4 Ideas To Simplify Your Life

IMG_0267In my last post, I promised to share some new idea finds that have made my life simpler–and are “sticking!”

1. SIMPLE AND QUICK APPETIZERMozzarella, Basil and Tomato Skewers.

I chose this appetizer to bring to a dinner party this past weekend because of the busy day leading up to the event, not leaving much prep time.  This alternative version to Caprese Salad was easy to shop for and prepare.  Target had the correct size mozzarella balls, and of course fresh basil and good cherry tomatoes are a must.

Recipe:  Layer fresh Mozzarella balls, basil and cherry tomatoes on a toothpick. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar if you choose.

IMG_0268Here is the final look:

IMG_0269

Why this is simplifies your life: can anyone say three ingredients?

2. CHORE APP–no more nagging

I love this.  A friend was sharing with me how this app was working for their family–tracking and organizing chores.  I wasn’t sure how effective it would prove for our family–mainly because this chore tracker pays kids for chores, which we have not traditionally done (we have been in the camp of “chores are part of contributing for the family–allowance is what we give you to help you learn to manage your money.”).  However, our kids are all older now and have lived through many years of teaching in that mindset, so giving this new idea a try seemed worth it.

The app, called ALLOWANCE AND CHORES BOT allows you to input each child, the chores you would like them to do, the amount they will get paid for, and individual schedules for the week.  All the kids then get the app on their phones, and it gives daily reminders and schedules.  As the parent, I can “ignore” chores that are not done and there is no pay, or “approve” chores once complete.  We have been using this for about a month and a half now, and while it requires me to daily open the app and approve chores, it is keeping everyone on a system without me reminding–that’s the best part.

IMG_0537

Why this simplifies your life: we all use technology–keeps it all on one place for the whole family, and NO NAGGING.

3. FRIDAY CEREAL

This is for all moms who want to simplify their morning routine with kids.  Years ago when our children were younger, we started having issues with cereal.  I IMG_0539would buy healthier versions of cereal and then have one “fun (unhealthy)” cereal in the pantry, but of course everyone wanted the unhealthy cereal every day.  I couldn’t keep track of which child had had what cereal when, there was arguing, pleading, begging….all the pre-cursors to unleashing 7:00 AM crazy mom.  So, I gave it some thought and the next week I introduced “Friday Cereal” to the family.  I explained that every Friday the kids could have whatever chocolaty, sugary cereal they wanted, but the other six days of the week they had to make a healthier breakfast choice.  All agreed–no one likes crazy mom–so we began.  I wasn’t sure this would “stick” but we still use this system in our house ten years later.

Why this simplifies your life: whether it’s cereal or something else, it takes the one daily decision off your plate and gives it a predictable system.

4. CASH BUDGET

This is an example of a system that should stick–because it is so helpful to staying within your budget–but often doesn’t because of the discipline and perseverance it requires.  I mentioned in my post about Our Year Of The No that we were going back to a cash budget after going on and off over the years.  After counting cash and sorting envelopes now for almost two months, I can say it hurts so good.  It’s like being on a diet…the “financial weigh in” at the beginning of next month will feel so satisfying, but the daily discipline and denial takes patience and big picture thinking.  I will post more on my daily learnings of cash budgeting soon.

xxxxxx

Why this simplifies your life: the clarity in physical cash takes all the stress and guesswork out of finances–I know at all times how much I have to last me until the end of the month.

Hopefully these ideas meet some “system” need you have in your life.  If these don’t stick, don’t worry–they were just not the right fit for what you needed.

xoxo,

Amy

 

Finding Ideas For Your Life That Stick


printable-chore-charts

Do you ever feel like you keep trying new ideas that come across your path but most don’t stick?  Ideas for better parenting, marriage, cooking, organizing, exercising or budgeting?  I love new tips and tricks, but most of the time I just let them pass by, giving them a head nod on their way.  I have become a bit skeptical, since the ideas I do try often don’t stick around very long, which feels discouraging.

