Simplify For Fall: Paper Clutter and Budgets

This is a continuation of my very late participation in the Simplify for Fall Challenge. Here’s the first daysecond daythird day, and fourth day of the challenge.

I don’t really have a whole lot to do today! Woohoo!

When it comes to paper clutter, I’m pretty nominal. I used to keep everything because I wasn’t sure what we’d need in the future. Now that I’ve figured that out (what an adult I am!) and do our bills online (automatic payment rocks!), I don’t really have a whole lot to keep. I could probably go through these and get rid of some stuff, but it’s really not more than 30 minutes of work.

I do like to keep all the manuals to my appliances. And I have a soft spot for the girl’s growth charts, though I should probably move those to my cedar chest. Really though, I go through this fairly regularly and just don’t hold onto things that don’t matter, so it doesn’t need the purge.

A few things that can’t fit in our filing cabinet. Just papers from buying our house and a couple of manuals.

I also have been working on our budget pretty continuously for the last 4 months. This is where we started when I decided to finally get going with the cash envelope system and I’m happy to say that I still love it. We’ve moved to keeping track of our Dave Ramsey sheets on Google Docs (which is now Google Drive, in case you didn’t know). I just made a simple sheet for our Monthly Cash Flow Plan and Allocated Spending Plan that have only the categories that pertain to our situation. Way easier than doing it by hand on paper every month. Does the math for me and deleting is way more simple than crossing out!

I’ve also added some folders. We now have one for blow, one for pets, and most recently we added one for gas. Blow was a category that I didn’t really believe in at first, but now I realize that sometimes there are things you want to buy that just don’t fit into any category. You need to have that little bit of money that you can spend on a whim. With the pets, I originally had their necessities as part of the grocery budget (I combine toiletries, make up, and other such things into the grocery budget), but when one of our cats needed to go to the vet (which sadly ended last week in putting him down, which is another post for another day), I was at a loss as to where we should take the money from. So I decided to have the pets be their own separate folder. Lastly, I was doing gas on our debit card because that’s what Costco takes, but I was tired of always overspending on gas and not knowing exactly where we stood on it. I decided to give up on Costco, which is further away than many gas stations so I was avoiding going and it ended in me running out of gas one day, and just take the car to the cheapest gas station near our house. There are some around our house that even give you a cheaper price if you use cash! Score!

We did end up using our credit card a bit over the last few months with our flooring. It was a planned use though with a planned payoff, so I feel a bit better about it. Originally it started with getting a crazy good deal on laminate flooring off of KSL (it’s basically Craigs List for those of you who aren’t in Utah). Such a good deal that we decided we couldn’t pass it up. As for installing it, we were planning on waiting until my husband was done with his big project (and therefore we had the bonuses), but schedules collided and we ended up doing it earlier. And it cost more than we planned, of course. Regardless, when my husband gets his final bonus of his project, our credit card will be 100% paid off and our emergency fund will be back in place.

Lastly, we had a couple of difficult weeks last month. It was the first time where it was really hard to live on cash-only, and it was entirely my fault.

That post I did on all the awesome unschooling summer things we did between my school semesters? Well, those things cost money. Lots of money. Money that I ended up taking from other folders. That, along with registering the van and other money shuffling, meant that we literally didn’t have any money to move around for a bit over a week before my husband got paid again. Oops. Luckily I kept the money that we really needed in certain folders (like music, which we were about to start paying) where it needed to be and we didn’t resort to using the credit card or debit card. Of course we still had food in our cupboards, we just kept it to money-free activities for that time.

Overall it’s still going great. We’re saving up money where we need to and we haven’t overspent once since starting on our cash envelope system. Even more than that, we’ve continued to put our extra on our debt snowball and we’re doing all the things we want to, without the guilt of whether or not we can afford it.

Simplifying For Fall: Bathroom

Here’s the first daysecond day, and third day of the challenge. Today’s challenge is bathrooms. Luckily, I really only have one to clean, as the half bath just holds my hair straightener (for getting my hair ready while my husband is in the shower). Really, we don’t even have real cabinets in there, just an almost entirely empty shelf unit. The other bathroom though, that one needed some work. Majorly.

My husband and I had been discussing altering our bathroom drawers now that Twig is more mobile. As it is currently, we had our medicines on the bottom, which obviously isn’t the best thing with kids around. Luckily, Peanut has never really been the kid to wander around trying to find bottles of pills to down. Still probably wasn’t the smartest thing to have them on the bottom, but it’s where they happened to end up when we moved and we haven’t changed it since. Twig though, she’s super oral. I seriously found her scrounging around for her sister’s crumbs below her chair this morning. Yeah, she’ll totally eat all the pills. Time to move those to a better place.

