Tidying Marathon

Tidying Marathon - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I completed one of my New Year’s Resolutions: I finally read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Her book has been on my mental To Do list since it was published in 2014. I’ve procrastinated reading it because I knew that when I did, I’d have to start my tidying marathon.

But then Kondo pubished her second book Spark Joy, so I absolutely had to read that book before I could start, right? Just a wee bit of procrastination going on here. I just finished reading it, with tons of pages dog eared. The time has come for massive organization and tidying (insert scared face emoji). 

I come from a long line of ladies who keep things “just in case.” I remember needing odd items for school projects growing up. No matter what it was, my Mom always had it in the attic. Like magic! It was incredible. By the time my parents moved out of that house in Easton, the attic was filled with so much stuff that I’m surprised it didn’t collapse.

Since I’ve had a house of my own, I’ve never put anything in the attic. However, I have no qualms about storing things in the basement. What’s down there? 2 complete childhoods, 15 years of marriage, 5 houses, and every piece of paper the monkeys have ever created – among other things we don’t need. It’s a bit of a project to say the least.

I love to organize, but I hate to make a mess. It’s really because I don’t like to start projects that I won’t have time to finish. Aka, my basement. Every year “Clean out the Basement” is on my list of New Years Resolutions. Every year, I chip away at the stuff down there, but the amount we add is always more than I remove. Sigh.

The stuff in our basement takes up space in my head. It takes time out of my life. And now that I’ve read Kondo’s books, I know I must tidy it once and for all so that I can clear my mind and feel less heavy. I’m armed with a strategy and I’m motivated. Apparently this process can be life changing. We’ll see!

While I was reading the books, I had the urge to purge – which I normally get in January anyway. I made 3 trips to our local donation center already. I’d love to hunker down in the basement and get it done once and for all. But if I really want to use Kondo’s KonMari Method, I can’t.

According to the books, you must start your tidying marathon in your closet. The order of categories is important because if you start with easy things first, you’ll hone your decision making skills so that it becomes easier when you get to the more difficult items, like things with sentimental value. There’s a tiny problem with that principle.

Tidying Marathon - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Tidying Marathon - Under the Monkey Bars blog

My messy walk-in closet…where I stand and stare each morning.

See, I’m a collector. Not figurines or statuses. I collect clothes: sweaters, shoes, jeans, dresses, scarves, and belts. I have lots of “just in case” clothes, including items I’ve owned long before I met Don in the late 90s. The master bedroom in our house here in Newburyport has 3 closets. My super sweet and generous husband let me have 2 of them…and they’re both packed. Plus, I have coats in the coat closet and at least 6 bins of seasonal clothes and shoes in the basement (see that pile of plastic bins below?). Apparently switching your closet by the season is a big no no. Kondo says that all of your clothes must fit inside the closet and drawers in your room. I’m in trouble.

Tidying Marathon - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Welcome to my basement…it’s in dire need of tidying!

To follow the KonMari Method, you put every single item of clothing you own on your bedroom floor and bed. If you leave anything out, you have to discard it when you find it. That means I’ll have to carry up those 6 bins from the basement and empty the coat closet too. Here’s the problem: it won’t fit. And it will make a huge mess!

But I’m going to do it! I haven’t bought clothes since I started reading the tidying books. January sales are my favorite so it’s been quite an exercise in willpower. I’ve decided to reward myself with one new item in each clothing category when I’m done. I definitely need the motivation!

While my house looks organized, I know we don’t need all of the stuff we have. I spend way too much time picking up things that don’t have a place. The KonMari Method really makes sense to me — everything should have a place. It’s something my Dad always says. I’m an organized person but somehow, with all of our moves over the years, we’ve accumulated way too much stuff. I would love to live closer to minimalism and only keep what we need plus those things that truly make us happy and “spark joy.” 

Here we go! Join me in my tidying marathon. I’ll post after pictures of my closet and let you know how it goes. Have you tried the KonMari Method of tidying up? Any advice before I jump in headfirst?

