The Essential 15 Checklist: Bring Peace, Rhythm, and Happiness Back to Your Family’s Home (FREE PRINTABLE)

by: Kate Saffle

The Essential 15 Checklist: Bring Peace, Rhythm, and Happiness Back to Your Family’s Home  (FREE PRINTABLE)

Do you ever have those days where your kids are bouncing off the walls, your home is in disorder, and you feel disconnected and overwhelmed? Whenever my family hits a rough patch, I run through the following list of questions to figure out how to strengthen the weak spots in our home’s foundation. Work through these questions whenever the peace has left your home or simply as a check-up to consistently create a more peaceful home environment. And if you’re the one struggling? Scroll down to the last section for some tips to jumpstart your own self-care.

The Basics |

Are we eating as nutritiously as we can? Eating simple, balanced meals of whole, real foods can make a world of difference in the way everyone feels.

Are we all getting quality sleep? Sleep needs vary based on age, but in general, children should be getting anywhere from 9-14 hours per 24 hours and adults need a minimum of 7-8 hours per night regularly to feel recharged.

Is our schedule overflowing? If you’ve been saying yes to too many activities, it might be time to pare back and use your days to reconnect and reestablish order in the home.

Are we spending time outdoors daily? Outdoor play--whether that’s going for a walk, hitting up the playground, letting the kids make mudpies, or climbing trees--is restorative and a sensory touchpoint for all ages.

Physical Environment |

Is our home generally organized and free of clutter? Every item in your home should have a role and a designated place, otherwise let it go.

Does everyone have a role in keeping the home clean? All family members should contribute to maintaining the home on a daily basis. Even the youngest children can help pick-up their toys, dust, and make their beds.

What in our home may be overstimulating to our kids and ourselves? Note all of the external sources of stimuli (television, tech devices, noise, and physical disorder) and reduce or get rid of as many as possible.

Is our home typically stocked with healthy food and easy meals to prep? Create a consistent game plan for grocery shopping and cooking so that nutritious food is always within reach.

Relationships |

What is the general tone of our communication with one another? We need to model healthy and positive communication to our children; are your words and actions sending the right message?

Am I taking time to connect deeply with each of my children? Often when our children are acting up, it’s because they need more quality time with us. Reconnect through play, conversation, and listening to repair breakdowns in communication and behavior.

In what ways can I deepen my relationship with my partner? Are you finding time to encourage, support, and build intimacy with one another or simply going through the motions?

Self-care |

Am I spending too much time on technology and other shallow activities? Evaluate the amount of time you dedicate to technology versus in your home and on yourself. Cull the unnecessary and embrace offline hobbies instead.

Am I moving regularly in ways that feel good to my body and give me energy? We all know that regular exercise is important, but do you find other ways to move and challenge yourself physically? But first, take a walk. Daily.

Am I nourishing my body with the right foods or I am relying too much on caffeine, sugar, and other temporary fixes? Refined sugar hijacks your brain. And as much as we love coffee, it can negatively impact your sleep, cause adrenaline spikes, and withdrawals. Find ways to cut back on stimulants.

Am I scheduling regular time to honor my own needs? Invest in a creative project, cultivate deeper friendships, and set aside time to recharge. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, how will you care for your family and others? Make this one a priority.

As we often say on our podcast, we don’t have all of the answers, and we certainly don’t lead perfect lives. But using this list as a regular touchstone will add a sense of peace to your days, restore rhythm, and cultivate a family culture of happiness in your home. Download your free checklist below. 

The Essential 15 Checklist Download

Taking Risks Together—A Fruitful Marriage of Making Music and Raising a Family

by: Lane Winters

Note from Melissa and Kate: We are so excited to share Lane and Zach Winters’ Kickstarter with you. Please consider supporting this family as they try to create a sustainable lifestyle for their family through making music. Their Kickstarter ends Tuesday, April 4th, so head over there and join us in creating a community around this inspiring family. Read on to hear their story in Lane's words, and don't miss the Kickstarter video at the end of the article. 

Taking Risks Together—A Fruitful Marriage of Making Music and Raising a Family

Although I always dreamed of living an adventure-filled life, it took me awhile to understand how music could fit into that. This is a piece of our story, and how we learned to take some fruitful risks to become full-musicians while raising three small children.

When Zach and I were married ten years ago, we didn’t quite have career paths planned. We graduated with degrees that we loved studying, but that didn’t lead to practical careers. And from what we heard, trying to make a life as a musician was foolish and unrealistic, so we sought out a more practical lifestyle.

Zach continued making and creating music, and honestly, in our first years of marriage, making music together was really hard for us.  I lacked confidence in my own musical abilities, and we had trouble connecting through music. It was a sad and hard spot. Everything else in our marriage was going smoothly, but music was a sore place. So for many years, Zach mostly pursued making music alone. Thankfully, even without heaps of encouragement from me, Zach was still writing, recording, and playing music. He worked incredibly hard to produce some amazing albums, and his drive still inspires me.  

There were two things that really helped us break out of that cycle with our marriage and music. The first one happened when a friend of mine walked me through a healing prayer time.  I realized that my heart was really sad about not making music with Zach. Before we married, we sang and played together all the time. I just assumed that it would continue into marriage, and we wouldn’t be able to stop making melodies together all the time. God showed me, in that moment, that I had expected Zach to make me a better musician by simply being my husband, while I hadn’t put forth any effort into improving my own musical skills. Ouch. (Don’t you love when you think the problem belongs to someone else, and you find out that YOU have to do something about it?)

The second, and very practical, breakthrough was when we brought friends into our mix.  We had two friends who consistently practiced with us for a season, and it helped me to have other people around during rehearsal. In the past, when I would have trouble learning a part, I would emotionally shut down, which would effectively stop any rehearsal. But having other people there made us be on good behavior, and helped us learn to sing together again. I am so thankful for those women and how they gave us the gift of making music together once more. 

Lesson learned: don’t stay isolated in your mess. Let others in.

Taking Risks Together—A Fruitful Marriage of Making Music and Raising a Family

I still never envisioned music being more than something that Zach did on the side. I knew he was talented, but the music industry seemed to be in crazy shambles, and I simply couldn’t fathom a life where music could support our family.  Every once in awhile, Zach would throw out little dream ideas, such as: “Wouldn’t it be fun to go on tour with our kids?” I usually didn’t even respond to those questions. Looking back, I would describe my responses as “Silent Dream Killers.” I probably just shrugged my shoulders and changed the subject. I’m sure that I was not being very encouraging as far as pursuing music as a career.

Here’s the funny part though: I love Zach’s music. I love his voice. I love hearing him play. I just hadn’t allowed myself to think bigger than what we were experiencing. He worked a full-time job and did music on the side. That seemed do-able and fine to me. I also didn’t know any full time musicians, so the concept seemed super foreign and out-of-reach.

So skip ahead a few years, and I am sitting at a prayer meeting, when I got the idea— “What if Zach did music full time, and I did some sort of health coaching?” All of a sudden, everything clicked. I saw that we could stay locked in the same path where there was no room for growth or we pursue something different that would have a chance to plummet or a chance to succeed. I had grown up seeing God provide miraculously for my family, and through my experiences I learned that God provides in different and unusual ways. We could stay with the small, consistent work that we had, or we could step out in faith and trust God to provide for our family. I was all in.

When Zach came home from school that day, I was so excited to tell him about my new revelation. I sat him down on the couch, looked him in the eye, and told him I was willing to take risks with him in music. Unbeknown to me, he had been fasting and praying that day to hear from God whether he should continue to pour effort into making and creating music. Neither of us knew what the other had been processing during the day, and we were both a bit nervous and excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. We were finally together on this journey.

But we still didn’t know how to make full-time music a reality. We just knew that something had changed in our hearts, and that was exciting.

We did have a lovely community of friends and family who loved us and loved Zach’s music, but we didn’t have any examples of people creating a realistic life with children and music and food on the table. In the past few years, however, we have been so blessed to spend time with other families who are thriving at being full-time musicians. Their encouragement and practical know-how helped us picture what it could look, and gave us the courage to go forward.

