This is My Thirty-Two.

Friday, 12 August 2016

This is thirty-two.

It’s my husband letting me sleep in until 8:00am. It’s not being able to sleep any longer because I’m usually awake by 6:30 tending to my bright-eyed offspring, the ones eager for the day to begin. It’s being finished with feeling consistently annoyed by their wake-up call and following through with my resolve to enjoy the tiny bodies snuggling into my space while it lasts. It’s being inexplicably thrilled that I got to stay in my soft, warm bed a bit longer this morning. It’s trying ignore the antsy feeling growing as I stay there, because it feels weird: an uncommon occurrence among the commonplace events of an otherwise fairly typical day. It’s making everyone breakfast because that’s just what I do. It’s simply liking to make everyone breakfast.

It’s putting in the extra effort to apply makeup today, because sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s being comfortable in my own bare cheeks and small eyes, mostly. It’s stepping into my day with the understanding that I have more to offer the world than a pretty face. It’s smiling a little because it feels rebellious.

It’s meeting tiny new wrinkles and random gray hairs and feeling disconcerted. It’s feeling my previous stance on aging being “beautiful and well-earned” suddenly challenged. It’s wondering how I feel about it all now, as my narrow adolescent ideas of beauty and my budding sage satisfaction with myself-as-I-am come toe to toe.

It’s pulling clothing on over a body that is young and healthy, but soft with the waves of demands constantly tugging at my resolve to firm up my curves. It’s having a body tender with the distinctly female pride of bearing children, with providing the world a few more hands to lift burdens, with being a soft place for those burden-lifters to land. It’s pulling on a nice dress for dinner and struggling with my little poochy mom-tummy, despite many practiced pep talks. It’s shrugging and wearing the dress anyway.

It’s only asking for a dinner-out for my birthday, one that is delicious and one I didn’t have to plan or prepare. It’s discussing minivans, our small business, and family vacations over dinner. It’s seriously considering living out of a motor home for a year and existing wildly and unconventionally, seeing everything we can see. It’s feeling young enough to do it and old enough to feel a twinge of responsible concern. It’s revelling in the canyon between the two.

It’s coming home at 9:30pm from our birthday date, tired and ready to crawl into bed. It’s laying close under the covers while we fall asleep to an old episode of The Office on Netflix. It’s almost eight years of marriage, eight hard years of marriage. It’s thinking of that with a touch of pride because we keep fighting our uphill battle, no matter what, and it keeps getting a little bit better. It’s realizing that marriage is mostly just a series of situations that requires me to examine my priorities and the kind of person I truly want to be. It’s a daily recommitting to my belief that lasting love is genuinely worth my constant internal battle to stay humble and kind. It’s falling asleep tucked around each other in our unflattering, but comfortable, sleepwear because that’s just what we do at the end of the day.

It’s being increasingly unconcerned with what those younger than me think of my relative trendiness, but increasingly concerned with forging a better world for them. It’s settling into my own style and rhythm that doesn’t answer to the pages of Seventeen Magazine. It’s passing up more and more of the latest fads, but recognizing the ones I will adore and being brave enough to seize them with both hands and ROCK THEM. It’s straddling the line between funky and graceful, inexperienced and wise, hot and beautiful. It’s beginning to realize that I don’t have to make an either/or decision on any of them.

It’s a faith that has been shaken and deepened. It’s knowing my God better than ever and being more comfortable with Him knowing me as well as He does. It’s a heart that has grieved through death and loss. It’s a mind that has racked itself with questions as to its health and abilities, trying on every mental illness for size and for answers, if it fits. It’s trying to fill my life with art and creativity, with play-dates and Bachelor nights with friends, with depth and compassion and honesty.

It’s simultaneously being obsessed with, and bored with, social media. It’s being one of the last to remember a childhood without the internet and still rolling my eyes and judging myself a little bit every time I take a selfie.

It’s being a little too wild to the grandmas, and a little too boring to the teenagers. It’s finally finding firm ground to plant my feet and grow while understanding that I can expect the ground to shift soon enough. It’s planning with a twinkle in my eye, and taking deep breaths while turning to face my demons.

