Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making space for a large family; decluttering

Betsy asked a couple of great questions in relation to an organizing post.  I answered her first question here, and now I'll try to answer her second question.

How do you choose what stuff to keep and what to get rid of? What about kids toys, do you let them pick or just get rid of it? What about hubbies stuff? Does he go through it or do you just get rid of it for him? We are a family of packrats in a small house so stuff is a constant issue.

First off, I think everyone struggles with this to some degree or another.  We are living in a very materialistic consumer centered society.  It has its blessings; just about anything you or I could need are just a quick trip down the road or even a click away!  However the drawback is that we often are tempted to pick up things we don't really need or we enjoy the thrill of the hunt as we find a great deal only to find that the object does not bring any joy, does not really make life easier and ends up being a waste of money and sometimes even causing more work.  How do we get away from this? How do we know what should stay in our homes and what needs to go?  How do we de-clutter?  

What to keep and what to get rid of- When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of ask yourself some questions.  Do I/we love it?  Do I/we use it?  Does this help our family glorify God?  Is there something else that also serves the same purpose this does?  Do I have more than one (and if so do I need more than one)?  Does it fit easily into the space we have?  If I get rid of this will it really save me any space/time (as an example- my husband has a bin of straps.  He uses some of them, but could get rid of some.  However he would still need that same small bin to hold the ones he does need.  He chooses to keep the others since getting rid of them will not save any space and they COULD come in handy some day).

What about kids' toys- That really depends on the toys, child, and situation.  I can safely de-clutter the baby toys with no objections from the baby.  Toddler toys are fairly safe, but I need to be more careful.  However; my goal as a parent in de-cluttering with my kids is to teach them good judgement and organizing skills, not to get rid of their stuff.  We talk about the questions I listed above and help them answer those questions so they can come to their own decisions about their things.  Sometimes when they live out what we are teaching they end up teaching us. We talk about the fact that when we have more stuff we must spend more time taking care of that stuff.  Which would we rather spend our time doing-- taking care of our stuff or with each other?  Do we enjoy our home more when it is messy or when it is neat and tidy?  I've found that in going through this with the kids they have usually come to some very wise decisions on their own.  That being said my husband and I reserve the right as parents to remove any toy, book, object etc that is causing problems (too many fights, not being well cared for, left out repeatedly) or does not align with our family values. 

What about our husbands- That really depends on your husband.  If he does not want you going through or getting rid of his stuff, don't.  I've found that when I start de-cluttering my husband is inspired to do so himself.  Sometimes he asks me to help him.  He has also asked me to tackle a certain area that includes much of his stuff.  When that happens I do make some judgement calls, but usually unless it is obviously trash or something I KNOW he wants to get rid of I will set items aside for him to make the final call on.

Something I've really been working on lately is just being content with what I have.  Trying to find ways to help our things serve us better.  Even if I would enjoy something and have the money; is it something I can do without?  Usually the answer is "yes."  I'm trying to purchase only the things my husband is actually encouraging me to bring into our house, and even then really think long and hard about it.  "Stuff" will always be a struggle to some extent.

Another thing to think about is that just because you could find space for something does not mean it needs to come into/stay in your home.  Really think about how much time you are spending dealing with your stuff.  How easy is it to find the things you really want to use?  Could the space be used better without so much stuff?  Just because I can cram a bunch of stuff in my garage does not mean I really should keep it all (yep, I REALLY need to get brutal in my garage.  Thats for another post; soon I hope!).  Our garage could serve us much better if we had less stuff in it so that my husband could use it as a work shop and so that I could have the freedom use part of it as a pantry.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Toys; who what when where and why!

Betsy asked-
How do you rotate your toys? What is assigned when, what kinds of toys do you have, what about different toys for different ages, etc. 

Instead of just replying in the comments or by e-mail I thought these questions deserved a post of their own (she had another question that also deserves its own post!).

Rotating toys-  I started rotating the kids' toys when I realized that despite the large amount of toys in our home, the kids seemed to be bored with their toys.  It was all just too overwhelming.  What would tend to happend is that they would pull everything out, make a big mess, but not really focus on any one toy (or set of toys).  I realized that they needed their play to be more directed and their access to toys limited. This really can be done in so many ways.  I used to have a large rubbermaid bin for each day of the week.  Every day a new bin would be taken out and only that bin, all day.  Now I tend to have smaller sets out for shorter periods of time. The important thing here is helping your kids learn to be content with what they have and to help them use/enjoy what they already have.

What kind of toys- We tend to stick with the classics.  Toys that promote open ended play and imagination.  We want toys that encourage our kids to think and even explore.  Toys that allow children to just sit and watch it do its thing don't last long in our home (if they even make it in!).  Here are a few examples for you

Blocks- There are so many differrant types of building blocks-large/small, wooden/plastic, brightly colored/natural all of them encourage kids to use their imaginations and think.  

