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10 Suggestions for Simplifying.

February 24, 2017

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Simplifying is always on my mind – how can I make this less complicated? More streamlined? I want more time, less “to-do”, ya know? Minimalism is the hottest trend since pancakes, but I’ll never achieve true minimalism. And I don’t particularly want to. But I do want to continually ensure that our possessions are items that we actually need, use, and love, that we aren’t just storing stuff that we will never use. For me, it’s an issue of stewardship and of focus. 

If I have less, I have less to care for, organize, clean, and thus, more time to spend on the things that matter to me. I’m less distracted and I can simply enjoy our home and life more.

I’ve noticed though that sometimes I’m even over-complicating my pursuit of the simple. So I thought I would share a few practices in our home that I rely on consistently to keep things simple, keep us moving forward, keep us connected. Hope you enjoy! What are some practices you would add to this list?

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Regularly shed clutter. 

“One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity.” – Marie Kondo

Scheduling an enormous spring-cleaning purge may be cathartic, but I’ve found that my heart and home benefit more from simple consistently shedding things. Do I keep passing up the same shirt in my closet? I toss it into the donation pile. Do my kids keep ignoring the same toy? I hide it to see if it will be missed and then donate it. The likelihood of deeply regrettingthis process is low; the reptition will improve the practice; slowly your home will become less filled with distracting piles of stuff you don’t use and never will and more filled with things that bring you joy and items you truly use.

Practice a routine. 

“We become what we think about.” – Earl Nightingale

A routine is not the same as a schedule. A routine helps eliminate the overwhelm of choice and gives your day momentum. For instance, almost every day, my morning looks like this:

Wake up. Make coffee. Drink a cup of coffee. Nurse Violet. Feed my kiddos breakfast. Get everyone (including myself) completely dressed and ready for the day. Make beds and clean up the kitchen and bathroom. Performing the same basic activities every morning helps to propel all of us into the day. Hesitation and listlessness seem to breed frustration and grumpy hearts while a sense of direction and purpose put all of us in a better mood. 

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Enjoy daily rituals. 

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” – Gretchen Rubin

A ritual can be part of a routine, but it is not the same thing. A ritual is something done regularly that fuels your heart, body, and or mind. Some of our family’s rituals include:

  • My cup of coffee in the morning
  • Snuggle time with our babies first thing in the morning.
  • Reading a short devotional together. 
  • Reading stories to my little ones before bedtime (this is a great way to introduce kiddos to Bible stories!). 
  • Summer evening walks after dinner.
  • Enjoying cups of tea together after our babies are in bed.

Rituals provide moments throughout the day for decompression, connection, and slowing down. I can be swamped with work and our schedule can be filled to the brim, but if a few of these rituals are scatted through my day, I still feel as if I have margin. Start by writing out a few of your favorite daily moments. These are probably your rituals, or some of them. Begin to prioritize them, to build your day around them, to use them as moments to connect with your loved ones. 

(A quick note on rituals and children: Kim John Payne has some wonderful suggestions for establishing rituals with children in his book, which I HIGHLY recommend!)

Reduce choices on things that don’t matter. 

“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

8 different kinds of mascara, five different brands of creamer, 5 breakfast options, 18 different pairs of pants – an abundance of choices isn’t necessarily beneficial. In fact, it can be downright frustrating. I’ve slowly begun the process of elmininating the quantity of choices I need to make every day. I have certain brands of makeup and personal care for me and my children that I know we like so I just stick to buying those when we *actually run out* rather than constantly trying out new products. For instance, we’ve begun offering limited choices for meals, especially breakfast, for both ourself and our kiddos and it has reduced the morning/meal craziness immensely. Menu-planning has helped me make grocery and meal choices once a week rather than having to make 12 different decisions afternoon at 4:00 p.m. (Do I go to the store? Do we go out? What do I cook? How long do I spend cooking? How old are those zucchini?) I’m trying to carry this ove into the wardrobe department, but we’re still working on that. 

Bottom line? If you find yourself standing in the same place every week (or day!) trying to decide between the same options, start there. Commit to one small decision and elminate the back-and-forth. Then do it again. It’s refreshing! 

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Don’t fight your nature.

 “Define yourself as one radically loved by God. This is your true self. Every other identity is an illusion.” – Brennan Manning

I will never be the world’s greatest interior designer. It’s just not in me. I’m impatient and have a pretty short attention span when it comes to perfecting a room – I also get frustrated by the (pernicious?) message of consumerism that seem to subtly hide underneath the perfect “minimalist” rooms of my dreams. Most of our furniture (all?) is used or inherited; neither one of my children had a nursery designed before they were born.

