31 Day Simplify Series :: a definition {day 1}

Simplify Series // 31 days of Simple // BrownSugarToast.comWhat does the word ‘Simplify’ even mean?

I asked Merriam Webster himself and he directed me to the word ‘simple.’ Which is defined (in part) as follows:

simplify series // brownsugartoast.com

Notice that circle – er, oval – around that second definition? That’s the one we’re going for in this series. Not complex or fancy. Uncomplicated.

There are 4 areas we’ll focus on simplifying in this series:

  • cleaning (week 1)
  • meals (week 2)
  • home (week 3)
  • miscellaneous favorite tips that I can’t neatly fit into any of the above categories (week 4)

A gazillion books have been written on this topic as it relates to our schedules, parenting, home, etc. So there’s no way I will even attempt to be exhaustive in this series. Rather, I’m simply going to share things that work for me and my family of 5. I’m smack in the middle of parenting babies – 4, 2, and 11 months – so trust me, I’m a big fan of anything that makes life more simple. I’m kinda guessing you are too – no matter what stage of life you happen to be in. You might want to sign up here for daily email updates so you don’t miss anything.

I can’t wait to get started.


p.s. do you love reading through series? here are a few other topics I’ve written about:

This post is part of the 31 day Simplify Series.
To stay connected, sign up for email updates or find me on facebook!

Did you miss a post from this series? Click here to see them all!

Simplify Series // a 31 day journey via BrownSugarToast.com

break your rules

break your rules & live by God's.We all have rules for ourselves.

Sometimes they’re good: “I will always wash my hands after using the restroom.”
That’s definitely a good rule.

Sometimes they’re odd: “I refuse to be seen in a red car.”

But we all have them.

There’s a sweet lady in my church. When she was in her upper 30’s, both she and her husband were preparing to go to a foreign country. They were looking primarily at English speaking countries since that’s the only language they spoke. But one day her husband {in his early 40’s} came home and told her he thought God was calling them to the Azores.

The first thing she asked? “What language do they speak?”

And so they both learned Portuguese.

Thirty some years passed. God had brought this couple back to America and they  were preparing to begin a ministry to Spanish speaking people.

Except for one problem – they didn’t know Spanish. So back to school they went to learn a new language – she in her upper 60’s & he in his 70’s.

Seriously? Who does that?

Like, really – I’ve been trying to learn Spanish recently so that I can build a relationship with my neighbor and you know what? It’s HARD! And maybe I’m a wimp. But I’m also 40 years younger than she was when she learned Spanish!

As I listened to her testimony, the main thing that impressed me was her tender heart towards God. She could have easily decided not to learn a new language, but to leave that for the fresh, young Bible college graduates. But they didn’t. Because God was calling them and they said yes.

If she made a rule for herself against learning a new language, she wouldn’t have followed God’s leading.

Sometimes we make rules for ourselves that aren’t good. And they aren’t odd.
Sometimes we make rules that actually make it impossible for us to follow God’s leading.

We make rules for our standard of living – where we live, what we drive, how we eat, what we wear. Our schedule. Our level of entertainment. Hosts of rules regarding our children.

Rules like:
“I will never live in a neighborhood like that.”
“My child will always be in this school.”
“I’m never going to be friends with someone who acts/looks/dresses/talks like that.”

But what if God calls you to that? What if God calls you to sell your home and move to a place where you can have more contact with people who don’t know Him? What if He calls you to send your child to a public school – or home school – or private school? What if God wants to use that friendship to help you become more like Him?

Are you going to immediately respond with “no” simply because you’ve made a rule for yourself against doing that?

You see, the tricky thing is this – a lot of times I make rules for myself and I don’t even realize I’ve made them. It’s not as if we have rule books we write everything down in that we will or won’t do. No, it’s something we come up with over time. But the rules are so ingrained in us that they might as well be written out in beautiful chalk lettering on our walls.

Break your rules.

As you seek God and His Word, He will lead you to places outside of your comfort zone. He doesn’t lead everyone to learn a new language when you’re 67. But He does lead each of His children to walk by faith. And something I’ve noticed? Faith is not my comfort zone.

