My Jam Jar Theory and Pursuing a Simpler Life

Solo bench at NC arboretum 2

Have you ever burst into tears trying to open a jam jar? I have.

My Jam Jar Theory applies when you experience something seemingly insignificant and mundane, and it pushes you completely and totally over the edge. Like failing to open a jam jar. It usually occurs when you are precariously balancing life—just eking it out—so when presented with the question “should I freak out about this tiny little thing that doesn’t even matter?” your only possible answer is “don’t mind if I do!”

This nutty theory of mine applies all too well to motherhood. It isn’t usually the piles of daily challenges and aggravations that throw a mother into a tailspin. After all, we are moms, which is a just another word for tap-dancing warriors. We can handle most anything. Except maybe a stuck jam jar. Or a spilt bottle of pumped milk. Or a full garbage bag that ripped open on the way out to the trash.

It was during these moments I knew I was trying to do too much. And something had to change.

For me, and my family, that change was pursuing a simpler life. It felt very different at first. And sort of hard to figure out how to even do. But in the long run, it has been incredible. Even with two children, our life somehow seems simpler than it was a few years ago. If you are thinking of doing something similar in your life and curious, here are some of the changes we made:

Less stuff in general. I’ve always been extremely organized, but we still had a lot of stuff. A lot. Even with two additional people living in our 1,500 square foot house, we now have less stuff than we did four years ago. Crazy, right? And I cannot describe how good it feels. There is less visual clutter, less to clean, less to keep up with, just less to think about. Purging stuff becomes addicting.

Fewer clothes. I eliminated a majority of my wardrobe about four years ago. I still have more than a true minimalist, but far less than the average person. Just thinking about what is in my closet inspires me to get rid of more. With fewer clothes, there are fewer decisions, less laundry, less to keep up with, and I actually like what I own a whole lot more.

Simpler food. Most nights our dinners consist of roasted vegetables and a grain or some sort of salad. We are not fancy eaters. Clean, simple food is not only healthy, but it is faster to shop for, easier to make and less to clean up.

Fewer commitments. We say no a lot. That’s the honest truth. Spending time with family and friends is our top priority, and because of that, we really started putting it first. This can feel difficult, especially in the beginning (and especially if you have always said yes!), but the rewards are sweet in the long run.

Less media. We ditched cable about five years ago. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime (but we didn’t in the beginning!), so we still watch things, but it isn’t regular TV. No commercials and only the shows we care about. Did I mention no commercials? We are completely out of the loop on so many things, and it couldn’t feel better. Part of less media is the news, to which I gladly say “nope, no thank you!” Might make us ostriches, but that’s fine by me. We get our (limited) news online if we really need it, and even that is very minimal. News is usually only the worst or the absolute worst things happening in the world (Joanna described toddlers’ emotions like this once, which I also can relate to :)).

Whenever I face a Jam Jar experience, I know it is time to reassess and take things easier. We all handle these things so differently—what have you found to be helpful?


  1. Wouldn’t having less clothes mean more laundry? Cause you’d have to do it more often? I continue to marvel at your simplicity.


    1. Good question, M! The funny thing is we do wash laundry more, but the loads are smaller and fewer. I can wash everyone’s clothes in one load together, separated by color (whites, mediums, darks) and then towels and sheets. That’s 4-5 loads instead of about 35 :) (Or at least that is how it used to feel!)


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