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Taking your house from cluttered and overstuffed is totally overwhelming—not gonna lie. A few years ago, when I first walked down the stairs of our over-sized house with the intent to minimize, I could feel the overwhelm forming a pit in my stomach. However, I had reached a point where I was desperate enough for change to move forward. I was William Wallace that day—determined, adamant, and my face was painted blue with purpose.

No, it wasn’t. But I was seriously over feeling trapped by my stuff, tired of always cleaning up, and ready to get out of survival mode once and for all.

When you start to read about minimalism and simplified living, it either goes in one ear and out the other, or it clings to you, pulling at the strings of your heart and calling you.

This is the solution to the chronic overwhelm mothers are battling today, so it’s not surprising to me that so many women come across the philosophy of less stuff and can’t seem to shake it.

The thing that keeps them from taking action and making this their reality, is that staggering thought of actually having to go through every little thing taking up residence in their home and making a decision about what to do with it.

The fact is though, that very little truly good things come to us. We have to go get most of it.

So do you want this? Do you want a life of less clutter, more free time in your daily routine, more breathing room? Do you want the feeling that you can have company drop by anytime and not feel embarrassed by the current state of your house? That doesn’t come from staying on top of the housework. It comes from limiting what you own, so that it’s much more difficult for things create messes.

If you want to be separated from the dreamers and come over to the doers side of life, let me break it down into steps for you, from someone who’s been there.

1. I just started.

This is what I tell my students when they email me not knowing how to regain momentum in their journey, and I realize it’s an annoying tip, but hear me out. When something is as overwhelming as de-cluttering your entire house, your brain kind of shuts down. Following through in this is going to change your entire life, and that’s not a matter of “well, maybe. It might.” It will! But you have to do it. So just start.

Choose a non-threatening area of the house- one that doesn’t mean you have to sift through sentimental things or things you’ve been avoiding for years. The bathroom is a great place to start.

Just choose an easy area, walk in there, and pick something up.

Anything. Just pick up the first thing you see in that room without even thinking about it, then look at the item, and make a decision about it. This leads to my next point.

2. I asked questions + made decisions about each item.

As I went through the rooms, drawers, and cupboards in my house, I asked myself a few questions about each thing I held in my hands.

—When was the last time this was used? (if it hasn’t been used in two months or more, it’s a pretty safe bet you can do without it, unless it’s a sometimes needed item, like a Thanksgiving casserole dish.)

—Do I really, truly need this?

—Does this bring me joy and complement my life purpose?

I answered these questions and didn’t give myself much room to re-think or dwell on them for too long, and as I answered them I would get a feeling for which pile the item belonged in: keep, trash, or donate. I sorted as I went accordingly.

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3. I didn’t set a time limit, but I had set times.

A photo posted by Allie Casazza (@allie_thatsme) on

At this point in my life, there was no one really talking about this. Minimalism wasn’t a trend, I had no one writing blog posts or coaching me through the process of simplifying, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was simply on a mission to have more time with my babies and to relieve myself of the depressive lull I couldn’t seem to shake because all I did was clean up.

I maybe would’ve done things differently if I had had more clarity about the process, but it got done. I did not have a set time limit for how long I wanted the purging process to take. I didn’t tell myself, “I want to have the whole house finished by March.”

I did however, make a purging date with myself a couple times a week.

I know myself, and I typically get amped up and start a big project, then get tired and let it go, never to return to it again. Not this time. I was determined to be a finisher (remember, William Wallace), so I set a de-cluttering date with myself for twice a week.

Every Monday and Saturday morning for three hours I would work on decluttering the house. No excuses, no cancelling. I actually ended up purging more often than just those two days, but having those times set meant that even on hard weeks when other days didn’t happen, I at least always did the work on Mondays and Saturdays for three hours.

4. I started with the toys.

I know I told you a minute ago to start in the bathroom, but that’s just a suggestion for the truly overwhelmed, that’s not what I actually did. For me, the kids’ toys were the most overwhelming thing in the house time-wise. We had a large area downstairs that you could see when you walked in the front door or when you stood in the kitchen, and it was the dedicated playroom.

