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The Minimalist Waldorf Baby

puddy

*Most* Waldorf moms now have read Kim Payne’s books, Simplicity Parenting and Soul of Discipline and if you HAVEN’T, I couldn’t recommend them more. This post won’t be a cliff notes version, but consider it a personal testament to their wonder.

I have mentioned previously that I went from living in 680sqft with 3 bedrooms to 1280sqft with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bath, to now about 800sqft with 2 bedrooms and a tiny little bathroom….and if there’s anything in the world that makes you want to buy ALL the stuff, it’s a new baby. Most women can relate to the feeling that all things teeny tiny are adorable to us, but especially so in pastels. Cheers to any fellow parents who have ever gone broke in Carter’s.

But we needn’t. After all, though babies have cognition, they don’t have adequate memory retention until around age 3, and so no child will ever claim that as a 6mo they were disappointed to learn that their parents could only ever afford used clothes or that they didn’t have copious amounts of toys littering the common living space. I’m not saying don’t do well for your child, but I AM implying that perhaps we go a little overboard. Ask yourself- when was the last time you bought yourself a new shirt, and would it be organic cotton from Hanna Andersson.

And so, in an attempt to share the joy of my newly found simplicity, I thought I’d share our list of necessities that I’ve compiled as the mother of 3 children, a Waldorf homeschooler, and a madwomen living in an itty bitty apartment.

1. Clothes. This seems like an obvious one, but what wasn’t so obvious to me is how sleep deprivation a) makes you not give a toss as to whether or not your baby is fashionable or matching and b) saps the mental energy of coordinating outfits and the energy of keeping them free of vomit. The solution? Get about 10-14 footed pjs and rompers. I suggest the footed pjs over the rompers because they have feet and no person ever under the age of 1 is willing or capable of maintaining those ridiculously tiny socks, and there’s no sense in feeding the laundry demons at $1/pair. I suggest cotton because it breathes and I suggest getting some onesies to layer them. Most of them in the smaller sizes have the little mitts on them so your baby doesn’t claw you like a newborn cat (and you’re not feeding the laundry demons), and do yourself a favor and get the kind with zippers because 1 billion tiny snaps at a 2am changing feels like Chinese water torture. If you live in a cold climate, make sure you also get a sweater or two. You’ll also need some cotton hats, about a dozen. Of course, if you have a baby like my second child, you may need more than this because some babies are tiny volcanos, and simply cannot keep anything INSIDE them. As your baby learns to eat finger foods, you might want to get some bibs or just strip them when they eat. Burp cloths are also helpful, but around here, we just make our washcloths do double duty most days. If you’re a social butterfly, go ahead and indulge in a couple cute coordinated outfits to show off the baby- but believe me when I say your baby could wear a sack and still be cute. *Footed pjs ARE ok for babywearing as long as they’re roomy and not pulling up on the toes.

blankets

2. Blankets. Again, this amount largely depends on how much your child vomits, and you can always send someone to the store for more items if you discover you need more after the baby’s birth, but you should have about a half dozen receiving blankets and about 2 heavier baby blankets like small quilts. If your baby is sleeping in a cosleeper or another sleeping area that isn’t your bed, you’ll need about 4 fitted sheets. I also prefer cotton for bedding because it breathes, and I am head over heals in love with Aiden and Anais cotton gauze blankets. Target now carries 4 packs of similar quality blankets for half the price.

3. Diapering accessories. I don’t care if you put your kid in brand new $22 cloth diapers, biodegradable organic disposables or cheap diapers from Walmart, you will need a LOT. Cloth diaper estimates vary greatly depending on the age of your baby and how often you wash, and I feel more comfortable urging parents to do that investigation on a separate cloth diapering site. We washed every day and had two dozen newborn diapers. If you’re cloth diapering, you’ll also want to consider getting a diaper sprayer, a wet sack, and even a separate wet bag for travel. For wipes I used baby wash clothes from the dollar store and put them in a jar with Dr. Bronners baby liquid castile and water. I’ve also used disposables and organic wipes, and good deals are available on Amazon and at Babies R Us. Emily’s diaper cream claims to be cloth diaper friendly but I wouldn’t risk it, and though it’s superior, it’s also pricey, so if you’re not worried about gluten, I recommend Burt’s Bees. Sometimes corn starch is also helpful, but I’ve yet to use it with any success.

