5 Workout Hacks for the Busy Mom (or Cat Lady)

Bust A Move!

All over the Internet and in almost every “women’s” magazine you can find articles, tips, posts, and pins for quick cellulite obliterators or five-minute moves or fat-buster workouts.  Let me condense all of that and then make it real.

Read on, fellow Woman with Life-Goals!


Before kids, when I was still gainfully employed in a cubicle, I came up with a series of workouts to help me burn calories, keep toned, and not fall asleep at my desk, drooling on my keyboard.

I have tried different  “workouts”, targeted different “problem areas”, and felt “the burn” in different muscle groups.  I am not a fitness expert by any means.  What I am is a woman in her 30s with two kids and a nice physique, ready and willing to help my readers slough off a few extra calories, maybe a few extra pounds, and certainly a few extra mental and emotional blahs.

So you know, I am 33 with a 3 year old and a 9 month old plus a body that some days feels 23 and some days feels 93.  However, I stand at 5’7” and carry 120-some-pounds that seem to settle around my hips.  You can read more about my weight history here, but I think you should know we chucked out the bathroom scale years ago; I have no idea what my current weight is.


RARE SIGHTING! Bikini photos from mid-summer

What I do know is that I am physically healthy, and I feel mentally and emotionally healthier when I’ve done some exercising.  How do I weigh so little?  How do I find the energy and time to exercise?  How is this possible?

You ask all these things, so I give you three answers:

  1. Genetics play a HUGE factor so please please please don’t beat yourself up (or do 30 extra burpees) thinking you can obtain my figure and weight. Or any other woman’s figure and weight.  Be realistic.  If you can’t be, stop reading “women’s” magazines and start reading self-help books about accepting yourself for who you are.  Moving on…
  2. What you put in greatly effects what you get out of your body. Here’s how we eat.  Here’s why we eat it.  And the recommended daily intake of water?  Yeah, I drink roughly 80 oz of water a day.  That doesn’t include coffee, almond milk, juice, beer, wine, or anything else I might enjoy; I’m talking filtered water right from my fridge.
  3. Engage in these five exercises at least once a day, seven times each. For your body.  For your brain.  For your sanity.  For your family.

The Exercises

These were developed when I had a desk job. I would either do these in the spacious one-seat bathroom that was across the hall from my office or right in front of my computer, behind my desk chair.  You have to keep your blood pumping to your brain and extremities or that office chair might truly be the death of you.

None of these exercises requires anything other than your body and a little bit of space to move.  You don’t need a gym membership or bulky equipment or even a sunny day.  Squeeze in all five of these at least seven times a day to feel results that you will one day see.

Disclaimer:  if you have an injury or a medical condition, please consult your doctor first.  If you feel like you’re in good health and will take the advice of a fit woman who isn’t a professional, keep reading.  Remember that I am not a fitness guru, health expert, or running coach*.  Those professionals are out there so seek them if that’s what you need.

These all happen organically, right where you are, wherever you are.  Just do them!

  1. Vertical Push-Ups
  2. Squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Standing Bicycle
  5. The Toddler


First, the Vertical Push-Up:


Found online since I can’t get a good picture of myself.

  • Not to be confused with the hand-stand push-up
  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your arms, shoulders, and chest
  • Does a favor to those flabby underarms
  • Keeps you off the floor where littles (or cats) interrupt your efforts
  • Won’t force you to literally face the fact that your floors are filthy

Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.  Now bend your elbows and get your nose as close to the wall as you can without touching it.  Slowly push yourself away from the wall, straightening your arms.

Next, the basic Squat:


Teaching the Angel fractions with laundry-folding techniques

  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your thighs, hips, and buttocks
  • Doesn’t require anything more than the space you’re already taking up by standing
  • Helps with developing core strength

With your hips back and feet hip-width apart, bend your knees to lower your torso.  Perform at varying depths without letting your buttocks touch your heels, the floor, or a chair.


The Modified Squat includes 23 lb weight.

Then, some Lunges:


A slight twist as I attempt to placate a baby at dinnertime


  • Gain flexibility, balance, and strength while toning your backside and legs
  • Entertain your kids (or cats) with this move by using it to walk to the bathroom, where you will inevitably have an audience to the tasks you perform in there

From a standing position, take a step with your right foot.  Lower your body until your right knee is as close to a 90 degree angle as you can get it without hurting yourself or falling over.  Hold it.  Hold it!  HOLD IT!  Now push yourself upwards with your right leg, back into the standing position.  Repeat this process with your left leg.  That’s one.  Do it again seven times (that means seven times for each leg).  Keep your back straight and your shoulders back, mentally focusing on each muscle group. 


