My Sweet Home – Tulsa Vintage Market Days 2014

Preface: I was not compensated in any way by VMD or any of its vendors for this blog post. I am just a supremely happy customer and supporter. 

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I’ll never forget the first time I attended the Round Top Antique Show in Texas’s beautiful Hill Country.

A teenager, I was just beginning to fall in love with vintage and, even though In Style was my daily life source, I was also becoming a faithful reader of Country Living; through its pages, my taste for antiques and things of yesteryear began to sharpen and develop.

And at Round Top, standing in the midst of miles and miles of fabulous junk, I found a community of folks who felt the same way I did. It was FABULOUS. I thought I might be in heaven.

The downside: it was almost as far away as Beaulah Land, nearly 500 miles from home.

And even though we had the luxury of staying with my beloved Aunt B who lived nearby, it was a rare occasion that we could actually make it to her neck of the woods on the same weekend of the show.

Everytime we made the long trek back home, lodged precariously between our newfound treasures, I found myself wishing there was a show like Round Top in Oklahoma. A place not only to find beautiful vintage items for my home, but to network with like-minded people who could help me find the things I was looking for.

Enter Vintage Market Days.

Now in its 3rd year, it is everything I loved about Round Top, but better: 1. It is more intimate than Round Top - I can see everything at the show without dying of exhaustion or drowning in vintage-overload, 2. It gets better every year (this past weekend’s event was the BEST!), 3. IT IS SO CLOSE TO MY HOUSE!!!

So…what IS this “Vintage Market Days”, you ask?

According to their website, they are “an upscale vintage-inspired indoor/outdoor market featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, home décor, outdoor furnishings, consumable yummies, seasonal plantings and a little more. The Market is a three day event held several times a year in various communities. Each Vintage Market Days event is a unique opportunity for vendors to display their talents and passions in different venues.”

In other words, imagine if you could gather a large group of your favorite Etsy vendors in one location and line them all up in a row. Sprinkle a few incredible food trucks in between and add live music to the background. And then imagine that your mom (or BFF) is strolling along beside you and you’re moseying the day away buying little trinkets that will cozy up your home and help you to remember your day together…

that’s Vintage Market Days.

The only thing we were missing was Aunt B! (But I’m determined to have her here for the Fall show!)

I am a bit of an amateur when it comes to photography and “on-location” reporting, but here’s a humble offering of my day at VMD; this collection is anything but comprehensive, as I found “working” and shopping are kind of hard to do at the same time, but mayhap it will provide a tiny glimpse into an event that is too beautiful and exciting for photographs or words…

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Want to see what I DIDN’T buy? But almost did?…

These letters are cut out of old Reader’s Digest Condensed books. I found an “R”, “E”, “A” and “D” and seriously considered buying them for our schoolroom. Maybe next time…

(p.s. I’ve seen these at Anthropologie, too!)

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Wanna see what I DID buy?

Those two nightstands.

Cha-ching!

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Every booth at VMD was cleverly set up, but I especially loved Calamity Jane’s Funk and Junk

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this onesie at Calamity Jane’s booth made me chuckle…

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And how cute is this booth? Magpie featured a huge selection of vintage rose wraps…

and the sweetest smile in the land. I want to be her friend, don’t you?

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Also droolworthy? This lemonade stand. My daughter has been longing to sell lemonade, and I think this would be a most suitable vehicle. I don’t have a website for this vendor, but I have an e-mail address if you’re interested.

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Lunchtime! The biggest improvement in this year’s market was most definitely the food. My mom and I were beyond excited to try The Local Table’s food truck…

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and they did NOT disappoint. Mom ordered chicken tacos. I one-upped her by ordering chicken and waffles with pineapple salsa and spicy maple syrup…

but both were tuh-die-fer.

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Later that afternoon, we ordered dessert from Harmony House Lunch and Bakery. My photos in NO way do justice to the preciousness that was this booth. I loved everything about it!

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especially the menu…

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And although I was way too full for any other snacks, I was so happy to see Sweet Daddy Corn again – they kind of saved my life at last year’s show by keeping my starving preschooler happy! This stuff is seriously delicious…

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Okay, back to shopping!

Aside from booths of antiques and repurposed and refurbished goodies, there was jewelry. I especially liked Tarnished Charm’s huge selection of upcycled accessories…

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but most of the booths showcased antiques, none of which were snobbish, fussy or unaffordable. My mom came really close to bringing this little cabinet (backed in chicken wire!) home.

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and it is only fair that I share a photo of Kevin and Jayne Wilson from Do Me Up! Antiques in Winfield, Kansas, because I kind of harassed them about that precious chicken trophy she is holding…

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Awesome live music was performed by Tulsa singer-songwriter Steve Liddell

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and a great day was had by all…

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even Baby Shepherd.

