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Home management tips

Renee Ellison's tools for effectively managing your home--including finance and domestic skills..

Response to the current “Tiny House” discussion

Thursday, 19. February 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Everyone, simply everyone, has to conquer the housing issue in their life.  The sooner we homeschooling parents can ground our high schoolers with this immutable reality, the better.  Housing is like gravity: the need for it doesn’t go away even if we attempt to wish it away, or try to avoid facing it indefinitely.  Having an early strong financial goal of conquering this fixed need in our lives will help clobber the temptation to spend money on trivia (a tendency that can go on for several decades), or to waste money on rent, and will help to marshal our stray hours into a compelling purpose to get this “over with”.  Unbeknownst to most of the public discussion on this topic, it can be gotten “over with”—if we play our early years wisely.

Just the other day there was an article in World Net Daily that said, “How an emerging adult spends the first ten LABOR years of their lives will determine the rest of their lives.”  Conquering the housing/land problem early in life gives a person freedoms down the road that are unimaginable to him when he is still youngWhere we conquer obtaining this housing/land package is always important, but it’s not the most important thing initially; one can always swap/rent/improve/sell/trade up that starter position.  It is when one doesn’t work at building the starter nest-egg—that is what can sink someone into mortgage debt for the rest of life.  The root of the word mortgage is morgue—i.e. death.  A mortgage is an agreement with death.  The vast majority of our culture makes this covenant with death, which many often enter cavalierly as they eagerly sign their first mortgage, not realizing the full extent of what they are doing.

Now some thoughts regarding the current public discussion about tiny houses:
The sheer number of books and YouTube videos touting the glories of a tiny house indicate that the trend is mushrooming.  The Tiny House movement may be an over-reaction to our culture’s run-away materialism, and is certainly nothing new. The elderly have been downsizing for decades.  Let’s examine more closely what it belies.  Is it not evidence perhaps that the capacity to live is shrinking?  One simply doesn’t need more spacious housing if one’s productivity is slowing down, if one’s engagements are falling off, if one’s social life is drying up (visitors come less often), and/or if “taking dominion” over life’s possibilities and family building is not the goal.  Young adults could go about it the other way—building a large metal shed and then tucking a warm livable space into a corner of it—so that there is no limit on one’s endeavors.  In a warehouse, expansion possibilities exist from the get-go; there is no ceiling upon who one can become and what one can do.  Entrepreneurialism is fast becoming a smarter option than lifetime-debtor-slavery to colleges.  The excitement in living is to actually DO something.  To actually do anything, and to be home-centric in doing it—loving your own environment instead of living like a vagabond all over town—one needs space.

A tiny house works great for a single person who largely conducts business somewhere else and only needs a YMCA or youth hostel-type cot for the night.  The minute you put two people in such an arrangement, however—let alone one’s first squalling baby—all bets are off for its long range workability.  Tight living quarters will eventually (if not on the first day) create more stress for two humans—though flocks of animals seem to be able to handle it okay.

Therefore, might we be starting off the discussion about housing on the weaker end of the stick?  Let’s face it: a person can live in anythingIs not the more significant consideration the land on which the home rests?  This is something it seems we’ve forgotten, but something the pioneers heading west totally grasped.  We might need to re-discover this in our modern lives.  “If I can just get me a plot of land” was the insatiable appetite of the young in the early days of the development of any country.

One could build the most fabulous tiny house imaginable, but if the land issue wasn’t settled beforehand, perplexities will assertively present themselves the day after it is finished as to where to set it.  Here is the problem: if a person lives on someone else’s land (ostensibly for “free”) they’ll trade financial woes for relational woes.  Sure-shootin’.  They’ll walk around under constant guilt/anxiety about the hour when the relationship may go south—the love tires, grows weary, impatient, the landlords suddenly change, or the landlord’s plans change (e.g. he just lost HIS job, has to move to take care of HIS parents), and any number of unforeseeable variables.  Anxieties without number can begin to mount about all of the surrounding housing/living details: parked cars, the condition of the grounds immediately around the tiny house, the volume of the music, the use of drugs and alcohol, and whose responsibility it is to shovel the snow or repair the broken fence.  The responsibility fog/load gets murky in a hurry.  When one’s living situation hinges on the benevolence of someone else (one’s garage “free-land-lord”, or “free” driveway benefactor) one’s anxieties don’t go away.  Such a person trades mortgage anxieties for interpersonal anxieties and finds that he still is not free.

To be truly free, one could restructure the discussion to look for the land first.  Secure the plot, first, even if it is on the backside of a remote village.  And while beginning the search, look for one thing in particular—a good supply of good clean water.  Is its source secure?  Is the well or the supply infrastructure already secure?  Don’t settle for the hope of having water, or the maybe of having a future water infrastructure “coming to the area”.  Is the water polluted?  How polluted?  Before you plop down your first nickel, be sure of your water situation (and, additionally, make sure that the land is not built over a mine-shaft, a uranium deposit or an area where an oil rig may show up and start drilling).  In other words, don’t mince questions over what is underneath the land.  Nothing, however, is as important as the water issue.  Under an EMP attack, surely nothing else matters as much.  So disregard the gorgeous housing magazines and keep your head on.  You can’t drink a view.

