Friday, July 31, 2015

10 things weve learned from minimal living.

at the beginning of all of this, i talked about how our move towards minimalism was a big change, a change i never thought wed ever make. i also talked about how even in a short time, weve benefitted immensely from the changes were making. now today, i want to take a minute and talk about all the lessons that weve learned through this process, because this has been quite the learning experience: 

1. its hard. thoroughly purging as much as possible from our home (despite the fact that its already tiny) was probably one of the hardest things weve ever done as a family. i mean, just physically getting through all. that. stuff. and deciding what to do with it is a long and difficult process, but its hard in other ways too. its emotionally hard to go through all the memories attached to things and learn to let go when you realize they just arent needed, and to face the facts that our clutter problem was caused by our bad habits and we had to change them. having different parts of my house torn up for months on end, moving (and replacing) furniture and getting rid of such huge amounts of stuff was very hard on my psychologically and sent my anxiety through the roof multiple times. going through all of this together as a couple, and not always agreeing on what should stay/go/be replaced (especially coupled with my anxiety episodes/being hugely pregnant) was hard on our marriage. honestly, i cant think of a part of this whole process that wasnt hard. 

2. it gets worse before it gets better. not only was de-cluttering an overall difficult process, but we quickly learned that cleaning out one area meant making a mess in another area. we spent the majority of this year with an assortment of boxes and bins in our bedroom filled with junk waiting to go out, whether it was getting sold, donated, or picked up by a friend or relative and not only was it super discouraging to be doing all that work to still have a giant mess to look at, but also looking at that mess day after day stressed me the heck out. 

3. but oh, it gets better. yeah the mess totally sucked. but the feeling of freedom and relief that came with each load that went out? amazing. and the more we cleaned out, the easier it got, the faster we got at doing it and the more room we had to work in. now that weve gone over the whole house once, its not only a cleaner, brighter, more peaceful place to live, but its also no problem at all to get out a project or some of alices big toys. also, keeping up with de-cluttering on a smaller scale is SO much easier now. 

4. we had a lot of habits to change. rome wasnt built in a day, and neither was our apartment filled with clutter. our clutter was the result of years of bad habits, which was not really something either of us wanted to admit, and they were quite painful to un-learn. but as a result, weve replaced them with better habits and our home just keeps getting nicer and nicer.  

5. but we really dont miss any of that stuff. if i were to put a number on the percentage of our things weve gotten rid of in the past year, id say its creeping up on 50% (i say that because to this day were still taking out small quantities of stuff on the regular), and if i were to put a number on the times weve needed something and realized that we didnt have it anymore that number would be zero. yes, zero. not only had that crap been clogging up our home and our lives for all these years, we have literally not missed a single piece of it. 

6. so much of what we thought we needed was unnecessary. when you get move out/get married/have your first baby everybody comes out with these long lists of stuff you "need" and because you dont know any better you buy/ask people for all of those things. maybe you dont use all of them right away but you hang on to them because, you know, you were told that you need them. and when you make huge life changes like moving from a huge house in the mountains to a tiny city apartment your needs and priorities change drastically. and when you do all of that in a very short amount of time you end up with a huge amount of stuff that you thought/were told that you needed but then realized was just taking up space. 

7. there is no need to fill every empty space. im not sure why (im guessing its just human nature?), but ive noticed that people tend to feel the need to fill every available space in their home and not leave anything empty. i didnt even notice how much i did this until we had gotten to the point where there were empty (or partially empty) shelves and drawers opening up and i found myself trying to figure out what i should get to put in them. but then it hit me that they can just stay that way, just because a space exists doesnt mean that there has to be something in it, especially if we dont need it. 

8. clutter goes way beyond physical things. this was probably the most surprising lesson weve gotten out of this whole thing. as we cleaned out our house and examined our habits where buying/storing/organizing things were concerned, we also inadvertently started examining our lifestyle and habits elsewhere. as we removed the physical things that werent benefitting us, we also noticed the other things that werent benefitting us and started getting rid of those too: phone games, jamberry, netflix, hulu, unnecessary errands, etc. so not only have we freed up a huge amount of space in our home, but we also have much more time to spend together as a family doing the things we actually want to do. 

9. theres always more to get rid of. ive said it before and ill say it again: every layer of stuff we get rid of just uncovers another layer of things we realize we dont need. every time i clean out my closet i find myself getting rid of more and more whether i buy anything new or not, im constantly finding kitchen tools i dont remember ever using and im about to go through all my craft supplies again because i realized how little of it i actually use for work/making things i like. 

