Simplifying yet again and a winner!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I've been thinking about what this pandemic has taught me.

I know these past months have been so hard for many people. We know people who have died from Covid-19. We know people who have been out of work and who have lost their jobs. I don't want to minimize that at all. I was very privileged in that I simply had to stay home. 

And one thing I've learned during this enforced quiet time, and it's not new, just a confirmation, is how satisfying a simple life can be. 

Even though I've decluttered a lot over the past five years or so -- tons of stuff, filling my foyer up multiple times with donations, and throwing out bags and bags of stuff -- I still have a ways to go.

This time around, during the pandemic, I've thought of decluttering my life in other ways. Not just the physical possessions. Other things that are cluttering up our lives, complicating things, and adding up on our credit card bill.

These are the things I've cancelled since the shelter-in-place orders began:

  1. Sirius radio -- I don't drive very much, and for short distances. Even though I always talked them down to a lower monthly fee, it just isn't worth it. I can listen to the local radio stations for the short amount of time I drive, or just enjoy the silence. Savings = about $7 per month.
  2. Netflix -- yes, we will miss some of the programming. But there's a lot on Netflix I don't care to support. I'm happier reading a good book. Savings = about $15 per month.
  3. Amazon Prime -- When I saw a $126 something charge on my credit card bill for Prime, I started thinking. I realized that I only have to spend $25 to get free shipping without Prime, and that I can wait a couple more days to get my shipment. I'm also going to try and shop less on Amazon. Yes, it is wildly convenient. But I'm more and more aware of how much power a few companies  -- Google, Amazon, Facebook -- have, and am trying to withdraw support. To the extent that I can. And as far as Prime Video goes -- we just don't watch it often enough. The few movies I've watched this year on Prime have been ones I've had to pay for.
  4. Thrive Market membership. This is an online grocery store where I've found no-sugar ketchup and mayonnaise and no-sugar crackers, etc. But I've discovered several of my local grocery stores carry these items, so I can save the $60 annual fee.
  5. Auto-ship Keurig cups from Amazon. We are using the refillable Keurig cups. Cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
  6. Auto-ship mascara. I love the tubing mascara that just washes off with no black smudges left under the eyes. I loved a tubing mascara from Thrive (different company than the grocery store Thrive). But the drugstore L'Oreal Double Extend mascara is just as nice for less than half the price ($27 versus about $11). 
  7. Facebook. I've been thinking about this for some time. It is hard to let go of since it is the only place where I see photos of extended family living far away, and hear news of engagements and births, etc., from friends I don't see often. But the divisiveness and anger really gets me down and stresses me out. I'm sure it will continue to get worse as the election nears. It is also an incredible time-waster, as I find myself mindlessly scrolling and discover a half hour or forty-five minutes have passed. I haven't deleted my account, just deactivated it. For a few days I felt a little lost and out of it, but I've adjusted and feel much better.
  8. Instagram (sort of) -- Instagram is a lot happier place than Facebook, but it can also be a huge time suck. I removed the IG app from my phone, so no more endless scrolling throughout the day. It's still on my laptop but I rarely find myself checking it anymore.
  9. Instacart -- this was the best thing ever when I started using it last fall. I loved placing an order and then having everything delivered to my doorstep two hours later. It was like a miracle! Especially since I so dislike grocery shopping. It is great for new moms and the elderly and so many who are too busy to shop. But I decided that the monthly fee ($9.99) and tips added up to too much. The final straw was when things were so crazy during the lockdown that my Instacart order was going to take 10 days to be delivered! And nobody had time to text me about replacement items so I was only getting about half my order. I know things are better now, but I've decided I can do this myself.
  10. Google search engine. I was using Firefox for a while, but it seemed every time I rebooted I'd have to install it again. Google just kept trying to take over. Now I'm using Duck Duck Go for my search engine. I'm not too savvy about all this, but I'm trying to maintain a little bit of privacy, if possible.
Not only are we saving money, but I feel lighter.

Pizza dough set to rise. Look at that air bubble! Sometimes yeast does its own thing.

I have been further encouraged in simplifying my life by reading Cheryl Smith's book Biblical Minimalism. You can read my review of her book in my previous post. Cheryl has generously offered a copy of her book to one of my readers. Donna Nance is the winner! Congratulations to her. I know this book will be a blessing and an encouragement.

What are your thoughts re Amazon, Facebook, and Google? Do you find yourself subscribing to everything like I have in the past, or have you opted out? I'd love to hear.

xo Deborah

Biblical Minimalism book review and giveaway

Monday, June 29, 2020

Please read to the end to see how you can receive a copy of Cheryl E. Smith's book, Biblical Minimalism: Following Jesus from a Life of Abundance to a More Abundant Life.

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book. I have been following Cheryl's blogs, Biblical Minimalism and Homespun Devotionsfor a while now, and knew that I was in for a wonderfully encouraging and challenging read. Many of you may already know her, and her sweet, tender heart and her devotion to speaking words of truth and encouragement. As soon as I heard she had written a book, I knew that I could expect deep and satisfying help and guidance. I wasn't disappointed.

I have been on a minimizing and decluttering journey for some years now. No one who comes to my house would think I'm a minimalist with all my teacups and books, but I have decluttered many, many areas of my life, from clothing and decor and china to commitments and distractions, the most recent being Facebook (what freedom!).

