Hey there, friend. It’s been a while. Here’s the truth. I’m not sure what I’m doing here in blog-land. Two months ago, I started sharing weekly YouTube videos about what I’m doing with my garden and our ducks – both of which are a big piece of my “moderate minimalist” journey! But, I haven’t known quite how to share that here because… do you guys really want to hear about what I’m doing in the garden?! I sort of set this blog up to be about decluttering, getting out of debt, living a more stress-free life… not necessarily doing things to become more self-sufficient. But self-sufficiency is the ultimate goal of all of this, right?!

So, I’m going to update you here because watching other people make efforts to become self-sufficient through their gardens and animals has been so inspiring to me and that’s what I am all about here, that’s my “why” for starting this blog – to inspire YOU to take action in your life to live a more present and simple existence through moderate minimalism. 

About 8 weeks ago, we were faced with the end-of-winter-problem of having tons of duck litter that had built up all winter long. Basically, you pile straw on top of straw on top of straw all winter long and the ducks just poo in all those layers. It breaks down in theory, but we did not have great success with that and instead had literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds of heavy, wet, poopy straw to clear out of their pen. Guess what? Duck poop is a great fertilizer. Straw is a great mulch. So, I threw it all in our garden plot. We have only lived here a year, we have never gardened this land before, so we had some soil rehab to do before we could really use that space anyway. Win, win, win. Oh, and it’s apparently super popular to do this, I just had no idea what I was doing and made it up as I went!! 😉

Here’s that video.


Then, I realized we were going to get a crap ton of weeds (which we did) and I read about natural ways to suppress those weeds, and the most effective and common one I read about was spreading layers of cardboard over the land and topping that with mulch. Good thing I still had more duck litter to clear out… seriously, guys, deep litter method (piling straw on top of straw on top of straw all winter long) is not going to work for us so I have to figure out what we’ll do this winter. Suggestions welcome…

Here I am, explaining the mistakes I made while laying the cardboard… see, no one’s perfect here.


Once that was all done, we were ready to build our raised beds and plan out what we’d plant in the earth as well. This went through many iterations of the plan and I’m pretty happy with what we ended up with, though I’m already planning next year’s garden and there’ll be many changes and improvements ahead! 🙂

My husband built this huge raised bed using logs from our family property – they were practically free aside from the soil which we did spend a bit on to get good stuff. Later, we were given some free top soil from a friend of ours to finish the rest of the beds and that was a huge blessing.


Now, we’ve got a garden that’ll be ready to begin harvesting from very soon (we’ve already had many salads and kale from it!) and I plan to preserve quite a bit of it to help us with our winter food budget. How cool will it be to have meals and ingredients ready? Getting to shop in my own food pantry sounds pretty sweet to me! I’ll be documenting everything on YouTube.

So far, I have shared videos about the garden progress, our ducks, some new ducklings we picked up this spring, making water kefir, and soon I’ll be sharing other fermented foods I’m experimenting with like sauerkraut… as well as our harvest and what I’m going to do to preserve that garden goodness. Everything I’ve posted so far is in this playlist on my channel.


So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I guess I’m a homesteader now, dude! YouTube-video-making has replaced the time I planned to spend blogging here, and that’s been a bit frustrating for me. I want to do it all! I’m figuring out how to connect the dots and make all these pieces of my life fit together. In my head, it all feels super connected… because it’s my life, but it’s still felt weird to share YouTube stuff to this blog. Soon, I’ll have this whole content sharing situation figured out.

For now, thanks for being here and I hope you’ve been inspired to learn more about becoming self-sufficient whether that’s through growing your own food or making other changes in your life that make sense for where you are right now.


I think it’s a huge part of becoming more mindful in how we’re using our resources, and that’s what moderate minimalism is all about to me. 


Until next time,




PS To throw another interest into the mix, I’m pretty passionate about Intuitive Eating and if you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably heard it mentioned a time or two or thirty. I was recently interviewed by Stephanie Webb for the Nutrition Redefined podcast and the episode went live today. I’d love for you to check it out! You can find the interview here: https://www.nutritionredefined.co/podcast/80

The strangest thing has happened… the older I get, the more organization and structure I crave. I don’t know if I’m getting more boring or if I’m just figuring out that I’m happier (and my kids are, too) when things are thought through and planned for. We still reserve plenty of time for flying by the seats of our pants, of course, but having a loose routine has been a game changer for our family.