Lesson learned: if there’s a dream in your heart, get around other people who are doing what you want to be doing.

We are still on this journey together and learning as we go, and we still have dreams that we aren’t quite sure how they will all fit together. But with the knowledge of God’s faithfulness as we have stepped out in faith, there hasn’t been one day where we wished we would have stayed on our previous path.

What have you been dreaming about?

Lane Winters is a wife, home-schooling mama of three and follower of Jesus. Her heart vacillates between adventuring in far-off places and cultivating a restful and welcoming atmosphere at home. She is passionate about good food, good music, good books and good friends.


Project Renovate My Life: Cultivated Contentment

Lana Wilkens

When my husband and I began a home renovation project a year ago, we both knew it would be tough. We both knew it would take longer than the contractors said, and we both knew it'd be fun. You see, we have a history of creating unnecessary challenges for "fun." We are not "home-renovation people." Our kind of fun was the short-term challenge of living differently. It seems we do best in spontaneous and counter-cultural situations that would probably make most people miserable. About 8 years ago we went three months without electricity on purpose, ate the same items all the time and tried to go everywhere on foot. We called it, "Project Derelict." A life of poverty or homelessness doesn't have a three-month window, but we desired to attempt understanding in the only way we knew how. We even got some rum one night to warm up in the winter. But that was back when we had one kid and now we have five and longed for adventure. Thus, "Project Renovate My Life" began. 

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Little did I know how appropriate the name of our project was. Over the course of that year the following changes took place: new job, 9 different living situations during demolition, new church, and a new baby. I could literally turn this experience into a chapter book with recipes and tips for roughing it with a smile, but to summarize I'll take three topics and tell you one lesson I learned in each area.

#1 THE BASICS - Laundry, Dishes, Cleaning, Cooking
It's amazing how much time these basic tasks take if you cannot complete them with modern appliances. Imagine a pie that represents weekly time. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that it's a mulberry pie because I love those! Then section out the slices of time it takes for all those basic life tasks. Next, take a look at said's gone! You can see the whole tin pan underneath except for a tiny sliver that you'd give to a baby and call it a "piece." All our time was snatched up by those menial tasks that make motherhood cyclical. And you know one of the lessons we learned? 

Lesson: Allow people to be generous. It's okay to ask for help and it's okay to jump at the chance for help right away. When you express the need to shower at a friend's house when you go over there for dinner, they are happy to let you! When you are out in your coat/mittens/scarf doing the dishes in the driveway and you ask your neighbor, "Could we please wash our dishes once a day at your house?" she says, "Yes!" and gives us the key. When a friend offers to let you wash your clothes at her house while your kids play in the backyard, or to wash them for you?! You let them! So many times people offer and we say, "I've got it," or "Thanks so much for offering, but we're okay." Maybe you are 'okay' but letting people express generosity benefits everyone.

#2 ROMANTIC TIME - Spouse Time and Dates
Before we got married we planned times to be together. After we got married, we had to plan times to be apart. Being together was our default. I thought that was the end of it but as it turns out, after having 5 kids, we've started planning times to be together again. Dates used to feel kind of silly and now they are essential, if for no other reason than to stare into each other's eyes amid silence. I learned the value of dates and what constitutes as a date.

Lesson: Dates can count as anything you do alone. Anything. Time together is time together. As simple as that sounds, it's easy to miss. There were times when a date happened in our ugly/half built home. That super attractive, floor to ceiling black tarp was part of our date lives for a while and I kinda miss it. Not really. But those times of having to snuggle in the same chair because that's the only one that fit in our make-shift living room/kitchen, became a pleasant memory. And then there's sex. Did you know that sex is free? Well, we conceived our 5th child during the renovation. I've heard people say, "I could never undertake a major renovation and live in the house. It'd ruin my marriage." Because of the renovation, we didn't have much to do without a TV, internet, kitchen, working bathroom or computer. But, we found something to do, and it helped our marriage. 

Yes, we homeschool our kids (ages 9, 7, 4, 3 and baby). The idea of homeschooling my kids while we moved around every two weeks was laughable. Idealistically, I planned all kinds of ways to use the suitcase full of school stuff I'd packed. In reality, I used maybe one or two things. We spent so much time outside. You guys, homeschooling is free! We learned from nature, from one another and cracked open books at the library. It's easy (especially if you homeschool) to feel behind. I always ask myself, "behind what?" 

Lesson: A laid back academic year is not wasted. I want my kids to learn compassion, frugality and contentment, among other values. Those things take time and there is only so much time in a day. I'm grateful to have taken some time to learn how important those lovely intangibles are because they make life worth living. 

Now we're back into the swing of things. We have hot water, a kitchen (which means we have a stove, a sink, and a dishwasher), two bathrooms and space to play. Our house is half the size of our last one, but after the year of renovations, it feels like a castle with an open floor plan. Life is good. But honestly, it was good before. Cooking in a crockpot 3-4 times a week, letting my toddler play with the never-ending contractor dust, and "bathing" in the splash pad worked. My kids most often say they are thankful for food to eat, a house to live in and their brothers and sisters. Each family is unique and for us, we had to ask ourselves some tough questions during all this change, but it led to an intentional way of life, rather than living life by default.

Lana Wilkens is a Houston-born transplant to Oklahoma. She attended the University of Oklahoma, graduating with a BFA in Studio Art and paints/draws when inspiration stikes. Raising her 5 children takes most of her time, but when they are sleeping she frequently sneaks away to eat something sweet, to take late night walks in the park across the street with her husband, or ponder/write about what's most important. You can find more from her on her blog



How Sustainable Practices Keep Me Focused on Living Intentionally

Lauren Hooper

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself environmentally conscious. My generation grew up watching Captain Planet and learning about global warming from Bill Nye: The Science Guy. It’s not too crazy to expect that I understood the impact of our choices on the Earth from an early age. Paper over plastic. Always put your empty Coke cans in the recycling bin - don’t forget to snap off the tab. Keep the thermostat set to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter. Turn off the lights and fan when you leave a room. These are all lessons most of us heard, but the idea of being a protector of our environment really spoke to me. If there was a product, service, or mission that was more eco-friendly, that was always my choice. But regardless of how deep my passion was for being a tree-hugger, my understanding of my choices and how they affected the environment were under-developed.

When I started college, my career path was Architecture with a focus on Environmental Sciences. I wanted to design structures that were not just eco-friendly, but echoed the functions of plants. In the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, the authors begin to describe the architecture of the future by saying “imagine a building like a tree, a city like a forest….what if our homes and workplaces were enmeshed in the landscape, harvesting the energy of the sun, sequestering carbon and making oxygen. Imagine on-site wetlands and botanical gardens recovering nutrients from circulating water. Fresh air, flowering plants, and daylight in ample supply. In short, a life-support system in harmony with energy flows, human souls, and other living things.” There isn’t another quote that speaks more deeply to me than this one. Even re-reading it now leaves me feeling just as inspired as the first day I read it, over ten years ago. With the inspiration from this book, the lessons I learned from my architectural studies, and the forward-thinking students around me, I dove deeper into the idea of sustainable practices and how I could make them applicable to my life. I drastically reduced my water usage, traveled by foot and public transportation as much as possible, purchased secondhand clothing, and moved my diet towards veganism. I was beginning to feel more connected to my environment as I became more intentional with my choices.

At the same time, my academic career was taking a nose dive, and I soon ended up without a degree and in search of a better financial opportunity. My focus shifted from sustainable choices to finding a job. And after months of searching, I found a great job, and I was on my way to a new city, a new place to continue adopting my sustainable, intentional lifestyle. 