This and That…

This and That - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Happy 2016! How were your holidays? We had a blast skiing and sledding over winter vacation despite the lack of snow in New England. We found a balance between time with family and friends, as well as special time with just the four of us. Cuddling up by the fire with my monkeys was the best!

Who else is having trouble getting back in the swing? I’ve been busy restocking the house, catching up on laundry, and digging out of email. It was wonderful to disconnect for a week and a half, but boy does everything pile up!

January is one of my absolute favorite months. I feel the urge to purge and I have to go with it because most of the time I want to keep my stuff. I’m only a few chapters into Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I’m dying to dig my hands in. No shopping until I get this house in ship-shape! How’s that for motivation? 

Warning: this this glossary of Boston slang will cause fits of laughter whether you live in Massachusetts or not. I was shocked that Don didn’t know that “wiffle” is a boy’s short haircut, which is how we found this gem. Thank you Google!

Find out what kind of calls cops in ski towns receive in the Best of Stowe’s 2015 police blotter. More laughs, guaranteed.

What were your favorite holiday gifts? I’m in love with the little wool lamb that Bean made me (it looks nothing like the picture, which is why I love it more). Sweet Pea made us a glittery snowman plaque that we’ll hang proudly all winter. Also loving this clean eating cookbook, cozy slippers, and this tote

Turns Out Monkey Bars And Kickball Might Be Good For The Brain. Love this NPR story. Hopefully more school districts and states will jump on board. 

“A horse, a bachelorette and a unicorn walk into a mansion…” The Bachelor is back! Lots of interesting ladies, and plenty of characters. Another entertaining season ahead. I can feel my brain cells evaporating while I’m watching but I can’t look away (#addicted). Please tell me I’m not alone!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Playing :: With my monkeys…so great to be home together
Listening:: To A Very She & Him Christmas
Reading :: The Engagements now, Twas The Night Before Christmas tonight!
Drinking :: Green smoothies with my new favorite ingredient: eggnog almond milk
Walking :: On the beach (in denial that it’s 65 degrees today)
Wishing :: For this sweater coat
Making :: Oh She Glows Coconut Whipped Cream for tomorrow’s pumpkin and apple pies
Watching :: Google Santa Tracker
Eating :: Christmas Eve dinner at Ceia Kitchen + Bar in Newburyport
Packing :: For winter vacation. Looking forward to lots of family time, skiing, and relaxation. See you back here in 2016! Until then, find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Have a magical Christmas with your families and loved ones! XO

Simplify Holiday Traditions

Simplifying Holiday Traditions - Under the Monkey Bars blog

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But is it?

The holidays create so much extra stress layered on top of already busy lives. We search for the perfect gifts, decorate to the nines, angst over the perfect holiday card photo, host and attend numerous holiday parties. It’s exhausting!

The holidays always overwhelm me. I try to carry the sentiments of gratitude and mindfulness from Thanksgiving into December, but it’s not easy with such a long list of To Do’s.

I only started to feel the spirit of the holidays the other day when I snuggled up on the couch with my monkeys to watch the TV special Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. You know that feeling that swells up inside you and fills you with hope and joy? There’s not much in our crazy world that does that anymore.

After the show was over, Sweet Pea was struck by the tangible example of how one person can truly make a difference — even a little girl. Virginia’s letter to the New York Sun impacted the whole city. One article in the paper lifted spirits, fostered giving, and created holiday cheer.

It’s amazing how hope can change us. At a time when our world is suffering from strife and anxiety, we must cherish every moment of peace and love. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes often simplifies problems. While watching an uplifting holiday movie will not bring us world peace, it can spark sentiments needed to create change.

As parents, Don and I have been through ten years of holiday traditions. Some traditions are fleeting and only last through certain ages, while others carry on from year to year. Our Christmas this year will be very different from our first Christmas as parents in 2005.

In the early years, we went overboard on absolutely everything without even realizing it. We’ve simplified our traditions so that we can spend more time together and feel more relaxed. We still decorate our tree, send cards, play holiday music, and exchange gifts. It’s taken me ten years to realize that the Christmas spirit will thrive in our home whether or not I spend hours upon hours preparing for it. Keeping it simple allows this time of year to be truly wonderful.