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4. Some gear. This will also depend on your location, but what I’ve found helpful is a stroller system (the infant carseat that snaps onto a folding stroller), two types of baby carriers (a woven wrap for long carries, and a soft structured carrier, a Mei Tai, for quick jaunts into the store- or a REALLY good carrier like an Ergo), a playyard for when baby starts to crawl out of the cosleeper, the cosleeper (or crib), and a bumbo. This seems like a lot, but they all serve their purpose. Babywearing mom’s DO use their strollers- sometimes we don’t want to wake up a sleeping traveling baby, or sometimes we want a break. I have found the woven wrap extremely helpful for when baby is sick or fussy, and when I want to do housework without the little one under foot. I also have been saved by a dreaded baby swing, which I have a very conflicted relationship with, and I don’t usually recommend it. Some mother’s swear by them, others wouldn’t ever indulge. I’m a single mother 4 days out of the week, so the baby swing has saved everyone many tears. I also own a bumbo so baby can practice baby lead weaning in a child appropriate seat. I don’t believe in high chairs because I think it’s lunacy to put a baby 3-4 feet in the air in a tiny tower chair and expect them to be safe. The closer your baby is to the floor, the safer they are, but you still need to supervise your baby in a bumbo so they don’t smack their head going backwards. Also, a night light is very helpful for late night changes. By now you’ve noticed a substantial lack of baby gear at our house and that is intentional- baby gear is bad for babies’ development AND their bodies. Instead, childproof your home with outlet plugs, baby gates if necessary, bolt your furniture down, and use doorhandle guards or locks. A freeroaming baby is an independent one. If you’re minimalist, there is little baby can get into.

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5. Stuff to wash your baby. For us, this didn’t mean anything until baby outgrew our sink and we don’t have a tub, so we bought her a little baby tub and a detachable showerhead to fill it up and wash her hair. If I had been in my old place, I would have just filled up the tub a little or sat in it with her, and used an old cup. Some people like to get baby wash cloths and baby towels but they’re not really helpful. If you like to use chemical soap on yourself, I suggest something milder for baby, and if you have an ashy baby, you’ll want some coconut oil or baby lotion. On the subject of baby toiletries, you’ll want a finger toothbrush for when teeth erupt, baby nail clippers, and a nasal aspirator for stuffy noses.

6. Medicine. Don’t be caught in the night with a screaming baby and a fever that is out of control. Studies are warning against using Tylenol on babies, but when your baby spikes a fever at 2am and needs a boost halfway between doses of Motrin, you’ll reach for the Tylenol. So have both on hand if you will, or the natural alternative. Also get a thermometer, and baby vicks (I diy from Wellness Mama’s recipe). Anything more than that and you need to consult a doctor. I personally chose to also get an amber teething necklace, because I believe that it aids in suppressing teething symptoms. Make sure you buy them from a reputable place and make sure they’re a safe size. We also have topical arnica on hand for bumps and bruises and some first aid items like antibacterial ointment and bandaids. I’ve also used colloidal silver and garlic oil for ear infections on my other children, but most breastfed babies do not experience them. I do not use teething remedies, as many have been recalled, and I have not used tylenol on my baby because I am skeptical of it’s safety, but I have not needed either. Make the choices that are right for your family. Something I have used and also found helpful is a humidifier, but they are not a necessity.

7. Mama items. You’ll want post partum items like breastpads (I strongly recommend washable bamboo, hemp, or flannel), post partum pads, something to sooth your lady bits like witch hazel, some belly balm, something for your nipples like coconut oil or lanolin, pain relief medicine, and Lanisoh gel coolies (they go in your bra). Bra’s are helpful if you’re well endowed, and Target has decent wireless nursing bras for under $20. As my baby has matured, I’ve switched to shelf lined camis, and I pull up my shirt and pull down my cami, so my belly isn’t exposed. I also recommend getting some new yoga pants. At some point the ones you wore during pregnancy will be too stretched out and since you will live in them, you owe it to yourself to get some new ones. I also really liked having a rice pack for aching shoulders and low back. (you can put rice in a clean sock and heat it in the microwave if you don’t have an electric hot pack)

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8. A small backpack. I recommend this over a diaper bag because it actually stays on your shoulders. Most of them have water bottle holders, which you’re going to want because you’ll be thirsty all the time. Don’t overload it, but make sure you pack snacks for YOU.

9. Later baby items. As my baby has matured, I’ve found it helpful to have a few items such as a silicone teething necklace to wear while I’m babywearing, a carseat cover for cold weather (it goes over the carseat like a shower cap), baby leggins (for crawling and hiked up pants from babywearing), a few toys like teething rings, play silks, rattles, and balls all in a cloth basket, and a flash drive for photos. I have also really enjoyed having a rocking chair and a mobile, but they’re not necessities.

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10. Ten healthy meal ideas that can be made in 30min or less or can be prepared by other household members. This sounds like an afterthought but don’t let it be. Some ideas include: black bean burgers with a side (think salad or a vege), Dr. McDougall’s corn chowder, Happy Herbivore’s Chick’n pot pie over noodles or rice, spaghetti, breakfast (tofu scramble with toast and fruit, oatmeal with add-ins, waffles with sides, etc.), grilled daiya cheese sandwiches and Imagine tomato soup, stir fry, chickpea tacos, beans and rice with a side, giant loaded salads, baked/microwaved potato with steamed broccoli and daiya cheese, etc. If you can get 10-15 meal ideas to rotate over the month of cheap inexpensive staples you can keep on hand with minimal trips to the grocery store, you’ll conserve a LOT of energy.

