Small victory – dining room table

I conquered it! It only took three days but I was able to completely clean off our dining room table. I didn’t just move the piles elsewhere. I sorted, put things away in their permanent homes, scanned paperwork, paid bills, and basically processed every single item that had accumulated over the summer. I am so proud of myself.

Next up… this small corner where paperwork tends to multiply.

One small step at a time and I will conquer the chaos.

Coming back to life

My daughter returned to school last Thursday. Not so coincidentally, I suddenly started coming back to life. Full time parenting drains me; I really have no idea how parents of littles can handle it. Having almost six and a half hours to myself every weekday is such a blessing and so very needed.

My motivation and energy levels are still minimal. But I feel like I’m coming back up for air. The difference is startling and makes me painfully aware that I have some emotional work to do. I shouldn’t (there’s that word my therapist doesn’t like – shouldn’t) lose all emotional energy and drive when my daughter is on school holidays. I put everything into parenting her and leave nothing for myself. To have that time during school hours to recharge, to spend time doing things outside of parenting, is vital to my well-being. Hopefully someday I can figure out how to survive both during school and during holidays.

Last week I started working through the backlog of my email. I finished on Sunday. I’m happy that I was able to unsubscribe from a few more newsletters, respond to personal email, and delete everything that I really didn’t need. My inbox is now at zero emails and I’m hoping to stay on top of it.

I also finally scanned all of the photos my daughter brought home with her from Taiwan. She has photos of age four or so through the end of her time at the orphanage. My goal is to create and print a photo album for her, merging together her time in Taiwan and her time with our family. I would love to give it to her for Christmas, but I also know how unlikely that is. I would love to be able to complete it that quickly, but it’s hard to predict how much effort I can make from day to day.

I’m also putting a priority on decluttering a couple key areas of the house. Over the summer, the dining room table turned into a complete disaster. That surface has almost been reclaimed. Maybe tomorrow? My clothes closet has also gotten extremely messy and it’s difficult to find things in there. Getting some of these things done will hopefully reduce the anxiety caused by clutter, which will in turn allow me to focus on some of my healing.

I want to find healing. I am slowly gaining determination to find healing. I still struggle with anxiety and sometimes with depression. I still have PTSD. I am discovering some buried and some not-so-buried religious trauma due to negative religious foundations. I really, really want to find some confidence and self-worth. I want to let go of my need for control and my perfectionism fixation.

Life can be more than survival. I need it to be more than survival. One small step at a time, right?

Nutberg Drinkable Meals – a review

Normally I am only requested to review books but Nutberg reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their drinkable meals. Yes, please! I browsed their website and was thrilled to discover that Nutberg has created a drinkable meal that is all natural ingredients, healthy, and vegan. Vegan! It’s so hard to find convenient meal options that are vegan.

When I opened the package and showed my husband what I had received, he immediately commented that these look like MRE’s. The presentation could be more pleasantly designed but the information and instructions printed on the package were incredibly easy to understand and follow.

I decided to try these flavors in order of expected enjoyment – highest to lowest. We started with Cocoa, then Classic, then Banana. The directions stated that I could blend each packet with either water or milk. I chose almond milk because I always use almond milk in my mochas. Almond milk adds more flavor and substance to drinks than plain water does.

Cocoa flavor

I expected that we would like Cocoa flavor the best because chocolate is always best! Unfortunately, I couldn’t really taste the cocoa flavor.

Jeff – “Yuck. It needs a sweetener.”
Me – “It has an ok taste but the texture is too grainy. I could drink maybe half of this with my meal but not as a full meal replacement.”

We were unable to drink the entire serving.

Classic flavor

Jeff – “It smells sweeter than the Cocoa flavor. The smell reminds me of cinnamon oatmeal. Of the three, this one was my favorite.”

Cassandra – “Classic flavor is also my favorite of the three, even though it seemed like I was drinking my morning oatmeal!”

