The Ultimate Summer Fun List (and Giveaway!)

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If you’re a Modern Homeschool Family newsletter subscriber, you know how excited I am that summer is almost here! I love being outside with the family (and, admittedly, by myself too) and soaking in the sun.

Summer is a time of some of my most favorite things; sunny days, warm breezes, longer daylight hours, more relaxing, more playing and more smiling.

Recently, I’ve found a few more favorite things for summer, thanks to some friendly PR folks who let me know about them.

The Ultimate Summer Fun List

Here are a few things that caught my attention this summer. I think you’ll like them too:

For road trips or sitting at the beach:

 

The Cube – Next Generation of Rubik’s Cube

These aren’t the same cubes you used to buy as gifts 30 years ago. This hot new speed cube incorporates a generation’s worth of ideas to help solve the cubes you may have tried in the past. With this new, magic 3-D puzzle and the included online solution guide you can solve it twice as fast. It is a fun, inexpensive and unique gift for everyone… perfect for kids, teens and adults especially on long car trips or plane rides. $12; https://agreatlifebrand.com and available on amazon.com.

 

 

 

Because summer is a great time for sleepovers!

 

Sleepover Party

SLEEPOVER PARTY where having fun is the name of the game, so be prepared to sing, laugh, perform and make a general fool of yourself! Spin the spinner and attempt to complete one of more than 200 ACT IT, WORK IT or PARTY Challenges. Don’t fall asleep early, or you’ll miss out on earning the most cards and staying up all night! www.endlessgames.com

 

 

 

 

 

For the budding engineers …

 

Skullduggery

Your kids will love Max Traxxx Tracer Racer! Racers utilize Light Trail Technology as they blaze streaks of light on Skullduggery patented Glow-in-the-Dark track. Each Tracer Racer beams down purple light rays from its undercarriage onto track specially engineered to emit glow remnants long after the racer has passed. Choose your track, racers and loops, take into a dimly lit room and your kids will be ready to set the darkness ablaze. These racing sets are perfect for both beginning and advanced race fans as variable speed remote control cars and adjustable track heights allow racers to control course difficulty. Four Tracer Racers RC Cars available. Includes one Tracer Racers, RC Car and one Controller. Now available at Toys R Us and www.toysrus.com. More information: www.skullduggery.com.

 

Because these are just too darn cute …

 

Two Brothers and Olivia Petite Pretend Food

Adorable Petite Pretend Food from Two Brothers and Olivia for your little one’s pretend kitchen! Available in a variety of cheerful, fun designs, including ice cream cones, donuts, cookies and the newest design, pineapples, Two Brothers and Olivia Teethers make a sweet treat for hours of fun! Easily packed into a diaper bag, backpack, or your child’s pack – they are perfect for taking along for fun on-the-go, too! The toys are made from 100% food grade silicone, and can be easily cleaned with soap and water. All products are free of BPA, PVC, or lead. Two Brothers and Olivia products are compliant with safety standards set out by both Canadian and US governments, and have been tested to be compliant with CPSC, CPSIA and ASTM toy standards. They are tested for toxic contents, strength and flammability to ensure that they surpass all the safety standards. NEW Pineapple shapes were just released this month. 

 

Because, seriously, I want to play with this ….

 

Taco Truck Fun Kit from Kidstir

A cure for rainy days in the summer! Your little one can now make chef-inspired recipes at home with ease – all while learning Español, practicing math skills, and more! Available without a subscription from this innovative subscription service for children, the Taco Truck Fun Kit from Kidstir will turn your kitchen into a lunch truck — and your child can invite friends and family to step right up and place their orders! In this kit, children will find out how to make three Mexican recipes, including Guac & Roll, Food Truck Tacos, and Arroz con Leche – which will be served in a Food-Truck-in-a-Box tray! They will also discover fun facts about avocados and peppers, learn some Español, and practice menu math. The subscription service can be joined or given as a gift, or you can send one of the single kits, as well. With a focus on fresh, nutritious food and hands-on fun, Kidstir was created by moms who know that through cooking, children will gain important life skills in the kitchen — and cook up some fun family memories!