Then build your tiny house—erect your tent—buy your RV; you can upgrade through the years.  By the way, in most cases, the only difference between an RV and your tiny house is looks, mobility (a tiny house is not intended for frequent movement, whereas an RV could move to a different slot each night) and the depth of your passion to control the configuration of the layout.  Die to your perfectionisms and you can save yourself a chapter of having to become a construction manager—a career/field most people know nothing about, will spend inordinate hours brooding over, and still wind up with mistakes and oops common to newbies in any field—to say nothing of having to wear a hammer on your belt for double the time you had planned upon.

The truly winning strategy to be financially free for a lifetime, in terms of your housing?  Start with where—and then, downstream, think through your what.  For more on this topic, read our 10 Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Got Free of House Debt and Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.

Picture source (and for more information): Cozy Tiny House.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Entrepreneurialism vs. entitlement

Wednesday, 11. February 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Our society has raised a generation of entitlement thinkers.  Children want something for nothing, and they grow into adults who want something for nothing.  In the American ghetto, sadly, we now have three generations who have sat around their family dinner table talking about their welfare checks.  Meanwhile, quietly, immigrants both now and from yesteryear rolled up their sleeves and got to work and worked themselves out of the American ghetto in one generation.  The immigrants slept on the floor in the back of their shops and now own the buildings that house those same shops…while their American counterparts continued a life of poverty and grew their entitlement mentality.

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychologist who worked in the ghettos of the U.K., says that often “poverty is what we carry around between our two ears.”  It breeds itself in our thought life.  See his eye-opening book: Life at the Bottom.

As a nation, we are “hand-out-foolish.”  Think of how our country could be improved if we required commensurate work for every welfare check we handed out.  We could say as a nation, “Yes, you can have money: there will always be money for the individual who will give us work in exchange.”  How ‘bout that for a policy?!

Recipients of government benefits could improve our country’s roads, spotlessly clean bathrooms in all of our government buildings, plant trees, pick up trash along roads, pick weeds, do maintenance repairs on old equipment, etc, etc.

Here is the problem.  Entitlement programs work until you run out of taxpayers.  Then you have a disaster on your hands.

A few years ago, outraged college students took over their college president’s office because they wanted future students of The Cooper Union to continue receiving a free education.  The impasse lasted 65 days.  The institution was over-extended and in debt by $17 million through a series of poor decisions.  The ideology was unsustainable in the real world.  Free means someone hidden is footing the bill.  Nothing is ever free.  The president and the professors should have walked off their jobs, turned the lights out, and left the students with the bills, but they didn’t, because their own entitlement mentality got the best of them (the president thought there was nothing unconscionable about receiving a salary of nearly $800,000 and getting free use of an elegant townhome in New York).  Their fragile inflated salaries, fabricated out of cotton candy dynamics, were at stake.  While the fountain of illusion still flowed they wanted to be there to fill up their jugs.  And so the impasse remained an impasse.

By the way, US college student loan debt has surpassed a trillion dollars.  To put that into graspable terms: if a business started at the time of the birth of Christ, and was open every day since, and accrued debt at the rate of one million dollars per day, it would be 700 years from now before that business would have a debt of one trillion dollars.

Whatever happened to the biblical mandate, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat”?  Squeeze our current ideology, thoroughly wring it out for all its worth, and eventually we’ll be plunged back into the 19th century.  Someone has to work to make the raw materials, ship the raw materials, make them into salable products, retail them, etc.  If we lie down on the job anywhere along the line (as we’ve now done in our society) we’ll derail for good.

The root of this entitlement problem is that most youth (and much of the adult general population) of today have never run a business.  Start with entrepreneurial training of your children and you can turn this ship around, at least for your family.  It begins with the lemonade stand.  Teach your children that they never get to keep the whole dollar.  They have to work to get the dollar to begin with, but then they have to pay for their supplies before they walk home with profits.  Tell them before they set up the stand that you will be asking for money out of their profits to replenish your supplies—that they will be paying you for the paper cups, the sugar, and the lemons.  Teach them what economies are all about by encouraging them to have realistic experiences with small businesses of their own.  Then compliment them, inspire them, give them enlarging tips and opportunities, and you’ll have done your part to grow some business muscle in our nation.

Entitlement or entrepreneurialism?  Take your pick and live with your outcomes.  For a further impassioned discussion of this matter listen to Renee’s half-hour radio program on Sunday, 2/15/15 at 10:00 RMST on Messianic Lamb Radio or return to this site to hear the archived program at any time afterwards.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Tips for improving the functionality of your home

Sunday, 25. January 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Here are tips for tweaking your home accessories to enhance your ability to work and teach more easily.  Make your home and its objects serve you, rather than you serving them.