Lunging my way back to the stove

To make this fun for your “audience”, use lunges to move about your house.  Instead of pushing yourself back into the standing position, lift the leg that’s behind you and bring it forward into a Walking Lunge, and walk to the bathroom or kitchen or washer or backdoor…

Now for the Standing Bicycle:


Bad hair and demon eyes not required for optimum calorie-burning

  • Lovely abdominal exercise… that will help with the muscle but maybe not so much with the loose skin that was generated in the creation of your beautiful children
  • Don’t need to get on that floor you’ve been avoiding since the first exercise
  • Do this in front of the stove or microwave while you’re prepping dinner
  • Again, the kids (and cats) can’t climb on you while you’re standing

With feet together and knees slightly bent, place your hands behind your head and slightly lift your left heel.  Pull your abs in tight, being aware of each part of the muscles, and lift your left knee up as your right shoulder rotates to bring the right elbow to the knee.  If they don’t touch, don’t worry; be normal and pain free.  Repeat this process with your right knee and left shoulder and elbow.  That’s one.  Some would say you should consider doing this twenty times to call it a “rep”; I say if you do both knees to both elbows seven times each, you’re done. 


Again, an extra 23 pounds does wonders for the physique


Finally, the Toddler

  • Again, no need for an expensive gym membership, special mat, or weights and tools; just a toddler (or any child or cat, really)
  • This is more of a mind game than a bodily exercise, but your whole body will get one heck of a workout
  • Whatever toys or laundry or housework you have on hand can be incorporated with minimal effort

Mimic.  Whatever they do, you do.  But the adult version.  If the 3-year-old wants to squat, hop, bounce upright, run for 10 steps, drop to her knees, crawl 5 feet, roll onto her back, pick up a ball, then twist her torso as she runs back to the starting point, do that.  If the cat rolls onto its back, stretches, then brings its head to its pelvis with one leg in the air, do that.  If the 9 month old crawls as fast as he can to the next room only to roll around, stand up using a chair, and bounce in place for a solid 30 seconds because the song on the radio compelled him to, do that.

Once, I followed the Angel for a solid 40 MINUTES as she walked “round and round” these doorways in our foyer with a ball in her hands.  She had the best time once she realized I would do whatever she would do, just the adult-sized version.  My calves and abs got a good workout and my brain had to keep up with all of her motions so I could mimic every move.  It was exhausting.  My thighs got more of a workout in that 40 minutes than they do on Laundry Day.**

Add in the folding of a load (or two or twelve) of laundry.  Or while wiping down the kitchen counters.  If you’re in an office with no kids or cats and trying to do this, practice Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks as you move towards the copy machine, coffee maker, break room, bathroom, etc.  It sure is a conversation starter!

Hydrate and Contemplate

Get yourself into the habit of using all your muscles every day, throughout the day.  And drink plenty of water!  Personally, I have an H2O intake of 7-12 pints a day.  That doesn’t include the water in coffee or juice or almond milk or beer.  I have a nifty Murphy’s pint glass that I keep next to the fridge, on the side where the filtered water comes out with the press of a lever; I fill and chug at least 7 times a day, if not more.  Sure, that means lots of trips to the bathroom, but that also means plenty more chances to do my Walking Lunges or practice the Toddler moves.

How are you feeling today?



*Shameless plug:  Abby over at Back at Square Zero is a nice starting point for those interested in a running coach.

**Picture this:  3600-sq-ft house with bedrooms upstairs, bathroom on main floor, washer in basement, and clothesline on the farthest corner of the ½ acre yard.  Now, do 3-7 loads of laundry.  I once counted and learned that on laundry day, I can climb the stairs 14 times (that’s just climbing, not including going down, the other walking, and how heavy the baskets are that I’m carrying…or if I do it with a baby on my hip).

A Challenge for You

I feel I’ve hit a block.  Runners get to it.  Writers get to it.  Apparently, minimalists get to it.

Am I A Minimalist?

It is hard to define where I am on the path to Less Equals More.  I know what I want.  I can see with my mind’s eye the ideal I am striving for.

But I can see with my real eyes what my house looks like right now.  I wouldn’t say it is a mess.  In fact, the load on my shoulders feels much lighter, knowing what I have accomplished.

However, you wouldn’t be able to tell I have done anything.  There’s a reason I’m not bothering with before-and-after pictures on the blog.  To the casual visitor, my house doesn’t look changed at all.  Only if you’ve seen me (or the BHE) loading the rear of our SUV multiple times a week for drop-offs at the Trinity Mission or the recycling center would you know I’ve been doing anything different.

I want to reduce.  I want to have less Stuff.  I want less weighing on my mind and filling up my to-do list.  I want more time to invest in my children and my other passions, like visiting and hosting friends, writing for my blog and that fiction novel I’ve been talking about for years, going to parks and volunteering at the library.

I know I can DO more if I HAVE less to take up my time.

