A Week Without Social Media

I am one week into my social media fast.  It has been an eye-opening experience.  In short, I have been more present in my everyday life.  I feel calmer.  I do not have that feeling of nagging urgency for no reason.  I underestimated the amount of time I was spending on social media, mainly Facebook.

I have spent more time talking to my girls.  I have spent more time talking to my parents on the phone.  I texted my mother a couple of pictures so she could show off her grandbabies.  I took the time to look up articles and topics of my interest instead of spending time reading articles that popped up on my Facebook feed.  I made a couple Valentine’s Day crafts with Isabella (7 years old) and spent a considerable amount of time playing on the floor with the baby.

I found myself reaching for my phone many, many times over the last week.  I’m really glad that I deleted the apps off my phone or I may have mindlessly opened Facebook without even thinking it through.  I never realized how much I do that until there was nothing there to open.  It has become very apparent just how addicted to Facebook I had become.  However, this has not been difficult.  I had all these reasons why it would be so hard to live without social media and so far none of them has been an issue.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

I’m interested to see how the rest of my 30 days go.  I have begun thinking about starting a home project or reading a new book.  I’ll update again in a week.

Social Media Fast

Am I addicted to Facebook?  Do I spend too much time mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed?  The simple answer is “Yes.”  The project of dedicating a year to life takes me by surprise again.  I never really thought about the impact that social media was having on my life and family as a whole.  While considering what kind of lifestyle I wanted I began thinking about how much time I spend on my phone while at home.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about what things in my life are making a positive impact and what is not.  Social media in its current capacity is making a negative impact on my daily life with Facebook being my biggest offender.

I think that Facebook (and other social media to a lesser extent) has a place in my life but I think it needs to be a much smaller place.  We have family and friends that live far away that it helps us stay up to date with.  My work mates use it for group messages to get together and to plan days that we all bring stuff in for birthday parties or meals.  Friends and family use it for party invites, especially kids birthdays.  Those are the positives.  Now here come the negatives.  It is a time suck.  I think to myself “I’ll just do a quick notification check.” That turns into “I’ll just do a quick scroll of my feed to see how everyone is doing.” The next thing I know I have spent a half hour or more doing nothing.  Or on some cases it is worse than nothing.  The perfectly edited Facebook feeds that hide reality is not good for any of us.  The art of the modest Facebook brag, the mostly useless shares, the whining, the “too perfect” couples, the sad news stories, the fake news, the rants, the political opinions practically screaming back and forth, and the endless memes are all just becoming too much for me.  It is so easy to get sucked into that world.  I find that it is all a little overwhelming.  I am curious to see how this choice impacts my family, my life, and my mental health.  I am part of the last generation that actually remembers life before social media took over.  I long for the days of phone calls from loved ones and being able to get together with friends without anybody staring at their phones. I miss the times that people were actually social. 

I did not delete my accounts or even put a hold on them.  I just removed all of it from my phone so that it doesn’t live at my fingertips anymore.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook messenger apps have been deleted from my phone. I have decided to take a 30 day social media fast.  I started yesterday.  March 13th will be 30 days.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

5 Things To Purge From Your Kitchen

It is amazing to see the amount of stuff that accumulates in the kitchen.  The kitchen really is the center of many homes.  The kitchen was a huge undertaking during my personal journey toward simplifying my home.  If you are on a similar journey or just want to take a few small steps towards less clutter, these 5 things are a good place to start.

  1. Tame the Tupperware Beast – We have all heard it a million times but it’s time to finally do something about it.  The loads of mismatched lids and containers need your attention.  This surprisingly did not take as long as I thought it would.  Start by removing your favorite ones.  The ones you use weekly that are in good shape with fitting lids can go immediately to the keep pile.  Next start matching up lids and containers.  Throw away anything without a match.  Now trash anything that is discolored, cracked, or has an ill-fitting lid.  The last step is the hardest, decide how many you actually need out of the containers left.  This number varies based on the family.  Consider how often you eat leftovers, what sizes work best for your family, and what logically fits in the space provided.  Do you only use them once or twice a year?  Could you use a freezer bag for those times instead?  If you had to buy new ones tomorrow, would you purchase these items again?  Wash the ones that you have decided to keep and organize into a larger container that fits in your cabinet.  This keeps them from going everywhere inside your cabinets.
  2. Some of These Things are not like the Others – It is amazing how much stuff ends up in crazy places.  This happens even more often when you have children.  This can be time-consuming to handle but the extra work space in your kitchen is worth it.  The weirdest thing we found was a decorative ink pen from Disney World inside a punch bowl.  We relocated the ink pen to the desk and got rid of the punch bowl.  We obviously hadn’t been using it, lol.
  3. Food, Food, and more Food – Take a day to pull everything from your pantry, cabinets, or anywhere else you keep non-refrigerated food.  Check expiration dates and throw out everything expired to start.  Go through everything else with honesty.  Have anything in there that you will not eat?  We got rid of a bag of candy our girls were never going to eat.  They still had tons of Halloween candy hanging around in the pantry.  To make getting rid of those things easier either give them to somebody who you know will eat them or donate them.  Next go through your refrigerator and freezer doing the same thing.  Now make a meal plan including all of your food.  Depending on the amount of stuff that was harboring in your kitchen you may save a ton of money on groceries in the next couple weeks.
  4. Weird appliances – We all have them.  I received the majority of mine as gifts but my husband is also responsible for bringing some of the odd items in.  I made sure that my whole family was gathered around the table as we went through things.  I set the small appliances on the table one by one asking if anybody truly used this product.  The answers were shocking to all of us.  There were some things that we all thought somebody else wanted and they didn’t use it at all.
  5. Bags – Do you have a huge pile of bags in your kitchen…maybe under your kitchen sink?  Only keep the amount of grocery bags that you will actually use and recycle the rest.  Do you use reusable grocery bags?  Shouldn’t they be in your car instead of your kitchen?

