The Simple Year 6: Simple Living in Rural Alaska. A typical American Family doesn't buy anything new for one year, already weathered a few bumps, daddy deploys, a ninth birthday and a move 600 miles away.
I’m back! Annika is doing so incredibly well and even though we are still going to regular doctors appointments and adjusting to life at home, I am starting to get in a bit of groove. I appreciate all of you wonderful people for allowing me to take some space while we adjusted to life with a NICU baby and then as we transitioned home.
In today’s post I want to talk about some baby essentials that I’ve found over the last few weeks. Prior to Annika’s birth, I tried not to overbuy and just allow myself to discover what we really needed as we progressed into our lives as a little family. Now that we’ve gotten into a bit of a groove though, I wanted to post about some items that I have found to be incredibly valuable.
Let’s start with postpartum essentials:
Haakaa – This glorious manual breast pump is the absolute best. It allows you to pump without being plugged in and it is tiny and stores so much easier than a big electric one does. I highly recommend it for breastfeeding mamas, especially those trying to keep things small and simple.
Earth Mama Perineal Spray – The recovery from birth isn’t always the easiest process. This spray has been so wonderful for recovery. It’s a great consumable product and comes in small sizes so that you can see if it will be a good fit for your recovery.
Bamboobies Reusable Nursing Pads – Nobody wants to ruin their nice, overpriced nursing bras. These reusable nursing pads are a great investment because they are super soft and you aren’t creating tons of waste.
As far as baby essentials go, my list could be 100 items long, but let’s keep it to the great products that are either sustainable, reusable/recyclable, or lend themselves to minimalism. Here are a few of my baby essentials:
Bum Genius Cloth Diapers – This is something we are just working to transition to using. We didn’t want to buy a ton of newborn sized cloth diapers that Annika would grow out of quickly, so we did disposables until she outgrew that size. She has officially graduated to the next size though and can fit into OS cloth diapers now, which we will be working to transition to over the next couple of weeks.
Moby Wrap and the Ergo – Annika loves to nap in her baby carriers. She’s actually sleeping in the Moby right now while I type this. The Moby allows me to wear her around the house while I get stuff done and she naps. It’s so soft and I really like it for house use. The Ergo is better for walks, hiking, or grocery shopping. We probably could have gotten away with just one wrap, but we were lucky to get the Moby as a gift and the Ergo secondhand. They both have great resale value on local Buy, Sell, Trade pages too.
Fan – This one is simple. Our baby loves white noise. We could have bought some expensive white noise machine, but a box fan works great and serves more than one purpose. No link for this one because you can buy any kind that works for you. : )
And those are six of my postpartum and baby essential recommendations! I’ll be coming back at you guys with another minimalist baby-related post very soon. Until then, enjoy your weekend!
Hello, all! I’m happy to announce that the Simple Year Six Baby has arrived! Annika Lenore arrived 10 days late, on 4/23/18. Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that I took a hiatus from the blog after she was born because we’ve been spending some time in the NICU. However, we are home now and are happily settling into life as a new little family. Cody and I are over the moon in love with our sweet, sweet girl. It may take a couple of weeks for me to get back in the groove with blogging, as adjusting to life with a newborn while also moving to a new house is a bit hectic. I’ll update as frequently as I can though and I look forward to continuing to share our journey with all of you lovely people. Thank you for your support and readership!
As some of you know, we are in a bit of a transition period in our lives right now. We are currently in an AirBnB in Anchorage while we wait for Baby Middleton to make her arrival (which is now apparently going to be a late arrival). After she arrives, we are moving out of this AirBnB and into a new downsized house in Palmer, Alaska. Because of this, we’ve been really trying to approach life with a newborn from a minimalist place. We haven’t bought furniture yet because we don’t have a house to put it in until May, we haven’t really bought any clothes because Cody and I both have older siblings who happily supplied us with hand-me-downs, and we are trying to be a bit creative with what we already had available in our AirBnB rental.