 

Because you can never be too organized ….

 

Beachmate

Headed to the beach with kids in tow? The Beachmate is an all-in-one stackable storage system that consolidates multiple beach products in one easy-to-pack bag. The Beachmate solves the age old problem of needing to pack multiple bags and gear to the beach….because we know that with little ones, there are a lot of must-haves besides just a towel & sunscreen! This ultimate carry-all companion has a storage compartment for all the items needed for a day at the beach. The Beachmate is complete with durable buckets, shovels and a soft cooler all packaged in a single tote bag with plenty of storage pockets.

The Beachmate also includes one large, two medium and two small buckets plus two shovels! It holds up to tough play meaning the buckets and shovels will not break with just one use. Truly a parent’s dream come true, the stylish, over-the-shoulder strap design allows for hands-free convenience! Consumers can easily personalize this new beach companion with monogramming options available. 

 

These have all become my new favorite things and I love them so much that I’m giving one of you lucky duck readers a chance to win EVERYTHING on my list!

ENTER TO WIN

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Enter to win the Ultimate Summer Fun Prize Package (ARV: $216.00) including: The Cube (ARV: $11.90) Sleepover Party Game (ARV: $21.99) Maxx Traxx (ARV: $59.99) Two Brothers and Olivia Fun Petite Food (ARV: $3.95) Taco Truck Fun Kit (ARV: $19.95) Beach Mate (ARV: $98.50)
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Don’t forget! The Herbs and Essential Oils Super Bundle is only available until May 22!

 

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Copy Cat Olive Garden Fondunta Recipe

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Don’t you just love anything warm and gooey with cheese? Olive Garden Fondunta easily fits the bill. But, why haul the family out when you can make it at home?

Copy Cat Olive Garden Fondunta Recipe

Copy Cat Olive Garden Fondunta Recipe Ingredients

1 C fat free sour cream
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz provolone cheese, shredded
1/2 C parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 roma tomatos, diced
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1-2 loaf of Italian bread, cut into slices

Copy Cat Olive Garden Fonduta Recipe Directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 450F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sour cream with the mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flake.
  3. Spray a medium size cast iron dish with pam spray
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cast iron dish.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, until the mixture is melted and bubbly. If you’d like the top extra browned, broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, but make sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Garnish with diced tomatoes and parsley.
  7. Bake the bread slices for 5 minutes then serve immediately

 

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Easy Kids Crafts: Sew a Gift Bag

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If you are looking for an out of the ordinary way of wrapping your gift this season, then this one is for you! This heart pouch can be used again right after serving its purpose. Sounds economical, right? This can be sewn by non-crafters and you don’t need to be a craft expert to do this. You also have the freedom to personalize this since you are the ones making it compared to the one being sold in the market. So if you are up for an adorable gift for mom, then let us begin sewing this heart pouch now!

Easy Kids Craft: Sew a Gift Bag

Gather all the materials needed:

  • 2 pcs. crafting felt (pink and red)
  • yarn of any color
  • crochet thread
  • a big sewing needle
  • a pair of scissors
  • wooden skewer or any thin stick (optional)

 

 

Instructions

 

 

Step 1: Cut a piece of rectangle from the pink crafting felt. The dimensions should be at least 30-centimeter in length and 10-centimeter in width. The dimensions are flexible since you can cut this based on your needed size. This will be the body of the pouch.

 

 

Step 2: Cut a medium-sized heart from the red crafting felt.

Step 3: Place the heart in the middle part of the pink body. This should be placed on the one-third portion from the top of the body. Sew this heart using a running stitch near the side of it.

Step 4: Fold the top and the bottom ends of the pink body towards the back portion of it. The back portion is the portion where the red heart is not visible. The folds would be at least 1 to 1.5-centimeter in width. Sew this using a running stitch.

