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The Necessity of A Calm Bedroom

The Necessity of A Calm Bedroom

The Necessity of A Calm Bedroom

Here’s a strong opinion for you: Bedrooms are nothing if not calm.

Note: I didn’t say bedrooms are nothing if they don’t have expensive furniture. Nor did I say bedrooms are nothing if they are small.

No matter the color scheme, room size, furniture quality, or whether you share the room with anyone else…what counts is whether you take the time to make sure your bedroom gives you a sense of calm when you walk through its door.

Go ahead, walk into your bedroom. How do you feel? Overwhelmed by the pile of clothing on the bed? Frustrated that you didn’t make the bed this morning? Thrilled that things are in order and the room isn’t cluttered?

If your bedroom experience is less than calm, here are a few things I’ve done over the years to increase the peace which might work for you:

  • No laundry in the bedroom. All clothing (both clean and dirty) are in my closet either hanging, folded, or in the hamper.
  • Empty floors. Apart from the legs of a few pieces of furniture, clear the floors. You don’t need those decorative items that have to be vacuumed around or dusted, and they’re visually removing eyes from the main attractions of a welcoming bed or the view out your window.
  • Lighting matters. During the day use natural light if you have it and avoid harsh overhead lights in the evening. Bedside table lamps are preferable for reading.
  • Clutter-free bedside tables, please. Apart from the charging cable for my iPhone, I keep the rest (namely, my Kindle and a book or two) in a drawer in my bedside table. I used to have a dresser in my bedroom but it was a clutter magnet.

CHALLENGE: Remove decorative items and all those dusty framed photos from your bedroom today. Open the blinds and crack a window or two if the weather permits. Get the laundry out and give it a new home! Give yourself the gift of a calm bedroom.

Is Your Home Too Big?

Our home is too big.

Our home is too big.

Is your home too big? I mentioned recently that our current home is too big. I like the house, and we are only renting at this time, so it’s not what I’d call a heartbreaking situation in the least. I hope you see this post as more of a journal entry than a complaint. It seemed to me that I should try to put into words the experience of being in a home that is too big while being focused on owning less than culture encourages, and I’d like to hear from you how you make the best of your current living situation.

It’s Not About the Money
I know many people don’t want bigger homes because they can cost more. But the money isn’t what gets to me.  I never thought twice about paying a lot of cash up front to rent a 700 sq. ft. apartment in London for six months, and somehow being in a home about 4 times the size in America feels weird (even though it’s 30% less expensive per month).

It’s Not About Appearance
Here’s what I mean when I say the home is too big: At the moment, there are four rooms we don’t use on a regular basis: a guest room, full guest bath, second dining room, and a sitting room. We have a number of empty storage shelves. The minimalist in me cringes at the thought of adding furniture, but the rooms look cold and dark being bare. As a result, we’ve fully moved in but being here is akin to walking around in shoes (or worse, pants!) that are too big – not quite a sustainable match.

It Is About Culture
I really hated typing those four words just now. They say a lot about me and the current state of society. The fact is, Chris and I have looked at a number of other homes that are smaller but we’re not willing to take the time or money to make repairs. Some smaller homes we do like mean making a longer commute each day which is as much a value conflict for me as is living in a home that is too big. We’ve talked about joining the Tiny House Movement but it’s not a solution we feel confirmed is right for our family of four yet…even though living in a home that is too big has motivated us to consider it.

So, all this to say…I’d like to hear about your living situation. How do you make it work? Do you have a home that’s too big? Too small? How have you made your home just right for you? What practical or attitude adjustments have you made to make it work? Your feedback and input would be a great encouragement to me.  Thank you, friends.