It was full of bins, toy chests, and boxes, and those bins, chests, and boxes were all overflowing with toys. It was totally out of control, and it felt like all I did was go in there before someone came over and clean it up, only for the kids to dump everything out again. I realized my kids weren’t even actually playing very often when they were in there—they would go in there having been told to “go play”, bicker with each other, and wander back out at my feet ten minutes later complaining of boredom. This wasn’t even worth it.

So the first thing I did was gut that playroom. I eliminated the biggest time-sucker right off the bat, and this left me feeling amazing!

I instantly had more time on my hands and felt lighter as a person.

I saw changes in my kids too almost immediately, so doing this first created a snowball effect and kept me going. If you want to read more about how I purged the kids’ rooms and toys, click here.

5. I tackled things in order of how much time they took up.

After I purged the playroom and immediately saw a difference in my time, I decided to purge my home in order of how much time all the areas took up in my week. The toys were done, so the next biggest time-suck for me was the laundry. I was always washing clothes and never really able to catch up. This simply meant we owned too many clothes. There’s no need for things to be that way, even with six people in the house, so I purged.

The next thing that took up most of my time was the dishes. I would try to keep them rinsed and the counters wiped as I went about my day, but somehow, no matter what I did, at the end of a long day I always had to stand at the sink for an hour. I was over it.

Knocking these two big areas out changed the structure of my day probably the most out of anything else I did.

(Note: When I finished purging the laundry and dishes, the biggest chunk of my time was freed up. I put together a free guide to help you declutter your laundry and dishes in the same way I did. You can download it at the end of this post.)

6. I did it in waves.

Something I noticed about my own journey and that I see in my students again and again, is that purging never seems to happen all at once. When you do your first purge of the clothes, you usually end up going back later and doing another clothing purge because you didn’t get rid of enough.

I think this happens because we’re afraid to get rid of things when we first start, and because you learn as you go.

When I first went through all our dishes, I only got rid of the things I didn’t even like or use (ugly mugs, a broken hand mixer, chipped bowls, etc). I noticed I was saving time by having a few less things to wash and sort through when I was cooking dinner, but later I realized I could do a lot more to free myself up, so I did another wave in the kitchen.

Just be aware that this might happen to you, and if it does it’s okay! You could also learn from those who have gone before you, and use this information to take a shortcut through the purging process by making sure you get everything purged your first time through. #bossbabe

7. I got strict with some rules.

I noticed really quickly that there were certain hurdles in the purging process that could make or break me. One of the main ones was after I’d purge a room, my husband and kids would meander over to the donation pile and start to say things like, “hey! Cool! I haven’t seen this in forever!” Then they’d take those items out of the pile and i was taking two steps backward. Ugh.

So I made a rule for myself. Immediately after a purge sesh, I would bag up all the trash and donation stuff and take it where it needed to go.

This meant the trash went straight out to the trash cans, and the donations went straight to the trunk of my car to be taken to Goodwill later. I even set alarms in my phone for three days after each purge, and that alarm was my deadline—I had to take the stuff to Goodwill by that date or it had to be thrown away. Creating a “no excuses” setup for myself helped me follow through and increased my success for sure.

8. I removed my crutch.

I think we all have a room, a closet, or at least a cupboard where we throw all the junk we’ll “get to later” and shut the door when company comes over. I had an entire room that was a clutter catch-all, and when I wasn’t finished cleaning and a friend was dropping by or when I didn’t know what to do with something that was in the room I was decluttering, I’d throw it in that room and shut the door, telling myself I’d deal with it later.

But later kept being pushed out later and later, and I found myself using this room as a crutch. I knew I could procrastinate making decisions about the hard stuff by putting it in this room “for later.” I noticed my pattern and saw that if I didn’t man up, I was never really going to deal with it. I wanted to purge my home, not purge certain things and transfer the hard stuff from one room to another.