Also, things were just getting out of hand. I have a habit of going through drawers every year or so and getting rid of stuff. When I do that, I tend to give everything it’s pretty little place (see after photo) and it’s all fine and dandy. Then, of course, things get added to the mix, standing up things fall over, or we just don’t put things back exactly where I’ve designated in the drawer, so our drawers end up with just piles of stuff in them. Need the teething tablets? Let’s break out the flashlight! Want a pony tail for my hair? Better set aside five minutes to search! I have no idea how to break this habit, but I can remedy the current problem.

We also had a lot of things that I just don’t feel like keeping. Samples of toothpaste that I’m never going to use, fever reducers from when Peanut had the flu back before I found out that fevers are good for you, and the list goes on. Some of these things needed to go. Some of it, like the diaper lanolizing supplies, needed to be moved. All in all, this is one room I really wanted to tackle and the challenge gave me just the reason to go ahead and get it over with.

We started off with the pictures going cabinet, husband’s drawer, my drawer, girls’ drawer, medicine. We ended with cabinet (my hair stuff and some other random things that are nice to have up top), medicine, husband’s drawer, my drawer, girls’ drawer (with the leftover supplies from homebirthing in the back because I occasionally use the big pads they put under you for when Peanut falls asleep and I’m in the middle of washing diapers).

I can already tell you after living with this new set up for about a week that it’s awesome! Having a bathroom that you can actually find things is nice. Who would have thought?

Sorry again for the awful quality of pictures. I really need to take my camera in to get fixed. 

Simplifying For Fall: Holiday Decorations

On we go! Here’s the first day and second day of the challenge. Day 3 of the challenge is “Toys and School Supplies,” which I don’t feel the need to simplify. We’ve had a few different purging sessions with toys and we have a rule of one in, one out. At the moment, we need to put that into effect and get rid of a handful of toys, but donating half a dozen toys is hardly worth a blog post. Plus Peanut is having a hard time at the moment (more on that later), so I don’t really feel like adding something that could be potentially upsetting (though it isn’t under normal circumstances) into the mix. See (not included are a few random toy spots around the house for Twig and a small basket each girl gets for car toys):

The white storage unit, caterpillar, and elephant chest (dress-up) are toys.


Stroller, easel, and coloring station.

So, I decided to pare down the holiday decorations.

When I made this decision I told my husband “You can tell I’m taking this minimalism thing seriously because I’m going after the decorations next!” It’s one thing that I’ve neglected to do in all of my getting rid of excess. I think it’s partially because of the whole “out of sight, out of mind” idea, but also partially because my feelings of hesitancy. You see, I think that my mind equates being an adult with having decorations. I’m not quite sure why, but every time I get a new ornament for the tree or find a cute heart for valentines, I feel a bit more grown up. Maybe it’s because, in the past in our small apartment and shared living spaces, there wasn’t really much place to put decorations. The holiday proceeding moving into our house, I remember feeling excited that I could finally buy decorations and hang them everywhere. I held myself back from getting that many, but I did have way too many. Especially for certain holidays.

I started feeling the urge to purge (see what I did there?) last year. The Christmas season was ending and I actually felt relieved to take down the decorations and put them away until next year. Sure, it was in large part the fact that I was concerned that Twig would come before I got them put away and we’d have a Christmas tree up until March, but it was also just having all of this extra clutter in my space. Really, should decorations be so abundant that they’re stressing me out? I think not. 

So, here’s what I started with:

I had so many decorations that I had extras overflowing. I had so many decorations that some of them were in old boxes. I had so many decorations that I was choosing to leave some put away when a holiday rolled around. Hi, I’m Claire and I’m a holidayaholic. 

It also turns out that I hold more sentimental value to Peanut’s past Halloween costumes than I did my wedding dress. In my defense, I didn’t make my wedding dress. It was hard, but I took the parts that were logical to keep for Peanut’s dress-up bin and put the rest in the trash/freecycle pile. Speaking of, here it is:

And, last but not least, here are my keeps:

Left bin is Christmas stuff, including tree ornaments (of which I got rid of all of the generic ones). Middle is Easter baskets with eggs, disposable dishes (mostly left over from postpartum let’s-not-do-dishes days and at least some of which I’m about to donate to a newly postpartum friend), and giftbags. Yeah, I’m one of those people who keeps the giftbags for things that I have been given to me to reuse them. Now that they’re all in one place, hopefully I’ll actually reuse them. Last bin is Halloween stuff (with a few autumn things thrown in), including just my husband’s and my LoTR costumes, since they’re quick and awesome for years were I don’t have the energy to put together costumes myself. I think I’m going to move the Halloween stuff to a smaller bin since it doesn’t need that much space, but other than that I’m done!