How To Make Any Room Peaceful

How to make a room peaceful

We have a pretty simple family room.  Some of the furniture was given to us and the rest is not expensive.  What matters is that we can truly rest when we’re hanging out in this room. Sometimes when people come over to visit they ask what it is that makes the room relaxing.  No matter your style, any room can be improved by doing this:

Sunlight: Natural light is best, but one of our flats in London had only a small window in the family room.  Imagine how things felt on a typically cloudy day! We opted to increase the light by adding two lamps to lift the mood.
Open space: Your walls and shelves should’ve be full.  Give the eye (and therefore, the mind) empty space to rest.
Furniture: Have out only what’s necessary. If you have company, you can pull in chairs. Open floor space keeps things from feeling cluttered no matter the size of your living space.
: The less, the better.  Our TV is tucked away behind cabinet doors.  Below it is additional storage but it’s empty.  Our primary storage is a basket under the coffee table we keep our Bible and journals as well as current books our family is reading in. (Learn more on storage here.)

Want another example of a peaceful room? I posted a picture of these same furniture items in our previous home a few months back.  Click here if you’d like to see how we kept things simple there using a different arrangement in a smaller room.

Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally.  She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Storage: A Minimalist’s Observations

My son Blake has 1 storage box in his room. Here's a "before" pic when sorted out his favorite toys recently.

“Many wealthy people are little more than the janitors of their possessions.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Are you paying monthly fees for storage space elsewhere to hold your extra belongings that don’t fit in your home?  Have your vehicles lost their home in your garage to stacks of storage boxes?  Our family certainly has been through seasons where we’ve had to shift things around and take up more space that we’d like to, but it’s a good idea to let go of boxed items not serving a good and timely purpose whenever possible.

I’ve chosen to hold on to my preserved wedding gown, some of the kids’ keepsakes, and a few photo albums, but we recently were able to free up additional space in our home and garage before moving by thinning out our holiday decorations and other stored items.

After you’ve released the obviously unnecessary items, turn your attention towards making these tweaks to improve your home environment:

  • In bathrooms, keep only the essentials (toothbrushes and soap) on counter tops, and the rest can go in the nearest drawer or cabinet.  Make it a family habit to put all toiletries away after getting ready in the morning.
  • Bedside tables can be a real problem.  I finally donated mine after I realized it’d become a place I’d tuck away anything in our bedroom I was too lazy to put away – like glasses, medication, or books I’d read and should re-shelf.  I keep a floor lamp on my side of the bed for reading now.  With no bedside table, I’m forced to put things away.

Consider selling your non-essential side tables, dressers, and other furniture or consoles.  After we did this, the money we made went into savings and I have less to vacuum around and dust off!  The kids were excited to see some of the pieces go, because it created more floor space for them in an area where we play board games.

Take a minute and walk through your home in your mind.  Are there any unnecessary furniture items?

  • Have you ever wanted to have people over but couldn’t because the house is a mess?  I’ve certainly been in that situation (especially when my kids were toddlers), but I was so buried in stuff that I didn’t realize I could change things if I really wanted to.  Even when I had designated places for my kids toys, the storage was rarely used. The American dream seems to be increasingly bigger homes, and yet bigger homes mean more work.

Ask yourself if you’re willing to live in smaller square footage for the sake of your value of sharing your home with others.  Otherwise you’ll continually be in the middle of a value conflict, torn between using all that energy and feeling grouchy to get the house back in order and sharing a meal or cup of coffee with friends in your living room.  I’d guess that seven out of ten times stuff wins out.

  • Face the facts: even if we buy a bunch of baskets or bins to hold all the kids’ toys and our craft materials, there’s likely still too much of it.  Can you bear sticking it up in the attic for a month to see how many times you have the need for it?  Schedule a reminder on your phone, and if you’ve not needed it in 30 days’ time, move it from the attic to the recycling bin or to your car’s trunk to donate.
  • My mantra over time has become more stuff = less peace in my home.  When I purchase something that won’t be used up in a relatively short amount of time (unlike food or toiletries), I try to get an item out of the home to maintain the peace. Needing more storage feels like I’m trapped by belongings.
  • Storage space in a home is similar to bags – the more space we have in them, the more we naturally fill them up.
  • My kids’ crafting items can get out of hand really quickly, especially after a birthday or holiday when they’re given new tools or kits.  We have room for 6 plastic storage shoe boxes in the book closet, so they’ve chosen the items they love to use most and distributed them among the 6 boxes.  The construction paper and larger supplies are stacked underneath the boxes, within the kids’ reach. The best part? When they run out of something, we can put it on a list of items to ask for when the next holiday comes up.
  • Just in case usually means just a waste.
  • Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, with no change of clothing.  So the way I see it is we either own too much at the moment, or He’s given us much of what we have to provide for others.  Having free will means we get to set the parameters for “enough”.  In western culture, we love to abide by the unwritten law of “more is better”.  To keep up, many of us build larger closets and rent storage units to hold our stuff.