For example, chores.  We have done “chores” in our home in many different systems.  And for the most part, they have worked for a time.  But then something changes in our lives–summer vacation hits and all prior routine vanishes, or someone starts to feel self-conscious that I have all the chores listed publicly on our chalkboard with checkmarks on who has done what…so I take that down.  Or, I start a new project or job and don’t have time to stay consistent.  That is life. But it can still feel discouraging at times.

What about exercise?  A great new app comes out (NikeTrainingClub) that I download and use for a while, but then I get bored, or it takes up too much room on my phone storage, so I delete it.  Then I get an email about an new website (ToneItUp.com) that has great workouts.  So I join.  And jump up and down in my family room in front of my computer for a while.  Until I’m bored again.

Is this a bad thing?  Not always.  Humans, especially in our day and age, are wired to seek out the next best thing.  And with the ability to receive information so readily, we are constantly hearing about new ideas.  The key is finding the one or two systems in the important areas of your life that accomplish the goal, and hanging on to those until they aren’t working for you anymore.  My guess is that if the chores or the exercise programs aren’t working, it’s because your life has shifted, and it’s time give yourself permission to shift to a new idea.

Each day we sort and filter new ideas that we see on Facebook, TV, from friends, or books. How do we best select and filter all that comes our way?

1. Decide if what you are currently doing/using is working for you.

For example, if you have a system for organizing your closet that may not be perfect but is working for you, don’t feel like you need to head to The Container Store to acquire the best new system you just saw on a Today Show segment.  However, if your closet has been a source of frustration, and watching the segment makes you realize that, use the inspiration to get you off your duff and do something about it.

2. If an idea sounds good, don’t shrug it off because the last three things you have tried haven’t stuck around long term.

In my next post I will share a great new kid-chore tracker that a friend shared with me.  My first instinct was to say, “That’s nice,” and change the subject, knowing it is one more system that may not work long term.  However, I asked a few more questions, and decided to give it a try, even though I just knew one of my children would balk at it because it would feel “kiddish” to her.  Guess what?  It is working amazingly well…for all kids.

3. When you try something new, give it time.

Often, we start something, just to end it a week later.  We make a lot of excuses, “It is not working as fast as I thought it would, I didn’t have the time to learn how to do it well, I have already figured out three reasons why I can’t sustain this…”

Well, all of those things may be true, but if you don’t give things at least THREE WEEKS (21 days to form a habit!) of consistent effort, you will never know the true outcome.

This seems very true with any new organizing system, an effort to speak differently to your spouse, exercise programs, or a new eating routine, etc.!

4.  When you do stumble upon something great, share it!

I have learned some great new tips and tricks for my life that have stuck around because friends have shared what is working for them.  Don’t be shy about letting people know something that has been successful for you.

In my next post, I will share 4 ideas that have simplified my life–and that seem to be sticking!

So, in the spirit of sharing, please like and share this post on FB if you thought it was helpful. Thank you!

Have a great day!

5 Ways To Love God Back

\\

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last night, as we prayed over our family’s Valentine’s dinner, we mentioned that we are so thankful to God that He is the origination and perfect example of love.  All that we try to accomplish in this area as humans is at best a far cry from how God loves us–in a completely unconditionally, no strings attached, eternally crazy about us way.

How can we possibly love God back enough?  Loving Him of our own free will is the cornerstone of our Christian walk, and sometimes we need some concrete ways to show it.

Here are 5 ways to love God…back.

1. Create Space In Your Life For Him

More than just the hour in your seat Sunday morning, with the familiar cadence of your church’s program, you can invite God into your daily life, your daily hours.  When you open your time, feelings and thoughts up to Him, you allow him to move in your mundane–creating pockets of clarity, direction, words spoken in circumstances.

It could be pausing before responding to a child’s emotional outburst, and sending up a silent “Help! How do I handle this better than the thirty other times this has happened?” Or, listening to that nudge to talk to the neighbor in the grocery store who really, really needed to know someone cared enough to ask how she was doing.  Or, at work, inviting God into a difficult and challenging relationship–asking for his direction on how to handle it.

God created us to be in relationship with Him, and when we shut him out, barreling through life on our own strength and brokenness, we aren’t doing our best to love Him back.

Love God by inviting him into all of your circumstances.