Step 5: Fold the pink body into two equal parts and sew the sides of it using running stitch. Leave the topmost part open. Do not stitch the folded parts on top.

Step 6:  Insert the yarn on the pipe opening on the topmost part of the pouch.

Step 8: Cut the end of the yarn once you decided how long you want your yarn is.

 

Step 9: Create a loop at the ends of both yarn on the left and right.

Step 10: You can now place your precious gift to this lovely heart pouch.

 

This adorable heart pouch can be made by simple non-crafters since this only involves the simple running stitch. You can also use this pouch for other purposes, such as watch, bracelet or earrings pouch whenever you travel. Practice your creativity and who knows? Maybe you have the eye and the artistic hand for it! Have fun and spread the love!

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Living Simply Series: Why It’s So Hard to Give Up Our Stuff

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This is the 5th installment of our “Living Simply Series.” If you’ve missed out on the other articles, click on the links below to catch up. And, don’t forget to get your FREE living simply bundle at the bottom of this article.

 

 

Why It’s So Hard to Give Up Our Stuff

No one said it would be easy to simplify. Ask anyone who has moved to a more minimalist lifestyle, and they’ll tell you that there can be a lot of resistance come up. But it’s only stuff. Why do we have such a tough time finding a new home (including the trashcan) for items we no longer need or use? It’s all about the emotions surrounding the items that cause us to hold on tightly.

Stuff makes us feel secure—we buy with our emotions, not logic, which means we invest emotionally in our possessions. Having a lot of stuff makes us feel safe and secure. How many things do you keep around “just in case”?  Having a lot of stuff or expensive items gives us status in our society, which also makes us feel important and secure in our place in the world.

We spent our hard-earned cash on it—many people feel wasteful and guilty when they start decluttering their things. They think about how much they senselessly spent on items that are now simply cluttering up their homes, garages, basements, and sometimes even storage space they are paying a monthly fee on.

We know we should use it—guilt also comes in the form of “should’s.” We should use our treadmill. We should wear that expensive suit. A lot of times we buy special or nice things and then only use them for good… which is usually very rare or we forget about them when we are preparing for a special occasion.

It was a gift—even if our least favorite aunt gives us a hideous lamp for the holidays, something we would never put out, we keep it in a closet, basement or storage unit. We feel it’s mean to donate something that someone put thought and money into, even though we hate it. So the guilt keeps us hanging onto it.

It reminds us of better times—we hold onto stuff from our past, most of which has no monetary, but a sentimental value. Keeping a few small items isn’t a big deal, but when we feel we need to keep everything from our carefree college days or all the love letters we’ve ever received, it can take up a lot of space and emotional energy. Being unwilling to part with things that remind us of happier times can be a red flag that we aren’t happy with our current situation.

Everyone feels emotional when going through their stuff to declutter. It’s natural, so when you experience this, don’t beat yourself up. Just be aware that even though they are just things, we are typically connected to them in various ways because of the emotions that we have attached to them.

If you haven’t received it yet, you can get the FREE Simple Living Bundle. This includes a checklist, eBook and a guide with tips to you start living simply in just 15 minutes a day!

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Fun Easter Treat: Peeps Parfait

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When thinking of Easter treats, you can’t help it if Peeps come to mind. After all, they are only around for a limited amount of time and they seem to be everywhere.

Peeps have become an Easter basket staple but there’s a lot more you can do with them. Here’s a fun Easter treat you can make with the kids:

Fun Easter Treat: Peeps Parfait Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Jell-O Layer
  • 1 packet, 3 oz, lemon Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Creamy Layer
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp marshmallow extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 gelatin packets

