Welcome to a new decade! I hope 2019 treated you well, and that 2020 treats you even better!
I thought I would start out the new year with a reflection post, since I did post 3 intentions that I had for 2019.
ONE I did the Run The Edge challenge with my husband. When we first started talking about it, we agreed we would each do half of the 2019 miles. I figured that as long as I did 10,000 steps a day, I would easily accomplish that. So I kind of changed my goal into just doing 10,000 steps a day. Which I did. EVERY DAY FOR 365 DAYS. That’s right, I actually finished a goal. I’m sort of startled. I didn’t run any of it, it was all walking, but that’s still a lot of walking. 1,954.55 miles to be exact, and a total of 4,350,290 steps. My average was around 11,000 steps a day, and my biggest walking day was in Las Vegas when I did a record 40,554 steps in one day. So in the end, I did way more than my half of 2019, and my husband (who actually runs) did the entirety of 2019 miles on his own. I will tell you that I’m celebrating today by not wearing my step counter watch. Today, I will have nothing on my wrists! I will not worry about strapping on the step counter the minute I wake up again. So far, it’s been glorious. Eventually, I’ll get back to wearing my cute watches and bracelets.
TWO I did a lot better on reading regularly. I feel like I’m finally back in the habit! I cannot tell you how many books I read, because I did not keep track. But I joined a book club, and I’ve also done really well on finding some stuff on my own. I now have a shelf dedicated to library books and current reads, and it usually always has more than one book on it!
THREE Hahahaha. This is the one that did not pan out. The planner and I just did not get along. And I can’t tell you why, because I used to LOVE planners. My use was very sporadic, so I didn’t get much benefit. That being said, I’ve already trotted out a notebook that I’m using to dip my toe into bullet journaling (sort of) and have put the numbers down for January and February and have started populating them. I do think there is power in writing down your intentions, to do lists, and schedule, but for some reason I just haven’t found the right mix. Or maybe I ‘m just managing to get in my own way. We’ll see how I get along with this new notebook.
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One thing that is kind of inextricably linked to minimalism, at least in my mind, is also sustainability, and doing our part to produce less waste.
And given the time of year, my mind has gone to all of that wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons that go directly into the trash as soon as the mad rush of opening presents is over.
The wrapping supplies live in my craft closet, and I have struggled with what to do with them. The large container for wrapping paper, the box full of labels, the box full of ribbon, the stacks of boxes, and the large gift bag full of other gift bags take up a lot of room! I’ve always tried to do my part in taking back some of the shirt boxes and other useful sizes and reuse them from Christmas to Christmas, and I save gift bags in good shape for both Christmas and other occasions. But that also means that there are a lot of pieces that need saving because gift bags require tissue paper and store-branded shirt boxes are going to need covered in wrapping paper.
So… in this instance, my desire for sustainable wrapping and reducing my pile of gift wrap lead me to make another purchase. Here are four kinds of reusable wrapping I’ve tried out this Christmas:
Container Store bags (not pictured). These were the first ones I found. I bought the medium penguin cotton sack, the large Christmas pals sack, and the blue reindeer medium sack. These are really heavy duty bags and have very nice finishings, like pom poms! The medium wasn’t quite as big as I would have liked it to be, but they are perfect for smaller presents. These are my overall favorite in terms of quality and looks. The only drawback is that these are definitely only for Christmas.
Lilly Wrap (grey and silver dots with big bow). I ordered a set of two medium bags off of Amazon because these were the ones I saw that I fell in love with.
These look so nice, and the stretchy fabric hugs the box and makes it look the most like a traditional package. That being said, it looks kind of sad with any gift that is NOT in a box. I tried wrapping a clothing item on its own, and it was so sad, I took it out.
Finally, a note about the price – at $17.95 for two bags, I thought the price was on the steep side. I only gave gifts that were staying within my household to make sure I get to keep it! 🙂
Appleby Lane Fabric Gift Bags (2 red and white bags on the left). My husband bought these for my gifts this year because he knew I was interested in using less wrapping paper. Props to him for thinking to buy a print that wasn’t really Christmasy so we can use it for birthdays, too. I like these, and considering he got 5 for $21.95, they were a better value for money. The fabric is a little on the rough side, but since it’s not like I’m wearing them, it doesn’t really matter. I was initially concerned you might be able to see through the white parts, but since nothing it jammed in there to bursting, I can’t see anything. I think that if you had something that was pulling the fabric taut in them, that this would be an issue. Overall, a nice choice.