But I’m at a Standstill

Between the crawling infant and the rambunctious toddler, between being a friend and a wife as well as working on the renovations in our large old house, between the needs of my family and the need for rest, I feel I’ve come to a standstill in my decluttering work.

I know there is much more to do.  I cringe when my eyes land on the attic door, knowing full well what lies behind it.  Every time I leave the house, there is something in the back of the car that needs to be donated or recycled.

So I know I’m still making progress, but it just doesn’t feel like I’m progressing as fast or as steady as I was.

What’s that line from the tortoise?

It will all happen as it is meant to, through our brain and brawn.  We will keep working towards our ideal.  It may not be a big project that shows amazing results within hours or days.  It may be lots of little projects that will never be seen by the casual eye.

But it will get done.  My shoulders can relax as I know I am making progress each day.

Each day, I look to my List of Sevens to do another little something to move us forward.  Each day, I paw through at least one box from the attic.  Each day, I fill a trash bag or recycling bin with Things we don’t need or are truly trash.  Each day, I remember that getting rid of Stuff will not take as long as it did to acquire it all, now that I’ve seen and felt the goodness that comes with becoming unstuffed.  Each day, I am grateful for God’s grace, life’s blessings, and how I am physically and mentally able to remove the Stuff to make room for more grace and blessings of a less tangible kind.

Maybe I Need to Spice It Up

Join me.  Check out this challenge and think on the reality of it:  are you ready to get rid of the excess?  Are you emotionally and mentally ready to shed the extra Stuff weighing you down?

If so, send me a message or comment below.  We’ll go at it together.  We’ll share photos of our successes.  We’ll virtually back-pat as more gets taken out of our homes.  We’ll give encouragement and challenge each other to take one more step, remove one more Thing, and make one more change that leads us down a cleaner, greener, healthier, happier path through life.

We will WIN this challenge together!

Are you ready to take that step?



A Thought on Sevens

From a previous post:

The number 7 wasn’t arbitrarily chosen, either.  It is a number that is quite significant in the Bible.  I’ve been trying to incorporate it more into our lifestyle and these changes.

I feel that saying “five more minutes” or “ten Things” or “30 until dinner is ready” has reduced certain numbers to meaninglessness.  You can say something  will take you five minutes, like that’s how long you have until you walk out the door, but that time allotment has lost some meaning from overuse and could be a span from three minutes to 15.

Seven takes some thought.

Seven seems just so exact.  You obviously aren’t rounding or suggesting a number in the ballpark of…but you mean precisely seven.  Or a multiple of seven.

I decided to place this thought elsewhere on our path.  I decided to make a list of projects around the house that could be done in 7 minutes, or in a multiple of 7, for those times where you know you could be productive but don’t know where to start.

So Many Starting Points

We live in a 115-year-old+ house.  When we bought it, it was in definite need of major work.  We worked on it for 6 months before we moved into it.  That was 6 years ago and this little dream of ours has a ways to go before it is “ready.”

However, having two little ones plus the BHE working 55+ hours a week during two seasons a year, it is hard to find large blocks of time to get work done.  We have to break things down into bite-sized pieces if we want to make any progress.

That’s where I came up with the List of Sevens:  a large piece of craft paper, tacked to the wall, with different tasks listed under 7 Minutes, 14 Minutes, 21 Minutes, and 28 Minutes.  (Any project that takes more than a half hour needs to be better prepared for.)

Do It

This list is meant to be a quick reference during those times where we know we can do SOMETHING before dinner, naptime, baths, or whatever is coming our way in our routine.  If it is 5 o’clock and I know I need to start making dinner around 5:30 but I don’t have any other pressing thing to be working on, I can peek at the list where it is posted in our pantry to see what I can do.

Sure, we all know there’s a load of laundry ready to be started or a dishwasher that could be emptied.  But those are daily chores that will get done.  I’m talking about the things we don’t necessarily think of until we are struggling to fall asleep and that little annoying lightbulb comes on in our heads to say, “DING!  YOU COULD HAVE DONE THIS INSTEAD!”

Clean a ceiling fan. Mop the bathroom.  Wipe out the fridge.

Organize the supplies to start painting the upstairs hallway.

Put away laundry.  Scrub the cabinet doors.  Pick 7 DVDs to donate.

Gather all the trash and recycling, and load the bags into the truck.

Write a ‘thank you’ card.  Clean out a file in the cabinet.  Throw away last month’s receipts.

Take inventory of the basement and make a list of what tools we need to buy for the next big project.

One Bite at a Time

What I’ve learned in our approach to a minimalist lifestyle is to break down everything into bites that we can chew in the time we have.

For the bigger tasks and projects, when we do find ourselves with a whole day or even a whole weekend to get some work done, we need to be ready to roll into those projects rather than wasting precious time gathering the tools, discovering we don’t have all the supplies, and making an extra trip to town to go to the store.

