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Dana Byers | Minimalist & Church Online Thought Leader

How to Minimize Belongings

To minimize belongings, start by doing one small area at a time.

To minimize belongings, start by doing one small area at a time.

It’s often said that starting the process to minimize belongings is difficult. For some people letting go of items is the hard part, and others struggle with not being overwhelmed by sheer work that can be involved in the process.

Here are some suggestions on a taking a healthy approach to the process:

* Start with a plan before you minimize belongings. Write out which rooms you’d like to tackle and order them by importance or difficulty.
* Choose the first room from your list to focus on, then narrow it down to one location in this room. For example, if your closet feels out of sorts, you could weed out the torn, wrong size, and unnecessary items from one area of the closet. Alternatively, you might choose to attack the drawer of makeup in your master bathroom.
* When you’re done with one area, STOP. Your goal is to start small and celebrate the victories. My experience over the years has been one of gaining as much pleasure from minimizing belongings in a bedside table drawer as when we’ve finished minimizing everything in an entire room.
* Take 30 minutes to an hour the next day (or next weekend) and move to a second problem area on your list. This approach will keep you from being overwhelmed while you minimize belongings.

Note: If you find after a few days you’re really gaining momentum, there’s no problem with taking on more than one small area so long as you make certain you’re not carrying it too far to cause frustration. Frustration is most commonly caused by family members not buying into your plan but pushing ahead anyway, wishing you’d not gotten rid of so many items at once, or failing to rest and reflect on your process and wishing you’d thought it through more. The fact is, your belongings have been collecting over time…probably years. In the same way, taking time to process what truly is necessary to keep shouldn’t be crammed into a weekend. Finally, please remember that your purpose isn’t to organize. Buying handy dandy little baskets to hold or hide items doesn’t make them disappear. Owning less does.

For more thoughts on minimizing check out Don’t Get Organized…Minimize!

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Communication Under Control

Like you, I receive a lot of communication coming my way every day face to face and via email, text, and phone. Recently I was asked for advice on keeping communication under control. Here’s how I set boundaries on the necessary (and not so necessary) interactions.

FACE TO FACE
I work in an awesome glass office. Seriously, I love it. People walk past me all day on their way to the staff cafe, a popular place. Naturally, I enjoy seeing my co-workers and catching up. But we regularly elect to close our door and, on the busiest of days, I keep my eyes on my computer screen or my mind focused on phone calls or meetings so as to fight the distraction of catching the eyes of friends walking past. I leave a few lunch hours and coffee breaks open each week to make intentional time with co-workers and friends.

SOCIAL MEDIA
I truly enjoy social media. It’s fun seeing photos of my high school friends’ kids and reading tweets from colleagues across the globe. But I’ve been through seasons where it seems I’m checking on things more than is necessary. To combat this issue, I use Buffer App to schedule tweets as I read other blogs’ content that I want to share. I also use Hootsuite to reply to friends’ tweets and see who’s talking to me. Creating a list or two on Hootsuite makes it easy to check in on a key group of people when you have limited time and want to make sure you don’t wind up losing track of time reading tweets. Some of my work responsibilities involve using Facebook, so I’ve found it best to limit my use and availability there on days off so I may rest. Above all else, it’s important to me not to have any social media platform open for an extended period of time lest a notification interrupt the creative process or a face to face interaction.

EMAIL
Under no circumstances do I allow my laptop or smart phone to notify me of a received message. Should the day come when I’m working on a short term special project or am waiting on correspondence from a specific person, I’d change the notification setting on my smart phone so as not to miss it. I also use the Do Not Disturb setting on my iPhone at least once a day – typically during an extended work session (most often while writing or in a meeting) and sometimes in the evenings when I arrive home.

PHONE
Our family hasn’t had a land line for about 5 years. And even if you know me personally, I’m not likely to speak to you on the phone. It’s nothing personal, I simply prefer face to face or email contact. While I don’t avoid the phone, I make every effort to ask people to contact me via email unless it’s an emergency. If it’s not an immediate need, I prefer scheduling calls so that focused work time isn’t interrupted and sidetracked by an unexpected call.

