Microwave Culture, the Myth of Balance, and the Peace of a Slowed Down Life

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Slow living. This concept that I'm basing more than just my blog posts around. It sounds pretty, peaceful even, but what is it? I've hinted at it, talked about it in passing on some of my other posts this year, but we haven't exactly defined what it is. And while the details might vary by person, the concept is the same - it's about decelerating modern life, by being mindful of our time and making sure every day is full of things that matter to us. Not the things that we think matter or that society tells us should matter, but the things at our core - our real needs and values. It's slowing down in order to quit stress and foster peace in its place.

Everything That's Been Hard Lately

Monday, March 23, 2020

An ominous title for a post, I know. I do, in general, want to keep this space a spot of calmness and simplicity in a chaotic world. But before I can really do that and explain why and how I live slow and simple, I need to go back and explain all the things that were hard. This post is the only one that's a bit negative, it'll be getting more positive from here. So, here are the things that happened in 2019 (and last week) that were mentally and emotionally taxing:

Things Look Different

Friday, March 20, 2020

Things look different around here. Maybe you noticed when you opened this post, and maybe it didn't hit you until I told you to look around, but it is different. Maybe you picked up on the fact that the post title isn't just about a blog layout.

Simple Clean Home Habits

Monday, February 3, 2020

This post may contain affiliate links.

I try to make sure our house is always clean.  Not deep clean like everything is freshly scrubbed and sanitized, but clean in that everything is always in it's place and there's no mess that couldn't be straightened up in two minutes.  I like that people could stop by on a whim and I don't feel like I have to do power cleaning in the few minutes before they arrive - that kind of life is too stressful for me.  In order to keep a simple and clean home, all the time, I've adopted a few habits that keep everything in line with ease:

Remove the excess.  It's much harder to clean if the things you own don't fit in the space you have them.  Everything needs room to breathe, and putting items away shouldn't be like playing tetris.  I started years ago with major decluttering but now I just keep an eye out and remove things that shouldn't be in a particular room or shouldn't be in the home at all because they aren't being used and loved.

Organize what you have.  There's no point in organizing clutter, but once I'm down to the things that I know I'm keeping, I make sure to organize them.  I keep like items together so I know how much I have and where it is and I always make sure that every item has a place to be returned to.  It's much easier to keep a space clean when you know where to put everything away.

If it takes one minute, just do it.  I don't let small tasks pile up.  If something is going to take just a minute or two, I get it done.  Sorting the mail, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash - if I let all of those things pile up all week, I would spend all of Sunday trying to get it cleaned up, and at that point the house is a disaster.  By getting small projects done as I see them, I spend far less time overall on completing them.

Make the bed.  A classic for a reason.  Making the bed makes the entire room look more clean and put together, regardless of what else is going on in there in terms of clutter.  There are some days it just doesn't happen and some days that Hawkeye completely unmakes it right after I finish, but I at least try to do it daily because it makes a real difference in our bedroom.  Which is right off the kitchen so it's always highly visible.

Open windows.  Opening windows purifies the air and instantly freshens a space.  Everything in the home just seems like it has new life when I open the windows.

Hang clothes and coats, and put shoes away.  I don't know about you, but I do not wash everything I wear after only one time of wearing it.  I work a desk job in an office, my clothing is not dirty.  Rather than just put everything in the hamper or piled on a chair in the bedroom, I take the extra second to properly hang anything I plan on wearing again before washing.  We do the same with coats.  The area where coats and shoes get left is obviously the first area people see when they come in the house.  Instead of tossing coats over chairs or couches, just hang them up.  Likewise, get a tray or rack stationed right by the door so it's super easy to put the shoes away when you take them off.

Take shoes off at the door.  Shoes track dirt and shoe prints all over the house.  Your cleaning routine will be instantly made easier by just stopping the problem before it even starts by removing shoes at the door.  I really don't enforce this with guests because some people are more comfortable with leaving their shoes on, which is fine - I'd rather my guest be comfortable and I can clean later.  But for me and John, the rule is shoes off at the door.

Keep the sink clear.  Keeping the sink clear is the kitchen version of 'make the bed.'  Whatever else you do, the kitchen will look better if you have an empty and clean sink.  I make sure to do this once in the morning after we make breakfast and once in the evening after dinner.  Waking up to a clean sink is worth it's weight in gold.