It’s soul-stretching and ground-breaking, like every other year before it.

This is my thirty-two.

March-August Goals

Monday, 8 August 2016

So here is the post where I summarize everything that's been happening with My Healthiest Year Yet the past few months! Spoiler alert: It's not that exciting.

I stopped writing about it here somewhat unintentionally (busy with other things), but also because it was the ONLY thing I was writing about on this here blog and it was feeling boring...both to me in reporting it, and (I imagined) as something to read about. SOoo, I figured I'd just update you all at once and have it out and over for now. You're welcome. Haha!

Also included are random photos of my girls twirling in their Sunday dresses, for no reason other than something fun to look at.

We left off with this post, where I announced what my March goal was going to be exercising more regularly with the Sweat With Kayla app on my phone. Here's a quick run-down of how each month went from that point on:


Goal: See this post here. Or the above paragraph. Whatevs.

Summary: It went ooookay for the first few weeks. I actually really like the program! I would recommend it to anyone. I, however, have learned that I really need to leave my house to exercise. I don't care if it's just for a run, or to a gym, or WHATEVER...I am just really terrible at exercising at home. I get really distracted by all of the other things I have to all the things that I'm really good at ignoring until I go to workout and suddenly feel SUPER IMPORTANT and URGENT. Like the dishes. Anyways, it's something I want to be better at. But also something to work on another time.



Summary: Okay, so this month kind of slipped away from me because my hubby surprised me with a me-and-him trip to Hawaii for a week! It was amazing. And it was honestly just what the doctor ordered. Him and I remembered that we actually like each other a lot (ha...) and the time away from regular routines was just so good. So I'm counting it as part of these monthly goals because it was an important reminder to me of the importance of breaks and rest in overall health. So, in summary, what I'm really saying is this: I totally rocked April's accidental goal (not a thing) of taking a vacation. Go, me! Haaaa.


Goal: Learn how to make sourdough bread! 

Have you guys "met" Kelsey of the blog Simple Life by Kels yet (she's also on Instagram)? Or have you heard of the blog Home Joys by inspirational mennonite mama Gina? Or watched the Netflix mini docuseries "Cooked?" Because all three of those were major influences in my desire to make bread the way bread was intended to be made, old-school style with nautral yeast. Making bread with natural yeast apparently transforms bread into something that is deeply nutritious and easier to digest. Also, I was kind of romanticizing the idea of connecting with my bread-food the good ol' fashioned way: with my hands and a little time.

Summary: Turns out it is way easier than I expected and also just as rewarding as I expected...AND delicious, of course. I got my starter from Kelsey (freeze dried flakes) and brought it back to life. I love that it's a whole wheat flour starter! It all makes me feel very self-sufficient. Like, if there was an armageddon-type disaster and all you gave me were kernels of wheat I could grind them up and make bread just like that with my starter, no big deal. When I eat it, I also don't feel that bloaty, sluggish feeling afterwards. I don't have gluten intolerance so I don't sense a huge difference health-wise (though it can be remarkable apparently!), but it's enough of a difference to notice... and I like it. And let's face it: if there is a way to include bread in my life and have it be super-nutritious, then I am ALL OVER THAT. This is the recipe I used for bread and it turned out every time...except I turned the heat down because it makes a really dark crust otherwise.


Goal: Read more often.

I love reading. I love books that challenge and intrigue my trusty ol' brain, give me noble and courageous characters to look up to, and inspire me to do better and be better as a result. So this goal was just about making more time for something that stretches my heart and mind.

Summary: Oh, guys. I will never regret taking the time to read good books. I've been making a conscious effort this past year or so to make time for it in my life since I haven't made time for it much at all during the past several years of marriage and having babies (brain fried, body tired). But everything had felt SO crazy with 'doing stuff' during May and June that I wanted to give myself a good reason to take breaks and rest here and there...and rest WELL, not just shut off my brain and check out to a show or social media (though that definitely has its place! No hating here.). This past month we fiiiinally got our library cards for our local library and have been working them out good! It has felt so refreshing to turn the pages of these books I've read lately and open myself up to the soul-searching and inspiration that inevitably follows with a truly good book, especially those classics that you get something different out of every time you read it.

