Category Archives: Happiness

Toy Purge

I frequently toss a broken toy or donate one Rie does not seem to like, but I have never put all the toys in one place to examine them at the same time before. And no wonder! It took me about two hours to pull everything together, make decisions, and put everything back where it belongs. I don’t believe Rie has the perfect set of toys, but I do think she has more than enough. Some experts may find her collection lacking, or find that it is overwhelming…but I’m doing the best I can here for my kid. That’s all any of us can do, right? With the pressure off, this was a little easier to do.

First: Large toys that sit out.

Not pictured: The rocking horse and stick horse. These live by the couch and are played with almost daily. Play doh, crayons, paper, safety scissors are kept out of reach. Outdoor toys are not included because it is freaking cold outside and they don’t cause house clutter.

Dollhouse. Not played with daily. It is poplar when I allow it to be out in the living room, but only for a week or so. Then it goes back to the third bedroom to be knocked aside in favor of other toys.


Shopping cart. This thing always has the toy blocks in it. I purged a third of the blocks. What remains is rarely stacked appropriately, but the shopping cart sees more exercise if it is weighted. There is a little girl who comes over once a week and this is her favorite toy here. It also doubles as a baby buggy.

Shopping Cart and Blocks

Toy Kitchen. I purged two of the pots. What remains should be fine for a while. Rie likes to bake cookies and make dog food.

Play Kitchen

Stuffed animals and dolls. These drive me crazy. I just purged a bunch, but then Rie received three more for Christmas. What is is about stuffed animals that makes people think they are the greatest toy for little kids? I might go back and purge Ariel. She hasn’t been as popular lately and this is my chance…

Stuffed animals and dolls

Doll daybed. Baby needs a place to sleep, but mostly the mattress comes off so baby can camp elsewhere.

Doll Daybed

OK, now the stuff that doesn’t take up visual space. Puzzles. I purged two, but kept 15. We love puzzles around here and it seems variety is key (though ours are not so hot in topic variety). These are stored in Rie’s closet and we take one down at a time a couple times a week and usually leave it out for a day or so.


All the other stuff: two “computers”, a musical “tablet”, tool kit, tea set, broom, two puppets, two fabric activity books, a cookie jar (those get baked often), two purses, Ariel high heels, an old cell phone, two balls of different sizes, a wooden car, Ariel’s carriage (which will be purged next), wooden beads to make necklaces…and other stuff I’m probably forgetting.

Keep for now pile

I moved the remaining infant toys, about half a dozen, to the garage for now. When we set up the new baby’s room I’ll find a new place for them. Then there was the purge-it-now pile:

Purge Pile

Then there is that last special toy. Rie received a train set as a birthday gift from her grandparents. It usually lives in a tote in the garage. This is the second time we have drug it out this year. The novelty insures it is a keeper and I love that it holds her attention so well.


As always, thanks for reading – now go throw something out! 🙂


What’s new at Just Kate

It has been three months since my last post.  In my defense, there is a lot going on.

1. I started knitting my camisole. It has a pretty lace top and a plain knit body. I’m using undyed baby alpaca yarn, which feels fantastic on my fingers as I work. This is a fun and relaxing journey – I plan to take my time to complete it.

2. The woman den has been completely uprooted. Due to lack of efficient/safe heating, we cannot allow children to play out there in the winter. (D and I host Bible study, which involves children of a wide age range stopping by our house as well.) Space heaters and boys holding wrestling matches do not mix. In all fairness, the boys seem to need a place to make noise and wrestle, so it is no good to tell them to quiet down.

D’s solution is to take the old woman den for himself. He has installed a wood-burning stove and built a new workbench. Really, it looks great. In return, I am going to fix up his old shop as my new woman-and-children den. A new couch awaits while I choose paint and flooring (an agonizing process). The new den will also hold our computer and office supplies, which will free up that third bedroom.

3. Rie will move into the third bedroom – but I have to fix it up for her. There are holes in the wall from the old shelving (now in D’s new shop), and one of the windows is just awful. Not sure what to do with it yet. Anyway, that will be tackled when the new Den is settled – hopefully mid-March.