Our furniture is meant for rowdy rough-and-tumble, for messes, for littles. The pieces we’ve purchased either can endure all of the above or I plan to replace them and so am not terribly attached. These things used to stress me out (“We will never have our gallery walls designed!” “My couches look dated!”) but I’m slowly learning that quickly perfecting a house is just not something that really interests me.

I’m slowly learning that the pressure I exert on myself to make a Pinterest-perfect house just isn’t worth it because it doesn’t bring me joy and it distract me from things that do (if it brings you joy, by all means, focus there!) Slowly editing our house to fit our lifestyle and actual needs (rather than a computer image – white is in! So is Danish!) as I have time and inspiration has brought me a great deal more joy and so I try to focus there. 

This is all to say – if Instagram and Pinterest tell you that it’s important, but you don’t wake up wanting to do it, THEN DON’T. You don’t need to grow indoor plants or weave or paint all of your rooms monochrome white to succeed at the things you are meant and called to do. 

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Intentionally step away from screens.

“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu

I think we’ve all lectured ourselves on this a million times and anything I could say has been said better elsewhere. I’ll just leave it at this. The peace and joy in our household is almost perfectly proportionate to the discipline I have demonstrated about my devices that morning. My temperment, the behavior and focus of my little ones, my own ability to focus – it’s all related. We don’t all need to have our devices on and available every single second. Make time to just go outside without your phone. Spend time with your kids and be unavailable to the world. Do this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for at least a few minutes and you’ll begin to treasure time without your devices.  

Identify the things that are important to you. 

“You get more of what you notice and affirm.” – Michael Hyatt

On my list? Intentional time with kiddos. Reading. Reading aloud together. Reading by myself. Time together cooking and eating. Time remembering and recording our memories. Time writing. Getting to know my neighbors. Time with Mark. #notmoresocialmediafollowers If your “thing” is growing a virtual audience, go for it. But I recognized a while back that this was just not the area I was ever going to be particularly passionate about or good at. If I have blog readers, great. If some people like a picture I post, fun! But my livelihood and my children’s future is not tied to the time I spend on my screen. So I’ve tried to step away from Social Media more. I’m also never going to be a famous painter. 

“It” stuff – clothes, furniture (see above), shows. Being right on the edge of fill_in_the_blank trend just has never mattered a ton to me. So I don’t spend a lot of time on those things.

Also in this category? Activities with kids that *I don’t care about*. All of the moms in the world may be taking their kids to Wally-Wonder-Goo-Goo-Place on 5th street. If that is not your thing, let it go. My children have never been to the local Children’s Museum equivalent. Or the Trampoline Park. Or anything else remotely that cool. This is because I’m an unashamed germaphobe and we have ton of toys and I’m The Most Boring Mom on The Block. My children are under 3 and will never remember visiting these places. If my kids want to play with something different than our toys, we go outside. Or we go to a different park. This is just us.  Find your “you” and then shed the rest. 

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Spend time outside. “The earth has music for those who listen.” – William Shakespeare

Off you go now. 

Meet your actual neighbors. 

“It will be our love, not our opinions, which whill be our greatest contribution to this world.” – Bob Goff

Chances are, you live in a neighborhood. With actual other houses (not Pinterest ones!) with actual other people (not bloggers!). Make some bread or bake some cookies, and go ring a random doorbell. And then do it again. Amazing gifts start to come your way when you realize that friends are actually everywhere, not just on your phone or your moms’ group or church.  The world begins to seem so much more full and simple and beautiful all at the same time when we stop overcomplicating basic things like “do you have some butter I can borrow?” 

Maintain a basic neatness standard. 

“If you can’t find something, clean up.” – Gretchen Rubin

This is different for everyone. For me, this means that beds are made, bathrooms are presentable (sinks and toilets cleaned, trash removed), and the breakfast dishes cleaned. If you would be mortified if someone walked into your house, maybe it’s time to reassess. If you spend half of the day cleaning your house and can’t ever get anywhere before 11:00 a.m., maybe it’s also time to reassess (or see the first item in this list – maybe you just have too much stuff!). 

Hope these little tips help you on your journey towards simplifiying and creating a home life that you love! 

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Friday Links

Weekend Links // 19.

September 4, 2016

Labor Day weekend – officially the end of summer. I can’t even believe it. It’s still quite hot here, so I’m not really ready to think about hot drinks and cold days (although we did have soup for dinner a few evenings ago) and the thought of a sweater makes me want to shriek. But I AM looking forward to cooler days and evenings that will make spending time outside more pleasant.

I have a little patio garden planted for the late summer/fall months and it has been so cooperative, as has this piece about harvesting basil and this article on cilantro. (via Food Renegade & Gardening Know-How)

50 of America’s most famous homes. (via Country Living Magazine)

An interesting piece on co-sleeping. Miles shared our room until he was about 6 months old and Violet sleeps (mostly?) in her crib in our room now. Sleeping arrangements for babies are so baby/parent/schedule/personality dependent and can be such a tricky topic to discuss, yes? But I love reading about what other families choose to do and the reasoning behind it. (via NYT)

This is a blog you will love for so many reasons, but her piece on her cleaning rhythm is especially so lovely.