However, there is a funny thing that happens when you remove yourself from an environment that reinforces your values. It wasn’t long before I was not only forgetting to put paper into the recycling bin, but printing out unnecessary items on a whim. I was driving to work the 0.9 miles from my apartment to the office, even when the traffic was so bad it would have been quicker to walk - I even had a sidewalk and places to safely cross the roads through the entire distance. I found myself blasting the heat in my apartment on those “cold” Florida winter nights because I was so excited about having my utilities included in my compensation package. I still identified as being eco-friendly, but I wasn’t truly making eco-friendly choices. My car ran perfectly fine, but I was dead set on buying a Prius with the justification that it had better gas mileage, and therefore, was the more eco-friendly choice. Regardless of the fact that I drove a Corolla with great gas mileage and had a walkable commute.

Fast forward three years later, I’m back in my college town with my college boyfriend, now husband, and our infant twin babies. I’m driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee for my two mile commute to work.  I tried to justify my choice to buy the nice SUV and business casual clothing from Banana Republic and take 30 minute showers because I was buying recycled toilet paper and bringing my own grocery bags to the store. But I was living comfortably, focused on material goods, and not being intentional with my choices. 

I can’t say there was a specific day that I decided to focus on sustainability again. The arc into this lifestyle was very subtle and occurred over many months. One day I was removing extra decorative items from our living space because the babies were starting to crawl and get into everything. Then I started to not miss those items that had been moved to the highest shelves of our closet, so they were donated. The more the kids grew and became curious to the things around them, the more I realized I didn’t love many of the items in my apartment enough to be constantly keeping guard over them or putting them back when they were moved from their usual home. Around this time that I was culling more and more of our belongings, we were relocating from Gainesville, FL to Huntsville, AL, and I was transitioning from full-time working mom to stay-at-home mom. I had a lot more free time on my hands, and I found myself perusing books, blogs, and YouTube channels associated with zero waste living, minimalism, and green beauty. 

"With minimalism, it is often easy to just remove something unnecessary. With sustainability, we want to avoid having that unnecessary item in the first place."

During this time that I was highly focused on removing unnecessary things from my life, I also began to focus on what I was bringing into my life. The idea of eco-friendly and sustainable had vastly grown since my college years in the club “Gators for a Sustainable Campus”. With the time and effort I put into re-educating myself on sustainable practices, I developed a detailed idea of what intentional choices I needed to be making to not just cultivate an environmentally-conscious lifestyle for myself, but for my family as well. 

I started with the basics - water conservation, electricity conservation, purchasing items with little to no packaging, recycling, and composting. In my family’s case, it was easier to slowly transition away from our previous habits. My wonderful husband is supportive of my choices, but is not quite ready to embrace into an environmentally-conscious lifestyle for himself. So I lead by example and give him little nudges. And like most partnerships, he has his strengths in areas that help me do better – like remembering to not let the water run and only buying what we truly need. And he’s more than supportive of my choice to not go crazy with interior decorating. 

Because of this continued focus on sustainable practices, we spend a lot more time thinking about whether we need to bring something into our lives. With minimalism, it is often easy to just remove something unnecessary. With sustainability, we want to avoid having that unnecessary item in the first place. Therefore, a lot more thought goes into what ends up in our home. If I’m in need of green juice, I’ll place a pick up order at our local juicery because they source their products locally, return vegetable and fruit remnants to local farmers to be used for compost and feed to those same farmers – they even package it in returnable glass bottles. This requires me to be intentional about my purchase as I won’t just throw a bottle of Suja in my shopping cart during a regular grocery run. As I move towards a more zero waste lifestyle, I use a simple system before I bring something new into our home. First, I ask “can I repurpose what I already own to address this need?” If not, I will attempt to borrow this needed item. If that’s not possible, I will scour secondhand shops. If an item must be purchased new, I seek out a local merchant with sustainable practices. While we have far from eliminated our need for a trash can, actively working towards zero waste and sustainability in our everyday lives keeps things simpler, allowing for more time to focus on our family.

Bio - Lauren Hooper is a minimalist living just outside Huntsville, AL with her husband, boy/girl twin toddlers, and two rescue dogs. When she’s not hanging out in the backyard with the chaos twins, Lauren spends her time doing sales and education for Beautycounter, creating content on her lifestyle blog, cooking up vegan & gluten-free recipes, and curating her colorful capsule wardrobe.

You can follow her family’s journey on and sneak a peek into their minimalist home on Instagram @lauren_etc.


Raising My Daughter on the Road

Jenn Norrell

My daughter has lived on the road more than half of her life. We moved into our first home on wheels when she was eight months old and now she is nearing two and a half. She learned to crawl in Colorado, said her first words in Texas and took her first steps in New Jersey.  She celebrated her first birthday in Chicago eating deep dish pizza and cupcakes, her second dipping her toes in the Atlantic Ocean and playing boardwalk games in Point Pleasant.  And while she likely won’t remember any of these things when she’s older, or the countless other things she has experienced, I know her early life traveling will shape the person she becomes. 

My husband and I chose a life of full-time travel because we were tired of living for once-a-year vacations. We wanted to see and experience the world around us. We wanted to be more thoughtful about how we chose to spend our time and how we raised our daughter. 

While taking the leap to live our life on the road was our dream it was also pretty damn scary.  I would never really describe myself as a risk taker. I’ve always liked to follow rules. I spent over ten years working with children and families as a social worker, often talking to parents about things like the importance of consistency, routines, socialization, and age appropriate structured activities. Now here I am, choosing to raise my daughter in an environment that, on the surface, is anything but those things.  Sometimes I wondered if we were being a little selfish.  And in the beginning each time someone said something like, “Well you’ll stop when it’s time for her to go to school, right?” or “Oh no, she won’t get to take dance lessons” or “It’s too bad you don’t have room for more toys,” I questioned myself a little more. 

We have now been on the road for a year and a half, and while I occasionally do still have moments of questioning, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learned that not only is traveling full-time not a selfish choice, it is the best choice we could have made as parents for our daughter.  What I’ve experienced along the way is that travel is so much more than just seeing and exploring new places.  It’s natural for people to first think about what my daughter may be missing out on by traveling full-time, but I like to remind them of all the things she gains.  

"I have learned that not only is traveling full-time not a selfish choice, it is the best choice we could have made as parents for our daughter."

As we travel we share experiences as a family, which strengthen our bond.  We play, discover and explore together daily. We face and overcome fears or challenges alongside each other while giving and receiving encouragement, problem solving and celebrating together. These shared experiences reinforce our relationship, affirming our positive attachments and add to our family story. 

My daughter may not have as many toys as other children but she has an ever-changing backyard to encourage her curiosity. There is always something to explore and learn about. Whether it is seeing a Bison for the first time or finding a piece of fallen bark, my daughter wants to know more and she is excited about it. 

Each day I see my daughter’s imagination grow. Her time outdoors, wandering new landscapes, opens up so many possibilities for play. Travel encourages us to allow her to be a child. It opens up opportunities for unstructured play in nature and reminds us how much children thrive from the freedom to just be little. 

While traveling we are constantly meeting and talking to new people. And while this can be out of my comfort zone, as a generally shy introvert, it can also be the most rewarding part of travel. It allows so many opportunities to model openness, respect and kindness towards others. When I am walking with my daughter and I hear her say, “Mama let’s say hi to that lady” or tell someone she’s never met before, “I like your shoes” as we pass them by, I know we are doing something right.  

Our home may have wheels, but it is still our home. It is a comfort and a constant in our changing environment.  My daughter goes to bed in the same place each night even if she is somewhere new when she steps outside in the morning. She learns how to adapt to new environments and situations while always having the safety of her home.  As parents we have learned (and are still learning) to balance consistency and routine with exploration and adventure, watching and learning how these things shape our daughter’s behavior. Travel has made us more attune to her needs, and has allowed her to practice flexibility and adapting to new situations. 

It allows for authentic practice of so many skills for us as parents and for our daughter that are invaluable. We learn to go with the flow when things don’t go as planned and cooperate while each doing our part to set up camp or solving a problem together.  Travel builds independence and confidence while learning and trying new things and helps to sustain a child’s adventurous spirit. 