Playmobil- This is a classic and while they tend to be expensive I think they are worth the price.  They appeal to a wide range of ages (here they are played with by all of my kids ages 2-12, and my baby likes the ones geared to toddlers!) and interests.  Grandparents tend to enjoy adding to these sets. ;)

Fisher Price Little People- These are great classic sets (we only have the barn and house, but there are many other great ones too).  I love that my baby can play right next to my 4 year old (and even older kids sometimes) and they both have a great time!  They can enjoy some role playing and use their imaginations with these toys too!

Kitchen/baby dolls- My girls love these things and the appeal is obvious; they get to do what mommy does!  My boys have enjoyed these at times as well.  Adding some playdough in with the play dishes can add some extra fun and add a new dimention to the play.


Weapons- This one CAN be controversial, but I don't think it should be.  Our boys are young men.  It is ingrained in them to want to go out and conquer the world.  Practicing hunting, battles and protecting the girls are great ways for them to be playing now.  Our girls enjoy this play as well, and we encourage them in it.... Why?  Well the short answer is that it is a blessing to be able to protect and provide for your family no matter your gender. We also want them to be comfortable with the idea of guns.  We do teach gun safety and expect them to follow gun safety rules with their toys.  

Games- Kids love to play games.  We like to have games that teach our kids something.  Sometimes games serve the purpose of teaching our kids to follow rules, play well together, honesty, and good attitudes.  We have games that appeal to various ages and interests as well as games that most of the family can enjoy together.  Some favorites are Candyland, Sorry, Apples to Apples, SkipBo and chess.

We have so many more, but many are either outside toys or are used for school. Maybe I'll get to them in another post?

Different ages- Toys do need to be appropriate for the children playing with them, both for safety reasons and to encourage growth and development.  I have a small bin of toys for baby as well as "gear" for the baby (maybe its own post as well?).  Often toys can do double duty appealing to more than one age range; I find that toddlers and pre-schoolers often enjoy the same types of toys, their play just looks different.  As kids get older they start developing their own interests and hobbies.  We tend to encourage their "toys" to be tools to help them develop those skills while they continue to enjoy the many toys we already have available.  My oldest daughter loves to bake, so she uses my kitchen and enjoys having some of her own cook books.  My older boys like to build, hunt and explore their "toys" reflect those interests.  Some of the toys are appealing to a wide variety of ages such as legos, blocks, playmobil, really just depends on your child's interests.  Keep in mind that many toys that appeal to older kids may not be appropriate for the little ones because of small pieces, use good jugement here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Organizing the library/sewing room

Do you have THAT room?  The one that seems to attract messes?  The one that is out of the way that no one really notices?  You don't?  Oh.  Well I do.  When we moved into this house about five months ago we were coming off of a fairly stressful, busy time, and then ran into a very  hard time.  This room was unpacked and cleaned up just enough to serve its purpose and then nearly forgotten....

I took a day this week to focus on the mess (many of the kids were out on a hike with Daddy, my oldest chose to stay home and help me with the two youngest kids).  I addressed the mess in stages having prepared for the work by wearing comfortable clothes, hair up and out of the way, bags and boxes for trash and donations as well as a spot for things that needed to go somewhere else.

First I took care of the mess on the floor, the stuff that was getting in the way of doing anything in the room.  That really only took about 20 minutes.

Next I took care of the sewing desk.  I had unpacked my sewing supplies by just emptying out the boxes into the drawers, not organizing it at all.  The goal had been unpacking, not organizing.  I hung a shelf my Great Papa had made long ago and arranged my ribbon on it.  I'll be able to get to my ribbon easily and it looks pretty.  I think this took me just over 30 minutes.


*The pile of fabric you see next to the sewing desk is fleece for kids' winter PJs.  They had fun picking out their favorite prints and are looking forward to the new PJs next year!  I'll take a few hours to cut them all out at some point and then a few hours to sew them all up; it will be a great assembly line!

The room was looking good at this point.  I could have just left it alone, but I knew the reality was that my fabric and books had all just been thrown on shelves in no order at all.  We were having a hard time finding anything; so I started on the fabric which was fairly easy (maybe 30-45 minutes) and then on to the books.  We have lots of books.   I made pile after pile of books.  The room was looking very messy again, but it was worth it to get them all into places that made some sense.  This process took me a couple of hours, and I'm so glad I took that time.

My last task was to organize some of the pre-school toys.  I don't just leave these toys out for anyone to play with at any time.  We rotate through these and they are for assigned play times.


Organizing was not the only thing I did.  I really cleaned out and de-cluttered quite a bit of stuff.  Yes, some of it was nice stuff that I could find a use for or we would not mind using.  The reality is though that I'm not going to get to some of those projects any time soon.  Having too much stuff in the room was keeping the room from being used as we would like and none of the stuff was being used since there was just too much.

Can more be done in this room?  YES!  This was a great start and I feel like I've finally moved into this room instead of feeling like everything just got dumped in here.  This is now a room I want to spend time in, which will help me get through the many projects I would like to get to.