I made a note on my calendar that on my next two purging dates, I was going to tackle that room. Once I did it (it was exhausting because it held all the sentimental, hard things I’d been avoiding) I felt like a new person. A weight was lifted and I could breathe in big, deep sighs. So worth it! After I did this, my decluttering started to go much quicker, and I found making decisions about my items to be much easier.

9. I tackled the little things.

A photo posted by Allie Casazza (@allie_thatsme) on

Once I’d done the playroom, dishes, laundry, and my clutter catch-all room, I felt like the biggest areas were done and I started focusing on the smaller things. Kitchen utensils, jewelry, shoes, the things in my laundry room, lingerie, the kids’ artwork, photos, the pile of mail I’d been avoiding, etc.

This just kept the snowball rolling and had my house looking noticeably uncluttered. 

This is when people really started to take notice of how my house had changed and how I had transformed as a person. I just felt so much better about everything and it leaked through my smile.

10. I purged as I went about my day.

Once the big things and small details were under control, I found the rest of the house to be really easy and began purging things as I went about my normal cleaning routine (which was much smaller and lighter now—yay!). I would go through the house in ten-minute chunks and pick up, purging things we no longer needed as I went.

For example, when I would do my normal living room pick up before we sat down for dinner, I would grab an empty hamper (one of my fave little tricks!) and put anything I saw that we didn’t need in it. Then I’d dump the items in a trash bag to be donated later that week. The great thing about getting to this point is that you’re in a rhythm.

Purging is no longer a soul-sucking, time-consuming, dreaded task you have to push through. It’s second nature and just a way of life for you.

My kids even got used to it and started saying things like, “Hey Mom, I never play with these cars anymore. Can we give them to someone else?” It was awesome.

(Note: don’t let go of your weekly purging dates with yourself yet though! You still need to make those happen so you don’t lose steam and slowly get back to where you were.)

Those are the main steps that took me from Point A to Point B in my de-cluttering process, but a lot of other things have helped me maintain this lifestyle.Purging is like getting healthy. If you do it like a diet, you’ll just gain back all the clutter and end up totally discouraged, having wasted your valuable time on something you didn’t keep up. If you treat it as a mindset, as a lifestyle change you’re implementing for good, you’re going to stick to your guns and keep the weight off. ?

You have to learn to be intentional about what you allow in your home.

Everything that takes up your space takes away some amount of your time, and you’ll really see that once you start getting uncluttered. When we are intentional, we give or throw away the things that find their way into our space that aren’t needed or loved, we work with our families to create a clean space we can make memories and be present in, and we go against the grain by asking “why?” about everything we consider bringing home.

If you’re wanting to really dive in and make this happen in your life, I’m excited for you! It’s so worth it, it changed the course of my entire life and led to more time, more adventures, and more focus on my family. I’m very grateful for and passionate about minimalism.

For a full guide to show you exactly how to declutter every room, every area of your home and end up at Point B, check out Allie’s course and coaching program.

Psst! Check out Allie’s free guide to decluttering your laundry and dishes here.

A version of this article was originally published on The Purposeful Housewife.

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Starting your child on solids can be a daunting process. Between the mixed advice that seems to come from every angle ("Thanks, Grandma, but pretty sure one dessert is enough…") to the at-times picky palates of our little ones, it can be tough on a mama trying to raise a kid with a sophisticated palate.

But raising an adventurous eater doesn't have to be a chore. In partnership with our friends at Raised Real, here are eight tips to naturally encourage your child to nibble and taste with courage.

1. Keep an open mind. 

As the parent, you set the tone for every bite. So stay positive! Raised Real makes it easy to work new and exciting ingredients into every meal, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice modeling open-minded eating. Instead of saying, "You might not like this" or "It's okay if you don't like it" from the start, keep your tone upbeat—or simply serve new dishes without any fanfare at all. (Toddlers can smell a tough sell from a mile away.) Either way, let your child decide for themselves how they feel about new dishes.

2. Show mealtime some respect. 

Spend less time in the kitchen and more time together at the table with Raised Real meals, which come prepped and ready to steam and blend. They're even delivered to your door—because they know how busy you are, mama. Think about it: Do you enjoy a meal you've had to rush through? Keep meals relaxed and let your child savor and taste one bite at a time to take any potential anxiety out of the equation. (This may mean you need to set aside more time than you think for dinner.)