10. it feels SO GOOD to not have our lives ruled by stuff. nobody wants to admit that their life is ruled by their stuff, and honestly i never thought our stuff was that big of a problem. sure it was a mess, but certainly not a problem. but as we started hacking away at it, we quickly learned that it was a problem. actually, it was a huge problem that was getting in the way of basically every area of our lives. and as weve ditched the embarrassingly huge amounts of stuff we once had (and continue to do so on a smaller scale), its been amazing to see how much more freedom we have thanks to our emptier home, not having to clean, maintain, organize, and look at all those things that we werent even using. 

even though embracing minimalism was a surprising move for us, and it hasnt been easy, its definitely been a worthwhile experience. and as you can see, weve really learned a lot from it. 

have you made the move to minimalism? whats the most important thing youve learned from it? id love to hear about it in the comments!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

our bedroom makeover part 4: benedicts newborn nursery

funny story: i wasnt planning on having a newborn/transitional nursery at all. i had found the most perfect crib that would fit in our little "baby corner" just right AND last until benedict was big enough for a real bed so that there would be an absolute minimum of furniture buying/moving. it was a most expertly crafted plan and well, you know what they say about plans...

this perfect crib? apparently its like, the most popular hardest to get crib in the entire world. once we had the room ready/the money to finally order it (at approximately 36 weeks pregnant because i am really on top of things...), it was out of stock everywhere. it was so out of stock that most of the places that carry it (target, amazon, buy buy baby, the manufacturer, AND a variety of independent furniture stores) wouldnt even let me order one. but bed bath and beyond would. obviously i spent an entire morning crying and panicking about this, because 36 weeks pregnant. 

then miraculously bed bath and beyond let me order one. then a couple days later tragedy struck once again when they emailed me that the crib was, in fact, on backorder and would not be shipping until the end of august. which was about 6 weeks after my due date. so i had to figure out something else fast (actually, faster than fast because benedict decided he was coming quite a bit early). 

thankfully, this was our second baby and we knew all about how babies really dont need very much at the beginning. also, even though the bedding was 100% diy, i already had all the materials on hand and baby bedding is super fast and easy to make. also also, we conveniently still had the vintage bassinet that we used when alice was a baby. so really this whole crib situation was just overblown by my exceedingly pregnant emotions. 

since there wasnt a nursery in our room to begin with, i dont have a "before" picture, but i do have some (for some reason really oddly lit?) photos of benedicts little corner of our home:


now while the previous parts of our bedroom makeover have involved some rather large and expensive trips to ikea, benedicts nursery was practically free. and by that i mean, i spent about $16 on some striped fabric (which ive hardly put a dent in since i havent made the actual crib sheets yet) and the rest was pulled together from things we already had. and, i know im biased, but this is the cutest nursery that i have ever seen. 

heres where benedict sleeps: 

the bassinet is vintage, i bought it at an estate sale when i was pregnant with alice for the stupidly low price of $2 (just fyi, prescott, arizona is a VERY popular place for rich people to go to retire so the antiques/estate sales are AMAZING and SO cheap because nobody there wants old stuff). it was blue when i bought it but we had conveniently already painted it black for alices nursery. the blanket was made by chopping the least-raggedy portion from a gorgeous (but well-worn) chenille bedspread that i bought at jet rag dollar day when i was like 19 (that i had been stowing away for YEARS because it was too pretty to throw away but too damaged to use in its entirety) and sewing it into a miniature quilt. the sheets and nursing pillow i made with the aforementioned striped fabric that i got at the local salvage fabric store for $4 a yard (p.s. the nursing pillow pattern is from this book and i will have a tutorial for no-elastic bassinet sheets up here very soon!). 

and here is benedicts little changing area (which you already saw in the post about the dressers but i want to go over the details anyway): 

the pennant bunting was re-purposed from my baby shower decorations (should i post a tutorial for this one too?), and i covered a $2 changing pad from a local resale group on facebook in the same striped fabric i used for the sheets and nursing pillow (tutorial pending for this project as well). all of benedicts clothes and supplies are in the top two drawers of the dresser (except for diapers because for now we still have a mountain of diapers but i know that will soon be a thing of the past), but i put all the little tiny bits (pacifiers, nail clippers, nursing pads, etc) in a vintage card catalog drawer (from the same estate sale as the bassinet, i think it was also $2, maybe $5), and i accessorized with some prints that love but previously didnt have a home for (the two on the left are by leslie sam kim, and the TARDIS print is by nan lawson), and a sonogram of benedict because i found an empty frame and it was just the right size. 