We have about a month left of school and I’m already planning ahead for summer break, so I thought I’d share what worked well for us last year (I plan to do basically the same thing this year!). If you’re not a routines person, I encourage you to still give this a shot! It might not work for your family, but we are truly not a “systems” family by nature, and this has been a great thing for us!

Here’s a quick look at ours from last year, and at the end of this post, I’ll link to an editable document

so you can use some of my ideas and add your own, swapping out the things you don’t need if you’d like! 🙂


When I sat down to create this routine, and really when I create any routine, I tried to keep things as simple as possible. I’ve found that creating a daily theme helps so much because then I’m not scrambling on a daily basis for things to do with the kids. You’re probably wondering if I actually stick to the schedule… and I do, mostly, but there are definitely days where we abandon the theme for the day and do something else. Or nothing else, sometimes you need a “do nothing” day, too! 🙂

When coming up with our daily themes, I made a list of the kinds of things I wanted my kids to be doing consistently throughout the summer. I wanted them to be getting out into nature, exploring and learning… that became Monday. I wanted them reading and experiencing the joy of reading and eating outdoors – library and picnic day became Tuesday. I wanted them to keep up on their piano lessons… We Play Wednesdays. I wanted them to think of others and so a day of service was an easy choice – Thoughtful Thursday. For at least one day a week, I wanted to hear their ideas and give them the chance to pick what we do. Sometimes that ended up being a trip to the local pool, a movie party, playdates with friends, or learning a new craft or hobby. Saturday is our biggest work day, so it’s always “Saturday is a Special Day” – Sabbath prep and resetting the house so we’re ready for Sunday. And then, always, Sunday is a family day… a restful day that we reserve for family drives, dinners, that kind of thing.

If I did not have this daily theme system in place, it’s very likely that I would not be very proactive in getting the kids to do much of anything on a daily basis. I tend to be a go-with-the-lazy-flow mom when I don’t have a plan. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I really want my kids to have a productive and fulfilling summer, too. So, we mix in these activities, which typically take place in the morning, with lazy afternoons. I keep the afternoons “free time” for the kids, while I work and get things done around the house, and that has been a perfect routine for us – they get to experience something and have some structure to their morning, but the afternoon they get to do whatever they want (within reason, of course!) and I get some dedicated time to work.

So… let’s chat about the daily routine itself. 

I never put an assigned time to our summer routines… some mornings we’ll be up at 6am ready to go and others we’ll sleep in until 10. That’s the fun of summer, right?! So I like to just have a general flow to the day that starts when we’re up and ready to roll and ends with a consistent bedtime routine.

To come up with this routine, I jotted down a list of the things that need to get done every day and then I spaced them out so that between meals, we have time to get everything done. Before breakfast, I like to get the duck chores done… duck chores?! Yes. Duck chores. If you don’t have ducks, maybe you have other animals that need to be fed and taken care of in the morning… or maybe that line doesn’t fit your family at all!! 😉 That’s the beauty of this… just jot down whatever you feel needs to be done on a daily basis and then realistically plan it out between meals.

I like to use meals as anchors for the other activities that need to happen throughout the day… everybody’s gotta eat! So that’s a constant that gives our day a bit of a reliable rhythm and everything else sort of falls into place around those meal times. 

Are there days when the list goes to pot and we get very little on it done? Yep, you bet.

Are there days when it just feels like too much so we skip a thing or two? Yep, that too.

Are there days when we work the system perfectly?

Absolutely… in fact, most days go that way, and it is so satisfying!! 🙂 

I also thought I’d mention that my oldest kiddo, Stella, is 11 and she has a very free-spirited personality. She does not love routine and schedule naturally… she likes to ask if we reallllllly have to do these things. I like to throw in those spontaneous scrap-the-plan days for her sake, but I’ve found that she’s truly happiest when we do implement the schedule.

Printing the plan and putting it on the front of the fridge has been super helpful. I don’t have to remind the kids of what they’re supposed to be doing, and often times they’ve done all the morning stuff before I’m even ready for the day (how did I birth such early birds!?! I’m a total night owl and love sleeping in! haha!). They like to tell me they’re already done with the morning stuff and we can get on to our daily activity now. 🙂 It’s been really good for our naturally unstructured family to throw some routine into the day-to-day. I encourage you to try this if you’re looking for a little more structure this summer!!

Next week, I’ll be sharing some of the things I have planned for us throughout the summer, too. We like to keep things cheap (or free), simple, and still a ton of fun for the kids. So, what do you think of this kind of a routine?! I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave me a comment below!