One of our favorite holiday traditions is the twelve books of Christmas. It not only fosters a love for reading, but it also builds our home library. I collect books for the girls throughout the year, stocking up on used books at the Great Old Book Sale at the Newburyport Public Library and buying the rest at bookstores locally.

We give each little monkey a basket of wrapped books as a countdown to Christmas. The girls choose one book per night to open until Christmas Eve. The excitement lies in deciding which book to choose and seeing the number of books in the basket decrease. We’ll curl up by the Christmas tree to read the new books together before bedtime.

Books have always played a large role in our holiday traditions. On Christmas Eve, we read Twas The Night Before Christmas in front of a roaring fire. I’ll never forget the first year that each of my daughters read the whole book themselves. It was truly magical. We cherish this Holiday tradition most of all.

This holiday season, welcome new and old traditions to foster holiday cheer without the stress. I hope your holidays are magical and the most wonderful time of the year for you and your family.

The Pits

The Pits: What's in your deodorant? - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

You read that right. We’re talking about your armpits today, a.k.a. the pits! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s only fitting that we talk about the pits and what you’re putting on them. Everything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your blood stream, including deodorant.

There is a debate as to whether chemicals in antiperspirants and deodorants can cause breast cancer. Scientists have suggested that aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer. But no one has officially said that these chemicals cause breast cancer. Why take the risk? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer; that’s 12% of us. Definitely schedule your mammogram for screening…but what if you could do something every day preventatively? You could consider switching to a natural deodorant. Hear me out…

What do you use: antiperspirant or deodorant? There’s actually a difference.
– Antiperspirants prevent you from sweating, which is completely unnatural and not good for you. Can you imagine the amount of chemicals needed to pull this off? Yeah, you can. Buckets of chemicals.
– Deodorant lets you sweat but blocks odor by killing bacteria.

From a purely natural standpoint, it makes more sense for us to use deodorant, as it makes the process more natural. But even some deodorants contain really bad stuff like triclosan, propylene glycol (endocrine disruptors) and aluminum (which could be linked to breast cancer, alzheimer’s disease, bone disorders, and kidney problems). So why are we putting it directly on the lymph nodes of our pits?

It’s because we sweat and no one wants to stink. Am I right?

I tried and tossed many brands of natural deodorant before finding one that works for me. For the past seven years, I’ve used Lavanila’s Healthy Deodorant. Am I stinky? Sometimes. There are days when I reapply. But overall I smell pretty good. I’ve had no issue with the Lavanila deodorant staining my clothing, probably because it’s made of good stuff including essential oils.

The chillier months of Fall and Winter are the best time to switch to a natural deodorant because you sweat less. Put yourself on a 2 year plan. Buy some new deodorant this week. Use it every day all winter long —except for those days you might need a little extra protection (big meeting, massive workout, etc). When late spring comes around, pull out your old deodorant and see how it feels. It might hurt, or it might feel fine. I actually used my old chemical-laden deodorant that first summer in fear of being too stinky. Then I went back to Lavanila’s Healthy Deodorant in the Fall. The next summer was a different story. My pits completely rejected the old deodorant. I got a rash and it really hurt. I also found I wasn’t as stinky that summer using just the Lavanila deodorant. This may sound weird, but you almost need to detox your armpits!

There are lots more aluminum-free deodorant brands on the market now than when I made the switch. Ask some friends and do some research, or just cheat and order Lavanila’s Healthy Deoderant. I’ve tried almost all of their scents but find that the Vanilla Coconut works best with my body chemistry. Lavanila now offers a Fragrance Free deodorant as well as Sport, which recently won Allure’s 2015 Best of Beauty Award. When your monkeys get stinky pits, try this kids deodorant. The roll-on is more exciting than I anticipated, and it comes in trendy packaging.

So what do you think? A little healthy attention for the pits this Fall?