This life of travel has changed me both as a person and as a mother. I am more relaxed, adventurous and self-aware. I am far from perfect but I am a truer version of myself.  I am content even on the difficult days. While I am not always the mother I hope to be, travel encourages me to be that person. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and creates opportunities to model skills for my daughter that I wouldn’t have as regularly in a stationary life. It challenges me and makes me stronger. 

At this moment we have no time frame set for life on the road. We will travel full time for as long as it feels like the right decision for our family and we are able to. I look forward to seeing how travel continues to shape my daughter as she grows, and myself as her mother. Whether we choose to travel full-time for another ten years or stop in six months, I know travel will always be a priority in our lives. It has become too valuable for it not to be. 

Jenn Norrell is a stay-at-home mama and social worker on pause currently traveling North America full-time in her 17’ Casita Travel Trailer named Betty White with her husband, two year old daughter and dog in tow. When not wrangling her spirited daughter or out exploring a new area, she can be found reading, crafting and always enjoying a cup of hot tea. 

You can follow her family’s adventures of tiny living on the road at

Instagram: @her.tinyasscamper

Australia to South Asia: Intentional Parenting While Building Community Overseas

Alana Blase

Even before we were married our conversations centred on what we could do to make the world a better place. We would spend hours discussing poverty, justice, different countries and people groups around the world. A life of working 9-5 and saving for a house held no interest to us, and so 5 months after we were married we sold everything we owned and moved to Uganda. There we worked alongside friends who ran an organisation that educated and equipped vulnerable children and communities. We loved life there and the work that we were doing, but sometimes life doesn't always go according to plan. At 19 and 22 we found ourselves on a plane home pregnant with our first child. 

We converted a garage into a small unit and attempted to fit back into Australian life. Over the next few years we had our 3 babies and pastored the youth out of our local church. We never stopped talking about missions and nations, but for a season we were content with caring for our little people and leading an awesome bunch of young people. However while we were right in the midst of small children, sleep deprivation, and ministry God asked us to go to south Asia. So we did. 


In 2013 we founded Sparrow, an organisation that provides access to education and health care for vulnerable communities and in 2016 we packed our little family up and spent the first 4 months of the year living in a foreign city at the base of the Himalayas.  It is now in November and in less than a week we will once again put everyone on a plane and spend the next 3 months overseas working alongside our national team to see the work of Sparrow grow. 

Coming and going can be tough on a family; there is a lot of instability and unknowns. While living in foreign cities can be adventurous and exciting, its also at times uncomfortable and lonely.  As a mama to 3 children my heart aches when they miss their friends, get sick from local food and feel intimidated or scared by being in a different culture. Let me tell you, three blonde, blue-eyed kids can definitely draw a crowd! But although there are tough times there are also amazing moments and my heart rejoices when I see my kids playing cricket with local children, buying samosas for hungry toddlers, and speaking so passionately about how we need to help as many people as we can. These moments are precious because I know there’s a richness that is added to their lives because we are able to love on these people. We often get asked why we take our kids to these places and make this a priority for our family, and the simple answer is because we care. How can we walk away and forget about other families living in desperate poverty, unable to send their child to school or buy medicine for their babies when we live such a privileged lifestyle? How do I pretend that injustice doesn't exist when I have heard the stories and looked into the eyes of those that are living it? Maybe it is crazy that we would take along our kids to focus on running an organisation that strengthens communities, but as a family we have decided that this is a priority for us. We will continue to move forward believing that we are making a difference in this part of the world.

On a practical note though, we do have certain things that we do to try and make family life work best. When we are packing to go away for a few months we do our best to let the kids take a bunch of toys/personal items that are familiar to them. My 9 year old usually has a stack of great books to take, my 7 year old a pile of action figures, and my 5 year old is usually stuffing her suitcase with as many teddies as she can fit on top of her clothes! Even when we are living in an apartment that is unfamiliar, they still have their favourite special things from home. We also intentionally make room for fun and adventures, creating memories together is so important! Living in a coastal town on the east coast of Australia our family times are usually spent swimming at the beach and snorkelling in the creek; family time in South Asia looks very different. Riding toy trains, bowling in big malls, yak rides, sightseeing and seeking out great places to eat have all been ways that we press pause on work and just be together as a family in another country. While I’m sure our kids do remember the tough days, they talk way more about all the adventures they get to have! 

At this stage we have no idea what the future looks like in regards to our family and living overseas. As much as we would love to be permanently on the ground, we have yet to obtain a visa that allows us to do this. So for the moment we do frequent trips, and while this may not be the most stable way to do family life, we will continue to do our best to make it work! As much as kids want stability, I think the stability they long for is a secure family unit. Life looks different in another country, but the way we do family is the same and as we continue to love on our kids and intentionally live out the values that we believe in, I honestly believe that we are creating not only a great childhood for our children, but a great launching pad for the rest of their lives.

Alana is a wife and mother who is passionate about empowering families around the world and speaking up for those that have lost their voice. Alongside her husband she founded Sparrow and as a family they travel between Australia and Asia working to provide communities with access to education and health care. When in Australia the family live next to the ocean and love beach walks, ocean swims and road trips down the coast.  While in Asia they love meeting new people, eating spicy food and exploring new places. Alana loves reading and writing and is currently working on a book that will be released next year.

You can follow her on IG @allyblase

Settling for Less: Our Story of Abundance

Rachel Dillow

We value being hospitable.  We value community and connection.  We value our faith in Jesus.  We are the Dillows and our simple living lifestyle has been abundant.   

In 2010 Jeff and I were newly married, living in the Midwest, making modest incomes and on the hunt for our first place together.  We looked at new buildings with spacious apartments, one with historic charm and a complex with some resort style amenities.  We weighed the options and laughed as we signed the lease for a one bedroom unit in a nursing home turned apartment building.  Yep, it was dated, it was ordinary, and it still felt like a nursing home but it allowed us a luxury we wanted above everything else we saw – the ability to save for the future even though we had no immediate goals in mind.  We quickly found the real character of the place came from the best friends we made down the hall, an adorable man who hosted movie nights in the old drab theatre and from Franklin, the maintenance man, who we still quote to this day.

We moved in and as life started to settle we began to feel less connected because of our work schedules. Jeff was working nights, I was working days and weekends which left us missing the time together we’d hoped for.   Jeff wanted to leave his career as a news photojournalist to run his own photography business. He put in the time working news while building his photography company and soon the time came where he could pull back and focus solely on his business.  Being the calculated and financially risk adverse gal I am I came up with a “fun” spending challenge to help plump up our savings as we planned for his self-employment.  For the month ahead we would not spend any money above the essentials of groceries, gas, bills and rent.  We called this “no spend” month and we loved it.  

At the end of the 30 days we found joy in becoming more resourceful and intentional in our time together.  We found we enjoyed cooking at home and watching Netflix more than going out to eat.  We loved going for walks and riding our bikes.  After a month of not feeling like we were deprived by the experience we decided to try it again the next month.  After so many months it turned into an ongoing effort.  There were plenty of times we deviated.  We would want to go out to dinner with friends, see a movie, buy a juicer after watching a food documentary, need a new pair of shoes, an irresistible decorative pillow, a clearance shirt at Target that was just too good a deal to pass up and the list went on.  It wasn’t always perfect but since we started sprinkling in “no spend” months we’ve found saving towards a big goal to be more rewarding than little splurges throughout the month, and it helps to keep us focused on what we value most. 

As Jeff’s photography business grew, I began a new job in the travel industry.  Our careers were blending and overlapping with each other.  He would shoot video for the company I worked for and I would assist him on his shoots.  We got to travel and experience the world together but when we were home we didn’t feel like it was where we were meant to be.  We wanted to move to a place that didn’t keep us trapped indoors because of extreme weather.  We prayed for direction on where to go, decided that was San Diego and brought back the “no spend” budget to help make our move happen.  We pared down to save more so we could make the move without depleting our finances knowing we would be starting Jeff’s business from scratch, and I was building up my client base as well.  It’s been 4 years since we headed west and we’ve hustled hard to grow our businesses, pay off bills, spend less, give to causes we support, save and live in a way that reflects our family values.  We’ve embraced simplicity and tried to keep a non-comparison attitude when we looked at what our friends were doing.  We weren’t buying a house, a new car or filling our place with new furniture though at times we wished we were.