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the Jell-O
  2. Add in 1 cup boiling water and stir until dissolved.
  3. Now add your cold water as directed on the jello box
  4. Divide the among evenly among your cups.
  5. I use a 1/4 cup to make sure my layers are even
  6. Place the cups in the fridge to set.
  7. Begin to prepare the creamy layer.
  8. In a mixing bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup of boiling water.
  9. Stir to combine.
  10. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the 1/2 cup cold water and 2 gelatin packets, stir to mix.
  11. Allow the gelatin mixture bloom/set for 2-3 minutes.
  12. Pour the gelatin mixture into the sweetened condensed milk mixture, stir to combine.
  13. Once your jello is set, add in the creamy layer, making it as thick or thin as you’d like.
  14. Once the cream layer is set, add the next jello layer.
  15. Top each jello cup with a dollop of cool whip, yellow peep and sprinkles

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Living Simply Series: Simplifying Life with Kids

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Life can be hectic and chaotic in general, but add kids and homeschooling into the mix and it seems to double, no triple, the responsibilities and obligations. If you have children, it’s even more important to simplify your life, not only for your sanity but also to be a good role model for them. Teach them early on that no matter what society says, they can choose to live a simple, peaceful life.

5 Tips for Simple Living with Kids

Have each child choose one extracurricular activity—some parents are run ragged by getting their kids to all their various activities. This is certainly the case when there are several children in the family. Decide now that each child can choose only one extracurricular activity per year or season, depending on how much you feel you can handle. They may grumble in the beginning, but they too will enjoy a less stressful schedule.

Create an out-the-door basket—set up an area right beside the door that you go out of and designate a basket for each child (and adult). On the nights before co-ops, field trips or errand days, each person is responsible for gathering up everything they need to take with them the next day and putting it in their basket.

Give each child his or her own “box of stuff” — Children love to collect “stuff.” Trading cards, pieces of string, rocks, whatever. Instead of arguing with your child or amassing a collection of “stuff” give him a designated box. Your child can keep whatever she wants (within reason) until the box is full. Once the box is full your child will need to make the decision on what to keep and what to toss.

Create a weekly lunch menu—You might have a dinner meal plan but what about lunch? Before you go shopping for the week, sit everyone down and come up with one lunch menu for everyone for the week, with very little variation. In other words, no one is allowed stuff that no one else likes. They can have that at home during the week. For example, buy turkey and ham and the kind of cheese everyone agrees on. Buy one or two types of fruit and vegetables only. Purchase one type of bread that everyone likes, even if it’s not their favorite. This will make lunch time go much smoother. It also makes it easier to delegate some of the lunch responsibility to your older kids.

Move more slowly—no matter what you do. Build in more time between activities so you aren’t rushing through eating dinner, for example, so you can get homework and dishes out of the way. Set rules for no running in the house, no dashing out the door without sitting down to breakfast. Start savoring your time with your family—it’s one of the best things you can do for all of you.

If you haven’t received it yet, you can get the FREE Simple Living Bundle. This includes a checklist, eBook and a guide with tips to you start living simply in just 15 minutes a day!

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Living Simply Series: Maintaining a Decluttered Home

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I may the be odd one, here, but I really do love cleaning house and organizing things. The problem has always been the upkeep after I’ve organized everything. It’s taken a bit of “new-habit-forming” but I feel like I’ve (finally) got ahold of things.

Do you find it difficult to keep up with the maintenance of decluttering? If so, you’ll find our third installment of our Simple Living Series helpful!

If you didn’t grab your FREE Living Simply Bundle last month you can still get it! (link at the bottom of this article)

Maintaining a Decluttered Home

So you’ve followed all the advice and decluttered your house. But all too soon, you realize that you have clutter creep. Stuff is starting to build up again. Maybe you ended up replacing some of the stuff you got rid of or maybe everyone isn’t pitching in to keep the house decluttered. Here are a few simple, quick habits that all family members can do to keep the house decluttered.

Deal with mail immediately — The last thing any of us wants to do after a long day at work is deal with the mail. But since it has to be done, do it immediately. Throw ads and other junk mail directly in the trash or recycling bin. Put bills and other important papers in the specified place and shred sensitive information that doesn’t need to be filed. To make this even easier, make all your bills, banking and other statements paperless and get your name on the “no junk mail” list. Before long, there will be very little mail to deal with at all.