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Aside from my nightstands, I came home with all sorts of new goodies, like this enamel teapot…

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and these iron rockers for the backyard…

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and these vintage painted frames by A Simple Place...

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oh yeah…

and maybe a chicken trophy…

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which you’ll most likely be seeing again in the near future. :)

The next Tulsa Vintage Market Days is September 26-28…

who’s coming with me?!

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Want to know more about Vintage Market Days? Visit their website at www.vintagemarketdays.com or follow them on Facebook.

My Sweet Home: The Christmas Edition (2013)

Less than a week ago, on the way to the grocery store with my mom to stock up for a coming winter snowstorm, I was bemoaning the fact that my head seemed to be stuck in Fall; I could not for the life of me process that Christmas was coming, and very soon.

Part of my problem was that I had been longing, since September, to get a particular autumnal picture of Miss Sunday…

in my typical dramatic weirdness, I just couldn’t move on until I had checked that last thing of my list; thus, that night, before church, I bathed her, dressed her, dried her hair, and the two of us marched around our property in almost freezing weather to get that “Fall” picture…

got it! (she is SUCH a trooper!)…

Rebekah Fall

After uploading and editing those pictures, I gave life – and time – permission to carry on.

And it was crazy.

As snow began to fall the very next day, I put the last of my Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff away and started tidying up the house, and, by the time night arrived, my house (and my heart) was completely ready for Christmas.

None of it was planned, really, especially the snow, but at 6:00 p.m., I snapped out of a concentrated cleaning fervor to realize that Christmas music was playing, the house was shiny and festive, the stockings were hung, the fireplace was going, and the children were even sitting around their little table, drinking hot chocolate by the light of their little battery-operated candlesticks.

“This is the best night ever…” Rebekah sighed.

“No kidding!” I thought. And I hadn’t even orchestrated it. It just sort of happened.

It was a fun and unexpected turn of events, for sure.

When it comes to Christmas decorating, I like to keep things as simple and timeless as possible, and it seems like I pare down what I own more and more every year.

What remains are some cherished items that just make my heart so happy, and I can decorate in about 30 minutes, flat (not including the tree, which we do not have yet).

I also have a major thing for oranges at Christmastime. I blame it all on “Little Women”.

All that to say, it really is starting to look and feel like Christmas around here, and I am one happy girl…

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screen with ornaments

ornaments

wreath

girl with tree

sisters

close-up sisters

bowl of oranges

table

silver tree

coffee

fire

stockings

Gid coloring

Don’t let the photographs or the filters fool you – it is a messy madhouse around here, but at different moments throughout my day, these holiday vignettes are visible and they just make my heart sing. I love me some Christmastime.

Now…let the gift wrapping begin!!

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I’d love to hear from you! Any questions about anything you see? How do you like to deck your halls? Garlands? Wreaths? Mistletoe? Anyone else a mercury glass junkie?…

My Sweet Home: Plain Ol’ Pumpkins

Every year, I get excited about all the Fall décor I see on Pinterest, at Country Living, at Pottery Barn, via Martha Stewart…

every year, I determine that I’m going to make something cool with a pumpkin.

I’ve seen pumpkins made to look like vintage yellowware, pumpkins painted with chalkboard paint, pumpkins stacked and accessorized to make the Fall equivalent of a Winter snowman, pumpkins with this, pumpkins with that…

And every year, I either run out of time or my pumpkin craft turns out looking like a weirdo.

And so this year, with an infant, a homeschool and a back surgery patient on my hands, I gave myself a break, and when my dear friend, Charlotte, gave me some perfect pumpkins she accidentally grew in her pasture, guess what I did with them?

Nothin’.

Nothin’, that is, except to gaze upon their unadulterated beauty as they sit upon my front porch table, bringing autumnal cheer to my heart everytime I see them.

Pumpkins are pretty, just as they are.

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And so this is just me, giving you permission to have a plain ol’ pumpkin.

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What did you do with your pumpkins this year? Paint them? Carve them? Smush them up into a pie? Do tell!

My Sweet Home: A Wee Little Rocker

We had a little rocking chair when I was a little girl that I loved to sit in. It was wooden, and, true to the time, had an impossibly loud, orange, floral upholstered seat and back cushion.

The 80′s were awesome, weren’t they?

Case in point: my rocking chair. My outfit. My Mom’s rad couch design. Babies reading TV guide (???)…

And see how much fun I’m having in my chair??

me in rocking chair

I outgrew the chair (probably about a month later, judging by my toddler thickness), and it eventually made its way to my parents’ garage where it gathered dust and cobwebs and a nice bit of weathering over the last couple of decades.

And then I kind of forgot about it.

And so imagine my surprise this Christmas when my Mom brought in an unexpected gift for my youngest daughter, Betsie…

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My little rocking chair, scrubbed clean, sanded, restained, and beautifully reupholstered.