Come clean: Are you storing non-essential items?


Housecleaning, Like A Boss

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” – Phyllis Diller

I am generally the person who oversees the routine cleaning of our home.  Awhile back I had surgery which required me to be off my feet for about six weeks, however.  This meant I could do no housework at all, and once I was able to get up and moving again, we had a cleaning team come in to help get things back to par for me.

I like observing processes and learning from them, and having a team of 4 women zooming all around my home gave me the chance to ask them what they noticed that I should change to make cleaning easier and how they’d tackle some of what were my cleaning headaches at the time.  Their insight was simple but priceless.

1) Less furniture, less work. I had a bookshelf downstairs full of items inside and on top.  The team only dusted around things and said eliminating what was on top or cutting out at least half of the items (which were books we’d read and could pass on, I later realized) would allow them to clean it much more quickly.  The items on top of the bookshelf were a framed picture (which I chose to hang on the wall instead of sitting it on the unit) and a candle (which only needed to be out when it was lit, otherwise it’s now stored in a kitchen cabinet).  Within a month after following their advice I realized the shelving was entirely unnecessary and we found new homes for the few items we’d kept on display.  Eventually, we sold the unit.

2) Haphazard cleaning results in lost time.  Be intentional.  The team split into pairs; 2 ladies went upstairs, 2 went downstairs.  1 of the women on each level did deep cleaning, the other worked on dusting and vacuuming.  One woman on the team told me that choosing one room type a day (ie the kitchen or bathrooms) means you stop when you’re done and can put the cleaning tools for those tasks up and away again instead of leaving them out in plain sight “just in case” you have time later to work on a half bathroom.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that over the years.)

3) Don’t get distracted.  The team leader on the cleaning crew told me it’s tempting to use your cloth to wipe spots on the kitchen table or the floor if you notice them while you’re in the middle of scrubbing the kitchen sink, but doing it will lead to noticing another spot, and before you know it you’re working in the living room and the kitchen sink is only half clean.  Good advice!  Women especially love to multi-task, but we gain worse returns for our efforts when we divide our attention.

While these women cleaned my home top to bottom, I could tell they had a realistic approach because they don’t generally have a whole crew in their homes just like probably isn’t typical for you or me.  The team leader made a good point by noting it’s better to have a fully clean bathroom than a half clean entryway.  When we can finish one room we’re free to move on to another or wait for the next day, but it means our minds know we’ve completed a task and distraction doesn’t win out.

Apart from admitting having a spotless house isn’t likely (or even of great value), I think the other key element of keeping a clean-enough home is recruiting my kids to help my husband and me stay on top of things.

What have you tried to make housecleaning less difficult?  We’d love to learn your tips!  Share them in the comments.


Moving House the Minimalist Way: Preparation

It takes a little planning to have a successful move.  Here are ideas our family has implemented to make our many moves over the years less stressful.

* Most moving companies include assembly/disassembly of large furniture items in their estimates.  Make sure they’ll have the tools needed to do so on hand so you may pack yours before they arrive.

* Block out an hour of time to call the post office, subscriptions, and utilities companies.  Keep all of your bills or records in front of you to make the process go smoothly.  Focusing on completing this massive task in one sitting will save you a lot of time.

* Keep family medical and school records on hand should you arrive in your new city before your belongings.  This allows you to register kids for school in a snap.

* If you have a pet with a nervous personality, it’s best to reserve him a spot at the nearby kennel on moving day.

