Beating the Winter Blues || “The Jar” Method + 21 Ideas to Stay Busy

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I purposefully live in a place where it’s winter for the better part of the year. I also purposefully live in a 37 foot RV. These two “purposely’s” can lead to some wonderful adventures, but, in our four months in this tiny home, I’ve also come to expect the stir-crazies as well.

Regardless of where you live, winter can be long and depressing and, especially when there are children involved, leave you counting the days till the sun shines again. Whether you struggle with seasonal anxiety or depression or are just looking for a few ways to keep your family busy this winter, I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’m proactively staying busy with my girls to ward off excessive winter blues.

The Jar

After seeing this post from Erin Lochner, I decided to do my own take on “the Jar” for winter (and likely each season afterwards). I simply wrote down every activity I could think of on a strip of paper, folded it up and placed it inside an empty jar. Each day, or whenever the winter blues hits especially hard, I have my girls draw one piece of paper. Regardless of what the activity is, we have to do it that day.

The Jar forces me to get beyond my home-body nature and ensures that my five and three year old children are getting the activity they need to stay healthy and engaged in a small space.

It seems rigid, or maybe overly simplified, but when given the choice to go out or do nothing, I usually choose doing nothing. This option forces me to do things that my girls will love and not default to letting them play on their own or, honestly, just throwing a movie on when I get overwhelmed.

My list isn’t exhaustive, but so far, it’s been so helpful for getting us out (or at least doing something new inside) each day.

  1. Build a snowman

  2. Make a fort inside and watch a movie together or read books

  3. Write a letter to grandma (or a friend)

  4. Pick 2-3 toys/clothes/items to donate and go thrifting for a new treasure

  5. Get bundled up and go for an adventure walk outside

  6. Go swimming at the local rec center

  7. Schedule a play date

  8. Bake cookies

  9. Have a picnic on the kitchen floor

  10. Have an at-home spa day (complete with manicures from Handmade Beauty, of course).

  11. Make hot cocoa and watch a movie together

  12. Go to the park and play in the snow

  13. Take the pup on a walk

  14. Play Eye Spy

  15. Draw a picture of…

  16. Play a board game

  17. Make homemade play-dough

  18. Play restaurant

  19. Go to the library

  20. Do 15 jumping jacks

  21. Go sledding

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WInter can drag on, espeically when you've got kiddos to entertain. Here are 21 of our favorite things to do when the winter "stir-crazies" hit.

What would you add to your own Jar? How are you warding off the Winter Blues?



De-Cluttering without Wasting — 5 Tips for Conscious Downsizing

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The topic of living a “clutter-free” lifestyle isn’t a new one around here. I’ve been through several downsizing/minimalism phases, each one varying in severity and longevity, and bits and pieces of my journey are littered throughout the online pages of this blog. Getting rid of stuff, it seems, comes and goes in trendy waves. I’ve ridden several and, I hope, crossed over into a balanced lifestyle of intentionally living with less without the guilt or restriction I once felt about the label “minimalist”. (A label I don’t subscribe to, by the way).

With the recent success of Netflix’s rendition of Marie Kondo’s not-so-new method of tidying up, it seems minimalism is on another trendy high, with folks all over the world declaring which items do and don’t spark joy in their lives. I love lots of things about Kondo’s method, especially the subjectivity, but one thing I’m hesitant to love about this “mass exodus” of ex-hoarders into minimalist territory is the sheer amount of waste that’s bound to be created, despite the KonMari warnings to dispose of things mindfully.

It’s inevitable, somewhat, creating waste initially when you begin to live a more conscious lifestyle. But I think it’s possible to Marie-Kondo your life without throwing all of your non-joy-sparking possessions into a landfill.

This blog post could go much more in depth, but, for sake of time and practicality, here is my quick two cents on how and why to de-clutter as mindfully as I think we should do anything else. Whether it’s your first bout of downsizing or you’re a veteran minimalist, living with intention requires you to be mindful in all areas of life, including where you put the things that don’t serve you anymore.


Infographic via  Trade Machines.  See the entire image  here  - it’s very eyeopening.

Infographic via Trade Machines. See the entire image here - it’s very eyeopening.

  1. Get rid of clothing responsibly

    Americans purchase one article of clothing per week and we keep our clothes for only half as long as we used to 20 years ago. It’s estimated that Americans toss about 70.5 pounds of textile waste into landfills each year, with a measly 15% ever being donated. The pictured infographic is wonderfully helpful for explaining more.

    Here are a few simple ways to be mindful with your downsized clothing:

    • Host a clothing swap

    • Sell or re-gift them

    • Send pieces to relevant charities

    • Send them to a certified textile recycling center (a full post is coming soon on textile recycling, but here’s some great info in the meantime!)

