7 Lessons on a Quest for Less Clutter

By Erica, Contributing Writer

I have a quest for less, it has become my focus in the last few months. I am learning to let go of stuff so that I can have peace in my heart and mind.

I have a quest for less, it has become my focus in the last few months. I am learning to let go of stuff so that I can have peace in my heart and mind.

I am a homeschooling mother of four in ministry that loves to craft so just these factors alone are a recipe for clutter disaster. We have people who shower us with gifts each year and honestly it gets overwhelming very fast. I keep seeing articles about decluttering and so it has been my goal to do with less so I can have a handle on running our home for God’s glory.

Lessons Learned in my Quest for Less

I am the biggest mess maker in my family

It isn’t my husband or my kids, it is me! I hate to admit that I will leave projects half-way finished and piles of papers scattered around our home for a long time before I get back to them.

I have to take responsibility and clean up my messes and throw away my junk in order to have what I like to call visual peace and order. It is amazing how just putting stuff in its place will make it look like you have less.

It is okay to drastically cut back on what your kids have

I went through drawers so we could have less mess and less laundry and made my children choose which t-shirts, shorts, etc. they wanted to keep. I gave them the choice so that they get accustomed to getting rid of things themselves.

Then we went to our toy closet and we spread their toys out and I made my boys choose 10 cars each out of 40 and so on through the rest of their toys. There was some crying but I comforted them and explained why it was necessary. Extra stuff we were not willing to part with went into the garage and we will rotate those toys. I am working on this with my things too.

We can bless others

God can use us as the go-between to pass things along to other people with genuine needs. People give us so many girls clothes for our daughters that they cannot wear them all. I will ask the Lord who He would like me to give them to and wait for an opportunity to be a blessing to someone.

One time we were able to give bags of clothes to a missionary on a Navajo reservation so people in their church could have clothes to wear. God will speak to your heart about what to give to whom. I never recommend just passing junk to others. If it is not any value to the person then throw it away yourself instead of making them throw it away for you.

Be Realistic

Do not be afraid to throw away, recycle, or repurpose things that have meant a lot to you in the past. When I look down the road long-term I look at a sentimental object and ask myself, is this something I want to have 5, 10, 15 years from now? Realistically evaluating things helps me make a good choice about the item. If I can admit that I will not use it again then I have to decide to throw it away, recycle it, or repurpose it.

Although we are blessed, having lots of things does not mean we are spiritual

It can be easy to fall into the idea that because we are blessed enough financially to have a lot of stuff that it means we are automatically in good standing with God. I am not so sure that this idea has merit when we can be consumed and distracted by our stuff keeping us from reading our Bibles, loving our husbands, and teaching our children consistently about the Lord.

If I can get rid of things in my quest for less that will help me have a better relationship with God then I should do it happily and willingly.

Unwanted useful stuff can equal good cash

If it is of good quality and you are no longer using it then try to sell it so you can make use of the money by putting it in savings or purchasing something you really need now or even be a blessing to your church or someone you know.

We have had two garage sales and put things on eBay and made about $500 in the last two months. Yes it took a lot of work, but this has helped us to fill some of our financial gaps.

Be a better steward

I buy too many things that I just like whether it is clothes, craft items, homeschool stuff, etc and they go unused or they get trashed and wasted because our kids have become used to having so much stuff that caring for what they have does not matter as much to them.

I have a responsibility to take care of our money wisely and I have a duty to teach our children to take care of what we have. In having less I believe we can be thankful for what we have and teach the value our things without abusing them. God wants us to be a good steward of what He has provided so that He can continue to bless us.

There are so many more lessons to be learned when I look around my house. I am not happy with feeling obligated to clean all of the time because of the mass amount of stuff strewn around the house. This needs to get in control, but it begins with me and is able to be accomplished only through God’s help just like any other task.

So if you look around and you are discouraged by all the stuff, then I challenge you to go on your own personal quest for less clutter and do whatever it takes to bring peace to your heart and mind so you can serve God in your home for His glory!

If you are already on your own quest for less clutter, please share your tips in the comments. We would love to read them!

Using Stencils as a Cheap Way to Beautify My Home!

We moved into our first house in January of this year, and since then, I have been on a DIY rampage along with the help from Tulip For Your Home. I have been collecting all of the ideas and inspiration on my Home Transformation Pinterest board and one idea has become clear: Stenciling has become all the rage, and I love it!