4. Rie’s little brother or sister will move into her old room. Fortunately, it is a gender-neutral nursery, so there will not be anything to do. I will replace the faded curtains with new ones, but otherwise it is good to go. Baby is due in August. Eeee!

5. By the time I finish that silly camisole, I will be too big to wear it. Oh well. Maybe next winter.

6. And may I please point out that when I started this blog, I thought my house was too small? It looks like we’re reaching our goal. Staying in our affordable house while raising a family. Gosh, that feels good.

Consuming and Acquiring

People who know I am intentionally going through a journey to change how I consume might either raise an eyebrow when I make a purchase or roll their eyes heavenward if I refuse to buy something that isn’t just right. Here’s one of my secrets: I still like to shop. It still gives me a thrill to buy something new – but it must be done intentionally in order for me to not regret my decision.

A huge part of this transformation from excessive consumerism to minimalism has been to re-wire how I look at purchases. Here are some thoughts from my current shopping woes with notes on how you can apply this to your purchases. 

Minimalism doesn’t mean you don’t want or need to acquire something new.

I need a new camisole. Well, need isn’t the right word. I have three camisoles and I would like to have another. One of my camisoles is very pretty, but it is black, so I cannot wear it under every shirt. The other two are pretty plain. So, I would like a pretty camisole I can wear under light-colored shirts.

The idea started as an observation turned goal-oriented shopping venture. I am petite in the torso which makes almost every undergarment mass produced for women unusable. Bras are hopeless. Who special orders a 28A? (Nobody.) And, I am a woman, after all. Acquiring a pretty camisole seems just the thing to do.

Minimalism frequently means you can enjoy the shopping experience and take your time. You know there is no urgency in acquiring something you have been living without for all this time. You also know that if you are going to add to your possessions every item you add should be something you either love or find useful.

Last week I stopped in a few shops to peruse the selections. Almost everything is made with synthetic materials, which means the shirt will not be comfortable in warm weather. “Pretty” camisoles are see-through. Not exactly suited to my purpose. Non-see-through camisoles are classified as “shapewear” or are made of this horrible, synthetic, stretchy material that rides up as you go through your day (and doesn’t even make a good dusting cloth when you purge it from your wardrobe). Can’t a girl just find a pretty undershirt made by free working adults with natural fibers?

This week I went online to shop around. I can, in fact, buy a wool undershirt for about $40 plus shipping. It is sporty/not pretty, so that is not really what I wanted. A pretty wool undershirt runs anywhere from $40 to $200 or more. This should not be so difficult. D can buy a package of cotton undershirts for $20. (Note: I know nothing about the companies hyperlinked here. They are just examples for my post.)

As you may know, I recently took a part-time job so I may maximize time at home. This fantastic lifestyle change tends to minimize the amount of unclaimed cash laying around.  I have three undershirts; spending $40 on something I do not need seems kind of silly. However, for some people this may be where the process ends. If I had the extra money, I might have purchased one of those expensive camisoles if I knew I would love it.

When you are sensitive about acquiring new things, you want to make each acquisition count. Buying from a company/individual you trust, or buying second-hand, are frequently great options. Sometimes acquiring something can also be journey through a craft or DIY project.

It finally dawned on me that I can make exactly what I want. I know how to knit and how to sew. You might even say I’m good at it. I’m entering a new era of parenthood where I find more blocks of time to do something for myself, which still feels kind of unnatural, which is probably why I didn’t think to look for a knitting or sewing pattern right away.

In the name of minimalism, I have not been buying yarn like I used to do. The yarn stash has been rehomed to two of my dresser drawers (take a moment to appreciate what I have gone through in order to de-stash to just two drawers of yarn, please). I am determined to either use it up or give it away before buying new yarn.  My favorite kind of yarn is finger weight, which is perfect for my purpose here.

Naturally, like a good knitter, I checked out before going any further. I found thousands of beautiful patterns. I am going to think on it a little longer, but I think I like this one or maybe this one. I probably have enough yarn to make both…

Minimalism also means you do not overload your own plate.

This project just moved up in my queue of things to do, which is great because I need free activities to fill up my time. However, I am working on D’s Christmas gift right at the moment. I have a strict knitting policy which states I may not start a new project while another is in progress, because that would sabotage both projects. When I have the cash handy this policy will be put on a plaque and hung on my bedroom wall. (Not really.)