Lap boards:
It’s handy to have a few stiff lap boards (12x12”) to use underneath each child’s work, while sitting on the couch with mama.  We just jerk the covers of old large children’s books from the thrift store to use for these stiff boards.  Reinforce the corners with a piece of duct tape to keep them from fraying.

Slant boards for kids:
Setting these on the study table lifts the child’s work up at a slant which makes it easier to read.

Card table and booster seat:
With a smaller child, use a booster seat and a grownup’s card table.  Mama scoots the light card table up to the child as tightly as it needs to be for the child’s easy arm movement.  This is far easier than attempting to move the already seated child up to the tablet.  Mama sits at the card table with her child for good tight focused learning.

Because a homeschooling mom is often working in the kitchen at the same time that she is schooling—double-whamming her time—let’s look at two ideas for the kitchen, too.

Kitchen trash can-ease:
Have two open trash cans in the kitchen, making it easy to toss trash in quickly without having to constantly open lower cupboard doors or mess with removing or tilting trash can lids.  The ideal size is 15x14x8.5”.  Why is that ideal?  Because standard grocery store checkout bags fit in these containers, saving you from having to purchase bags, and they are light enough for the children to carry to empty often (this teaches them responsibility at an early age) and to notice when it needs emptying, because it’s not hidden.

Set these two receptacles side by side on the edge between the kitchen and the adjacent work/dining/study room.  One of these cans is used primarily for kitchen garbage, the other for homeschooling paper trash and craft trash.  The secret bonus?  Both are available for either use, at all times.

“Easy-on-your-back” work surfaces:
Create three work levels in your kitchen.  One level is the height of a 5-gallon plastic bucket (actually use a 5-gallon bucket for that level, with its lid on; it will be 17” high).  Use this level to set your trashcan upon when in use to peel carrots or potatoes so that the peels fall right into the trash can; this eliminates the step of scooping peelings from the sink and it ensures that the peelings make it into the trash because it is right underneath you (impossible to miss).

The next level is achieved by using a little cart with wheels, ideally 26” high.  Place your blender upon this level.  This enables you to look down into your blender when you’re stuffing it with produce, and it allows your arm to fully extend downward when you’re hand-mixing a bowl of batter, for example—far easier and more restful on your arm than stirring with your arm bent at higher levels.

Your final work surface height is your normal kitchen counter, measuring something like 35”.  You’ll love transferring from surface to surface, depending upon the need at hand.

Any improvement that saves wear and tear on mama is worth it—especially when it uses something you already have or that you can find inexpensively, like these suggestions.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Constructing your home’s “Wall of Education”

Friday, 02. January 2015 by Renee Ellison

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You’ve heard of the halls of education?  Well, here now, we’ll be constructing the wall of education smile : a wall dedicated only to home schooling materials.  Nothing else is allowed to even be set there.

Assemble it simply with long boards and cinderblocks.  Create a headspace of about 12 inches between shelves and build it only about 3 to 3.5 feet high.  This whole structure is totally portable; you can move it whenever you have to.

Now this is what you put in, on and above it:


In it:
Set each of your Sterlite™ box totes into a cubby hole assigned to each child with his name labeled on that shelf.  He is always to return his box exactly there.  Nothing else is to be kept in these cubby holes or totes—only immediate academic materials and their current reading book and bible.  Underneath each tote, slid directly under the tote spine-side facing out.  (This tilts their totes slightly upward and inward—an added plus.  In these notebooks will go all artwork and writings.  No free floating papers in their totes!

On it:
• The clean long surface on the top of the bookcase which ends up being about waist height—will now be filled in with this stuff:
• A box of the EXTRA paces, that they aren’t currently working on—all labeled according to subject and grade levels with taller stiffer paper between each section.
• A three-hole punch
• A box of scratch paper
• Spare pencils, colored pencils, scissors, tape and markers.
• And multiple approved recreational reading books, with bookends (covered bricks hold them nicely).

Above it:
• A large flat paper map of the world
• A large clock
• A large wall non-gloss calendar that can be easily written on
• A schooling chart (made of 1/2 inch graph paper) with all of the children’s names down the left side and all the topics across the top—a red marker tied to a long string and nailed next to it to mark off their work as they do it each day.  This frees mom up from keeping track of it all.  All she has to do is look at the large chart and presto she knows what each child has done and not done.
Zoom-Type• Little yellow art book (ask me about that)

(optional—but a really good idea, as described in an earlier post—a visible progress board (just a section of that wall…no actual board) dedicated to Mom and/or Dad’s progress on their big projects.  You put up Post-it notes directly on the wall of what is left to do—one item per Post-it note—written in large print with a marker—(no pen or pencil—can’t see such writing a foot away)—when you get an idea, or remember another next step that you’d forgotten, you write it down and post it up there—all future steps are written out up there—then as each step is accomplished it is taken off the wall and put at the bottom of the wall—so that you can see the stack grow at the bottom of all you accomplished.  This is a simple, marvelous, easy tracking system.)