3 Secrets I've Learned to Stencil like a pro (Hint - It's not as hard as it looks)

Several months ago, I ordered a couple of stencils off of Amazon with a few stenciling ideas in mind. I didn’t really know what I  was doing, and didn’t have the proper equipment. It was a total failure and the bookcase upon which I was stenciling, ended up repainted and now is just white.

I had given up on stenciling as I thought that all those tutorial I had seen must be photo-shopped or else done by an expert. I didn’t think someone like me – a stenciling beginning – a creative person with zero artistic ability – would be able to duplicate beautiful results. 

Enter: Tulip For Your Home. Tulip has an all new line of stencils and paints that are designed for home decor projects! I was still totally skeptical, but when Tulip offered to send me a bundle of their home decor items to try out, I couldn’t resist at least trying it out. And so, I headed to I Love to Create and picked out the colors and stencils from their home decor that I wanted.

Tulip - Home Decor Stencils

The Tools

I am so happy with my results with these stencils and I know the materials I got were the key! I never would have spent a few extra dollars on a can of stencil adhesive and I’m confident that’s what made all the difference between this successful DIY project and my disastrous first attempt.

  • 14” x 14” large chevron stencil
  • 8” flower stencil
  • Sea blue Tulip Soft Paint
  • Gold glitter Tulip Soft Paint
  • Stencil Spray
  • Roller
  • Tulip Home Decor Pillow Cases (2)
  • Old beat up side table (Goodwill)

Before and After - Using Stencils is my newest favorite DIY thing!!

Step by Step Tutorial

1) Paint or Prep Your Items

My first step was to get my ugly cabinet ready for stenciling! This means I removed all the hardware, and applied 2 coats of this off white/cream paint. I then painted part of the door and the bottom piece with this bright blue.

My little helper

Here’s one of my little helpers – Always happy to discover what Mom is working on ;)

2) Position Your Stencil with Adhesive Spray

I consider this step to be the most crucial. Like I said before, I skipped this step on my first stencil project, and the paint leaked under the stencil and made one big, ugly mess!

So take the time, and the few extra dollars, to invest in adhesive spray. Make sure to spray down the matte (NOT the glossy) side of your stencil and get all corners and edges well covered. Lay your stencil down and smooth out all the lines to ensure that your stencil is properly bonded to your project!

Step by Step Tutorial for Stenciling Like a Pro - Step 1 is the most crucial!

3) The Fun Part – Start Painting

Using a foam roller is also another key to stenciling like a pro! Foam rollers hold a TON of paint at once but it allows coverage that is light and even. Load your foam roller with a good amount of paint and start applying thin, even layers. I had to do two layers to cover effectively.

Step by Step Tutorial for Stenciling Like a Pro - Step 2 is where the fun begins!

4) Covering a Large Area

If you are working with a larger area, it might be necessary to move the stencil and continue the patter. After the first part, I let the stencil sit wet for just a minute and then I carefully peeled up the stencil from the wet paint. Note: Do not let the stencil dry with the paint…when you try to take it off later, it will probably take the paint on your project off too!

Once you’ve removed the stencil. Let the original paint dry completely before adding the second part of the stencil if you will need to overlap the stencil and the wet paint.

Step by Step Tutorial for Stenciling Like a Pro

5) Now that you are a pro – Start stenciling everything!

While I had all the paints and stencils out – I let the stencil dry and then decided to stencil two throw pillows for our living room. Stenciling on the canvas pillow cases was actually much easier than my DIY painted cabinet. I plan on doing many more pillows for my house as each pillow only took about 5 minutes!

3 Simple Steps to Stencil like a Pro

Where to Buy

You can head to your local craft store, such as Joanne’s or Hobby Lobby, or head over to I Love to Create and pick out all of your stenciling goods!! You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news and updates. And most importantly – Follow them on Pinterest for all their latest projects, ideas, and inspiration!!

Disclosure: This post was written as a sponsored post for Tulip For Your Home. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

The Discipline of Gratitude: a Book Review & Thoughts from One Thousand Gifts

By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer

Each moment is rich with His goodness if only I take the time to stop and notice.

My Gifts

  1. Kissing a baby’ on his tiny jaw
  2. A gentle summer breeze
  3. Groggy morning cuddles from little ones
  4. An unexpected date-night
  5. Honesty from a husband, even when it’s hard to hear
  6. Those quiet moments before the house awakens
  7. A steamy cup of hot coffee in my favorite mug
  8. The cheerful call of the robin outside
  9. A long, rigorous walk with a good friend
  10. The ability and opportunity to work hard
  11. The calm of a sleeping newborn babe…

All of these are gifts that God has so graciously given me.