A few that I read/started (mostly the latter...I have several on the go currently) this past month: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Adventures of Robin Hood by Paul Creswick, Rising Strong by Brene Brown, The Christ-Centered Home by Emily Belle Freeman, Food Rules by Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I recommend every single one of them, they are all worth the time...though I did just barely finished the last one in this list and it was especially incredible: both heart wrenching and thought-provoking. I cried.


Goal: Being present.

Summary: Some days I was more successful than others, but I definitely improved. I just left the internet/social-media/texting convos mostly alone during the day and suddenly I had all this free time...? So weird. Haha! I focused on giving my kids my full attention whenever it was possible so they felt heard and really listened to. I think that was really where the goal took me this month: a deeper appreciation for good listeners and a deeper desire to become one.

What always blows my mind is how quickly and overwhelmingly my kids respond with love and gratitude when they feel more cared for and feel like they're important to me...just by my being fully present and engaged in whatever is going on. Attention-seeking behaviours go WAY down.

Also, when I focus on the moment, my brain doesn't stay in what I like to call "internet mode" either...where I'm so busy thinking about one thing after another that I read/saw/want-to-look-up that I can't "unhook" from the fast-paced generally-superficial information there to just stop and truly enjoy the story that my boy is telling me about a magic snail with a super sword (?). I feel less crazy and have waaaaay more patience with my kids (AND more energy to do fun stuff with them) when my brain is not constantly whirring in "internet mode." I find my brain settles into deeper processing when it has to focus on being truly present, and that is a very good, sometimes uncomfortable, but totally essential thing for me.

This is a goal that always seems to be on the table for me, with occasionally more focus on it here and there when needed. I am always glad when I try harder at it, though; the rewards of being present with my kids and friends and family are better connections, deeper relationships, and a full heart. SO worth the effort.


Goal: Go hardcore with F45 Training. My friend Niki opened an F45 Team-Training centre nearby and I am trying it this month! It's a pretty incredible program/system of HIIT workouts that are always changing.

Summary, so far: I get my butt kicked (in the best way) every time I go. I got a week off for a family vacation we just took, but I am craving the workout again. So far I've noticed that working out so intensely helps me stay focused throughout the day and sleep better. AND feel stronger. I really love the variety and encouragement when I'm there! So far so good!


That's that! Working on some more heart-felt writing to share here over the next few weeks. Until then, hope you are rocking your summer and soaking it all up!

10 Past Posts!

Friday, 6 May 2016

This is kind of a fake post.

Well, not really FAKE, but it might be cheating a little. I just wanted to re-share a few old posts that I've been re-reading THAT's what this post is, just posting some oldies.

This year so far has been pretty much entirely posts on my Healthiest Year Yet Goals...(I'm behind on those...I'll be doing all the updates in one post soon!)...and while I love sharing those and being accountable to you, I always love writing and sharing things that run a little deeper than that.

Have you read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? It's amazing. So inspiring! She personifies creativity a lot to help explain her thoughts on how creativity works and enriches our respective lives...and while that element was a little 'much' for me at times, the underlying messages were totally what I have needed to hear lately in the living-a-creative-life-regardless-of-your-excuses department, particularly with writing. I don't know if that will translate to more writing here, or just more writing behind the scenes in general, but I just know I need to write...and so I will!

SOoo...while I figure that out, here are some past posts from this here bloggity blog to peruse:

Dear Jocelyn (Posted 6 months after my sister died)

10 Reasons Why Having Three Kids is Awesome

My Mundane is Their Childhood

15 Unusual Ways to Brighten Your Day

How to Eat Healthy in 30 Years or Less: My Journey to Better Habits

5 Ways to Declutter Your Head

People and Their Own Kind of Beautiful

7 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving

The Case for Hard Copy Books (vs. digital)

The First Post!

