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Why I dislike Direct Sales Companies (& Why I signed up with one)

usborne consultant superpower

I recently signed up as a representative for Usborne Books & More!!! Woo-Hoo!

Several people have asked me why I would do this, because I’m generally not a fan of direct sales or MLM strategie.

So, I thought I would take a few minutes and let you know why I made an exception for Usborne Books & More.

Reason #1: Because…Books.

Okay, y’all, I’m a minimalist. Ahem… maybe more in theory than practice, but I’m getting there. Anyway, I have one weakness and that’s books. High-quality books. I am passionate about reading and literacy and getting great books into the hands of children! Usborne books are very high quality in both the physical way they are made and the content.

They win lots of awards. They have a 50% replacement policy for damaged books.

usborne facebook cover

They have a huge selection that I’m just now learning about with so much to choose from! They have tons of non-fiction great for homeschooling or school children in general. They also have lots more like:

I saw this great graphic recently with a quote from You’ve Got Mail, and it pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter. I loved that movie, just because of Kathleen Kelly’s passion for books.

children and books quote

Reason #2: Saving Money

You all know that I am one frugal mama! I’m beyond frugal. I pass the cool and trendy “frugal” and into cheap. So, I love a good bargain.

I’ll be completely honest here, though I love books, I rarely buy them new at full price. I love shopping the clearance rack, used book sales, yard sales, and goodwill. If that’s not enough, I have a whole post about ways to save on books through online means, just in case you’re like me and don’t often have access to the traditional savings methods.

However, sometimes I need a book that I can’t find used or on clearance. Yes, it happens.

Being an Usborne independent consultant allows me to save 25% on their great books every single day. I love that, and for a homeschool family that loves books, this is a good thing!

They also have some great specials: 

**Through September, you can join my team for just $25 and save 25% on all Usborne everyday!!! That is a bargain price! Feel free to email me at Crystal (at) Serving Joyfully (dot) com if you have any questions***

Reason #3: The books are reasonably and competitively priced

I know this is similar to #2, but it’s a bit different. See, one of my issues with many direct sales companies is that they are greatly overpriced. You can get similar quality items at your local department store for half the price. That is not good for your customers! I can’t bring myself to promote something to people that I don’t feel is in their best interest.

However, with Usborne, the books are competitively priced. The regular prices of Usborne books and activities are similar to what you’d find at a bookstore, Walmart, Amazon, etc. And in many cases, they are actually less expensive, and a greater quality. That is something I can feel good about sharing with friends and readers.

Reason #4: No minimums

I recently looked into another direct sales company and they stated no minimums. However, once I bought the kit and signed up, I found out that you can only earn commissions if you’re personally buying $100 per month! Wow! With Usborne, that is not the case.

There are truly no minimums and no sneaky tactics. You can sign up just for a the 25% discount, or to sell to friends occasionally if you choose. Or you can sign up and build a business that you can work from home. I don’t do pushy, but I do like being able to offer friends the opportunity to purchase if they are interested. When I first signed up a couple friends told me that their children love the books, but just hadn’t known where to purchase them before. Now they can easily access them.

Don’t forget through Sept. 30th, you can sign up for just $25 if you choose! (They still also have their original $69 and $119 starter kits if you’re looking for a great way to build your personal collection)

Reason #5: Great Hostess Rewards

I love to be able to bless people! Usborne is a win/win/win. I get to introduce amazing books to friends and their children, earn a little money on the side, and get my friends great rewards when they host a party! They offer even better rewards for new consultants to help them get off to a great start–DOUBLE hostess rewards for the first 12 weeks! So, for parties with sales of $250 or more, I can double the rewards through September!

If you’re interested in hosting a party, I’d love for you to contact me at Crystal (at) Serving Joyfully (dot) com.

Bonus: The parties are fun and easy for everyone!