Nearby:
A piano keyboard set nearby that has headsets—sparing the mama and papa from hearing beginning practicing by the younger set.  A practice chart directly above it with all the children’s names on it, and what they are to practice next.

Voilá—more academic organization than you ever dreamed—now in place—you’ve got your “horse to ride” sitting right in the stall—and YOU DID IT!

Filed Under: Home management tips

15 power tips for organizing your home

Friday, 26. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Organizing your home deeply and thoroughly has some hidden pluses for your emotions. Decluttering and arranging helps clarify you.  As you do it, you discover where your subliminal goals are headed: “There’s no time for [this] or [that]”, or “I’ve lost interest in this or that”.  The action of organizing takes people who are struggling with depression, out of that depression in a hurry.  Gaining order in your home makes you feel on top of things (instead of under them), and moves your life forward, positioning your past where it should be—in your past—defined and drastically pared down.  Further, you just plain feel happier sitting down in the midst of a very organized home, tickled every time you open a drawer or a cupboard.  An organized environment is invigorating.  Your entire family feels its effects.

To accomplish this, a person must say no to other activities for a brief while to provide more time to do it.  We all make time only by prioritizing time.  Action clobbers negative emotions.  Motion creates e-motion.  Here’s how to start that motion:

1.  To conquer that overwhelmed feeling, just move in that direction.  Take a baby step.  Sort and organize some little corner, or some little box of something, and you’ll find you take off like a rocket.  Unfortunately, that overwhelmed feeling may remain an obstacle each time you start.  Overcome it by applying the same strategy tomorrow: just “go”, move, vamoose, and soon you’ll have a trail of finished organization—in your wake—behind you.  Even 15 minutes of “organization attack” a day will work wonders in your home.

2.  Visual clarity is the goal of all organizing.  You must be able to see everything at a moment’s glance.  No more rummaging for anything.  For example, according to this line of thinking, you don’t want to stack t-shirts, you want to roll them so that you see the spine of all the colors at once.  You don’t want to put cans of food behind other cans of food, you want to make risers for cans so that you see all three rows at once.  You don’t want to stuff scarves or belts into a drawer, you want to perhaps clip them on a hanger so that you remove one hanger and see them all at once, or roll them.

3.  Files are most often just stand up trash.  Purge your files.  Label well the ones that survive.

4.  Label all boxers and containers on the end that you see first, as you approach.  Label everything.  When labeling glass jars, get a large roll of white electrician’s tape to use as the base of all of your labels.  Put a piece of this down first, on your glass.  Then attach your lettered label on top, making it slightly shorter than the white electrician’s tape, or write right on the electrician’s tape with a black marker.  Cover it with a shorter piece of scotch tape, too, to keep your writing from smudging off.  Then whenever you want to change the label you pull off the electrician’s tape and it all comes right off easily—no time wasted picking and poking off an old paper label.  For cardboard boxes you can attach 2 strips of electrician’s tape about five and 1/2 inches apart. Then scotch tape your 3X5 card label on top of that; that way when you go to pull off your label it doesn’t pull off a patch of cardboard box with it.  The scotch tape that you have on both ends of your card is only attached to the top of the electrician’s tape.  Or just use 3X5 cards and don’t care if they pull off a patch of cardboard smile .

5.  Overcome reaching obstacles.  If you have to move things to get at things, put things that are seldom needed in those areas, or re-hang a door (of a room, fridge, or cupboard) to open in the opposite direction if that would make access more convenient.

6.  We use 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time.  Therefore, put hot things in hot spots.  This one tip alone will revolutionize your home.  Store your most used stuff efficiently, within optimal reach.

7.  Think about your containers.  Corral your stuff into pleasant looking containers.  Records boxes (no larger than one cubic foot) are the best.  They are inexpensive at only $2.00 a box—cheaper than most plastic containers by far.  The lids are super easy to take off and on.  And the uniformity of how they look all stacked up or spread throughout the house makes you feel neat and organized.  This is far better than an assortment of random cardboard grocery store boxes with four-flap lids; those look messy and are a pain to open and close.  Then proceed to little containers within containers—all labeled.  Little containers in all drawers and cupboards will organize things beautifully.  Under the bathroom sink, use the space on both sides of the drain pipe by using narrow containers lifted up higher than your front containers.  To achieve this, put your “to-be-used-containers” on top of other “not-to-be-used” containers turned upside down, as stands for the top container.  You can also use bricks or narrow cardboard boxes or old plastic storage containers for these unseen risers.

8.  Obtain more instant space.  You can purchase plastic bed risers to put under the legs of each bed, thereby obtaining instant increased space to organize into, there, as well as install a ceiling shelf around the top of a room in your house or down a hallway—these fit neatly over your door jambs and provide enough space to tuck scores of additional records boxes up there.  Use shelf boards that are 12 inches deep.

8.  Put like things together.

9.  Purge books that you will never read again or that are easily obtained from libraries.  Purge old college textbooks and notes.  Purge jars and unneeded dishware.