* Don’t forget the garage door openers!  It’s common for people to accidentally take them along in a move.

* Hold a garage or moving sale as soon as you find out you’re moving to make some cash and get rid of the things you don’t want to pay to move.  We decided to do this last week and made about $1000 in 3 hours.  It was an easy preparation by going through the house with a pad of construction paper and labeling items for sale and their corresponding prices.  We invited people to walk through our home to shop.

* For your moving sale, keep it simple.  Have each family member walk through the house asking himself this question: “Which items do we own that I’m not willing to pay to move to our next home?”  Those are the ones you should sell.  Instead of labeling every item, toss them in bins with a sign on the front “Everything $1″.  Your kids can help this process move quickly.

* Learn from my mistake.  While movers unpacked our refrigerator during our last move, I noticed it had a number of dents in the doors.  I appealed to the home office to ask for a reimbursement but with no pics on hand to prove they were a result of poor packing, I had no case.  (Note: Don’t make a big effort to record too many pics.  Use your smart phone to snap one pic each of your most expensive items before the packing is done and leave the rest alone.)

* List furniture or electronics on Craigslist (if you don’t want to sell them during your moving sale).  Use your mobile phone to snap a pic to upload.  In my experience, weekends are the most likely time you’ll be contacted by a buyer, so get items listed no later than Thursday if you want to sell it quickly.

* My BIGGEST personal moving lesson has been this: call movers to get estimates.  I don’t like using the telephone to talk much, so my natural tendency is to do online searches for most services.  I learned the hard way if you submit an online request to one of the major moving companies in the industry, you suddenly have dozens of phone calls and emails flooding your inbox from others wanting your moving business.  My hard-learned lesson is to call only a few reputable places and choose among them.

What’s something that helped you make a move less stressful in the past?


PS – Tomorrow I’ll share the order in which I pack our home as well as some other ideas for simplifying your move.

3 Steps to Breakthrough: Minimalism

These are three steps I took that helped me experience a breakthrough in my efforts to live a more minimalist life.

1) Fewer legs on the floor. Evaluate which pieces of furniture you truly use, sell or donate the rest. We got rid of extra seating in our family room and pull in a few dining chairs to use when we host a small group in our home.

2) Clear counters. Coffee tables and counter tops beg us all to sit items down on them. This happens plenty of times throughout the day, but developing the habit of a “reset” (putting things back in their homes instead of letting them accumulate on your clear surfaces) keeps things in check.  (NOTE: Go easy on this one – it can take a month for your family to adjust to the habit of resetting.  Any step in the right direction is an improvement.)

3) Free time. Every day you need time alone.  You must have time which no one owns and which has no specific plan other than to process, relax, and prepare for what’s next. You owe this to yourself and you’re giving up freedom you need if you let others have every waking moment of your days.  Schedule this free time without apology.


Damaged Goods?

Owning stuff is HIGHLY overrated. We made a cross-country move 3 weeks ago and the moment our unloaders were hauling the few pieces of furniture we own into our home two things were discovered:

1) Some of us accidentally stamped tar into the new carpet with every step made.
2) Most of our belongings were squashed (boxes) or scratched (furniture).

I spent some time snapping pics of the damage while Chris dutifully scrubbed dozens of tar stains out of the carpet. While taking pics I remembered when “moving day” was characterized by each family member hauling his or her tiny piece of luggage into a hotel room or apartment and – Voila! – we were unloaded!

We opted to bypass the opportunity to stick it to the man by getting a whopping $0.10/pound/item for our damaged belongings. I’m okay that each piece now has a new chapter in its life story.

Ever feel like you are damaged goods? Come on over here to learn just how much hope there is for you.

Crazy Busy

Our children have had 2 of their last 3 meals at Ikea (dinner last night, lunch today).  They think it’s Christmas.  Chris and I, however, are tired of reading Swedish names on cheap furniture items and hope we’ve located all the things we need to stage our first Hillside Nights @ 6 service this Sunday evening!