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I couldn’t believe it!

One of the most beloved young ladies in my life, Leslie (of Benjamin Grey Photography fame), had been hired to do all the handiwork, which makes this chair even more special to me.

I love the details. The trim on the pillow…

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the dotted swiss fabric and the pretty satin ribbon…

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and my favorite part, a crocheted table runner that we used at our wedding reception, repurposed in the sweetest of ways…

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You guys know how I love pint-sized furniture, and I think it is important to have plenty of places in our home for our little ones to find rest and comfort.

And let’s face it, everytime we take something from the 80′s and reupholster it, we have done the world a huge favor…

My Sweet Home: Junk Be Gone! (Part 3)

After an entire week of procrastination, I’m finally posting the next installment in this “decluttering” series, and I’m going to hop right to it!

In my last post, I shared some principles that are motivating me to simplify our home and our lives…

Today, I want to share with you some practical tips that are helping me accomplish my decluttering goals, but I have to be honest first: I’m just now getting there. For instance, this is our living room…

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It has been pared down and simplified to bare bones and is a DREAM to keep clean. In five minutes, I can completely tidy the room up, and that includes sweeping.

This, on the other hand, was the hallway outside of our kids’ nursery, taken after I removed every toy, blanket and extra article of clothing that was littering their floor and piled it up for sifting and sorting…

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Night…mare. But I received a shipment of pretty storage containers shortly thereafter, and this room is being completely defeated. I promise to finish it, and I promise to share my progress here!

I share that to assure you that I am learning these things right alongside you, and that I am most certainly not an expert. However, I am determined to grow, I am determined to develop a better attitude of hospitality and servitude in my home, and I am passionate about encouraging you in your journey, as well.

And so here are my personal tips for getting rid of the excess that already resides in your home:

1. Make sure you are sufficiently motivated.

This might seem redundant in light of my last post, but it’s foundational: the most important tools for defeating bad habits and giving up worldly excess are godly motivation and biblical principles. Until I have an eternal purpose for doing things, I have trouble really caring much or persevering.

2. Read housekeeping blogs and articles and do what they say.

Most of the things I’m doing in my home were not my original material and have most likely been gleaned from others. Some books and blogs that have helped me along the way:

  • Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old-fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life. I love this book, not only for its charm, but for the common sense that is found within its pages. Click on the picture to find it at Amazon:

  • Living Well Spending Less: I have only just discovered this blog, but I am already a huge fan and am finding guidance and encouragement for my clutter-conquering journey, as well as a good dose of transparency.
  • The Time-Warp Wife: Another blog I have only recently discovered, I LOVE the faith-based principles that serve as its foundation, as well as all the handy (and cute!) printables and charts. I can’t wait to read and learn more!
  • The Fly Lady: I came across this blog from my internet friend, Leslie. It is chock-full of tips and help, not only for decluttering, but for cleaning and developing good homemaking habits.

You would do well to learn from these ladies, each of them far more experienced than I am when it comes to housekeeping and decluttering. They will cover all the important steps for you, and now I’ll just share a few things I have personally picked up along the way…

3. Make lists.

Before you start, make itemized lists of what you really need and intend to keep, and be determined to get rid of what is not on the list. With my list in hand, I knew going into my kids closet exactly how many sets of playclothes and pajamas I intended to keep, how many toys they would be allowed to keep, how many pairs of shoes they needed for church and play…

Preparing beforehand when you are not actually looking at your stuff helps you to be objective.

4. Try to find time to declutter alone.

It is nigh until impossible to sift through excess when you have little hands and voices nearby, and I have found that this kind of work is best done when my children are out of the house. Don’t have any baby-sitters available? Do a work swap with one of your friends. She’ll keep your kids one day so you can work, and then you can return the favor.

5. If you don’t have adequate time to completely finish a phase of sorting, don’t even start.

I can’t tell you how many times I have randomly started going through a drawer or a toy box, organized everything into piles…and then it’s time to start supper. Or the kids wake up from their naps. Or I just run out of steam. When I return the next day to finish the job, it has been scattered to high heaven, and all of my work is left undone. Thus, I have learned to schedule my decluttering, and I no longer start jobs I know I can’t finish.

6. Enlist a helper.

Two are better than one, and while I personally find more success when I declutter alone, some of you might need a buddy. For instance, my Mom has a lot of trouble getting rid of things because, once she holds an item in her hands, she immediately wants to keep it. Now that she has enlisted me as her sifting buddy, though, I hold her clothes up for her from across the room, and she can objectively decide if it is something she needs to keep or not. In other words, do whatever it takes to conquer your excess…even if it looks a little like an intervention.