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*I did not include feeding accessories here because some women choose to breastfeed and some choose not to or cannot. If you breastfeed, you should consider having at least one bottle or cup on hand, and perhaps a breast pump and storage cooler for milk, depending on whether or not you’ll be pumping at work. Though I stay at home, I have a pump for when I leave baby with daddy. If you are not breastfeeding, you will want to look into different types of formula and bottles. I’d recommend about 4-6 bottles, and contrary to popular belief, they do not need to be sterilized.

Skills to gain:

  1. Research babywearing and learn about babywearing types and safety. Here’s the link to Babywearing International.
  2. Research baby lead weaning and learn baby first aid. Here’s the link to Baby Led Weaning.
  3. If breastfeeding, find a lactation consultant BEFORE your baby is born and get the LLL book.
  4. Learn about appropriate baby milestones such as sleep habits, feeding habits, and developmental milestones by reading books such as The Baby Whisperer or What to Expect.
  5. Research baby care from a medicinal standpoint and know your options involving dental care, vaccines, medicine, etc.
  6. Compile a list of activities that will encourage you to practice self care such as making time to read, nap, or get out of the house.

The family couch.

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One year ago, I replaced my vintage sofa, who refused to keep her feet on, with a brand new set of furniture. It consisted of a lovely mod chair and a faux suede sofa. It really looked great in my livingroom. People liked it.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t place it. Was it the fact that I’m so little and my feet didn’t touch the floor? Was it because all three of us fit in the chair and it felt like I could never sink into it for a good snuggle? Was it because micro suede shows every hand print and drop of water, and I have two children? Was it the scotch guarding off-gassing into the room? Was it the fact that it was more suited to someone else’s taste? Was it the fact that every time I sat on it or laid on it, I had an allergy attack because it held so much of cat dander?

I have no idea. I didn’t LIKE it. And when I moved, it took two men.

Now, the pattern of grieving for an object you just spent $1200 on goes a little something like this:

“I’ll get used to it. It’s shocking now because I don’t do well with change.”

“It just looked different in the space I bought it in.”

“I’ll break it in.”

“I’m just worried I’ll damage it.”

“OTHER people really like it.”

“What would I do without it?”

“Can I keep hanging onto this?”

“How can I change this so I’ll like it?”

“How much can I sell this for?”

“How can I justify to others why I got this to begin with since now I’m getting rid of it?”

Do you know what the single answer to all of those questions are? It’s “This is just an X.”

The truth is, whether its a new purse or a new furniture set, it’s just a thing. You can’t take it with you when you’re gone- so if it doesn’t serve you in this life, LET IT GO.

I told you I was a Disney princess. You’re just suddenly realizing though that you’re probably racist cuz you thought I was that one with the belly shirt. HA. Kidding obviously. I’m totally princess Jasmine.

Well so, once I came to terms with all of that, I realized that it was ok to hate something I had made the mistake of wasting my money on because I am human. I tried to sell my furniture. No one wanted it. Worse yet, I had to figure out what I was going to do as an alternative. I have a pretty unconventional lifestyle, but we have service providers in our home often for my daughter. Could I convince other people to be wacky with me?

Ooooorr….do I care? πŸ˜€

I didn’t want more dust/dander collecting furniture that I had to take care of so much, move, pay for, or arrange with two men.

I saw on one of the minimalist groups that a woman had just put her futon mattress on the floor in the living room. To me, this seemed genius- all FIVE of us could fit on it at once, I could nap on it, it could double as a guest bed, and best of all, it has a washable cover and I could put a dustmite cover underneath to block allergens and spills.

And my mom just happened to have a really nice one we could HAVE.

So did it hurt when Salvation Army pulled up and took my furniture? Just a little. But it totally didn’t hurt when my boyfriend and babies snuggled up to me to watch tv. ALL AT ONCE!

Granted, people don’t know where to sit when they visit, but I lead by example. I am bulging with baby, watch my butt twist into a pretzel on this futon mattress! Criss cross applesauce!

I DO however, now have two other pieces of furniture that I really enjoy. They are both rockers- the one my mother rocked me in, and a colorful vintage piece that was made for very small people.

That is the story of why I have no sofa.

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Understanding the basics of minimalism

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Minimalism is a new buzz word, isn’t it? It used to be about architecture and design, but recently it’s become a new fad in which privileged bachelors denounce their worldly goods- and in some cases, even their high paying jobs- and hit the road to do as they please.

I’ve come across quite a few camps of thinking on minimalism and what it means. There are those who count their possessions- 100 or less, and there are those who are not happy unless they live in a pristine white environment. But if one thing were constantly true about minimalism, it’s that it is personal.

I think we get hung up on the wrong values in minimalism. For example, instead of counting how many objects we own, shouldn’t we be counting how many hours we spend on Facebook instead of with our family? I always feel really sad when I happen across an ex-minimalist, professing their love of possessions and “freedom to relax”, but I’m also equally saddened when I read about someone ejecting a pen from their apartment to justify buying a new dress that they really loved.

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Do you know what *I* think minimalism is?

Minimalism- love it or use it.