Amazon bags (red bag on the right). Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? But we’ve received several presents in Amazon’s gift wrapping, which happens to be either a blue or red reusable bag. I’ve saved them all, and we busted a lot of them out for this Christmas. I love that we have a couple of larger sized ones that have really saved the day for big presents. The only drawback on these is that there are limited pattern choices, and that I seem to keep yanking ribbons out of the drawstring, even though I think I’m being careful!
Lush Knot-Wrap (not pictured). I purchased the Snow Fairy one because I loved the design and it was also not exclusively Christmas. My husband and I had a kind of hilarious time trying to execute one of the recommended wraps on a largish present. I wouldn’t say the one we did this time looks pretty, but it did the job. I think it would have worked better on a smaller present. It will probably continue to get used, but I’ll need some more practice before I’m turning out a beautiful-looking knot-wrap.
Overall, I liked all of these for different reasons, and will keep them so I have options for every kind of gift.
Even with the conscious effort of using all of the items above, we still produced more trash than I would have liked this year, though most of that came from gifts we received from people outside of our home. It was a good first step in transitioning to a more sustainable Christmas. And we will continue to use all of the ones above that are not exclusively Christmas for our birthdays and any other gift giving times.
For the past two years, my daughter’s main obsession has been the How To Train Your Dragon franchise. I have lost count of the number of times we have watched the entirety of the Race to the Edge TV show, and she has seen all of the movies more than once. I’ve even shared some other Dragon crafts on here (how I made her Astrid skirt, and how I modified so I could wear it too!).
My daughter had a Dragons theme for her birthday party once, and by some miracle, the only Dragons card they had in Hallmark (this was before the 3rd movie came out, and a long time after the 2nd one was out, so Dragons stuff was hard to find) was specifically for someone turning 5 (she was!) and it came with a blow-up flaming sword (Inferno, if you want to get technical, or you can call it the Dragon Blade), just like Hiccup’s. This was cool, and she liked it.
The downside was no matter how often we blew it up, it was always a little limp.
And after 1.5 years of it knocking around in her room, she managed to step on it and totally pop the thing about 2 months ago.
I attempted a repair with some packing tape, but it did absolutely nothing. The sword was toast.
She did still have a styrofoam sword of some unknown origin – it was a gift or came from a fair or something. Which got me thinking that I could create a kind of cover for it that would turn it into Inferno! A new, improved Inferno that would not pop!
So this week, I took myself to the craft store, and spent $2.66 in felt. I bought 1/4 yard each of red and orange from the very wide bolts of felt, and a single sheet of yellow.
I measured the sword we already had, and it is 5.5 inches around. I used my Frixon pen from quilting to sketch out some guidelines. I knew each side needed to be at least 3 inches wide (I was betting on 1/4 inch seams on each side, and still having the 5.5 inches to get the sword in), and the length of the sword (ours was 14 inches long). Once I had those basics on the felt, I started free handing a flame pattern around it. Our blow-up sword had one side that billowed out more, like Hiccup was cutting through the air with it, so I mimicked that idea on my sketch. I then cut through two layers of the felt at the same time so they would be identical matches and I would only have to draw it once.
Next, I did the same with the orange. This time, my guidelines were 2 inches wide, and stopped about 3.5 inches short of the top of the red flame. I then freehanded some more flames, making it slightly more subtle than the red version. Again, I cut through both layers at the same time.
Lastly, I did the same again with the yellow. My guideline was to be about 1 inch wide, and the length of the sheet I bought (about 10 inches). This one I had to go back and trim a few times, because when I started adding the curves to it, it got a little wider than the orange a few places. Keeping both pieces together, it was easy to keep trimming and testing until it looked right.
Next, I pinned the yellow to the orange and sewed it on, using an approximate 1/4 inch seam. I did this for both sides.
