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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Martina

The Large Catholic Family Guide to Simple Living

Who doesn’t like the idea of simple living? 

I wasn’t counting on writing a post so soon after Baby Emmie was born because my plan was to write it well before she was born – you know, like any organized person with a large family would plan to do. 

Obligatory Baby Emmie photo

Nope. 

That didn’t happen this time. It also didn’t help that I ran through several other topics I thought I wanted to write about, only to hit dead end after dead end. 

I think it’s somewhat comical that the timing to write about this topic comes on the heels of:

  1. just having given birth two weeks ago and
  2. with a current case of chickenpox making its way through our home

Can you hear my stifled screams at that second point? No? Give it some time. :p 

One thing I’ve admired about friends with large families {and, no, for some crazy reason, I didn’t really consider six kids to be “large family” material. Not sure why, but that’s just me – what can I say? I’m weird} is this almost instinctual inclination toward being more organized. Personally, I didn’t grow up organized, or orderly, or neat. In fact, my kids’ rooms littered with food wrappers and soda cans most definitely comes from me as a kid. It is the bane of my existence and one we attempt to counter with mini marathons of Hoarders. 

What I’ve noticed over the years is that even if you are the most non-organized, least inclined toward living simple, or keeping your house decently clean kinda person, there is hope for you, because there has been a glimmer of hope for me. 

I am here to motivate you and encourage you!

Here are my tips for you that I’ve gleaned from others and learned for myself over the years:

  1. Your home is your sanctuary. I know, I know. You’re laughing. I can hear you. You are looking around at the clothing bomb that went off in your laundry room and the collateral damage that extends down the hallway and into bedrooms and bathrooms {and that’s without mentioning the toys, trash, dirty dishes, and upswept floors!} and you are shaking your head at the silliness of this point. But, it’s true. Your home IS your sanctuary. There is only one way to break through the frustration of the never-ending messes and it has to start with your mental approach to your home, even if/when it looks like the Tasmanian Devil and his crew tore through your house. What can you do? Close your eyes and imagine what your home would look like cleaned and straightened up. Don’t get caught up in the stress of making it happen. Just enjoy your mind’s eye for the moment. We’ll circle back to how later.
  2. Your bedroom is the apex of your home’s sanctuary. You’re still laughing, amiright? That’s ok. We’re still working on that mind’s eye. We won’t look at the random piles of whatever is distracting you from your private oasis – stacks of bills that you cleared off the kitchen counter, or frames that need to be hung or your own laundry bomb that is on your bed and floor. Nope. What can you do? Again, close your eyes and imagine your room and its potential to be inviting when straightened up and cleaned. 
  3. FLYLADY. Circa 2002, I was introduced to FlyLady by my mother-in-law. She kept talking about keeping her sink clean and empty. I thought that alone was impossible. I had two small children and the thought of keeping anything clean as a daily “thing” seemed unreachable. But…I went to the website and signed up for the email alerts. Not born to be domestic either, I was curious to see what kind of magic this FlyLady could work in my life. One thing I’ve learned over the past 15 years is there is no project that can’t be tackled with small, manageable daily goals. And that’s the key to unlocking a simple life. We aren’t focusing on the WHOLE house {the overwhelmingness of the WHOLE house}. We are breaking it down into small steps. What can you do? Visit FlyLady’s website and sign up for her alerts. Already signed up? GREAT!
  4. Customize your daily schedule. Now that you’ve been receiving FlyLady alerts and see how her approach works, don’t be scared to modify it to fit YOUR family. What I learned from FlyLady was the foundation for discovering what works best for MY family, AS my family grew. What works today may not work tomorrow or next month or next year – and that’s ok. FlyLady gave me the tools to use what works and shelve what didn’t. What can I do? Use FlyLady as your foundation and make notes of what works and doesn’t work for your family.
  5. Invest in a GOOD planner. Whether it’s digital or hard copy, having a large family doesn’t *have* to be overwhelming when it comes to knowing who is doing what on what day and whose birthdays are coming up. Three years ago, I put the idea of creating a planner in the prayer hopper and in the summer of 2014, I ignored my family for four straight weeks {only marginally kidding!} creating the Catholic Through The Year planner, which is now available as PDF download and as a paper copy. No matter your choice – digital or paper – make sure you have one that suits YOUR needs. You will thank me. What can you do? Buy a planner, hello! 😉 
  6. Live by the list. Get all that mental clutter OUT OF YOUR HEAD and onto paper or your notes in your phone. If you’re like me, you can easily get overwhelmed trying to “listify” your lists {ok, one for homeschooling, one for everyday chores, household, blog, volunteering, etc.}, but this just confuses things. What can you do? Pour yourself a good cup of coffee and do a brain dump each day for 2-4 minutes. This visual will help you stay focused. Knock out what you can and cross off what gets done. Enjoy the satisfaction of striking through your list. 
  7. Take magnesium. I’m no doctor and I’m not going to convince you that you *must* do this, but let me encourage you to do your own research about the benefits of magnesium with respect to stress and anxiety {even depression including postpartum depression}. After doing some reading, I discovered that a huge percentage of people are deficient in magnesium. After tiring of taking magnesium horse pills and not wanting to spend a lot on calming powders, I found that taking a few grains of Celtic Sea Salt and letting it sit on my tongue for a few seconds before drinking a glass of water several times a day was not only cost effective, but it contained far more minerals than just magnesium. When I was pregnant and in a very heavy depression-like brain fog, taking the salt lifted me out of that fog after a week of diligently taking salt and drinking water only. Ironically, I started taking the salt because a friend recommended it for my pregnancy-induced heartburn. I not only ended up with minimal heartburn {where I normally have heartburn so bad it hurts to eat anything}, I did not suffer any migraine headaches or any headaches of any sort and still have not since I started in July. What can you do? Because this is my own personal experience, I again encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Moms of large families – we need our chill, yes? 😉 
  8. Create a financial budget. It’s rare to read about Catholic finances, but the reality is that part of being a good steward of the money that God has given your family {through you and your spouse’s talent} is knowing where everything goes and including a line item for important things like savings, paying off debt, tithing, charitable giving, gas, groceries, etc. As your family grows, it becomes even more paramount to have a solid financial plan in place. If you aren’t talking about money with your spouse, your life can’t move in the direction of simplifying. Ideally, you want to work together on this, but if you are like some couples and can’t, pray for your spouse to come around. It’s really important to know where your money is going and having small financial goals. It can go a long way in alleviating major stresses. What can you do? Pray before you talk about finances – individually and as a couple. Set small, reasonable financial goals. Look into Dave Ramsey. You can’t afford not to talk about money. ::you can purchase my Household Management bundle that includes a financial budget here::
  9. Love what you have. And toss out or donate what you don’t. This point builds on the first two of making your home and bedroom a sanctuary. THIS is how you start to get that sanctuary, friends. What can you do? Two particularly helpful tips from FlyLady that I incorporate even now is 1) you have a large family, so let’s put those bodies to work! Have them grab a plastic grocery bag each. Give them each one room to go through and toss trash away using those bags. This works in the backyard, too, with larger trash bags. They can pick up sticks, broken toys, and trash. 2) If you are in need of decluttering a room, you’ll need two boxes/bags, one that is TRASH and the other is DONATE. Again, you have a large family, so employ their help {in my case, I tend to bribe errm incentivize them with a trip to Sonic or a treat from our junk food closet – they all love ring pops!}. As bags fill up to donate, have runners take things down to the car so it is ready to be dropped off the next time you leave the house. Visit our Pinterest board Design.Home and Design.Organization for some inspiration. 
  10. I’ve recently taken a liking to door wreaths and found this perfect Catholic fleur de lis wood chip wreath over the weekend.