7. The cardinal rule: if you don’t love it or use it, get rid of it.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, this is the best way to determine what you should keep and what you shouldn’t. Stop holding on to the things that don’t make your heart go pitter-patter. (Important side note: this rule ONLY applies to things, not people…). My husband and I just narrowed down our movie library to the truly defining and timeless ones, transforming our entertainment center into a treasure trove of films rather than a place where we store all the cheap movies we’ve bought over the years. It’s crazy what a difference these sorts of simple changes can make in your home, bringing meaning and fluidity into what was just random and pointless and hoard-ish before.

8. Make designated piles.

Sometimes it can be so overwhelming when you are staring at a mountain of stuff and you don’t know what to do with it; narrowing your items down to “keep” or “don’t keep” can be impossible. So create specific piles (or bags…or empty diaper boxes…), and be as creative with them as you want to be.  Here are some I frequently employ:

  • Keepsakessome things just need to be kept, and that’s okay. Put them in a safe box and store them forever in your attic and let your kids deal with them after you die.
  • Family, Friends or Church NurseryI often remove toys and play-clothes from our house and take them to my Mom’s where all the grandkids can enjoy them…and oftentimes, our kids are much happier giving up their toys when they know they’ll be going to someone they love. This is also true of the church nursery, a perfect home for your excess (but not junky!) toys, books, outgrown diapers, and play clothes, for those times when kids at church have ‘accidents’. I have a friend who used to take her son’s stained or outgrown playclothes to the local daycare for that same reason, and I thought that was such a good idea!
  • PurgatoryI have learned the hard way that my children either completely forget about crafts they made or junky toys they’ve acquired…or they ask for them out of the blue and I discover that they loved that item more than anything ever in the entire world and now I’m the bad guy who threw it heartlessly away. Thus, rather than trashing those types of items immediately, I have a special box that I call “purgatory” where they can secretly hang out for a couple of months until I know for sure it is safe to send them out the back door. This box has served me VERY well.
  • TRASH! (My favorite). So easy. So quick.
  • Garage sale or Goodwill. I don’t keep a separate pile for Goodwill, because if is is not quality enough to sell, it is not quality enough to donate. If you wouldn’t sell it, trash it immediately. Goodwill (or anyone else) doesn’t need our t-shirts with the armpit stains. Then, whatever I don’t sell at our garage sales goes immediately (like, that day) to Goodwill or to someone else who could benefit from it. Just don’t under any circumstance bring that stuff back into your house!!!
  • Consignment. I have a special section of my garage sales dedicated to consignment quality clothes, with firm and appropriate prices. It is easier to give up quality clothes that I don’t wear when I know I might be properly compensated for them. Or you could make it even easier and actually take them to a consignment store! (I just like cutting out the middleman…)

Your piles might look completely different than mine, but…you get the point. Make lots of piles.

9. Declutter often.

Sad news. This kind of work doesn’t last as long as you think it will. You have to stay on top of it, and expect decluttering to be at least a monthly, if not a weekly, chore. Yay…

10. Put kids toys up. The higher the better.

Best thing I’ve ever done. Organize most of your kids toys into separate bins (with the exceptions of their stuffed animals and such), put them somewhere out of reach, and hold the key to what gets played with, when. The benefit of this is at least threefold: a) Their room stays clean, except for daily maintenance like making beds and putting away clothes, b) they actually play with the toys you get down for them rather than getting everything out at one time and wandering around aimlessly in the wreckage (I know you know what I’m talking about!), and c) more often than not, they wind up using their imaginations instead of relying on toys for entertainment. And guess what? You don’t have to clean up after imaginations! Just when I was looking for the courage to take this step, I came across this blog post: Why I Took My Kids Toys Away (and why they won’t get them back). And I have to concur with everything the author says: this really works, and our entire family has profited from it.

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Again, nothing new or revolutionary here, but if it any of the above tips help you in your decluttering process, I will be so pleased. And if you have any tips or ideas or blog posts to share with us, please do so in the comments section – we’d love to hear from you!

Coming up soon in the “My Sweet Home” series…”Junk Be Gone: When You Live with a Hoarder”

My Sweet Home: Junk Be Gone! (Part 2)

Last week, I made the case that the #1 problem housekeepers face today is the excessive amounts of “stuff” we have in our houses.