Each moment is rich with His goodness if only I take the time to stop and notice.

The Discipline of Gratitude: a Book Review & Thoughts from One Thousand Gifts

About One Thousand Gifts

This summer I read a book that has truly impacted me: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Despite a journey of profound loss and suffering, God brought Ann out of darkness and into an abundant, joyful life. The harsh realities of the world didn’t change, but rather her heart changed.

Through study of Jesus’ response to His impending death, she learned to rediscover joy through gratitude.

She noticed that Jesus chose to give thanks to God at the last supper, even in the face of unimaginable suffering. He gave thanks and chose joy. He chose “eucharisteo.”

So, Ann resolved to write a list of one thousand gifts as an exercise in gratitude.

But her list didn’t stop there. The practice of acknowledging God’s gifts led her to a lifestyle of gratitude, a mind retrained. Her list goes on, but is now unnumbered.

The book goes on to deal with difficult topics such as the reconciliation of loss and suffering with God’s enduring goodness.

In her book, she details the deep ways in which her life changed as a result. One Thousand Gifts is truly a life’s work for this humble yet eloquent farmer’s wife.

Gratitude for My Life

Truly, God has given each of us many gifts each and every day, should only we choose to see them, those simple, beautiful gifts.

As a result of reading this book, I’ve begun my own list of gifts, as listed above.

And it feels so right.

This beautifully written memoir is interwoven with scripture and life-changing meditations. It brought me to tears many times and left me deeply challenged and refreshed.

I’m seeing life differently today as a result, and it’s good.

One Thousand Gifts

If you struggle with unhappiness, or feel your “thankfulness” has room for growth (who’s doesn’t?), I can heartily recommend this read for you. It’s whimsical and stirring for so many reasons.

Not to mention that if you “meet” her here at her website, she’s impossible not to love.

As a homemaker, grumbling and frustration have a way of creeping into my heart so easily. The daily grind of endless tasks can lead to self-pity and ingratitude. I need self-control and intentionality in this area!

Let’s keep these intruders at bay by cultivating hearts of gratitude. Let’s start today and do this together.

What gifts has God given you today? I challenge you to name one in the comments section below.

Learn How to Grow a Garden in the Smallest of Spaces!

When I lived in a small apartment, I dreamed of the day when I would live on a couple acres and could grow a huge garden complete with enough tomatoes to can sauces for the rest of the year and enough fresh fruits and veggies that I wouldn’t have to buy any all summer.

Learn how to grow a garden in the smallest of spaces!

Image via Bad Alley

But then I moved into our first house perfectly located on 2.5 acres. I thought, “This is it! This is my time to really become a gardener and grow all of our own food!

The only problem is, this takes a huge amount of time. As a busy wife, mom, and homemaker to very active toddler twin boys, I simply didn’t have the time this summer to plant a full garden. It was on my “to-do” list. I even bought the seeds, planned out where my garden would go…and suddenly it’s now September! Where did this summer go?

This summer went to swimming with my boys, eating watermelon on the deck, two vacations, working on writing my book, and spending lazy days reading on the couch with my hubby. It was a wonderful summer and yet I just didn’t have the time to plant and maintain a full garden.

I hope to one day get to the point where I can have a full garden (and young helpers to help me out!) but I’m just not there yet. So even though I live in a house with plenty of space, I will be doing a patio garden again this year. 

Apartment Gardening

Pssst: You can get me entire manual on how to plant a garden with step by step instructions for any space! Find out more HERE!

Small Space Gardening

Is it right for you?

I think when people hear about container gardening they assume that this topic is only for those who live in small apartments or tiny houses. But I think container gardening can be for anyone, especially the busy homemaker!

One of my commitments as a homemaker, is to my family’s health. And a great way to do that is through growing your own fresh produce and that’s why container gardening has become can be the key!

The Patio Garden

As we head into September, I’m starting to plan my Fall/Winter garden. Since I’ve been really busy this year, I think this is the perfect way for me to ease into gardening in my new house! I’ll be planting winter fruits and vegetables and getting things all ready for an early Spring planting of my Summer garden for next year. (See Apartment Gardening to learn how to plant your Fall/Winter Garden and plan for the next season.)

I’ve found with gardening, if I can plan ahead, I am much more likely to succeed with my gardening plans. 

Learn How to Grow a Garden in Small Spaces

Photo via Stacy Spensley

The Herb Garden

If you feel like tackling an even smaller task, try doing a simple herb garden this Fall to get into the swing of growing things. A simple and very useful thing to do (even in the smallest of apartments that don’t have a patio) is to grow a few herbs on your window sill.