Since we started out living in a small space it wasn’t too challenging to maintain a lifestyle of not acquiring a lot of possessions.  We transitioned to being a one car family, which can be limiting at times but moving to a neighborhood where we can walk to grocery stores, coffee shops and parks has been the right place for us to be able to do so.  We adopted a vegetarian diet and cook at home 95% of the time.   Simplicity in our meals and eating fewer ingredients is one of my favorite aspects of a minimalist lifestyle.  I also love being able to tidy up pretty quickly. 

Most of our furniture has been hand me downs or thrift store finds, and we aren’t bothered by it.  We recently bought a few new pieces of furniture since our hand me downs were on their last leg.  When a new need arises we sell or donate items to make space for new ones in an effort to keep our space clutter free.  I don’t feel our home lacks character because of fewer possessions; we find the character comes from who we fill it with.  

What I’ve found most helpful in being content with less has been focusing on the benefits rather than seeing it as a sacrifice.  It also helps that we’ve added a “fun money” line to our budget so we each get to have some money to spend if there is something we want or need. Jeff usually indulges in burritos and falafel.  I usually go for coffee with friends and DIY projects.  

Currently, we’re in the midst of another big transition.  Our family of 2 grew to 3 this summer, and I left my job to be home with our son, Sam.  I never imagined I’d have a baby or step away from work but I’ve loved it and it’s pushed me to face the demons I have with productivity, self worth and my identity.  Now, as I’m home taking care of Sam, Jeff is in a very busy season of starting a new business, and we’re working towards a goal that feels impossible.  

We want to purchase a house with space to plant a community garden, grow our family and deepen our connection with friends and neighbors. It’ll be awhile until we can afford a house in San Diego so we’re embracing our current space (ugly brown carpet and all) and doing our best to live in line with our values.  

A few weeks ago Jeff made the bold decision that our vision doesn’t have to be exclusively tied to home ownership.  He planted squash, tomatoes, herbs and greens in the small patches of dirt around our complex.  I made a sign and hung it on the fence encouraging our neighbors to take what they need.  We’ll ask for forgiveness later. 

We were encouraged when a neighbor one house over asked Jeff to start a garden in her yard too.  It seems a house won’t be in the plan for us for a long while but we want our family values to thrive wherever we dwell.

Rachel Dillow is a workaholic turned stay at home mom delighting in a simple lifestyle with her husband, Jeff and son, Sam in San Diego, California.  Currently she’s learning to sew, surf and let go as God moves her in new directions.


IG : @rachel.dillow


How Clearing Your Space Creates Gratitude

Abby Cameron

What you think, you become

 What you feel, you attract

What you imagine, you create. 


My family and I live what I call an indigo life.  A life lived deeply in gratitude.  One that is rich, wild, and abundant.  I would love to say we have always lived this way, but like most of you, this kind of life sometimes takes work and definitely requires daily practice.  

Before living a life of abundance, we were always ok, but not very mindful of being thankful.  We spent a lot of time going through the motions of life.  Sleep. Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat.  Then, about five years ago we went through a tumultuous time with my wife’s family.  We were in the process of buying the family business and there was discord among the family members.  Every day was an emotional roller coaster for us.  Hurtful words were spoken and relationships were severed.  This went on for two years.  For two years we cried, yelled, took it out on each other, but mostly felt raw.  We were devastated. We tried to move forward and find joy, but neither of us knew what that looked like or how to go about getting it back into our life.  We got a puppy and then took a vacation, but there was something still missing.  

By Thanksgiving that second year I was desperately looking for a reason to be grateful.  I was searching for something to keep my heart from closing.  I found the inspiration to create a gratitude tree in my front yard.  There was a young oak tree with small, low branches.  I put up a cardboard sign, threw some tags and markers into a old tool box, and made my puppy pose by the tree for a photo.  Every day I would make my way out the tree and write down one to five things I was grateful for and then hang the tags on the tree.  My neighbors took notice and they started to add grateful tags to the tree as well.  Soon, there were several tags of thanksgiving blowing in the breeze. 

It wasn’t easy for me.  At a time when I didn’t have anything positive to think or say, it was difficult to come up with something meaningful.  Some days it would be as simple as I was grateful for toothpaste so my teeth wouldn’t rot.  That was enough.  I started to notice a shift in my attitude and big waive of relief came over me.  

I wasn’t really surprised in my attitude adjustment.  After all, I knew enough to know that energy flows were you put your attention.  However, what shocked me the most was that I had sparked a movement and didn't even realize it.  The next year came and I was being asked to put up the gratitude tree again by my wife, friends and neighbors.  The answer to my own pain had also helped others find their own joy.

I started to see things differently.  What I began to noticed in my relationships was that when I interacted on a negative level, the other person usually followed suit, leading us no where good.  When I approached my interactions with others with a grateful heart, I made better connections, and built better relationships.  In turn, they started to live with a grateful heart too.  You are who you hang around.  

Since that time I have gone on to become a life coach, making it my mission to help others find their indigo life.  Being a field guide for life has also helped keep me accountable because I firmly believe I have to live it in order to give it.  I want my family to keep living an indigo life especially as it grows. 

A life lived in gratitude became a value for us when we realized we didn’t want to be surrounded by negativity any longer.  We felt happier and more at peace when we stayed mindful about our words and actions, and from my gratitude tree experience, that behavior was contagious.   

This way of living became especially important about a year and half ago when our son was born.  We want to raise him with a grateful heart, and it’s important to set the example for him.  Children are sponges, soaking up language, energy, and meaning.  He is influenced by what we say and it’s important to us that we model the habit.  Even though he can’t communicate with words quite yet, we ask him what he is thankful for and we tell him what we are thankful for.  It’s become a family ritual.  We look forward to the day he can use his words to tell us. 

Today, when schedules allow, we take daily walks with our dog and son.  Naturally, the conversation starts with events of the day. Sometimes it turns negative. but then one of us will stop and say, what are you grateful for today?  Then it turns to our blessings and our time together as a family feels stronger.  

Another tool we use as a family and one that I use for my clients is called the Living Space tool.  When we start to feel we are moving away from our indigo life, it’s a good indication we need to do some clearing.  There is a philosophy that states our outer world reflects our inner world.  Meaning, the state of our homes, work places and other spaces is a direct reflection on where our mental state is.  

In order for us to keep living a grateful life, our minds need to be free of mental baggage and focused on staying mindful.  The tool is simple.  Clear your space, clear you mind. 

Here is how it works.  

  1. Think of a space in your home that you don’t like.  It may be a drawer, a closet, or an entire room.  Make a list of what you don’t like about this room.  How does it make you feel when you are in that space?  Notice any body sensations such as anxiousness, etc.  
  2. Next, think of a space in your home that you love.  Again, make a list of what you love about it and how it makes you feel to be in that space.  
  3. Now clean, declutter, reorganize, paint it, remodel, etc the space you don’t like so it reflects the space in your home you do love.    

You might notice that something you have had negative thinking around suddenly changes.  Or a problem you have suddenly has a solution.  This supports the minimalist mindset.  Keeping around unwanted things in your life blocks you from joyful living.  

Although we celebrate gratitude all year, November is especially important for us.  We still set up a gratitude tree and have encouraged others to do the same.  There are gratitude trees in several states across the nation this year.  Grateful living has really helped us and those around us focus on being present in our lives.  Showing up and living in the moment rather than sitting in fear or worry about the past or future.  It’s enough.  What we have today is enough.  I am grateful for Kate and Melissa and all the families that are a part of the Cohesive Home community.   

Abby is a life coach, gratitude warrior, and field guide for life in addition to wife and momma to one son. She believes everyone can live a rich, wild, and abundant life.  They just need a little help getting out of their own way to make that happen. Outside of guiding others, she enjoys meditating, practicing yoga, taking road trips, sipping peppermint tea, and chronicling life in her journal.  Her family lives on a small lake in North Texas.