**I think that moving regularly helps me recognize how much stuff we have that we really don't need.  Having to handle each thing and find a place for it every time we move makes me want to have less stuff.  We spend so much time taking care of our stuff, and it really takes away from the time we should be with our family.  Making friends and family a priority is helping us (slowly) realize how little we really need.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Feeding a crowd; Homemade baby food

Just as I would rather feed my family healthy homemade foods, I prefer to make my own baby food.  While this COULD be time consuming trying to make something else for baby while trying to feed everyone else as well, it can also be very easy.

I cook up baby's foods in bulk.  Right now my little one really likes butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and bananas.  I've been working in blueberries, peas and green beans and I'll be introducing apples soon.

The squash and sweet potatoes can just be stabbed by a fork a few times, put in a pan and then put in the oven at 350 for a couple of hours.  Let it cool, remove the skins and then puree it in the blender (I love our vita mix for this).

Blueberries were just washed and then put in the blender, these are so easy!

I cut, cored and peeled apples, put them in a crockpot and cooked them on high for a few hours.  Once they were nice and soft I just stuck them in the blender to puree them too.

Freeze your puree in ice cube trays and once frozen transfer to a container.


I try to remember to take these cubes out ahead of time and set them on the stove where it is nice and warm (from other baking/cooking I'm doing).  I don't want to use the microwave and would rather avoid actually using the stove to defrost these since I want to be sure they are not too hot for baby when he is ready to eat.

Bananas are so easy to just mash up with a fork for baby and usually well liked.  I've been adding just a bit of blueberry to my little guy's bananas this week and he seems to be enjoying that.  I think I'll try avocado soon using this method as well.

Dry grains and rice can be ground in the blender, then just add hot water, mix and let it sit a bit to "cook" and cool.  I just make up a tiny bit of this and add it to the fruits of veggies.

By the time babies are old enough to be spoon fed they are usually grabbing at everything and interested in feeding themselves.  I love to have plenty of "teethers" on hand at this stage.  Just make up a loaf of healthy banana bread (or any other kind you like to make like pumpkin or zucchini).  Cut into thick slices and cut those slices in half (or thirds depending on the height of your loaf).  Arrange these on a baking sheet in one layer and put in the oven at 170.  Get these nice and hard so it will not fall apart while baby is chewing on it.  This takes a few hours and you will need to turn them regularly, maybe once an hour or so.  Your baby will love chewing on these!

*Always watch your baby closely with these and use good judgement.  If chunks are falling off easily don't give them to your baby!  

I don't put too much effort into baby food.  I try to get my little ones eating table food as soon as possible.  I want them to be used to what we eat so they will have a good attitude about their food.  There have also been seasons where even this much effort has been too much, then I just make the best choices I can in purchasing foods for my baby.  Jars of organic baby food were a blessing on a recent trip.  Organic teethers were a blessing the last month or so when I was struggling and baking these up was not a high priority.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Large Family Movie give away!

UPDATE; Congratulations to Audrey Griffis, you won this giveaway!  Thanks for entering!

Last week our family had the pleasure of attending the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (Day 1, Day 2).  While there we were able to watch some wonderful feature films, documentaries, and shorts.  We were also able to meet the makers of some great movies and they were kind enough to give us some of their movies to give away on this blog.  These movies are made by large families, working together they have made films that honor God, and honor family.  I think one of the reasons we enjoy these movies is that we can relate to their lives, and the lives they portray in the movies.  We have been blessed by these movies and are excited to be able to pass on the blessing.

We enjoyed meeting members of the Moore family who had made The Widow's Might.  This is a favorite in our home.  This movie deals with some political issues and challenges to make the right choices despite those opposing them.  While it does deal with some very real issues, it does so in a way that is appropriate for the whole family with plenty of humor thrown in.

The "Dad the Hero" movies are both great, and we are so excited that we get to give both of them away.  The earlier movie is a western about standing up against evil, protecting family, and following God where He leads.  The second (and the one we saw first, at the film festival) is about the family going on vacation.  Dad needed to get a better handle on his priorities, slow down and enjoy his family and live in the moments that God gives.

We are also including a short documentary called Divorcing God, which addresses the pattern of decline in great nations in history. "Is this happening to America?" Unlike the movies included in the giveaway, this one is not appropriate for family viewing.

I'm going to give these movies out as a bundle pack.  Here are a few ways you can win this bundle.

Remember to leave a comment for each entry and to be sure I can contact you either through your own blog or by leaving your e-mail address in one of the comments.

1. Be a follower of this blog (1 entry)

2. Be a follower of my other blog Gabes Babes (1 entry)

3. Link to this giveaway on Facebook (1 entry)

4. Tell me what one of your favorite, God honoring, family movies is. (1 entry)

5. Go check out Christian Cinema, look around and tell me about one of the movies you found. (1 entry)

6. Sign up for Christian Cinema through my link; on the sidebar under "links" (3 entries)
*We are affiliates of Christian Cinema, I will get a commission if you sign up through my link.  We are affiliates simply because we think this is a great company and have been blessed by their resources.  This is not a big money maker for us. ;)

I'll end this giveaway on March 10.