Then I pinned the orange to the red and did the same again.
For extra security at the ends, I also sewed across the bottom of all three pieces of felt.
Finally, I pinned the two reds together and sewed 1/4 inch seam all around, except for the bottom where it was going to slot over the sword.
And ta da! It worked! Very rarely do I have an idea I think is quick and simple, and it actually ends up being quick and simple! It turned out just like I saw it in my mind’s eye.
What I love about this is that we can take the felt off and she can still have a pirate sword, or put the felt on and play Dragons. It keeps it a multi-purpose play item. It also is not limp, and we can’t pop it. So win-win-win!
If you’re interested in making your own, and don’t have a random styrofoam sword hanging around your house (what’s wrong with you? :-)), I have seen similar swords at the dollar store before. If you get the felt on sale at JoAnn’s like I did, and a sword for a dollar, that brings the grand total of this fun and cute project to $3.66! That’s definitely value for money.
I’m planning to keep this one hidden a couple of days more and give it to my daughter on Christmas Eve. I hope it leads to lots of new ideas for Dragon play.
Right now, I am in the midst of a Postman Pat sweater vest for my dear friend’s little boy. I found the pattern for next to nothing on Etsy, and I know it is the same pattern that my husband’s Nan had back in the 80s. Both my husband and my daughter were big fans of Pat in their younger years, and though they’ve both grown out of it now, I really wanted to make this pattern.
That being said, this is intarsia, and the back of this sweater currently looks like yarn barf. It is so fiddly, cutting tiny strips of yarn for just three stitches here and there, and there are LOTS of ends.
BUT I’m still having fun with this.
I’ve already knit the majority of the back of the sweater, which I did while I was waiting on a couple of colors I needed for the front (and which I ended up ordering from England and waiting quite some time for).
My hope was this would be to my friend by Christmas, but seeing as where I am with it now, I think we can all agree it will either be a New Year’s or Valentine’s sweater. 🙂
ONE WEEK TILL CHRISTMAS! Hope you’re all enjoying the season, and not panicking too much.
Today, since it’s Three on Thursday, I have a list of three books I’ve read lately to share with you:
Soulful Simplicity: This is from Courtney Carver, who does the Be More With Less blog. Unsurprisingly, I checked this out because I’m still kind of on the minimalism kick. I really enjoyed this one, and it definitely gave me some food for thought. It was one of the better ones I’ve read on reducing what you own, because it was much more about the thoughts and feelings behind it than direct “get rid of it” advice. I’d recommend it if this is a topic you’re interested in.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers: Every year, after we watch The Sound of Music, I tell myself I’m going to read the book by the real Maria. Finally, after watching it a couple of weeks ago with my daughter, I followed through and borrowed it from the library. I honestly wasn’t expecting too much, but I really enjoyed it! There are some parts that seem to go along with the musical, but a lot of things are different. Like all of the children’s names. About half the book was about what happened after they left Austria, which I really didn’t know anything about, so I definitely learned some new things. If you like The Sound of Music, I’d recommend it as a read! Now I’m ready to take a vacation to the Trapp Family Lodge, which is a real hotel in Vermont that is still owned by the family.
Unmarriageble: This one almost shouldn’t count as a book I “read” since I gave up halfway through. I usually am not a quitter, but I made an exception. This one was for my book club. I honestly could not stand any of it. I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice when I read it (probably about 15 years ago at this point), but this retelling was just bad. It felt very amateur, and I also thought it was ridiculous that a woman who literally teaches English Literature, including Pride and Prejudice, did not notice that she was for real living the story right down to the names. I had such a hard time with it, in fact, that I worry if I read the real Pride and Prejudice again, I’ll hate it. Maybe everyone in that book is just as annoying as in Unmarriageable. Anyway, I give it a rating of “unreadable.”
I thought I’d share a few of the resources that I’ve been loving on minimalism, that have inspired me to keep going on my decluttering journey.
