Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-like Minimalism: The Beauty of Hooks

Many of you know that I’ve got a large family – 7 children – which requires living minimally with a great amount of organization.  So for the most part, I like the rule, “You Get One” or “The Rule of One.”

For example, in the wintertime, each child gets one pair of boots and one pair of tennis shoes.  They also get one pair of snow pants and one winter coat.  (The three older girls do have a nicer Mass coat…it’s the exception to our Rule of One.)  In the summer, they get one pair of rain boots, one pair of flip-flops, and one sweatshirt.  They also get one swimsuit and one beach towel.

But the question is, how in the world do I keep track of all that stuff – 7 pairs of boots, tennis shoes, coats, sweatshirts, beach towels…  Just where does all that stuff go?

My solution is hooks.

Thankfully hooks are possible in our new house, as there’s room on the garage walls.  And since it’s summer, the children keep their life jacket, beach towel, and swim suit on their appropriate hook out there.  This way they always know where to find their things, and these things stay off the floor and out of the house.  (Mostly!)

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Everyone has their name on their beach towels too.  That way there can be no doubt about ownership.  If Johnny decided to leave his beach towel out in the yard to get muddy, then that’s his fault.

This is my first year of not allowing beach towels in the house, and it’s been lovely.  There are no more wet children tramping through the house to find a towel only to use it once and throw it on the floor.  Done with that.

We also have hooks on the other garage wall for their sweatshirts.

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Obviously the hooks lower down on the wall are for the younger children, who cannot reach very high yet.

Of course during the 9 months of Never-Ending Winter, their winter coats hang in those places.  But for now, it’s sweatshirts.  You’ll notice that the winter hats and gloves are in the basket sitting on the top shelf.  The boys also keep their Mass shoes up there too.  The gray bin on the floor is for their one baseball hat.  My husband’s winter gear, however, does stay on those hooks off to the right all year round.

Here’s a shot of both walls.

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There are two things that make this possible for us:

  1. We have the extra space in the garage
  2. We put cheap carpet down, so that the children do not have to stand on cold concrete to put shoes and things on.

As an aside, do you see the pencil sharpener above the white garbage can?  This was a genius move too.  No more are the children allowed to sharpen their pencils in the house.  Inevitably the little ones dump that container of pencil shavings all over the place.  Now, they can sharpen away, and spill it, and I don’t care.

Lastly, where do I put their winter gear?  Well, I don’t have a storage “room,” but I do have a little space under the basement staircase where we put more hooks.  (And dressers.)

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Here they are, waiting for the return of colder seasons.  Their snow pants are hanging underneath their coats.

In the background you might notice a few dressers?  I’ve got 5 of them hiding back there, which is were I keep the children’s clothing that is currently not in use.  Each drawer is labeled as either “Girl” or “Boy” and is also marked with a particular size.  This makes it very easy to find whatever clothing I might need.  It’s a lot easier to pull out a labeled drawer than to dig through a large tub.  In fact, I’m constantly in and out of these drawers every single season, and it’s lovely to be able to get in there so easily.

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Here’s a shot looking out of this storage area.

In the end, there are definite challenges to having a large family.  To all of you out there, living in the midst of it, I encourage you to keep at it!  Try to institute your own version of “You Get One.”  And experiment with some hooks.

Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-like Minimalism: The Bathroom

Bathrooms may be the easiest room to simplify.  What does one really need?

  1. Toilet Paper
  2. A Towel
  3. Soap
  4. Toothbrush & Toothpaste
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My bathroom

Oh, but the reality is, I’ve got more in mine.

I have a hair dryer, flat iron, and hair spray.  I also have mascara and a cosmetic compact, with two different colors of lipstick.  I’ve got 4 bottles of lotion.  (Mea culpa.)  My husband has shaving cream, deodorant, and a set of hair clippers.  He also keeps a Bible and Euclid’s Elements “on his side.”  (I suppose because it’s the only place where he can read uninterrupted??)

There are other things too.  I’ve got a household of 9 people to keep track of.  Therefore, I tend to buy things in bulk.  I’ve got three bottles of contact solution.  And a ton of toilet paper below the sink.

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Here’s an inside shot of the upper cabinet.
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And here’s the lower part of the cabinet with medicine on top and my things below.

In any case, someday I hope to have less.  But for now, here’s what I can recommend.

Tips for Less in the Bathroom:

  1. Limit the number of bottles in your shower.  I’ve got 3: my shampoo, body wash, and my husband’s shampoo.  Really, we could get by with 1.
  2. Limit the number of towels and washcloths in your cabinet.  The children have 1 towel each in their bathrooms, and my husband and I each have 2.
  3. Throw that old medicine away.  If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s probably bad anyway.
  4. Throw those old cosmetics away and buy less!

The last thing I’ll recommend for your bathroom is a holy picture or crucifix.  I have St. Therese right my by sink, and sometimes, when I’m brushing my teeth or doing whatever, I talk to her.  Yes, I might be a little crazy, but she always listens.