Minimalism is anti-consumerist. That is, minimalists are anti-consumers. They think objectively about what they purchase and why. Most also think about sourcing- the production of what they buy. This applies to their hard goods for the household, their food, and even their services. Some try to support small businesses, and some are locovores. But at the end of the day, minimalists are not impulse or leisure shoppers. They do not care about labels or brand names, or keeping up appearances. They don’t pay homage to commercials. They are not brand-loyal. Minimalists look The Man in the face, tell him to go F himself, and laugh at the threat of poverty. We say, “We don’t need your useless crap. I am good enough. I can be happy.”

Minimalism is a form of higher thinking. It is realizing that material gain is not what makes us happy- experience does. It is realizing that our attachment to this world is limited to this existence. It is having a higher consciousness of our carbon footprint. It is also about realizing and acting against global inequality. It is refusing to bow down to marketing that tells us we cannot live without something. It is excepting our unique selves and imperfections.

Minimalism is a form of freedom. Without excessive services or belongings, we no longer have to account for so much, spend weekends cleaning or decluttering, constantly clean our home, or worry about storage. Minimalists don’t pay for storage bins. They do not concern themselves with holiday shopping. Minimalists are self-assured- they make choices in the face of adversity that suit their needs. Minimalism is always being ready for company. Minimalism is release from a society that tells you that you are perpetually dissatisfied with what you have.

Minimalism is a world reality and first world privilege. People in other countries do not have the privilege of practicing minimalism- they are forced to practice it. It is practiced intentionally by people who have escaped consumerist culture. Minimalism can also mean buying higher quality goods because money is being funneled in a single direction instead of multiple directions. Minimalism often leads to emergency savings funds and leisure trips or vacations.

I do not know how many of each item I possess, but I have only been to the mall twice in five years. I do not buy new clothing unless it’s underwear or socks. I do not know what brand my shoes are. But I know they are vegan.

In short, my lifestyle is in line with my values. Instead of cleaning constantly, I can garden to make flowers for our dwindling bee populations and grow safe organic food. Instead of stockpiling supplies in my home, I think about where packaging goes once I’ve used a product. I make super meaningful and useful gifts. I frequent the library. I don’t overload my schedule because it means I would be compromising my personal care and happiness. I make choices that make me happy instead of what people say or think I should do.

Minimalizing simplifies your life in every area, not just material possessions.

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Some hard questions that you might ask yourself while purging your crap that is ruining your happiness are these:

  • Are these books that I like my identity, or are my own thoughts and reflections of their material my identity?

Your books are not your identity. I’m a total Potter Head. I am not the Potter series. No one cares if I own the series. I am not less of a Potter head.

abes mess

Have some books.

  • Do I love this thing or do I feel afraid to live without it?

Are you afraid that living with a microwave will be too inconvenient? Have you TRIED to live without certain objects? One method to minimalism is to box up everything you own, and gradually pull it out as you need it over a set period of time. This obviously doesn’t apply to seasonal items.

  • Do I use this, or am I afraid I will need it?

How many sewing machines do you own in case one breaks? Cell phones? If you’re afraid you’ll need a replacement of something, consider putting money in a savings account.

  • How many hobbies do I think I need?

Go through your hobby supplies and make a list of the projects that each supply demands. You might be surprised to see yourself pulled in so many directions that you couldn’t possibly choose one. Choose a few, and let the rest go. Be realistic about your time restraints.

art supplies

  • Is it realistic that I’m going to sell this, and will the money be worth my time?

The other name for Ebay is “Pain In The Ass”. The other name for Freecycle is “I left this on my doorstep for you.”

  • Is this object something I appreciate it, or am I equating it with the person who gave it to me?

Your great aunt’s china is not your great aunt. If you hate it, get rid of it or offer it back.

  • Will someone else use or love this? Need it?

Are you seriously going to wear those maternity clothes again, or will a teen mother’s shelter use them with gratitude? Who is going without shoes so you can have 12 pair?

  • Who can I benefit by passing this into the community?

Animal shelters need a surprising variety of weird things. They recently got all of my mascara stained washcloths.

abe's clothes

  • If I suddenly need one of these, how much will it cost to replace it, or who can I borrow/trade from?

My mom got rid of all her drills. Then I needed one. It didn’t cost much to replace. Yet all of those drills took up an entire box in her storage space.

  • When was the last time I needed this?

Also known as, “Why do I still own a breast pump and art supplies from a class I took in 2004?”

  • If I get rid of these baby items or art work, will I retain their memories?

Yes. Especially if you take pictures of them and/or get a digital picture frame. Unless your child has passed on, consider appreciating them at their current life stage instead of living for the days that you had no sleep and they kept pooping. Oh ya, those memories, right?

  • Do I even like to use this item?

Do you like those generic candle holders? Probably not. Most decorations have zero meaning. So get rid of them and either do without (re: no dusting) or replace them with something meaningful that inspires you.

  • Can I replace this item I use everyday with a quality item that better suits my needs?

I assure you that it is probably time to replace your socks and towels. And maybe even your sheets. And teflon cookware. You get the idea.

  • Am I going to actually fix this?

That answer usually depends on how long it’s been broken. If it’s been awhile, you probably don’t even need it.

