Mother’s Day: 10 non-spendy ideas to make Mother’s Day just perfect…

It’s Mother’s Day here in New Zealand this Sunday.

As usual, the shops are all suggesting we buy cards and gifts. For some reason, the junk mail is full of suggestions that people buy their mums kitchen items such as serving platters, new toasters, dinner sets and cutlery.

If someone bought me a toaster for Mother’s Day I would kill them!!!

I wanted CHOCOLATE!!!!! 😉

But seriously, Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about the money. Or the stuff. So, in light of that, here are 10 fabulous non-spendy ideas to make your Mother’s Day just perfect. Five are things to make, and five are things to do.

Have fun! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day gifts – to make

1. A wheat bag to keep her warm on cold nights. Here’s how: How to make a wheat bag.

2. A foot scrub to make her tired feet soft and lovely. Here’s how: Recipe for peppermint foot scrub.

3. A “Ten things I love about you” book. Here’s how: Ten things I love about you.

4. Bath salts. Then let her soak for hours…. Here’s how: Homemade bath salts.

5. A ladybird rock paperweight for her desk. Every time she sees it, she’ll smile 🙂 Here’s how: Ladybug rocks.

Mother’s Day gifts – to do

1. Let her sleep in. The rest of the family members – partners, kids, assorted groupies – do everything for a day. Make breakfast. Tidy up. Do the washing. Clean the house. Fix that gizmo that has needed fixing for ever. Oh, and keep the noise down…

2. Bake something nice. And CLEAN the kitchen afterwards. Bake some cupcakes. Or a slice. Or some muffins. The house will smell lovely.

3. Collect wildflowers. Go for a drive. Or a walk. Collect wildflowers. Give them to her. With love. Oh – and if it’s too wet for collecting flowers, go splashing in puddles or build a snowman instead!

4. Go hiking. Together. As a family. You’ll know if your mum likes that kind of thing. Some of us do 😉

5. Let her be a tourist in her home town. Most cities have a council website with suggestions of free things to do in the city. Some ideas include:
going to the botanic gardens,
visiting a park,
going to the beach for a family picnic,
visiting an open garden or a historic home,
going for a drive along a scenic route,
going to a free talk or open-air concert,
playing in a playground like you’re a kid again,
visiting the art gallery,
visiting the museum,
visiting local heritage sites,
visiting cultural sites,
bird watching in a wild place,
going “instagramming” at a local beauty spot,
wildlife spotting,
visiting an old church and enjoying the silence,
visiting an old graveyard and reading the old tombstones (they can be really interesting!)

Use your imagination and give mum a truly special day!

Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂

Two weeks to go!

It’s two weeks until we move into our new home!

We’re starting to clear out at the temporary rental we’ve been in, and today my partner and I visited the house, together with our real estate agent and a guy from the heating company, looking at the different options for heating the home. It’s an old house and there is no heating, except for three old fireplaces.

The main living room. You can see one of the fireplaces in the far wall.

It felt odd visiting what will be our new home, and good to have a look around. It’s a beautiful old home, but it needs a lot of work. It’ll keep us busy for quite a while, I suspect!

The house and garden from the rear. It’s in a lovely sunny spot, central to everything. The house needs work, and one of the first tasks will be a full external repaint in summer (around Christmas for New Zealand)!

We were there for well over an hour – I could tell the poor real estate agent was getting restless – but in the end we made some decisions, and we should have heating organised by the time we move in.

Currently the library, this room will probably be our master bedroom. I’m looking forward to painting and decorating it, and will be sharing the “before and after” pics here at the blog!

We’re all really looking forward to moving in now, especially my two kids, who are sharing a room, and my partner’s son, who is living downstairs in the storage room under the house in the rental. Not exactly ideal! We’ll be redecorating the kids rooms one by one, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we do as we get it all done.

As for the garden, I’m keen to create a meditation garden in the front, and to have my chooks again out the back, and my partner wants to build a fire pit. I’m not sure how I feel about the fire pit, but sometimes living with someone you love means compromise.

Not long now!

5 great decluttering tips for moving house

We’re moving into our new house in May. And moving is such a great time to declutter!

Here are 5 great, simple tips for decluttering while moving house.

1. Give each of your kids a cardboard box for their stuff.

As long as you’re not moving long distances, you can usually move small personal items yourself, and save a lot of money doing so. So get your kids to put all their personal items they intend to keep in a big box, and everything else out by the front door for charity or sale.

I let my kids keep any money from sold personal items. It really encourages them to clear their items they no longer use! Kids love making money!

I’ve found that inspiring the kids with what their new rooms will look like, and even letting them choose the decor, is really getting them keep to clear out and move. My partner’s daughter is almost as keen on Pinterest now as I am! 🙂

2. Keep a charity box and a “sell” box by the front door.

Sort into one of two boxes as you go. So easy! We like to donate to our local Hospice shop 🙂

Now, create two challenges between the kids of a) who can donate the most items from their room and b) who can throw away the most items from their room. My kids are mercenaries and food or cash prizes are a sure-fire winner! Creating a little friendly competition between the kids can work wonders with motivation.

3. Garage sales and flea markets are great places to declutter.

Some people have enough items to run their own garage sale. I find I can’t be bothered and don’t have enough stuff for a garage sale anyway, so selling through a local flea market works better for me. Check your local council website for markets that might suit you.

One rule: Anything you take to the flea market that doesn’t sell goes to charity at the end of the day. Don’t bring it home with you!