10.  Use only plastic hangers in your closets, for a uniform neat look.  Pitch the wire ones.  Put containers in the bottom and top of your closet so that you can see everything at a glance.  Obtain a little two-step folding ladder to use to retrieve all your high-up storage.

11.  Re-think your outfits.  Don’t have 13 outfits that all say the same thing.  Make your outfits different enough to merit keeping those clothes.  Think only 8 (maximum) nice (well thought-through from head to toe) outfits for “public”; having 8 (instead of 7) puts you ahead one day each week in your rotation so that no one ever sees the same outfit for 8 weeks (two months) if you attend the same gathering/meeting every week.  (Perspective: when George Mueller clothed 10,000 orphans he had only three outfits for each child: their Sabbath outfit, one to wear, and one to wash during the week.)

12.  In with the new; out with the old. When one new thing enters the home, one old thing has to go—whether it be a purse, a magazine, shoes, a serving dish, etc.

13.  Mat both the outside and inside of both your front and back doors.  The more dirt that is trapped in these mats, the less dirt there will be on the floor.

14.  Use command hooks anywhere you need to hang things for easy retrieval—i.e. extension cords, bag of clothes pins, etc.  These are super easy to apply.

15.  Pack your cupboards with more food staples—food that is stable, that is good for you, and that you like to eat.  Food is only going to get more expensive and more difficult to find.

In conclusion, remember that the goal of organization is visual clarity.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Finding the best mattress for your health

Sunday, 21. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

Has your mattress lost its zing?  Is one of you slumping toward the center of your bed because of the weight of the other one in bed at night?  Are your arms falling asleep or tingling in the night?  Is your mattress reflecting heat back at you all night long?  Are allergens and chemicals in your mattress giving your immune system fits?  Do you feel the effects of metal in your mattress and box spring?

When you lie on memory foam (e.g., ComforPedic® by Beautyrest®) is it comfortable but toxic smelling?  Studies are revealing health problems that seem to be coming from metal and petrochemicals in bed mattresses.  One such report is an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola.  Perhaps you yourself have experienced increasing problems sleeping on the traditional mattress with its coil springs, fire-retardant chemicals, and petrochemical-produced gels and foams.  If that’s where you are, we have saved you mega-hours of research, if you want to a solution that will have no side-effects.

Bottom line: SleepEZ.com is a third-generation family business in Phoenix that produces one of the best mattresses in the marketplace today.  From our considerable research, we think they offer the best value for the money, too.  Plus, by spending your money with this company you are directly supporting families that operate a U.S. factory.

Here are the key findings from our mattress research:
Choose organic/natural latex from a company that will answer your every question with promptness, honesty and clarity.  There are scores of competitors out there, and there are many variables.  Is it necessary for it to be Certified Organic; will it suffice to know that the latex is natural, grown and produced by a source that does not include the use of pesticides and petrochemicals?  What are the differences between memory foam and latex foam, and how could the two be combined (as some companies claim to do—apparently falsely so)?  Is the company marketing aggressively?  You’ll know: you’ve been doing Internet searches and suddenly your screen is blotted with recurrent excess ads from an aggressive company.  Is the company making claims that are getting it in trouble with the law, or that lie to you (claiming to be the only seller of a certain type of mattress), or charge too much, etc.? 

What is the flame-retardant the company uses (to meet federal safety requirements)?  (The MSDS for Kevlar, for instance, states that fibrils of the material, if inhaled will cause lung damage; moreover, it would release some toxic gases if it burned.)  Is the sales/marketing department separate from the people who make the mattresses?  Are they rude to you, unresponsive, and unpleasant to deal with after you’ve made the sale?  Are glues used in the manufacture of the mattress?  (Avoid those, too.)  Do you want the Dunlop processed latex or the Talalay method of manufacturing the foam?

We feel confident that we have at last obtained the best solution for the bed that is best for our health.  Our choice is confirmed by scores of testimonials at themattressunderground.com.  The moderator of that site noted that he believes SleepEZ “compete[s] well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, and service.”

One of the many things we like about the SleepEZ mattresses is that they are modular.  You build your own—and you can order a queen or king bed mattress with separate side-by-side segments, enabling you to have a firmer combination on one side and softer on the other, plus the ease of moving the smaller sections as opposed to hefting one heavy mattress.  You might like to get the top layer as one piece; you could always cut it apart with industrial scissors or an electric knife, later, if you want to.

Shawn, the President of SleepEZ, personally answers phone calls, and talks knowingly about every aspect of the selection.  (Read what customers are saying about him at http://www.sleepez.com/testimonals.htm.)  He asks 3 questions about each of you—weight, height and sleeping pattern (side, back, front sleeper)—and then designs the layers to fit that.  From our many phone conversations with him, each of which he answered patiently, helpfully, and with integrity, we discovered there would be little benefit in having four 3’ thick layers rather than three.  He explained that you wouldn’t actually feel down to that fourth layer unless you weigh 300 pounds or more.  People pick the four-layer mattress more for the visual appeal—a more commanding presence in the room.  The same effect could be gained by lifting your bed by putting its legs on inexpensive plastic bed risers.