I've read Marie Kondo with my book club and have studied and implemented ideas from a number of books, blogs, and articles over the years. All of these have been helpful in simplifying my life.

But Cheryl's book, Biblical Minimalism, isn't just another book in a long line of minimalism books that are so popular right now. She takes the whole minimalism thing to a much deeper level. This is not simply a book that shows you how to declutter your closet or how to get out of debt, although she covers these things. This is a Scripture-saturated book that really seeks to explain the WHY of minimizing and simplifying. 

Cheryl describes Biblical Minimalism as being, "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly and relinquishing all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, temporary life."

Her book is full of Scripture, and this, along with her inspiring personal story, is what makes this book so much richer than other books on the subject. In her gentle and compassionate writing style, she points the way for us as she describes her own minimalism journey, which included her family getting rid of 90% of their possessions. I had to stop reading in astonishment and ask my husband what we would get rid of if we did something like that. We came to the conclusion that it would be easier to decide what 10% we wanted to keep! This is hard-core minimalism! (Cheryl is quick to point out, however, that everyone's journey is different and she is not advocating for us all to do the same unless called to do so.)

She takes us through her family's journey of drastically downsizing, of getting out of debt, and of leaving a legalistic church. Throughout it all the cry of her heart is to follow Jesus. To allow nothing to distract her from her call to live in radical obedience to and "love for the single-minded, eternity focused, unassuming, plain-living Galilean Who laid down His life and shed His blood for our redemption."

Cheryl is not just talking about physical possessions that weigh us down and prevent us from living an unencumbered life. She talks about emotional baggage, such as unforgiveness, of mental clutter, of unhelpful or unnecessary obligations and commitments, and of all the myriad of distractions in our social-media obsessed and consumer culture.

Cheryl shares her journey with us, and gives us practical tips for minimizing. She guides us through steps to take to discover our true calling and purpose, and helps us to look at each section of our life to see where we need to be more intentional about minimizing. These are all very helpful, and I plan to re-read these sections prayerfully. But I think the best part of this book is how she continually points us to Scripture. I was again struck by how often Jesus speaks on this subject.

We're not to downsize and minimize just so our homes can have a pleasing aesthetic. We're not to simplify our calendar just so we have more time to do what we want to do. There's a purpose to all this that goes beyond having a quieter and more peaceful life for its own sake. The whole point is, as Cheryl says, "to let go of this world for the sake of a higher call."

I plan on re-reading this book. I've already marked up my copy! I know you will be blessed by reading it as well.

Please leave a comment to be entered into a giveaway to receive a copy of Cheryl's book. I will leave the giveaway open for a week, until midnight July 6. If you'd like to order a copy for yourself or a friend, please click HERE

Cheryl Smith is the author of the book “Biblical Minimalism,” the story of her family’s journey from a life of abundance to a more abundant life. She is the author of the blogs Biblical Minimalism, where she writes about minimalism from a Biblical perspective, and Homespun Devotions, where she writes devotionals and conducts “Inner Views.” She loves to spend time with her husband and son in the mountains, sing and play Bluegrass music, and write.

Weekly meal plan

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Do you ever find it tiring to try and come up with ideas for dinner? Every. Single. Night?

I know I do.

So I've come up with a plan that has really lifted that nagging question off my shoulders and made things a whole lot easier. Grocery shopping is easier, and I always know what to pull out of the freezer each morning.

Meatless Monday
Taco Tuesday
Wing-It Wednesday
Throwback Thursday
Fun Friday
Sizzling Saturday
Soup 'n Sandwich Sunday

Meatless Monday makes sense in a world with meat shortages and rising prices. It's also healthy! An easy recipe is beans and rice. I cook the (brown) rice and mix it with a can of drained black (or any other kind) beans. I add sautéed celery and onions, chopped tomatoes. You could add corn. I sprinkle the top with cheese, bake, and serve with salsa and/or sour cream and fresh cilantro. There are many variations to this simple and tasty dish. 

Taco Tuesday is anything Mexican. I make my own taco seasoning (cheaper and much less sodium) and use ground turkey instead of ground beef. We usually make some kind of taco salad, with cassava chips (for me) on the plate first, then topped with meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.

Wing-It Wednesday (coined by my daughter) is not wings! My husband plays golf on Wednesdays and is home late, so it's leftovers or he'll grab a burger. For me lately, it's been a big bowl of stove-popped popcorn with butter and a movie for dinner! 

Throwback Thursday is any kind of comfort food from yesteryear. Spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken broccoli casserole, etc.

Fun Friday was going to be Fish Friday as that seemed traditional, but I don't happen to like fish, haha. So "fun" = pizza. Homemade pizza. I've been experimenting with cauliflower pizza crust and spelt pizza crust. I'd like to try making pizza on the grill this summer, too.

Sizzling Saturday is anything on the grill. Hamburgers, brats, steak, BBQ chicken.

Soup n' Sandwich Sunday.  Sometimes Sundays are a feast day with family and friends and a ham or a roast. But more often than not, it is a quiet day for us. BP (before pandemic) we usually went out for brunch after church (this is the only time during the week we eat out). So we're not too hungry for dinner. Homemade soup, made in batches and frozen, or a sandwich, is simple and easy for a quiet restful day.

So there you have it. We've been doing this for four weeks now and I'm sold!

A glittery notebook and a unicorn pen, a birthday present from my daughter. Isn't this fun?

How do you plan your meals? Do you have a weekly plan?

xo Deborah

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