2.  Realize Your Brokenness

I mentioned the word brokenness in my last response.  It is the crux of our understanding of what Christ’s death on the cross meant.  If we fail to grasp that we are sinful people, all of us, and we need a redeemer, then the blood shed by the Son of God is meaningless.  We can love God but admitting that we need redemption, that we need the crucifixion to connect our imperfect selves to our perfect God.

Yet, how many of us continue to live in a prideful place, fighting back  whenever we are called out on our brokenness?  How many of us feel that admitting we are wrong means we’ve lost?  My daughter and I were having a conversation the other day about her arguing with me.  She, in her incredibly astute self-awareness said, “Mom, I know I am wrong sometimes, but I don’t like to tell you because I don’t feeling like I’ve lost.”  (She’s my little warrior).

Ah-hem. Yep, been there my whole life.   Admitting we are wrong is so difficult, but in our failure to do so, we deny our redeemer to do what he does best!   Redeem.

Love God by letting him redeem you.

3. Have an Attitude of Love In All We Do

Why do you make the decisions you do?

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.  If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love.  If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.                        ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3Living Bible (TLB)

This verse speaks to those who do great things but for the wrong reasons.  We should take every decision to do good and filter it through this thought:

“Am I doing this out of love, or something else, like guilt, people pleasing, peer pressure, our own striving to look good, etc?”

If it’s not done with God’s nudging and a joyful loving heart, don’t do it.

God values love above all else, and those in the bible who experienced Jesus’s wrath in the full were the Pharisees who presented well on the outside but had empty hearts.

We love God by acting out of love in our lives.

4. Obey His Commands

So it’s probably easy for you not to steal from Old Navy or Best Buy, or maybe it doesn’t seem difficult to stay faithful in your marriage, and murdering someone on your way to the grocery store seems highly unlikely.  But what about some of the more subtle things God asks of us:

Do not be lazy, do not covet, do not gossip, be honest at all times, manage your money well (ie, do not overspend), do not have any idols before him (Starbucks anyone?), use self-control, be pure sexually, take care of widows and orphans (can you name any you are currently caring for?), resist temptation, love others more than yourself…and the list goes on.

I do not accomplish all of those perfectly ANY DAY.  So I can always work on loving God better.

 But if someone has obeyed God’s teaching, than in that person God’s love has truly reached its goal. ~ 1John 2:5 NCV

5. Love God Through Prayer and Reading the Bible.

When we sit before God and ask him to speak into our heart, our day, our thoughts, we find relationship!  And when we read His divinely inspired word, that is living and sharper than a two-edged sword, we find treasures of hope, wisdom, guidance, and what I love the most, we learn about the God who created us and loves us more than we can imagine.

That is loving God.  To seek and to know Him.

Blessings to you this Valentine’s weekend!

 

What Do You Long For?

your-labor-is-not-in-vain_500

What is Your Long Labor?

Are you in a season of your life where a circumstance has you in for the long haul?  It might not necessarily be a season you wish away–just one that is not always easy.  A few examples come to mind.

Parenting. It is where we live with our heart beating in the open air, vulnerable to the highs and lows of the little lives we are raising. Parenting is a labor of love, endurance, continual trial and error, mistakes and triumphs, heart on the floor and then lifted to greatest heights as we weep and celebrate with our flesh and blood the events and circumstances of their lives.

It is a season that for me has lasted seventeen years as my oldest celebrated this year in her life a few months ago.  And from what I hear speaking to older, wiser mothers, the ride does not end when our child walks out the front door into adulthood–there is labor ahead, even if it is just the labor of my heart, while my hands rest from years of parent-work.

And it is long.

How do any of us get through it? How do we possibly live so vulnerably for so many years, with soft, pliable hearts that don’t harden just for self-protection and a moment of rest?

LOVE.

Love is what keeps us malleable, it is the hand that picks us up again and again as we strive to be the good parent to our children, when we truly don’t know what we are doing so much of the time. And, I believe it is the love of God that pours through us that allows us the shred of wisdom and forgiveness and grace for each day.

In Beth Moore’s latest study, “Children of the Day”, she speaks of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus and their letter to the Thessalonian church with encouraging words:

“We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians1:3

Paul was speaking about the faith, labor and hope of the people of Thessolonica who were trying to be faithful in their day to day lives.