What’s by your sink?

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Homeschooling

The Homeschool Room

In our old home, we didn’t have a homeschool room.  Rather, I was very creative about where I placed our homeschool materials–on shelves in the living room, in kitchen cabinets, or in bedroom closets…anywhere.

And the children worked just about anywhere too.  In fact, we even had a card table set up in the basement storage room where The Eldest preferred to do her math, as it was a quiet spot.  One does get creative with limited amounts of space.

Thankfully, however, our current home has 5 bedrooms: one for my husband and me, one for the baby, one for the 3 girls, one for the 3 boys, and one for homeschooling.  Deo Gratias.

The Homeschool Room

Now, we’re trying to educate our children classically.  Just what does that mean?  If you’ve got twenty minutes, I strongly encourage you to listen to Andrew Kern’s podcast, The Top 5 Ideals That Any Classical School Should Employ.  It’s awesome.  And I mean, awesome, as in awe-inspiring.

But…

How does that relate to my homeschool room?

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In order to educate all these children, I need a space that is neat, simple, and beautiful, if possible.

Neat?  Most days.  Although it does happen that the boys will take out their circuits and leave them all over the room, and the Two-Year-Old will decide to shred an entire notebook to pieces.

Simple?  Sigh.  I operate a school.  Therefore, I must have some supplies, but these need not be in overabundance.  For example, do I really need those nifty magnetic shapes that everybody else has?  Nope.  (Although I secretly think they’re the coolest thing ever.)  Or how about a bucket full of markers?  Definitely not.

The third one?  Beauty?  I’m always harping on beauty, because it matters!  After all, Ratzinger once said, it’s martyrs and the arts that will evangelize the world, not all your committees and words.  Shoot, I came back into the Church through studying Church architecture, painting, and sculpture.*  One can only stare at Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, and Wislawa Kwiatkowska for so long until one begins to ask questions.

In any case, today I’ll show you what works for us.

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In our homeschool room, you’ll see a table and chairs, where The Eldest prefers to do her school work because she can shut the door.  The other children like to carry their work out to the kitchen to be near me.

On the walls in here you’ll see a picture of B16 (our affectionate name for Pope Benedict XVI), two maps, a history timeline, the alphabet, and numbers.  These are all practical things, but I’ve also tried to place them proportionally on the walls.  (Proportion is so important that St. Thomas Aquinas names it as one of the three elements of beauty.)

The other side of the room features our computer work space and bookshelves.

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These are mostly our school history, science, and religion books.  Our other literature books are in a different room.

Lastly, we have the closet, which is a blessing.  No longer must I run from room-to-room in order to gather my daily supplies.  They’re all just here.

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And here’s a look at the inside of both sides:

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This side features the children’s completed work trays, cubbies, my answer keys on one of the upper shelves, and a few games on top.
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This side has the children’s puzzles with DVDs on the top shelf and a few art supplies on the lower shelf.

In a previous post I went into detail about educational supplies or “toys” HERE.

And that, my friends, completes the tour of our Homeschool Room.  But I’ll leave you with three things that I’m continually working on:

  1. It’s better to have less.
  2. How I organize my space matters, because beauty matters.
  3. And, less is really better.  (Except for books.)
*This is why ugly churches and bad art are a sin.  They convert no one.
Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-Like Minimalism: The Bedroom Closet

Some of you could care less about what’s in my closet.  Really, I sympathize.  You may just want to skip this post.

For the rest of you, here we go.

My Closet:  An Introduction

Now I’ve been pregnant or nursing for about 13 straight years.  Just think about that a minute.  Then consider that I likely have another 10 more years of fertility.

Take a minute, do the math, process it.  Think some more.

So clearly my body has been up and down a lot and will be up and down some more.  There’s my normal, pre-pregnancy weight.  Then, there’s my pregnancy weight.  I always gain about 50 pounds.  Then, there’s the post-pregnancy period, wherein it takes about a year for my body to return to its initial weight.  And then about that time, I’m pregnant again.

Why do I mention all this?

Because as any of you mothers out there know, this requires a variety of clothing sizes, unless you have the privilege (or burden?) of being able to buy new clothes every “Body” Season.

And then consider the fact that I live in a region that promises a temperature swing from a frigid -40 degrees Fahrenheit to a blasting 110 degrees.

It’d be a lot easier to live somewhere tropical year round.  I imagine you could live in a sundress and call it good.

How does all this relate to my closet?

In short, I’ve got three wardrobes:  Normal, Pregnant, and Post-Pregnant.  Of course there’s some overlap with clothing.  For example, my two nursing tank tops have simply become my pjs for all Body Seasons.  (Romantic, no?)  And fortunately (or unfortunately?) I can wear my one pair of sweat pants also during all three phases.

But for my sanity, I do have clothing for each specific Body Season, and I’ll mortify myself a little by writing about it.  Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas.  I’m hoping it’ll spur me on to get rid of more.

So what is in my closet?

No skeletons, I hope.