What I have also learned is that the more Stuff we remove, the less clutter we deal with in the physical sense, means we have fewer Things in our way on our thoughtfully sought path to creating a cleaner and happier home.  Without stumbling over boxes in the attic or having to move furniture we don’t need just to work on the house we love, we can get more work done and are that much closer to our goals.

Our long-term goals will not be achieved when we are inundated with unwanted work.

Our tasks that lead to completed projects will be finished more efficiently and with ease with fewer Things in our way.

Our to-do list is much more manageable when it is broken down into pieces.  Little pieces.  Seven pieces.

How do you break it down?

Why don’t you try creating a List of Sevens and let me know how that works out for you?

Basic Bill Spreadsheet

With free printable worksheet!

I am going to start this post with two facts:

  1. I am not a financial adviser.  My education is not in the field of finances.  I am not an expert nor do I give help or expert advice.  I merely am sharing what I learned the hard way, through reading financial advice books and trial-and-error.  If you are looking for more help or expert advice, seek an expert.  I suggest you start at a bank or investment office.
  2. The bill-paying, money-saving method I’m about to share with you has been my own system, developed by me, and used every pay period since late 2009. This system is what works for me.  Many people over the years have asked for this information because they have seen how well it works for our household.  Everything you read here is very personal but very easily tweaked to fit your financial situation.  If you are looking for more help or expert advice, see #1 above.

Quick Background

When I met the BHE in Fall 2005, both of us were financially stupid.  Neither of us had been raised by mothers who knew what the eff they were doing with money.  Both of us were living paycheck-to-paycheck.  The BHE was smart enough to recognize he was dumb when it came to money so had not opened any credit card accounts; I was not so had opened many as well as financed a brand new car.

Therefore, I was in a yawning black hole of debt.  At 22.  And I didn’t even have student loans!*

We moved in together shortly after beginning to date.  He had a much better paying job but I had aspirations to attend Purdue University.  We looked at our money, our complete lack of savings, our living conditions, and my debt…and rented a small house and secured different jobs right before I started at Purdue.**

The new job I got was as a teller at a local bank.  Boy oh boy!  I tell ya, nothing makes you want to fix your money woes more than dealing with lines of people on a daily basis that have it worse than you.  Or helping those customers that have it so much better than you!

This job was an amazing eye-opener for me.  So I took the advantage I had and probably made a nuisance of myself, pestering the coworkers who worked in the aspects of the banking industry that would have the knowledge and advice I sought.

One day when I was tellering from the drive-thru, I pulled out a cute notebook and created the basic layout of what you’re about to see.  Every 3×5 page in that book was for a different payday with the list of bills to be paid from that paycheck before the next pay day.  I put the person/company to be paid, the amount owed, and the due date on each page in chronological order.

When the paycheck would post to my account, I would pay those bills, subtract their total from my pay, and learned how much I was throwing away between necessities like gas for my car and frivolous bs like eating out or engaging in retail therapy.

Holy moly, was I dumb!

The Spreadsheet

I live by this spreadsheet now.  This is how I know what is due when, how much debt I am in, what money I have to work with in the budget for things like groceries and entertainment, and how I keep our finances in check.

This spreadsheet goes back to 2010.  I refer to it at least twice a month.  It is saved on a thumb drive that is the NUMBER ONE THING on my “If The House Were To Catch Fire, What Would You Grab After Your Kids and Cats Were Safely Out?” list.***

Thanks to this spreadsheet, our debt and our credit scores are much, much different (re:  better) than they were.  You could say we are worse off, considering our debt is vastly deeper…but I disagree since the debt is mainly a mortgage and my graduate school student loans.****  We don’t have ridiculous debt like in-store credit cards or payday loans (which neither of us were ever stupid enough to get suckered into, thank God).  You could say we need to save more…and I would agree with you.

But this little gem of an Excel sheet is why we aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck, own two vehicles and almost have the third paid off, own one house and have the other mortgaged for very little, and can comfortably feed and clothe a family of four on one income.

If you’re still with me and feeling like maybe you need some guidance, keep reading.  But please keep in mind #1 and #2 at the top of this post.

What to List on Your Sheet

The top line of the spreadsheet is my column headers:

Pay Dates – the day of the month the paycheck will be deposited*****
Bill – Name of person/company owed
Amount Due
Due Date

Amount Paid – Yes, this is different from the amount due.  Debt snowball, anyone?  I like to round up from what is due on all our bills but, also, am putting a lot extra towards one credit card (the amount due plus what I had been paying monthly on a credit card we just paid off).
Auto Pay – if I have an asterisk here, I don’t have to log into the account to manually enter payment information each month
Confirmation Number – if the bill isn’t set to auto pay, then I type in the confirmation so (a) I have record and (b) know that I paid it
Balance – this is for loans and credit cards as well as saving accounts
Available – this is for credit cards, not so I know how much I can use, but so I can calculate the percentage of credit being used (a factor of your credit score)

What I Do

I am presenting to you, dear reader, a couple things here.