  • Is this organized in a way that is functional?

Is your kitchen organized in a way that makes it easy to cook? Is your family area designed for people to gather together?

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  • Does this furniture work for my body?

Also known as, “Why am I sleeping on a bed frame when I’m 4’10”?”

  • Do I have this because society tells me I should?

Like holiday decorations, curtains, picture frames, coffee tables, etc.

  • What will people think if I….”

“…..only get my kids 2 presents for the holidays, stop shaving my armpits, get rid of the sofa, and trade in my car for a bike?” Who cares? Do they pay your bills? No. When they pay your bills, you can care what they think. Or not.

  • Will I wear this again?

Does it fit? Is it flattering? Does it need mending? Is it in style? Is it functional? Take out the items from your closet that you can remember wearing recently OR that you absolutely LOVE. If you hesitate, you don’t love it. Then put things with them that are mix and match or that compliment them. If you don’t have anything, put it back or get something that will compliment it and other outfits. Then get rid of the rest of that stuff in your closet. It’s mocking you. If you lose weight, you’ll want new clothes. If you gain weight, you’ll need something more flattering. Don’t let it stare you in the face every morning, telling you that you’re imperfect and dissatisfied. Love your body TODAY.

So now that you’ve got all this crap out of your house, what are you going to do, right? You’re going to sit down and write down real life goals that have nothing to do with acquiring “things” and you’re going to find a way to go after them. You’re going to go do things that make you happy instead of getting “things” to fill that void. That’s how it works.

 

 

Children and Minimalism: Books- How many is enough?

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I really love books. It’s a family value that I have passed on to my children to love to read. My son, at 18 months old, knew all of his alphabet. He is slowly learning to spell, and can now write his name.

My daughter only recently cleaned out her childhood book collection. We do, every so often, and whatever is left that I like, I set aside for my son. Being that my son loves books, this was never any issue. Until recently.

See, my son is two, and he’s having some…er…*behavioral issues*. That is the euphemism of the year, but I digress. One of his less than desirable behaviors is that he empties everything. He makes his rounds in the house with his toys, and then moves on to our belongings. I’m talking any bookshelf standing, cupboards, drawers, boxes of toys, etc. To the point that I have moved most of his toys into the closet, and keep them stacked in cardboard boxes with the flaps folded. Half of them are on an overhead shelf. It’s very very bad.

With such an accumulation of books, emptying his two bookshelves was causing a major problem- it was a safety hazard because he was walking on them and falling, it was ruining some books, and he wouldn’t play in his room because the books covered the floor. After trying a few strategies, it occurred to me that I had two options: Do as I had done with his toys and keep them packed in his closet, or clean them out so that if my discipline wasn’t working as rapidly as I had hoped, it wouldn’t be too terrible if he emptied his shelf.

I chose the latter. After collecting all of his books and putting them in the hallway, this is what I had:

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The problem is now obvious, right? The child had too many damn books. *I* didn’t even have this many books when I cleaned out, and I survived 8.5yrs of college!

Additionally, we go to the library every single Saturday and bring home books to read.

Now, I don’t play the numbers game with minimalism. I take a visual total of what I have, and if it looks normal and fits into my space without hindering productivity, then I’m happy.

What I didn’t expect is what happened when I went through the books. I went through every single title, making three piles, keep, go, and maybe. After placing my keep and maybe piles on the bookshelf, this is what I had kept:

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I panicked. OH MY GOD, I thought. Maybe I just didn’t sort through them carefully. SO I went through them all again. All I can say is that here are the reasons the other books didn’t make the cut:

  • They had bad plot lines- seriously, my kid doesn’t need to be reading about migrant workers struggling to stay alive. He’s 2.
  • He won’t need them for at least 3yrs- which is when his reading level will be up to the “learning reader” stage. And if he reaches it sooner, we have the library. New readers burn through books rapidly.
  • The pictures sucked. My kid is 2. He can’t read. Hello moto.
  • They had characters that were outdated that my child couldn’t relate to- My kid will probably not give a toss about Muppet Babies, and currently has zero interest in Thomas the Train.
  • Some were damaged
  • I had repeat themes- A child only needs so many books on identifying colors.
  • They were too wordy and the pictures weren’t stimulating enough to sustain him while I read all of those words
  • They were too non-sense
  • Gender bias (yes, I really culled books with gender bias)
  • Pop-culture themed- My child doesn’t need to read Disney’s Cinderella. Cinderella, maybe. But complete with snippets from the movie? No. Thanks.

I’m sure there were other reasons I couldn’t think of. I obviously looked for the opposite in values for the books I kept. I was looking for good companion-reading books that I could read at night, books I could use for teaching him, books he could read on his own, and anything with Sesame Street, Clifford, baby faces (I dunno, he likes baby face books), and Mercer Meyer or Seuss. Choosing books CAN be about practicality and living in the now. It’s ok to live in the near future, as long as you’re living richly NOW, and it doesn’t give you an excuse to stash away a lifetime’s worth of things.

Among the books I found some gems. Check out these vintage books!