even though decorating is hard for me AND we have to wait for the crib (im really dreading moving everything around AGAIN when it comes...), i really do love how everything came together, and how we were able to re-purpose so many things we already had to make an adorable nursery for benedict. 
stay tuned for the final nursery update in a couple months!
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Monday, July 27, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 18: gluten free pancakes.

im going to be completely honest here about two things: 1. ive never been all that into breakfast foods until fairly recently, and 2. despite being gluten-free for over two years, I've been terrified of venturing out into the realms of gluten-free baking beyond prepackaged mixes. fortunately, this second pregnancy spawned a deep appreciation for pancakes, and my newfound confidence in the kitchen encouraged me to ignore the fussy gluten free food bloggers (who tend to be very anti all purpose flours and very pro making things as complicated as possible) and try to make my own gluten free pancakes. 

i knew pancakes would be an easy recipe to de-gluten because frankly, the gluten really isnt important at all when it comes to pancakes. it seemed reasonable that i could just substitute the gluten free flour without making any sciencey adjustments. what i didnt realize is that because everyone likes their pancakes a little different, finding a recipe for a starting point would take a while. and finding a recipe that wasnt for approximately eight thousand pancakes would take even longer (seriously, WHYYYYY are pancake recipes so huge?). 

but, eventually, i did find a recipe that looked good. except it was WAY too salty and the pancakes came out a little too cakey. so i made some adjustments and then they werent quite cakey enough. and then by the third batch of pancakes i was finally able to figure out the right balance and now im ready to share the recipe with you. so now everyone can have a manageable amount of gluten free pancakes without buying a special (and expensive) mix. 

gluten free pancakes. 
serves 4

heres what you need: 

1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (ive made this with both cup 4 cup and king arthur gluten free flours with excellent results)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
sprinkle cinnamon
1 egg 
1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk (or milk alternative)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
butter or oil for frying

heres what you do: 

in a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients, then whisk in wet ingredients. let batter rest for at least five minutes. 

heat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high heat, then generously coat with butter or oil. 

spoon batter onto hot pan or griddle 1/4 cup (or less) at a time, and let cook until batter bubbles. flip and let cook until batter is no longer liquid.

repeat with remaining batter, re-oiling pan as needed. 

serve with your favorite pancake toppings. 

i like my pancakes with nutella, strawberries, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. how do you like yours? 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

what to do with all that stuff (after you purge).

when youre on a full-scale whole-house de-cluttering mission, sometimes the clearing out is the easy part, and the hard part is figuring out exactly where all that junk you cleaned out should go. i mean, this can be difficult enough when you have a few bags of things, but when you have multiple car loads of stuff going out the quantity alone is enough to make it pretty overwhelming. and the stuff adds up fast. 

over the past year or so, from our one bedroom apartment weve taken at least six full car loads of stuff to goodwill, and thats not accounting for any of the stuff that weve sold, given away, or trashed. after all this, i like to think of myself as a sort of expert in the art of getting rid of things, so ive put together a (hopefully) helpful list of where all that stuff can go and what exactly should go where: 

1. the trash. this should be the most obvious one, where anything broken, unusable, perishable, or, you know, just trash, should go. 

2. family and friends. anything that either a. actually belongs to someone else (im really bad at remembering to give back things that i borrow...), or b. is something that you know somebody else would really enjoy/be able to use, should definitely be set aside to be given to that person the next time you see them. 

3. for sale. bigger things (like furniture and appliances), nicer things (like collectables and higher end clothes), and more specialized things (like crafting or sports equipment) tend to be fairly easy to sell, given that you have the time and patience. this is great because you not only get to get rid of all that stuff, but you also get to make some money. and no, you dont have to have a yard sale, there are totally ways around that

4. specific donations. if your purge happens to turn up a large quantity of something that a particular charity may be looking for (for instance, after cleaning out my dresser i found a HUGE stash of old prescription glasses), then its definitely a good idea to get those things where they can best be used. 