One is a blank printable that you can use for a month or just a pay period, to get a feel for it and see how the columns work for you.  Maybe you can scribble in your changes and come back to the post to comment what worked or didn’t work for you.

You also can have another handy free printable from Thoughtfully Sought that has those adorable sheaths of wheat made from little green footprints.  I’m quite proud of those, thank you!



The other thing I am showing you is a sample that you can print to guide you on filling out your spreadsheet.  I’ve included two months with two pay periods each.

The spreadsheets on my thumb drive are created in Excel and each year gets its own tab.  I do a lot of copying and pasting.  I will happily send each of you the Excel sheet so you can use it for your own finances.  I’m not posting it here because, frankly, I don’t know how.******

What’s Next

Like I said, this spreadsheet works for our family and has done wonders for our debt over the past 7 years.  Give it a go and see how it helps you.

If anything, maybe you won’t face another late fee again.  I haven’t in yeeeeears.

If you need to color code, you do that.

If you want your bills listed chronologically by due date, do it.

If you are concerned about auto pay or paying bills online, I have no idea what to say to you.  I mean, this is 2016.  I’ve been paying bills online for almost a decade.  I’ve worked in different aspects of banking at two different banks and can tell you that online bill pay is a blessing and not to be feared.

There are two different ways I pay bills online:  log into each account on their secure sites or set up payment through my bank’s secured site (again, I am not a professional, just a friendly blogger giving personally-tested advice).

Come on back to this post to tell me what you liked and didn’t like, what worked great, and what you think I could make better. 

If you are a financial adviser cringing at my work, bless you and thank you for making it this far.



**Boiler Up!

***I keep meaning to write an inspirational blog post about this list, what is on yours, and how it all ties into Minimalism.  But I digress.

****Thanks to this spreadsheet and other money savvy moves, and praise Jesus for the scholarships I got through Purdue, I only have student loan debt from my masters.  I made sure what little I owed on my undergrad was paid off before I paid to take the GRE.  Since I was an out-of-state grad student at Southern Connecticut State University, seeing my currently-deferred student loan debt makes my eye twitch and my asshole double pucker.

*****In our case, it is the date that the BHE will deposit the set amount he gives me each pay period to cover the bills that I’m “in charge of” plus groceries.  This helps me stay within our budget because what he deposits should cover what I’ve budgeted, and we would have to discuss any other expenses since I would need to request another deposit.

******I hope to one day migrate ThoughtfullySought.com off of WordPress.com and just have it as a Word Press site on another hosted platform.  That is another project for another day.

These are a Few of Their Favorite Things

In all of this process, taking these steps on this thoughtfully sought path of ridding the excess, this marathon of which I feel I am just at my starting line, I have suffered two great losses.  My beloved grandmother passed away in February and my grandfather followed shortly thereafter in July.

Let us not address the emotions right now.  Let me bypass the discussion on grief.  Let me bring down that wall, for now, so that I may continue on with our discussion of Stuff and minimizing and jettisoning and becoming unstuffed.

Let me be cold about the pain for a bit while I focus on the steps I’m taking towards Minimalism.

Other People’s Things

My grandparents had multiple lifetimes’ worth of Stuff in their 3 bedroom, 2 dining room, 2 living room, 2 bathroom, 2 car garage house.  Lucy was in her late 80s and Frank was in his mid 90s when they passed away.  They had two sons.  Each of their sons had two children.  They came from large families where each member in turn had a large family. My grandfather was a veteran of WWII and my grandmother was a sentimentalist.  And a clothes horse.

Dear Lord did Lucy have a lot of clothes! 

Holy Mother, I wasn’t aware how much she had until a trip to their house shortly after her funeral.  My grandfather led me into the front bedroom to show me the closet.  I picked through blazers and lightweight jackets to see what fit my body and my lifestyle*.  Then he took me into the back bedroom for more of her clothes, the casual wear and sporting wear (golf and brisk walking, people, really).  Then we went into the walk-in closet in their bedroom.

Seriously, what on Earth was this little old lady doing with ALL THESE CLOTHES!?  Holy crap, people.  I think I took 5 or 6 totes FULL of clothes, the great big totes, and maybe five garment bags stuffed with coats and such…and took maybe only a third of what she had.

She made her own stuff or bought really high quality clothes.  She didn’t own a stitch of denim, everything was very classy and smart.  She was my height with a similar build, albeit with much less butt and thigh, at her healthiest.  But she shrank and twisted as the years went on, so she was a rather short and boney lady in the end.  I’m not.  So most pants and skirts plus shoes and accessories were left behind.  I’m told a charity connected to the Catholic church came in, boxed it up, and took it to where it can do some good.