You can start the herbs from small seeds for just a few cents per plant or buy full grown herb plants for just a few dollars each. Most herbs thrive when you constantly prune them…so use all those fresh herbs in your cooking!

My Simple Gardening Plan

Image via Urban Combing

Getting Started

Are you convinced now? Or curious if starting a small space garden is really doable? I’ve started a mini series on how to get started gardening. Please browse through the series. And if you want to know even more step by step instructions on how to plant a small space garden, fall/winter plants, organic gardening, growing herbs, making your own compost and more then check out my book Apartment Gardening!

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How I’m Using a Planner to Get Back Into a Routine After Summer

This summer, I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve scaled back my menu planning to as simple as possible, I’ve been taking it easy here on the blog, and I’ve left some of my home organizing projects for later. It’s been wonderful enjoying summer playing with my toddlers, spending time with my husband, and with my nose in some fabulous books.

But. I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. I think it’s imperative to take some time off now and then to relax, enjoy those baby cuddles, and sit on the couch for a few hours and read. But. There’s something about an organized schedule that can actually give you so much freedom.

How I'm Using a planner to get back into a routine

While there is such a thing as being so scheduled that you are ruled by your day planner and get frazzled if one thing gets off – there is also such a thing as living in complete chaos from a totally unorganized schedule!

Living in the Middle

I’ve learned throughout the years, that there has to be a happy medium – between stressed out and frazzled mom who lets her schedule rule her life and the stressed out and frazzled mom who lives moment to moment in total and pure chaos because there is no structure what so ever.

Maybe it’s because I’m a messy at heart (although I suspect most women need to live more in this happy middle ground) but for most of my time, I need to walk this balance of order and scheduling in my life while at the same time leaving room for the messiness that is life sometimes and spontaneity (especially with little kids).

Summer has been a wonderful time to throw out the schedule all together and just enjoy life out in the sunshine but as the new school year approaches, Bible studies are starting up again, new Sunday school classes start, and most of us have to start sticking to new schedules and routines…it’s time to get back into the swing of things. 

Getting Back into the Swing of Routine

So this month, I’m getting back into the swing of my routine – and I’m so excited to get some schedule back in my life! If you just need to get back into routine, or get ready for school to start, here are some tips on how to use a planner to get back into a routine.

Sue Hooley, author of my very favorite planner, shares her secrets for creating a manageable back to school routine. As a busy mother of five kids (ages 21 to 5 years old), Sue has plenty of awesome advice to share with me on how she manages a household and how using a daily planner is an essential step in effective homemaking.

Develop a Solid Morning Routine

A good morning routine can really help get your morning off to a good start. It’s amazing how productive I am when my morning is started off right! When sharing about her kids chore routines, Sue shares, “I make one schedule for the summer and another one for the school months (I try not to have jobs that exceed 20 minutes for school mornings)”. Here is a sample of what Sue’s schedule looks like for summer. I just love that the five year old has pictures for his chores.

Summer Chore Chart JPEG


Plan Ahead

If your kids are starting school again soon (whether public school, private, or homeschool) planning ahead gets especially important. As I share in my video below, I use my planner as my primary meal planner. I track breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and any hospitality meals I have.

This allows me to plan ahead and make breakfasts and lunches once a month and freeze them or do them over the weekend. It really helps me to free up time during my busy week and I imagine that when we are homeschooling, having pre-prepared food will really help take the pressure off our days.

Write Down Everything

Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with all the different things that I have to handle each week, that I  am going to drop the ball on something and forget to do it. I try to combat this with writing everything down in my planner.

I’ve written meal plans, shopping lists, to-do lists and more on different pieces of paper or in different notebooks and I end up losing during the week! How helpful is that? With one central planner, I can keep all of these things in one handy place that I can take with me in my purse to the store or where ever I need to go.

Having a planner with all of this helps me to feel like I have my homemaking command center all in one place! 

My absolute favorite planner, the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner, is on sale right now for $12.98!! And while supplies last, when you buy the 2015 edition of the planner, you get 2014′s FREE! This means each planner is less then $6.50. And you have five months left to use the 2014 planner.

See What’s Inside

I’ve shared about this planner before, and I’ve had a lot of people ask exactly why I like it so much. So I dove into the planner and shared each section! Leave me a comment if you have any questions. (Also, here are my tips for using a planner and homemaking)