Grab your editable/printable routine here!

{Create a copy and then edit to make it your own!}

I was out of control…

There have been several times in my adult life where I feel like my spending has gotten out of control. Have you ever felt that?!

Sometimes it isn’t even frivolous spending, it’s just that a lot of expenses happened all at once and none of them were planned for. I had the idea for a Spending Freeze several years ago, it was after a Fall frenzy of spending followed by an even more expensive Christmas season and the idea of a spending detox hit me hard. I needed to get this under control and quick.

So, I went 2 full weeks without spending a penny on anything other than necessities (gas, minimal groceries, medical needs, and bills). I quickly identified habits I hadn’t even realized I’d gotten into (the quick drive-thru for a drink or easy lunch, the Amazon order whenever an item popped into my head that I felt I needed right then, the extras at the grocery store that easily found their way into my cart) and, while I didn’t track it at the time, I estimated at the end of the 14-day Spending Freeze that I’d saved myself $400 or more in those two weeks.

Now, before you think I have tons of disposable income… I don’t! So, YEAH, this had to change right away. The Spending Freeze opened my eyes to just how many unnecessary purchases I was making on, literally, a daily basis.

Since then, I’ve done a Spending Freeze whenever I felt my spending slipping or I’ve noticed our budget become too relaxed. It’s been a great way to get back on track and to remind myself of my commitment to the bigger picture goals rather than the right-now-wants. Because that’s really the thing I need reminding of sometimes… that I never want to trade my real wants and dreams for my “right now” wants. And that’s exactly what I was doing before my first Spending Freeze, and before I fully committed to living on a budget.


The first group Spending Freeze

Late last year, I had finally developed a focused vision for this blog and for what I wanted it to ultimately become. One of the biggest things I’d like to be able to do with this platform is to bring people together as we make positive changes, supporting one another along the way. In January, I ran a beta-test of this idea and offered a group Spending Freeze to my Facebook friends and Instagram buddies. The response was pretty wild, first off, we had almost 60 people in the group! Secondly, the feedback was super encouraging and exciting. This was really when my eyes were opened to just how life-changing a Spending Freeze can be.

My sweet friend, Jenn, is one of the best cheer-leaders and supports in my life. She’s always on board with any of my ideas and loves to give me positive and helpful feedback. About 8 weeks after the group Spending Freeze, I got this text from her:

“I just paid the last of $2,800 off on a credit card. Started on December 5th, dropping as much as I could. Your spending freeze challenge is what really really kicked me into high gear. We’d already made a plan back in November, but the freeze was the real push I needed!” – Jenn

Dude. Seriously. 

That text reminded me that I’d asked for feedback for this Spending Freeze via a Google form and if you know me well, you’re probably not surprised that I’d totally forgotten to read through that feedback. So, I headed over to the form responses and soon found myself in a puddle of tears reading through the feedback.

TWO WEEKS, y’all… two weeks can make such a difference. I want to share a couple of the responses from that feedback form.

“I’m usually pretty good about sticking to a budget…or I feel like until I remind myself how many random extras I allow myself at Target on the weekly. It’s in my “budget” but I don’t need it…so why is my budget for certain areas as big as it is? That’s something I was able to refocus on during the freeze and hopefully adjust accordingly for next month too!” – Kara

It made me think twice about what I was purchasing and why. It made me aware how much I can save on groceries when I stick to my meal plan.” – Megan

“It was great to have a supportive group to encourage and share ideas and keep me motivated. At the end of the freeze, I find myself ahead of budget and able to put some extra money aside to savings that I wouldn’t normally have had.– Gena

And a couple of responses on the Facebook group, too…

Something I loved so much about this group was that we were all in such different places financially, but we were all able to come together toward the common goal of getting our spending under control. Each of us identified something we were working towards in those two weeks, whether it was sticking to our budget or saving some extra to put toward debt or another financial goal, we all had something in mind that we were working toward. It was so motivating to have the accountability of this super positive group. And it gave me a little glimpse of what I’ve been hoping to build… gives me goosebumps thinking of this big fat dream becoming a reality. So, here’s the deal.

It’s time for another Spending Freeze…

We’re going to start another Freeze on April 1st… do you want in?! Because we’d love to have you!! I already have a sweet group of committed peeps from our last group, they’re on board and ready to welcome some newbies to the group. It’s super simple. Sign up for the Spending Freeze emails and we’ll get you in the community group on Facebook! Then, you’ll receive regular emails leading up to the Spending Freeze and helping you through the Freeze to stay motivated and on track. You can totally opt out of those emails if you’d like, but SPAM is gross and I promise not to subject you to any of that garbage.