Focus on clear surfaces.  Our eyes go straight to surface clutter so if you can make sure that counter and table tops stay clear, it goes a long way towards making the whole house seem clean.  Clutter also attracts more clutter so if you set one thing down, 10 more will come join it.  It's the law, I think.

Keep the necessary tools close at hand.  I have a cleaning caddy in the laundry room that houses most things, but since that's in the basement, it would be too annoying to grab the tools out to wipe down the main level bathroom every day.  Instead, I keep a few microfiber cloths and the cleaning spray in the bathroom itself, under the sink.  Since it's always close at hand, it takes me no more than 30 seconds to wipe down the bathroom counter and mirror everyday, which helps the dirt not to pile up and create a huge weekend project for me.

Get a stick vacuum.  We have a long stick vacuum but a small handheld would have the same effect - in a pinch or with a small mess, it's too big of a pain to lug out the full size vacuum.  Get something that's small and cordless for those moments when things just need a quick clean.

Clean as you go during cooking.  I cannot tell you what a time saver this is.  Start with an empty dishwasher, and just load it up as you're cooking.  This stops the pile of dishes in the sink.  If you make any messes while cooking, clean them immediately.  It's so much easier to wipe up a fresh mess than it is to come back to it when it's dried and caked on.

Do it right the first time.  Put the stain remover on.  Rinse the dish and put it in the dishwasher.  Hang the coat instead of draping it on the chair.  If you don't do it right the first time, you're only making twice as much work for yourself because you have to come back and do it again anyway.

Don't leave rooms empty handed.  I always check to see what I can take with me when I leave a room that doesn't belong in there.  I return pens to the office area and mugs to the dishwasher and clothing to the laundry room.  I never leave a room empty handed because otherwise I'd just have to come back and clean it later.  Again, do it right the first time.

Tidy at the end of every evening.  If you do a quick 5 or 10 minute tidy of the house before bed, you won't need to spend hours doing it on the weekend.  Just quickly sweep through the main living spaces and put things away and straighten up blankets, chairs, pillows, etc.

Make it a team effort.  If you're not the only one making the mess, you shouldn't be the only one cleaning it.  Delegate responsibilities and make sure people are responsible for their own messes.

What habits do you stick to to make sure your home remains clean most of the time?

Everything I Bought (and Acquired) in 2019

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

This post may contain affiliate links. 

Everything that comes into my home is inventory that I have to manage.  Whether I buy it or accept it from someone else, I am now in charge of tracking, using, and caring for that thing.  This includes things like groceries of course, but it also includes physical items that stay for the long haul.  My capacity to deal with this stuff is lower than most - that's why I'm a minimalist.  I see nothing but stress when I look at a cluttered room.  So I decided to really stay on top of this over the last 10+ months, not only to keep my overall inventory low, but also to create less waste and buy things more mindfully rather than just accept things that I throw away later.

Depending on how closely you track my monthly posts about planning, which includes my budget and spending tracker, you may already know about most of these things.  But I think it's interesting to share again anyway so you can see everything, in one spot, that I bought during the 2019 calendar year so far, possibly to be updated at the end of the year again.  It may be a little hard to track during the next month because of my birthday and Christmas but I'm going to try, so I thought it best to get the easy part out of the way, which is the last 10 months.  This is just a stuff tracker, and tracking all purchases and gifts was a goal on my 101 list so I'm happy to check this one off.  To see everything I spent on bills and services (like Hawkeye's grooming, my haircuts, etc.), you can refer to those monthly posts.


I didn't buy anything in January.  Although all of 2019 was a no to low spend year for me, January was the month where it was a main focus.  I tried to make only one or two main focuses each month this year, because then I could dedicate more energy to it.  January was Whole30 and not having access to my debit or credit card.  I did carry cash but I didn't end up using it on anything since Whole30 was so strict in terms of food and drink (which is where I often spend too much.)  So other than a couple of bills, I just didn't spend money this month.


Contacts.  I wear contacts that you throw out every two weeks but let's get real, it takes me like a month to remember to actually switch them.  So I buy two boxes at a time and it lasts me over a year.  I've still got plenty.  Cost: $215.