Our current set-up is pictured above. We’ve got a pack-and-play, which features detachable newborn napper and diaper changing station. The pack-and-play also has a newborn bassinet feature, so that’s where we plan for her to sleep for now. Next to the pack-and-play, we’ve got a comfy chair, which I am hoping to use for breastfeeding. I’d love to have a glider when we move into our actual house, but this chair was the next best thing using the furniture we have available at the rental. On the other side of the pack-and-play there is a diaper pail. We probably could have used a regular trashcan, but there aren’t any trashcans with lids at the AirBnB and we didn’t want to be smelling diapers, or for the dogs to get into it (Note: we are switching to cloth diapers once she’s out of the newborn size).
Not pictured are our tote of baby clothes, which fits snugly under the pack-and-play because it is one of the those super flat, long totes. Also, next to the chair we have a small three-drawer organizer that contains diapers, wipes, a breast pump, and other essentials. We also have a baby swing downstairs and a small box filled with a few special toys, blankets, and books.
And that’s pretty much it! I have lots of ideas for Baby Middleton’s room once we get settled into our new place in May, but until then we will make due with this set-up. I don’t want to clutter her new room up either though and hope to keep that fairly minimal as well. I’m getting anxious to get into the new house and start on all of these little projects, but until then we are happy just relaxing and waiting for Baby to make her arrival, which is hopefully soon!
Now that Cody and I are all settled in Anchorage to wait for the arrival of Baby Middleton, we’ve been trying to get ahead on some of our upcoming commitments. One of the biggest commitments we needed to get ahead on was preparing for our big move for next year. We knew that we wanted to secure a new rental home while we were out here because we didn’t want to be scrambling and looking for a place to live (and making the hour drive between Anchorage and Palmer) with a newborn when our AirBnB contract is up in mid-May. So, the last couple of weeks that we’ve been here have been spent house hunting. As you can imagine, we had a wish list. Our wish list included:
Close proximity to my new job
A minimum of 2b/1ba
A fenced yard for the dogs
Updated appliances, including a dishwasher
A safe neighborhood
Good outdoor space
Close proximity to hiking trails and/or some sort of recreation area
Preferably a single-family home
Well, we ended up getting pretty lucky! We toured a lot of places, but in the end this little place won us over. It hit everything on our wish list with the exception of a garage, but we knew we’d have to be willing to be flexible and the garage wasn’t the most important thing to us.
Now that we have the house secured, we are starting the process of looking at downsizing and good storage solutions. Our house in the Bush is about 2,000 sq. ft. and has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This new house is about 800 sq. ft. and has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Even though Cody and I don’t have a ton of stuff and won’t be bringing anything large like furniture with us, we will be moving into this new little space with the two of us, the new baby, and two rather rambunctious dogs. Because of this change, I’ve been working hard (ok, it’s actually been pretty fun) to brainstorm some ideas for our new, much smaller digs.
Things I’m liking, so far:
This doggy crate coffee table. One of our pups doesn’t need to be crated, but the other absolutely does (she’s young and super high energy, which leads to her getting into everything). In our big house we just have a bedroom that we put her crate in, but that won’t be an option at the new place and I don’t want to take up valuable floor space with something unattractive and not usable for any other purpose.
Vertical wall storage ideas for the baby’s room. The baby’s room is pretty tiny, so I think the more vertical storage, the better! I also don’t plan to get a changing table and instead doing a dresser/changing table combo, so I love this set-up.
A sleek platform bed for our bedroom. I think having a smaller, less cumbersome frame that doubles as storage would be super nice for us.
If you can’t tell, I’ve been going a bit Pinterest crazy looking at ideas. I’m excited to share more as we get closer to the move-in and work more on downsizing. In the meantime, if you want to check out some more of my ideas you can head on over to my Pinterest page!
Baby showers are an almost inevitable part of pregnancy, and for good reason! It is fun to get together with friends and family and celebrate the upcoming birth of your child. Also, let’s get real, babies are expensive. Showers are a nice way help offset some of the costs of bringing home a baby. There are a million ways to do a baby shower, but I knew we’d have to get creative with mine for two big reasons. First, Cody and I try not to accumulate too much stuff. We’ve accepted a lot of hand-me-downs and already have a decent store of baby stuff, but we also didn’t want to go overboard and just have a ton of (for lack of a better word) junk sitting around. Second, I live over 3,000 miles away from all of my family and most of my friends. This led us to to decide to do a virtual baby shower.