Click HERE to sign up!

After 12 years of marriage, Shem and I finally got on the same page financially. Twelve. Years. That’s twelve (plus) years of not knowing what the heck was going on with our money. I mean, we tried, we really did… but we just were not connecting.

This was one topic we couldn’t safely discuss without dissolving into arguments or misunderstandings. So, we avoided it. Until we couldn’t avoid it any longer, and then neither of us really had a grip on what the picture actually looked like.

Einstein says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results (paraphrased, obviously) and I’d like to add a second definition to his: insanity is arguing about stuff that you don’t know anything about. Yep, even your own finances.

Without all the facts, we would never get on the same page. We had to get on a budget, we had to get there together, and we had to do it peacefully. Enter the Personal Finances for Self-Reliance class through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That’s a mouthful. Basically, our church offers a personal finance class with the end goal of helping families become more self-reliant. Love it.

We committed to this 12-week class last summer and worked our way through it… together. We learned so. so. much. And we have stayed on a simple and successful budget ever since starting. That’s a huge accomplishment after 12 years of ignoring that money even existed!!

So what made the difference for us? What was it about this class and this approach that finally got us on the same page?

I think there were a few contributing factors, but one of the biggest was the process the class took us through to get us on a budget in the first place. It actually works. Promise.

Here’s the process, which you can start TODAY.

Step 1:

With pen and paper, track every dollar (incoming and outgoing) for 4 weeks. Just grab a notebook or some loose-leaf paper and write everything down. You’ll want to track the date, where you spent the money (or where the income came from), the dollar amount, and assign each item a category. You know, like, groceries, eating out, utilities, clothes, etc. If you’re doing this alone, awesome, but if you’re married or have a partner, commit to working together on this.

I love this first step because it is NOT stressful at all. You’re just writing stuff down. You aren’t changing any spending habits, no one’s the bad guy (yet)! I really don’t recommend skipping this step – it’s going to give you a basis to build your first budget on. Without it, you’re just stabbing in the dark. And don’t worry about delaying a for-real budget for another 4 weeks. You’ve been living without one for this long, just roll with it!

Step 2:

At the end of the 4 weeks, total the amounts spent for each of the categories you came up with. This gives you a solid starting point for your first budget. Reflect on the totals you came up with. Are there areas that you’re overspending? Or maybe not spending enough? Make note of your review of these numbers.

Step 3:

Build a new budget! You’re going to want to decide what method you’ll use to budget, so do some research on the various methods. We chose EveryDollar.com (*not sponsored*) and we absolutely LOVE it. You could use pen and paper, the envelope system, set up a spreadsheet, etc. EveryDollar.com is free and easy to set up, so that’s got my vote.

Once you know what system you’re using, you’ll need to plug in your numbers for each category – and you don’t need to stick with the number you came up with while tracking over the previous 4 weeks. We ended up realizing we were way overspending in several categories and seeing those numbers on paper was a big reality check. We were able to create a new budget with goals that were less than what we’d spent during our tracking period.

For example, if you spent $1,100 for groceries in the last 4 weeks, and you think you could spend less than that if you took the time to meal plan, then maybe shoot for $900 next month. Once you do that, you can try to lower your budget the following month until you find a sweet spot that’s realistic and sustainable.

  • Our experience: We actually did spend $1,100 on groceries for those first 4 weeks. HOLY. CRAP. For us, a family of 5, that felt like a lot of money on food. We decided to really challenge ourselves and set a goal of ultimately getting to $600 a month for groceries. It took a couple of months to figure out meal plans and a shopping list that could get us there, but we have totally achieved that goal (often coming in below $600 a month) for the last 5 months! Each month, now, is a game to see how far under budget I can get us in each category, but especially in groceries.

Step 4:

Continue to track your expenses daily. Yep. Every day. If you get behind, catch up quickly. Catching up is such a pain and can lead to a lot of miscommunication and confusion. Don’t go to bed without tracking the expenses of the day, sound good? Then, have a weekly meeting with your spouse. This may sound excessive or unsustainable, but seriously it only takes 5-10 minutes a week. You can give that time and attention to your budget each week, right?! YES!