Just because I have a house doesn’t mean I need to decorate for every holiday. Decorations should not stress me out. I am still an adult if I don’t own 10 puffy hearts to put on my couch for the whole month of February. If I keep repeating these things, I’ll eventually believe them.

Simplifying For Fall: Kitchen

Here’s the first day of my adventure in this challenge. Look there for more explanation as to what it is and join me! Just because we’re late doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the party! My kitchen had it coming. Oh goodness did it have it coming! When we did redid our flooring, not only did it cause all of the remodeling mess to be all up in my kitchen’s business, but I insisted on moving a large  cabinet that wasn’t strictly necessary downstairs (I wanted it out of the house, but the compromise was for it to be in the back room). We really didn’t need the extra space, but moving the last few things out of it did require some shifting of organization. And, quite frankly, a little bit of piling things on top of one another. Which resulted in this:

Which, thankfully, I’ve turned into this:

Sorry about the shadow. I plan on using the canned goods up as much as possible, especially the ones that I’m not particularly interested in eating (canned salmon is simply meh), freeing up even more room in the pantry.

The second thing I did was start with this jumbled mess:

And I turned it into this:

I didn’t get rid of much (just the things that were expired), but I did rearrange it in a way that’s more accessible. All of the things on the top of the left cabinet are snacks. In the right cabinet, the left top is extras, then sauces, then sweets. Bottom shelf is noodles, then boxed dinner things, then crackers. I’m going to work on using these up too.

Lastly, I did our random stuff area:

Turning it into this:

This is the area of the house where everything and anything goes. When it doesn’t have a place. When it’s waiting for further action. When come in the door and just set something down. I’m sure all of you have this area too. It gets pretty full of random clutter at times. We were also having an issue with Peanut grabbing stuff out of my husband’s basket (we each have our own little random area within the random area!), including his wedding ring, so I moved it over. There’s still the bottom of the dishwasher on there, as well as a picture frame that Peanut painted and needs a picture, but for the most part, it’s clean.

This is far from our full kitchen, but those were the real trouble areas. I do still want to go through my baking cabinet. I never got around to getting rid of all of the specialty teas that I never drink, so I’d like to go through those. I’m saving it for another time though because it’s not really that bad.

Simplifying for Fall: Clothes

I’m late to the party on this one and it took me longer than 6 days to do all the tasks (though I plan on posting them in six days), but I decided that simplifying for fall sounds like a great idea. Here’s the challenge, for those of you who haven’t heard of it yet. The idea is that fall is a great time to get the home back in order. Summer has been lovely, but I’m definitely ready for fall. We’ve spent this summer running around doing as many fun things as we can, the girls have been going to bed at 10pm, and we’ve just generally spent a lot of time outside of our house. The disorder of summer is a blessing and a curse. I’m ready for the weather to cool and our routines to get back in order. I’m also ready to get our house back in order.

The first day of the challenge is clothes and laundry rooms. Luckily, my laundry room is pretty dang simple. It’s all the way in the basement and the walls aren’t finished, so it’s not like there’s a lot of room to accumulate stuff. Plus, it’s where the kitty litter boxes are, so not my favorite place to hang out. The clothes part took me two separate sessions to figure out though. I could have continued, but the girls were begging for my attention by the time I finished their clothes.

The biggest helper to me was this list that Mandi made for her girls’ clothes. I actually used it for the girls and for myself! Really, why do we need more than 10 days worth of clothes? Is there anyone who actually does laundry less than once a week? If that’s you, can we trade lives? Just for a minute. Please? Like Mandi, I’ve tried to rotate the girls’ clothes in the past twice a year, but if you only rotate twice it’s really hard to decide when to do it. It’s September, which could mean about 5 different weather patterns in Utah. With her list, It’s easy to account for the drastic changes in weather from day to day during fall and spring.

So, following a tailored version of her list, here are our fall wardrobes:

Peanut’s Fall Wardrobe

Here’s a detailed list (starting at the top left and going down): 2 pairs of pajamas, raincoat/sweater/cardigan, 5 dresses (one more that’s not shown), undies, few pairs of socks, 3 pairs of leggings, 3 long sleeved shirts with 2 pairs of pants, 4 short sleeved shirts with 2 pairs of shorts and 1 pair of capris (one skirt that’s not shown).