Today, I want to share with you some things that are helping me tackle this problem, but after some serious thought, I’ve decided to break this list up into two parts: in my next post, I’ll share practical ideas for how we are paring down the excess that already lives in our home. Today, however, I’ll be discussing principles for keeping the excess out in the first place…

Before you bring things home:

1. Make wishlists.

I know this seems counter-productive, but believe me, it works: set up an online account at your favorite stores and make detailed lists of what you’d like. I have a list for each of my children, for homeschool, for my personal wishes, for our house, our yard, our wardrobes, our library…pretty much everything! “How does that possibly help with excess?” you ask? Simply this: it prioritizes my spending and challenges me to think about the things I’m buying rather than nickel-and-diming my budget away when I’m out and about. I now rarely buy things unless they are on my list. That means when we are at the grocery store, I buy groceries. That’s it. And the only way I will ever buy a book from the bargain bin at the bookstore is if it is already on my list at Amazon; otherwise, I pass those tempting sale aisles by, at any store. You have to ask yourself: would I rather buy these 5 discounted books that I’ve never heard of, or the 1 hardcover book that would add to my collection of Junior Illustrated Classics? Would I rather buy 3 of these inexpensive shirts that match nothing in my daughter’s closet or get her that one complete outfit on her list that I know she’ll wear and will hold up well?

The only time I veer from this principle is when I am at an antique store or among one-of-a-kind products, but even there, I try to exercise great caution and refrain from grabbing stuff just because I like it. I think the fastest way to deplete your budget and bring stuff into your home that you don’t need is to shop without thinking first.

Wishlists are also very helpful, in that, when your young kids are dying to buy at toy or a book when you’re out running errands, you can say, “We’ll add that to your list when we get home and maybe you’ll get it for your birthday.” It has to be a really special day for us to buy a toy on a non-holiday…little indulgences like that pile up fast, especially when you start adding multiple children to your home.

2. Stay home.

A really great way to bring a bunch of stuff into your house is to frequent places where stuff is sold. Those trips to the mall where you just meander around all day, going in and out of every store, will pretty much ensure that you’ll come home with bags of excess that you don’t need. And its funny…everytime I go to Anthropologie, I realize that there are at least 10 new items that I feel like I can’t live without. Staying home pretty much completely solves this problem.

3. Realize that you are a marketing target.

I used to see shopping as a quest where I could use my prowess and be a mighty hunter of great bargains and deals, but when it began to dawn on me that I was less hunter and more prey, it took a bit of the sparkle out of my shopping adventures. I could no longer view those $5 movie bins at Wal-Mart as just happenstance, but saw them for what they really were: a marketer’s snare to catch me and entice me to spend hard-earned money on things I didn’t need.

This knowledge has given me the discernment to look past that pretty packaging and see a bar of plain ol’ soap, and to pass up every “clearance sale” and “buy 3-get-1-free” promotion that catches my eye. I tote home far less “bargains” and “treasures” as a result, thank God!

And don’t even get me started on outlet malls…

4. Likewise, protect your children from consumerism.

I used to love, love, love poring over the J.C. Penney Holiday Wishbook, circling anything that called out to me as I made birthday and Christmas lists galore. Thus, when he was just a toddler, I was so excited to introduce my son to his first toy catalogue. But even though his eyes lit up at the pretty pages and he enthusiastically circled toy after toy as he kept himself occupied for about 30 minutes, the entire experience surprisingly left me a little saddened…

Because what had I really just introduced him to? Pages and pages of unimportant stuff that lit a fire of desire in his little heart. Since that time, the conviction has grown that I need to work at sheltering my kids from commercials, catalogues and even stores that would awaken in their hearts a longing for the unending supply of worldly goods available to us today. I must guard their hearts, even as I work at guarding mine, and teach them where true joy and fulfillment is found.

6. Change your gift-buying and gift-giving mentality.

My husband has really helped me with this one. I used to buy such-and-such amounts of gifts for this-and-this-and-this-and-this holiday because that’s they way things were done. Mr. Gore, however, is an objective thinker and never does things “just because”, which has led us to this point: as our budget allows, we buy special things for the ones we love to show them love, whenever we want or whenever we see something that makes us think of them. That means that we might buy one really special present for a loved one for her birthday, but if nothing strikes us, we don’t just go to Bath and Body Works and grab something for $20 so she’ll have something to open. Replace hastily bought and unthoughtful gifts like that with perishable gifts like flowers or baked goods, things that will be enjoyed but that won’t add to the piles of stuff in your house or in the homes of your loved ones. Even our tiny little daughters are so thrilled to receive a little bouquet of flowers on special occasions…it makes them feel loved, and that’s the point, right?

This is really important when it comes to filling up Christmas stockings and Easter baskets or when purchasing little sibling gifts on birthdays. Refrain from just buying nonsensical filler, again, opting for perishable goods such as special candies or fruits, or even better, practical things, like cool new toothbrushes or underwear or a Chick-fil-a giftcard or pretty pencils for school. I gave my daughter some special undershirt/panty sets in her stocking this year, and I think it was her favorite gift of the season. Those little cheap toys that call out to us at holiday time are just absolutely the worst thing to bring into our homes.

