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Simple and Relaxed Lifestyle

Monday, November 23, 2015

I am Cleaning Out Now so my Children Don't Have to Later

Over the past few years, I have watched people close to me clean out their elderly parents' homes. This includes my own mother and father, who have gone through an especially time-consuming process of going through decades and decades of their parents' accumulated stuff. 

In the cases I've witnessed, it has taken several months of dedicated effort to clean out a home. My head starts to get a little foggy as the decision fatigue sets in after cleaning a closet, and I can imagine how draining it is to clean out multiple closets, and a basement, and a garage, and a kitchen, and a storage shed... etc... etc.

Add all the paperwork and files, bills and accounts...

Letters and memories, photos and souvenirs...

It can become a full-time job.

So much goes into a life, even a simple life. It's overwhelming, for anyone!

My mother has shared a few things with us about her recent experience, because it has really caused her to pause and define what is truly important.

My father and her are immensely grateful for all the old family photographs, and many of the letters. They have learned so much about our history, and have felt more connected to our ancestors. That is priceless, and there is something within all of us that longs for that connection.

They, along with the other siblings, are also grateful for some of the nice, top-quality heirlooms. Some art, some silver, some furniture.

The key word is "some."

No one wanted a whole household of items. No one wanted the vacuum, the kitchen spatulas, the knick-knacks, or the collections. My grandmother had a ceramic goose, with seasonal apparel, and she was shocked no one wanted it (bless her!). When it came right down to it, the vast majority of my grandparents' possessions were not worth holding on to.

Everyone has a different connection to their family's belongings, and we all have to determine what to save and what to let go. As I'm getting older, and watching others go through this, I am becoming less sentimental with our stuff. There is a price for every box, drawer, shelf, and file that is filled, and then left behind. I don't want to leave my children with months of work, because I felt a need to hang on.

So, I am taking small steps today.

For example:

-We are trying to edit and reduce what comes into our home. That means less impulse shopping, less bargain shopping, and just less shopping in general.

-We are working to digitalize our memories, mostly. That is a huge process, and deserves its own post (another day...).

-Most of the paperwork that comes in gets recycled, even school crafts and projects. My children had a creative learning experience, and I'm ok with letting go of the physical part of that. We display pictures, thank you cards, and fliers for a moment, and then they mostly get tossed. I keep a very edited binder for school memories, like report cards and class pictures, and a main family binder for extra special letters, drawings, and cards. In all my adult life, I have never had the desire to dig out a story I wrote in 1st grade, or a math test from 5th grade, or even a high-school essay. Maybe some would feel differently, but for me, those things fulfilled an experience. 

-We keep a continual donation bag going. About once a week, I'll make some rounds through the house and pull out stuff we aren't using to donate. I also throw away items that are beyond repair- and we have enough things to fill an island of misfit toys. It always amazes me that, week after week, I find candidates for that donation bag. Family clutter is no joke! This little habit helps us maintain some sanity. I believe that if I continue this as a life-long practice, my children won't be buried under the clutter I never dealt with. 

-Once a week, I also sit down and pay bills, budget, and file paperwork. Hold on - don't go yet - I won't bore you with the details ;). Working a little every week helps me stay organized with all that practical life business. Hopefully, when the time comes, "all our affairs will be in order" (as the saying goes). 

There are other little ways we clean out our home now, but the main point of this post is the mindset I've developed. When objects come into our home, I think about how they will affect our current life, and also how they will contribute to future generations. 

Do we need the mess of another stuffed animal, DVD, or knick-knack? Will my grandchildren wish I had saved these things? 

They probably won't even know what a DVD is.

The more I am cleaning out, the more peace is filling our home. I haven't had any regrets about the things we let go of, and I find myself anxious to keep minimizing.

Have you had experience cleaning out someone else's home?

I hope you have a great holiday week!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Our Rustic, Natural Children's Christmas Tree

In the past, our tree has been a kind of hodge-podge of ornaments - - - fancy, shiny things and rustic, handmade things. Ornaments from preschool crafts, clearance and garage sales, gifted by friends, or made at home. 

This year, I wanted to unify things a bit. I wanted to focus the tree on the children, since this is the age where they want to be really involved, and they are excited to see their creations proudly on display. 

Since homemade ornaments are usually on the crafty/rustic side, I decided to incorporate natural elements like pinecones and dried citrus. 

As I showed you last week, I also made these big, bright paper stars, just with leftover paper I had hanging around (the massive scrapbook collection I bought at Michael's years ago will last my entire lifetime, I'm realizing). They give the tree a little extra *WoW* factor, and add a lot of fun.
Tutorial here, if you want to make some too.

I also started stringing a wood bead garland, but life is getting busy, and I don't think it will make it on the tree this year #reality. Next year... next year...

This isn't the prettiest room in the house, but here's the tree in all its glory:

I think the stars and nature elements look so cute next to ornaments like this paper "hand" deer, and a watercolor wooden mitten.

Since the wood bead garland is on the back burner for now, I pulled out this paper circle garland I'd sewn a few years ago. Even though I'd carefully wrapped it, it was still pretty tangled. I cut it in pieces and draped it vertically. A little unexpected, right?

I love the unconventional orange, although, I love orange on just about anything!

We place a few cards in our tree, like this one my sister made...

And this one, reminding us of our (ok, my) California roots.

Don't worry, I'm not super on top of presents. These are wrapped books, a Christmas countdown tradition that's very special to our family- read more about it here.

I just went for lots of bright colors and fun patterns, again, from the leftovers laying around the house. The tree skirt is just a scarf. I've never quite found a tree skirt I love...

And, one more time...
(By tomorrow, the bottom half of the tree will probably have been rearranged, and not by me)

I'm really enjoying the natural, rustic, kid-friendly look. It's been a fun tree to work on this year!

For the record, my husband greatly protested the tree coming up before Thanksgiving, but a bloggers gotta do what a bloggers gotta do. He understands ;).

How's your tree coming along?

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Talking to Children about Tragedy

My husband and I were so disturbed by the terrorist attacks on Paris this past weekend. We are praying for the people affected, and hope that they can gain strength and comfort.

We wanted to be cautious in sharing information with our children. I've read in the past that children, especially young children, are sensitive and have a hard time separating fantasy from reality. Their imaginations still maintain a large presence in their minds. We didn't have the news on and viewed stories online where they wouldn't notice what we were reading. However, I felt some responsibility to address this with my 6-yr-old son who might hear things from schoolmates this week.

I took a brief moment to calmly talk to him. I asked him if he remembered what Paris is, and he recognized the Eiffel Tower. I told him that some bad people had hurt others (I didn't even use the word kill) in this city with bombs, and it was a sad event. I made sure to remind him that Paris is really far away, and that we are very safe in our city. For the moment, that is the truth, and I didn't feel a need to burden him with worries about "what if" situations. We talked about praying for those hurt people, and ended the conversation without any emotional distress from him.

I felt like that was enough, and was confident that he would come to us with any further questions. I did some additional reading from this article on MayoClinic.com, just to make sure I was on the right track. It's helpful for me to see professional insights on how to navigate these tricky conversations, and the Mayo Clinic has a lot of great suggestions for talking to children of all ages.

Just thought I would share...

Have you had discussions with children about fearful or disturbing events? How did you approach the subject, and how did it go?

Hope your loved ones are safe and well!
What a sad weekend :( :( :( !

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