You might be wondering what in the world a virtual baby shower actually is? Well, I’m sure it can be many things to different people. For us, it involved making a private Facebook group and then inviting friends and family to attend a week long “party.” Every day my sister would post different fun games and chat threads, which people would then participate in. Then, on the last day of the shower I went Live on Facebook to announce the winners of the games and thank everyone for participating. All of our gifts for the winners were practical too – things like gift cards, or cruelty-free home products (everything is consumable). It ended up being a lot of fun and extremely low maintenance.
A few main things made hosting a baby shower this way very low waste. First, because of crazy shipping restrictions in Alaska, we asked for gift cards only. This limited the waste of wrapping paper and cards. It also allowed us to decide what we actually needed to purchase. Cody’s sister recently had a little girl and she’s been sending us tons of cute stuff when her daughter outgrows it, so we are 100% set on clothing. But, there were a lot of things that we just couldn’t buy ahead of time with being out in Pilot Point (the cost of shipping anything out there and then shipping it back out to Anchorage with us would have been insane) and having the gift cards allowed us to buy things like a crib, a diaper bag, a carseat, and a few other things we’d been waiting to purchase.
Another big way that the virtual shower was more low waste and low maintenance was that we weren’t dealing with food waste. Cody got me a small cake for the two of us to eat, but other than that we weren’t supplying any food items that would end up getting thrown out or left unused. I really appreciated this aspect of it because I am a big fan of eliminating food waste in any way possible.
I’m sure there are many aspects of having a traditional baby shower that I would have loved and, if we went that direction, I absolutely could have made a traditional shower more low waste in a ton of different ways. I felt like the simplicity of the virtual shower was more my style though and I appreciated it so very much. It was a blast to connect with my family and friends in such a unique way and I loved incorporating a more minimalist approach to the shower.
In an effort to simplify my clothing routine and reduce our household waste this year, I’ve been working on different ways change our laundry. We’d already reduced our laundry routine a lot in the past through making our own laundry detergent, ditching dryer sheets, and limiting the amount of clothing we buy/wear. Something new I’ve been trying this year involves laundry planning though.
I know that planning your laundry sounds kind of crazy, but hear me out because it has actually been great! The biggest thing that I do to plan out our laundry is laying out my clothing for the week every Sunday (note: we do laundry on the weekends, so everything is always clean on Sunday nights). On Sunday nights, I look through my wardrobe and pick out my five work outfits for the week. However, instead of just picking five random things. I choose clothing items that are versatile and can be worn with multiple outfits (I might choose a sweater that goes with two different shirts, or only pick out a couple of pairs of pants and wear them multiple days) and are similar colors. Planning your clothing to be similar colors is huge here.
You see, my laundry for this particular week is basically is all blue or black. This greatly reduces the amount of loads of laundry I need to do. Other weeks I might go with more reds and browns in my wardrobe or more yellows and whites. The biggest thing in consistency in color though. I’ve found that it has simplified my laundry routine a ton. Cody pretty much only wears dark colored clothing and I tend to wear dark pants or leggings for work, so we always have a load of darks. Then, I can just have one other load of colored items based on what I wore for the week. It really simplifies the whole routine from start to finish, even the sorting of the weekly laundry when it is time to wash is way quicker.
If you’re looking to simplify your laundry routine, I highly recommend trying this out for a couple weeks and see if it works for you!
The last couple of weeks have been hectic for my little family, and not just because we are quickly hurtling towards to birth of our first child. Cody and I have known for awhile now that we might not be able to stay in Pilot Point, our beloved little village, next year with the baby. The two big reasons this had been on our minds were the lack of childcare and the lack of medical care. Ultimately, these two things solidified our decision that we needed to make a change.