    Curb appeal and yard work on the cheap. This is one step that has always been a favorite as we head into springtime – in Texas, this happens soon! What can you do? I love heading to the local nursery and picking out some bright colored flowers and hanging plants in neutral planters or pick up some bold colored spray paint for your planters and plant some white flowers for balance.  When you have a lot of helpers, the phrase “many hands make for light work” could not be more true. You can follow me on Instagram here.

Order the Catholic Through The Year Planner {use coupon code LITURGICAL}  and Household Management {use coupon code HOUSEHOLD} bundle for 50% off these PDF files!

That’s all for this post on ways to simplify your life as a large Catholic family! Do you have something to add? I’d love to read YOUR tips in the comments. Maybe your tips will be the inspiration for another post. 🙂 

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A Frugal Woman Ink Slingers Mary S. Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series

Ode to Feminine Genius: A Frugal Woman

This is the third installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman.

Today’s topic will cover a Frugal Woman.

Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman - Frugal
Blessed Mother Teresa is the patron saint for the Frugal Woman

old bread muffin

A Frugal woman. Sounds kinda boring, doesn’t it? Like that woman wearing an ill-fitting jeans jumper that looks like it’s from 30 years ago, buying only day-old bread, never getting anything nice or new, and spouting off about how everyone should grow and grind their own flour, like her. Um yeah, I really don’t want to be that lady. The good news is that being frugal doesn’t have to look like that at all. Frugality just means making wise use of the gifts God has given us, whether it’s our talents and skills, our monetary income, our time and effort, or the material items we own. It means not wasting or throwing away those gifts. So, how does that look in everyday life?? Well, I’ll tell you about one major way my husband and I try to be frugal, then I’ll go through several different points to think about in considering how best to become more frugal in your own life.