5. general donations. everything else, provided that its not broken/still useful (clothes, toys, decor miscellaneous household stuff) can be dropped off at the local goodwill/salvation army/whatever thrift store to hopefully find a home with somebody else. 

i recommend sorting things into these categories as you clear things out (for example, for most of our purge i had bins for trash, stuff to sell, and stuff to donate around the house), so as to avoid sorting everything twice, but if you find that it gets in the way of your cleaning, then my all means, clean then sort. 

whats your favorite way of getting rid of stuff? let me know in the comments!
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

benedict harris meyers.

the meyers family is very happy to announce that our son, benedict harris meyers was born on july 4th at 4:39 pm. benedict made his arrival a bit earlier than expected, but still weighed in at a healthy 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 20.5 inches long. and as you can clearly see, he is absolutely perfect: 

i hope you dont mind, but im going to spare you (and me) the long, dramatic, gory, detailed birth story and go with the short version instead: 

benedicts birth didnt go exactly as planned, after a scheduled cesarean with alice we had hoped for a VBAC, naturally if possible. i did go into labor on my own and well, labor was very long and slow and unproductive. so we still got the VBAC, just a very augmented and medicated one. which i am totally 100% ok with because, i mean: 

benedict is an absolutely delightful baby. he eats and sleeps like a champ and is very content to just go along with whatever the rest of us are doing. everyone (alice and cats included) is adjusting nicely to life as a family of four, and i still cant get over how much faster and easier my recovery has been this time around. 

now, as far as blog things are concerned, i had scheduled myself a few weeks of "maternity leave" so that i could work on the finishing touches of my rebrand/relaunch in september. since my due date was the 13th i had big plans for getting everything for july and august scheduled before anything baby-related started to happen. but since benedict came so early (and technically my labor process started at the end of june...) i only got most of the way there. so while the next few weeks might have a post or two missing, i do have some great guest posts coming up, as well as some big exciting things happening in september when i come back from my break. 

we spent our fourth of july weekend in the hospital, what did you do over your holiday? 

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Monday, July 20, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 17: cheesy polenta + veggies

if i were to pick a new favorite food, it would definitely be polenta. now, polenta isnt exactly the most exciting thing on its own (as my mom put it, its just yellow grits), but its so versatile: you can bake it, fry it, mix things into it, or top it with almost anything and it always turns out delicious. 

unfortunately polenta has a reputation for being really fussy (some recipes involve forty minutes of stirring), so, being as easily intimidated as i am, i tended to consider it a "restaurant only" food. but, you know, sometimes you just NEED some polenta, and you dont have the time or money to go out to the fancy steakhouse with the $20 grilled polenta and veggies thats just SO amazing. so you start looking around at sprouts and find that the little log of pre-made polenta that barely makes one dinner is like $5. which, yeah is a lot less than it would cost at a restaurant, but still, its not cheap. 

except, sprouts sells dry polenta in the bulk section. and its super cheap. like, i got a HUGE bag (that lasted for months) for like $4. and after a little bit of research and experimentation, ive come to find out that polenta isnt actually all that fussy to make. so now polenta, which used to be reserved for birthdays and special occasions, has become a quick and easy weeknight dinner. is there anything better than that? no. no there is not. 

even though you technically can do all kinds of crazy things with polenta, my favorite way to eat it is warm and soft and freshly made, with some sautéed veggies on top. sometimes ill make this on its own for dinner, but its also a great side dish with say, some salmon. and thats what todays recipe is: 

cheesy polenta with veggies. 
(serves 4 as a meal, more as a side dish)

heres what you need: 

1 cup dried polenta
4 cups water
1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional, if you omit the cheese this recipe is entirely vegan)
olive oil
1 small/medium onion
4 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, and herbs de provence to taste
1 bunch asparagus
1 package white mushrooms

heres what you do: 

in a medium/large pot, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil, add polenta, stir, and return to a boil. 

reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally (contrary to popular belief polenta does NOT need to be stirred constantly however it will stick if you dont stir it at all), until almost all of the water has absorbed and grains are cooked through (approximately 10-15 minutes) 

remove from heat, stir in cheese (entirely optional but i really think it improves the flavor and texture), and set aside. 

finely chop onions and garlic and sautee in olive oil until they begin to soften, seasoning with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence to your preference. 

cut the asparagus and mushrooms into small pieces, add to onion and garlic mixture, and continue to cook until the onions are caramelized and the vegetables are cooked through. 

serve the polenta in bowls with the vegetable mixture on top. 

do you have a favorite fancy restaurant food that you learned to make at home? id love to hear about it in the comments!
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Friday, July 17, 2015

8 things that wont help you de-clutter.

ive spent a lot of time over the past several weeks talking about all sorts of things that can really help you in a quest for a minimal, clutter free home: ive talked about all the awesome benefits of purging, shared my method for de-cluttering without going insane, and even given you a handy list of easy places to start. but what about the things that wont help? 