Here’s a shot of my clothes as one walks in the closet:

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Let me break it down for you.  As it happens, right now I’m experiencing a Normal Body Season, so my blue tub of maternity clothes is sitting on the floor.

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Tub of Maternity Clothes.  Currently not in use.

The pink box on the upper shelf is my wedding dress, and the brown box is my sole box of childhood memorabilia.

My Post-Pregnancy clothes are discreetly hanging in the corner, behind a few tank tops, which you may be able to see, if you look closely.

My dress-up clothes are hanging on the right, with my 3 dancing dresses in plastic.  (My husband and I enjoy dancing; it’s a hobby.)  So, the clothes on the left are what I wear every day.

Here are the remainder of the shelves, which contain bottoms for all four seasons – jeans, skirts, skorts, and capris.  (I don’t have any shorts.  I hate them.)

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The top shelf features a pink dancing skirt next to a Nikon camera; the bottom shelf has two bags on it.

Here are the exact numbers of my regular clothes:

  1. Long-sleeved shirts: 12
  2. Short-sleeved shirts: 6
  3. Tank tops: 7
  4. Sweaters/zip-ups: 8
  5. Jeans: 1
  6. Pants: 1
  7. Skirts: 6
  8. Skorts: 3
  9. Dresses (including for dance): 8
  10. Capris: 2
  11. Leggings: 2

I realize that for many of you, I’ve got a ridiculous amount of clothing.  But I’m working on it.  I was greatly inspired by Darci Isabella’s video on what she’s got in her closet.  Wow.  Like 5 tops and 2 skirts.  Just wow.  She does qualify it, however, with that she’s done having children.

My current rule is that if something comes in, something goes out.  I keep the same number of hangers.  And I also “rotate” my clothing, so that way I can see what is being worn, and what is not.  For example, do you see that blue long-sleeved shirt on the end?  I haven’t worn it in a long time, because it’s on the end.  Everything that’s been worn, gets put on the other side.  That shirt may have to go.

Confusing?  Make sense?

It’s my crazy way of knowing what I need to get rid of.

And how about my husband?

Here’s his entire wardrobe.

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Work clothes hanging on top.  Everyday clothes on the bottom.

He does have some running clothes too, and so do I.  They’re just in the dresser, in the room, with underwear and socks.

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Dresser for underwear, socks, 2 pairs of leggings, nylons, running clothes, veils for Mass, and an empty drawer.

And shoes?

I gave up on shoes a long time ago.  Less is way better, and in my case, a lot more comfortable.  Here is a picture of every single pair of shoes I own.

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From left to right: winter boots, running shoes, every day shoes, dancing ballet slippers, sandals, flip flops, and every day boots.

Any questions?  Be sure to ask.

 

Kim's Kitchen

Menu Planning & Groceries for 9 People

Some of you have expressed interest in how I plan for meals.  Meal planning a big deal for my family.  There are 9 of us after all.  I can’t just wing it every day, unless we want to eat frozen pizza and corndogs for supper.  So, a few years ago, I began intentionally making a weekly supper menu.  And let me tell you, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  About anything.  Seriously.

Today, I’m going to break it down for y’all.

But first, this is where the menu is posted:

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Can you see it?  It’s on the refrigerator, on the left.

Close up:

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Each day gets a clothespin, where I slip the paper into.  As you may or may not be able to see, I begin my week with Friday because that’s the day I get groceries.  I actually make the menu out on Thursday and put any recipes I may need in the clothespin next to the meals, as seen above.

Here’s a close up of a pin:

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And here’s a look at the back side.

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As you can see, I bought some little square magnets from Hobby Lobby and stuck them on the clothespin.  On the back side of the paper, I’ve put an abbreviation for the recipe book where that particular meal can be found with the page number.

At first I wrote up new slips of paper every week after discarding the old ones, but then I quickly realized that that was a stupid waste of time, as I usually make most of the same things anyway.  So, I started saving the slips and putting them into jars.

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Meals on slips of paper in jars.

I have one jar for main dishes and one jar for sides, like salads or vegetables.  I store these jars in the same cupboard that holds my recipe books and my recipe box.

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See the jars on the middle shelf?  And do notice my sweet Betty Crocker cookbook to the left.  My recipe box is sitting on top of it.

And there you have it!

Recap

When Thursday morning rolls around, I take all the clothespins off the refrigerator and pull last weeks’ slips of paper off.  I grab my two little jars.  I flip through the main dishes and select 7 new entrees, which I arrange next the most suitable days.  Then I add any sides.

I then pull the corresponding recipes from my box and start writing down any ingredients I need to buy on my Grocery List.  I do the same for the sides.  Then I put the new menu back on the refrigerator, for all to see (and sometimes to complain about).  I put the recipes that I’ll need into the Recipe Clothespin and put it also on the refrigerator for easy access.

Lastly, I stuff my Grocery List in my purse, so it’s ready for grocery shopping on Friday.

Anyone else have a good system?