Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A CHILD'S DAILY UNIFORMA few posts ago, I shared the uniform concept that I follow.

In the last few months, I have taken time to rethink and rework my children's clothing as well. I began in the laundry room, where I often felt like I lived. I didn't mind the washing and folding but putting the clothes away was something I dreaded as I lugged full laundry baskets up a flight of stairs to cram the freshly folded clothes into already full drawers. I knew there was a way to simplify my laundry routine.

The first step was to stack my front loading washer and dryer. This freed up space in my small laundry room for a clothes chest. I haven't yet found a well made, inexpensive chest of drawers, so in the meantime, I am making do with small plastic stacking drawers that were being used for various organization in the attic and closets. I had four children's clothes + cloth diapers to fit in to six small drawers.

The cloth diapers take up one drawer. Each of the children have one drawer, and the older two boys share the remaining drawer for underwear/socks/pajamas. Once I find a chest of drawers, I will have quite a bit more room, since the plastic drawers are a lot smaller than dresser drawers.

I then sorted out each child's clothes. For the most part, my boys wear solid colored fitted tees with either jeans, navy shorts, or khaki pants. I did keep a few striped tees but mostly solid tops and bottoms mean that everything matches, the children can easily dress themselves, and I like the classic, simple look. Each child has 2-3 pairs of pants, 2-3 pairs of shorts, 4-5 shirts, a handful of socks and underwear, and 2 pairs of pajamas. This excludes the few dressier shirts the boys wear to church, that hang in their closet.
The baby has an assortment of mix and match onesies, pants, and button down sweaters in white, tan, and baby blue.

In the attic, I have four rubbermaid storage containers of clothes for ages 0-2t, 2t-4, 4-6, and 6+. If I have more clothes than I can fit in the bins, I pare down and give some away or consign them. I intentionally keep my storage bins and clothes drawers small so I can't mindlessly add to what I have previously determined is adequate.

There are several factors that make dressing my children pretty simple.
-I have all boys. It would be more challenging if I had to store clothes for boys and girls (and would probably want a lot more for a little girl!).

-I am very laid back about my children's clothing. While I want them to be dressed in a simple way that really highlights the child (rather than a cartoon or advertisement on the shirt), I also don't really care about them being dressed up. They're boys! I expect them to trash their clothes, always have dirt under their fingernails, and holes in the knees of their pants.

In the summer, the boys' wardrobes are pared down even further. There is one drawer upstairs that holds nothing but swim trunks. That drawer will get traded out for clothes in the laundry room later this month. There are 13-14 pairs of swim trunks (all hand me downs from generous friends), and the boys can wear most of them interchangeably (they just are baggier on the smaller kids). Truly, they live out of swim trunks in the summer. We spend most of every day in the summer at the local water park (we buy a family season pass), the back yard sprinkler, or the beach. If we need to go somewhere, they can throw on one of their solid colored tees. On Sunday, they exchange the swim trunks for nicer shorts. Laundry is such a breeze in the summer!

I know as my children get older, laundry will probably be more complicated...the clothes will be bigger and the opinions will be stronger! For now though, this system is working great for us!
WORKING OUTSIDEThe baby plays happily in his Peapod, the other boys sword fight with sticks, argue, and occasionally help as I work to bring order to our little piece of terra firma.
Fifteen minutes a day is all I am aiming for. I am amazed at how much I can accomplish in that small amount of time.
And how happy I feel from working in the fresh air.

Monday, March 22, 2010

HAPPY MONDAYRestoring order is what I do on this (and every) Monday morning...so my family can be a little more Happy at Home. Having only what I know to be useful and believe to be beautiful is the goal.

Happy Monday to you!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A SEASONAL UNIFORMMy clothing style is pretty simple. I like to wear classic pieces that can mix and match and are appropriate for a variety of activities.

I like to personalize the classic pieces with retro-meets-earthy accessories.

My ideal style is a sort of j.crew meets anthropologie meets sundance.

Also, I want my clothes to move easily from housecleaning to errand running to baseball practice to bible study. I don't want to have to think about what to wear in the morning and I don't want to have to iron before I get dressed.

This is the uniform concept: to have a small wardrobe made up of versatile pieces that you can mix and match to easily put together outfits for every day of the week. To take the time and guess work out of getting dressed. This concept saves time, energy, money, and space.

Here is what I have planned for my summer uniform:
-bathing suit
-1 pair of shorts (dark brown)
-1 pair of running shorts
-2 knee length, cotton skirts (brown, white)
-2 sundresses (one doubling as a beach cover-up)
-2-3 fitted t-shirts, solid colors
-2 dressier shirts (linen or cotton)
-1 pair of linen pants
-1 pair of chacos
-1 pair of simple shoes
-1 pair of ballet flats
-1 pair of running shoes

Out of this list, the only items I don't already own are a sundress and a couple of t-shirts like this or this.

Once I have my basics, I can change my look for the day based on what items I wear together, and what accessories I pair with the outfit.

The uniform concept of dressing supports my main objective of living a simple life that focuses on relationships more than things (not to say that you can not have a simple life if you don't follow this method. I am just sharing what works for me)

In another post, I will share how I am doing this with my children's clothes as well.

Maybe you use the uniform concept too? Or have another system that works well for you?

Monday, March 01, 2010

THOUGHTS ON LIVING WITH LESS "I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give" -Thomas Jefferson

I think a lot about minimalism and possessions and my relationship with the things I own.
I was reading my friend Sara's travel blog last night, and had the urge to follow suit, selling most of what we owned for a life of RV'ing on the open road. But as I considered further, and what that would really look like (or at least, what I imagine that it would look like), I acknowledged that's not a lifestyle I really want. I like having a house and firm roots in a community. The part that really appeals to me is the life that I could have without the encumbrances of THINGS. When I consider the amount of time that goes into maintaining the things we own, it just seems like a waste. A waste of time, of resources, of mental and physical energy.

What good things am I giving up because of the time I spend maintaining my stuff?

I have been going through what my typical day looks like and how much of it is spent on taking care of our things and how much of it is spent engaging with the people around me in a meaningful way. And while I don't think my time is grossly out of proportion in those areas, I just wonder how much time is spent caring for things that don't add a lot of meaning to my family. Of course, there isn't a clear-cut answer.
Basically, I want

my footprint here to be small

to be content with less

to own good things but few things

to be focused on the people in my life, not the things I own

to only own things that enhance our life, not take away from it

to leave enough margin in our finances that we are able to help others when a need arises

to focus more on experiences than acquisitions

The more I pare down, the more freedom I feel. I don't attach a lot of sentiment to the things i own. I am happy to release much of my material excess (though I am extremely attached to my physical house). But still, stuff creeps in. I feel like I am constantly editing. It can be challenging when other family members don't share the vision. I want to be respectful of their feelings. I read a good article on being a minimalist when your partner isn't.

Minimalism looks different to each person. What might be stark and austere to one person might be perfect to another. For me, books don't feel like clutter. I like being well stocked in food and household supplies. Areas that I want to be pretty pared down in are
kitchen appliances and equipment
knick knacks/framed pictures
make up

Those are the things that I prefer to keep a relatively modest amount of to feel balanced and in dominion of my home. I am curious to hear your thoughts on this topic and how you find balance in this area.