We drank an entire serving. The flavor was fine but the texture was off-putting after half a cup. We drank it at 10:20 in the morning and waited to see how long it would satisfy, especially since the meal was 560 calories with the added almond milk. After three hours, we started getting hungry for our next meal. I was surprised at how full I felt for the first two hours, very satiated but not overly full. The Nutberg website stated that you would feel full for 2-3 hours and my experience slightly exceeded their promises!

Banana flavor

My husband hates bananas so I didn’t tell him what flavor this was until after he had tried it. I didn’t want to bias him against the drink. Surprisingly, he couldn’t tell that this was banana flavored!

Jeff – “It’s palatable but doesn’t taste much different from Classic flavor.” When I told him this was Banana, he said that he could detect a hint of something different but didn’t think “banana.”

Me – “I agree with Jeff’s opinion but thought maybe I could detect a hint of banana.”

Overall, this was not a huge success with our family. The Classic flavor was ok but it’s not something that I would want to drink on a regular basis. I could see keeping a couple packets in my cupboard in case of a food emergency. I think these are worth trying at least once, especially if you’re looking for a meal replacement.

Thank you so much for Nutberg giving me a free product to try in exchange for an honest review!

January – Kitchen and recipe overhaul

In January, I’m tackling another 31 day project. This month I am concentrating on everything in the kitchen. Our fridge, freezer, and cupboards have gotten out of control. My menu planning and grocery shopping has been in shambles, which means our grocery budget has spiraled out of control.

This first week of January has been crazy with the girls going back to school, starting up therapy sessions again, and a trip to the ER. So I haven’t been able to blog about my goals for January but I have been working on them!

The very first thing I tackled was our fridge. It was a mess! I forgot to take pictures as I went but imagine wilting vegetables, expired condiments, and stale bread. Spills on shelves. That’s all been cleaned up and it’s now much easier to tell at a glance what we have available to eat or cook with.

Secondly, I tackled our freezer. I’m not sure you can tell the difference in the photos, but I threw out several bags of disgusting frozen bananas. We also ate a couple bags of things that were getting low. Then I organized the rest.


Before


After

After cleaning out the fridge and freezer, we were able to buy some basic supplies I hadn’t even realized we needed. Our meal planning has really been that much of a mess lately that I didn’t even realize what we have or don’t have.

“Mama, what’s for dinner?”
“Ramen.”

Ramen has been a fall back once a week for the past few months. We’ve also been eating a lot of rice and tofu with various sauces. Meal planning has been so stressful that I can’t even remember what we used to like to eat. My girls have gotten more and more picky, causing more and more anxiety on my part, so meals have really been a mess. That’s what I’m trying to fix this month, one small step at a time.

This week I’ll be concentrating on my recipe book. I have a binder stuffed full of recipes and I have no idea which meals we liked or didn’t like. I can’t even tell what recipes we’ve actually tried. I just printed a bunch of recipes, bought ingredients for many of them, and then promptly forgot why I had purchased sun-ripened tomatoes in a jar. They are still sitting in my cupboard, months after buying them. An expensive ingredient, too!

I’m going to empty out the binder and go through each recipe one by one. Does it still sound good? Did we try it? Did we like it? I’ll slowly reassemble my recipe binder with recipes we actually like so that I can start working on a meal plan.

As I type all of this out, it sounds overwhelming. But I’m going to concentrate on just one step at a time and try to regain control of my kitchen.

Minimalism – December wrap up

Like usual, I overestimated how much I could complete with the kids at home for two weeks of winter break. However, due to lots and lots of therapy, I can actually be happy with the tasks that I did accomplish rather than stress about what I was unable to finish.


Before


After

This section of my closet doesn’t actually look much better than it did at the beginning of December. But I know how many fewer items there are now versus how much was piled there. It used to be a huge pile of papers, papers that have mostly been dealt with. Now there are several large items that I’ll be dealing with at some other point.


Before


After

That huge box was all library books. I somehow managed to let my borrowing get way out of control. I hauled all of it back to the library and am concentrating on only borrowing what I can read in a week or two (which happens to also fit on my bookshelf instead of getting stacked on the closet floor). It took four bags to haul everything back to the library.