So, for now, I am content with my three undershirts and knowing a fourth is in the research phase. And you know what? I’m enjoying the research phase. There is no rush, and this journey is actually pretty fun.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add your own shopping insights to the comments to share with others.

An Open Window

I have had a very interesting summer and it would be impossible to not be amazed at the series of events.

Previously, I had been feeling dissatisfied at work. My career had stalemated at an organization where I had worked for four years. It looked as though I were really and truly stuck. It was difficult to find anything else because, truly, the employer is pretty decent. If nothing else, I was able to ride my bike to work and come home during lunch breaks.

In June I was offered a job with a different organization. It sounded great. It sounded like I would not only use my existing skills to help the organization in areas where they were struggling, but I would also learn a lot of new ones. The new skills would line up with where I want to take my career. The job change meant spending an hour a day commuting, and it was even a slight pay cut, but I was eager to press on and grow my career. So, feeling adventurous, I took the job.

It quickly became apparent I was a square peg trying to go through a round hole. The new job – though everyone was very kind hearted – was just not what I thought it would be.

About the same time I came to the realization that I regretted my decision to take the new job, my church started a sermon series called “The Journey”. The first sermon was titled “Let’s Get Started” and it was about listening to what God wants for our lives. The over-arching theme of the entire series has been to simplify life. It has been very good for my soul, and perfectly timed. In fact, after that first sermon I met with my pastor and told him the entire story. He prayed with me and encouraged me to keep my eyes and ears open.

Not much time passed before I was contacted by my former employer and offered another job.  My dream job – the one I had expressed interest in pursuing two and a half years ago. However, this one is just a part-time gig.  I ran the numbers repeatedly and kept coming up with the same conclusion: we can do this.  It terrifies me to willingly cut my earnings in half. The financial impact on the family could be difficult to foresee, after all.

On the other hand, the impact on the family’s overall satisfaction with daily life is also difficult to measure. I daydream about taking more time to play with Rie and cook wholesome meals for the family. And Maile! Poor girl could stand to be put back on a walking regimen (as could I).

D expressed confidence early on that we would be financially capable of managing the changes as well as much excitement about my increased availability at home. He hopes for more alone time to pursue his archery habit, er, hobby.

So, with my nose pinched and my eyes squeezed shut, I decided to jump ungracefully into this incredible change. I felt good about “walking the walk” when it comes to pursuing a simpler life, though a small part of me was cringing.

Then something else happened. Last week D received a phone call from a friend who owns a small business. This friend offered D a part-time job purposely created to work around my new schedule. D hasn’t accepted it yet, though it is a reassuring offer worth considering. In other words, we are going to be just fine. I’ve stopped cringing.

Like I said, it has been an incredible summer of events. I’m thrilled to be starting my new job next week – and so thankful for this entire humbling experience.

As always, thanks for reading!

First World Problem

During my quasi-public pursuit for simplicity I have been criticized for focusing too much on first world problems. Indeed, the need to simplify implies starting with abundance: relative wealth, excessive possessions, hours of idleness saturated with mindless entertainment – the list goes on and on. Certainly I have faced my share of first world problems. However, I take a different point of view of their severity.

Jesus’ assertion that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God belies the light-hearted undertone in the phrase “first world problem” (see Luke 18:18-25). Long before Jesus’ time, a wise man gave us many poetic verses to describe the woes of abundance. He asserts in Ecclesiastes 4:4 that only “envy of our neighbor” can motivate us to labor (and acquire) as much as we do. In other words, as a species, we have been keeping up with the Joneses since ancient times, and no one has ever found that it worked to secure happiness or anything meaningful.

The wise man elaborates on the silliness of spending one’s life consumed by labor and acquiring when he essentially points out “you can’t take it with you” in Ecclesiastes 4:14 and 16. Really, the entire chapter is great. Fellow aspiring minimalists should check it out.

As the wise man and Jesus himself point out, the anecdote to many first world problems is to choose a simpler way of living. People are still drawn to simplicity, now also popularly called minimalism, when they realize to what extent clutter and commitments obstruct their ability to focus on what is truly important.