3. Serve the same (vibrant) dish to the whole family.

Don't fall into the "short-order cook" trap. Instead of cooking a different meal for every family member, serve one dish that everyone can enjoy. Seeing his parents eating a dish can be a simple way to encourage your little one to take a bite, even if he's never tried it before. Since Raised Real meals are made with real, whole ingredients, they can be the perfect inspiration for a meal you serve to the whole family.

4. Get kids involved in prepping the meal.

Raised Real's ingredients are simple to prepare, meaning even little hands can help with steaming and blending. When children help you cook, they feel more ownership over the food—and less like they're being forced into eating something unfamiliar. As they grow, have your children help with washing and stirring, while bigger kids can peel, season, and even chop with supervision. Oftentimes, they'll be so proud of what they've made they won't be able to wait to try it.

5. Minimize snacking and calorie-laden drinks before meals. 

Serving a new ingredient? Skip the snacks. Hungry kids are less picky kids, so make sure they're not coming to the table full when you're introducing a new flavor. It's also a good idea to serve in courses and start with the unfamiliar food when they're hungriest to temper any potential resistance.

6. Don’t be afraid to introduce seasoning!  

Raised Real meals come with fresh seasonings already added in so you can easily turn up the flavor. Cinnamon, basil, turmeric, and cumin are all great flavors to pique the palate from an early age, and adding a dash or two to your recipes can spice up an otherwise simple dish.

7. Make “just one bite” the goal. 

Don't stress if your toddler isn't cleaning their plate—if he's hungry, he'll eat. Raised Real meals are designed to train the palate, so even a bite or two can get the job done. Right now the most important thing is to broaden their horizons with new flavors.

8. Try and try and try again. 

Kids won't always like things the first time. (It can take up to 20 tries!) If your child turns up her nose at tikka masala the first time, that doesn't mean she'll never care for Indian food. So don't worry. And be sure to try every ingredient again another day—or the next time you get it in your Raised Real meal box!

Still not sure where to start? Raised Real takes the guesswork out of introducing a variety of solids by delivering dietician-designed, professionally prepped ingredients you simply steam, blend, and serve (or skip the blending for toddlers who are ready for finger foods)—that's why they're our favorite healthy meal hack for kids.

Raising an adventurous eating just got a whole lot simpler, mama.

This article is sponsored by Raised Real. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I wasn't supposed to be a stay-at-home mom.

Or, to put it another way, I wasn't supposed to be a year-round, stay-at-home mom. My husband and I live in Los Angeles, and our rent and monthly bills require two paychecks.

By the time our son Ryan was born, I had been teaching for seven years. And there was no question that I'd continue to teach. Other teacher-moms told me that teaching was the "perfect" career for parents.

"Once he starts school, you and your son will have the same hours each day."

"You'll always be available when he's got a random day off from school."

"You'll spend vacations together."

"You know what your schedule is year-round. It's not like other jobs, where your schedule changes on a weekly basis."

Like my husband's schedule. Paul's retail career didn't provide the same consistent schedule, week after week, that my teaching career did. While Paul's schedule could be erratic, I would provide Ryan with a reliable, fixed routine.

And my colleagues were right.

Aside from a few exceptions, such as Parent-Teacher Conferences and Back-to-School Night, Ryan and I would have dinner together each night. I imagined us doing "homework" together each afternoon—Ryan doing actual homework, me grading my students' homework.

Because there are 180 school days, theoretically, that means that the other half of the year, I'd spend with Ryan. But again, there were some exceptions. I usually spent quite a bit of time each summer attending conferences, workshops, and professional developments. I always returned to my classroom several days before the start of the new school year to get everything ready.

Still, teaching would continue to provide our family with a needed second income, feed my passion for teaching, and allow me the opportunity to spend considerable time with my son each day, all year long.