How do you keep communication under control in your life?

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

#mintip photo


via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/RhxdQFAu8d/

The Gluten Free Perspective

The Gluten Free Perspective

The Gluten Free Perspective

I’ve been gluten free over 18 months now. I struggle asking for my meals to be prepared in a specific way. It’s uncomfortable being the one who has to ask if an item being served at a party has gluten in it. Despite having seen first hand how damaging gluten is to my body, sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that others think I’ve jumped on to a fad diet.

We bake cookies for our children that we cannot eat.  Then we wash our hands and utensils in hot water several times to avoid cross-contamination. We go to work even when we’ve been glutened because sometimes it takes days for us to get over the reaction. Some of us struggle with weight gain even if we exercise regularly, because the packaged gluten free foods at the market and on restaurant menus are high-carb substitutes. There is no medication to alleviate our reactions. With seasonal allergies, I can take an antihistamine. When gluten enters my system, I experience flu-like symptoms for as long as a week.

Not long ago a sympathetic friend said, “Gosh. It must take a lot of energy to constantly monitor what’s going into your mouth.” She’s so right. I’d not thought of it that way, but her understanding moved me to tears. Some days I bury deep the reminder that I need to eat like this for the rest of my life.

So, at the risk of sounding like I’m on a soap box, I’d like to share with you (on behalf of other awkwardly gluten-free folks out there) how you can help us navigate the issue.

1) Restaurants: Please train your staff to know what a gluten sensitivity or allergy is. Hearing a waiter say, “I don’t know if there’s gluten in it, but you should be fine.” is not good enough.

2) Friends: Please don’t pity us or say things like, “Wow. I’d never be able to be gluten-free.” It’s not a choice we make. If you discovered gluten makes you ill, you’d make the necessary adjustments like we have to. We are not amazing; we’re defending our bodies every day and it’s difficult.

3) Co-workers: Please don’t bring in food as gifts. We have to say no and we feel bad.  No offense – but I don’t want to spend hours in the bathroom or fight off a migraine headache because I took a bite of your amazing looking brownies.

If you or anyone you know would benefit from more details of my story, click the Gluten Free blog category. Be sure to check out some of my favorite Gluten Free recipes and articles on Pinterest, too.

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

 

 

Minimalist Closet: Kids

My kids don’t exactly have minimalist closets, but they’re as close as they can be for the time being. Do you cringe just before opening your kids’ closet doors like I sometimes do? I can’t explain it, but kids’ belongings seem to multiply at night when we sleep. Keeping their closets tamed can be a major feat. My children own more clothes than I do, and I don’t put much of a limit on the amount of items they own unless we can tell it’s too much for them to handle responsibly. Like adults, when kids own too many items, locating toys and books or selecting which clothes to wear to school can become a burden.

Here’s a photo of Blake’s closet at the moment. (I use the phrase “at the moment” because he’s growing and we typically weed out a few items each month.)

Minimalist Closets: Kids

5 Tips on Curbing the Closet Clutter

*Once a quarter we filter out the books he’s outgrown. Sometimes they’re passed on to his younger sister, sometimes they’re donated.
*Have the children keep shoes in an area by the door where they enter instead of piling them up on their closet floor space.
*Take time to teach them how to match clothing items so they can choose what to wear most days without your assistance.
*Consider their daily routine: What’s the best place for her hamper? Can you put a hook up where he can easily hang his wet towel?
*Create a system and write it down. Post it on the bathroom mirror, and after a few days of staring at it while brushing teeth, your child will have it memorized.

Here’s our minimalist closet maintenance system:

  1. Pants, PJs, underwear and socks go in drawers.
  2. Shirts are hung in the closet.
  3. Toys are (usually) put away before bedtime.

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

 

#mintip photo


via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/RSoMcDgu88/

Gluten Free Black Bean & Rice Soup Recipe (Crock Pot)

Gluten Free Black Bean and Rice Soup Recipe (Crock Pot)

Fall is the perfect time to try a Gluten Free Black Bean & Rice Soup recipe! Last weekend Chris and I invited some people from the Oklahoma City tech community over for dinner.  We were out of town all day until late afternoon, so tossing things in the crock pot before I left in the morning made for super easy preparation just before our guests arrived.