Allow God to work in your individual life. He won’t call you to do something against His Word.
But my guess? He’s going to call you to break your rules and live only by His.


If you are a parent, seek to teach your child to have this kind of a tender spirit to God. One of the main things my husband and I pray for our youth group is that they would develop a tender heart to the Lord. Not a heart set on their plans and desires, but a heart that says, “God, whatever you want. I’m yours.”

How do you teach this heart? The best way? Model it.

As you make decisions for yourself and your family, talk with your child about your decision process. Are you stepping outside of your comfort zone and living by faith? Talk them through your thoughts, struggles, and the verses God has used to strengthen your faith. You never know how God will use daily faith conversations to work tenderness into their hearts.

A 31 Day Series

Introducing a 31 day series. The topic?Simplify Series // 31 Days // BrownSugarToast.comBecause this topic has been on my mind a lot recently.
As evidenced by the great purge of ’14, my hoarding pictures, and my pursuit of an intentional closet.

Because I’m 100% sure our society screams against this.
As evidenced by the amazing advertisement industry.

Because I’m 100% sure you need this in your life too.
As evidenced by my awesome mind-reading skillz.

Join me. October 1. The Simplify Series.

Want the Simplify Series to come straight to your inbox?
Sign up here! You can also connect on facebook for daily reminders.

I’ll update this page each day so that you can find all the links in one spot:
Day 1 // a definition
Day 2 //
Day 3 //
Day 4 //
Day 5 //
Day 6 //
Day 7 //
Day 8 //
Day 9 //
Day 10 //
Day 11 //
Day 12 //
Day 13 //
Day 14 //
Day 15 //
Day 16 //
Day 17 //
Day 18 //
Day 19 //
Day 20 //
Day 21 //
Day 22 //
Day 23 //
Day 24 //
Day 25 //
Day 26 //
Day 27 //
Day 28 //
Day 29 //
Day 30 //
Day 31 //

Simplify Series // a 31 day journey via BrownSugarToast.com

an intentional closet

Since the great purge of ’14, I’ve been much more intentional about the ‘stuff’ I allow into our home. I even avoided the clearance endcaps at Target the other day. Now that’s dedication.

I’ve been greatly intrigued lately by the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I first read about it here, but the idea originated from Un-Fancy.

Basically, the idea is that you think through your wardrobe for a specific season, buy what you need to fill it out, and then don’t buy anything else for the rest of the season. Oh – did I mention you can only have 37 items?

You might think it sounds cuh-razy. And I did too at first. But the more I’ve thought about, the more it really appeals to me. You see, it goes along with being intentional about stuff. Instead of just buying a piece of clothing because “I like it!” or “it’s only 2 bucks!” I’d actually be buying something with forethought. Plus, if you’re like me, you probably have your favorite clothes that you wear over and over again instead of wearing everything in your closet. So, doing a capsule wardrobe would be like picking only your fave pieces to wear each season.

I haven’t committed to the whole capsule wardrobe idea for this fall. But I have been thinking through my closet. And last month, I went through everything in my closet and got rid of at least 20 things. (sidenote: the fact that I can get rid of 20 things in my closet and never miss them is…ridiculous.) Some of the clothes didn’t fit. Some were from high school. All of it got put in a ‘donate’ or ‘trash’ pile.

One thing I am trying to do is to go through my closet and think through pieces I would like to get. I can’t call these essentials. Because really, as long as you have clothes, you’ve got the essentials covered. Buuut, I’ll call these items that I would totally put on my Christmas list. Except for the fact that some of the items shown below are insanely expensive. So I plan to keep my eyes open for replicas. I’ll letcha know what happens with this great search.5 fall pieces.

1 :: 2 :: 3 :: 4 :: 5 (not sure?)