When you are done, take the time to organize what is left.  There are many options available to keep the things that you use orderly.

Our Christmas Traditions

There is something about a tradition that makes even the mundane items feel special.  Traditions make a family stronger and make children feel more secure about their place within it. This is a list of our Christmas traditions and you might be surprised to find that most of the items are free or very cheap.

  1. Decorate the Christmas Tree and Reminisce – Decorating the tree is a whole evening of fun. Our Christmas ornaments are a hodgepodge of things we have picked up while traveling, gifts from loved ones, representative ornaments, and things we have made over the years.  (A representative ornament is something that represents an important person or phase of your life.  My husband choose a special one to add to our tree during the first Christmas season after his father passed away.)  We spend hours discussing the memories behind every one.  It is our first Christmas night of the season and is one of the things I look forward to most.  Bonding over shared memories of snowy Chicago trips, meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or stories about family members.  It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.
  2. Christmas Eve Pajamas – This started with our oldest daughter’s second Christmas. She was a year old.  We were young parents on a serious budget.  I wanted to take Christmas morning photographs of her in festive pajamas.  Fourteen years later and we still buy our children festive pajamas every year.  They get to open that one gift on Christmas eve and they really look forward to it.
  3. Christmas Movie Night – We spend a night (or two…or three) watching family Christmas movies. We trade out the normal popcorn and M&Ms for hot chocolate and candy canes or cookies.
  4. Baking Christmas Cookies – Christmas and cookies just go together. We turn on some Christmas music and hit the kitchen every year to spend an afternoon making basic sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies. It’s loads of fun and is a great option for a super cold evening. It’s also a super cheap family day.
  5. Building a Gingerbread House – We let the kids pick out a kit and we spend an evening gathered around the kitchen table building a gingerbread house. This becomes the centerpiece of the table for the rest of the season.
  6. Looking at Lights in the Neighborhood – Depending on the weather, we either walk or drive around our neighborhood to look at lights. We all enjoy seeing what our neighbors have come up with. If your neighborhood is not an option, consider looking up community lighting competitions near you.
  7. A Christmas Trip or Outing – We go somewhere holiday related every year. If we have the time, we go to more than one place.  We really love Christmas lights so we often choose places with great lighting displays.  Zoos, churches, farms, museums, drive-through light shows, concerts, nativity scenes, and petting zoos have all made the list over the years.  There are posts about some of our favorites.
  8. A Visit to Santa – We visit Santa every year.  Sometimes he is at one of our bigger outings and we see him while we are there. Other years we take the girls to see the mall Santa. We have also been to a few library Christmas parties where Santa was in attendance.
  9. Thoughtful Gifts – I take the girls out one day for shopping.  We typically leave early in the day, have breakfast, and spend the day crossing off everyone on their lists. I tell them in advance so they can get their lists together. Over breakfast, I review their list and set a budget for each person on it.  They decide where to go to shop and pick out items.  This makes their gifts more special and a better reflection of their relationship with the important people in their lives. Michael takes the girls out on a separate day to get my present.
  10. Wrapping Presents – My girls love to help wrap. They work together to wrap gifts for the extended family and friends. They help me wrap each others presents. They love putting bows on the gifts. The wrapping has to get done so why not make it a fun family time. Bonus: The kids get to practice their scissor and tape skills. Our family/friends love getting a present from the girls that they know was wrapped by them too.
  11. Giving Back – I think this is important all the time but we have made it a part of our Christmas tradition.  It helps us to remember what Christmas is really about.  Volunteering and donating get us in the spirit of the season.  We have given parents in need Christmas presents for their children to open on Christmas morning.  We have donated food, toys, coats, clothing, and money.  When it comes to donating or volunteering, go with what is near to your heart.
  12. Crafts – My girls love arts and crafts. We always have something going on around here.  I’ll have to start sharing some of our projects on the site.  Making pictures of Santa, decorating/making ornaments, candle making, jewelry, and wrapping paper/bows have all made it on the list over the years.  It’s so relaxing and fun to spend the evening crafting with my girls (glass of wine in hand, of course).
  13. Decorating the Window – Every season my girls redecorate the window by our front door.  We use gel clings most of the time.  I buy them cheap at crafts stores or at Target.  I let my girls pick them out.  During Christmas time they will often decorate the other windows in the house.  The sibling bonding is nice to see.
  14. Christmas Cards –We make or buy Christmas cards to hand out to friends and family.  It helps kids to practice handwriting and makes a personal connection in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.  There is something really special about those shakey letters on a Christmas card made by a first grader that warms the heart. It is important to remember that these times go by fast and those little hands will not always be so little.
  15. Friends and Family –We spend as much time with those close to us as possible. We take a trip to Grandma’s house. We see the family that we only get to see a few times a year. We attend or throw Christmas parties.  I just love being around everybody as much as possible.
  16. Christmas Music – I love listening to Christmas music and I really love singing it! Isabella, our middle daughter, is enjoying learning all the carols this year.
  17. Advent Calendar – This is fun for the preschool and elementry age group because it helps them to count down to the fun.  They also love getting a little treat everyday.  We do ours after dinner each night instead of in the morning because they often contain sweet treats like chocolate.
  18. Reading – Last but not least, we read Christmas stories.  There are so many good ones out there.  “The Grinch”, “The night before Christmas”, and “The night before the night before Christmas” (a family favorite) are pulled back out year after year.