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And then there were older books from my childhood that I love that my son has:

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So that’s all folks. What do you think- just right?

Minimalist Toys for Children

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This post is in response to some requests I’ve gotten. I hope it is helpful.

First off, I have to confess, I’m not quite a minimalist. It’s a work in progress, and hind-sight is 20/20. However- compared to the majority of Americans, I AM a minimalist, and even if I’m not there yet, I’m darned close.

I feel also that I should confess to bias in the area of children. I spoil my children and I’m an art teacher, so they have everything AND they have constant entertainment. The important thing to stress is that the concept of entertaining your children is actual parenting. You’re supposed to interact with your children nearly all the time. Children play independently sometimes, but for the most part, they are playing with other children or their parents. Parents have replaced their role in children’s play with tv’s, video games, Ipads, computers, etc.

It’s quite possible that many parents now don’t KNOW how to play with their children. For those parents, I recommend some light reading. There are a lot of books online that can teach you how to play with your child in a way that helps them grow and feel secure about the world. It’s important to follow your child’s lead when playing with them.

So here is my list after a couple years of research, a decade of parenting, and teaching. The list is irrespective of gender because I don’t believe in gender grooming:

A ball

A bike/scooter/skateboard

A doll that can be dressed/undressed, with a nappy, and a blanket. Accessories like a cradle, sling carrier (on etsy), or change of clothes are purely optional and based on space, but I recommend them. Some children prefer bears or things. I don’t see any harm in both owning a doll AND a stuffed animal. But Americans tend to overdue it on stuffed animals.

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Kitchen play items- it can be as simple as a bowl, cup, and spoon, or as complicated as some wooden or felt fake food and a play wooden kitchen. I’ve seen some great kitchen’s made from cardboard boxes.

A set of waldorf dollhouse size dolls like these. They stand up because their feet are flat and they’re completely bendy but sturdy. You can also get this dollhouse instead, which comes with 11 pieces of basic furniture and 2 figures.

dollhouseArt supplies like blank paper and colored pencils or crayons, a pair of scissors, and glue. Yarn is pretty trendy too, for cat’s cradle, finger knitting, or for use as string.

Homemade playdough (which is gluten free) or modeling clay

Items from the recycling bin for “hacks and mods”

An old sheet and some buffalo clips (those huge black clips you get at staples) for tent building

tent

Books (we go to the library weekly but we keep favorites at home for storytime)

A shovel and pail (sidewalk chalk is great too)

A musical instrument (I recommend a percussion instrument for younger children and a more complicated instrument for older children)

A couple of cars

Blocks

blocks

Aaaaadddd…that’s really more than any child needs. Obviously some of those toys are a little advanced (like scissors), but most of them can be utilized by my son who is two, and older children who are driven by imagination. Older children tend to have more role-playing games and functional crafts, while small children are more driven by cause and effect and discovery. You will find a couple of these items in the “pocket playground”, and here is a link with 50 ideas for the use of the 8 items recommended by the people who created it.

How much clothing do you REALLY need? (How I scaled down without tears)

give away

Hi. I’m Kate. And I’m a third generation clothing enthusiast. *cough* Hoarder. In case you’re wondering, this is the “go” pile. More on that later.

I was in total denial of this. I never do anything with myself. I used to really care about my appearance, but when I hit my junior year in college for my first degree, and my daughter turned 3, somehow, that went out the window. I stopped shopping, for one. And combing my hair. And accessorizing. And I became a naturalist, so I hardly wear makeup now, and I definitely stopped tanning and getting my nails done (*cringe* who WAS I?!).

Even though this was a positive step for so many reasons, it was indicative of a slippery slope. My daughter is 9 now. I have 2 articles for makeup, don’t use shampoo, don’t comb my hair, don’t wear shoes with heels- ever, many of my clothes had holes or stains in them, most of my clothes were 2 sizes too big…and need I go on? My wardrobe needed a facelift, just like my kitchen.

I took a gift certificate my sister gave me and checked out my favorite local consignment shop. It is literally the coolest consignment shop on the planet, and I know that I can rely on them for giving me up to date fashion feedback. What I learned is that really bold colors are in, color blocking, fuzzy sweaters, and blouses *barf*. I bought 2 pairs of jeans to replace the ones giving me plumber’s crack, and two cardigans.

When I got home, I realized…I probably have enough clothing to dress the neighborhood. Since all of my laundry is always done (maybe I should write a post on THAT haha), instead of putting away my new clothes, I hung them as outfits in my closet. And then proceeded to put together MORE outfits that were fashion-forward. I came up with 14.

outfits

Then something sad happened. I had started to make three piles, one for love and my assembled outfits, one for maybe, and another for go. The go pile was for trash, charity, or resale. The go pile started growing and growing until my entire bed was covered. I realized that I still had clothes from when I was pregnant with my daughter a DECADE ago, that at least half of my clothes didn’t fit, and that most of them were outdated.

More importantly, I live in Maine, which has four seasons, and I have two wardrobes, one which is “American” and one which is “Islamic”. Unfortunately, it also meant that I had a chifferobe, a bureau, and a double wide closet full of clothing.