Reason #6: Very Affordable to get started

Most direct sales companies I’ve seen are at least $150-$200 to get started. Usborne offers a choice of 2 start up kits which are $69 and $119. Just 1-2 good parties and you can earn back your investment in commissions! However, through the end of September they are offering the opportunity to sign up for just $25!  Considering the 25% commission, I knew 1-2 good parties would earn me back my initial investment and anything else would be a bonus.

Reason #7: Great Support

My director has a great facebook group with lots of training, tips, etc. This makes it very easy to jump in, even if you’re brand new to direct sales or to Usborne. Usborne provides tons of graphics, training resources, etc. to make it very easy to share and host parties in person or on facebook.

If you have any questions about purchasing, hosting a facebook party, or signing up, I’d love to chat with you! You can message me on facebook, or email me at Crystal (at) Serving Joyfully (dot) Com.


The Power of Just One Thing {Depression}

power just one thing

I’ve talked here a bit about my struggle with severe, chronic depression. In addition to this, I have some other health problems that lead to chronic fatigue that is at times nearly debilitating.

Like so many things with depression and it’s symptoms, it’s a vicious cycle. Depression and other health problems leave me drained of energy and unable to perform necessary tasks, and my inability to do these things leaves me feeling even more worthless.

I’ve been planning this post in my head for a while now, but have been procrastinating because it’s not a fun topic. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing, and vulnerable. One of my biggest personal struggles is admitting the fact that depression and my health prevent me from serving my family in the way that I desire. Nobody can do it all, but I have health limitations that make my all even less than I’d like.

In the worst of my depression and fatigue symptoms, there were days when nothing got done. Days when there wasn’t even one thing in the day that I could look back and be proud of.

Just One Thing.

I’ve been in the dark pit of depression, and it can be debilitating. It drains you of energy and motivation, and the result is an even deeper feeling of worthlessness and self-loathing. It’s a vicious cycle, but you can break it.

During the worst of my depression symptoms, I determined to do just one thing. One productive thing each day. One thing that I could look back and be proud of at the end of the day. Sometimes it might be as simple as:

  • take a shower
  • pick up a room in the house
  • cook dinner for your family
  • clean up the kitchen
  • wash the dishes
  • play a game with your kids

I know to some of you that sounds ridiculous. But I also know that to some of you, it sounds hard to think of doing even just one thing. Give yourself some tough love and just do it. I promise you, it will help. Get up and be productive.

Tip: Keep a journal of these things. It will help you on the bad days to be able to look back on.

Baby Steps

Maybe you’ve been down for a while and your to-do list is so daunting you don’t know where to start.

Forget about the to-do list.

Just do one thing. 

And then at the end of the day, at the very least, you’ll have that one thing to hang on to. The trick about this is that sometimes, that’s all it takes to get you back on the right track. Sometimes that one thing leads to more things.

But even if it doesn’t, you can feel better at night knowing that you accomplished at least something.

Not Just For Depression

Maybe you don’t suffer from depression. Maybe for you it’s a physical illness or something else that drains your strength and motivation. Or maybe your goal is something else entirely. I think this concept can help you, regardless of your goal.

Maybe for you it’s not being productive that’s a problem. Maybe you need to focus on doing just one fun thing with your kids each day. Or just one fun thing for yourself.

Whatever it is, don’t underestimate the power of doing just one thing.






A couple days ago, I shared why “today is the day” to make a change, and I did. Day 2 of being back on track with real food eating is in the books and successful! Yes, it’s only 2 days, but as they say…every journey has to start somewhere.

But it almost wasn’t so.

I almost failed at supper time. You see, right before I decided to do this real food only challenge, I had purchased 3 loaves of our favorite garlic bread because it was on sale for a rock bottom $1.50 a loaf. It was one of the things I decided to keep and eat eventually rather than throwing it out. In the scheme of things, if that was the only processed food I eat, I’d be doing pretty good.

So today when I was dreaming about sweets and junkfood (keepin’ it real here), I remembered that garlic bread. I could almost taste it. By suppertime, I was ready for some spaghetti with a big helping of ooey, gooey, cheesy garlic bread.