What does your family do to celebrate?  Do we have anything in common?

Reflections, Blessings, Truths, Dreams

This morning I had one of those rare quiet moments where the world is still, the constant mental hum of busy melts away, and I am able to reflect on life. It is in these moments that I have made the big decisions in my life, that I have figured out the answers to questions I’ve been turning over in my mind with such sudden clarity that there is no room for doubt, and that I have time to be thankful for all the blessings in my life. This morning I sat here reflecting as our six-year-old slept nearby and our newest tiny addition nodded while curled against my chest. I watched as the world outside slowly lightened with the rising sun. The fog started off thick, clinging to the trees, burning off as the world got brighter. It was a perfect moment.

This morning I thought about how unbelievably blessed I am. I have three healthy, beautiful daughters. I am healthy. I am married to a great man who I adore. I have a job that allows me to make a difference in the lives of others. I am financially stable and own my home. I have many amazing friends and family members in my life. We were able to open a new business this year. I am thankful for all these blessings and the many others not mentioned.

I also had time to consider what is next in my life. What do I want to work on? Are there any changes I need to make? Any truths I need to accept? Any potential I am ignoring? Any dreams I need to dedicate my little free time and energy toward achieving? Where do I hope to be in five years? Does anything need to change for me to get there?

The truth is I’m in a rut. I have become way too comfortable. I have grown to love parts of my comfort zone and feel trapped by others. The truth is I doubt and second guess myself too much. I waste too much time on silly, trivial things that don’t matter to me and then complain that I have no time. I watch too much television and I’m becoming addicted to Facebook scrolling. The truth is that this is my fourth blog. Each of them has helped me to find myself and attempt to develop my voice and writing style. When I start to find that voice it scares me so I fall back on fact based writing even though I want to write more emotionally driven inspirational posts. I want to put more passion into my writing. The truth is I take the easy road because I am afraid of what may happen if I push through. When I was young I was afraid of what others would think, how they may react. Now that I’m older I am more afraid of change. As I already stated above, I am blessed. My life is not perfect but it is good. What if I push through? If I give it my all, Am I more afraid of failure or success? The truth is I am afraid of what may change with either. If I succeed at my goals it will change me and my life. If I fail, I will lose the dream and it will change me. I know because both success and failure have shaped who I am. The truth is I am ignoring my dreams and failing to act out of fear. It is not just my writing that deserves more effort. I deserve more effort. If I wish to continue to grow toward where I hope to be in five years, I must come back out of auto-pilot and start putting the work in. Whether I succeed or fail, I must give all I have towards achieving my dreams because I will someday regret it if I do not. I don’t want to live with that regret. The truth is that it is easier to ignore my dreams. Fear, laziness and a million excuses could allow me to ignore them forever. I cannot keep ignoring my dreams. I am becoming stagnant in my comfort zone. It is time for a change. It is time for a new adventure. The truth is I am ready.