In that weekly meeting review how the past week went, address any area that you may have gone off track and need to course-correct, and discuss any expenses you expect in the week ahead. For example, our quick weekly meeting will look something like this:

  • Review last week. Any areas we’re over budget? Or areas we’re close to being over budget? What about areas where we probably won’t end up using the budget, and can, therefore, reallocate those funds to something else like debt or savings?
  • Course-correct any issues. Peacefully, if you’re doing this with your partner. You’re on the same team, don’t let this be stressful.
  • Discuss the week ahead. Lunches out, date nights, kids school events or field trips, any extra driving we’ll be doing or grocery trips, even. Just make sure you’re on the same page.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

This process has been a game changer for us. I’m not kidding when I say this is the first time in over 12 years that we’ve been on the same page financially. Incidentally, it’s also the first year that we’ve made huge progress toward our financial goals of building savings and paying down debt. I’d love to keep sharing what we’re learning along the way as I’ve become super passionate about this process and what it has done for not just our finances but also for our marriage. We are so much closer now than ever before and it’s helped us communicate better about all kinds of things.

What do you want to know more about when it comes to personal finance?! Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to address it in an upcoming post.

*Photo by Lisa Grigg Photography

Let’s tackle my 4-year-old son’s toy collection. He has his own room and it’s often strewn with toys. As the youngest of three and the only boy, he’s been a little spoiled.

I gave him the option to be involved and he was excited to help out. I’m always hesitant to ask the kids for help, simply because it’s so much easier when I do it on my own, but I’m learning just how important it is for me to take the time to teach the kids how to declutter. This isn’t something we’re born knowing how to do – it is learned!

Together, we filled an entire trash bag full of toys for donation. I’m letting it sit in our storage room for a couple of weeks before hauling it off, just for his peace of mind that we didn’t part with anything too special. Making it easy for kids to be involved is HUGE! Sure, it takes longer, but this is how they learn that they do not need MORE to be happy or to have fun.

A couple of weeks have passed since this toy purge and it’s been so much easier to keep his room tidied up. Sounds weird, but I think he’s sleeping better, too.

I filmed the process and shared it to YouTube, you can click above to watch! I would really love to post more to YouTube, sharing our process and progress!! What do you think? Do you like videos like this? And please share any “decluttering with kids” tips in the comments – let’s learn from each other!

xo, Carly

Feeling overwhelmed when it comes to decluttering? The reason you’re feeling overwhelmed is the clutter itself, not the process of decluttering… trust me. Been there!! Probably be there again next week!!

The key, really, is to just start. But, I know firsthand that sometimes it’s hard to just get started, even if it sounds so simple!

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that help my very easily overwhelmed mind calm down enough to get started and get stuff done. Which, incidentally, is the antidote to the overwhelm!

So, here they are, my top 5 tips and tricks for beating the shut-down that often comes when the clutter and mess are just a bit too much.


how to declutter when you're feeling overwhelmed

1) Ask yourself this: Which ONE area would make the biggest difference in the overall peace of your home? Start there. 

This is sometimes a hard question to answer when there are so many places you could start. When there isn’t a clear answer, start with your own bedroom. 

Starting with my own room first is sometimes hard to do because I’d rather start at the front door and work my way in so that if someone were to drop in, they’d see an organized house even if behind closed doors it’s a little crazy. But trust me on this!!

Starting with a freshly made bed, tidied up surfaces and floors, laundry folded and put away and any lingering clutter busted in your own room makes way for a peaceful sleep ahead… a room to look forward to! You’re literally giving yourself the gift of peace to look forward to at the end of the day. Starting with tidying and then diving into the nooks and crannies, the drawers and closets and under the bed, etc, will make a HUGE impact.

And maybe it isn’t your bedroom that’s going to make the biggest difference – whatever the area you feel is going to make the biggest impact, be decisive and get to work. It all has to be done anyway – the only way to get it done is to start.


2) Make it easy by being prepared. Tidy up first. You’ll need a trash bag, donation bin/box, return to owner bag, etc.

organized bookshelfIt’s much easier to declutter a tidied room. Make the bed, clear the counters, quickly make piles of the chaos, round up all the trash and laundry – whatever it takes to give you some cleared surfaces to use in your decluttering. Gathering a trash bag, a donation bin or box, a “return to owner” bag, as well as a “put away” basket makes the process easier, too. I really like using laundry baskets and reusable grocery bags for my “return to owner” and “put away” piles.