Before


After

I am most proud of my work on these shelves. I got rid of a lot (including some items that were hard to let go of) and can now easily find anything I’m looking for.


Before


After

Changing light bulbs should be a really simple task. Surprisingly, it took me three weeks to accomplish. I had to visit three stores before I finally found the size I was looking for. I thought for sure Target would have carried them but I ended up having to buy light bulbs from Home Depot. The nice thing about this shopping trip is that it required a math lesson with my daughter.

In a very shocked voice, “Mama, how many boxes are you buying?”
“Well, how many bulbs do we need? How many come in a box? So how many boxes do we need? Great job with your practical math application!”

And it looks so much better in my bathroom now.


Before


After

I’m not sure these photos look much different, but I was able to thin out a lot of my clothes. Some didn’t fit me. Some were ratty. And some I didn’t like and never wore. I felt bad getting rid of a couple items, as they were things my husband bought me as gifts, but we both knew I would never wear them. I posted earlier in the month about how we were able to return a couple of items to the store for refund or store credit.

I did a few other things that can’t be documented in photographs.

  • Tried to contact (unsuccessfully) several people to return items I had borrowed
  • Mailed a very overdue package to my mother
  • Released a ton of emotional clutter by releasing physical clutter
  • Wrapped a bunch of Christmas gifts that piled up in our closet throughout the month
  • My project is not complete but I’m happy with the progress I made. That makes the effort worthwhile.

    Items decluttered throughout the month of December – 59

    Minimalism – Day 20

    My decluttering efforts have slowed way, way down. I’m still moving stuff out of the house but at a much slower rate.

    Instead, this week I’ve been focused on finishing preparations for Christmas. I waited until the very last minute to find Chinese books for my eldest and they may not arrive in time for Christmas. I misunderstood a quality rating on Amazon and the two that already arrived are not good enough quality to give as a Christmas gift. So I ordered two more new books from a Chinese website, only to find that one of them is out of stock and they needed me to choose another. As that replacement order was finalized yesterday, the books may or may not arrive on time.

    My closet, the main focus of this month’s challenge, has been the storage unit for all things Christmas. Our Christmas tree, all of the presents, the wrapping paper… all was stored in my closet. When we take down the Christmas tree, I’ll be putting it outside in the storage closet rather than in my personal closet. And the Christmas presents are almost wrapped so I’m starting to see my closet floor again!

    I did give away one item on my BuyNothing group this week and have tentative pick ups for two more items tomorrow. My clothes are almost narrowed down to those that I actually wear plus a couple of pieces that I love and want to wear once I can get back to my goal weight. It’s been enlightening to let go of some of the items that I never wore, realizing that I actually felt guilt for them sitting in my closet unworn. Now that they are gone, I feel freer.

    And it’s now quite obvious what clothing color scheme I prefer! What’s left in my closet is all dark greens, purples, and pinks. I love dark red and think it’s a great color for me but it’s a color I’ve never been brave enough to buy. Hopefully that will change as I find some money in our budget to buy a couple of new clothing pieces.

    Going forward, my goal is to think twice before buying anything. On the Facebook minimalism group, someone suggested adding an item to your Amazon cart and then waiting 30 days. After the 30 days, go back and evaluate. Do I actually love this item? Will I actually use it? If so, and if I can afford the purchase, say yes. If I’m just caught up in the emotions of shopping, resist temptation. My closet and my wallet will thank me.

    Items decluttered (to-date) – 42

    Minimalism – Day 14

    I told my husband today that I’m slightly… odd. I’ve been spending my alone time lately taking a bath while reading a book or playing Pokemon Shuffle. That’s semi-normal, right? But I got derailed from my Christmas movies, which is what I usually watch once I’m in my pajamas and curled up in bed. Instead, I’ve been watching a YouTube blogger share her progress from hoarder to minimalist. And that’s fun for me! It’s motivating in my own challenge and fun to watch someone else make progress in their attempts to create a more peaceful home.