  2. Purge Heirlooms Carefully

    Sentimental clutter is one of the hardest areas for most people to purge. The memories associated often seem to attach themselves to the physical item. I’ve never ascribed to the “rule” that you can’t keep any sentimental items, but here are a few rules that I follow when getting rid of anything with sentimental value.

    • Send the most valuable to other family members

    • Keep what you love without guilt

    • Host a garage sale or “free sale” to purge the rest

  3. Declutter your Kitchen without Throwing it all in the Trash

    Things like spices, mismatched sets, and appliances that you never use all probably fall in the category of “not sparking joy”. Be careful that you don’t lump it all into the trash when, chances are, each item needs individual consideration.

    • Sell/donate appliances and supplies in good condition

    • Combine extra spices/herbs or use them up before recycling the packaging

    • Compost food waste

    • Recycle as many containers as possible

  4. Find charities/organizations that may need your miscellaneous extras

    For odds and ends that you don’t use and aren’t sure what to do with, there may be a charity or organization that will take it off your hands. Many schools will accept musical instruments, office supplies, or children’s toys. Homeless shelters often take clothes, unused food, and the like. Do some digging into local organizations and send some items their way.

  5. Carefully consider future new belongings

    The cornerstone of a mindful lifestyle with less clutter (which ultimately means creating less waste), is what you do moving forward. If you purge your belongings only to replace them shortly after with “new and improved” ones, you’ve missed the point.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop or buy things that do, indeed, spark joy or fill a gap. However, once the initial purge is over, being extra cautious of what you buy/accept/bring in means that you’ll have less clutter and less to worry about downsizing later.

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As you Kon-Mari your belongings, remember to do it without creating unnecessary trash. Here are a few ways to de-clutter without waste.

Of course, none of us do this perfectly. It’s impossible to exist without creating waste of some sort. However, I hope these tips inspire you to Kon-Mari your life away and dispose of the joyless items responsibly.

Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat more!

RV Living: A Q&A + 7 Things I've Learned in Our First Month of Tiny

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We did a thing - a slightly crazy thing - forcing us into the lifestyle both my husband and I have craved for more than four years.

We bought an RV.

To live in. Full time.

With 2.5 kiddos.

The number of people choosing to “go tiny” is growing and, as someone who has always been in love with the concept of less but better, living in a big space allows for too much wiggle room (ie. hoarding). The confines of our tiny space allow for very little excess, and it’s a challenge that I’ve happily looked forward to for a long time.

A few of you asked about our square footage transitions, so here’s a quick run down of the size of the spaces we’ve lived in over the past few years. Our first (and only) home we’ve owned was a 2,400 square foot Victorian style home in Nebraska. It was beautiful and huge and we spent two years remodeling it, but we knew it wasn’t our forever space. From there, we moved to Colorado and our first condo here was a little two bedroom unit with enough space but no flexibility to make it our own. We left there and moved in with my parents for a season. We had a bedroom and a bunk-bed room for the girls. Now, our RV is a cozy 37 feet long with two pull outs for extra space, a bunk room for the kids and a separate “master bedroom” for AJ and I. It is small, don’t get me wrong, but it’s ours and it’s great. All of our extra belongings that we didn’t sell or donate (things like our dining room table and my piano, out of season clothes, and outdoor gear) are stored in a little shed on my parents property.

It’s been just about a month in our RV and, although the majority of our time here I’ve been battling morning sickness, we’ve gotten quite settled in and I’ve already learned so much. This blog post is simply me sharing my “initial lessons of tiny living” since I’m no where near an expert, and a quick attempt to answer a few of the most common questions I’ve gotten from you all. I plan on documenting much of our journey into tiny and plan to share a full tour once we get a few little projects out of the way and I feel the RV is closer to “done”. My goal is to get it finished by Christmas so we have room for a little Christmas tree.

For now, I want to share a few things I’ve learned this month and a few brands who’ve so sweetly agreed to help turn transform space from a weekend vacation home for wealthy elderly couples into a home for a family of four.

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  1. Bring the Essentials and Nothing More

    As I mentioned before, it was either, bring too much stuff and turn into a crazy woman, or choose just the essentials and create a place for each thing. Since we weren’t moving too far and had already downsized significantly after our move from the condo, I already had a pretty good idea of the things I’d need for the RV. We have just enough dishes for the four of us. We have just enough toys to not overwhelm the space (I can swap them out with others in storage to freshen up the excitement every now and than.) We have just enough clothes to fit our minimal storage options. And we have just enough bathroom essentials to get the job done.

    As for our clothes (one of the main questions I’m asked and one of my bigger hurdles thus far), here’s how I’m handling it: the RV has built-in storage alongside our queen size bed, over the top of it, and underneath it. The hang-up space is minimal (I’ll do a full tour soon!), so I had to create a mini-capsule of my most worn pieces. Since I’m getting more and more pregnant by the week, I knew I’d have to downsize and rely on pieces that are versatile, so it was an easy transition. I keep my extras under the bed, and my flat laying clothing and things like socks, bras, and underwear above the bed in the cupboards.