Picking Through the Pieces

It was 5 months later, after my grandfather passed, that I finally went through those totes. I had to!  With all the other household Things we acquired, even with all the shedding of Stuff before this happened, I needed the space.  Things had to go!

I re-applied the Konmari approach.  I tried on everything.  If it didn’t fit, needed mending (or shoulder pads removed), or truly wasn’t my style, it went in the discard pile.  Also, there were a lot of sets, like she made a jacket, skirt, and slacks out of the same material.  If the jacket fit but the two bottoms didn’t, I put all three into the Donate pile.  Someone somewhere will have some really high-quality suits.  If the whole suit fit but the jacket had shoulder pads, I first thought I could one day sit down and do the necessary tailoring to remove the pads.  Then I realized that was a pipe dream because (a) I don’t want to make the time for that nor (b) do I have the skill necessary to do it right.

Donate pile!

I’m quite happy with, and know I am very blessed with, the items which do fit me: my body, personality, and lifestyle.  I also know that just about every item has my tears on it because it all smelled like Lucy and some pieces even had a tissue in a pocket or a jeweled pin on the collar.

Hold up, gotta bring that wall back down!

I know, this is a lengthy post about Stuff and I’ve given you way more details than necessary about going through hand-me-down clothing, but this is cathartic and healing and you’re still reading.  Thank you.

And Again

So after Grandpa died, the situation at their house was much different.  After Grandma, there was still someone living in that house, using those Things, looking at Stuff.  What Grandpa wasn’t using, like Lucy’s clothes and the Christmas decorations that were still out, was what could go.  As the only granddaughter, that meant to me.

After Grandpa, the whole house needed dissected, split apart, divvied up, whatever you want to call it.  Three bedroom suites, two sets of dining room tables and chairs, two living rooms’ worth of furniture, a combined 180+ years of photos and memorabilia.

There was just. So. Much.

I came home from the 3-day trip with a box truck full of furniture, beds, linens, a vacuum, THREE SETS of ancient wedding china, TWO SETS OF CRYSTAL THAT I HAVE NO EFFING CLUE WHAT TO DO WITH, these damned totes full of toys from when I was a kid AND WHEN MY DAD WAS A KID, and lots of odds and ends like incomplete sets of silverware, FIVE NUT CRACKERS, table lamps we’ll gratefully use, and so much more.

Thank God we began Unstuffing before all of this.

So we picked up our pace with cleaning out Stuff and getting Things to various donation centers.  We sold nice things for cheap on Craigslist and Facebook. We made hard and fast (very, very fast and surprisingly not so hard) decisions on what stayed and what could go and what must go.

Don’t Tarnish the Memories

I’ve personally had to learn to let go of things I wasn’t even aware would hurt until I said goodbye.  It was hard going through Lucy’s clothes just like it was hard to walk away from the really nice furniture in the front living room that had so many memories attached to it.  It was hard not taking decorations off their walls that I knew they cared about and that had stories to go with them.  It hurt to turn around and sell the one bedroom suite we have no room nor need for, just because I know what it meant to them.

There was just so much we had to let go.

I just had to remember that the people I love are not in their Things.

Have you clung to some Thing in your home that is not necessarily yours but rather an item which you feel you MUST hold onto?

What have you considered ridding yourself of only to keep it because of guilt?  Because you think it would hurt their feelings?  Because you don’t want to seem ungrateful?

What bit of clutter is just as much a Thing in your house as it is Stuff weighing on your mind?


*I later joked with my father about how going through Lucy’s clothes was like shopping with unlimited credit at Librarians R Us.  Librarian Bryant?  J.C. Library?  Libraropostale!

This jar of Simply Nature coconut oil was less than $5 at my Aldi's.  For use in the bathroom, I scoop a little into a plastic container then put the jar back in the pantry.

Two Steps for Toned and Fresh Face

A post worthy of re-posting…

My face

I have recently developed a routine that had brought me clearer skin without spending a lot of time, money, or effort.  Just TWO steps to cleaner, clearer skin.

It wasn’t always so clear

I have struggled with my skin for as long as I can remember. My eyelids and neck could get so dry that they looked and felt like burns. My T zone got so oily I could moisturize my cuticles by touching my face. I had breakouts at two different points in my cycle. My pores got blocked and I was constantly reapplying makeup. In fact, I wouldn’t be caught dead without a nice layer of cosmetics between my skin and the world.

I tried so many different brands of make-up then so many different chemicals claiming to clear up problem skin.  I’ve put things on my face that could be used to blow up bridges or bleach fabric.  Anymore, that seems like the industry standard to answer our blemish problems.

After reading countless articles on the benefits of coconut oil, I decided to change up my facial routine and try something so simple and natural.