In her study, Beth changes the emphasis just a bit on these words:

FAITH CAN BE WORK

LOVE CAN BE LABOR

HOPE CAN GET LONG

Paul acknowledges that the people of Thessolonica who were trying mightly admidst much persecution to love and serve the Lord, were in it for the long haul.

What else in your life is long-hoping, long laboring? What about marriage? When you know that God has your best interest in mind in the midst of a difficult marriage, you have a new perspective. You have to labor for your love. And hoping… it can get long. Hoping for change, for a new leaf to be turned, in yourself or your spouse. With no end in sight. How does one possibly hold on?

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he certainly does not make light of long-suffering. Having been beaten, tourtured, flogged, left for dead, persecuted, run out of town, shipwrecked three times, he is intimate friends with wanting a season of better. Even in this, he encourages us to hang on. In life, whether it’s parenting, marriage, financial troubles, relational troubles, work difficulty, depression, or whatever you want to fill in here, sometimes it’s going to be long.

We hold on, we keep hoping because we trust God and his love for us.  He knows what we are going through.  As my friend prays, “Your arm, Lord,  is not too short to reach us in our struggle.”

For me, accepting that something is going to be long somehow makes it easier.  I can settle into the situation, find my reality in it instead of fighting the reality.

When we hold on to the hope that God is good, and will see the circumstances out in our life according to His will—not ours—we can see the situation for what it is, not something to constantly try to escape from. When I accept that raising my children will be a lifeLONG process of joy and heartache, I can embrace the lessons I am learning, and the ways God is growing me right now. I can trust that he will see me and my children through, and loosen my grip of control.

So what is your long labor? Keep fighting to live in the present, learn the lessons meant to be learned, grow as you were meant to grow, and hold tightly to God in the long—ness of it all.

As always, I appreciate your comments!  Thank you for being such faithful readers!

~Amy

 

The Year Of “The No” For Our Family

BLOG chalkboard--Year of No

While on an “extra” vacation a month or so ago, Jonathan and I decided that we needed to create some serious new money habits in 2015 (similar to the “serious” new habits we said we would do last year, except that we would actually do them).  Habits might be too permanent of a word–we will see how this year goes.  This new mindset needed a name, something to make it feel big and real.  “The Year Of The No” was born and given a title, and will possibly be put up for adoption in a couple of months depending on our fortitude.

In general, we do try to live financially wisely.  We carefully consider our spending, and every dollar that leaves our wallets matters.  I work very hard as a mom to compare grocery store prices, shop the clothing sales, and even try to be conscious about accelerating slowly in my SUV to save on gas.   I have been coloring my own hair for years and since he will never realize what he is missing with the ears and the tail and the bows, I groom my own dog.  If there is something I can do myself, why pay? (This mentality causes me to have to steer visitors eyes away from the paint on the ceiling and explain my orangey looking locks on occasion).

However, as our kids get older the expenses seem to climb higher.  And, while I am great at saving in many areas, I will throw the budget out the window for a great date night dinner out or an opportunity to travel.  And, while we are thankful to have enough money for our monthly budget, there are often unforeseen costs that sneak into our life (an several hundred dollar ACT prep course for our junior, two cars breaking down in a matter of a week, a medical insurance deductible that needs to be met, oh and quite a few vet bills lately), making our expenses outweigh our paycheck more often than we like.  Anyone relate?

We have realized we just don’t have a comfortable “margin” in our finances.  And the only way to increase those borders is to create some tough but good new spending patterns.

Jonathan and I went through our budget with a fine tooth comb–if you want a great sheet for budgeting, click here (and scroll down to budget worksheet).

This is the list that we created for our family:

BLOG chalkboard--Year of No

1.  NO EXTRA VACATIONS  Our family has one traditional vacation that is the memory making, family strengthening, familiar like a pair of worn but extremely comfortable shoes vacation to our family cabin in northern Minnesota each summer.  We save for this trip all year so this is remaining on the table.  All the other traveling we do during the year, however, is going to come under careful scrutiny.  One trip that is very difficult for us to give up is an annual trip that Jonathan and I take to Mexico together.  It is incredible for our marriage and our own memories.  That is not going to happen this year, and instead we are going to be intentional about date nights and finding quality time together.