I’m going to start with books, because I think books are always the best choice. 🙂
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – This one has to be included, right? It’s the first one I read, and what everyone knows about. I can’t say that I agree with it all (I’m certainly not emptying out my purse every night), but I can say I’ve gone back to re-read passages when I needed a boost. And the folding stuff – actually life-changing. Don’t ignore that bit.
The Joy of Less – This one I just read last week. I think I’m a little late to the Miss Minimalist party, but I’m glad I’m there now! I’m not sure that at this point I actually needed the step-by-step room-by-room set-up of the book, but I tell you, there were some other a-ha moments thrown in there! Imagine writing down everything you own (almost hyperventilated when I read that)! Pretend your surfaces are slippery and nothing can stay on them (I can tell you my kitchen table, which is usually my junk/mail/school stuff pile, has been CLEAR since I had this mind shift)! Remove everything from the shelf/drawer/cabinet when you are decluttering it, even if you think you are keeping it. Choose what to keep, not what to get rid of. Lots of good stuff in there.
I’ve read several others, but I think these two were the most bang for my buck. (As an aside, the only one I bought was Marie Kondo’s, because I got it almost 5 years ago and didn’t know better. The more recent ones, I’ve checked out from the library – because MINIMALISM. If it turns out the book is kind of a dud, you haven’t wasted any money! You don’t have to think about how to get rid of it. If it’s great, you can check it out again if you need it. Libraries are great.)
Rachael Herron – Now, this is not a minimalism blog. I started reading it when it was primarily a knitting blog. It’s kind of morphed more into a writing blog now, because she is a full-time author, and that also really interests me. BUT – if I didn’t read her blog, I’m not sure I would have started on this journey. Back in January 2015, I was sitting there reading her blog, and getting blown away at what she was saying about letting go of gifts. It was like a lightbulb went off. And even though it’s taken me nearly 5 years to feel like I’m finally “getting it,” I’m thankful it started me off on this path. As a bonus, I love her writing. I enjoy all her blog posts and have read a few of her books, and I also listen to her “How do you write?” podcast. Big shout out to her memoir, A Life in Stitches, which is the only knitting memoir I’ve ever read that I adored (consequently, it survived my great book purge of 2019 and still sits on my shelves). Basically, she’s delightful.
Simple on Purpose – I like this one mostly for the motherhood content. A few of her older posts read like truth bombs to me (don’t be a mom martyr).
Cozy Minimalism – This has been my favorite podcast I’ve found so far. The episodes are short – usually less than 10 minutes – but I liked these bite-sized and practical episodes. My favorite one is about Sunk Cost.
Simple Families – I really like this one – and I found her through minimalism with kids searches – but I would actually say this is much more about parenting than getting rid of your stuff. She does have a Ph.D. in Child Development, so that makes sense! I have to say that I definitely favor the episodes where she just talks on a subject over the ones where she interviews people. Often, I feel like the interviews never get at what I was expecting (except The Value of Just Staying Home – and how I wish I’d heard this episode when my child was a newborn, and not when she was six! When she said you should have your children help you with the dishes instead of trying to hurry through all the household chores during nap time – man, I could have used that truth). But definitely worth a listen if you’re a parent and you’re trying to achieve minimalism in all aspects of your life. She also has a book, Simple Happy Parenting.
This week, my 6-year-old daughter asked very earnestly that I teach her to knit right now. We’re only a couple of rows in to a small garter stitch project, but I am absolutely over the moon that she is interested!
We started a “bookmark” (basically the world’s smallest scarf) a year or two ago when she asked to try. Back then, I was pretty much doing most of the work – I was always wrapping the yarn and helping her manipulate the needles. This time, we’ve started a different project, and she’s doing it almost entirely solo.
It makes this knitting mama’s heart sing! Look at those hands!
I’m joining in with Carole on Three on Thursday, and today I’m sharing three knitting projects in various states of progress.
One – I’m knitting BK a new Wee Wildflower. I made her one a couple of years ago that still fits, and I think it’s the most-worn knit item of her life. It’s still working for her because those 3/4 sleeves are very forgiving (though now it’s about at elbow height), but she does need one in a bigger size very soon. I’ve got the body and sleeves finished, and they’re drying on the blocking board right now (picture above).