Ingredients:
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 (16 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans gluten free broth
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large crockpot, leaving the rice out.
  2. Cover and cook the soup on low 8 to 10 hours. (I used the low setting, but high works after 3 to 4 hours.)
  3. Cook brown rice then add it to the soup before serving. (I did this in the microwave 30 minutes prior to the guests’ arrival.)

Be sure to keep extra Tabasco sauce out for people to add according to their preferences. I doubled the ingredients and it all cooked well in the same amount of time as the recipe calls for. You’ll notice I made a few adjustments, but you can see the original recipe here.

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

#mintip photo


via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/RK1RWnAu87/

Minimalist Kid’s Bedroom

You might be gaining freedom from clutter in key areas of your home and office, and I want to encourage you to keep going! Have you ever considered creating a minimalist kid’s bedroom? While I don’t require my children to keep as few items as they had when we lived a mobile lifestyle overseas, Chris and I do work with them to keep a balance of belongings so they may enjoy and appreciate the ones that are most fun to them.

5 ways to keep a balance to kids’ belongings:

* Have them donate the same amount of toys as they receive for their birthday or on holidays each year.
* Keep an ongoing list on your smartphone of items they’re interested in buying or receiving as a gift.
* Help them weed out clothing that is torn or stained as soon as it happens, then remove outgrown clothing every quarter.
* Ask your child where he thinks the best “home” is for key items: a drawer, toy box, or on a shelf. His involvement in this decision will help him remember where the item’s meant to go when not in use. (Tabletops and floors aren’t generally a good option.)
* Divide her toys in half. One bin of toys rests in the garage while the other half stays active in the child’s room. Trade them out each month. If your child loses interest in some of the toys, pass them on to another child or sell them. (Bonus: let the child keep cash from toy sales to go towards one of the items on the smarphone list mentioned above.)

I believe that open floor space provides a sense of calm to a room, and it’s also a great invitation for play. My kids like to pour Legos out on their floor spaces, create forts, and use the floor as a place to do homework or read. Playing around with a room’s layout will help you achieve maximum play space. Here is a landscape photo of my 7 year old daughter’s current bedroom layout to serve as an example (double click to see the full view):

Minimalist Kid’s Bedroom

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Minimalist Kids: Simple Birthday Parties

Do you host birthday parties for your kids every year? Would you like to raise minimalist kids? Sometimes it feels like hosting birthday parties means we have to leave behind minimalist principles.  I’m hoping to show you that this isn’t true.

My sweet daughter turned 7 recently. We hosted a simple birthday party for her this past weekend, and I thought I’d share some of the principles that helped make it easy, inexpensive, and FUN!

To spice up this post, I’m going to use an old American wedding custom to share what we did.  :D

SOMETHING OLD: our boring old house.  Ok, so our home isn’t boring, but we chose not to hire an exciting new venue to send everyone to on a new adventure.  Kids came to the house for the party.

 

SOMETHING NEW: Gifts! As little as I like adding more items to our home, I don’t forbid my kids from receiving birthday gifts.  I don’t want to impose minimalism on them but only strive to encourage them to develop the minimalist mindset over time as they mature. (Note: One way to keep from having birthday gift overkill or experiencing party drama, limit the guest list so you child can truly spend time with the children who attend.)

SOMETHING BORROWED: We have dear friends who own a bounce house.  This was the hit of the party!  There were no games or activities planned except to let the kids jump until they were exhausted, feed them cake, then let them jump off their sugar highs.  Pretty simple schedule! (BONUS: After the party, we kept the bounce house going for 2 more hours and neighbor kids came to play. It was a great relationship builder, 100% free.)

SOMETHING BLUE: Party favors. Mackenzie likes the color blue…here she is sporting a pair of her party favor glasses. We also gave Ring Pops, notepads, and pens to the guests.

Invitations + Cake + party favors = approximately $60

How do you keep your kids’ parties simple?

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 LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.