Money can be a difficult topic in any marriage. I’ve heard that financial difficulties or disagreements are responsible for a large percentage of divorces and any married couple can tell you it’s the source of many arguments. As much as we should perhaps want to “rise above” such mundane and materialistic concerns, it can be difficult to avoid hearing your spouse criticize your spending habits and not take it personally. My husband and I have had our share of disagreements, usually rising from a difference in how our parents handled money and how we were raised to think of money, or even just our personalities – a matter of us doing things differently from each other, rather than one of us doing anything wrong. We’ve managed to work out a system that has been working fairly well for us with ideas originating from a variety of sources.

budget envelopes For a few years now we have roughly followed the advice of Dave Ramsey. The biggest change for us was going to a cash budget and planning where all of our money is going to go each month before we spend any of it. I’m better at making plans and organizing the details, so I work out the budget in a spreadsheet I created and figure out what bills we’ll need to pay and how much money goes in which envelope for the month. My husband is better at making sure those planned details actually happen, so he’s the one who sits down and writes the checks for the bills and makes sure each one gets paid. It amazed me at first, just how easy it was to stay on budget, simply because I had to actually pull out cash for whatever I wanted to buy! From one month to the next, we went from spending more than my husband’s paycheck, to being able to save money each month! I was afraid we’d feel so deprived, or that it would actually start more arguments, since we were really making an effort to save up some money in a “rainy day fund”, but that wasn’t the case at all. We try to touch base about the budget monthly or when there is a major expense that comes up and I think that heads off any arguments because we deal with differences or problems before they get big and emotional. Of course, we have had to make many adjustments as our family changed, our needs and wants changed, and my husband’s job changed. And it’s taken time to figure out the best separation of roles and what we each are best at. Nowadays, the changes are more minor since we’ve gotten the bigger aspects of our system worked out. In fact, the biggest change I have planned is to sew a cash envelope wallet (like in the tutorial here), to replace our ratty and wrinkled paper envelopes that tend to get misplaced or ripped.

Frugality is a difficult thing. Budgeting and money management is part of it, but clearly not the whole. The monthly duties of planning the budget and paying bills can be easy compared to the myriad daily choices we make that comprise a frugal way of life. It means a daily commitment to using the gifts we’ve been given wisely, deciding as a couple (for married folks) how best to use what we have, and to trusting that God will provide what we need as long as we do our part and follow His will. That looks different for each family, and certainly is a balancing act trying to figure out what works best. And as with most things, we can always do better. That can be discouraging at times, but I prefer to think of it as the “glass half full,” because when I’m disappointed because I made a poor or wasteful choice, I know there’s room for improvement next time. So here’s what I look at in attempting to be more frugal:

1. Budget

  • plan your budget: do what works for you. A spreadsheet plan and cash in envelopes has worked great for us, but another system might work better for your family.
  • stick to it, but
  • change it when needed: especially at first, towards the end of the month I would take money from envelopes that still had any to fill needs in other categories. When I frequently find myself short in one envelope and with extra in another, I change the budget for the next month.

2. Plan

  • Meal planning helps avoid wasted food, planning several errands for the same trip save time and gas, planning ahead for clothing needs enables you to take advantage of the best sales.
  • Even in small things, planning can help: knowing you have enough milk or eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast means avoiding a last minute shopping trip or a stressful change of menu in the morning.

3. Discuss with your spouse

  • this isn’t a one-off thing, you really need to keep checking in to make sure you’re both on the same page
  • look at each of your strengths and weaknesses to decide how best to divide the responsibilities, whether it’s budgeting and bill-paying, shopping and cooking, childcare, or anything.
  • if things change, discuss with your spouse again.
  • If things don’t change, discuss with your spouse again (I know, broken record, right?!?! Seriously, planning and talking about your plan together really is the best advice I could give any married couple!!)

4. Consider the smaller “daily” stuff

  • Consider whether clipping coupons is for you. Have you checked out discount or second-hand stores in your area? Even if there are some things you really want to buy brand new, I’m frequently amazed at the quality of some items I find at my favorite thrift stores!
  • something is broken?? Rather than tossing it, take a moment to see if it can be fixed, re purposed, or recycled
  • Even having “grungy” clothes set aside for when you paint or do other messy stuff (or having separate play and school/church clothes for your kids) is also a way to be frugal, because it saves your nicer (and usually more expensive!) clothes from getting stained, torn, or otherwise ruined.
  • Learn to do some things yourself: cooking from scratch, buying large cuts of meat and cutting/packaging them yourself, sewing, gardening, all these skills are great for making better use of the resources you have
  • share skills with others: my MOMS club enjoys doing some play dates where we learn new skills and share what we know with each other, and we’ve also worked out trades and barters for some skills – mending a friend’s pants once got me a couple jars of her delicious strawberry jam!! You might be surprised what some of your friends could teach you to do, or could barter with you for something you can do.

5. Pray

  • Okay, this really should be the very first step! Because the first step is discerning how and where you need to make better use of your gifts, and that means prayerfully considering your lifestyle.

Clearly, this is just a start. There are so many different personalities, needs and family situations that there’s no way I could address every need. There are so many websites and resources on how to save money, and make better use of what you have, that this post is really more an encouragement and a few ideas for you to consider your own situation. So put away the thought of a cranky, styleless, penny-pinching lady, and consider how you can joyfully be frugal with what you’ve been given. I’ll be there with you, singing while I mend my kiddos’ torn clothes!

So, what are some tips that YOU can add to this list? In what ways do you live frugally and how does it help your family?

::DISCLAIMER: Recognizing that each family, marriage, woman is different, this series is intended to give advice and information based on the writer’s personal experience. These are not intended to say that our way is best and that we know what’s best for your family, but rather the point is to share some things that have worked for us. We welcome your ideas in the comments and/or look forward to seeing your posts that highlight things that work in your home. We’re all in this together!::