I told myself that I saved it for this purpose, and that one piece of off-plan garlic bread was no big deal.

But for me, in that moment. It would have been a big deal.

no excuses

I read a quote recently, one that I’ve read before and it convicts me every single time.

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way;
If not, you’ll find an excuse.

This is so true!

But, y’all, I’m really good at excuses.  I am persuasive and convincing at telling myself that I just can’t do any better. There is always a reason that I need to do that thing that I shouldn’t do.

For me, it’s the whole sugar addiction and junk food thing.  I’m tired of looking back and wishing I’d gotten my health under control earlier. I can’t do that. But what I can do is start now, so that I won’t be in the same position a year from now. It’s a good plan.

It’s also really, really hard.

There is always a reason to fail. So many reasons that sometimes I just give up the fight. I completely stop fighting. Because, seriously, it’s hard to live a life where every minute of the day is a battle for something. I’ve gone through that for years with depression, lack of energy, this food struggle. It’s draining, wearying. And sometimes it feels easier to give up and give in. But giving up is not an option. 

All day yesterday, this quote about finding excuses was in my head.

Excuses are the easy way out, but they offer no reward. It’s so much harder to find a way to power through. But that’s the only way to reach the victory. There are no shortcuts.

So every time I was tempted over the past couple of days–and it was pretty much all day long–I reminded myself, that’s an excuse. 

I’m done with excuses. It’s time to find a way.

And that quote reminds me of another. Except this one is a verse from God’s word:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

God is faithful and “with the temptation, will also make the way of escape.”

The  quote I mentioned says that if we really want something we’ll find a way. When it comes to resisting temptation, there is always a way. God’s word tells us that. He is faithful to provide it, and I trust in Him to do what His word promises.

There is always a way.

It’s just so much easier to fall back on excuses instead. We don’t even have to look for those, just fall into it. But it’s still a choice. We always have a choice.

Maybe you don’t struggle with food or weight. Maybe your struggle is overspending, or who knows what. Regardless of the struggle, the answer is the same–find a way or find an excuse.

And God will always provide you with the way to resist the temptation.

For me, it was the strength I needed to fix myself broccoli w/ cauliflower, chicken, and mashed potatoes, with a side of tomato slices from our garden. Take that ooey, gooey, garlic bread!



The Time is Now {Building Healthier Habits}

Now is the time

Full disclosure–I’m writing this for me. It’s rambling, and it’s probably too personal and vulnerable. For those of you who don’t understand weight struggles, it will probably even seem ridiculous.

Oh, the pain of writing this post…again. But maybe we all have those hangups and issues that we just can’t seem to beat.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with my weight and food addiction for a long time. I’ve written about it over, and over, and over. I’ve tried plans and books.

Having this struggle with food addiction goes against everything I stand for. But I still can’t seem to kick it. Yes, it’s probably related to depression, but I don’t want to use that as a crutch. The truth is that I’m weak.

It’s a constant source of frustration and discouragement to me:

  • My weight causes a lot of physical and health problems for me.
  • I am medically obese, which again, causes a lot of health risks and  complications.
  • It represents an area of failure, unfaithfulness, and when it comes right down to it, it’s sinful.

While some sins and failures are hidden, mine are out there for all the world to see and judge.

Three years ago, in the spring of 2012, I thought I had finally beaten this monster. I was inspired when I stumbled across a “workout jar” post on pinterest and I ran with it. I started working out every day and continued for 3 months. I changed my diet to eating mostly real foods and healthier  portions. I cut out soda and eating out. There were no more binges.

I had no cravings for the junk food I’d been so addicted to. As far as I was concerned, the battle was over and I had won. I’d never before reached a point where I looked forward to working out and did not at all crave those foods or even want them. I felt in my heart like I had the victory over this thing that has held me captive for so long.

But then one thing led to another. We found out we were moving and had to move across the state in about a month’s time.During this time, we made several long trips to try and get everything settled. I was stressed to the max and felt like I had no time to get it all together.  Little by little those convenience foods and eating out were added back in.  The stress of moving and all that entailed made it easy to fall back into the habits and addiction of comfort eating.