Two – I am knitting my third Sproutlette. I made one for BK, one for a very dear friend’s baby, and am now working on another one (though I promise it is not for my own baby). I absolutely adore this pattern, and think it is a must for all special girl babies in my life.
Three – I have the most of the yarn for, but have not yet cast on, a Postman Pat vest. I bought the pattern off Etsy for next to nothing and cannot wait to get stuck into this one! My LYS didn’t have all the colors I need, so I need to order a couple more for the intarsia bits. But this will hopefully be on the needles very soon!
In case you wondered how these three projects are fitting in with my new minimalism kick, two of them are destined for locations other than my house, and the other one will certainly be loved and used a lot. If you want to read more about my journey, check out yesterday’s post on decluttering anxiety!
I’d also love to hear what you’re making – so drop me a line in the comments. 🙂
I’ve spent a lot of time over these past few months minimizing my home. I’ve spent loads of time reading books about it, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs. And the one thing that I find no one addresses in any depth is the amount of anxiety that minimizing can cause.
I have found in my many (many many) trips to charity shops, book resale shops and missions that every time I release stuff, I have a completely physical reaction to the anxiety of it. My whole body shakes (particularly my arms). I suppose this might be an anxiety attack. And yet, I keep filling up my car and doing it to myself over and over again.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decide if there is just one reason I feel like this, but I think it might be more than one thing. Here are my top thoughts on why it overwhelms me so much:
Guilt – guilt that I am getting rid of stuff that other people gave me. I feel they had expectations and hopes for how I was going to use it and how much I was going to cherish it. The truth is I never lived up to that imaginary expectation because the reason I’m donating it is because it’s been lingering in a cabinet somewhere in my house.
Guilt – guilt that I (or someone else if it was a gift) spent a lot of money on whatever the item is. I realize from trying to sell quite a lot of things from my house that this stuff actually has almost no resale value. Even designer handbags and barely worn clothes and like-new toys. Because just like a brand-new car, even if you just owned it and didn’t use it, it’s still gone down in value astonishingly. So basically the money invested in that stuff has been flushed down the toilet.
Guilt – that I am so privileged that I have a whole house full of items that I can get rid of carloads of it and not notice. Even though I give all that stuff to charities and shelters, they will probably get less use out of that than if I just never bought that stuff and gave them the money to spend on actual needs.
Guilt – that it has taken me so many years to realize that I don’t want to be trapped in a work-spend circle, and that items don’t make you happy (they actually drag you down with obligations and responsibilities). There have been a lot of rough emotional patches of my life that I definitely tried to buy myself out of, and knowing now that’s what I did makes me feel even worse.
Guilt – as I watch the charity shop people throw what were previously my belongings haphazardly into bins. That was stuff I thought I wanted enough to spend time researching it, driving to the store or clicking on Amazon, and then spent my money on it. I feel strongly you should take good care of your stuff, and this doesn’t feel like doing that. But there’s are only so many items you can have in your life and actually take good care of them.
So – basically just 100 forms of guilt. Ha.
I am writing this post from a book resale shop again feeling guilty and trying to fight off the shakes. I just finished dropping off a trunk load at a charity shop. It was much better this time, and not quite so all encompassing, so I am getting better.
I know that in an hour or so the anxiety will pass, and I will be in my home and feel like I can breathe easier with fewer items there. I understand intellectually the end game I’m trying to reach. I want to feel more free, take less time to take care of my house, and have more bandwidth to give my family my full presence instead of worrying about the undone chores. And because I know where I’m heading, I will ride the wave of the anxiety until I get there.
It’s no secret that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I LOVE it. And after we had my daughter and she was ready to go trick-or-treating for real (about 2.5), I decided it would be fun to be in theme with her.
The first year we did this, she was Anna and I shelled out way too much on a nice adult version of an Elsa costume. I finished that Halloween filled with regret over the money spent, the itchiness of the dress, and the knowledge that I would never use it again.
The next year, she was Wonder Woman. I bought a Super Girl t-shirt with a cape, and wore that with my jeans. It was far less expensive than the Elsa costume, but I never wore it again (and in fact, just put in the donation pile yesterday!)