Having a system in place really takes the guesswork out of it. Every item you touch is going to go into one of those categories – having the bins/baskets/bags in place and ready to go makes the process so much quicker, too! Oh, and don’t just leave things in bins around the house – commit to hauling them out TODAY. The job isn’t done until it’s done and the peace you’ll feel from accomplishing your task start-to-finish today will be HUGE!


3) Come up with a simple goal. You can pick up where you left off tomorrow.

I have the energy to declutter our entire house in one day like once every 5 years. It just isn’t realistic to think that you’ll get it all done at once. So, set a simple goal and pick up where you left off tomorrow. The overwhelm comes from trying to do it all, all at once. Which you can’t do… so stop expecting that of yourself. Instead, write a short list or a specific goal for TODAY. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow!


4) Pick a drawer, any drawer. Or a shelf. Or a corner.

how to declutter when you're feeling overwhelmed

Similar to the other tips above, picking just one thing to tackle often gets the ball rolling for me. It might be one drawer, one cupboard, one craft bin or one shelf instead of the entire bookcase. Even when it’s hard to get started, picking something specific to do from start to finish usually makes it hard to stop there! It’s so satisfying to say “I’m going to tidy and declutter the silverware drawer,” and then to actually DO IT. Feels good, right?! And those good feels are fuel for the next project. Just remember not to bite off more than you can chew… I tend to get really distracted, so picking one place to work helps focus me.

5) Set a timer.

This is my best trick. I swear by timers and it’s been a great tool to help keep me on task and also to help control the anxiety and overwhelm I often feel when it comes to decluttering. You can do anything for 15 minutes – in fact, you can do SO MUCH more than you think you can. If you’ve never used timers to help keep you on task, give it a try.

15-minute increments seem to work best for me, but maybe you’re feeling especially overwhelmed today, so start with 5 minutes! I like to write a little list of what I’m hoping to accomplish, evaluate the list and write next to each item the amount of time I think I need to accomplish that task. Then, I set the timer and get going on the first one and work my way down the list, setting new timers for each item.

Sometimes a list is too much for me to think about – setting the timer and just getting started is all I can manage. In that case, set it, get to work, and stop when it goes off. Let that be enough for now! Only start the timer over if you really want to keep going. Keep it manageable/bite-sized work sessions so you don’t overwhelm yourself – or your home – with your decluttering process.


So, there you go! 5 tips and tricks to get you through the overwhelm and onto a more decluttered life.

Do you have other tips to share?! Leave them in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

xo, Carly


*Photos from PixaBay.com, a stock photography website.
I’ll be sharing more of my own home soon, along with inspiration from others like this! 🙂 

Years ago I found myself stressed out about what to get the kids for Christmas. Once I got started, I never knew where to stop. Trying to keep things even amongst the kids, if one ended up with one or two more gifts, that set me in a frenzy trying to find extra things for the others. I also found it super hard to stay on budget (assuming I even made a budget that year – many years, I didn’t!). Can you relate?!

Then, I learned about the 4-gift Christmas… you’ve probably heard of it. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This sounded doable and less than I had been doing in past years. That first year doing the 4-gift Christmas, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get my Christmas shopping done for the kids… and how much easier it was to stay on budget, too, even if I was panicked right up until gift-opening that the kids would be disappointed in receiving so little. To my surprise, they were thrilled and didn’t even notice that it was a smaller year than usual. We’ve done it this way ever since! From the first year, we’ve added a fifth gift, though, and that’s one from Santa.

Our family does things a little differently than the “norm”, I think. We open all of our family gifts that are wrapped and under the tree on Christmas Eve. Then, Christmas morning the best gift is sitting, unwrapped, under the tree from Santa. This is how my parents did it for my brother and me growing up and it was a tradition I wanted to keep for my own kids. It leaves Christmas day to be more about the family time than the unwrapping frenzy, and it seems to work well for us. So, on Christmas Eve, our kids open four gifts from mom and dad and then on Christmas morning they have one more special gift to look forward to finding under the tree, when they wake up. I’ll share exactly what we got for the kids this year, down below!

I love this 5-gift Christmas because I know when I’m done shopping – no sales can tempt me!! It also focuses me on what exactly do the kids need and what won’t end up being trash by New Years. It’s seriously such a sanity saver, and I feel that our Christmas has more meaning since making this switch, too. If you’re feeling stumped on how to make this work for your family, I thought I’d share what my thoughts were for each of the categories this year, as well as show you exactly what we got!