Just ask the nightmare that awaits me upstairs…

6. Likewise, change your gift-receiving mentality.

Just because it is a gift, doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever. Gifts are supposed to make you feel loved. So take a moment, a couple of months, even, to feel that love, and then decide…do I want to keep this? Sometimes the answer is a resounding “yes!” and you know in your heart you will keep it for the rest of your life. But sometimes the answer can be no. You have to be discerning here, and you should always keep a grateful heart, but don’t feel like you have to keep things around for the rest of your life just because someone gave it to you.

This is especially true when you are getting married or having baby showers. You will likely receive a mountain of stuff from friends and family. Keep the things you love and will use, and exchange the rest for gift cards. I know that seems harsh, but remember what you’re working toward in taming the excess in your home: hospitality… comfort… organization… peace… again, this calls for discernment and tact, but for the most part, your loved ones are giving you gifts to help you, and they won’t have  a problem with you exchanging or returning them.

My personal rule of thumb is to keep at least one thing I really love from the people I really love, things that suit me while reminding me of them. Otherwise, I feel pretty free to eventually let those things go.

7. Examine your lifestyle and your motives for living the way you do.

Hoarding (and I’m not talking, like, “Hoarders” hoarding, but typical American hoarding) is not necessarily an innocent personality trait. In many cases, it points to something deeper. A root of sin, even. Some of us may be living like this world is our home, storing up as many treasures as possible. Some of us may be making idols out of possessions, acquiring more and more and more because it makes us feel good and excited and momentarily fulfilled. Some of us may make more out of ourselves than others, spending all of our extra money on our own homes and families without looking for ways to share it.

These tendencies must be uprooted and repented of, and then replaced with things that are good and true and eternal.

And then some of us might just have that Depression-era attitude that says “keep everything because you might need it someday.” But I told my Mama this, and now I’ll tell you: we aren’t living in the Depression. And while it was a good rule at the time that you should keep your floursacks because you might need them to make dresses, more often than not, Americans today need to do a lot less keeping and a lot more tossing (and there are so many ways to “toss” without adding trash to the heap – we’ll go over some of that in my next post). My personal rule, and one you’ll find in almost any blog post or article on organization: if you don’t love it or use it, get rid of it.

8. Stop being thoughtless.

But then much of our excessive lifestyles are simply nothing more than a failure to think about what we are doing. We are on some sort of  twisted, commercialized American autopilot, and we never consider whether we need to be or not…

We have such-and-such amount of things because everyone else does. We buy cards and gifts on this day because it is a holiday! We have a son and so we need legos and cars and dinosaurs and armymen and Lincoln Logs and erector sets and a train and baseball gear and football gear and basketball gear and building blocks and toy tools and cowboy stuff, and we have a girl and so we need at least 3 baby dolls and baby doll clothes and diaper bags and a stroller and a toy kitchen and tea sets and pretend food and dishes and cooking sets and aprons and a dollhouse and stuffed animals and dress-up clothes and 50 hairbows and 20 plastic strands of beads and some Barbies, and we have a homeschool and so we need stacks of construction paper and lined paper and unlined paper and cardstock and posterboard and crayons and markers and colored pencils and watercolors and fingerpaints and play-doh and boxes of safety scissors and 500 books and…

oh. my. gosh. When are we ever going to stop?!

It would behoove all of us to put on the brakes and free ourselves from this never-ending cycle of consumption. For more, I highly recommend reading Jen Hatmaker’s “7: an experimental mutiny against excess”. Warning: it will probably change your life.


9. Use history as a measuring stick.

Just ask my husband. I am kind of obsessed with comparing our lives today with those who have walked before us. But even though I get carried away sometimes, it has served me well, allowing me to objectively see the world while helping me to realize that I don’t have to buy into every aspect of our culture today.

Let me explain: realizing that life and love existed for centuries before ours and that those people survived (and possibly thrived) on far less than we do gives me the confidence to let go of the indulgent and dangerous lifestyle that America constantly parades before my eyes. Most of our forerunners had hundreds-less toys. No television or movies. Zero electronics. A handful of outfits, probably. Two or three pairs of shoes, at the most. A few oft-read books, perhaps…

I’m not saying that I want to live like a pioneer or a pauper, but my goal in decluttering is to keep my favorites (and even indulge in a few luxuries!) while freeing my family and my own heart from the pressing weight of an excessive lifestyle. The sooner, the better!

10. Use a pared-down lifestyle to preach the gospel.

A life in Christ enables us, in a world where we could “have it all” to say “no thanks. I have everything I need.” What an unprecedented opportunity we have to display our set-apartness. Let us show by our spending, our collecting, and our acquiring that this world has not bewitched us, and that we can enjoy the pleasures afforded us without becoming their slaves.

I think, more than any of the other principles listed here, this one excited me the most.

~

Oh, my dear readers, what an earful that was! But if it encourages any of you to take that first step toward breaking free from an excessive lifestyle, I will feel it was time well spent. I wrote this especially for my young mamas and wives and graduates just starting out in this world in the hopes that you will employ these principles early on, saving yourself a lot of frustration  in the future! I’m rooting for you, with all my heart.