I have spent the last month or so discussing options with my school district because I really didn’t want to leave them. I had my sights set on our two larger villages because both have easy access to medical care and lots of other young teaching families with children. Around this same time, an administrative job as our school district’s Registrar/New Teacher Mentor opened up for next year. I applied for the administrative job too, but really didn’t think much of it because I knew LOTS of people were applying. Amazingly, the district offered me the administrative job! The new job will be relocating us to our school district’s main office, which is in Palmer, Alaska. Palmer is MUCH larger than Pilot Point (literally 100X the population size), is on the road system, and is less than an hour from Anchorage. This move is going to be a huge change for our family.
Somehow, in the middle of having a baby, Cody and I will be packing up our lives and moving to Palmer. It’s all still a little bit foggy at the moment because the timeline depends 100% on when baby arrives, and we all know babies don’t always arrive on their due date. However, moving in and out of a Bush village is always a humbling lesson in minimalism, as everything you own must be able to fit inside of 18-galloon totes. We will be downsizing, using up food/trying to eliminate our food waste, packing, and shipping like mad over the next few months. It should make for some interesting posts and a glimpse at a way of moving that is extremely non-traditional.
One of the things I have been making sure that I make time for this year is a routine of mindfulness on Sundays, which helps me start my week on a positive note. For me, this means finding a cozy spot, sitting down with a cup of something tasty (tea, hot cocoa, coffee – whatever sounds delicious), and filling out my weekly planner.
I briefly mentioned in my other recent post about mindfulness that I have been using the Commit30 Planner since the beginning of January this year. It has really been a lifesaver for me in terms of taking time to organize my weeks and reflecting on what important tasks need to be accomplished. I am also one of those people who thrives off of routine, so having a set routine for planning helps me a lot.
Finding a spot you love to be is important in mindfulness, in my opinion. I love working at our dining room table. That area of our house is decorated with many of my favorite pieces and we have a large window by our table that overlooks Loon Lake. It’s a very peaceful scene and it puts me in the mindset of getting work done. Pairing my favorite spot with a favorite beverage is just an added bonus.
In my Commit30 Planner there is a place for yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. The yearly goals I filled out immediately upon starting my planner for the year because it helped me map out my year. My goals were:
Physical Health: Plan to walk/jog with the dogs for at least 30 minutes each day.
Mental Health: Do research about postpartum depression and discuss a plan with my doctor and Cody. (This one I’m hoping I don’t end up needing, but I also realize PPD impacts many, many women and I want to be prepared.)
Marriage: Cook at least one meal together with Cody each week and have a sit down dinner at the dining room table.
Family/Friends: Update the baby book and baby pictures monthly in order to send out updates to family and friends.
Pure Joy/Fun: Go on one camping trip with Baby Middleton this summer.
Adventure/Travel: Travel to one “bucket list” place in Alaska this year.
Spiritual Health: Do one “me” time activity each day that is 100% unplugged from technology – go for a walk, do yoga, read a chapter in a good book, bake something sweet, etc.
Personal Growth: Choose and apply to a master’s program to begin in 2019.
Career: Do one thing to further my career this year – volunteer for a new committee, take a class, attend a conference, apply for a promotion, etc.
Home: Clean the house for at least 20 minutes every day.
Community: Volunteer at one new community event this year.
Finances: Completely pay off all credit card debt (getting very close on this one!).
As you can see, I tried to make measurable goals with set timelines. Some are more open-ended, but for the most part I tried to set a period of time and/or how often I would try to incorporate my goal into my routine.
I also made monthly goals for myself using my planner. Each month there is a main goal with six action steps listed below. So, for example, this month’s goal looks like this:
Monthly Goal: Prepare for maternity leave at work.
Action Step – Update all grading
Action Step – Print all student standards
Action Step – Make updated pacing guides for the rest of the year
Action Step – Send FMLA paperwork to HR
Action Step – Create a shared Google Drive for substitute teacher
Action Step – Talk with parents/community about plan for leave
So far, I’ve accomplished many of my action steps. I’m still working through updating my pacing guides, creating the Google Drive folder, and the FMLA paperwork. I use my weekly goals section, which is built into the daily planner area, to map out which specific action steps I am focusing on for the week.