For the “something they want” category, this year, we went for new games we can play as a family for each of the kids. I’m really hoping this goes over well with them, and I think it will, because they’ve all mentioned wanting more fun things to do as a family. Family time is a great gift!!

“Something they need” is cracking me up this year – we got each of the kids socks. Yes. Socks!! I think giving a necessity like socks is such a great idea for Christmas. Kids love opening presents – it doesn’t really matter what’s inside. Receiving a simple necessity alongside the fun stuff helps remind the kids that even things like socks really are a gift! I think it helps keep the holiday a humble one.

This year, we mixed up the “something to wear” category and made it either something to wear or an experience gift. I’m so excited about this because that’s even one less thing entering our home this Christmas and instead a fun memory waiting to be made for the recipient. None of our three kids needed anything to wear this year, which is such a blessing, right?! It was stressing me out trying to figure out what clothing item to get them when they really are set with what they have – loved the idea of swapping it for an experience instead and I can’t wait to see what the kids think when they open those special gifts!!

For “something to read” I like to get the chapter-book-readers a boxed set series. It feels a little more special than just one book and it gives them something to really dig into during the remainder of Winter break. We’ve had many years, though, where one book was what they received and honestly I think they’re happy either way! For non-readers or younger readers, we have typically gotten a storybook collection, where there are multiple stories in one binding. They’re so great for bedtime stories and there are tons of awesome options out there nowadays.

The gift from Santa is usually the thing that they’ve been looking most forward to receiving, or hoping for the most… but that said, I’m not always able to make their wild wishes happen. This year, the kids are receiving things they’ve asked for but not necessarily exactly what they’ve been dreaming about. I always worry about that, I think every parent wants to make Christmas as magical as possible, but sometimes Santa knows best.

Next year, we are likely bunking this entire system and opting, instead, for one big experience gift for the whole family, plus the gifts from Santa. I love the idea of the kids each receiving their one special gift and doing something fun as a family with the rest of the Christmas budget. More experiences, fewer things! Do you have any ideas for a fun family experience?! I’d love to hear them!!

Ready to see what we got our three kids for Christmas this year, using the 5-gift Christmas plan? Here it is!!

*The following gift guide includes affiliate links. I receive a small percentage of the sales generated from these links, but you do not pay any extra for shopping using the links below!*

Want: Wackee Six Card Game

Need: Fruit of the Loom socks

Experience: A 2-day pottery class at our local arts center

Read: The Percy Jackson & the Olympians boxed set


Want: Math’d Potatoes game from Simply Fun

Need: Fruit of the Loom socks

Experience: Dinner & movie date night with a parent

Read: Fablehaven series boxed set


Want: Ice Hop game from Simply Fun

Need: Fruit of the Loom socks

Wear: Marvel Superhero Costumes

(Our little guy loves dressing up but has no cool costumes of his own.

I got these at Walmart the day after Halloween for so cheap – linking to something similar!)

Read: Disney Scary Storybook Collection


11-year-old girl gift: Ozobot Bit Coding Robot Kit

8-year-old girl gift: Perfect Petzzz Golden Retriever

4-year-old boy gift: Tonka Classic Steel Front-end Loader

I want to add that I do not think there’s any one right way to do Christmas. You do you!! Do what makes sense and what works for you. This is simply something that I needed. I needed to know when to say “I’m done!” and this system makes it so easy for me to make sure I’ve covered my bases without going overboard. I needed to cut down on the clutter coming into my home. This system keeps me in check and makes sure that the kids are getting a variety of things, without receiving just a bunch of toys. Lastly, I needed to keep the budget in check – this system has helped so much because I know the exact number of items I’m purchasing, making it easier to ball-park the amount I can spend on each individual item. Plus, the kids are happy. Win, win, win!! What do you think?! I’d love to hear what works for YOUR family, and if you’ve tried this system or something similar, share your experiences in the comments!!


*This post contains affiliate links*

Hey there!! I’m Carly… and I’m not a minimalist.

Not naturally, anyway. It’s like forcing a square peg into a round hole, adapting my cluttered crazy life into something simpler, slower, more intentional.