since we have, oh, several years of very much unsuccessful de-cluttering attempts under our belts, i thought it might also be a good idea to look at things from the other direction. because, im just being real here: not only is there a lot of bad advice and misconceptions out there about living minimally, weve also made our fair share of huge mistakes in this department. so in an attempt to help you avoid unnecessary setbacks and the accompanying frustration, here are a few things that, as we have personally experienced, will not help you de-clutter: 

1. waiting for the right time. i hate to break it to you, but its never exactly the "right time" to do anything, especially big, not-entirely-pleasant projects like de-cluttering. if a big house purge is something you want to do, then you need to make it a priority, either by taking advantage of a chunk of free time (like a long weekend) or starting small and doing what you can when you can. if you try to wait until a time you think you can get everything done all at once, it will never happen. ask me how i know. 

2. unrealistic expectations. obviously everyone has a different clutter situation and a different vision for the end result. BUT no matter what those are, if you go in to things expecting your home to instantly look like a magazine spread, you are going to get discouraged and burned out when that doesnt happen. because thats not going to happen. because magazines are not real life and de-cluttering is kind of a lengthy process. because de-cluttering happens in stages and layers and there isnt always a "done". 

3. unrealistic timelines. much like unrealistic expectations, putting yourself on an unreasonable timeline is also a recipe for disaster. you have no idea how many times ive said "ill clean out my closet today" or "lets clear everything out this weekend" and ended up getting in over my head with a huge mess and not enough time to clean it up and more problems then i started with. it wasnt until we started breaking things down into small bite sized pieces that we had any success with de-cluttering. just think about it this way: the clutter didnt just appear all at once, so its not going to go away all at once either. 

4. more storage space. i used to blame a lot of our clutter on the fact that our apartment really doesnt have a lot of closet space and there arent a lot of places to put things away away. but the thing is, clutter doesnt come from the big stuff hanging out in closets, it comes from all the little every day stuff, and well, no amount of "storage space" is going to put that all away. 

5. cute little boxes and organizers. "a place for everything and everything in its place" is one of those things that really organized people say all the time, and i think a lot of us tend to interpret that as meaning each category of thing needs to be in its own container. which, in theory sounds really nice but in practice just means that youre going to end up with a lot of little boxes everywhere and in order to use anything you have to go find the right one...

6. "clutter catchers" ive mentioned these before, the letter organizers and trays and baskets that we leave around to collect things to put away "later". no, just, no. sure they make a nice receptacle for things you dont want to deal with, but they dont reduce clutter, they just displace the clutter by giving you an acceptable place to put it. 

7. books about organizing. books can be a wonderful resource when it comes to getting organized as far as inspiration and motivation are concerned, but i really, really dont recommend trying to follow one by the letter in an attempt to get organized. why? because every book, no matter how thorough, specific, or "life changing", is just one persons method. what works for them may not work (or even apply) for you, your situation, and your goals, and i can say from experience that trying to follow someone elses method for something as personal as de-cluttering is a sure fire way to drive yourself (and your family) crazy. 

8. not changing the habits that created the clutter in the first place. clutter isnt something that just happens out of nowhere, it builds up slowly as the result of bad habits. so even if theoretically you *could* instantly erase every speck of clutter and make your entire house perfect, if you dont replace those bad habits with better ones (dont worry i can totally help you here), everythings just going to go back to the way it was before. and faster than youd like to admit. 

long story short: paring things down and trying to live minimalistically is pretty awesome. but its hard work getting there. and like, well, most things, whether or not youre successful at it has just as much to do with what you dont do as what you actually do. 

have you survived a major home purge? do you have any advice on what to avoid? 

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Monday, July 13, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 16: crustless spinach quiche.

today im bringing back another recipe from the olden days of poverty luxe (ok, like, two years ago). im trying to do this a bit more consistently, since theres actually quite a bit of good stuff buried way back there in the days when nobody was reading this blog. also, some recipes have been GREATLY improved as ive now had time to fine-tune the recipes a bit more. take, for instance, this here spinach quiche. 

now, quiche is a pretty simple and straightforward recipe, doesnt involve any crazy or expensive ingredients, and works equally as well for breakfast or dinner. which is precisely why its been on our regular meal rotation for a LONG time. however, back when i first started making it, i used to make it with a gluten free crust. but the thing with gluten free pie crusts is that theyre really fussy, can be really expensive, dont always come out well, and are kind of just a bunch of processed starch and butter. also, the crust totally isnt even necessary here. why? because when you make quiche without a crust, the cheese forms a crust on the bottom and its absolutely amazing. 