Want to remember this? Pin it!

"A life in Christ enables us, in a world where we could “have it all” to say “no thanks. I have everything I need.” What an unprecedented opportunity we have to display our set-apartness. Let us show by our spending, our collecting, and our acquiring that this world has not bewitched us, and that we can enjoy the pleasures afforded us without becoming their slaves."

My Sweet Home: Junk Be Gone! (Part 1)

It is incontestable.

The #1 problem facing housekeepers today has to be (drumroll, please!)…clutter. Overconsumption. Excess.

In an unprecedented age of convenience and innovation, the American homemaker should have it so easy…

key word: should.

We throw dirty dishes into a machine and push a button to wash them. We do the same with our laundry. We have airtight windows and doors, keeping more dust out of our houses than ever before. And cooking can be as easy or as difficult as we want to make it.

But we also have an unprecedented problem…

Junk galore.

Knick-knacks in every available space.

Stuff everywhere.

Toys.

Toys.

Toys.

Toys.

Toys.

Did I mention ‘toys’?…

Whether we intend for it to happen or not, the modern American family is the recipient (and usually also the pursuer) of unending goods, and even if we’re trying to keep our spending and our consumption to a minimum, there is so much stuff floating around out there that we end up with it in our houses anyway. Gifts. Hand-me-downs. Osmosis, maybe?…

All of which can be blessings (except for osmosis…I actually don’t even know what that is so I don’t know if it is a blessing), but if we don’t learn to master them, they can positively enslave us.

Slowly, I am becoming aware that, the less stuff we have, the happier we are.

The less stuff we have, the more time we spend together as a family.

And the less stuff we have, the cleaner our house stays. Even when it’s dirty…

Because I’m really not looking anymore to have a spotless house. My floors will not always be shining, because I have 3 children who drool and spill and drop raisins and Cheerios and track in mud and dirt and grass nonstop. I’ve come to grips with the fact that a perfectly shining house just isn’t in the stars for me right now. But regardless of how young our kids are or how many we have or how dirty they keep our floors, we can have a neat house…

and let’s face it, we have to be able to walk through our rooms, and the fact that we can’t sometimes is a ridiculous situation that we have created of our own accord. And you know that whole routine of freaking out when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door because the house is a wreck? It is becoming less and less acceptable to me.

Because of this reason alone: I’ve been convicted that this sort of lifestyle doesn’t seem to mesh with the biblical call of hospitality. How can we have open homes and lives when we are appalled for anyone to see them? How can our own children feel comfortable in their house when they are tripping over toys with every step they take?

Something’s got to give, Mrs. Gore!

And so I wanted to share some tips with you over how I am defeating, room by room, this seemingly epic problem. My goal in decluttering is that, by truly simplifying our life, I will take full advantage of the ease afforded to a homemaker in my position today, using all that spare time that my dishwasher gives me to read to my kids or do something truly useful, rather than forever finding hidey-holes for the massive amounts of junk we have. What a waste of time and energy, spending it all on things that are flammable and fleeting.

It is a never-ending and sometimes exhausting process, but it has already been well worth my time, thought and perseverance.

However, to keep this post from being twenty thousand words long, I’ll have to share that list with you in my next post.

When it comes to words, I will obviously continue to be excessive.

But until then, be mulling some things over, won’t you?…

Do you spend a frustrating amount of time putting things away that aren’t really useful to your family?

If someone walked into your house right now, would you be embarrassed?

Are you a slave to your possessions, or master? 

Are your children slaves to their possessions?

Think about the time you dedicate each day to housework. How much of that time is spent simply putting things away? 

~

Part Two, coming up…soon! Maybe tomorrow? Maybe not.

My Sweet Home (Prequel #2)

Our family loves the song “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers.

We sing it at the top of our lungs in our old gold minivan, and even Baby Betsie shouts out the “ho!” and “hey!” parts like a champ.

But watching the Lumineers perform live at the Grammy’s, I grew slightly suspicious and devastated as the camera cut to Taylor Swift singing along in the audience.

Why?

Because…

During my favorite part of the song – the chorus – where the band sings “I belong with you, you belong with me, in my sweet home…”, Taylor, who I am confident is very proficient in memorizing popular song lyrics, was clearly singing “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart” as she made a heart shape around her heart.

And I knew…

I had the lyrics wrong.

A quick internet search proved this to be true, and I now know that this song is talking about young, unrequited love, and not me and my husband and our kids and our little white farmhouse on the hill.

Bummer.

But then I decided that, since I will never be on the stage or in the audience of the Grammy’s, I can sing the song however I darn well please.