This includes her two emergency outfits, one that goes in her backpack and one that goes in the car. I’ve already replaced her jeans (they were too short) with some awesomely cute ones we got for $5 at Kid to Kid (with adjustable waist!). That place is great. She got extra dresses because, if she had her way, that’s all she’d wear. Really, it just mostly ended up being pulling out the cool weather stuff we had and taking out the warm weather stuff. At first I was convinced that we wouldn’t have enough, but we definitely did! I think it’ll still be plenty when I take out the shorts and short sleeved shirts as it gets colder.

Twig’s Fall Wardrobe

Twig’s detailed list (top left down): 3 sweaters (could probably stand to take out one or two of those still, but they’re so cute!), 2 short sleeved shirts with pants that match (one shirt is missing), warm weather dress and cool weather dress, 2 pairs of pajamas, 3 long sleeve shirt outfits with pants, 5 onesies/shirts with short sleeves.

Are you wondering why she doesn’t have any shorts? That’s because she doesn’t wear them! Why would I cover up the super cute wool covers I’ve made? Honestly, I may even knit longies for winter and get rid of the pants. They’re so cute!

My Fall Wardrobe

My fall clothes (top down left to right): coat and sweater (probably don’t need the coat out yet, but I never really put it away so I figured I’d include it), 2 dresses, 3 cardigans (my go-to), one pair of capris and one pair of jeans, 7 short-sleeved shirts. Not included in this list are my underthings and house clothes. I also have a couple of scarves.

I think that my wardrobe may have ended up the smallest, but I love it! By going through this, it was really easy to pick out the things that I was happy to wear every day and get rid of the rest. If I’m constantly passing it up in my closet, why is it there? Why do I waste my time either thinking about whether I should wear it or looking not-my-best by wearing it? I also didn’t include any long-sleeved shirts because I’ve realized that they just don’t work for me. My style is a short-sleeved shirt with a cardigan, no matter the weather (though generally not the cardigan during summer, though I do have a short sleeved cardigan that makes appearances). Why am I trying to get myself to wear long sleeved shirts when they are never my favorite thing on me? Nuff said.

I didn’t touch my husband’s wardrobe because he doesn’t like it when I try to get him to get rid of things. Silly boys. He did let me help him get rid of things a while back, so we’ll call that progress. For now, he’s taking up about 3/4 of our closet.

Are you pairing down for fall? Do you live with a small wardrobe? Would you like to live with a smaller one? Join me in getting rid of some clothes! 

My New House Monday: In Which I Commit Flooring Blasphemy

While our house it’s really what I’d call “new” anymore, we still continue to do new things to it. This project took 3 weeks and I’m excited to say it’s finally done. 

We had blue carpet in our kitchen. 

That’s where this all started. I’m not sure who decided that blue carpet in a kitchen was a good idea (the brilliant person who also thought it would be great in the bathroom… with padding) (side note: I forgot to ever post on our bathroom renovation! It shall be done soon), but trust me, it wasn’t. Carpet in the kitchen is awful. Not only does it look awful, but, especially with kids, it is so, so, so gross. Peanut went through a phase where she decided to take the milk out of the fridge, multiple times, and pour it on the floor. That phase was promptly ended by getting a lock for the refrigerator door. Even without that though, it was gross. Children spill. Klutzy wives spill. Animals have accidents. Their water bowl is fun. All in all, we needed hard floors in our kitchen.

There was a long-time debate on wood (or in our case, laminate, as this is our starter home) versus tile in the kitchen. There was also a long-time debate as to whether or not we should keep the carpet in our living room. When I say debate, I really mean that my husband and I disagreed, but I didn’t care as much as he did, so I gave in. Turns out I got my way in the end on both counts.

So we were keeping an eye out for some “used” (meaning not directly used, but purchased from a person who bought too much or something of that matter) laminate that we’d like in our kitchen when my husband found a whammy of a deal. 480 square feet of laminate for $280! Yeah, it’s Home Crappo’s in-store brand, but this is our not-forever home. We wanted to improve, but be reasonable. Cork flooring shall be saved for our next home.

480 square feet just happened to be the right amount to do our kitchen and living room, with the tile entryway that we were already planning on. Win for me! So that became our plan, and we started to rip out carpet. Besides the surprise of our kitchen carpet being glued down by approximately one bucket of glue per square foot, we found another surprise:

Surprise! Wood floors!

