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Some how even though we felt like we had nothing, we still had trash.

Being the mom of a family of five is hard. While we’re at it let’s go ahead and add being young, tired, and poor.

I used to stay away from the word “poor” because all of our bills were paid by my husband and I so we were just “tight on money”. However after 2 accidents this year leaving us without a vehicle for awhile, my husband and I both finding new jobs, a new baby, and a lot of medical bills we became poor. Not just poor in the sense that we could get government assistance but in the sense that we were just right on the line of not qualifying for any help so we had to get creative.

Of course by creative I mean asking for help, donations, and a lot of calls to my dad for assistance. We have survived this year through the sheer kindness of others and a lot of love. When you say your wedding vows and include “for better or for worse. For richer and poorer” you don’t actually expect to go through it but life is filled with surprises.

One of the surprises that ended up being very relieving was finding minimalism. I remember the exact moment I knew something needed to change. I was standing in my kitchen taking the trash out (for the 4th time that week) and realizing that we did not have any more trash bags. Not having trash bags would increase our small grocery budget of $60 a week to around $65 and when you have nothing $5 is a lot of money.

I snapped. I cried and shouted about how I couldn’t do this anymore and how hurt I was over $5 (Do you know how much food you can get for $5 in our NC? A lot) and as my husband said there wasn’t anything we could do to change it I realized there had to be a way to fix this.

Why? Why on earth if we had nothing in our bank account did we always have things to throw away? Why did I have to take out the trash 4 to 5 times a week when there are only 7 days a week.

Because we were wasteful.

Over the next day I watched as we literally threw away money we didn’t have. Food was left out, children breaking things, large containers from items we bought like cat litter and random boxes. Don’t even get me started on the grocery bags and baggies we stored food in. Paper plates, cups, bottles from the bathroom, paper towels, and the works.  I watched as within a day our trash can was filled to almost half even though I had just replaced it.

Then I put my foot down.

I remember the first thing I bought next pay day was a bar of Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus bar soap. I sat in my car and celebrated that I took the first step. I think I might have even texted 3 people about it I was so happy. No more bulky container of soap in the corner of my bathtub that I would worry about my kids using too much of because they wanted bubbles in their bath. Then I went to Ikea and bought 2 packs of 5 storage bowls in different sizes for Toby and I to take to work for our lunches instead of packing things in baggies.  I bought a large glass bottle to store home made juice in because I refused to buy juice at the store when I have a perfectly good juicer sitting in my cabinet.  I brought 3 random large bags I had at home with me to the store and paid attention to the food I bought. I didn’t use the produce bags they had by the food and I bought less because I shopped sales and things with very little packaging.

At the end of the day my weekly grocery budget had increased to $80 that one week but I only took out the trash twice that week.

We just hit week two of cutting back on our trash and last week we took out the trash once just because we started paying attention. I no longer watch us literally throw away money and though we still have nothing I finally can feel a sense of pride somewhere in my life (other than in my kids of course).

So this week look at your trash and figure out what you can cut because a little goes a long way.

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Finding multiple uses: Teavanna Perfectea Maker

It has probably been around a year since I’ve had loose leaf tea but for some reason every time it came down to de-cluttering my kitchen my individual tea maker always stayed around. Part of it was because it brought back good memories of at-home date nights with the hubby and the other part was “but what if I get some more tea?”. (Those what if scenarios are always the hardest to get over when you try to minimize your life).

With my scheduling filling up with school activities, work, and holiday season festivities I found a need to actually prepare coffee at home and I was sad because I didn’t own anything that I would need to have coffee. It wasn’t until a friend of mine pointed out that I had my tea infuser which is basically just a smaller version of a french press. My mind was blown.  That day I went out and got ground coffee and almond milk coffee creamer and started experimenting.

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My first time was hilariously bad. I figured it was just like a coffee pot so I put 4 tablespoons in, let it sit for like 20 minutes (aka 5 minutes in mom time) and went to enjoy it at 6pm. I barely slept from how strong that coffee was.

It made me scared to try it again but I realized that now I had to use what I bought so a week later I came back to it. This time went a lot better. Using one table spoon to cover just the bottom of the cup and letting it sit for around 5 minutes I’ve found the perfect way to brew a small cup of coffee for myself.

My favorite feature is the fact that you simply set the Perfectea on top of a cup and it drains straight into the glass filtering everything out on it’s way. 20180922_113417.jpg

Finding a new purpose for this tea maker has added to my productivity, zero-waste goals, and self care routine which at this point is everything I could ask for.