so now i never make it with a crust, gluten free or otherwise. and i definitely like it better this way. so are you ready to make some crustless quiche? 

crustless spinach quiche. 
(serves 4)

heres what you need: 

1 small onion (or half a large onion)
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
salt and pepper to taste
5 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1/2 pound frozen spinach (or an entire ten ounce box), thawed. 
about 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese

heres what you do: 

preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

finely chop the onions and garlic and saute in olive oil until they start to caramelize, seasoning with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence to your preference. 

in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mayonnaise, and 1 cup of cheese.

thoroughly drain the thawed spinach and put it in a piece of cheesecloth or a tea towel and squeeze out ALL of the liquid (this is VERY important unless you want to end up with a very watery quiche) before adding it to the egg mixture. 

add the onions/garlic to the egg mixture, mix thoroughly and pour into an oiled pie pan, topping with remaining cheese. 

bake for 45 minutes or until eggs are completely set. 

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Friday, July 10, 2015

10 easy places to start de-cluttering.

in any big project or lifestyle change, getting started is always the hardest part. and de-cluttering your entire home is no different. when i talk to people in real life about our move towards a minimal home, the most common reaction i get is "wow thats so great i wish i could do something like that but i just cant find the time", and, i totally get that. i mean, that was one of the things that held us back from doing this for, oh, a few years. 

i think the reason for this is that we tend to think of de-cluttering as a single major event: you clean out the attic, the garage, the closets, and its a big deal and really hard and totally sucks so you avoid it as long as you possibly can. but it doesnt have to be that way, de-cluttering can also be broken down into small, bite-sized pieces that you tackle one at a time, when you can. actually, i already wrote a post about how to do this exact thing, and i recommend approaching it this way, because 1. who really has the time to do everything all in one go, and 2. starting small and moving quickly will totally motivate you to get even MORE decluttering done (have i ever mentioned that purging excess stuff is super addicting?). 

sounds great, right? 

if youre thinking that you want to take a dive into this de-cluttering business, but dont want to get in over your head, put together a list of ten places to get you started. ten places that (generally speaking) are quick and easy to clean out so that you can move right on to marveling at your progress, patting yourself on the back, and getting on with your life, inspired and excited to get to the next spot to de-clutter. 

ready to get going? here they are: 

1. the bathroom. bathrooms are a really great place to start because generally speaking, there isnt a whole lot in there. but empty/almost empty bottles, unused appliances (last time i cleaned out ours i found THREE curling irons. i never curl my hair...), and the like do tend to pile up. the good news is that since there usually isnt a lot to clean, it goes by really fast!

2. the fridge. the fridge is also a great place to start because every decision is super obvious: its either a food youre going to eat soon or its not. quickly tossing out old/expired/unwanted food takes just a few minutes and can make your fridge SO much tidier. 

3. the pantry. much like the fridge, if you arent going to eat/use it soon, it doesnt need to be there, so there arent any hard decisions to make. this can also be a really great way to save money on groceries, either by committing to use up whats in there before buying more, or noting the foods that you can stop buying because they dont get eaten (for example, i havent bought canned soup in at least a year because it just stays in our pantry forever). 

4. kitchen supplies. regardless of how you feel about cooking, everyone has to eat, and when it comes to kitchen supplies the gap between "things you use every day" and "things you never use/things you have way too many of" is usually pretty wide. weeding out extra/unused dishes, tools, and gadgets can make a huge difference and only takes a few minutes. 

5. junk drawers. everybody has them, and to an extent, theyre pretty necessary (i mean, whos house ACTUALLY has a proper place for every single tiny thing?). but, they also have a tendency to accumulate things that are essentially trash (ours always end up full of stickers and business cards and the extra buttons that come on clothes...). periodically cleaning these out is an easy way to make a big dent on some clutter, both by getting rid of trash and making room in the junk drawer for things from elsewhere in the house that really should be in there. 

6. bookshelves. since bookshelves by nature tend to be pretty orderly (i mean, they have a bunch of books lined up in a nice little row), taking note of and picking out anything that isnt useful or hasnt been touched for years to be tossed/donated/sold/etc. 

7. linen closets. linens are another easy purge, since (with the exception of holiday/special occasion items) you either use them or you dont. obviously theres no need to hang on to sheets sized for beds you dont even have (actual thing ive found in our linen closet) or an excessive amount of "extra" blankets or towels (really, unless you have a LOT of overnight guests theres no reason to have more than a couple). an extra bonus here is that paring down linens frees up a TON of space to use that storage for something more productive. 