These foams are made from trees, not from petrochemicals, and are not glued (which could introduce toxic chemicals); instead, the core substance was washed and rinsed several times, and then the the latex was baked and frozen.  In these beds there are absolutely no allergens—no VOC’s—and the bed feels super comfortable.  Further, if you choose a variety of firmness levels for the layers (soft, medium and hard) you can keep rearranging the hardness of the three layers even after the mattress is in your bedroom.

Knowing what we do about fabric frequencies (as noted at LifeGivingLinen.com), we like the option of an all-organic-cotton cover for the mattress and for the wooden frame beneath it, rather than mixing cotton and wool which would cause the signature frequencies of the materials (plant kingdom and animal kingdom) to cancel each other out.  Instead of a cotton/wool blend, a better option in our opinion is their cotton/rayon cover (all in the plant kingdom; something general research has not caught up with yet; a bonus insight smile ).

In summary, uncovering and settling the bed problem is a great way of improving your health odds.

In exchange for our extensive research on this topic, which saves you time, if you go with SleepEZ, do us a favor and say that Renee Ellison referred you and they will give us a wee cut for bulk orders.  It costs the very same to you, whether you mention our name or not.  SleepEZ will treat you very well; their customer service is extraordinary. Other mattress companies we dealt with were downright irritating.

Our own results of sleeping on a Sleep EZ Talalay 9” foam latex mattress?
Thanks to SleepEZ, we have had the best night’s sleep in a long time.  AND we had fun in setting it up.  The day our mattress and foundation arrived, the two of us had a blast assembling it.  It was so good to see what is actually inside the bed we’re sleeping on.  No doubt it would be fun to watch a video of a couple unpacking and setting up their bed—lying on each level of mattress softness as they laid it down, and oohing and aahing about how nice it is, how soft, how it doesn’t smell, how ingenious its design is, how it breathes, how flexible it is in terms of adjusting the level of firmness and softness, etc.  We doubt that anyone sets up one of these beds in silence!

The SleepEZ organic bed is amazing—dreamlike—everything we ever wanted in a bed—superb in every way.  We sleep soundly, and don’t awake with a metallic taste in our mouths as was the case when sleeping on a prior purchase of a new coil-spring mattress.  The foundation, too, is made in the United States, and is equally ingenious in its design and in the ease of its assembly, using no tools.  You simply can’t go wrong with these mattresses—and this company!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Feeling overwhelmed? Use a visible project board to get more done with less mental effort

Monday, 15. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Feeling overwhelmed as a homeschooling mom?  Here is an instant project board idea that will free up your brain from having to carry so much.  This idea works in and through your zooey schedule and your constant demands for multi-tasking.  For most of us, sometimes it is hard enough just to make it through the day, let alone progress with any additional projects we would like to accomplish ourselves.  In just a few seconds you can set up an easy, do-able project board that can help you get going.  This wall-board will enable you to visualize what you need to do—but you don’t have to actually do any of it until you feel like doing it.

After hearing about the unparalleled success rates of using a professional project board, I recently started a homespun version on the back of a bedroom door, using Post-It notes and my door—that’s it—no other surface—just the door.  I stuck my sticky notes under a number of category headings all over the back of the door.  I put them on the back of that door so that no one sees them, because that door is usually open.  So, the list is against the wall until I want to see it, privately.  My door is now covered with little mini-tasks.  At first I was tenuous about writing notes for it—but now I recklessly throw all kinds of mini-tasks up on there.

You can often find Post-It notes on sale, making the financial toll almost nil—one-tenth of a cent per Post-It note or so smile —not bad for a tool to get yourself wonderfully organized.  For the clearest visibility of what you write on them, I find that the light yellow ones work best; if the paper is any darker, you can’t see your lettering from a distance away.  You could use the more flamboyant-colored Post-Its for your headers at the top of the door, noting each category you want to move forward in.

I’m finding this system more successful than anything I’ve ever attempted as a tool to “manage me”.  It gives a visual oomph to get tasks done.  If you are super tired, or have only five minutes, you look at the door and you may not have energy (or time) for a big task, but you can spot a little something on there and think “Oh, E-Z-P-Z, I can just whip that one out.”  This enables you to “limp when wounded”—eventually accomplishing an amazing amount.

To give yourself a wee reward when you’ve completed a task, transfer the Post-It note to the bottom of the door and watch your accomplishments stack up “down there” (if you need this sort of motivation smile —and some of us do).  Otherwise, pitch them in the trash as you do them.

Here are a few little additional tweaking tips I learned while doing this:

    + Write only one task on each Post-It note (this saves rewriting lists of details over and over).
    + Write out your note with large letters, using the whole Post-It note surface for your short phrase.
    + Write with a marker instead of pen or pencil; it comes out much bolder; you can see it further away.