Moderate Minimalist was born out of my commitment to living with less in order to live more. Over the last several years, I’ve effectively downsized my family’s belongings by 50-70%… I mean, I didn’t weigh it or anything… but we are living with a lot less. However, being a natural collector and having three children that seem to share this proclivity for thing-keeping has resulted in a home that’s continually in a state of flux. One day, I’ll be breathing the satisfied sighs of a balanced home and life… the next, I’m hyperventilating in the fetal position among the Legos and books and clothes…

It’s a constant struggle. And that’s what Moderate Minimalist (this blog) is all about. Full-blown minimalism is simply not realistic for my family, nor is it something I feel compelled to reach for. The idea of a simpler, slower life, though? Minimalism in moderation? THAT is what my heart is drawn to, in more areas than just my material possessions.

So, what is Moderate Minimalism?

Now… I haven’t read an “official” definition, but this is what “moderate minimalism” looks like to me, in all the important areas of my life:

  • HOME – Simple, organized, easy to maintain; belongings that are practical and loved
  • HEALTH – Whole, simple eating and gentle fitness routines that result in overall physical and mental wellness
  • FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS – A focus on togetherness, experiences and memory making
  • FINANCES – Debt-free, intentional use of every dollar
  • TIME – Living intentionally, using time wisely

I am not there yet… not even close. But, every day I’m striving to not only embrace the perfectly imperfect life I’m living but to also work toward the moderate minimalism I’m so drawn to. I believe firmly that if you can’t stop thinking about something… there’s a reason, you need to listen to that. Moderate minimalism is that voice that won’t shut up in my head, telling me to live more intentionally in every facet of my life – living more with less. Less junk, fewer bad habits, less time wasted, less debt… that’s the road I’m on.

I’m here to share my journey with you, and if possible, to help you achieve moderate minimalism, too!

Let’s do this together.


My “simplify life” journey has been guided by books, YouTube channels, podcasts and Pinterest… where do you find inspiration to downsize? Please share – I’m always up for new inspiration!! 🙂

Here are five books that have had the biggest impact on my efforts to simplify our lifestyle. If you decide to pick up a book or two, please use my affiliate links on this post! It costs you nothing extra and helps keep the lights on for this blog.

Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist

Shauna’s story isn’t one of minimalism, necessarily. Her journey is one of overcoming mental clutter, calendar clutter, and the other baggage that came with the lifestyle she’d been living. Simplifying her aspirations, focusing on where her time was best spent, was an inspiring process to get to tune in to. Overall, the message is that perfection is not what it’s all about. I enjoyed the Audible version of this book!


The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

This is another book that’s not about decluttering or minimalism specifically. However, it’s one that has helped me so much in the personal work of conquering my own expectations. Brene’s real, down to earth writing is so relatable. She convinces you from the first chapter that you’re not alone in your imperfections… and embracing the perfectly imperfect is such a gift. Accepting this truth eliminates so much mental clutter. This is another book I thoroughly enjoyed on Audible. Highly recommend it – it’s one that I keep “downloaded” all the time, just in case I need a pick-me-up.


Spark Joy, Marie Kondo

You knew it was coming – a Konmarie plug!! The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie’s first book, is a more in-depth look at the Konmarie method of maintaining a minimalist lifestyle. Spark Joy, however, is what I’d recommend between the two as it’s more of a guide, or a course even, on simplifying possessions and how that brings true joy. She lays things out by category and gives you step by step instructions on how to work through them. I love being able to pop open this perfectly-sized-hardback to the section most pertinent to my current project. Worth keeping on your shelf, for sure.


7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker

7 is actually the book that started my simplification journey. Jen Hatmaker is a Christian author and this book definitely takes a Christian perspective of minimalism. Jen shares candidly their family’s seven-month project of elimination in seven different areas. Throughout she shares how becoming a better steward has allowed her family to grow closer and to serve God more fully. I can not recommend this read enough… it’s well-written and enjoyable to snuggle up with on a cozy fall day! (I’ve read it each September since purchasing in 2015!)


Simplify (Kindle Edition), Joshua Becker

Lastly, a Kindle Edition for you… I’ll quickly say that I love the idea of digital books. Their lack of bookshelf-footprint is very appealing. I’ve just never been able to really get into reading from a screen. This e-book by Joshua Becker, however, is well worth the download and read. He focuses on seven principles of simplification, all of which will ring true to you! It’s a quick read that will inspire big action so you can simplify life, starting now! Then, you’ll want to grab his other books, too, like Clutterfree with Kids (next on my list).


Ready to simplify life?!

Try listening to audio books on Audible while you work on decluttering projects. Learn while you purge… it’s the best. Speaking of, I’m due for some new reads… er… listens. Share your recommendations in the comments, especially if they help us all to simplify life! And, if you don’t have one already, go get your own Audible Membership here!