I had lost 22 lbs at that point. It took 5 months of letting it all go before I started gaining it back.

A Year From Now…

start today

Looking back, there are so many times when I wish I could have reached out and told myself to “stop it now while you still can, before it gets out of control.”

In 2000, when I was 18 years old and weighed 115 all through high school. I had the same horrible eating habits, but it hadn’t caught up to me yet. And it wasn’t quite an addiction yet. Just bad habits.

In 2001, when I was 19 and my abusive boyfriend berated me because I had gained weight–the traditional freshman 15– and was now fat. I weighed less than 130 lbs. I was not fat. But I felt bad about myself because of his damaging words. I maintained that weight for a few years before it started to fluctuate, reaching 160 before I got pregnant the first time.

In 2010 when my youngest son was a year old and I weighed 145. I had maintained that weight for a few years, except for when I was pregnant both times, but I still wasn’t happy. 2 pregnancies and c-sections had left me with a little pooch in my belly and I distinctly remember a lady at church asking me what I was going to do when I had 3 kids so close together. I wasn’t pregnant. Again, this was not an unhealthy weight for me, but my self-image was still very poor.

I wish I could go back to that point and tell myself that I still had time to get it together and get healthier before it got out of control. Because it would get out of control.

By 2012, I had reached 200 lbs. I weighed more than I did when I was 9 months pregnant and was medically obese. That’s when I got serious about it for a while and lost 22 lbs. I reached 178.8 and felt better than I had in a long time. I will never forget the joy of reaching that first goal.

I wish I could go back to that point and tell myself to get a handle on it now, before it got out of control.

Because it would get even more out of control as I gained back all the weight I had lost…and then some. A lot.

I would never have dreamed that I would look back at my 200 lb self and say “get it together before it gets even more out of control.” But I’m at that place now.

I can’t go back.

No matter how much I wish it, I can’t go back to any of those points and get myself together before it gets worse.

But as I was thinking of all this and longing desperately, the thought hit me, and I know it seems painfully obviously, now is the time. 

If I continue at this pace, there will come a day when my weight and health will be even more out of control, and I will look back even to this time and say, I wish I could go back and tell myself to get it together before it gets worse.

Now is the Time.

If you’re reading this and thinking that you’d like to get healthier, I just want to encourage you. Forget about tomorrow, next week, or the elusive “someday”. The time to start is now. If you are in that spinning out of control place where you haven’t reached rock bottom yet, I hope that you’ll listen to someone with experience. Now is the time to take your life back.  It will only get more difficult to do so with each passing day.

I don’t know if I can be successful this time in beating the food addiction, but I’m going to keep trying. No matter how many times I fail I will always keep trying. And now is the time.

Support and Encouragement

I’ve done the research. I’ve read, and read, and read. I know what to do, it’s just a matter of doing it. Maybe you’re like me and you know what to do and just need some motivation and encouragement.

Or maybe you’re newer at this journey and you really need some solid information.

I’ve just learned about this course that may help us both get started. I was able to preview it, and I think you’ll like it as well. It’s a free ecourse, 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families, and the classes are taught by some of my favorite bloggers: Crystal Paine, Katie from Kitchen Stewardship, and more.


How to Go Paper-Free in Your Kitchen

Paper free in Kitchen

A few years ago, I wrote a post sharing about our grocery budget (read how we spend $200/month to feed our family of 4). That post has been the most popular post on this blog, pinned more than 50k times.

With all of those readers, there have been many questions and comments. One of the most common questions I have received involve not using paper products in the kitchen. The response is usually one of 3 things:

  • I could never do that because we have a bigger family, busier schedule, etc.
  • How in the world do you do without paper products in your kitchen?
  • I would love to do that but don’t know where to start.

Honestly, I’ve struggled with how to answer these comments, especially the “how to” type of questions because it doesn’t feel like something we’ve worked at, but just something we do.