8. cleaning supplies. unless youre SUPER organized (or i guess, really into cleaning) im guessing you dont spend a lot of time looking at/thinking about your cleaning supplies. but under the sink (or wherever it is you keep such things) is a great place to go through since you can make a HUGE difference by taking a few minutes to toss anything empty/gross/you dont like (and organize whats left). 

9. toiletries/beauty products. im going to go out on a limb here and assume that the majority of my readers are ladies (and please forgive me if i assumed incorrectly), but i think we can all agree here: this stuff just piles up no matter what we do. the good news here is that its also pretty easy (and feels SO GOOD) to sort out all the lotions and sprays and makeup that we dont (or wont, im looking at you all those bright colors of eye shadows i never used...) use regularly and scale down to the essentials. 

10. the medicine cabinet. medicine is another one thats easy-peasy: its expired or its not. and if its expired, then by all means it needs to be (safely) disposed of because safety is important. 

each of these little micro-purges wont take long, probably wont involve a lot of hard questions, and i promise, watching the progress build up as you tackle each one is SUPER motivating when it comes to de-cluttering the bigger stuff. i mean, i thought we were done but after writing this post im about to go over this list again at our place...

how do you like to tackle clutter: all at once or in little bites? let me now in the comments!
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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

our bedroom makeover part 3: the new dressers.

in case youre a new reader/missed it/forgot i was doing this series because its been so long since ive mentioned it: were in the middle of our first big home improvement project here at the meyers house: a complete bedroom makeover. if youd like to catch up, you can see our "before" pictures and read about our goals/plans in part one and check out our awesome new bed (which i am still absolutely in love with) in part two. but enough about that, its time to move on to part three: the new dressers. 

now, if you read the the post about the bed, you might remember how at the end of that project i was all "that was surprisingly easy! everything is going great! i love redecorating!". and well... that should have served as a warning for how things were going to start going once we got to the dressers. 

see, it was mid-late april when we finished up everything with the bed, and after giving ourselves (ok mostly just me) a little time to recover/get things put back together, we figured that we could get the dressers all done by the end of may (we knew they would take a bit longer since we had to sell/get rid of the old ones) and the nursery done at some point in june and everything would be all set long before it was time before baby arrives. ha. ha, ha, HA. 

heres how things actually happened: may turned out to be a crazy month with james working out of town, me having finals, james having school week, and then james working out of town some more (actually, into the first couple weeks of june), so i didnt have much help with the remaining de-cluttering we had left. which, of course, had gotten down to just jamess stuff so i couldnt do it by myself anyway. at the same time, we learned that it is surprisingly difficult to get rid of an old bedroom set. i tried for weeks to sell it as a set because that was easiest for me, but nobody wanted the whole set. so then i listed the pieces individually, and heres where things get weird: the totally trashed nightstand? that goes immediately for almost the entire asking price no problem. the dressers we eventually sold to a family who offered to take both at a slightly lower price. the mirror, the nicest, least dated, most practical piece of the whole set? crickets. (dont worry we did eventually find it a home). 

also, because things got delayed for so long, ikea apparently discontinued the dressers we had planned on buying. BUT (finally some good news here) we did pick an alternative we were happy with, AND by time the old dressers were out and we could go buy the new ones, they were on sale. 

getting everything set up and put back together ended up taking for. freaking. ever. (ok like a week) because of course james got sent out of town (then to a far-away job that made him come home really late) RIGHT when we got the new dressers home, but eventually we got everything taken care of, even if it was like, a whole month behind my original schedule. 

so how do things look now? pretty dang great if you ask me, heres the before: 

and heres the after: 

now, obviously everythings a lot tidier and more attractive and thats great and all, but heres the really mind-blowingly amazing part: EVERYTHING that was in those two huge dressers that took up the whole wall (plus all of the babys things) comfortable fit into the two dressers that take up just slightly more space than jamess dresser alone. well, actually, the footprint of the new dressers is only slightly wider than jamess old dresser, theyre actually shallower (but taller) and i have even more floor space for pattern making and fabric cutting.

one concern i did have about moving our dresser situation into something more compact was that we were going to lose a fair amount of surface area (especially considering that one of the dressers would also be babys changing table area), but that turned out to not be a problem at all since 1. the dressers were kind of just collecting clutter/messes that really belonged elsewhere, 2. my new nightstand has three drawers and actually gave a bunch of things an actual home, and 3. there was totally a bunch of junk up there that needed getting rid of (but since it was out of the way, we never bothered). 