September

In 2004 Green Day released the song Wake Me Up When September Ends and it wasn’t until 2016 that I actually paid attention to the lyrics. I knew that the song was about his father dying and how he would cope but I never actually listened much less applied the song to my life but then, at 6am the morning of September 9th 2016 my mother passed away.

It’s been hard but I’ve always found a way to keep myself busy and going through the motions to not let myself break down until this year. I’ve spent so much time doing things, any thing honestly, that I’ve never been able to grieve and this past September it got to me. I don’t know what happened last month. I have no memory of it besides what I’d post on social media if I posted anything at all.

I remember the lucid nightmares of my mother not actually being dead. It was all just a ploy to get me to apologize for being a terrible daughter. I remember the woman beside me in line at CVS getting her medicine that was small and frail like my mother in the end and I couldn’t keep myself from sobbing and ignoring her. I remember losing my mind because wasn’t I already past this stage in grieving?

Why was this year so hard for me? Why couldn’t I move forward like I had been for the past 2 year and then it hit me. This was one of the ways minimalism has changed my life without me knowing. I couldn’t run from my problems anymore and hide behind things. I couldn’t go out to eat for every meal I didn’t want to cook in her pots and pans, and  I could no longer hide behind items that gave me fake happiness.

I was forced to be with my family and to actually face my emotions because that’s how you are supposed to grieve. September ended and my grieving has not. However because of things going on in my life that I have no control over (change of position at work, car issues, housing things, the usual) I was able to let go today and grieve fully with all of my heart all while knowing that it’s okay.

It’s okay to scream and cry out when you’re in pain and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. It’s more than okay;

It’s necessary.

Combating retail therapy

Ever since I could remember retail therapy was the only therapy I felt that I needed when dealing with any kind of stress. With age (and medical insurance) I learned that actual therapy is a lot more beneficial however not always attainable.  On my low days now I’ve found a way to adapt to get the same feel as retail therapy without actually spending the money.

  1. Leave the money at home.  You can’t spend what you don’t have and in doing this I learned that I mainly enjoy window shopping more than anything. It makes for a real life Pinterest board when I can walk the aisles of target in peace.
  2. If you must bring money only bring cash. There are some events in my life that require me to actually purchase something to feel better. I’m not perfect but at least when I only bring a certain amount of cash I know I can’t do more damage to the situation than I originally plan. Once the money runs out it’s time to go home.
  3. Find something productive around the house to do instead. This one always takes the most effort however it’s the most productive. I’ll let my husband know that I need some time to myself, pop some headphones in, then get to cleaning or working on a specific task at home. I usually end up with a nice sense of accomplishment which makes it worth it in the end.

These changes are a lot easier said then done and it was a big adjustment at first for me but just like everything else the changes were done based on need rather than a want which made it impossible not to do. Through dark times you learn a lot of things that help you in the long run. If you think of your situation as a way to prepare you for the rest of life it makes it a lot easier to handle.

Portable twin washing machine

Around a year ago when we moved into our new place my best friend told me that I should get one of the small washing machines that people use for RV’s and dorm rooms rather than getting a full washer and dryer set. This was before I even thought of going minimal and figured that there was no way a tiny machine could do enough laundry to cover a family of five.

Skip forward a few months and there I was at all hours of the night doing laundry at the laundry mat with a large pocket full of quarters and baskets everywhere. I started to realize that this wasn’t as effective as I had hoped because while it was efficient it was costing us around $100 a month to wash all of our clothes. We were gifted a washer that helped on that bill for awhile until it broke and I went right back to spending money I knew we didn’t have. It wasn’t until the laundry mat raised their prices that I knew I needed to find a new solution.

Amazon provided an amazing solution with the Giantex portable mini tub compact twin washing machine. It washes up to 17lbs (a full sized throw blanket and a few other clothes can be one wash!) and spin dries it almost completely.

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In the back is a full sized washer and dryer for comparison. 

It fills up with water from the sink and you start the wash cycle. You do have to drain it after each cycle but it’s 15 minutes at a time then spins in 5 minute increments so if I do laundry while cleaning the kitchen or cooking dinner it actually serves as a good timer itself.

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I purchased another tube to make it easier to fill the washing machine up with water.

We had a third room that I had never really used for anything that became the perfect space for drying clothes inside without using electricity. When it’s hot outside the racks we use can be easily moved to be dried by the sun but even without the extra heat all of our clothes are always completely dry by morning.

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Drying room.

So far it’s handled everything from men’s big and tall jeans, bed sheets, sweaters, and queen sized blankets. Now the only reason we have to go to the laundry mat is for washing our comforters and our Lovesac bean bag cover.