Happy enhanced brain power, and stacks and stacks of accomplishments to you!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Thanksgiving: Finessing the impossible :)

Saturday, 01. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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I belonged to the faculty women’s club when we first moved to Durango when Todd was at the college.  One older wife and her husband owned a big mansion on 3rd Avenue (the gorgeous avenue parallel to Main with the big trees down the center).  She did a yearly elegant meal for the whole club in her home, using all the downstairs rooms, the drawing room, the parlor, etc.  One year she asked me to be the one to help her.  While I was assisting her, I was pumping her with questions about her whole hospitality expertise.  Hey, why not!

She revealed to me that she always makes Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time, now.  She had grown sons and daughters and their children coming from several states, and always felt like she slaved in the kitchen and missed time with them, personally.  (Her house was built a hundred years ago, and the kitchen was separate from the area where guests would congregate.)  So she switched to doing all of her preps ahead of time, and loved the results.  This gets rid of the turkey carcass, all the messy pans, etc. ahead of time—so that on that special day her final detail “load” is simple.  She serves the turkey all cut up (on an earlier day she had worn thin disposable surgical/plastic gloves to debone the turkey—no mess on her hands) in a big casserole dish with a bouillon cube dissolved in water poured over it to steam it at the last minute to make it moist, while reheating it in the oven with the cover on, along with everything else she was re-heating.  On serving day or party day she walks around calmly, with elegant tables already set (she sets the tables two days ahead of time and drapes a sheet over the tables to keep the dust off), looking gorgeous and exuding gracious remarks to everyone.  What a difference in her stress load.

Forward this tip to other mothers, if you’d like.  For more on this topic, see No Stress Holidays for Moms.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Tips for organizing your home

Tuesday, 21. October 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Written to mom who feels organizationally challenged:

Now how can we get you on TOP of your circumstances instead of under them?  Sometimes hiring a very organized teenage girl can help you for a one-time boost.  Some people are just born more organized than others.  Is there some girl at church, perhaps? or in another homeschooling family? or some older lady whom you admire, whose family is already raised—to just come over for one day to plow through the worst of it, with you—developing some systems for you?

With or without such help, the greatest principle is to just start moving in that direction.  Pick up one thing and put it somewhere…then the next.  Action creates emotions.  The famous German philosopher Goethe said: “Only begin it and the mind grows heated; simple start it and soon the job is completed.”

Here is the principle: anything you do repetitively, you want to do optimally.

You need a wall of loads of pre-made cardboard boxes with removable lids.  White records boxes (one cubic foot each) work splendidly (obtainable from any office supply store).  Mark the end of each box what is in it.  You want to buy these, because they look tidy all stacked together and the lids are super easy for getting in and out of repeatedly.  Just the look of them will help you and the family stay neat.  Often we aren’t neat because we don’t have a place for everything; this eliminates that problem.  Use them all over the house if you have to.  They are cheaper than furniture, and much easier to organize than drawers, because smaller groups of things can be contained with like kinds.

For your kitchen, purchase a shoebox-size flat plastic container that you toss all dirty silverware in as you use it.  Use a flat container, because if you dump dirty silverware into a large bowl it can tend to tip over, and if you set them on a flat plate they often spill out all over the counter and they don’t get soaked to loosen the stuck particles.  Get this plastic shoebox that will from now on contain all your silverware neatly and will never topple over, no matter how much you toss in there.  Keep it permanently open on the back of your counter, near your sink.  This keeps the dirty silverware out of being stashed in between the plates, making them stack all catty-whompus on the counter, and lets you tightly stack everything in a much smaller space, if you don’t have time to do the dishes right then.  This keeps your counter stacked and clean- looking at all times.

Rinse everything as soon as you take it to the counter.  Rinse all pots and pans as soon as you dump the cooked food out onto dinner plates.  By rinsing immediately you keep your kitchen clean and lessen your future job of washing.  Keep a long-handled brush by the sink and swish it on every dish/plate/pot immediately. The long-handled brush allows you to pre-wash anything, even if you are in a pretty dress and running out the door, because your hands don’t have to get down in the water.  When you do wash the dishes, focus on speed.  I use three white dish drainers and have them sitting on the counter at all times, so that I can just fling the pots and pans into them.  I set the three on a large white towel and keep changing the towel every few days or once a week.  The speed becomes fun: “Okay—I’m going to be a bulldozer—ready, set, go—can I get it done in five minutes? three minutes?”  Work quickly and get it over with.  It helps to have two sinks, and a plastic tub inside each sink; one is for washing in hot soapy water; the other is for immersing and rinsing in clean hot water.  (For lots more tips, order our inexpensive, helpful practical DVD of Kitchen Efficiency Tips.)

Form a habit of swiping a paper towel around your bathroom floor or tub or sink when you are in there already—not as a separate formidable job that you dread.  Do it on the run.