This life will not last. Furthermore, our precious clutter may not even last an entire lifetime. There has to be something more. Something eternal. As the clutter leaves, one begins to see the bigger picture. As time frees up, one finds more of everything that matters.

Paul says it well at the conclusion of his first letter to Timothy:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming of age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (I Timothy 6:17-19)

Contemplating the seriousness of first world problems, or the ironically critical issues associated with wealth, has been the catalyst for many journeys toward simple living, including my own. As I write this, I am waiting for the results of a job search that may test my ability to practice what I preach. I would be lying to say I’m not a little scared, but I hear leaps of faith are rarely done without some anxiety. Of course, I’ll keep you “posted”. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Maximizing Life

I share a lot here about minimizing the stuff – but not a whole lot about  what happens when we maximize life. Truth be told, this is the shinier side of the minimizing coin.

As clutter leaves the house, we are left with less and less that must be cleaned or organized. What is to be done with the extra time?

We take things a little more slowly than we used to do.

We like to walk to our favorite park. We watch the ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and the fishermen. I make flower bracelets for Rie’s tiny wrist. Maile plops down in the grass and soaks up the sunshine. We take time to chat with the other parents at the playground.

There’s no rush – and we have nowhere else to be more important than this time and place.

Rie Walks Maile

When things slow down, you don’t mind letting the resident toddler walk the dog.

As always, thanks for reading!


The Urge to Splurge: Contingency Plan

This post explores motivators to shop (in no particular order). The goal is to identify the root cause of the urge to splurge and then find an alternative method meet the need presented. As for me, I have made a lot of progress in the last year or so to re-train myself to respond to the situations listed below. There is still progress to be made. In other words, this takes time, but it can be done.

When you find yourself shopping or browsing the Internet for deals, ask yourself what need you are truly trying to meet. You probably already have the proper resources available to you without having to make a purchase.


1. Boredom

There are seven rooms at home that could use a cleaning, but I’m feeling antsy and need to get out of the house or office. The thing I have come to realize is that when shopping out of boredom I am usually looking for a personal connection. The best thing to do is to make a phone call or visit a friend and connect with someone who actually cares.

It is not necessarily an easy change to make. I am still trying to re-train myself to not look at shopping as a way to feel connected with the community or to feel special. On the bright side, my mom and I have been talking a lot more lately than we used to do.


2. A need to escape

When I shop to escape the daily grind, I am daydreaming and want to believe marketers’ promises that their products will make me happy or give my life meaning. When you see this ‘logic’ written out, the problem seems fairly straightforward. Obviously the problem is compounded by the fact that when you shop to escape, you are already not thinking clearly.

Alternatives to shopping when these emotions swell up include praying, counting blessings, going for a bike ride, or concentrating on a project. I love to sew and watch birds. D enjoys his garden. What could you do with the hour or two saved from not going on an unplanned shopping spree?


3. A need to celebrate

I also have a tendency to shop while (already) happy. It seems shopping really can creep into any part of your life! Rie was on the way, so I shopped and my excitement was shown in how many products I purchased. My sister engaged to marry, and my happiness for her was displayed in the gifts I gave to her and her fiancé. Sometimes it is merely a beautiful day – what better way to spend it than at an outdoor shopping strip and café?

Of all the reasons to shop listed so far, this one is the easiest to turn around. The possibilities are endless. When there is something to celebrate, you can have a party, take pictures, or make plans as needed. If it is a beautiful day you are celebrating, then take your dog for a walk, ride your bike, or enjoy a cool drink on the porch.


4. It’s a good deal

Sales are made to create a feeling of urgency. Marketers want you to understand the deal has an expiration date. They are ultimately taking away the time you need to consider a purchase. Do not let them do that to you. You know what you need. If you find a deal on something you are already seeking, great, go for it. When you find a great deal that does not line up with what you already know you need – let it go. Think of it as leaving the item for someone else who does, in fact, seek it. And do not fret over a lost opportunity – there will always be another sale.


As always, your suggestions in the comment section are welcomed, as I am nowhere close to having all the answers.

Thanks for reading!