Nightly pick-up routine — As you gather in the living room in the evenings, each family member brings stuff with them—a mug, a glass, a snack plate, an iPod, a hand-held video game or homework. Have you ever noticed how frequently that stuff stays in the living room, making it cluttered? Set a new rule that each night before heading to bed, everyone picks up everything they brought into the room that evening and puts it back where it belongs, in their out-the-door basket, for example. It takes 2 minutes to do and keeps clutter creep to a minimum.

Add a coat rack and baskets — As soon as the family walks in the door, they are likely to take off coats and backpacks, set down lunch boxes and briefcases, all right in the entryway where they will be tripped over for the rest of the evening. To keep this area decluttered, add a coat rack and a basket or cubby for each person in the entryway. Get family members used to hanging up their coats and putting the other stuff they bring home in a designated place, like their out-the-door basket. It will take a little time and a few gentle reminders, but everyone will eventually appreciate the new peace that a decluttered house exudes.

Eliminate your junk drawers — This may sound undoable, but it really isn’t. Have a place for everything, including the small items that tend to end up in a junk drawer. Get small containers or better yet, upcycle some with the kids, and keep these small items separated and organized in drawers. Things like batteries, paper clips, rubber bands, twist ties, etc. all have their own place in a drawer or two. Take a rubber band off the Sunday paper? Put it immediately in the correct cubby hole before sitting down to enjoy the paper.

As promised, here is my free gift to you, so you can start living simply right away. Sign up below and you’ll receive the FREE Simple Living Bundle. This includes a checklist, eBook and a guide with tips to you start living simply in just 15 minutes a day!

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Strawberry Pastry Puffs Recipe

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How would you like to make some delicious pastries that will look like you spent hours making them in under 30 minutes? This strawberry puffs is so easy to make and looks so festive. It’s certainly perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Strawberry Pastry Puffs Recipe

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 package of pre-made frozen puff pastry, thawed and rolled out to a rectangle or square that’s about 3 mm thick
  • About half a cup of sliced strawberries (just 3-4 pieces of strawberries)
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • half a cup of strawberry jam
  • 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk for the egg wash (you can substitute water for the milk to make the egg wash)

Let’s Make Some Awesome Strawberry Pastry Puffs!

Preheat your oven to 180C while you gather all your ingredients.

Cut the puff pastry into 3 inch by 3 inch squares.

Slice the strawberries for your filling. You can for small cubes or go for thin slivers. You can also slice some extra for garnish later.

To make each strawberry puff, make an incision along the sides of each pastry square about half an inch from the sides but not connecting the incision on two opposite sides (so the extra pastry on the side will still be attached to the inner square). It would look like a diamond shape, more so when you fold each ‘flap’ to meet the other side.

Fold the sides to meet the opposite corner of the inner square.

Brush with some egg wash and place a teaspoon of strawberry jam plus a teaspoon of sliced strawberries in the center sprinkled with about 1/3 teaspoon icing sugar.

Repeat with the rest of your pastry (about 6-8 other pieces).

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in your preheated oven’s top rack. It should be well browned once it is done.

Serve with some fresh sliced strawberries and a generous sprinkling of icing sugar.

Note: This recipe makes 6-8 small pastries but you can easily double or triple the recipe to serve more.

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Valentine’s Day Craft for Kids: Upcycled Tabletop Teddy Bear

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The teddy bear is one of the most common soft stuffed toys that are given during Valentine’s Day, usually accompanied by a box of chocolates and some flowers. It’s said that the name “Teddy” originated from the former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

This tutorial would teach us how to make a decorative Valentine teddy bear.  This is a tabletop décor that can be made by kids too, with minimal supervision.

Upcycled Valentine’s Day Craft: Tabletop Teddy Bear

Gather all the materials needed for this tutorial:

  • a piece of toilet paper roll
  • brown, red and beige construction board
  • a pencil
  • a black pen
  • a pair of scissors
  • hot glue

Steps for this tutorial:

Step 1:

Wrap the toilet paper roll with brown construction board.