It gives me a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to plan out my time in this way. It also helps me see which days 0f my week need to be more focused on accomplishing tasks and which allow for more down time with my family. If you’re someone like me who craves routine and consistency, a weekly mindfulness and organizational routine like this might be perfect for you to try.
It’s been a long time since I posted Cleaning Out My Closet: Part 1, but for a relatively good reason. I don’t have a good way to ship donated clothes in or out of my village, so I signed up to receive a free donation bag in the mail from ThredUP. Or so I thought. After waiting for a couple of weeks and not receiving a bag in the mail, I finally talked to customer service and was informed that they wouldn’t send a bag to my village. To circumvent this little issue, I instead had it sent to my mom’s house and then she mailed it to me. It was kind of a hassle and I’m still not sure why they wouldn’t send it here, but it is still the easiest way I’ve come up with to donate clothes.
Once the bag arrived via a care package from my mom, things were easy enough. The bag that they sent was very large and conveniently packaged in a relatively small envelope. The directions were very clear, which I think will make sending it back very easy.
I had a rather large stack of clothes that I had boxed up at the beginning of my pregnancy when things started to not fit (Note: the top three boxes are clothes that people have sent me since getting pregnant that didn’t fit). I made the decision at that time to make some donations and keep some things that I thought I might want after pregnancy. I obviously have no idea what my size/measurements will be after all is said and done (although, I’ve only gained 5lbs so far, so I am hopeful my old stuff will fit again eventually), but I also didn’t want to get rid of everything. I ended up choosing things that I didn’t wear much pre-pregnancy to donate and then keeping the rest for now.
I also made a small pile of non-name brand clothing or stuff that was a little more worn, which I think I’ll give to a couple of the young girls in my village. I’ve given away clothes to some of my students before and they’ve always really enjoyed getting things as little gifts from me.
I packed up the bag and still had a surprising amount of room, so I decided to wait to send it. I’m hoping to convince Cody to go through some of his stuff and maybe examine my shoe collection as well. Once the bag gets a little fuller I plan to mail it off to ThredUP.
All in all, the process wasn’t too difficult. If I didn’t live in the literal wilds of Alaska it would have been 100x easier. Once I figured out that they wouldn’t ship here it was no big deal to get it sent to my mom’s house. She sends us care packages fairly frequently and it was very tiny and easy to add to one of her already scheduled shipments.
One of my goals when I took over this blog was to investigate mindfulness. I’ve always considered myself a fairly mindful person, but I knew that in this new season in my life (which was originally the season of this blog) that I wanted to take time to appreciate life, slow down, and focus on people and experiences more. Once I found out that I was expecting my first child though, my perspective changed drastically.
Some of you may have noticed my blog silence the last two weeks, and I promise that was not intentional. This pregnancy has made me turn inwards in a way that I hadn’t expected. As I entered the third trimester I’ve found myself suddenly wholly focused on baby, and perhaps a little overwhelmed. The absence from writing was just an unintentional consequence of that.
I’ve started to revisit the topic of mindfulness in my life though and it made me realize that I work best and feel better when I am organized and prioritizing. I ended up ordering a planner from Commit30 in an effort to bring myself back into a better state of organization. I’ve been loving having the planner because it has monthly and weekly goals, space for specific vision mapping, plenty of writing space, and motivational quotes. It’s been a godsend to my general mental health and has really helped me prioritize baby stuff and still focus on the other important aspects of my life (like blogging for you wonderful readers!). I’ll probably dedicate a whole post to how I use this planner and my successes and challenges.
As I revisit this topic and become more focused on the reorganizing of my life, it has given me much to think about. Mindfulness means something different to everyone. To me, mindfulness is a state of awareness that allows you to look inwards to realize your goals, dreams, and feelings. To me, mindfulness is self care. These things have all been evolving for me over the last 7.5 months as I adjust to the idea of motherhood and all of the changes that my life will soon be undertaking. As these changes happen, I hope to do more posts on this topic, as it is something that has become a strong focus in my personal life. I can’t wait to share more with all of you.
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