Valentine's Day gifts for John.  I thought about not including gifts on this list because it's not like it's stuff I bought for me, but it is still stuff.  And for John in particular, it's stuff that lives in our house.  This isn't a big holiday so it was pretty simple: two space bags for an extra set of bedding for the firehouse, and a sheet set and comforter to go in them.  I started this year with over $300 in Amazon gift cards so this cost $57, but it came out of that gift card money and not my monthly budget.  Cost: $0

Valentine's Day gifts from John.  As far as 'things I acquired' this month, it's just what I got from John for Valentine's Day, which were things I requested.  Namely, this set of reusable grocery bags.  (We also went to dinner on a gift card I got from my parents for Christmas, and he paid for the extra cocktails we got before dinner.)  He also bought 2 baking sheets, 2 baking pans with lids, and silicone mats that we had been needing for a long time.  Cost: $0

Vase.  John's grandfather passed away at the end of 2018 and John's sister bought his house.  Which meant that early 2019 was full of moving everything out so she could move in in March.  We like to keep our home minimal (especially after John was the main person moving all the big furniture out - he's more a minimalist than ever after that), so I tried not to accept too many things, but we did get a really nice glass vase that belonged to John's grandma.  Cost: $0

4 candles.  Betsy came over for a blog day and brought my birthday/Christmas present with.  They've already been burned by the time of this post, obviously.  But they came and were loved and used!  Cost: $0

Total Items Acquired: 7 (counting things like the candles as one set)
Total Gifts for Others: 4


March was another lovely month of not buying anything outside of bills.  John did (March Madness bracket and squares) but I'm not counting his spending here.

I didn't acquire anything in March, mostly because I turned down a ton of free St. Patrick's Day clutter.  Every bar wants to give you beads and shirts and shot glasses and tons of other branded and green merchandise.  I just don't need it, so I refused it all.  John accepted a couple of things but I conveniently forgot to remind him to pick them up when he left them on a bar top towards the end of the day.

Other things of note: I bought a e-gift card for Steph for her birthday but I had that Amazon money, so nothing physical ever changed hands.  And technically, I ordered it back in December 2018 to be automatically sent on the day.  Does that count as stuff?  Did I even really buy it?  Did I even buy it this year?  I don't know, but there you go.


Anniversary gifts for John.  Lagavulin 16 year scotch, to be exact, which is $100 a bottle.  Again, this is a consumable and not stuff, as well as a gift, but I committed to tracking these anyway.  I also got him a whistle with a fire logo that's also a bottle opener because he coaches junior high football and needs a whistle and beers to deal with that job.  It cost me $10 but came out of that Amazon gift card money.  Cost: $100

Anniversary gifts from John.  I got sandals and a new dress, which I think are truly the first items I've gotten all year that are both physical stuff that will remain in the house and solely for my own personal benefit.  These were on my wish list because last year's sandals bit the dust and I had to trash them over the winter, and I wanted an additional dress that was appropriate for work since I only had 4 and another would just make my life easier.  Cost: $0

Other things of note: I also went to Beth's bridal shower but didn't count the gift as 'stuff I bought this year' because I got something off her registry at a deep, deep discount after Christmas in 2018 and kept it for the occasion.  For the rest of April, it was simultaneously hard and easy to not spend or acquire anything.  It was hard because I started my new job mid-month, and of course I wanted things like a new planner and some new clothes (which I didn't need, of course), just general 'treat yo self' type things.  But was also easy not to give into these impulses because I didn't work for the first two weeks of the month, and obviously wouldn't get paid until the end of the month, so I was living off savings.  A move that will definitely keep your spending in check.  As did watching $10,000 leave my account to pay for our new deck.

Total Items Acquired: 2
Total Gifts for Others: 2


Here's where things started getting tougher to do so than the other months so far.  Everyone wants to make plans when the weather turns nice, plans that involve shopping.  We had a ton of rain so that helped me spend less, but I did have to talk some people out of expensive outings (and talked my mom out of the outlet mall!)

Planner and pens.  I got a new 2019-2020 planner in the mail along with a set of pens, but since it was PR, I didn't spend anything on it.  Cost: $0

Other things of note: I did not spend money for Eric and Beth's wedding, which was the first weekend in May.  (a) It's John's brother, so I feel like wedding expenses fall on the person whose family member or friend is getting married, meaning John paid for the gas to get to Indiana and food we ate outside of the actual rehearsal and wedding dinners.  (b) I won $300 in the fantasy football league in 2018 that Eric runs and rather than collect from him, I told him in January of this year to just keep it and think of it as a wedding gift, since there's so many expenses that come up leading up to a wedding.  As far as other traditional wedding guest costs: I wear nothing but dresses as it is and do own a pair of nude heels, so I had clothes to wear already.  Plus I always do my own hair, makeup and nails, so no expenses there either.  And I don't ever take wedding favors so I didn't come home with any clutter!