I have one body.

It really begged the question- how much clothing do I NEED?!

Then I started assembling my “Islamic” clothing too. I came up with 9 outfits.

traditional outfits

So, total, I had about a dozen random bulky sweaters, 14 “American” outfits that were layered, 6 American style Islamic outfits, 9 modest Islamic outfits, and a dozen random short sleeve and long sleeve. Phew. For SUMMER clothing, I have about a dozen abayas or shalwar kameez, and a dozen American outfits to wear inside the house.

Sweaters and aprons- how many aprons do you have?

Sweaters and aprons- how many aprons do you have?

My random collection- probably could lose a few items still

My random collection- probably could lose a few items still

My attempts at western style Islamic clothing

My attempts at western style Islamic clothing

That’s still a months worth of clothing! But it’s a start.

I also went through my pjs, shoes, and purses.

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Let’s get to the juice though. What DID I find?

Well. I had 10 pairs of sandals, 8 of which were flip flops.

I had three backpacks.

I had shirts is size medium. I wear a 00. *insert laughs* WHEN have I ever worn women’s sized clothing?

Speaking of chuckles, someone must be playing a prank on me because I found a pair of size 7 pants.

I found pjs from when I was in middle school. I don’t know if that’s even the bad part- I gave them to my daughter. HA!

I decided that winter jilbabs weren’t for me because they never dry and I was walking around soaking wet all day.

Among those to go were my outdated career clothes.

I kept my hemp shoes and gypsy skirt.

I found a dead mouse inside one of my old purses. I hope it didn’t come from THIS house.

I found a container of tea tree oil in another purse. Hmmm- conspiracy?

And finally, the grand finale, I found a bunch of new undershirts! WOOHOO!

jeans

Only a weeks worth of jeans and a few leggins

Where summer outfits belong- put away

Where summer outfits belong- put away

Appropriately placed- shorts and tanks with jilbabs and abayas

Appropriately placed- shorts and tanks with jilbabs and abayas

I’m so excited every time I open my closet now. I’ve assembled outfits, so now I feel like I have a whole new wardrobe! What’s most important is that my bedroom is full of things that I LOVE- not things I feel iffy about and never wear. Clean out your space too, and see what goodies you have hiding! I’m also excited to add jewelry and scarves to these!

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If you don’t have at least ONE LL Bean cable knit cardigan, treat yourself, because they’re awesome!

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This was overpriced, but it’s been well loved for years

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The day tattoo shirts go out of style I’ll die

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Great with jeggins

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Cute modest outfit, great with a crinkle hijab

Love this Islamic outfit, I've had it for at least 5yrs

Love this Islamic outfit, I’ve had it for at least 5yrs

An Old Navy outfit that I got with my girlfriend. It goes great with a striped jersey hijab

An Old Navy outfit that I got with my girlfriend. It goes great with a striped jersey hijab

At this point you either think that I’m super amazing, or that I was a nerd before it was cool…

So to recap, here’s what you should do:

  1. Go to a fashion-forward store (preferably a consignment shop for environmental reasons) or read a few magazines to learn about current fashion. Magazines provide extra information, in that they often show what clothes work for what type of body, and how to accessorize.
  2. Buy things you need, even if it’s as basic as jeans as it was in my case. Two years ago I had to update from bootleg to skinny jeans. Are you wearing mom-jeans?
  3. When you get home, do all of your laundry. Maybe part of an outfit is living in there. Or maternity clothes HA!
  4. Before you take everything out, set aside a place and slowly assemble outfits of pieces that you know you love, or pieces that you haven’t given a fair chance but are suddenly very fashionable. Make sure these outfits fit right and are flattering to your shape and skin tone.
  5. For the rest, take everything out. Make 3 piles- love, maybe, and go.
  6. Separate your love and maybe piles into seasonal piles if you must. Seasonal clothing has no business with other clothing- it creates clutter. I live in Maine and don’t need shorts in February, so I store them. Some people store them in a barn or attic, but I don’t have to share my space with a man…
  7. Separate your go pile into charity, resale, and trash/upcycle (there are TONS of things you can do with clothes that are not suitable for donation, like making “rag yarn” or braiding a rug).
  8. Of your “love” pile, try to assemble outfits. For things that are left, hang them up and resolve to turn the hanger around if you wear it.
  9. Of your maybe pile, if it can’t be assembled into an outfit, consider if you really need it. My maybe pile, for example, had a lot of long-sleeve tee’s in it, which I wear as layers, so I kept them hung in the closet.
  10. Finally, of your go pile, be scrupulous. Are you really going to take the time to list those items on ebay, bring them to a resale or consignment shop, or use them as scraps in a project? If not, consider being extra generous to a charity with them, or having a swap with your friends/neighbors.
  11. Don’t let it end at your clothing- chances are, neglect has spread to other areas. Go through your intimates, pjs, socks, accessories, and others. When going through your accessories, consider if it will go with anything you have assembled. If not, you might want to pass it on.
  12. If something hurts to part with, keep it and give yourself a timeline. Resolve to get rid of it if you haven’t worn it in say, 6 months. If it’s seasonal, say a year.
  13. SIT ON YOUR ITEMS. I always do this because I’m a compulsive purger. Experience your wardrobe for at least 2 weeks before you part with the things you’ve bagged up. This is where real organization can be key, for if you separate your “go” pile into say, items that will definitely not fit or will never be in style vs items that you just never wear, you may realize that you need a few items that you were going to get rid of.
  14. Try new things. If heels always hurt your feet, find cute flats. If your legs are always cold in skirts, get fleece lined leggins.
  15. Don’t forget the details- jewelry, a little organic makeup, or trying a new hairstyle can be just as important. Remember that this is not vanity, this is self-care.