We had also planned a family trip somewhere warm this winter which we have told the kids would not happen.  Instead we are putting $200/month in savings for a big trip next year when our oldest is a senior.

Because our family can fly for free, it makes it so easy for us to say “YES!!” to travel opportunities.  So we will carefully evaluate the importance of our vacations–spending time with extended family? Important. A last-minute get away with another couple?  Probably not this year.

This category is a tough one for me personally, since I value traveling and spending time together so highly.  I am trusting God for other opportunities for our family that accomplish the same goal without the expense.

2. NEEDS NOT WANTS 

For every purchase, from socks to a new ski jacket for our kids, we are asking,

“Is this an absolute need this year?”

“Can we wait a year to buy it?”  (socks might be a challenge, but what if took the time to hunt down all the missing socks in drawer corners, under beds, etc?)

I remind myself, we already have more than enough.

3. CASH BUDGET

I have attempted this a few times over the past 20 years, but I fizzle out after a few months in–the envelopes, getting to the bank for cash, keeping track of which categories I had to “borrow” from–it’s all a pain.  But, we know that when our credit cards are tucked away in a drawer there is a much smaller chance of going over budget.

4. CREATIVELY EAT

This category represents all food–in the pantry and going out.  I am working hard at using all the food we have in the house to make creative meals.  All I have to say is this will be interesting.

Our out to eat budget is fairly small, so we will need to hit the happy hour specials!

5. ZERO DEBT GOAL

This is important, not only as a good steward of the money God has provided us, but to be content living within our means.  Often unexpected things come up, however, and that circles back to why we are creating more margin in the first place.

6. RECYCLED CLOTHING

I’m not talking about hand-me-downs (although those are great), but shopping only at consignment stores for the year.  There are some great finds to be found! I have already begun to prepare my kids for this as spring/summer approaches.  We will try diligently to find what we need at these stores first, and as a last resort try retail.  I want us all to learn to simplify, reduce and reuse through this concept.

7. PLEASE THE BANK ACCOUNT FIRST

Of all the money habits shared, this may be the toughest for me.  Along with eating out and vacations, my biggest budget buster is wanting to please others!  I don’t ever want to spoil anyone’s hope for fun that includes us by saying no.

I also want to please my children, which is why shopping with my two girls does me in.  Not that I cave to everything they want, but I tend to feel the need to check into a mental institution after a big Kohl’s trip.  My psyche goes through an incredible tug-0f-war of wanting to say yes to the 5 pairs of jeans, 6 shirts, 3 sweaters and some new underwear, yet having to say no to half of everything (feel like a mean mom), then being convinced of yes to 3 more, oh and we forgot shoes, and then repeat about eight times, mix in strong attorney-like negotiation from my twelve year old, a worn and increasingly crabby mom, and a sudden desire to drive to New Mexico by myself.   I am not exaggerating.

This is all due to the fact that I am a pleaser.  So, I am going to continue to please…just the bank account instead of everyone else in my life.  I can rest in the fact that our bank account totally loves me.

8. LIBRARY MENTALITY

This final new habit is new for me.  I like new things–that new card table at Costco that would be so handy, new kitchen utensils that I only use once year, even new tools for our yard.  Why?  Because I don’t like borrowing.  This is related to my people-pleasing.  I don’t want to bother anyone, and it’s inconvenient to borrow and return.

Yet, if I had more of a library mentality, that we can all share and re-use items that we have, it would be so much better for our pocketbook and the environment.  I never mind if someone wants to borrow something from me, and instead of caving to my child wanting new ski jacket this year, what if I asked around if a friend had one waiting to go to Good Will?

 

So, there is the list.  Hopefully if you run into me at Target buying new socks you won’t secretly judge me for not crawling under my 14 year-old’s bed that morning to find more socks (ewww), but know I am sincerely trying to incorporate these habits as much as possible into our family’s life.  Here goes!

Have a great week and if this was helpful please share on Facebook or through email! Thank you.

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...