anyway, i love the new arrangement. i love how clean and sleek and not hideous the new dressers are, how all our things take up WAY less space, and especially how i finally, for the first time ever in my entire life (that i can remember) have a little tiny part of my home that looks absolutely just the way i want it to: 

maybe this seems really silly and dramatic, but decorating doesnt come naturally to me, and over the years ive really struggled to find my personal style when it comes to homemaking, and trying to reconcile that with the fact that i hated most of the things we owned and we didnt have money to replace them made things really difficult. paralyzingly difficult. like, ive never actually felt at home anywhere weve lived up until now because so little of what we had was something i liked or chose, it was all just there. 

but now, i do know what i like: i like things mostly plain and neutral with some small personal touches. i like things to be functional and i do not like having every single available space occupied. i like empty wall space but i also like having a few special pieces of art on display. and i really, really like the way things are going in our home so far. 

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Monday, July 6, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 15: how to make beans (with or without a crock pot)

fun fact: unless i absolutely cant avoid it, i never buy beans in cans. yeah, i know, im that mom. i actually wrote a pretty in-depth post about all the reasons why i do this about a year ago (you can read all about it here) but it was right around the time i was really floundering with this while blogging thing and i never got around to posting about how i go about making our homemade beans. 

which ended up being a great thing, because at the time i pretty much only made beans in my crock pot. in my opinion, this is by far the easiest method, BUT its the slowest, and it takes a little bit of advanced planning. something that i havent been so great at since ive been pregnant, in school, and parenting a toddler all at the same time. so over the last few months, ive actually learned some different methods of cooking dried beans. 

and today im going to share them all with you, right here in one post, so that you can easily decide which bean-cooking method will work best for your current bean needs without having to scour the internet for individual recipes (something ive had to do, oh, every time ive forgotten to soak the beans). so here we go, three different ways to make beans at home (that i have personally used multiple times and can totally vouch for): 

note: all of these methods are for cooking one pound of dried beans (approximately two cups, in case you buy them in bulk), and yield approximately eight cups (four cans worth) or cooked beans. 

1. in a crock pot: 

like ive already mentioned, this way is my favorite because even though the time commitment is the longest, its the most passive. also, because the crock pot regulates its own temperature, there is no possibility of anything getting burnt (maybe its just me but i often have a problem keeping a close eye on things for hours). heres how you do it: 

rinse beans and soak them overnight in a large bowl covered with AT LEAST two inches of water. 

in the morning, drain off the soaking water, rinse beans again and transfer them to the crock pot, again covering with at least two inches of water, salt (dont forget the salt at the beginning, its very important!), and any other seasonings you might want to use (obviously this will depend on the type of beans that youre making and what youll be using them for). 

set your crock pot on low and cook the beans for approximately six hours, checking occasionally to adjust seasonings and avoid over-cooking. 

drain and serve. 

2. on the stove: 

like using the crock pot, this method also requires an overnight soak, however unlike the crock pot method, its quite a bit faster and doesnt take up all our counter space. this is the method im most likely to use if i remembered to soak the beans but i didnt remember to get them in the crock pot first thing in the morning: 

rinse beans and soak them overnight in a large bowl covered with AT LEAST two inches of water. 

in the morning, drain off the soaking water, rinse beans again and transfer them to a large pot or dutch oven with a well-fitting lid, again covering with at least two inches of water. add salt and any other seasonings you may want to use. 

bring the beans to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. cook beans, stirring (and checking for flavor/done-ness) occasionally until tender (depending on the type of beans this may take up to three hours). 

drain and serve. 

3. in the oven: 

this is the method that im most likely to pull out in an emergency, (and by "emergency" i mean "i forgot to soak the beans the night before") because it doesnt require soaking. yes, you can totally make beans without soaking them overnight first. the only reason i put this method last, honestly, is because it does involve having the oven on for a long time, which i tend to try and avoid in an apartment as small as ours. however, it is still a fantastic way to cook beans: 

preheat your oven to 250 degrees. 

rinse beans and put them in a large pot or dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid and cover with at least two inches of water. add salt and any other flavorings that you desire. 

bring the pot to a boil on the stovetop, then cover and place in the oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour. stir, check for flavor and done-ness, and continue to cook until tender (another 20-30 minutes). 

drain and serve. 

so there you have THREE different ways of cooking dried beans and taking advantage of all the benefits they have over canned beans. 

do you make beans at home? whats your favorite method? 

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