IG: @abbycameron26

Trading Fear For Freedom and Saying YES to Adventure

Brittany McCardle

Trading Fear For Freedom and Saying YES to Adventure

I wasn’t born an adventurous person. I am a homebody at heart. I love long quiet afternoons, naps, cups of herbal tea and getting lost in a good book. And for many years I hid in my home doing just that while building walls to protect myself from the “unknown,” which was nearly everything outside my front door. 

I married my high school sweetheart at nineteen years old, and we lived a very typical life together—working, saving money, dreaming of the 4 bedroom house we would build, the 3 car garage my husband would have, and the cars we would buy to fill it.

I would tell you I was happy, but deep down I was afraid. 

I was afraid of traveling (even if that meant 20 minutes away), being uncomfortable, of not knowing what was coming next and anything that was unfamiliar. For the majority of my late teens and early twenties, fear became my master. And I obeyed, hoping that if I just insulated myself from all that seemed so frightening, then I could live and be happy. But that was a lie. I learned I could never insulate myself enough because there was always something new to worry about, something still unknown to be afraid of. Life was passing by around me and I had my front door firmly bolted shut. I was saying no. 

It wasn’t until after our first baby was born that things began to change. I had obeyed fear for many years at this point, and I was becoming worn out from its cruelty. I knew that something needed to change. I began to seek God. I began to finally ignore many of my fears and believe that I was loved just as I was. And then one day, I felt God asking me to let go of my fear of traveling. It was still something I avoided, but in that moment I had this picture in my mind of someone gently taking my tightly clenched fist and opening it up to receive something beautiful. And so, for the first time, I said yes, and I began to believe that I could overcome that fear. 

It wasn’t long after that when my husband approached me with news that he would be sent to Scotland to work for a few months. Scotland! Here was my chance to walk out my “yes,” even though I was still afraid. But for a few weeks that magical summer we lived in a little apartment near cobblestoned streets, old granite buildings and rich green hills. I couldn’t believe that me of all people traveled across the ocean and was walking around in another country! I couldn’t stop smiling. I loved the little shops near us, the cheese shop and the flower shop. I loved the library that was over 100 years old and I loved the little farmer’s market we visited one weekend. I loved the cold North Shore. I loved walking everywhere even though that meant sometimes lugging groceries and pushing a stroller in the rain. I loved that I had done what I never thought I could possibly do. And it was there I began to bud. It was there I began to receive that beautiful gift, me—fully alive, fully tasting, touching, living this life God had given me to live. Saying yes to all it could offer. I came home a changed woman.

Fast forward four years. My husband and I were settled on a beautiful 2 acre country property living with another family, sharing close community, awaiting the birth of our third daughter. My husband had been working at the same company for 11 years. He had accelerated past his peers and had traveled and worked many long hours. He was beginning to see that there was no end to the working world. There were always more deadlines, more projects, and more problems to fix. He had started with the company when he was only twenty, and now those 11 years seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. How could time pass by so quickly? We both realized we didn't want to waste any more time. We were ready for more of life, to really drink it all in, see what it had to offer. We were ready, to not just bud, but to bloom and thrive in the unknowns God had waiting for us. After a meaningful conversation one late night, we agreed: we were ready to leave all we had known behind to travel as a family, to grow into all we could be, to bond closer together, to store up meaningful relationships and experiences rather than things. We were wholeheartedly saying YES to a future free from fear, free from restriction and full of hope to live out what we truly cared about. 

After discussing all of our travel options, we knew we wanted to live on a sailboat with our children and travel together, hoping to one day venture into foreign lands where we could experience different people and cultures. We knew it sounded crazy. We knew people wouldn't understand. But we understood. We understood that there would be indescribable beauty woven throughout all the daily challenges we would face. And we knew there would be challenges: living in a small space, being dependent on the changing, fickle nature of the weather, learning a brand new skill, not having easy access to showers, washers or dryers, traveling with two small children and an infant, and constantly being surrounded by that which is unfamiliar. Everything would be new and different. But the challenge was part of the reason we were jumping in. We felt all too well the slow, silent atrophy of a life lived on autopilot. We knew a life lived intentionally held the space we needed to live out our values. And we knew it needed to be now. We weren't satisfied with "someday," we were ready to jump in, with hearts and hands wide open. 

We felt all too well the slow, silent atrophy of a life lived on autopilot. We knew a life lived intentionally held the space we needed to live out our values. And we knew it needed to be now.

We recently spent three weeks on our 47' sailboat before traveling back home to finish the sale of our house and to pack up the rest of our belongings. And even through several days of inclement weather, leaks in our boat, and the chaos of moving, we loved what each new day brought for us. As someone who used to be afraid to venture outside my front door, I never thought I would love life out on the open water, but being there, I was often held in wonder and amazement. 

While on the boat, I love waking up to the water, birds in the air with the sun peeking out over the horizon. I love the coziness of the boat's interior and the creativity required to bring the family together. I love living kinder and gentler toward the earth. On a boat it becomes crucial to think about the impact we'll be having toward the sea and land around us. Thinking about where our water comes from and where it goes, the products we use the trash we produce—it’s a more than worthwhile challenge. I love seeing my children embrace change and new challenges. And I love the fiery sunsets that take my breath away every single night.

I never thought this quiet, reserved homebody would grow up to be a wife and mama who embraced adventure and the unknown, but I can't think of a more exciting place to be. I know our decision to live and travel on a boat with our children will give us the space to live out our values in a truly radical way.  Adventure, freedom, togetherness—I‘m saying YES!


Brittany is a homebody turned adventure mama of three little girls. She and her husband Mike are currently transitioning their family to a nomadic life at sea on a 47' sailboat. Brittany loves following the radical call of God into a simpler life full of passion for freedom from fear for herself and others. When she's not homeschooling her girls, she's learning how to sail, writing on her blog, and enjoying the many incredible experiences of living on a boat.

Follow her story:

IG: @familyatsea


From Hurried Days to Slow Living Artists: A Young Family's Journey to Living a Simpler Life

Alyssa Delay

From Hurried Days to Slow Living Artists

Our lives have been anything but simple from the beginning. From taking years to confess our love to a quickly culminated storm of pregnancy, engagement, a wedding and a baby all within a year, we are still finding ourselves sorting through the pages of our already heavily chaptered life. 

Sam and I are young but destined parents, so when we found out we were expecting, we wanted to hasten a marriage but jump into the natural flow. In other words, our five-year plan struck us all at once like a lightning bolt, so we were happy with the gift God had given us, instead of treating it like a burden. 

Our first apartment was the renovated attic of a very old house. The wooden floors were charming, the bathroom’s skylight (which came to be the only source of bright natural light) was refreshing, and the brick chimney gave it character. Unfortunately, the space was very small and became too cramped for us to ever want to be home. The amount of stuff we were gifted still haunts me. Bless my sweet and generous family, but even my car became too full of bags and boxes to fit any other passengers, and only got worse when Evelyn was born. I physically could not carry all the things we were given to the third floor while carrying a newborn too, so we had nowhere to escape. We were drowning in stuff and drowning in the cardboard, plastic wrap and trash that it came in from things we didn’t ask for and didn't need. In fact, we asked for people to stop giving us things. We became so torn between appreciation and being overwhelmed, and even feeling disrespected. I wish I could say we made it out of that place alive, but in a way, we didn’t. We moved after our one-year lease and got rid of (most) of the junk, never bothering to fully sweep through it until we were ready to pack up. I had never felt such a lack of control than I did when we lived as prisoners to that stuffy, unkempt nest. 