And don’t buy anything!

Photo of New York flea market by IsaFire.

4. Clothing can be checked over while clearing out.

We’re getting our kids to check all their clothing for size and wear while we’re clearing out. It makes sense. Don’t bring items that don’t fit or are in poor shape with you when you move!

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to consider giving The Project 333 a go, and try living with a minimalist wardrobe in your new home. Check it out: The Project 333.

I’ve been living with a minimalist wardrobe for three years now, and could never go back to a wardrobe bursting at the seams!

5. Play the “Packing Party” when you move!

Only take out what you need, as you need it, when you arrive. You might be surprised how little of your personal items you actually use! So why not have a “packing party” now you actually have to pack? Here’s a link: The packing party.

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.

friendshill_dawniesroom

Is it even possible to be minimalist…with kids?

Here’s my answer: Yes!

Minimalism is a tool that helps to clarify what is most important. When you clear away the stuff that doesn’t matter, the stuff that does matter becomes obvious.

As a busy mum, embracing minimalism was about deciding that I was going to put my family’s well being and happiness…and my own…ahead of what anyone else might be telling me to do.

That meant figuring out what was important to me, and to us as a family.

Everyone is different, and every family has different priorities. Our family decided that we wanted to spend time together, we wanted to travel, and we wanted to be less stressed.

I was up in Wellington last week, renewing our passports. We're off overseas again soon. I can't wait!

I was up in Wellington last week, renewing our passports. We’re off overseas again soon. I can’t wait!

Our kids health and education is also really important to us, and right at the top of the list.

Your family’s priorities might be different to ours. You may value missionary work and faith, or you may want to build a property empire to pass on. Or you may want to be more financially secure to better care for elderly relatives or spend time caring for disabled child.

Whatever you priorities may be, figuring them out is the first step. And clearing the stuff that isn’t important comes next.

We didn’t really care about impressing other people with a fancy house, or a fancy car, or brand name clothes. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, and they’re important to a lot of people, but we figured out that they weren’t the kinds of things that were going to make us happy.

Instead, we focus on outings on the weekends, educational weekends – and lots (!!) of movies, TV series (Horrible Histories is GREAT – check it out!) and books (from the library!) about history, geography, science and maths.

I also volunteer as a teacher of computing to kids aged 9-12 once a week with a local Code Club. I share my knowledge and love of learning with the wider community this way, and feel like I’m giving something back.

Owning less stuff gives us more time – and more money – for the things that matter to us. We love to travel, so we’re off to Europe for a big holiday in a few months time, touring historic sites and cruising the Med.

It’s going to be so much fun!

We wouldn’t be able to afford a great trip like that – from New Zealand, where we live, on the other side of the world from Europe! – if we weren’t careful with our spending in other areas.

Minimalism helps to spend less on everyday unnecessary purchases, so we can save for holidays and family time. That makes the whole family happy! 🙂

Me - on the Wellington Cable Car ;)

Me – on the Wellington Cable Car 😉

Decluttering before Christmas

One of the simplest and best habits to keep clutter under control during the holiday season – particularly kid clutter! – is to have a big clear out before Christmas.

My kids actually really enjoy clearing out their stuff prior to the Big Day. They associate getting rid of old belongings with making room for new, better items.

They see decluttering as a good thing, not a bad thing.

We set aside an entire day to do the job. Like most decluttering sessions, we work by category and give the process plenty of time. The kids themselves choose what is to go and what stays – although I’m there to help with suggestions and advice if they need it.

We set aside anything that is good enough to give to friends or to charity in a separate pile, and make sure it gets delivered right away.

Electronics and computer games go into a third pile, as they can be resold or traded for extra cash. The kids love this! So do I, as it’s an excellent lesson in how little things are worth once they become second-hand. The kids have become much wiser and now shop for their computer games in the “trade and save” section of the electronics store. They’ve wised up 🙂

We’re quite ruthless with the pre-Christmas clearout. My kids and I know, from experience, that once the new stuff arrives the old stuff would largely get ignored anyway. So it makes sense to pass it all on, so there’s plenty of room to appreciate the new stuff.

And you know what? We’ve never once regretted getting rid of anything. Not one thing.

So here’s my short list of tips for an effective pre-Christmas clearout:

    1. Give it plenty of time. Clearing out with my kids takes a whole day. Kids often take time to decide. Don’t push them.

    2. Work by category. An example of this is my daughter’s art supplies. Instead of sorting them where we find them, we gather everything together in one place, then sort them through, eliminating everything she doesn’t need or use. This sort of stuff sure piles up through the year!

    3. Suggest new owners. Help kids remember that their cast off items can be of genuine use to others. Their favourite shirt that no longer fits may make a friend very happy. A too-short jacket may keep another child warm through winter. Most children are kind by nature and love to know they are helping others.

    4. Remind them that new items are coming. If kids are wary about passing their old belongings on, remind them that Santa is on his way, and room will be needed for the new items!

    5. Teach them the value of trading and selling with high-priced items. Take the kids down with items to trade and sell and give them the money they earn from selling their items. They’ll soon want to get rid of more unused items, be sure of it!

    6. Bag up items right away and take the children to the charity drop-off with you. Kids need to feel that their generosity is doing others good. They should be a part of the whole process.

    7. Clean their rooms together, top to bottom, once the clearout is done. Teach your child to take pride in their personal space. There! Doesn’t that look terrific?!

Are you planning a pre-Christmas decluttering session? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, I’d love to hear them!

christmasballs2