I play a little psychological game with myself, convincing myself that I enjoy taking the trash outside to the big container because it forces me to take little mini-walks all throughout the day—helping me exercise and get sun!

Stop watching TV/media/movies/non-informational movies on the Web.  It is a super time waster, causing you to arouse your emotions over something you can do nothing about.  It is a consummate robber of energy, resolve, relationship, planning, doing, etc.  You’ll notice a difference in your capabilities immediately.  If you use media as a baby-sitter for your children, be terrified of this sure result: “The parent’s convenience becomes the child’s addiction.”  Instead, train your children to work from a very early age.  (We know a toddler whose job it is to deposit his own dirty diaper in the trash.)  Having to clean the house forces you to employ your children in doing something meaningful with you.  Always do it together.  More is caught than taught.

Also: if you just can’t get on top of your energy even without the enervation caused by the TV, check your thyroid levels (through a blood test).  Your thyroid may be under-firing, causing you to feel tired all the time.  A natural bovine thyroid supplement or a plant-based compound tailor made and prescribed by your health practitioner can make a world of difference, if your levels are low.  Also, get off all added sugar, and experiment with getting off wheat (many find that a fatiguing food).

Filed Under: Home management tips

Turn off the movies!

Wednesday, 19. March 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Modern movies are killing the spirits of our children. Make no mistake, modern script writers are re-writing fundamentals, in direct defiance of God.  They are presenting altered realities to the minds of our children.  These are not stories of a boy and his dog, anymore.  These are something else, entirely.

Who is a man?  Who is a woman?  What is a marriage?  (Homosexuality)  What is an animal and what is man?  (Beauty and the Beast—are we supposed to fall in love with beasts?...is sex with a beast next?  The Bible calls this bestiality and forbids it.  We must face squarely that this is where all of this is headed.  It has already arrived in the lyrics of rock music.  This concept is evolutionary at its root—that we are no different from the animals—that we are not made in the image of God.)  Who is the hero?—the one who prays to God, or the one who consults the force and all its minions (wizards, psychic powers, his secret “friend” or aliens of all shapes and sizes)?  Such movies are a deliberate mincing invasion straight into the minds and souls of our children.

In the media, deviance is cleverly always introduced onto the scene or theater first through laughter, but eventually and finally it all becomes normative and wholly acceptable.  Eventually the small excursions in deviance are moved from the edge of theater and from the edge of the plot (used first as sub-plots) to the center.  Swearing, violence, sex and idolatry take over.  These are the ways our children are taught to cope, and the major reality that they now know.  And we desire this?  Foster this?  Enable this?  Do we have three hours of devotions to the living God, in Bible reading and prayer, to offset this?

For 5,900 years parents did not have movies to pacify, calm, or babysit their children, and as a result they produced a different kind of human being.  None of the Israelites allowed someone else to raise their children, either in a pagan school or from a pagan screen.  They did not put them in Pharaoh’s schools, nor in front of the world’s entertainment.  Yes, that meant that Abraham had to figure out what to do with his child all day long.  So he trained him in righteousness, and grew his son’s life skills.  Daniel’s mother, the Messiah’s mother, Moses’ mother all had to do something productive and wholesome the whole life-long day.  This was the norm.

Sadly, today, what is the parent’s convenience will become the child’s addiction. The devil has discovered a way to mainline altered realities into our children, just like a heroin addict mainlines heroin right into his veins.  If a person came into your home espousing these world-views, whispering them into our children’s ears, we would throw him out.  But, instead, because it comes into the home in containment, packaged in living color upon a screen, we march our children to the screen and sit them down in front of these false preachers.  And we leave the room.  These lies about reality are not mainlining into our heads, as parents, for as many hours as they are into our children’s heads.  Not even close, if you add gaming.  We are not experiencing what our children are experiencing, not at all, and we certainly did not experience this degree of unreality in our own formative years.  We are sacrificing our children upon the altar of these deviant realities—the flames engulf their very fragile, emerging souls and spirits, and dive-bomb their entire concept of spiritual truth.

There is another, larger, reality surrounding this one, but we are to go there only through prayer and with God.  He forbids us to enter other realms through mediums, spiritists, wizards, aliens, monsters, supermen and “creatures” found nowhere in this reality.  His warnings are serious.  We can’t handle what is there, and may never be able to get back from there.  Yet we think our children can handle it?! We allow it for hours and hours everyday, while we are freed up to go and do something else?

Our children are not handling it. and spiritual confusion is running rampant in their spirits.  Children now think angels are fairies and that it took magic to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Wake up and determine whether something is devouring the soul of your child.  Realize that if this is so, you will pay for it dearly, both in this life and in the life to come.  Christianity will be a faint memory in the midst of their deliriums, and godly seed will dwindle to hair-raising obscurity—it will hang by a thread.  The scriptures ask: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  Where is your child spiritually and mentally these days?  When someone dies in your family, which song do you want your child singing at the funeral:  “When you wish upon a star”, or “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah”?  The choice is made by you, hour by hour.

Filed Under: Home management tips