In October of 2015, Sam, Evelyn and I moved into our current apartment. Even though it has one bedroom, it’s still bigger than our last. The ceilings are nine feet tall and there are long windows in each room that illuminate each corner, no matter the position of the sun. There are four spacious closets (our last had just one) and the kitchen is large and open. Evelyn still shares a bed with us, so there’s no need to take up space with a crib or a cot, though there is plenty of room for one when that time comes. It’s located on the second floor of a very old house in the center of our little town, has a very low rent and it’s all we see ourselves needing until we’re ready to buy our own house. It also happens to be right down the street from the coffee shop that Sam and I both work at and that he now co-owns.

This past spring, Sam left a well-paying job for a sabbatical after the daily stresses of work became too big of a burden for us to function. The work day never ended even after he’d come home. He drove a long distance, sometimes facing the temper of New Hampshire’s harsh winter, and would come home exhausted, unable to connect with me or with Evelyn or himself. Our initial thought was “this is just the sacrifice we must make in order to reach our dreams,” thinking that our dream was to live in a beautiful, rustic farmhouse as homesteaders with a handful of children, denying the pressure of today’s modern mantra of “work is life.” We were wrong. Our relationship felt muted, our weekends were for patching up whatever damage the week brought, and the three of us just never seemed to be at each other’s frequency. We were en route to a life of putting money before love. So, without knowing what lay ahead, we agreed it was best for Sam to leave his job and take time to reconnect with himself and God’s intentions for him. That’s when we realized our real dream was to live purposefully, simply, and rich with love.

I understand that with many families, either one or both parents sacrifice so much of their life and their energy into providing so that they can stay living a comfortable life, without the fear of losing their home or necessities. After Sam left his job and started working part-time as a waiter, we just barely made end’s meet. Luckily with our situation, we were not paying off any debt, had low bills and don’t pay for childcare (thank you, family!). Instead of driving an hour or two to get to work, Sam drove a mile down the road to a low-stress job with hours that allowed us to spend almost every single day together. That summer was the closest to our “dream” I think we’ll ever be. We’d wake up all together in a sunny room and hang out in bed until we felt like it. Sam and Ev would be sent to the coffee shop while I made breakfast, then we’d hang out some more until she’d go down for a nap. I’d make lunch, go to the gym or read a book with my beloved free time, and after she woke, we’d collect wild berries from our yard or go to a local farm or pick wildflowers. Sometimes we’d bring a blanket outside and eat our lunch, sometimes we’d sit in the grass eating mango popsicles. We were slow-living-artists in training with the best reward: clarity to go through our junk and to get rid of it. I started consigning our clothes at the local shop or donating the rest; we let go of books we were holding on to, old birthday cards, and baby toys. We rid ourselves of ugly lamps, useless documents and even our TV. To be honest, we’re about halfway done with what we’d like to accomplish, but we’re at the point now where almost all of our belongings that aren’t used daily can be stuffed into our closet and the chaos can be hidden by blank space. It doesn’t sound liberating, but that sort of containment has helped me gain back the control that was lost in our crazy first year of marriage, and with that control came lower anxiety levels, less stress, and even better sleep.


Before our dreamy summer came to an end, Sam was offered ownership in our friend’s coffee shop along with a new reality: a flexible job that Sam loves that also allows him to pursue his passion for woodworking on the side, and an overall, simple and cohesive life. Without him driving to work each day, we got rid of one car and started walking more. Our cheap rent and one vehicle allows us to save money, afford quality groceries and for me to stay home most days to raise our busy toddler. I work at the shop twice a week, which is a really fun way to get out of the house and to connect with other people and other moms, while also enjoying a hobby. 
We went from doing what we thought we were supposed to do to doing what we thought God wanted us to do. I remind myself of that during times I feel like we aren’t growing at the rate everyone else seems to be, because good things take time. If we’re going to gradually inch our way to that beautiful old farmhouse, I’d rather do it with conviction and intent, never forgetting to mark these days with an unhurried morning kiss.

Alyssa, her husband Sam, and their daughter Evelyn live a relaxed life in their home state of New Hampshire. They are becoming more invested in their community and try to support local businesses and farms when possible. Sam spends his free time crafting beautiful wooden tables and Alyssa is picking up new hobbies each day. They love hanging out at music festivals, coffee shops, or in the comfort of their home.

Follow Alyssa on Instagram @alyssadelay

The New Simplicity: Why I No Longer Let Minimalism Influence My Design Aesthetic

By: Melissa Risenhoover

I recently posted this on my personal Instagram account:

The reactions I received were wonderful and very helpful! However, it got me thinking about something a little bit bigger in relation to the very topic we speak so much about here on Cohesive Home...Minimalism. This is something I struggle with in defining my decorating style. What does it say about me if I DON'T want all white everything and a minimalist decor? Why do some of us struggle with minimalism in correlation with our decorating choices? Does personality dictate the space we create? Or do we override that in an effort to be "minimalist"? Oh and the big question people have, can I call myself a minimalist if I don't adhere to the all white aesthetic?  Either way I wanted to dive into this subject with you.

The above photo is me holding a wonderful glass of German wine while sitting in my German apartment with nothing in it. Except that Ikea painting of the girl swimming...I love that painting! Anyways, the choice to live in a bare apartment was intentional it had nothing to do with our personalities or how minimalist we wanted to be. What did this year do to my mind set you ask? Did it cause me to hate the color white and wish I lived next to a Hobby Lobby again? Yes and no. My personality has always been one that loves color, but that year we decided to be all white and create a simple palette didn't change that about me or my husband. Instead it created a "freebie" if you will. Almost a pass to do and be anything we wanted. We chose white. All white and modern. And we loved it for that short time. But now, as I sit in my rental space and dream of my future home I can't help but have an internal war with minimalism as a decorating theme and not just a lifestyle. Do I want white walls? What if I want a green couch? 

We have talked in our Cohesive Home podcast before about how minimalism is a tool, not the end all be all. We use it to help our home reflect our values, not dictate what color we should have on our walls. The tool helps us keep clutter at bay, bring peace to our spaces, and create calm in our agendas. In my opinion it should not dictate everyones style preferences. Don't get me wrong, some people love the minimalist style and rock it quite well, but if it's not your thing you should not feel guilty about it. 


“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." - Joe Fox”

I'm pretty sure I go to You've Got Mail for almost any life choice, but come on, Joe Fox got it right. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino! We all have a taste. Personality has a defining role in these choices. Like I stated in my Instagram post, my home is currently a rental and even though I may not love it and don't currently have my dream design aesthetic, MOST of the comments I received on this post indicated that people love to make things cozy and create a space that is theirs no matter what type of home they live in. Minimalist! Country Chic! Boho Eclectic! We all have a flavor. If we all drank tall decaf cappuccinos it would be a boring world. 

Have you taken the infamous Myers-Briggs personality test? I'm sure this says something about MY type, but I have never been one to get into the Myers-Briggs or any sort of personality testing. The thought of knowing just makes me feel trapped in a box. What if I don't LIKE my results? What if I think I'm a totally different type of personality and I'm sad. I took the test...I did it...and you know what? It was great! It confirmed what I already knew about myself. I'm outgoing and love to be creative. Nowhere in my results did it say I desire minimalist decor, white walls and no furniture. And I'm pretty sure yours won't either.

In my design future I'm sticking with a colorful, Scandinavian vibe like this amazing article from Apartment Therapy. But for now my beige walls with minimal decor will do, and believe it or not, it has no say on how "minimalist" I am. 

For another great read on minimalism and design check out this article on Design Sponge.  And for a fun listen check out our Podcast about creating cohesive spaces! 

Melissa is a creativity-driven free spirit that calls Oklahoma home, but recently returned from a year of traveling throughout Europe while living in Germany. As the mother of three home-schooled kiddos and the visual design backbone of Cohesive Home, Melissa is pretty awesome at juggling just about anything as long as a cup of coffee is involved. She and her husband Brandon dream of spending a few months a year back in France visiting with friends and exploring the local culture.

IG: @melissarisenhoover

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

by: Elizabeth Santelmann

Raise a hand if you love capsule wardrobes! But what's a mama to do when she realizes she's pregnant? @sunshineinmynest has written a killer guide to creating your perfect maternity capsule wardrobe and also includes tips for the rest of us.