From Pinterest

Planning a fall wedding? Check out these DIY wedding invitations.

Have you ever tried to capture a silhouette shot?

From Instagram

My bar cabinet. Just kidding! We don’t have a bar cabinet. BUT IF WE DID. (via @organized_simplicity)

I wonder if I could get away with only feeding Mark and Miles Greek yogurt, watermelon, and grapefruit juice? (via @sluser)

From a Better Writer

“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” 

-Wendell Berry

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Life

Steps to Simplicity #1: Declutter

July 30, 2011

During a past move, I stored a large stack of miscellaneous papers in a big binder, promising myself that I would go through the papers soon. Soon turned into several weeks. Finally, one weekend, I went piece by piece through the binder finding, to my amazement, that almost every single piece of paper was useless.

By the time I actually looked through the papers, the majority of those “just-in-case” and “maybe-I’ll-need-that later” scraps had become irrelevant.

We all have those piles of clothes we’ll wear someday, events we’d like to go to if we get time, papers we’ll sort through one day.

But there is something very freeing about realizing and acknowledging that someday, for most of our clutter, will never come. Give yourself permission to sort through that stack and aggressively prune all of those scraps from your calendar, your closet, and your desk.

If it doesn’t contribute to your vision, it might be time to toss it.

Steps to Decluttering
 
1. Make a pile. This pile might be clothes, miscellaneous possessions, papers, even events on your calendar. But seeing all of the clutter physically in one place will help you force yourself to sort through it.
2. Sort through the entire pile, piece by piece, separating everything into one of three categories (a “keep” pile, an “action” pile, and a “throw” pile).
3.Put everything in the “keep” pile back in its appropriate, permanent place. This might involve filling papers, entering events into your calendar, or refolding your winter clothes.
4. Throw away everything in the “throw” pile.
5. Take action on every single thing in the “action” pile. Mail the cards, take the clothes to the Goodwill, and repair that broken item. If you decide the action required isn’t worth the effort, throw the item away.

Decluttering is the first step towards simplicity. Hungry for some more help? Marie Kondo’s book on the power of tidying was an encouragement to me.

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Life

Sweet Simplicity

July 27, 2011
I firmly believe that simplicity is foundational to clear vision. In order to achieve clarity of vision, we must achieve simplicity first.

"Out of clutter, find simplicity." – Albert Einstein
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." – Leonardo da Vinci

"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify." – Henry Thoreau

"Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." – Coco Chanel

"Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity." - Plato 

The Steps to Simplicity Series, published over the next few days, will feature five steps towards creating a simpler life. To simplify, one must:

1. Declutter.
2. Organize.
3. Commit selectively.
4. Spend thoughtfully.
5. Rest deliberately
What are steps you take to simplify your life?
Subscribe by providing your e-mail using the box on the right and receive posts for this series as they are published.
*There is still time to enter the giveaway.

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Life

The Attack of the Refrigerator

July 13, 2011

Sometimes certain tasks just demand action. Our refrigerator was in desperate need of attention. New arrivals to the house, move-outs, a power outage, and a few barbecues had taken their toll. The refrigerator was too full to clean, but not clean enough to continue filling.

My roommates and I went to work. We followed the steps below and two hours, some water, and a bit of bleach did the trick. Our fridge is sparkling clean. Furthermore, we now have plenty of space for new groceries. When was the last time you cleaned your fridge?

1. Remove everything. Everything. Every bottle, every jar, every bag, every package. It may be easier to do this in sections. We did the freezer, then the door, then the main section. Finally, remove all fridge-components that come out. These will generally include the vegetable and cheese drawers.

2. Throw out food. Be merciless. Check expiration dates. If it's expired, throw it. If it's open and no one has used it in a month, throw it. If no one claims it, throw it. Less food will ultimately be wasted if you de-clutter the fridge now.

3. Scrub. Using a sponge, soap, and water, scrub the fridge clean. Aggressively attack stains, scum, and crumbs. Wash the removable drawers and trays as well.

4. Bleach. Using a spray that includes bleach, spray the inside of the fridge and the removable components. Let the bleach sit for a few minutes and then scrub the surfaces again. Finally, wipe the surfaces dry.. Be sure to clean every surface, including the bottom-side of shelves and the inside of the containers.

5. Replace the pieces, shelves, and food. Logically organize the food so that you can easily find things. Bigger items fit best in the back. Small items should be placed so that they do not disappear into the depths of the back.

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