March 2016 Goal

Thursday, 17 March 2016

So this month, it's back to an exercise goal for me! (in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge)

I have been feeling the need (again) to get my literal rear-in-gear in that department. It could be that swimsuit season is inching closer (ack! Insert all my shallow-and-superficial-but-very-real-panic here!). Could be that my posture keeps getting worse and worse, making my back a little grouchy. And also could be all this spring-like sunshine reminding me that there are fun, outside, active things in my future (hiking, and swimming, and sportsing, oh my!)...things I don't want to have to avoid because I'm not physically ready.

Whatever the reason, I'm to feel the burn, baby!

My goal this month is kind of hard to put into specific words. The bottom line is to exercise. The more elaborate version is to workout according to the Sweat With Kayla app on my phone. I'll tell you more about that in a sec, but I guess when it's all put together, my goal is:

To follow Kayla Itsine's workout program for the month of March, via the Sweat With Kayla app....(and, honestly, longer than that...but I'm just framing it in "monthly goal" words.)


It feels a little cheesy to me to use a work-out program but I'm feeling like I need someone else to be the boss of me right now to get me started. There's also a ready-made eating plan on there, too! Complete with recipes and shopping lists...AMAZING, right!?

Anyways, I'm sure I could make my own workout plan, and meal plan, etc. etc....but the energy I'm saving by letting her do all the work for me sounds SOOoo much more attractive at this point in my life. Maybe someday when I'm an Australian Health Guru (like Kayla Itsines) with oodles of time, it'll just be easier to do it myself. But not now, not yet. SO...I'm just letting Kayla tell me what to do.

And just as a side note: I just chose this app/program because...well, I wanted to. Ha! I needed the motivation of a structured program that will guilt me into using it because I spent good money on it. BUT! there are so many other routes I could have taken. I love Jillian Michael's workouts. Training for a race is good motivation! Even just going on a daily walk. Anything is better than nothing. So it's not really all-about-the-app. It's just about the exercise. I'll tell you more about the app in case you're curious, but the bottom line here is EXERCISE.

So, the app. It's a monthly subscription one, so kind of like paying for a cheap gym membership. There is a free week-long trial, though, so you can test-drive it before you commit for the long-term.

 So far, it's been three 28-min HIIT (high-intensity interval training) resistance workouts a week. Those are the ones that make you sweat and hurt. Then somewhere in that week you also do three LISS (low intensity steady state) sessions of about 30-40mins (like walking or steadily jumping on the mini-trampoline while watching Fuller House...ha!). There are also recovery sessions (stretching, cool-downs, etc.) to help with sore muscles. It sounds like a lot! But it's actually been just the frequency and variety that I need to keep me from getting bored too quickly (which is totally what I would risk if I decided my workouts myself). It changes as you go through the weeks, and I'm just in the beginner training sessions, so I haven't really gotten into the true HIIT workouts yet. It's also designed to be done in the comfort of your own home, which I appreciate since I live out in the country at the moment and nowhere near a gym.

The app's eating plan is based on the Australian food guide. The food is good! And you can switch your meals between standard, vegetarian, and vegan plans if need be. I might try the vegetarian recipes since I'm trying to increase my whole plant food intake and seriously decrease my meat intake...but so far the regular eating plan has been just fine (not crazy amounts of animal protein or anything), and easily adaptable if I want to switch out the meat for beans or leave out the cheese or whatever. So we'll see whether I officially switch over or not.

So there it is. I took before pictures, and will take after pictures, but you will never see them! Maybe. Probably. It's embarrassing to be half-naked on the internet. Happy March-so-far!

February Goal Summary (and a smoothie recipe!)

Monday, 7 March 2016

February is over! Like SO over. Ha.
Time to fill you in on how things went with my February Goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge.

(In case you forgot, my goal for February was to drink a green smoothie/green juice every day. Yummm....)