Total Items Acquired: 2 


New console table.  I feel like this was really the first true time I spent money on stuff I didn't technically need.  When we got the deck installed, they also replaced the flooring in our sun room and added french doors, which finally made that little room usable (note: although the deck and doors and the new flooring we also got in the basement would technically be stuff, it's physically part of/attached to the house now so I'm not counting it for this post.)  John has eventual plans for a TV and a bar in there or something, but when it was first done I knew I wanted a little table in there to place serving platters and such on.  Could we have lived without the table?  Yes.  Do I regret the purchase?  No.  We use it constantly and it looks great in that room.  We have so little furniture and decor as it is so I don't mind one little table sneaking in this year.  Cost: $115.01

Mascara.  I feel sort of bad that I'm supposed to replace it every 3 months and it's clearly been at least 6 ... but not that bad.  I just paid for it with cash I got from the grocery budget, but it's about $5.

Mildliners.  For work, but still.  I ordered them and paid for them since our normal office supply place doesn't carry them, but then everyone loved them so the office manager ordered a whole bunch.  Which means I don't have to pay for them anymore, win.  Cost: $5.99

Total Items Acquired: 3


The Threads of Fate Book of Days and Shadow Oracle Deck.  Again, not something I spent my own money on so the cost was $0, but still - items acquired.  Absolutely worth the space they take up in my home, but I'm sure you've seen them ad nauseam on my Instagram, so no need to rehash here.

Birthday gift for John.  I got him this ridiculous handmade, personalized bags set (cornhole) he wanted, complete with bag storage and laminate siding and rope lighting.  Cost: $350 (I know.)

Set of new towels.  We replaced our old ones.  Cost: $117.82

Garage door remotes.  We've never had any for some reason and since we finally cleaned it out enough to park a car in there, it was time to get them.  Cost: $4.95

Total Items Acquired: 4
Total Gifts for Others: 1


Halloween decor.  John got me a couple of things from Spirit Halloween, namely Hocus Pocus themed coasters, a candle, a hand towel, and a blanket.  Cost: $0

Total Items Acquired: 4
Normally I don't track Halloween decor but it was literally the only thing in August so...


New leash.   I had to buy a new leash for Hawkeye for the first time since I got her the first leash 9 years ago.  We caught a husky running loose around our neighborhood.  Hawkeye can be carried and doesn't run away from me anyway so I took her leash off in order to rope it around the loose dog's neck.  Success.  No owners in sight and no tags so we had to take him to the police station, and I left my leash on him since he was already contained and settled down with it on (and he was a big boy).  Bye bye, old Hawkeye leash.  But you did a good job for years and went out with a bang, saving a lost dog.  Cost of new leash: $11.54.

Total Items Acquired: 1


I did not buy or acquire as much in October as I anticipated!  I had a large chunk of money set aside for this month because we throw an annual Halloween party and just generally decorate from top to bottom, but it turns out we had almost everything we needed to decorate and serve, and what we really needed to buy were food and drinks.  Plus I also put deposits down on our Disney vacation this month and seeing that money leave my account made me not want to buy anything else.

Chafing dishes I really wanted these for party hosting purposes so I just bit the bullet and bought our own because we don't have anyone in the family to borrow these from.  I'm happy we have them - we do host enough to make it worth it!  Cost: 129.99

Solar lights The front of our house looks too dark so I wanted to brighten it up.  I love these solar lights, they work great and look pretty.  Cost: $27.99

I didn't track the other things acquired related to Halloween because I don't track Halloween decor the way I do everything else in the house.  Oh well.

Total Items Acquired: 5


It's only the 13th and my birthday isn't until the 20th so I think this will change wildly by the end of the month, but that's an update for January 2020, along with whatever else I buy or receive for Christmas.

Dress.  I did some decluttering and got rid of 5 dresses, 3 of which were fall/winter ones. That left me short so I added one more to my collection (I like to have 5, so I can wear a different one to work each day). Cost: $25

Total Items Acquired: 1

Number of things purchased or acquired: 29
Number of things that were gifts for others: 7

I don't think that's bad at all!  I would like to do better in 2020, but I feel good about the progress I made so far this year.  I just have to keep birthday and Christmas under control.