If Ryan attended the same small, local elementary school where I taught, I'd never have to choose between my students and my son. We'd come and go to school together, I'd watch him walk with his class in our school's Halloween Parade, and he'd watch me walk with mine. I'd hear him and his class sing holiday songs during our winter performance, and he'd hear my class.

That was the plan.

But while Ryan was a preschooler, the plan changed.

I got sick with a "mystery illness" that took doctors almost a year and a half to diagnose. Eventually, my rheumatologist determined I suffered from Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, an autoimmune disease. I tried to pretend that my disease didn't impact my life or require any major lifestyle changes. But I couldn't keep up the pretense. So, in 2013, after a 12-year teaching career, I retired due to a disability.

I wasn't merely forced to give up my career. I had to give up my passion. I was now thrust into the role of year-round, stay-at-home mom, and I wasn't completely sure how to do it.

Thankfully, my disability check would continue to provide us with some income and the matching schedules Ryan had grown accustomed to would continue as well. But there were a lot of changes.

I had never before been the person to take Ryan to preschool. That job had always fallen to either our nanny or Paul. Now, I had to learn the timetable for breakfast, and the morning routine of getting washed, dressed, and out of the house.

I also had to figure out what to do after preschool. When I was teaching, I came home in the late afternoon. Ryan and I had some play time and shortly after that, we would begin our nightly evening routine. Now, with preschool ending at two o'clock each afternoon, we would have hours together before it was time for dinner.

How would I fill that time?

I knew how to lesson plan for a class of 30-plus students. I knew how to fill school days with a mix of whole-group instruction, independent work, and cooperative group work. I had a pacing plan to adhere to, standards and concepts that I was mandated to teach on a

timetable to prepare my students for periodic assessments and yearly standardized testing. But how would I organize a single day that involved just Ryan and me?

Many colleagues told me to find the silver lining. I had a disability, but I had also been given a gift—the opportunity to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. While that was true, it came at a price.

I felt confused because I wasn't accepting my new role with complete enthusiasm and pure delight. I alternated between feelings of guilt, anger, and frustration because it wasn't my choice. My doctor and the state of California told me I could no longer teach. And when someone tells you that you can or cannot do something, it means something entirely different than when the choice is your own.

While I love my son and am honored to be his mother, I didn't know how to reconcile the fact that mothering had now become my primary job every day. I wasn't sure how to accept and make sense of my new identity. Disabled woman. Former Teacher. Stay-at-home mom.

I've slowly come to realize that I'm still a teacher, but now my student roster consists of one, my son, and my classroom isn't always a room. Sometimes it's the library. Sometimes it's our kitchen. Sometimes it's our backyard.

Sometimes it's enough. Sometimes it isn't. But it is always an adventure.

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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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Jessica Simpson will soon join the mom of three club! The singer-turned-fashion mogul announced on Instagram today that she is expecting a baby girl.

"This little baby girl will make us a family of five," said Simpson, who shares 6-year-old Maxwell and 5-year-old Ace with husband Eric Johnson. "We couldn't be happier to announce this precious blessing of life."

The news may come as a surprise to Simpson's fans, considering she's been pretty vocal about feeling as though her family was complete. "I have two beautiful children, and I'm not having a third," she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2017. "They're too cute. You can't top that."

Earlier this year, Simpson revealed to Entertainment Tonight she had developed a case of baby fever, but said it would "definitely have to be a miracle" to have a third baby. Today's joyful announcement is proof that plans can change and that's part of the fun of life. All that really matters is that Simpson's family—including the two big siblings—certainly seem excited.

Besides, the designer of a line for Motherhood Maternity shouldn't have any problem with being just as fashionable as ever through her third pregnancy. 😉

Congrats to the growing family!

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Pumpkin spice lattes are here and the weather is getting chillier. That can only mean one thing—Halloween is near! Whether you're a fan of the holiday or not, there's simply nothing more precious than dressing up your baby or toddler in an adorable costume.

Today only, Target has up to 40% off Halloween costumes for the entire family. We rounded up the cutest picks from the baby + toddler departments—check 'em out. 😍

Toddler Halloween Costumes: Shark

Shark costume, $15.00 (was $25.00)


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