone stopped by, any time, I would be pleased to have you. I would love to have you. Please, stop by. (I also really, really like company and someone to talk to)

I just struggle so much with perfectionism. I NEVER feel like what I do is good enough. I have never been able to be ok with good enough. I think, “I must do it right. I must do it perfectly.”

I think I somehow have to earn the privilege of staying home with my children. I have to keep a show home, or I’m not good enough. I have to make healthful nutritious meals from scratch, or I’m not good enough. I have to have well behaved, model children, or I have somehow failed as a mother.

Sometimes, I can recognize those lies, but sometimes, I can’t.

God did give me some wonderful skills and abilities, but right now, while I’m learning to conquer this perfectionistic part of me that takes all the fun out of life, I’m going to strive to be successfully average.

And it will be wonderful.

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Handy Hacks

Hack: clever or quick fix; finesse something for use in a new way–or a way to save yourself time, effort and or money.

**A huge time saving tip–brown several pounds of ground beef at once. After much trial and error, here’s the best way–put your still wrapped still frozen directly from the deep freeze beef in your crock pot; as much as will fit. Cook it on low until it’s soft enough to unwrap. Mush it around with your spoon, and cook on low for several hours until browned (My crockpot has automatic shut off so I set mine to cook overnight for 8 hours). Suck out the grease with a turkey baster and spoon in two cup increments into freezer bags. Freeze FLAT.

If you are ever running late for dinner, it takes about two minutes to defrost these. Awesome–and not much work to begin with.

**Reuse single serve applesauce containers as paint pots

**Save on paper towels by using yesterday’s newspaper or newsprint to clean windows and mirrors. The newspaper especially will keep from streaking much better than paper towels.

It’s also fun for the kids.

**Reuse a cinnamon shaker for toothpick storage. One shake and one toothpick pops out.

This also works amazingly well for toddler entertainment.

**Vinyl gutters can be re-purposed for easy access, front facing bookshelves.

**Another use for your pet kennel: Baby Jail.

**For thousands of abso-smurf-ly terrific parent related hacks, let me direct you to a clever little site called: Parent Hacks

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You Know Your Home is Organized When…

  • …the clutter is under control, the stuff is subdued, the kids know where things should go.
  • …a basic weekly schedule is in place for chores, schoolwork, shopping and other family activities.
  • …household routines are predictable so family members know what to expect most of the time.
  • …important household and home-school items can be easily located and are kept in a dedicated storage area.
  • …important information and papers are readily accessible.
  • …incoming information is quickly handled with temporary and permanent files.
  • …meals are on the table in a timely fashion.
  • …children are ready for bed at a reasonable hour.
  • …you are in bed at a not-too-unreasonable hour.
  • …you have 15-30 minutes for tea in the afternoon. 🙂

This is from Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I thought this list was particularly telling in regards to what one should expect from oneself.

And I highly recommend this book. It’s jam packed with encouragement, books, resources, information, ideas, and ideals along with whole hearted support (pun intended). It helps you see where you can do better in your realm of keeper of the home, and challenges you to do better. I can’t even begin to list all the benefit I got from this book so do yourself a favor, read it, and see for yourself.

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Apron Fancy

I like aprons. As my bloggy friend Kim says, “For quite a while I’ve been wearing an apron in the kitchen. It makes me feel like I’m a real grown up. (Yes, apparently I need props for this.) When the kids come home from school and I’m wearing my apron, I’m more likely to feel like making them a snack. When guests arrive for dinner, I like having one on because it gives the illusion I’ve been slaving over the stove – just for them. I’m a professional wife and mom, and frankly, an apron just helps me feel like it.”

But the aprons I have are kind of frumpy–even if they are vintage.

So look what I bought today!

That’s from sassyaprons on Etsy. I can’t wait to open that package…

And Aviana is now stylin’ too. I got brave and used my sewing machine. I made a pattern out of newspaper. It’s serviceable, free (material I already had on hand), and quite sassy. I need to do a lot of fixin’ on it, (like I tried to use magnets as a neck clasp which I wouldn’t recommend, and I need to fix the pocket, and I actually sewed one of the scallops on the hem straight–sodon’t look too closely). Nevertheless, I pronounce it a successful first attempt.

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What a wonderful day I had yesterday. Not to brag or anything…

Aviana and Brielle have been semi sick and cranky for almost a week. We all have had some sort of eye infections. Sunday night it seemed like I didn’t get to sleep until almost 4 a.m. because one or the other of them would cry out in her sleep or worse, fully awaken. It’s also hard to relax because of Baby C’s acrobatics and the fact that Kevin is such a heat pump, and sometimes a girl just needs space and no one breathing on her.

So yesterday…my dear mother-in-law had the day off and came over around eleven and picked up both my kiddlets. And kept them until after five!

I seriously considered lying in bed all day reading, but I decided to be productive instead.

I purged and organized the girls’ toys. I had just had bins, though labeled, with a bunch of toys in them. Some of the toys were junky, and invariably it seemed like they would just dump the entire bin on the floor, maybe play with one thing, and leave the mess. We always cleaned up before bedtime, but what an odorous task! I took a tip or two from Montessori thinking and put their toy shelves in order. I want them to be able to find what they want easily, and most especially be able to put it away!

I got all the books out of Kevin’s music room and got them organized and put away in the book nook.

I got some butterflies and maps hung that had been lying around waiting for attention for ages. (Maps? –total cost $3. D.ollar Tree: I love you. Butterflies-o.riental trading co)

I cleaned and vacuumed the entire upstairs. This is a task, I’m partially chagrined to admit, that only gets done every couple of months.

I got my scrap room organized finally. I couldn’t even see the counter before because creativity doesn’t lend itself to order. Then inspired by all the tidiness (and by that time, my back really hurt), I made 20 cards. They are all about the same, but it was a great way to use up a bunch of little pieces of paper. I scrap lifted the idea from a H.allmark card.

I made pork stir fry for dinner (and can I just say, rutabaga goes really well in stir fry).

And after bed time since Kevin had band practice I was still alone, I got started on the scrapbook baby calendar project I want to make for Baby C. The plan is to have the picture part of the calendar all made, so all I have to do each month is add some pictures for him. (We haven’t decided on a name yet…) Then I’ll record his milestones or whatever action is taking place on the date part. I got the 12×12 calendars at the Dollar Spot at Tar.get, originally to make a year in review calendar for the grandmas’ Christmas presents, but that never materialized.

It’s amazing how much I can get done without “help”.

That’s probably enough productivity to last a while.

If you need me, I’ll be on the couch with my feet up eating bon-bons (or graham crackers with frosting, ‘cuz that’s more like the girl I am).

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