As is always the case, last minute snafus, flubs, and whatcha-gonna-do-about-its are popping up all over the place, but at least no one is puking like last week.  (Though Kenzie gave a giant and gurgly roar of air (you can’t call it a belch from such a tiny little girl) from the Ikea cart today that had me racing to put a blanket under her mouth.  I was sure there would be breakfast all over the place.  Close call.)  :)

Chris had his first full day of work yesterday at our local church and it was great.  He’s volunteering there to help with some administrative things and can focus on the network campus service details in the office at church, too.  Dad’s happy.  Mom’s happy.  The kids will adjust.  Chris has access to the church office now and can go there for a less boisterous work environment any day as needed.  He’s not yet spending 40 hours there, but he will surely increase his time each week to allow us all a greater sense of routine and to incorporate some exciting new tasks to assist (see post above for more details).

I’m spending a 12 hour day 90 minutes north of here with a friend at the Willow Creek UK Women in Leadership conference tomorrow and am very excited about that!  May things begin coming together tonight for our service so Chris doesn’t run himself ragged.  (Speaking of Chris running, I made him hop on a scale on display at Ikea because he hasn’t seen his change in appearance like I’ve noticed, and he’s down 20 pounds.  Amazing.)

This afternoon I walked the children home from the station alone, and Blake began bargaining with me because he doesn’t like Chris or me ‘working’ on church.  He says he’s pretty sure his friends at school have Mommies and Daddies who don’t work and he’d like us to be around more like those parents.  !!!  Apparently 4 months worth of playing Legos, Transformers, and building forts all over our flat escaped his memory the second Chris and I began doing more work during the day.  I didn’t give him too hard of a time but explained Daddy’s going to be gone more and I get to return to managing our days and the home on my own.  He looked over at his sister and said, “Poor us, Kenz.  Mommy cleans the house and Daddy works at the church and can’t play with us all day like our friends at school’s parents do.”  Whoever says children don’t understand manipulation is an utter fool!!

So how’s this been for a random update with little news?


Since some of you have sweetly informed me you’ll be watching our blog closely for an update on the Network Campus preview, I want to be sure to post something before our evening ends (it’s 8:45pm here). I’d planned to stay home with the kids tonight but at the last minute while praying for the service this afternoon felt the Holy Spirit led me to call the one babysitter we have – and she was available on just two hours’ notice! I was extremely glad and blessed to have been part of the preview service for 10 people involved in leadership roles at Hillside Church.

Chris set up a cozy meeting – lots of cakes, baked goods, and hot drinks. He thought of everything and – for having known him for 10 years now – tonight is among a handful of times when I’ve most seen God at work through Chris’s words spoken to others. It was deeply gratifying for me to sit in back of the room and watch God speak through him to the group.

I had to come back early as we were sure the service and comments wouldn’t take more than 2.5 hours, but the Q & A as well as feedback is still going on. Following that, Chris will wash all the coffee mugs, rearrange the furniture, and no doubt try to sort out all the comments and helpful recommendations in his mind.

The group ranged in ages from mid-20s to mid-70s, so there were many’s ‘great media‘ comments, Stephen Cole (whose worship we used) has a standing invitation to lead worship any time at Hillside :), there were a few ‘it’s very American‘ comments, and a few ‘can a recorded teaching really be effective?’ concerns. Everyone present sincerely wanted to encourage us, and it was a big surprise to see through new eyes. Some things commonly done in US churches just aren’t done here in the UK yet – like song lyrics being put on the screen, for example. We were both able to field questions and were blessed to see our local church family sincerely challenged by God’s words through Craig. Like you, I’m eager to hear Chris’s perspective and his full synopsis since he was present for the entire event.

Thank you for praying before, during, and even now for this event. I’m sure those who attended will end their evenings with the 30 Days to Live message on their hearts. We are grateful to have had the chance to share this church we love with people we’re becoming more relationally connected to. We’re praying tonight’s service confirmed for Hillside to take a chance on the Network program and us and will let you know as soon as we know more about the plan.

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