If you don’t mind doing a little extra work and want to reduce your water and electricity usage I highly recommend investing in one of these.

Small Budget? Small Plates.

One of the ways we have learned to save money was by reducing our food waste. Not only was it better for us, the environment, and our bank accounts but it was a lot easier than I expected.

It started out simply by instead of putting the left overs in the fridge and forgetting about them, I would portion out individual meals and freeze them.  Then I started shopping for only that week. It took more effort but with planning what I was going to cook ahead of time and trying my best not to stray I learned to save more money and new ways of cooking the same food.

After a few months of these two things I went to a buffet to treat myself and found out that I could only eat around 1 plate and dessert rather than the 5 plates I used to put back. I was honestly upset because I paid for a buffet and didn’t get to eat to the extent I wanted but that was a lesson learned. I couldn’t wrap my head around how that had happened though until the next day when I went to make our plates for dinner and realized that we didn’t even touch our “normal” sized plates anymore but used our smaller ones.

Lessening your food portions is also important to not only your happiness (let’s be honesty who actually enjoys stuffing themselves? It’s so uncomfortable for hours!) but in reducing your food bill and waste. Using smaller plates and bowls gives the illusion that less food is the same amount you’ve been eating because the plates fill up faster.  Making sure you take your time to eat slowly and listen to your body when you realize you are no longer hungry will have the most impact on your food budget.

Searching for health

In January I was diagnosed with g6pd which is a blood disorder where my red blood cells oxidize faster than they should due to outside factors causing them to die before they can be replaced. This hit me like a ton of bricks because I recently watched my mother die due to complications for the same thing. A decent amount of people carry G6pd and don’t have symptoms. The ones that do have symptoms usually don’t have a lot of them however I got the jackpot of not only having it but having extreme symptoms that I had always thought were due to separate things. Black out headaches, dizziness, anemic tendencies, terrible circulation, the works.

Since being diagnosed I had removed all legumes, dairy, and grains from my diet and that itself has been an adventure. Everything is either made with soy or peanut oil and it was so hard adapting to not being able to eat the majority of fast food. Within the first month the first thing I noticed was my circulation was tremendously better. For the first time in my life I could sit still for more than 5 minutes and not have some random body part fall asleep. Slowly but surely my other symptoms started to subside and I could try reintroducing food again. First thing I did was head to taco bell.

I don’t even remember what I ordered but after finishing my first burrito I realized that not only was I full but I was actually stuffed. After a month and a half of eating only when I felt hungry and just enough (because let’s be honest meat and plain veggies can get boring) my stomach could no longer handle the amount of food I used to eat.

I was shocked and admittedly a little sad but realized that this was a good thing in itself. I am now saving money I never expected to save and am working on building a whole new relationship with meal prepping and food in general. Food goes a lot further because I’m not looking to fill my plate up as much as possible and waste it. I’m taking this as a chance to focus on minimizing the contents in my fridge, food waste, growing the love of new food with my children, and teaching them how food can nourish you with quality instead of quantity.

15 Minutes

Existing with depression is a task on it’s own but add 3 kids, a full time job, and other life responsibilities and you get pure exhaustion. The kind where you just stare at the task you need to get done and don’t even attempt to move because you just want a moment to breathe.

I’ve taken the past few months to breathe and try to get myself out of a negative head space and what has helped me greatly was setting very small simple goals. My favorite and most important goal is just to clean for 15 minutes. No more, no less, just 15 minutes of focused cleaning time on literally anything.

When I first started it used to seem like nothing was accomplished in 15 minutes. I would’ve barely put a dent in the laundry, only finished half a sink of dishes, or only put away the toys in the kids room. Keeping this up daily and embracing minimalism has drastically changed what I can do in 15 minutes.

Earlier this year I cleared out 7 trash bags worth of laundry from my bedroom alone and I’m not even finished going through all of our clothes. After that purge I can now fold and put away the majority of our laundry within 15 minutes. My room stays a lot cleaner and it’s easier for us to not only sleep but use the space to relax after work. The kids donated a good amount of toys so now their whole room only takes 15 minutes.

I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could now deep clean my whole house within 3 hours including dusting and mopping. My depressive episodes aren’t nearly as dark anymore thanks to this small life change. I will fully admit that some days 15 minutes seem like an eternity but on the other hand 15 minutes goes by in the blink of an eye and I’m motivated to clean for longer.

Eventually I hope to get to a point in my life where I can implement cleaning as I go like my mom taught me but until then 15 minutes is a great start.