Category Archives: parenting

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.

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!


Baby Gear

My closest friend recently confided in me that she and her husband are expecting their first bundle of joy. She asked me, “So what do we need?” I dedicate this little post to her and her fantastic husband.

When you are having a baby, it feels like you are preparing for a picnic without knowing what the weather will be, how many guests are coming and so on. You want to be a good host, so you prepare for every single thing that could happen: rain, snow, mud, hay fever, broken bones and so on. Next thing you know, planning a pleasant little picnic has prevented you from saving money as you should and crowded your entire home with who-knows-what. This is the same mentality that puts three strollers in your garage and gives you a mountain of clothing that cannot possibly all be worn.

When I was pregnant I made the mistake of doing all sorts of Internet “research” on baby products. Perhaps you wiser folks reading this already know where I am going with this one. Internet research = being exposed to a ton of advertisements. Pregnancy hormones make you weak where shopping is concerned. It is the gathering instinct at its worst. You are quite possibly doomed to succumb to marketing tactics. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

As always, keep it simple. Maybe you will have a baby who is difficult to soothe, or loves to be rocked to the point of needing a fancy swing, but then again, maybe not. It is impossible to know until Baby arrives what his specific quirks will be. There are, however, a few things every baby does “need”. (I use that term loosely.)

1. Safe Place to Sleep

This should be self-explanatory. You can do research on what is considered “safe” and do what you think is best.

If Baby is sleeping in a crib, I highly recommend double-making the bed. This means putting a sheet on the crib mattress, putting a waterproof mat on the sheet, and placing a second sheet on top of the mat. Following this method means you need a minimum of two crib sheets and one waterproof mat.

2. Car Seat

You may not leave the hospital without one. I suppose if you have a home birth, you could get around it for a while. In the United States, all of the car seats must meet the same safety standards, so just pick one in your budget.

3. A Method to Eat

Breasts, bottles/formula, or a combination of both are basically your options.

For those who choose to breastfeed: you do not need much. Maybe a nursing cover, but that is a personal preference. A receiving blanket works OK as a cover. You will need a pump and a couple bottles should you choose to feed expressed milk. I also liked having an ice tray with a cover for freezing milk (to avoid buying freezer bags).

It also helped me to put a lap-sized waterproof mat in my bed during the first couple weeks. Those breasts mean business and they are always open! Lanolin for sore nipples is also a fantastic thing to have on hand. Citing the picnic example above, I recommend assuming breastfeeding will go well. There are 24-hour stores with formula for sale if you become desperate, but you do not need it in your home as a back-up.

For those who are using bottles: a bottle brush is highly recommended. D and I sterilized our bottles in boiling water, but there are also bottle sanitizers on the market.

In lieu of burp cloths, I recommend using receiving blankets to burp Baby or to clean up his messes.

4. Clothing

Decide how often you want to do laundry. If you are like me, that would be about every three days, but I like doing laundry. Whatever you decide, add one day and multiply that number by two or three. That is how many newborn “outfits” you should start with. In my example above, I should have eight to twelve changes of clothing. If babies in your family are big, skip the newborn size and go straight to 0-3 months. Baby will survive if the clothes are a little big for a couple weeks.

By the way, coats are a no-no for little ones in car seats. Use a blanket over the car seat harness straps to keep Baby warm in transit.

5. Diapering Supplies

I love cloth diapers. My baby pooped every two hours around the clock for several weeks, which is about the most mess anyone might have to deal with. Noting how much mess we did have to clean up, you will understand why I chose to have a diaper sprayer.

In my house diaper laundry is done every other day, so we needed 24-30 changes, about 30 cloth wipes, a spray bottle for water (to make the wipes wet), and we used receiving blankets to cover the changing pad. Dirty diapers go into a dry pail (a.k.a. 13 gallon trash can). We use washable pail liners, of which we have two, but you can get away without them. For the diaper bag, it might be nice to have two wet bags to store your dirty diapers when out and about (one to use, one to wash).

We also bought “cloth-safe soap” and a hanging clothes-drying rack, but, like the diaper sprayer, those are not necessarily needs. Once you get into cloth diapering, your laundering needs will become apparent within a couple washes. Another idea is to connect with local cloth diapering parents to find out how the water in your area may have affected their washing routines.

For folks using disposables, I have no experience to reference to advise you. My hunch is that you just need a stash of diapers, wipes, and zinc oxide (which you usually do not need with cloth diapers).

6. Bathing Supplies

We bathed our newborn in a dish tub that fit inside our kitchen sink beautifully. It was something we already had, so no need to buy a baby bathtub. We put one of those contoured sponges in the tub and that made a perfectly safe place to put the baby while bathing her. Those sponges are about $6.

Technically Baby can use the towels and wash cloths you already own. I happen to like the size of baby wash cloths and would recommend them. Towels marketed for babies are usually too thin in my opinion.

If you use soap for sensitive skin for yourself, it is probably safe to use on Baby as well – ask your doctor if you are unsure. If you want to use baby-specific soap, shampoo, and lotion, there is nothing wrong with that. Baby will need a comb and maybe a brush as well.

7. Safety Kit

Baby may not have any over-the-counter medicines until he is 3 months old or as directed by your doctor, so do not worry about stocking up on medicine at first. You will probably want to have a nasal aspirator, baby nail clippers, and a thermometer that is specific to Baby’s use (I’m never sticking that thing in my mouth again!). We kept alcohol around too, but only used it a couple times to clean Baby’s umbilical stump.