Coconut oil

You see articles and blog posts touting all its uses everywhere you look. My Facebook feed is inundated with the latest word on what you can do with coconut oil.

Oil pulling
Hair masks
Makeup remover
And more and more

My choices

I’ve been asked many times what it is I do with coconut oil, other than cook. Following is my routine, one I developed after reading a few fact-based articles as well as blog posts by those sharing their first-hand accounts.

This jar of Simply Nature coconut oil was less than $5 at my Aldi's.  For use in the bathroom, I scoop a little into a plastic container then put the jar back in the pantry.

This jar of Simply Nature coconut oil was less than $5 at my Aldi’s. For use in the bathroom, I scoop a little into a plastic container then put the jar back in the pantry.

First, I choose to use organic unrefined coconut oil. I am not brand loyal by any means; I’m wallet loyal and only purchase the cheapest jar I can find. Right now in my area, Payless (Kroger) carries the best priced organic unrefined coconut oil in their Simple Truth Organic line.  I also have purchased organic unrefined coconut oil from Aldi’s.  Recently, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market had one of the brands they carry on sale bogo free, so I got two jars then.

I also keep witch hazel on hand for a toner as it is a mild, natural astringent. While they’re are many forms and ways you can find witch hazel, I bought my last bottle from the pharmacy section at WalMart. I think the cotton balls I have are from Target.

Last, my makeup is slowly being converted to more natural items. I haven’t found the best for my skin type yet.  I’m hoping to try Honest Beauty next but would love to hear some honest reviews of it first. 

Two Steps to a Fresh Face

1. “Wash”

I run a clean washcloth under the hottest tap water I can tolerate.

I run a clean washcloth under the hottest tap water I can tolerate.

First, I run the hottest water from the tap and let my washcloth get soaked. After wringing out most of the water, I lay the cloth over my face. I let it sit there, with my head leaned back, while I use my fingertips to press the cloth to my eyes, moving them just enough to gently wipe away build-up or mascara. I run hot water over the cloth and wring it out again to lay it over my face and user my fingertips to make circular motions. This gently scrubs my skin, sloughing up makeup, dirt, oil, et cetera. Then I run hot water over the cloth and wring it out again. This last time, I bend my head forward and hold the cloth against my face; this is to open my pores.


Look how clean these pores are! I don’t think my face has ever been this clean, not since before high school. My tone is not even and I do have freckles; don’t let that detract from how NOT BLACK my pores are.

No soap. Do you see that? Maybe you should reread the last paragraph. Just hot water on a washcloth. Each morning, when I do the above steps, I follow with a quick splash of cold tap water. This closes my freshly cleaned press against pollutants.

2.  Oil it up!

This is how hard the coconut oil is when it has been sitting on the shelf in my bathroom.  This nugget is about double what I use to cover my whole face and neck.

This is how hard the coconut oil is when it has been sitting on the shelf in my bathroom. This nugget is about double what I use to cover my whole face and neck.

Now I apply the coconut oil. I use my fingertips and don’t get too close to my hairline or eyes. I gently swipe an oiled fingertip right under my eyebrow and at the bottom of my lower lid (think middle of my dark circles). It doesn’t take much oil to cover a face, so don’t think it needs gooped on like a commercial moisturizer.

See how smooth and clean my face is?  Do you also see where I got a little oil in the hair in front of my ear?  Yeah, try to avoid that.

See how smooth and clean my face is? Do you also see where I got a little oil in the hair in front of my ear? Yeah, try to avoid that.

If you’re using it as a makeup remover, you’ll apply the coconut oil, wait a few minutes, then use that damp washcloth to gently wipe your face. If you need extra help removing eye makeup, dab a cotton ball in the oil and lightly swipe over your lashes. Once you’ve done these steps, reapply a light coat of the oil.

See? Just oil. No harsh chemicals. No soap with phthalates or parabens. No moisturizers or lotions with unpronounceable ingredients. Hot water and coconut oil. That’s it.

Since I’m at homemaker and only go in public once a week, this is usually the end of my morning routine (and always the end of my before-bed routine). I don’t wear makeup for funsies. If it is just my kids and the BHE seeing me, then they get the bare fresh face. 

THAT’S IT!  Two steps to clean, fresh, toned, and natural.


What items from your pantry have worked their way into your beauty routine?

Bless Someone Else

One step I took earlier on in this process of decluttering and unstuffing was researching the best places nearby to take my excess.  I didn’t want to throw perfectly good, usable items into the trash.  I wanted to make an impact.

I wanted our excess to become someone else’s blessings. 

I asked in a Facebook post what others thought about places that receive donations.  I located a local church that has a thrift shop, I contacted the YWCA in a nearby city, I dug around for information on women’s shelters, I looked up the ways places like Goodwill and The Salvation Army actually help people, and I contacted friends and family who I thought could benefit from some of our Stuff.