A lot of neutrals, right? But these are some pieces that can be worn in so many different ways – especially 1, 2, & 5. The shoes aren’t totally my favorite, to be perfectly honest…but I really love having colorful shoes to add a little pop to my outfits. Actually, I’ve been looking for red flats for a while, so I would be pleased as punch to find some this season. And #4…I have been prowling around for a cute, warm, squishy hoodie for a couple years. This one is uber cute. But it’s also over $200. Let’s just make a pact here – you and me – even if I randomly receive a massive inheritance from a long-lost relative, I promise that I will never spend $230 on a hoodie.

Maybe $229.

kidding. obvs.

So, there you have it. I’m going to be making a list of holes in my closet and attempting to not buy anything unless it’s on the list. I’ll let you know if I find all these items for killer steals. Deal? I’m on my way to an intentional closet.

p.s. most of the ideas for these pieces were from my Style board on Pinterest. Follow me?

the funny thing about stuff

the funny thing about stuff. via BrownSugarToast.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff lately. Mostly due to my purging.

You know, there’s something funny about stuff. It seems to add goodness to our lives. But did you know that every time you add something, something else is subtracted?

Let’s start with the most obvious.

1. Every time you choose to bring stuff into your home, you subtract money. If I add this Ikea blanket into my home, I’ve just subtracted $20 from my wallet.
“Oh, but I got this at a yard sale and only paid $4 for it!” Fabulous! But you still subtracted $4.

2. Every time you choose to bring stuff into your home, you subtract energy. Because you’ve just committed to take care of that item for the duration of its residence. Use the blanket while you’re eating ice cream and get a big drip on it? You’ve just committed to taking care of that problem. However you choose to take care of it is up to you. But whatever method you choose (stain removal, trash the whole thing, gift it and hope nobody notices the stain, etc.) will require energy from you.

3. Every time you choose to bring stuff into your home, you subtract white space. Do you remember looking at the picture in this post and talking about how much we loved it? Do you know one of the big reasons you loved it? Because there was white space.

Every surface was not littered with knick-knacks. Or trash or books or anything. There was space to let your eyes rest. Each time we add something else to our homes, we’re choosing that stuff over space.

So, what’s my point?

Too often, I don’t think about subtraction when I do addition. I usually consider the $ subtraction. Because, obviously you have to think about that factor before you bring something home, right? But I usually don’t think about the subtraction of energy + white space.

I’m committing myself to think about everything – every. single. thing. - I bring into my home. Like, even the mail. Is it junk? Then don’t even let it through the door.

Clearly, I have an easier time with mail than with, say, Target’s clearance stash. Gah.

So, how are you at subtraction + addition with your stuff? Any subtractions I left out?
p.s. I’m opening comments for this post because I’d love to hear if you have any input on stuff!

pictures that could nominate me for hoarders.

Last week, I mentioned that I was purging my home of unnecessary items. AKA junk.

It ended up being a process that lasted pretty much the whole week. Part of that was due to my 3 sweet children. You know, they kinda wanted to eat and play during the great purge. Imagine that?! And my little Miles was extra fussy due to teething. Sad face. He’s mostly back to his happy self now, though, so that’s a blessing for the entire family!

Anyway, I snapped a few pictures with my phone before I started this whole cleaning/organizing project, so I thought it would be fun to show you the before/afters. What do you think? It’s always fun to look at someone else’s mess when you don’t have to get involved in it, right? I always tend to NOT take any before pictures, because I’m so embarrassed at how it looks and I don’t want anyone to ever know I let my house look like that. Whatever. We all have our messes, right? Besides, I have proof that I cleaned it up. So you can’t actually nominate me for any hoarding show. Unless there’s money involved, in which case I may consider messing it up again. #kidding #partially

Here’s the biggest area that got my wheels turning:


And if you take a closer look, you’ll see this

mattress junkdon’t worry, those diapers are clean.

and this:

crazy junk

This is in our family room/laundry room/craft room area. There are a bajillion windows + a fireplace in this room. The windows are rather old {ie. drafty}, so when it’s cold outside, it’s cold in this room. And vice versa. Thankfully, there’s a large glass door that separates this room from the rest of our home, so we usually keep it closed to keep out the drafts.