 

homestead

To microwave or not to microwave

micro

So here’s a surprise- I own and operate a microwave.

I thought that this was a pretty benign practice. I honestly had not even given it much REAL thought, nor research. I figured, I suppose, that since everyone had one and used one that there wasn’t anything wrong with owning or using one. Pretty stupid logic.

My first warning sign was at my old job. I was a nanny for a family physician while I was finishing my Holistic Health certificate. She had a 9mo son that I watched, and one day, while approaching the microwave, she told me not to let him near it. When inquiring why, she said, “Because no one is sure if microwaves are harmful yet.” Honestly, since the woman had previously chastised me for eating rice cakes, I just brushed it off.

But then, one of my brilliant readers left THIS as a comment on one of my posts:

“Kate if you are concerned about your health and that of your children enough to research vaccinations and provide them with the tasty delicious meals on your page why do you have a microwave ?”

Oh dear. I wasn’t even sure if I should approve it (and sorry for that!), lest I open a can of worms that I wasn’t equipped to defend. This is a VERY astute and brilliantly posed question. What WAS my reason for being a slave to my micro, when I had not even researched it?!

Well thank you- and you know who you are. Because of you, I have carefully researched my choice. I’m not sure if I’m capable of going without a micro, but I’m definitely going to try.

Aren’t you all curious what my findings were? Well here’s what I found.

plants

The first article that I read was on the Daily Green. I honestly quite pissed off about how casually this article approaches the subject. In hindsight, this is a bias article. To someone who loves their microwave, however, it’s perfectly enabling. The article, entitled “11 Facts and Myths about Microwave Ovens”, addresses the “myth” about electromagnetic leakage from the ovens, and quotes, “Since we can’t very well grow people in controlled lab experiments, it’s very difficult to sort out the various risks we might get from fields emitted from power lines, cell phones, airplane flights, computers, clock radios, and of course microwave ovens. We know strong fields raise cancer rates and other problems, but what about the cumulative effect of small exposure, or effects on children? No one knows…” and then proceeds to quote FDA standards. Really? REALLY?! You’re going to quote an agency that promotes vaccination?! HA. JOKE.

microguy

Alright, so moving on. I got really excited when I read THIS article by Scientific American, indicating that I’d save 25% by using my STOVE and then quoted Home Energy Magazine. That makes me really freakin happy. I drink a lot of tea. And I LOVE to bake. Every. Damn. Day.

But oh NO’S! Then I found THIS article from Sierra that says that the EPA stated that using a stove instead of a micro uses 80% more energy. The THIS article from Science Blogs, says that the stove uses 5x’s more energy. Agh.

Wait. What would I be willing to pay to keep my family away from controversial amounts of electromagnetic waves? Ok, so maybe the cost argument is moot. But what about using up planet raping energy?

So let’s just say I’m ok with raping the planet a little to make sure I me and my kids don’t get cancer. Don’t judge me.

I just wanted to know if this was SAFE! Why is this so hard?

tea

Erm. Look at THIS article from the Global Healing center. I really don’t know what to highlight out of the article because it’s all relevant, from the fact that you can’t micro breast milk, to the fact that Russians illegalized microwaves.

Well, I can read all of the hippy articles in the world, but it was this one that pointed out that there’s actually a disease called “microwave sickness” and other sites back that idea up. I actually have a few of these symptoms, and though I have other health issues that could be the cause, I’m sure that it could be part of the problem.

The nail in the coffin? THIS study, from an Italian scientist, published in the European Journal of Oncology, National Institute for the Study and Control of Cancer and Environmental Disease. I don’t know what is going on in Italy, but I’m rather proud of them. They’re proving that vaccines cause Autism and that microwaves are dangerous. *high fives*

head-in-a-microwave1

So microwaves are bad, and you should not use them.

My thought train did not end there, however. I live on the end of my building, and we have a bunch of smart meters right outside of my kitchen. I found this article, but it was very hard to learn how those were harmful. Apparently the World Health Organization says they’re carcinogenic. Yikes.

Also, in this post, I mentioned the dangers of cell phone radiation, and I’ve made steps to get a phone that was one of the lowest in radiation on the market. Here is the link to learn about limiting cell phone radiation exposure.

Last, if you want to go on a rampage, check out this article on limiting your own personal radiation exposure. Be prepared to give up a LOT.

Most importantly, your microwave.

Tinfoil hat