Next, she was a Ninja Turtle. My husband and I both bought TMNT t-shirts. My daughter’s costume came with all 4 masks and armbands, so my husband and I chose out of the 3 leftover and wore the masks and armbands with our t-shirts. I actually still wear that t-shirt. 🙂
Last year, she was Hermione. And this one was super easy and free for me… because I’d already bought Gryffindor robes and a wand at Universal many years before.
This year, she is going to be Light Fury from How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. This kid loves dragons above all else, so this is no surprise. When she first decided, I did browse some HTTYD t-shirts, but decided that with my increased focus on minimalism this year, it was silly to acquire a new t-shirt just to be on theme.
But because I’d set the expectation in previous years, about 2 weeks ago, she started asking would I please be a dragon or dragon rider. Please, Mommy!
So what do you say to that? I guess I better figure out something.
Here’s the thing, I don’t just love a theme for Halloween, we go all in on the theme for birthday parties, too. And when she was 5, she had a HTTYD party. I scoured the internet looking for options on how to make an Astrid costume for this. My biggest inspiration was this post. I went to the fabric store and bought brown felt, faux leather, and Model Magic.
And it turned out great! She looked awesome.
And then she pretty much never wore it again.
So after she asked me to join her in the theme, I was thinking, I already know how to make this costume, I could go back to the fabric store, buy all that stuff again and make an adult version.
And then I thought, that’s crazy. Why would you spend a lot more time and little more money on something you will wear literally an hour?
So I didn’t. I decided to make an extender strap for the current Astrid skirt. I decided I could round out the costume with things from my regular wardrobe – I have lots of striped tops to choose from, leggings, and fuzzy boots.
I pulled out the spare brown felt I had from my daughter’s skirt and cut out some extra strips. I removed one side of the velcro from the belt on the original skirt, and moved it to my new felt piece so I could attach it around me. And then I called it a day. It took me less than 15 minutes and cost me no money. Sure, the back isn’t going to look as lovely as the front, but it is going to cover my butt in leggings. 🙂 And the front looks pretty great.
Now the only problem is that the weather looks like it’s going to be terrible today. Fingers crossed it will be better than I think.
If you’re interested in how I made my daughter’s costume to begin with, here’s what I did:
Bottom layer skirt I took my daughter’s waist measurement and then I sewed a very simple skirt with an elastic waistband out of the dark brown felt, cutting the ends into a jagged pattern.
Top skirt I cut 2″ strips of faux leather about 12 inches long, and rounded the ends. I cut a longer strip for the main belt part, based on my daughter’s waist measurement. I folded the edges under and sewed them, and the finished dimension for that was also about 2″ wide. Then, I sewed each of the strips to the belt. I finished it off with little pieces of velcro on the end to make it easy to get off and on.
“Spikes” When it came to the spikes, I thought they were pretty impractical for a 5-year-old, and also for sitting down. I brainstormed about what I already had in the house that I could use. I had purchased some wall polka dots – the removable adhesive kind – and hated them on my walls. So I decided to cut smaller circles out of them in various sizes. This had the added benefit of already being adhesive, and just required me to peel and stick.
Skulls I made the skulls out of Model Magic, and after they were dry, dabbed them ink from brown and black stamp pads to age them. I then hot glued them to the belt.
In fact, the only thing I would change about this costume is the skulls. If I were to do it over again, I would not score them quite so much, or maybe not at all. Though it definitely looks like Astrid, the score lines made for a prime weak spot for the skulls to snap, and I have hot glued more than one of these suckers back together, mostly after my daughter bent over or tried to be more active in the outfit. I suspect this is why she never really wanted to play in the outfit after the party was over.
Headband I used some leftover faux leather to make a thin headband piece – essentially just a long strip I sewed the raw edges under on. Then I made some even smaller circles from my wall adhesives. Peel and stick!
Shoulder armor I bought some craft foam from this, with the intention of doing a similar thing to the post I referenced before. I was going to use some more of my wall adhesive to make the bumps. But my daughter never really showed any interest in me making this, though I offered several times. So it was never made and is not part of either of our costumes!