I don't really have anything mind-blowing to share about this month went. It was just good. I always feel SO much better when I'm eating more vegetables, leafy greens in particular. I have more energy, crave less junk food, and start craving even more fruits and vegetables. My digestive system is more effective and (ahem) regular. It's a win-win situation all around.

I survived a family road trip by drinking store-bought smoothies (Happy Planet ones are my favourite!) and there were a couple days throughout the month where I missed making a smoothie at home, but still had a big green salad for lunch so I still got those greens in me.

Having my greens in the form of smoothies and juice also kept me better hydrated. I'd like to think that it made my skin more "glow-y" but that might just be wishful thinking. Ha! AND, as a side note, I totally fell in love with cacao nibs this month. I loved having them in my smoothies! Total powerhouse for keeping me satiated and energized for hours.

So really, that's it. Eat your veggies! One way or another. Totally worth it.


This green smoothie recipe is my favourite. You can seriously stuff SO much spinach in there and it still tastes like dessert, just like drinking a peanut butter milkshake. It's pretty healthy as-is, but I'll share my extra-healthy version with you, too, just in case you're interested!

Green Monster Spinach Smoothie from Iowa Girl Eats

1 frozen, sliced Banana
1 tablespoon Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt
4 cups Baby Spinach (or a little more/less)
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk (or any kind of milk)

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth. Enjoy!


Green Monster Smoothie, Extra-Healthy Style (dairy-free, naturally sweetened)

Try the original first...then if you're feeling brave, try this one out. It's still delicious, but definitely has a more "wholesome" taste (which I loooove, but does take a little getting used to).

1 Banana (frozen optional, but delicious)
1-2 tablespoons natural Peanut Butter
2-3 cups Baby Spinach 
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1 cup Almond Milk (or straight water, even! The banana helps add creaminess)
3-5 Medjool Dates (these are the big fat ones, usually found in the produce section...they are extra sweet and delicious so if you don't have them, you'll need to add extra 'regular' dates or use another sweetener like honey or maple syrup)
hint of salt (if the PB doesn't have any)
1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs, chia seeds, hemp hearts, etc. (you pick your combo)

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until very smooth!


I'll often make a green smoothie just by tossing berries, kale and/or spinach, a banana, and some honey in a blender and it turns out just fine. If you have a really hard time with a "green" taste, definitely make sure to include something strongly "citrus-y" like pineapple or frozen orange juice concentrate...those help add a tang to the smoothie and make it extra-delicious! I'll be sure to share more favourite smoothie recipes as I find them. Happy smoothie-ing!

February 2016 Goal

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Since January was a pretty intense month for goal-setting/goal-accomplishing, I thought I'd chill out a little and do an easier goal this month.

February's Goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge is: Drink one green smoothie (or green juice) a day.

Now when I say "green smoothie," I'm not necessarily referring to colour. I'm referring to content! My plan was to consume, one smoothie that has leafy greens all blended up inside(...or juice some greens and other things into a delectable green juice). Sometimes the smoothie actually turns out green! Other days I add berries and it definitely turns out more purple-y...or other weird colours. Ha!

I enjoy green smoothies... so the effort here for me is not in choking them down, the effort is in the consistency. Bonus: I have some favourite green smoothie recipes and I'll share a few with you soon!

But while we're on the topic of greens, lets marvel at their superpowers.

Seriously, though, right!? It seems like every time I'm reading about an incredible nutrient that does our body good (disease prevention, basic functioning, healing, etc), the list of foods that contain that vital nutrient almost ALWAYS say "dark leafy green vegetables." They are such a powerhouse of nutrition! And with good nutrition from whole food sources comes all sorts of amazing health benefits that we don't even understand...something about getting whole, real food into our body creates this synergistic magic while they have their own party in there and go to work nourishing our cells. *Pardon me while I geek out on how amazing food does amazing things for our amazing bodies. Gaaaah, it's so cool.*

Anyways, here are some quick internet reads on some benefits of eating your greens. Also enjoy the pictures of my green juice from today with totally irrelevant tulips and tulip petals. THEY WERE ALL SO PRETTY TOGETHER!
Be back soon with an update of how it all went! Leafy Greens Essential for Immune Regulation and Tumor Resolution Top 10 Leafy Green Vegetables
World's Healthiest Foods- Collard Greens, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Romaine Lettuce, etc, etc.
The Truth About Cancer- The Cancer-Fighting Benefits of Leafy Greens
Tedx Talk- Minding Your Mitochondria by Dr. Terry Wahls
DermaDoctor- How Greens Gave Me My Glow Back

January Summary

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Here it is! My summary of how things went with my January goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge, complete with my life story, crappy iphone pictures, and endless gushing. Ha!