8. Entertainment

When Rie was two months old, she fell in love with her mobile. She also loved toys we hung from the car seat handle, and her activity mat with hanging toys. Some kids love pacifiers, though that was not our experience. All of that stuff is great and all, but the absolute best thing you can do is talk to your baby and hold him as much as possible. It is the touch and sound that stimulates him and creates a bond between the two of you. For that matter, I highly recommend having a method by which you can wear your baby. In addition to keeping Baby close, this also eliminates the need for a stroller and discourages strangers from touching your child (super annoying during the cold season).

Hope this helps! Folks who have been there and done that – feel free to add your advice in the comments for my friend and anyone else shopping for a new baby.

Results of Unplugging

Hello again.

This past weekend, starting on Friday, I unplugged. It was fantastic.

On Saturday morning Rie and I hosted a playdate for several friends, 10 friends altogether. It was kind of nuts. Anyway, before folks arrived I cleaned my home from top to bottom in about an hour (that includes time for Rie to play the “how well can Mommy mop with 24 pounds of cuteness attached to her shins?” game). I love how easy/fast it is to clean now.

Saturday evening Rie went to her grandparents’ house for a sleepover while D and I attended a wedding reception. Great times had by all!

On Sunday morning I had the house to myself, as D had gone to work. I finished a book and drank some coffee. No one urgently needed me. No one on social media annoyed me with their politically slanted posts. Nothing could touch me in my happy little bubble.

Sunday evening the unplugging joy continued. I put together Rie’s car. (Her grandmother had given it to her for Christmas, otherwise she would not have one.) We had a lovely time playing with the car outside. Rie managed to cover herself with mud. Seeing a kid playing outside, covered in mud, and having the time of her life is about the best way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

A blissfully happy weekend of unplugging begs the question, “Why do we not do this more often?” Furthermore, what is it about our technology that makes us feel it is a necessity?

National Day of Unplugging

Thank you, Minimalist Mom, for your post today about the National Day of Unpluggig (original blog post here).

From sunset on Friday, March 7th until sunset on Saturday, March 8th, participants are turning off their computers, logging out of social media, and finding something to do other than watch TV.

I am excited to participate and hope some of my local friends will too. I could use the company! The trick is to have an idea of what to do when that space normally occupied by technology becomes vacant. I’m lucky because I have a small kiddo at home (already 14 months!), so I know what I will be doing during her waking hours: playing with Rie, taking her for a walk, participating in a playdate, perhaps some chores.

But what about during naptime and after she goes to bed Friday night? Maybe us grown-ups will play cards, chat with long-distance loved ones on the phone…maybe just sit and enjoy a cup of tea while performing some top-notch porch setting.

Feel free to leave your brainstorm of ideas in the comments. What the heck did we all do before technology became so accessible?

Meaningless Fluff vs. College Funds

This morning I heard a shocking statistic on the radio. I hope it is not accurate. The DJ stated 9 in 10 parents are unable to save anything for their children’s future. Not unwilling, but unable, which is quite a different thing. They also stated the national average cost per child per month is around $800. This cost is mostly due to daycare expenses for young children, though I imagine sports leagues and clubs make up the cost as they grow older.

This unnerves me. Perhaps it is striking too close to home. We are actively paying off D’s truck as quickly as possible and have plans to tackle the mortgage next. We are also still recovering our savings from the foundation repair. With that said, we are not in a great financial situation, but we are putting aside $20 a month for Rie. Right now that does not seem like much, but by investing and increasing that amount once our debts are paid, she should have something to start her adult life.

Some people argue that children shouldn’t have any savings gifted to them by their parents. Maybe they are putting all of their hopes on scholarships. What I have heard argued, however, is that kids need to find jobs and figure it out on their own. I agree to a point. Kids should not be taught to feel entitled to the fruits of their parents’ labor, but they also need a little help to get ahead. My guidance comes from Proverbs 13:22: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children” (NIV).

My personal financial dream, since before she was conceived, has been to pay for Rie’s undergraduate degree. This means that when she has an entry-level job she won’t have student loans stopping her from buying a house or going to graduate school, or traveling the world, or whatever. If she decides college is not for her, I hope the money we save can be put toward some other investment, such as a house, or a fund for her children.

What does this have to do with leading a minimalistic lifestyle? Everything. Every tube of lipstick I refuse to purchase is another bit saved or paid toward the mortgage. Every time I bypass the paper napkins in the store and use cloth I am keeping money in my pocket (and having classier meals). Every time I resist the urge to buy a cute, cheap, toy for Rie, she has another drop of financial wealth in her future.

Let me add a note to point out being minimal does not mean going without. For example, my merino wool tee-shirts, of which I have two, are absolutely luxurious. Because they last longer than cotton tee-shirts they will save us money in the long run. We have everything we need plus some nice indulgences – without the throw-away, meaningless fluff. It is the lack of meaningless fluff that will pay for Rie’s college.

2/28/14 Edited to add: D read this post and thought it sounded awfully judgmental on parents who do not save for their children’s futures. I was very sorry to hear that and hope no one else thought that is what I meant to communicate. The purpose here is just to state what works for our family and why. Thanks for reading!