However, my husband told me recently that a friend of ours asked that very question, so I thought that I would post about some of the practical logistics of how we make it work.

1. Start Small

If you want to make the switch, but you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one area to focus on, and keep at it until it’s your new normal, and then move on to another. Buy one pack of paper plates, cups, napkins, etc. and challenge yourself to make them last longer. Cut out the paper towels and use only cloth. If that feels too hard, start with napkins instead.

Just start somewhere and make baby steps toward where you want to go.

2. Replacing Disposable Items

Cloth Napkins instead of Paper Ones. 

We use cloth napkins. I have slowly built up our collection as I find them at thrift stores, etc. However, you can also get them new of course, like these basic ones for less than $1 each which is my goal price. We use these every day, at every meal.

The biggest problem is that guests sometimes are a bit uncomfortable with using them, since they are usually more accustomed to using paper napkins.

They are small and don’t take up a lot of extra room, so I can easily throw them into the wash with other things.

Dish Towels in place of Paper Towels.

Okay, so they make lots of fancy reusable towels, some even snap together so that you can put them on a roll like paper towels. While that serves the purpose of helping the environment, at around $60 for a set of 10, it’s not so good on the budget!

So, I use basic dish towels instead. I have probably 20-30 dish towels. Many of ours have been gifts (my family loves to give these for Christmas, etc.), or from the dollar store, Walmart, Etc. You can get this set of 12 basic dish towels for less than $10

We use these for everything from drying dishes to wiping up small messes in the kitchen–things most people would use paper towels for. It works for us!

For messier cleaning, I use regular towels and hand towels, along with scrubbers occasionally.

 A note on keeping your dish cloths and dish towels fresh: Every few months (or if you notice odors), wash your dish towels and dish cloths in very hot water. Run one wash with 1 cup of vinegar. Another wash with hot water and 1/2 cup baking soda. For best results, line dry, but you can also use your dryer. This helps cut out build ups.

Glass or Plastic Cups, Bowls & Plates

For drinking, we use mostly glasses, including our children. When we need something portable, or need a lid, I like these plastic double-wall cups with lids and straws. However, we’ve been working to move away from plastic, so I’m looking forward to trying out these stainless steel ones.

We drink mostly water, so we usually keep the same cup throughout the day. Because we’ve done this for years, it works for us.

We use glass plates and bowls at our meals, including the children. The exception to this is that I have some cheaper hard plastic plates that we use for parties, etc. They are similar to these BPA-free ones from preserve or Ikea. They are a bit more than you’d pay for a pack of disposable ones, but you will save money over time as you use them for years to come.

We also use real silverware. We have 2 sets so that we’ll always have enough for guests, so plastic/disposable cutlery is never used in our house.

A note about washing dishes. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I am also a homeschooling mom, and am busy just as we all are. It is not that big of a deal to wash a few extra dishes once you get used to it.

Packing Lunches

My husband takes his work to lunch about 60% of the time. He either uses our glass storage bowls with lids, or plastic containers like these in an insulated lunchbox.

Just Do It

The bottom line is to make a commitment and do it.  There are things about our budget that may be difficult at times, but I can say with assurance that this isn’t one of them. My husband and I discussed this recently and we are so happy that we don’t use paper products in our kitchen, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It may take some getting used to at first, but it was a great choice for us and isn’t difficult at all. And for those of you who’ve said, “that’s easy with only 2 children,” we have friends with larger families who do this as well. It’s very possible for most families.

Give Yourself Grace

Even though we are 99% paper-free in the kitchen, there are still some disposable things we keep on hand. I keep aluminum foil and plastic wrap on hand for the rare occasion that I need it, but it is very rare. I also keep a roll of paper towels for things like draining grease from bacon, hamburger, etc. We literally use about 1 roll of paper towels per year or less.

Occasionally, I will also pull out some paper plates (that my mother-in-law brings when she comes for a visit, and that we’ve had in our cabinet for literally years) for birthday parties, etc.

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