...But seriously, don't say I didn't warn you. This one's a doozy!

(February's goal announcement is coming soon! Though I'm proud to report that it's going very well so far. Yessss!)

I wasn't born organized.

My natural talents tend toward the creative and contemplative. And throughout my life, I've reinforced all stereotypes of having an active imagination: head in the clouds, idealistic, and messy. My surroundings often mirrored my thoughts: scattered, with the details overlooked, and hyperfocused on the beautiful.

I really tried to be organized. I made heroic and desperate (and occasionally successful) attempts to control the chaos in my environment. Despite a natural disposition toward being a little scattered and spontaneous, I actually thrive in a simple, clean environment and love the structure of a schedule. But it has always been a constant battle to keep it that way. And if anything "extra" entered my life/house/schedule at all, it just all came crashing down. Hand me a new baby? MESS. Influx of Christmas gifts? MESS. Sleep deprivation? MESS. Particularly busy week? MESS. And then I'd kind of recover and mostly get it under control again...until the next big thing, like, three hours later. EXHAUSTING. And I always felt in-over-my-head, with everything.

I always wondered if it was supposed to be SO hard. I knew I wasn't the only one who struggled with housekeeping and keeping my junk in order, some even moreso than me. But I also knew that there were also many who didn't struggle nearly as hard as I did. I've long suspected a mild to moderate struggle with ADHD, but still. I am a Special Needs Education teacher, by trade, and I know what kinds of strategies I needed to implement to manage it...I just couldn't find the time and space in my head and life to actually DO it.

Momentos, the process. Kleenex needed!

I read about decluttering and organizing often. No, A LOT. I liked paying attention to my family's habits and coming up with organizational systems that worked for us. But there always just seemed to be SO many things and people and demands ALL the time, I would get overwhelmed easily and everything would fall apart. And when I get overwhelmed my defence mechanism is avoidance. Soo...I ignored all the stuff until I couldn't anymore, then went nuts---decluttering and organizing like crazy!---until I burnt out and ignored it again. It all felt so ineffective and futile!

Vicious cycle.

Living simply and 'minimalistically' appealed to me, but I needed a bigger purpose than just "getting rid of everything for the heck of it." There just seemed to be some weird disconnect for me between having less...and the how and the why.

I often spoke about this kind of thing with a close friend of mine...who discovered, read, and then let me borrow her copy of "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo about a year ago now. I was hooked from the first few pages and read it in two days. 

THIS WAS IT. I could feel it.

Part of Marie Kondo's method includes decluttering by category, and in a certain order. So I started, and got through clothing, books, papers, and my kitchen stuff before we had to move houses. Even just that much felt SO good! Those categories were the things that affected me most on a daily basis so the difference in the way I felt was immediate. Packing those things up didn't even feel like work because they were all things I loooved and wanted in my life. Moving them to my next home was actually enjoyable, not the usual moving torture of omigosh-we-have-so-much-stuff-whyyy-do-we-have-so-much-stuff??? 

At least until we got to the things that I hadn't gone through yet; in which case it was utter torture again.

Once we moved, I had a baby and just didn't get around to finishing the process. The "too-much" feeling started creeping back in slowly in the fall, and I had a few painful realizations. I started noticing that I had lost sight of parenting goals I always wanted to accomplish, and generally the kind of parent I wanted to be. I just always felt too busy, or too drained, or too overwhelmed to do things that had always been so important to me to "someday do with my kids." And it was chronic, not just a short rough patch.