Step 2:

Draw a half-body bear on the remaining piece of brown construction board.  This should include the head, the torso, and the big circular ears. (if you aren’t artistic, you can download this template)

Step 3:

Cut the brown bear figure.

Step 4:

Cut a medium-sized oblong from the beige construction board.  Glue the oblong on a landscape orientation at the lower middle part of the bear’s face.  This is the bear’s snout.

Step 5:

 

Cut a small heart shape.  Glue this on the topmost area of the bear’s snout.  This is the bear’s nose.

Step 6:

 

Cut two small circles from the beige construction board and glue this on top of the bear’s snout.  This will serve as the bear’s eyes.

Step 7:

Add some details on the face of the bear.  Use a black pen to draw the mouth, the eyeballs, and other details.

Step 8: 

Cut two medium-sized hearts from the red construction board and glue it on the middle body of the ears.

Step 9:

Cut a medium-sized red bow and glue a small beige oblong in the middle of it.  Hot glue the red bow on the neck of the bear, just below the bear’s head.

Step 10:

Hot glue the bear on the toilet paper roll.  Make sure that the toilet paper roll is placed on the middle body of the bear.

Step 11:

 

Cut a big red heart from the board.

Step 12:

Hot glue the heart in the front face of the toilet paper roll.  This is opposite to the body of the bear.

Step 13:

Cut a pair of arms with hands on the brown construction board.

Step 14:

Glue the arms on the sides of the bear’s body hugging the toilet paper roll together with the red heart in front.

Step 15:

Write your lovely message to your loved one on the big red heart.

Step 16:

Finally done!  This cute tabletop Valentine bear is now ready for display!

If you want more fun Valentine’s ideas, be sure to check out this Pinterest board!

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Living Simply Series: 5 Ways to Start Simplifying Today

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Last month, we began our series on simple living by talking about the benefits of simplifying our lifestyles. Today, we continue by giving you 5 ways you can start simplifying today.

If you didn’t grab your FREE Living Simply Bundle last month you can still get it! (link at the bottom of this article)

5 Tips for Living Simply

Get the right mindset—While you can make definite headway in a weekend, simplifying your life is going to be a process and that’s okay. Get your mind in that place where it’s okay to take one step each day toward your goal. A plan to simplify should be simple, right?

Spend just 15 minutes—In just 15 minutes a day, you can reduce clutter, put filters on your email, make a phone call to implement an auto-payment, unsubscribe from newsletters that clog up your email or cancel a credit card you don’t use. If you are feeling like you just don’t have time to simplify, it’s a sure sign you need to! Decide on one small task to complete each day. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish.

Chose one place—What room or area makes you the craziest when you walk into it? What have you been meaning to clean out and declutter the longest? Start there. It’s taking up mental energy you can use for more important things.

Get your family or housemates involved—the common areas of your house are not going to stay decluttered if you are the only one maintaining them. Sit your family down and have a chat about why simplifying is so important to you and how it will benefit everyone.

Keep a “donate” boxOnce you’ve made that first (or second) big trip to the donation location of your choice, you will still come across stuff that you didn’t notice on the first go-round. Keep a donation box in an out-of-the-way place so that you can toss things in as you find them. When the box is full, take it to your donation center.

Buy one, toss oneMake a new rule for the household: when you purchase a non-consumable item and bring it into the house, you must get rid of something. For example, if you buy a new pair of shoes, either throw out your old, disgusting running shoes or place a pair that is still good, but that you don’t care about keeping,  in the donate box. This rule works in two ways—it helps you maintain the minimalist lifestyle you are creating, and it cuts down on impulse shopping. You’ll probably be surprised to discover that there’s no pair of shoes you currently have that you are willing to part with in order to have the new, shiny pair. Problem solved.

As promised, here is my free gift to you, so you can start living simply right away. Sign up below and you’ll receive the FREE Simple Living Bundle. This includes a checklist, eBook and a guide with tips to you start living simply in just 15 minutes a day!

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