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I’m not usually one to keep anything I don’t really need—or at least I thought that’s how I was. But while packing up my kitchen during our last big move to another state, I realized that I was keeping much more than I really needed.

There was so much mismatched Tupperware, utensils I didn’t even use, four cake stands, miscellaneous plastic cups, sippy cups with missing lids… The list goes on and on.

I thought to myself, “Why am I keeping this stuff?” Does it serve a purpose or have some sort of significant meaning to me? The answer was NO and I finally decided to do something about it.

When minimizing my kitchen, I broke it down into specific areas to help me actually get rid of things instead of just moving things around. I made a goal to keep the kitchen area—cabinets, refrigerator, pantry and eating area—clean and free of clutter.

Things tend to pile up pretty quickly around my house and the kitchen seems to be a catch-all for just about anything you can imagine. It also is probably the most well-used room in the house as well, so keeping it inviting was essential.

Here are some simple steps I followed to keep my newly minimalist kitchen clean and organized.

Developing a keep-or-donate system

This was a big one for me. I went through each and every nook of my kitchen and I highly recommend that you do the same—even that little junk drawer needs a good cleaning!

Out were the things that were missing a piece, chipped, mismatched or that I simply didn’t use anymore. I had so many mixing bowl sets that I managed to collect over the years that I rarely ever used. There wasn’t a need of multiples in my kitchen since I found myself continuously going back to the same things.

I kept things of importance—my Pyrex collection that was passed down to me, cookbooks that I always pulled from and things I used everyday.

Dealing with small appliances

Small appliances can be a tricky one because I do use them quite often, but they needed some minimizing as well. I didn’t need two blenders and I didn’t need a deep-fryer anymore. (Sigh.) If you can part with some of your appliances, I recommend that you do. They tend to take up a lot of cabinet space and serve very little purpose compared to other things around your kitchen.

Decluttering the counters

The clutter in my kitchen tends to always be on the countertops. They accumulate things rather quickly and in order to keep my kitchen clean and tidy, I needed to figure out a solution to that.

The answer: I only kept the items I used very frequently on them. That meant the toaster, mixer and bottle/sippy cup Boon drying rack stayed—and the rest was put away. I also kept out a butcher-block cutting board that I purchased from Ikea a few years ago that is a game-changer! (I use it multiple times a day.) Finally, the fresh flowers were allowed to stay—I always love to have fresh flowers on hand.

Cleaning out the fridge + pantry

When I first started cleaning out my fridge and pantry, the number of outdated food goods I found was almost embarrassing. Now I make an effort to sort through the things in the fridge and pantry weekly—usually the night before trash day!

I also found that there were so many opened things in my pantry with poor seals. I decided to make use of my mason jar collection that I almost tossed by organizing the odds and ends that way. I found that this gave it a nice, clean look and kept it fresh!

Bye-bye to unused baby goods

This is where things get a little messy in my kitchen: Between the cups, plates, bottles, lids and utensils, the baby goods tend to take over. Did I really need all of this stuff for two little ones?

I tend to continually grab the same sippy cups and plates, so was there a need for the rest? NO. NO. NO.

I kept what I needed out, bought organizers to keep the utensils and lids in place and designated a cabinet for “kid/baby stuff.” I also keep a kid stool in the kitchen for my almost 5 year old—he’s pretty steady with using it—and have the highchair tucked into our eating area. (It’s also a small, simple table height chair that can be pulled up to the table.)

Now that my kitchen is generally decluttered, I found I’m much more inspired to also keep it nice and clear with a daily wipe-down. I even try to never go to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes—it may sound strange, but I swear waking up to them makes me feel blah.

Besides, who doesn’t prefer making coffee in a tidy kitchen in the morning? ☕️

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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