Failing miserably at my December goal was the straw that broke the camel's back. Clearly, if I didn't have enough whatever (time, energy, focus, sleep, etc.) to fill my soul up like I knew I needed to, then there was just too much going on in my life, period. To be fair, December is always a busy month, but still. It was just glaringly obvious to me I needed to clear some things out. I knew I had the tool: the Konmari process had already shown great promise in my life for proven change and results. I needed to finish it through to the end to make room for the things that mattered to me.

I am an excellent procrastinator. This I know about myself! If I didn't feel the pressure of a time crunch, it wouldn't get done all that quickly. I also knew that the first few categories theoretically wouldn't take too much time since I'd gone through them already once before. So I decided to officially make it my January goal: finishing the whole process in one month.

I knew it was kind of crazy...which was the point, really. I figured it would give just the right amount of pressure to encourage me to work on it every chance I got. BUT it was super-crazy! My head is still spinning from the intensity of it all. BUT WOW. It was totally worth it.

I finished everything up to the photos/momentos category! I didn't get it all completely done in my one-month deadline. My house, however, looks and feels completely different.

I never would have been able to take this funny picture (and show it publicly) of my rolling baby getting stuck under the couch. There simply would have just been too much stuff around and I would have been too embarrassed to show anyone!

Besides my not-so-little stack of boxes labeled "Photos" and "keepsakes" and "momentos" (which I keep chipping away at every chance I get), everything else has been touched and questioned as to its joy-quotient. I have furniture I've given away and some still to sell because I no longer have the stuff to fill the drawers and shelves(!!!). I'm still tweaking where I think things should belong, and I think I'll probably do one more pass through and let more things go now that my "joy-detector" is more fine-tuned and sensitive than when I first began. Then I'll take pictures and show you!

The biggest change has just been the space...physically (because less stuff = more space, duh), time-wise (less time spent cleaning up all the stuff) and mentally (less time thinking about all the stuff and what to do with all the stuff and how to ignore all the stuff). I have more space in my life! I'm surrounded by the things I love. And I suddenly have the time to pursue---wait for it---the things that bring me joy. Ha.

I mean, I still have four kids 6 and under, and I'm still (happily) not a my house is not neat as a pin all the time...we actually live in it, you know! But the words "this house is a mess right now!" describe the exception, not the constant state of things. And it takes less than a half hour to bring everything back to ground zero, even at its new "worst." It feels comfortably tidy most of the time and that feels unreal and amazing.

My kids play better with fewer toys. I honestly enjoy tidying up (in the traditional sense) at the end of each day, putting our loved belongings back in their places. I can sit and read in a clean house often, and don't feel so overwhelmed with my "to-do" list that I can't fathom taking the time to do soak up my kids. My routines for myself actually stick. I can embrace the creative and beautiful messes that life hands out...without feeling like it will take over my whole life or push me over the edge. And I have the space to work through the challenges I inevitably face.

But I think the biggest lesson of the whole process, the thing that makes it life-changing, is learning to listen to that inner voice within yourself that lets you know when something is going to bring you joy, and when it is not. It starts with things...(Which clothes make me feel great? Which books do I truly need on hand to read again and again? Which photos uplift me and act as soul-filling reminders of happy memories?)...but it extends to things like which activities/hobbies to pursue, which social engagements to embrace or turn down, which people to invest your time into, and what thoughts don't belong in your head. It is not easy to be faced with all of the reasons certain things make you uncomfortable, or sad, or weighed down with guilt...but the wrestle and resolution is worth the 'heart work.' Think of it like the best conversation you've ever had...with yourself! A little difficult, but honest, revelatory, and healing.

I know now that how I 'live with less' and manage the things in my life is by always asking myself what brings me joy, what I love. I hold and cherish those things close, and kindly and gratefully dismiss the rest with a remembrance for the lessons I've learned from their presence.

And why live with less than 'too much?' Because surrounding myself with joy, and finding joy in the things around me, sounds like the kind of life I want to be living. 

These two were keepers. Joy-sparkers for sure.