10 Small Purchases We Couldn’t Live Without

10 Small Purchases We Couldn’t Live Without

Things Under $100 That Unexpectedly Changed Our Family Life

Click here to download the Family Things Wish List


5 Things Every Mom Should Own

1) A swing or seat that my baby loves and will sleep in

Babies who nap in swings are just the best, especially when there are several other small children in the house. Toddlers are not understanding when you try to tell them, “I can’t help you get your snack right now because I have to rock the baby to sleep.” Don’t get me wrong, rocking babies to sleep is absolutely my idea of heaven, but there are moments in the day when rocking or entertainment is needed for baby so other kiddos’ needs can be met. I have lots of favorite baby seats and swings that I’ve used for my babies either for naptime or playtime, the difference really being the individual baby’s preference. If baby is happy, the whole house is happy.

A couple of important notes here: First, swings MUST plug in. Battery operated swings were most definitely created in collaboration with Energizer. Second, while the links above all go to beautiful new baby items, I never buy these items new. They are all too bulky to store from one baby to the next, so I always sell them as soon as they’re outgrown and re-purchase used for the new baby.

2) Chromecast

We use Chromecast to start our morning routine video, praise music for circle time, and Netflix for the kid that needs a quiet break in the other room in the afternoon. The ability to turn on the tv in another room of the house using only my phone is super cool and eliminates extra steps when I’m already trying to do ten things at once.

3) Library card and good book lists
Okay, this isn’t exactly something you purchase (unless you rack up lots of overdue book fees). But it is a game-changing resource in our house. We use our multiple local libraries extensively, and not just for books. Our favorite libraries have great play areas where my littles can play for hours. The big kids play too, or find books, or use the computers. It’s a great alternative to other expensive play places.

A huge part of our homeschool revolves around exploring good books in a number of genres and subject areas. Having quality, in-depth book lists really helps with this. Here are some of my favorite books about books and reading that I’ve found really helpful.
Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
Books to Build On by E.D. Hirschle

4) Toy cubbies
I love bins. Baskets. Cubbies. Even Mason jars. Having several children in the house necessitates being somewhat minimalist with toy selection and storage, and having a clearly designated place for each item is a must. We have a well-used set of Ikea cubbies and bins that we bought many years ago that have served us very well. Add a few baskets for larger items, and some mason jars for pencils and crayons and other art supplies, and we have a well-organized playroom that doesn’t make me want to throw out all the toys.

5) A step stool
We have at least four step stools in our house. We have lots of little people. My philosophy is that one of the quickest ways I can make my life less crazy is by helping the little people become more independent. Enter the step stool. I know it probably seems super obvious, but it is amazing sometimes how long I’ll go on doing something for a child that they could do for themselves if I just removed one simple barrier, such as height. Washing their hands or brushing their teeth, for example. This approach carries over into other areas, too: velcro means putting on their own shoes, and plastic bowls in a bottom drawer mean getting their own cereal.

Just remember, the step stool has to be one they are able to get out and use on their own; independence is the idea here.

JAMIN RESPONDS: I totally agree with you, but I can’t wait to see the feedback – it seems like your list wasn’t specific enough this time around,
but we’ll see…


tldr: Google and Amazon will surely own us all someday

1) Amazon Prime
You probably already have this, but if you don’t, it will change your life. Free 1-or-2-day shipping on everything God can imagine.  Keeping shopping lists of varying degrees of urgency and trying to schedule the store runs is a headache that isn’t necessary any more. Plus, if you use it right, it’s a money saver too because when you see something you think you want, you can just add it to your cart without checking out and then later you can decide whether that was something that you really needed or whether that was going to be a terrible impulse-buy. The only drawbacks that I can see are (1) the opportunity for Amazon to tempt you with things that you don’t necessarily want or need and (2) the cardboard. Good Lord the cardboard! So many boxes and I only have one recycle bin. Amazon – I’m fine with you just slapping a shipping label on the manufacturer’s box. I don’t need my printer paper triple-boxed, even if we do love the huge brown paper that you fill the boxes for us to make murals with.

2) Chromecast (from Google)
Chromecast is awesome. Chromecast is the best. We seriously don’t even need TV because of Chromecast. You can control all the TVs in your house from your phone and the kids can’t change the channel or switch shows, and you can monitor what’s being played on every device in your house from your phone!

3) Don’t Shoot The Dog
This book sounds like a dog training book because it’s a dog training book. But it also works great for training kids or adults or a classroom full of unruly students. It’s all about positive reinforcement and almost entirely leaves out consequences and punishment. For that reason, it’s not a complete parenting book, but if you are just looking for behavior modification this is a great place to start! Just cross out the word “dog treat” and insert whatever your favorite small reward is and the advice here could very well change the tone of your house.

4) The 80/20 Individual
My wife thinks that I am great at finding systems that are efficient and getting things done quickly. (By the way, Getting Things Done is also a great book! Maybe I’ll elaborate on that more later.) The idea of this book is pretty simple but also counter-intuitive: 80% of your results in any area of life usually come from about 20% of the systems you have in place. The reason you want to buy the book is all the examples of other 80/20’s that exist in your life. It seems you can pretty much just fill in the blank: “80% of [effect comes from 20% of [cause.” The reason this is important is the 80% of the other systems that you’re trying aren’t really doing anything except for stressing you out! Finding what works and what doesn’t will help you eliminate systems and stress and expenses that are unnecessary.

5) Why Marriages Succeed or Fail And How You Can Make Yours Last
If you only read one marriage book, well, then you probably won’t have a very good marriage. You’ve got to try harder than that! Put some effort in! But once you read a bunch of marriage books, I think this one will stand out in its practicality. After reading this book I went back and got all of the author’s other stuff, and most of it was decent but not the standout that this one was.

My major take away from the book is: contempt is the most harmful thing in a marriage. When the trust level is so low that you assume negative intentions from the other person, things are headed in a very, very bad direction. Just being able to step back and ask myself: “Is there any possibility that Wendy’s motives are not the negative ones I feel they have to be?” has been a big deal for us. That wasn’t even the main point of the book, so I’m sure you’ll find your own gems in here.

WENDY RESPONDS: So, pretty much Amazon + Google + plus good books? Maybe your list is too specific. Oh…and Braava! How did one of us not say Braava?!? Forget the step stool, I need my mopping robot.

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