And so I have made it our banner song once more, and I sing it at the top of my lungs and with all the love in my heart…

I belong with you,

You belong with me,

In my sweet home…

There is nothing sweeter than the comforts of home, is there? I grew up in an extremely home-y home. My Mom is gifted at making others feel loved and comfortable, and when I still walk into her house today, my heart relaxes with me, and I feel like I can take on the world.

Though much younger and less experienced than she, this is what I strive to do in my own house today.

Make it a home.

Make it a place where my kids feel brave and content and whole.

But that’s just it…

These things don’t happen naturally or of their own accord, and you can’t be a home-maker without the making; neither can you produce a place of warmth and love by sitting on your bum all day, blogging and eating onion rings. (Sorry, that’s just my guilt talking. I ate one too many…).

I will admit, it took me a few years to get over the fact that I am no longer the recipient of all the home-making and am now the home-maker, but I have found that, though the work is nonstop and very taxing, the entire family benefits from the hard work of my hands and my mind, including…me!

When the house is tidy, and when there are tokens of beauty and love surrounding us, I feel serene and content and happy to be here. On the other hand, when things are a mess and I have been lax in my duties and nothing is organized, well, I feel crummy and uninspired and my attitude pretty much matches my house.

All that to say, homemaking might be work, and it might be nonstop work, and it might be really taxing work, but…it is good work.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin periodically sharing with you some of my favorite components of our home, and some tips I’ve picked up in my 8 years as a homemaker. Some are tiny and obvious, some are sizable and profound, and some would never be noticed if I didn’t take a picture and blog about it.

But together, they are beginning to make  a seamless and fitting backdrop to the place where we live, move, breathe, eat, play, work and sleep.

Our sweet home.

My Sweet Home (Prequel #1)

I’ve wanted to do something here at my blog for the longest time, but until now, I didn’t really feel free to do so…

mostly because of the state of my heart.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have bratty tendencies, and it is no secret that I love compliments and feeling important. I used to think this was just “how I was” and I even kind of cherished that part of me and thought it was cute…

but once I became aware that this inherent nature of mine was rooted in sinfulness and pride, it didn’t feel so cute anymore.

Mind you, this was not always my motivation for doing what I did and wearing what I wore and buying what I bought. Even on my least bratty and most humble days, I have always loved beautiful things, and I love fine fabrics and I identify with Betsie Ten Boom, in that, if I were to find myself in a prison camp, I would do whatever it took to decorate my cell. I see no problem with this shade of my personality, and actually see it as a gift from God; that said (and this is where what could be beautiful can turn ugly)…

I can sometimes feel myself veering off course and caring more about receiving accolades than glorifying my Maker. You know…my chief end. The reason I’m here. What I was created for.

God has had mercy on my sinful state, however, and over the last decade, He has continually tweaked me into a person who at least hates that side of myself rather than revels in it, and more and more, I try to put a lid on the brat in me and lock her up inside my coat closet where no one can see or hear her.

Especially when it comes to this blog. It is so important to me that what I share here is genuine and I take extremely seriously my responsibility to the younger women in my church, my readership, and eventually my children (who will be forced to read Mrs. Gore’s Diary for their 12th year of homeschool), and I therefore doggedly strive to keep my motivations for writing and sharing pure and honest and, most importantly, God-honoring. Thus, if I feel like I’m sharing party pictures to be a show-off rather than a help to other party-planners, I shut that post down, as quickly as I do the ones where I find myself ranting or spewing bitterness about past struggles. And if I don’t, my husband (who graciously edits everything I write) does. (Thanks, Mr. Gore!)

Alllllll that to say, I haven’t felt 100% free until now to share, from a pure and happy and non-show-offy heart, aspects of our home life that might inspire other homemakers.

Why? Well…I’m 31 now, and I haven’t changed my razor in like, 8 months. My house is most usually a wreck and I have finally come to grips with who I truly am and what I was truly created for. In other words, I’m content right now where I am, and have lost most of my former self-absorbed aspirations to BE somebody and to make it to some unforeseen tier of importance and acceptance.

I am happy at home, and I’m happy to be Mrs. Gore, whether thousands of people ever recognize my name or not.

From this place of genuine motivation, I find myself making a living place for my family rather than for the editors of Country Living magazine, and as a result, I think what I have to share will be much more important than it ever could have been when I was trying to make much ado out of Mrs. Gore.

And allllll that to say, there will be a new tab in my blog called “My Sweet Home” where I will share ideas and tips and photographs of how I try to make the house we live in a place of retreat and rest and comfort. It will be positively random, but if it helps especially my younger audience, just starting out in this world with a tiny budget to work with and with no idea how to keep a house, I will be too, too happy.

~

Coming up tomorrow, I’ll share why I call this series “My Sweet Home”. Is it because my home is “sweet” and beautiful?…probably not. Stay tuned!!