Anyway, we have jokingly referred to this area as our garage. Because we need some place to keep our bikes, strollers, etc.

However…this brings me to another problem area:


This is a long closet right by our dining room. Long & skinny, it’s the perfect place to stow…well, just about everything as you can see from the dark-ish picture above.

I started wondering if the bikes would fit in that long closet one morning and decided to just find out. Of course, in the process of pulling everything out, I discovered a lot of junk which led to purging which led to organizing…and basically I created my own rendition of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. 

But after a good deal of donations, trash, and sweat, I was able to fit the bikes & trailer in our long closet!

long closet

Above the bikes, we have our Christmas tree, camping stuff, and other random accessories such as a cupcake stand, wet/dry vacuum, fall decor, etc.

This leaves me with this view in our family room area:

new and improved area

Much better, right?! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with this de-junkified space.

I came across that pink/white fabric and 2 pillow inserts while cleaning out my closets and craft area. {if you follow me on instagram, you already got a sneak peek at it!} So I decided to make some pillow covers. Of course, that all sounds like it was just a quick and easy venture. But considering I haven’t used my sewing machine for many months, I had to fight it out with my machine first. But after a bit of oiling and dusting, we called a truce and he decided to cooperate with my lack of sewing skillz. I used the same envelope pillow cover tutorial I used for these pillows.

And if you look closer, you’ll see this:

tool area

That is our new tool + paint area. Plus umbrella stroller + wood. I mean, so it wouldn’t be featured in a magazine. But, you know, it looks better than before. ;)

And for now, I’m storing these items behind the couch. Most of it is going on craigslist, so I’m hoping it will be gone in the next week or so.

behind couch

 Let’s have one last look at that main before and after, shall we?

before and after purging

Yippee! I tell ya, it’s like a breath of fresh air to go out there and not be assaulted with a view of so much stuff.

For now, I’m going to try not to fill up my newfound space with things. Like that Ikea blanket I told you about. Let’s see how long that lasts…


2014 has been a time of purging.

And I don’t mean anything to do with food or drinks.

I feel like all year has been filled with spurts of organizing and getting rid of things. Redefining my goals for things and possessions. Trashing, donating, moving, etc.

and it feels so good.

This morning, my guy and I had a little texting convo that went like this:


He’s a winner. And the house did/does still look like some wreckage has passed through.

I came across this picture {via this site} and loved it for many reasons.

lovely and clean

But you know the biggest one?

It’s clean. There are no piles of junk sitting in the corner, under the sofa, etc.

Now, I realize the fact that I have 3 kids is going to make my house look quite a bit different. And I’m totally cool with that. My intent is not to make it look like no kids live in my home – so the fact that there are toys out is awesome. (unless it’s a block with sharp edges and it comes in contact with my foot. then it’s not so awesome.)

The fact that I have stuff sitting in my home that I haven’t used in over a year and probably won’t for another 5? totally not awesome. So I’m working on it. And it’s quite freeing, believe it or not. I actually vacuumed under my bed this morning. Hello. Who does that? Clearly I don’t.

So, are any of you in a great purging mood? Let’s have a yard sale together.
No, let’s not. Too much work. 

Let’s celebrate instead by going out and buying more stuff to fill up all our new empty space.

“Let all things be done decently & in order.”
1 Corinthians 14:40

take it to Jesus.


when life piles up on you.

when the pressures seem to multiply.

there’s an answer for that.


God doesn’t give us overwhelming situations so that we will be overwhelmed, but so that we’ll give them to Him.

Recently, there have been a lot of areas in my life where I feel burdened and overwhelmed:
several friends rejecting Jesus and pursuing sin.
a sweet Pastor dying suddenly of a heart attack.
my close friend having a miscarriage.
coming off a full summer.
my husband beginning work on his doctoral degree.

In all these things, the lesson God keeps teaching me is this:
God wants these pressures to take me closer to Him. Closer.

Got problems? Pressures? Overwhelmed?
Take it to Jesus. Just keep running to Him.