What to do. What to do. In the end, we decided to commit flooring blasphemy (I’m sure you figured that out given the title of this post) and cover the wood flooring with laminate.

Before you bite my head off, let me explain. This wood flooring, while beautiful, needed a lot of work.

That with the fact that we already had the laminate in our possession and the fact that laminate is not damaging to the flooring below it, we decided to continue with an altered version of the original plan. Skip the tile entryway, as to preserve the wood flooring. Tile the kitchen instead, since it was not wood flooring and we didn’t have enough laminate to cover the whole area. Lastly, do the upstairs hallway, which was covered in the same carpet as the living room and has the same wood flooring beneath, in the laminate also.

Fast forward a month. Yes, it literally took us almost a month to do this. I was without a kitchen for almost 3 weeks. It wasn’t fun. We haven’t finished the stairs or the hallway, but we’re to a stopping point for now.

Add some rugs and new lighting (though the living room lighting still needs to be installed) and the rooms are finished! Yay! Functioning house!

Well, it didn’t take us long to messy up the new flooring. 🙂

Apples, Apples Everywhere

For some crazy reason, I decided I wanted to make homemade apple sauce. It was a bigger project than I had anticipated. Wow. I spend hours in the kitchen cutting apples until I couldn’t feel my fingers. I created a ridiculous mess on my stove top from apples boiling over. I spent $50 on apples in bulk. I ended up with what equated to 23 quarts of apple sauce that is better than anything I’ve ever bought in the store and healthier. I’m not sure if I’d do it again, but I’m happy that I did do it.

As an overall summary, I used this recipe (I heart Of course, I did my own little tweaks, the biggest one being using my Vitamix. I can’t imagine how much more time I would have spent without that thing!

So here’s how we made sugar-free applesauce from scratch using our Vitamix.

Step 1: Get the apples.

Here’s the first thing I would have changed–less apples! We went to a fruit stand (on what locals call “The Fruit Highway” around these parts) and I bought 4 half-bushes of apples, totaling just shy of $50. For non-apple experts, that’s somewhere around 80 lbs of apples. Sure, I got a great deal by buying them in bulk, but it also meant a lot more money and a lot more expense. Next time, I won’t do so much at once.

The reason why I bought 2 bushels is because it’s best to have a mix of apples if you’re making sugar-free applesauce. Since they came in half-bushes and I wanted at least 4 kinds, I ended up buying 2 bushels. I used Jonathon, Gala, Ozark Golden, Red delicious (though I only used about 2/3 of the half bushel for the last one because the check out guy at the fruit stand told me to). I am so incredibly happy with this mixture too. As I tasted each of the apple sauces as I went along I thought “that could make good apple sauce on it’s own!” When I tasted them all mixed together, I was blown away.

Step 2: Wash the apples.

Of course, with some help from Peanut.

Step 3: Cut the apples.

For some reason, though this was by far the longest step, I didn’t take a picture. You can kind of see what’s going on behind Peanut on the cutting counter.

This is where my plan deviated from the Pick Your Own recipe. Since I was using the Vitamix rather than a sieve, I didn’t want to keep the cores. I see the point if you’re using a sieve because then you get every bit of flesh you possibly can. I started off using my apple corer, but of course that broke about half a dozen apples in. Worked out better in the end though because I didn’t waste as much apple. I just cut out the seedy parts, leaving as much as possible.

Step 4: Cook the apples.

Important to note that you do not need very much water in the bottom.

Too much water = boiling over = sad stovetop.

Step 5: Put the apples into a strainer to get the excess liquid off.

Step 6: Put the apples (including skins) in the Vitamix.

Watch out! They're really hot!

Step 7: Blend them up!

Be generous with the tamper and make sure all the apples get blended. Be careful to run it as little as possible so you don’t overheat it (which I did, luckily it was on the very last batch).

Step 8: Pour it into a bowl, keeping each type of apple separate. Keep repeating until all of your apples are into sauce.

Step 9: Make a rainbow!

I used a combination of 1 cup Jonathon, 1 cup Gala, 1 cup Ozark Golden, and 2/3 cup Red Delicious.

Step 10: Add cinnamon to taste and stir CONSTANTLY until heated through.

This is what happens if you don't stir constantly. You can't really see, but there's an actual blister there--it was that hot!

Step 11: Put into cans and process.

My end stash (minus 4 quarts I gave to my mom for bringing me emergency jars).