A family's journey of learning how to make a home, save money and be healthy… while having fun doing it!


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Giving Experiences or Consumables for Christmas

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For some reason, this year we’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas and birthday gifts. We’ve also been following a lot of minimalism and “simplifying” blogs so I’m guessing it’s somehow related.

The main minimalism blog we follow is Becoming Minimalist because I like that his view on minimalism is functional minimalism and also concentrates on minimalism of the mind and finances as well.

The last two years we tried to ask for “experiences” or college money (for Auden) for our Birthdays and Christmas, instead of toys or nick-nacks.  And we tried to give consumables, gift cards, or experiences for Christmas.

We definitely got some mixed reactions.

Some people responded amazingly well, and loved the idea.

Greg’s aunt purchased a Zoo pass for our whole family two Christmases ago; Greg’s grandparent’s purchased a Milwaukee museum pass for us this Christmas, my sister gave Auden college money for his birthday (with a few packs of stickers, which was amazing to him) and my in-laws/Greg’s aunt got him gymnastics classes for his birthday this year. My mother in law got me tickets to a Cubs vs. Brewers game for my birthday.

As for others, I felt like I was offending them. People like buying Christmas presents– physical things, not experiences or gift cards and the challenge of wrapping them. Heck, I love wrapping different shapes of presents and figuring out how I’m going to do it. But I hate Christmas shopping, because of the crowds, grumpy people, and probably because I worked retail for a long time.

I also hate waiting until the last minute, and usually have most of my Christmas shopping done before December even starts.

As I spend this week rushing to clean out what I can before the semester starts, I’m reminded that the reason we began trying to downsize and de-clutter our lives was that we had to much stuff, and we still do. I would venture to guess that our families and friends also have the same problem, or have everything that they need.

So I’ve come up with a compromise, which is that I’ll be buying subscription boxes, consumables (for example, fancy truffles, the kind that you wouldn’t scarf down while scrolling through Facebook, but actually enjoy), and experiences for as many people on our list as I can this year. And I’ll be asking for things I plan to buy myself anyway, and just put off buying them for awhile (specialty food, makeup, ebooks, Nespresso refills, etc).

This year Greg and I decided that since we have everything we need, and usually end up over-spending anyway, what we’d love is time to spend together. After our crazy semesters are over, we usually feel like we haven’t seen each other, so what we’ve decided to do this year is spend a couple days down in the city (for a good price of course, we got a hotel for $63 a night in Chicago on Groupon (if it’s not still available, don’t worry, just keep checking back, because they always have Chicago hotel deals)

We’re going to spend the time enjoying the city’s decorations, and enjoy watching all of the crazy last minute shoppers together, knowing that we were done with our shopping months ago. I can’t wait!


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The Best Things in Life aren’t things

The best things in life aren’t things

It’s such an easy concept but it’s so hard to remember sometimes. Kids learn this right away. You know, the whole “kids would rather play with the box than the toy” saying. I first came across this quote while reading the blog: becoming minimalist. This one line inspired me to begin writing a blog. This blog is about the journey of our little family- our goal to live more minimalist, our everyday adventures, the crazy stuff my kid says, and anything else we come across.

For those of you who know us, we live in a tiny condo. VERY tiny.  One day I just got fed up with all the clutter in our house. Being in school full-time, having a two year old, and working doesn’t exactly leave a lot of time for organization.

As I was googling organizing ideas (I was planing to tackle our clutter over winter break in hopes of having a less-stressful next semester) I came across this blog. The first idea that stood out to me which Joshua Becker wrote was about the fact that you can only come up with so many creative organizing solutions before you run out of room. The second idea that stood out is that we waste all this time organizing and cleaning through stuff that we could be spending with our family, like Christmas break. I feel horrible that I don’t get the quality time with my son during the school year, but I was planning to de-clutter during break? I was sold. I’ve been a messy, unorganized person my whole life and enough is enough. I don’t have the time or effort anymore to waste my (very) precious free time cleaning through stacks of papers and spending 20 extra minutes looking for stuff.

Here’s my motivation:

  1. More time with my family
  2. Less stress
  3. Less debt
  4. More productive life

We won’t be getting rid of all of our furniture or living in a concrete house. I like Becker’s idea of “rational minimalism” because there will always be a small amount of toys around my house. I have an obsession with news magazines and Real Simple so those will be around for awhile too, until I am able to get e-versions of them. Our mission is going to be: to find everything a place, control what comes in our house, control the amount of clutter in our house, and live a more fulfilled life.