A note from Kate and Melissa: we both struggled with figuring out the best wardrobe for our changing bodies while pregnant. Even if you’re not pregnant, this article contains some words of wisdom on how to create a capsule wardrobe. So whether or not you’re pregnant or even planning to be, we hope you enjoy this piece on creating an intentional wardrobe that supports a simple lifestyle—something we can all get behind!


A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that are timeless. Ideally, these items should all mix and match well, to create the most outfits with the least amount of items. I have been doing a capsule wardrobe for 6 seasons now, and I love how easy it is to get dressed every morning. My closet usually looks like I’m shopping at a boutique! I also love that there are no wadded up shirts in the corners of my closet, and there are no forgotten shoes hiding behind my mini closet dresser. It makes me feel happier about getting ready for my day.

For some reason it was harder for me to apply the rest of these capsule wardrobe principles to maternity clothes. Maybe it was because I felt vulnerable about how I look while pregnant. Maybe it was because I hated all the maternity clothes that I had left from my last pregnancy. Maybe it was because I love to find my capsule items at thrift stores, and second hand maternity clothing choices are limited. There is also mostly silence on the topic of maternity capsules in the blogging world. I don’t know why that is, the price tag they put on maternity clothing makes it vital to buy intentionally!  Read on to hear more of my thoughts on creating a maternity capsule wardrobe. 

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe


The first two things I do upon noticing my bump (or the swelling and gas that for some reason plagues me pre-bump) is to completely clear out my closet, and only put back what I know will look great over the next couple months. Those favorite pieces that do not fit just seem to stare at me and yell, “You are getting bigger!” Really, this is to make room for my new favorite items, because who doesn’t like having an excuse to wear jeans with an elastic waistband!? 

I also wanted to make a hard fast rule on how much I could keep hanging in my closet, so I bought a pack of 24 velvet hangers. This really makes my clothes stand out, while limiting the number of things I can hang. Your number may be higher or lower, but I suggest setting boundaries for how many items you’ll have out at a time. 

Each person’s wardrobe is made up of highly personalized choices. I will give very specific information in regard to what I chose, because that is what I know. Know that the individual choice you make may look different from mine, but the general capsule wardrobe principles hold.

The thing I had a hard time doing is being realistic about what I would want to wear. I didn’t like spring green before I was pregnant, but somehow I thought I would like it while pregnant. Growing a human inside of my body doesn’t change what makes me feel attractive. If you like A-line dresses, that slim sheath dress that looks cute on the rack, probably won’t make you feel beautiful. The way your body is shaped should inspire you to pick flattering styles: you are your own best stylist! I have been amazed when looking at my current maternity capsule wardrobe at how similar it looks to my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. That wasn’t intentional, but what I like hasn’t changed.


  1. Does it fit my changing body well? That pre-bump stage when you don’t really look pregnant, but tend to feel bigger than your usual self can be a hard transition. This is a great time for billowy tops, which hide the changes your body is undergoing pretty well. Anything in my regular wardrobe that isn’t form fitting can usually be used during the first 3 months; you might find the same. Some pre-pregnancy items can be used for quite some time, before I have to move away from them entirely. The longer I can stay in your regular clothes, the more I feel like myself. 
  2. Does this style look similar to my previous style? I bought a bright green shirt with strings on the side before I got pregnant, I still have no idea why I thought I would love that when I got pregnant. It simply wasn’t my style, pregnant or not. Stick with your personal style and favorite silhouette’s as you create your capsule wardrobe. Pregnancy is not the time to experiment with trends! 
  3. Can I wear this with my pre-pregnancy investment pieces? One of the things I have tried to do when not pregnant is buy just a few classic clothing items and more accent pieces. This makes switching from my regular clothes to maternity much easier. I can still use my trench coat, leather jacket, and my cardigans all throughout pregnancy. I can put maternity t-shirts under them and they will look just as classy as my regular size t-shirts. 
  4. Does this item coordinate with the season I will be pregnant? I foolishly bought 2 sleeveless maternity tops, when most of my pregnancy will be through fall and winter. I had just found out I was pregnant, and I started buying what I would need for the current season, not the season I would be showing. Be patient and buy clothes during the season that you need them.


  1. Does this piece of clothing help me create multiple outfits? If you buy colored pants, make sure the color goes with most of the tops in your closet. It’s not bad to buy a statement piece while you are pregnant, just make sure it’s one you will use all the time! 
  2. Is this piece in good condition? Are there rips, or holes? Its it stretched out? Does it have any stains? It really doesn’t matter how much you paid for it; If it’s worn out, it needs to go.
  3. Does this fit my lifestyle? As a stay at home mom I can’t buy fragile fabrics. Right after my son was born I bought a half dozen gauzy shirts. They were really popular at the time and I stained them and ripped them to shreds within a few months. I also choose not to have a collection of yoga pants, because if I do I end up neglecting the rest of my clothing! Unfancy blog has an awesome wardrobe planner that helps you map out your activities, so you can correlate them to your lifestyle. Find what works for your lifestyle and build a wardrobe around it. 
  4. Do most of the colors in my closet go together? Choose colors that compliment each other and stick with just a few colors. My goal is to have all my clothes coordinate together. I also try to stick with mostly black as my basics (skirts, pants, shoes) since it’s a pretty easy color to find. Find what you look best in and buy your basics in that color. 


This is the list of what is in my capsule, and why I chose it. I hope that seeing specific pieces and the logic behind why I picked them will help you to think through what you want to pick. These choices reflect the lifestyle of a stay at home mom, who likes to look nice, but doesn’t like to think about getting dressed very much. If these aren’t pieces you would have worn before you got pregnant, just substitute them for a color or shape that feels more “you.” Let us know in the comments below some of your favorite clothing choices, and what has made them fit into your closet.

White V-neck T-Shirt – perfect for layering under a blazer, black leather jacket, or a sweater

Black V-neck T-Shirt – looks great with my gold jewelry, or a trench coat

Cream and Black Stripe T-Shirt – looks good by itself for the lingering hot fall days in Oklahoma

Grey T-Shirt – excellent for layering with a scarf, or my coral jewelry, puffer vest, or sweaters! 

Teal Shirt – pop of color that goes with my color palate

Grey ¾ Sleeve Shirt – great neutral to go with multiple outfits

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

Sailor Stripe Shirt – this is a “normal self” staple that needed to repeat into my maternity clothes.

Grey Stripe Shirt – not my favorite. I already had it, and I know I can put it into a lot of looks that I like. 

Red Plaid Shirt – red plaid is another of my pre-pregnancy staples, so it made sense to carry it over. 

Mustard Sweater – the color that defines me, so naturally it’s in the mix.

2 Sleeveless Shirts – Would have been great for a summer pregnancy, but they are my “what was I thinking” purchases. 

Blanqui Maternity Top – This allows me to wear all my pre-pregnancy jeans up to 6 or 7 months since I don’t bump very big at first. Supposedly as you get bigger it works as “support wear” too! 

A Simple Black Dress - One cannot understate the versatility of a black dress!

Stretchy Chambray Dress - I removed the belt loops, so that it can be belted above my bump. I can wear this with a trench coat, a sweater, or my puffer vest.

For Bottoms I usually go very simple. I have one pair of skinny jeans and one pair of boot cut jeans. One of them is usually in a dark wash and the other a light wash. I also have a pair of maternity jean shorts. 

For Skirts I have a black maxi, bright color maxi, and one floral print skirt. Maxis are great while pregnant because they stretch so much, and they can be layered to make a variety of outfits for any season! 


Capsule wardrobes have caused me to be much more intentional in my choices of clothing. It allows me to spend a little more on each item, because I know I will love it, rather than spending a little money on a lot of stuff that doesn’t work for me. In the world of maternity dressing sticking with what you already know works for you is vital! Then hang those choices in your closet with pride. When you look at what you have created it should bring so much satisfaction and joy. Getting dressed should be a breeze, because you have done the work ahead of time!


Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand.

Instagram: @sunshineinmynest