    The girls room has a lot of storage, so their clothes fit easily in the under the bed drawers. Aj’s closet is his own territory and I try not to look at it.

  2. Choose Aesthetically Pleasing Storage Solutions

Simply deciding where in the world to put everything was the biggest challenge. Our RV comes with lots of storage options, but of course, they’re not meant to house everything a family needs to survive, so I had to get a little bit creative. I’m thankful for brands like Urbana Sacs and Ten Thousand Villages who offer functional but beautiful (and eco-friendly/ethically made) storage solutions.

I put small things like my makeup, my Hand Made Beauty non-toxic nail polish (read more about them in my last blog post!), a few house plants, bathroom essentials, and cleaning supplies in my Urbana Creative Sacs, made from sturdy eco-friendly recycled paper, and store them in the open shelving in the bathroom and inside the vanity. They also sent me a few larger Sacs that I put my socks and underwear in and our toilet paper in another large one. They’re such a versatile and beautiful storage option that can used and reused for years.

3. Add Pieces that Bring You Joy

Since there is literally no space for “eh”, I made a rule for myself long before we even bought the RV that I’d only fill it with necessities and pieces I truly loved. I’ve had to do some soul searching to continue to nail down my “personal style” but I knew I wanted the RV to feel bright, cozy, and not cluttered. I’m using a lot of whites (hopefully out of reach of places sticky fingers can reach) and bringing in rich, rustic colors like burnt orange, deep navy, and forest green green when I need color. Luckily, I had most of the pieces I brought to the RV, but a few new additions are my Anchal Project throw pillow, my vintage runner for the kitchen I found on Etsy, and a gorgeous throw blanket from Quiquattro.

Anchal Project is an amazing brand that I’m honored to be working with - their pieces are made by women artisans in India and their designs are modern but cozy. I have their 22” Cross-Stitch Toss Pillow in rust and I love the pop of color it adds to our otherwise minimal bedroom.

4. Functional and Multi-Use Products are Everything

Aside from the few decor items I have in the RV, all other space is used for functional but cute storage and functional/cute everyday items. I’ve also come to rely on multi-use products that can serve multiple functions. I made all purpose cleaner that can clean literally any surface in the camper. My decorations also double as pieces I can wear (I hung my fedoras on the wall and have a small space to hang clothes for display on one of our bedroom walls (once the painting is finished!). Getting creative and learning how to disguise the unsightly things like remotes and cords with pretty baskets is a fun challenge.

5. Kids Don’t Take Up As Much Space As Adults

The girls we’re probably more excited than AJ and I were when we moved in. Since they’re so close in age (20 months apart) they’re used to sharing a space and their little bunk room is their kingdom. I have a few designated spaces for things like art supplies, play dough, blocks, and other toys, so they can have their own choice of things to play with.

I got a few questions about how I plan to encourage the girls’ independence and give them “space” while living in an RV. Although this answer isn’t necessarily a quick and simple one, my summarized answer is that kids simply don’t need as much space as we assume, and they really don’t need as much “stuff” as we assume. My girls have incredible imaginations, love playing together (usually) and can turn literally any space into whatever they want. If I ever sense that one of them needs a break from the other (usually when nap time needs to happen), we sit down, take a break, and give them space to play (or rest) separately.

6. Brighten Up the Space Wherever You Can

RV’s and campers are not known for their aesthetically pleasing instagram-ability. In fact, I think the opposite is usually true. They come with dark interiors, small windows and weird brownish beige walls. I knew that taking all steps I could to brighten up the small space would be one of my first steps to making it feel like “home”. My goal is to bring in as much white as possible, which includes painting the walls (a big process that we’re currently in the middle of), taking the weird brown curtains down and replacing them with sheer, bright ones, and adding white bedding.

The folks at Doplnok have been chatting with me for a long time and we finally decided that now was the perfect time for us to try out their fair trade, organic cotton sheets. The sheets are made with GOTS certified organic cotton and the brand is Fair Trade certified, which gives me confidence that their backing up their claims with action. The sheets were shipped in a gorgeous reusable box that will be put to good use in our tiny home.

7. Routine and Finding Out of the House Space is Important

In addition to the above, I’ve tried to set predictable routines and, especially important, make sure to get outside/out of the RV time as often as possible.

We didn’t decide to go tiny so we could spend our entire days inside cooped up in a camper - we did it so we could essentially be forced to get out more often, explore our home, and try new things. It pushes us out of our comfort zones, and I think it can only be a healthy experience for all of us, despite the obvious challenges.