    Today I tackled a drawer in our bathroom. The drawer was a mess! Expired sunscreen, random hair bands, jewelry I never wear, and loose hair. Yuck! I dumped everything out of the drawer, scrubbed it down, and only put back what I want to keep. I moved a few things like lotions and face wash under the sink and tidied what was left. It’s not going to stay organized, since I don’t have any containers to keep it from sliding around every time I open the drawer. But at least there is less to rummage through while I’m looking for something.


    Before


    After

    And my girls keep running off with my hair dryer so I bought them each one for Christmas! One blue and one pink. I think they’ll be pleased.

    Items decluttered (to-date) – 40

    Minimalism – Day 11

    I feel like my minimalism attempts have slowed down.

    • The store didn’t have the light bulbs I need.
    • I need someone’s address to return something I borrowed. They haven’t responded to several texts.
    • I’m struggling to make decisions about my clothing.

    And yet I am making a lot of progress.


    Before


    Progress

    • I finally let go of the half-finished quilt.
    • My Christmas package for my mom is almost finished, which moves several items out of my closet.
    • I have given away four shirts I never wear.

    And as I maintain motivation to work on my room, I find motivation to make a few quick decisions in the rest of the house. For example, I finally threw out the ketchup packets in the fridge; we don’t buy that brand (HFCS) and will probably never use it. I’m also noticing a lot of areas that need work. I have a ton of recyclable water filters under my kitchen sink. They need returned to the manufacturer (postage paid!).

    In the meantime, I’ve watched a few YouTubers who are documenting their journey to minimalism. Very inspiring!

    Items decluttered (to-date) – 27

    Minimalism – Day 5

    This video has been enlightening these past two weeks as I’ve been processing things with both my husband and my therapist.

    Basically, the video talks about the idea of Fantasy Self versus Reality Self. Fantasy Self is the person I imagine myself to be. Reality Self is self-explanatory, who I actually am. For a light-hearted example, Fantasy Self bakes elaborate vegan cheesecakes, spending hours getting it just right. Reality Self borrowed a cheesecake pan from a friend about six months ago and still hasn’t found the energy to try her first cheesecake.

    A more serious example – Fantasy Self is an amazing homeschooling Mom, someone who sits down and plans what we are going to learn this week, learning things herself in front of her children so that they will be inspired, etc. Reality Self enrolled both children in public school because she needs space and alone time every single day in order to be able to parent effectively.

    Fantasy Self versus Reality Self is one of the guidelines I’m using as I declutter and clean my personal retreat space. Is this item part of my Fantasy Self or my Reality Self? Do I actually use it? Does it bring me joy? I think the quilt I posted about yesterday is part of my Fantasy Self, not my Reality Self. I’m still trying to let it go.

    Items decluttered (to-date) – 8

    December Challenge – Day One

    Today I didn’t make any huge changes to my bedroom / bathroom / closet but I was able to get the ball rolling. First I completed some basic housecleaning chores; I washed the sheets, tidied the bedroom, and swept the floor.

    Then I dug through my supply of light bulbs, thinking I would get one of the easiest tasks out of the way. I found three different sizes of light bulbs. None of those three fit the outlets above the bathroom sink. Oops. So we’re still missing half the light bulbs in our bathroom and I now need to buy more.

    I also did a quick scan of my house, picking up any stray papers that were lying about. I only found a couple, as I’ve mostly been staying on top of what the FlyLady calls “hotspots,” places where things just pile up because they have no home. I also dug through the closet and pulled out all of the papers scattered around. Those I tucked into the big blue bin in my closet. I haven’t touched the sorting, scanning, organizing process for all of that paperwork, but at least everything is in the same place.

    Progress! I’m not sure I’m going to get anything else done today. I have to leave shortly to pick up my youngest daughter from school, run a couple of errands, pick up my oldest daughter from school, run a couple more errands, make dinner, and then we have youth group tonight at church. Whew!

    Items decluttered – 3