Although it would have been much, much easier to just load everything up and drop it off at the Trinity Mission, I felt compelled to take the extra step to know in my heart I made a good effort in finding the best way to help others.

Where is it needed?

I encourage you to do the same when you begin unstuffing your life.  Find out who needs help and how you can help them.  Look into the local charities around where you live.  Personally, we live in a small community in a county with a small population where the majority of people have very low incomes.  So I’d like to help my neighbors, as it were, not just savvy shoppers in the city.

It wasn’t about my Stuff finally having meaning; it is about meaning to help with all the Stuff.

I took all the unopened frilly bath products to the YWCA.  I donated our extra sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and other linens to the homeless shelter.  I dropped off lots of kitchenware like silverware sets, glasses, crockery, etc. at the Salvation Army.  I gave bags and bags of women’s professional attire to a women’s shelter that gives what it doesn’t use to a women’s prison.  Now I just need to figure out where to take all these paperback books*…

Let us not forget about SELLING our Stuff! 

My goodness, you don’t have to look at it all as a complete loss.  I mean, the Things you donate should leave you with a sense of peace and that you’ve done something good and generous.  Let’s not discount the intrinsic value of this!

But we can be practical and say that some of your Stuff could be sold.  Have a yard sale if you want.  Personally, that is a no-go for us.  I see that as a lot of work for little return; the BHE sees that as an open invite to people we don’t necessarily want coming onto our property to look at what we have, can afford, and may possibly have better versions of in the house.  Yes, I think he’s a bit paranoid and overly protective, but yes, I can see his point.  Me?  I think it is much easier to snap some pictures with my smartphone and upload them to Facebook yard sale groups I’ve joined.

And don’t forget Craigslist and Freecycle!

Let me give you a pointer, though.

When it comes to those yard sale groups and Craigslist, price your Stuff low.  Not just reasonably (so many people on Craigslist are unbelievably unreasonable with their prices) but I mean loooow.

I sold two dresser sets for $30.  TWO!  I think I posted them both for $20 but since the first buyer to contact me wanted both sets and was coming that day to pick them up, I was ok with $30.  The FIVE PIECES of furniture that I wanted gone were gone and done so quite quickly.  And I made 30 bucks.  It opened up the space in our room for the bedroom suite we acquired when my grandfather passed.

Today, as I type, someone is meeting the BHE to purchase a stand mixer that I received as a gift, used twice, and have kept on a shelf for a couple years.  It was new at about $40.  I saw another like it on Craigslist for $30.  Are you kidding me?!  Go low, people, if you actually want to sell the Stuff.  I don’t care about the money so much as getting rid of the excess.  Five dollars!  Yes, five bucks for the mixer.  Get it out of my house!

Now I’ve got $5 I didn’t have yesterday AND that unused Thing taking up space is GONE.  Woot!

Thoughtfully seek out that which you don’t need or use.

We are trying to get ourselves back on the path to a better diet.  Our dietary lifestyle has derailed a bit since the arrival of our second child.  Convenience foods are more than that when you’ve got a toddler and a breastfeeder in the house (both the baby and the mommy need more).  Sadly, convenience foods are rarely good for you.  I’m not saying those pretzel sticks are unhealthy to the point they’ll kill me, but they are a processed wheat product and they are not organic.

We needed to dig through our pantry and the extra storage (the coat closet has boxes on the floor where I put the dry goods I buy in bulk… out of sight, out of mind means the chips last longer!) to pull out the things we really shouldn’t be eating.  We are blessed in that we can be particular about the foods we consume.  We are fortunate to have the options of buying organic or eating fresh vegetables rather than state-approved cereal.

There is a food pantry in the nearby city that happily and gratefully accepted the grocery sacks of dry goods that, if I were adhering to the dietary lifestyle we have determined to be the healthiest for our family, I shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

Where can you take your excess Stuff?

What is worth the time and effort to try to sell?

Who truly needs what you only want or even don’t want?

How can you help with the Things you’ve already bought?

And consider those donations not just for tax write-offs but also for that tithe the Holy Bible talks about.  And consider that the tithe is only ten percent, where a true Christian would give much more than that.


*Yes, your local library wants your books.  If you have really nice copies of popular books, maybe they can replace their well-read ones on the shelf.  Maybe they can turn around and sell your books for 25 or 50 cents and use the proceeds to buy back-to-school materials for local kids or a new resume creation station for the unemployed.  Seriously, libraries love your books.  But they also have a lot of other people that do the same thing.  And the extras, the books that don’t go on their shelves, the ones that don’t sell in the monthly used book sale?  Those go to a recycling center (if we’re lucky) or the dump (at least paper is biodegradable).  I guess I’m hoping to find, like, a prison that needs to stock its library with paperback mysteries published 10 years ago.