Wintertime will be one of the biggest hurdles. Some days, it will simply be too cold to be outside, so I’m going to make a “Wintertime Fun Jar” full of fun inside ideas to keep us busy on the days where the winter blues strike. I’m so excited for our first summer in here though. Setting up the patio, letting the girls picnic out front, and (hopefully) getting to travel with it are a few things I’m anxiously awaiting.


One month down - countless more to go! I can’t wait to get more projects finalized so I can share a full tour of the RV. Stay tuned and, as always, comment away with any and all questions you may have!

Considering RV/tiny home life with kids? Read about our first month as a family of four in a 37 foot RV.

*This post was partially sponsored by a few brands who’ve helped me make the transition into RV life. Thank you to Urbana Sacs, Anchal Project, and DOPLNOK for making this post possible.*

Spring Cleaning Your Life || Guest Post

**This piece is a guest post from Katrina Gleason, the founder of Katrina Gleason Coaching.**


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Think of your life as a garden.

For a garden to survive, plants need the basic necessities, such as water, sunlight, and solid rooting. But for each plant to thrive, it needs space and an abundance of nutrients. If you prepare a small garden and pack it full of seeds, none of the plants grow very well. They compete for resources and tear each other down. The same concept applies to your life. When you have too many ‘plants’ in your ‘garden’, they rival each other for your precious time and energy. You end up with unhealthy plants and depleted soil. However, if you were to select specific plants and spread them out in your garden, they will all thrive! Examine the three areas of your life below. You get to choose which plants should stay and which plants aren’t the right fit for your garden.

Friendships/Relationships

We all have toxic people in our lives. Forcing yourself to interact with those who make you constantly unhappy is a waste of your time and theirs. You could be investing that time into so many different endeavors. Why spend special moments with a person or group that makes you miserable?

If you’re feeling guilty about distancing yourself from someone, please consider this. Do you add more value to the world by being around them? If not, there’s a good chance you’re far more irritable and negative after spending time together. It isn’t fair to the people closest to you when you take this negative energy out on them.

Human connection is powerful and it should never be taken lightly. Find the friends that mean the most to you and invest in them with your time and energy. There is always a give and take in friendship, but when someone is only taking and never giving, you need to examine your relationship.

Commitments

We all have commitments. Whether these commitments are to people, companies, or organizations, everyone is constantly taking on MORE. The best way I can illustrate this is with my own story.

For years I had been a teacher at my church’s Wednesday night program. My schedule was already packed with work and courses I was taking, but I signed up anyway because I had done so in the past. I felt obligated, even though no one was making me do it. The first evening, I had no time to prepare and I was so frazzled that something enjoyable became a very stressful night. At the end of my lesson, I decided I couldn’t teach on Wednesday nights anymore.

I felt like a failure for not being able to uphold my commitment, but when I really thought it through, the problem wasn’t letting go; the problem was saying yes in the first place. My initial reaction was that this would just be another plate to spin. If I’d just listened to myself from the start, it would have saved everyone involved a lot of stress.

If your commitments are draining you then do what you have to do to let them go.  Have those tough conversations, I promise it will all be worth it. And next time someone asks you to make a commitment, big or small, go with your gut on accepting. You don’t owe anyone a yes.

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Habits

We all have bad habits. Most of us are 100% aware of unhealthy habits, yet choose to do nothing about them. Look at your habits and pinpoint the ones that don’t serve you well. Maybe your bad habits are drinking too much, overeating, sleeping in late, binge watching Netflix, or playing mindless games on your phone; these habits have consequences! They STEAL your time and energy. It’s easy to view these as no big deal, but they are the weeds of your garden. You can never get back the hours wasted on silly endeavors, but you can change your habits so that you make the most of the time you have left.

I recommend replacing these bad habits with new, better, and healthier ones. Maybe you start getting out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off. Maybe you strive to do at least 5 minutes of exercise every day. A small step in the right direction is all it takes to get your positive momentum going.

Removing weeds from your garden will leave you with so much extra time and energy. Now, the key is to say NO to the things that you don’t want in your life. Take that free time and start doing the things you’ve been wanting to do for yourself! Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill, or just have some nice alone time.

Slow Living For The Non-Minimalist || 6 Ways To Slow Down Without Throwing Out All of Your Stuff

Slow Living For The Non-Minimalist || 6 Ways To Slow Down Without Throwing Out All of Your Stuff

Getting rid of "stuff," and downsizing my wardrobe has been huge for my own journey, but I think that more often than not, the term "minimalism" focuses too purely on stuff, and not on deeper issues like ethics and lifestyle. And since I'm all about getting at the heart of things here on SL&Co, I've been gravitating towards "the slow" and away from "the minimal" for a long time now — both publicly and in my own home and heart. 

While I still consider myself an "aspiring minimalist" who loves all things white-washed and capsuled, I'm growing into my newly made habits of shopping with intention, considering my schedule, and prioritizing self-care, and find the term "slow" much more fitting for where I'm currently at. 

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