Simplicity

Simple Pleasures: HONY

The last several months of our lives have been far more full than we’d normally like. All good things but all converging at the same time. Oops! We’ve had to really slow down other areas of our lives to make room. It is all quite temporary and certainly all our choice, but still it can be tricky to juggle sometimes. Maybe you know the feeling?

Simple pleasures have been so important to keep us going—family walks, lots of pool time and lazy mornings whenever possible. For me, one of those things is Humans of New York. Do you follow it? It really is the best thing happening on the internet these days.

(I know it might seem so odd to recommend checking social media for a simple pleasure, but in this case, I’ll gladly make the exception!) Here’s one of my favorites from HONY:

1185386_581460051928099_1383341450_n copy“When he was dying, I said: ‘Moe, how am I going to live without you?’
He answered: ‘Take the love you have for me, and spread it around.”

Some of the posts are funny, but most are so beautiful, touching and poignant. It is a daily must for me. Always reignites my faith in humanity.

An Alternative For Mother’s Day

Every Mother Countsfrom Every Mother Counts

All moms need a break, and Mother’s Day feels like an especially good time for an indulgence. All the dishes, the doctor appointments, the cleaning, the laundry, the cooking, the wild bath times, the putting away of all of the stuff. Again and again and again. It can make a lady crazy sometimes.

But you know who really needs a break? Moms without these things. Moms who don’t cook dinner because the pantry is bare. Moms who don’t make the beds because her family lives in a car. Moms in such remote villages there is no such thing as doctor visits. Moms without fresh water to clean their babies. These are the moms who really need Mother’s Day.

This May, I invite you to consider an alternative gift … and, bonus, it is also clutter free. Share with your family how blessed you already are, and ask them to support an organization that supports mothers on your behalf. There are so many good ones to choose from, but if you are looking for suggestions, here are some ideas:

National and International:
Sama Hope
Every Mother Counts
Save the Children
Unicef
Together Rising
Women’s Voices for the Earth

Jacksonville, Florida:
Community Connections
Hubbard House
Sulzbacher Center

You’re exhausted. I get it. Me too. But what a blessing to have this mountain of work ahead of us. From this angle, it is just about as good as it gets. (But hand-scribbled cards, peanut-butter-smeared kisses and a few minutes extra to sleep in … I’ll take these things on Mother’s Day, too.)

p.s. If you are at your wits’ end and now want to strangle me, I find this old post from Momastery/Huffington post always does the trick to pick me up :) If you are a mom, know a mom, have a mom, or have heard of moms, this article is a must-read.

On Relaxing and Guilt (and why they don’t go together)

Magazines

It is so easy to hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard. Trying to do it all can be a slippery slope, and one that often leaves little time for self care. The tricky part is, many women—especially mothers—tell me they feel guilty when they take time for themselves. Of course we shouldn’t feel this way, but that doesn’t mean the feelings don’t exist. One way to alleviate the guilt is to be sure we are spending our down time thoughtfully.

So how do we know if we are doing this? For me, it all comes down to how I feel afterward. Do I feel good/recharged/energized? Or even more drained?

This is the difference between actually relaxing and aimlessly passing time (aimless in a lazy way). After relaxing, we know we’ve done something good for ourselves, even if it has taken time away from our other responsibilities. We know it was time well spent. Absentmindedly flipping on the TV, pulling up Facebook or shopping haphazardly usually leads to a down, lethargic feeling. And likely that dreaded guilt.

Everyone recharges differently. But the important thing is that this time is used intentionally—maybe not always, but more often than not. This doesn’t have to mean extravagant trips to the spa, hours in hot yoga or deep conversations with friends. Sometimes a pile of magazines and a cozy bed is all it takes. Or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend. Simple pleasures are often the best.

How do you relax?

Let’s Not Have It All

camellia copy

I am pretty confident that I don’t want it all. I have a feeling you might not want it all either.

I’ve talked before about the power of editing, and here is a terrific quote I just came across by the authors of Rework,

“Be a curator. You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. … it’s the stuff you leave out that matters.”

So, so true. All and more are not the answers.

If we really have it all, that means our homes are packed to the gills with stuff that someone else deemed worthy. And if we do it all, we might not be honoring how we actually want to spend our time.

Perhaps this is simplifying things a bit, but I think you know what I mean.

This year, maybe we can aim for something different—not less and not more, but right for me. If we ask ourselves with every purchase and every commitment, “is this really right for me and my family?” I think our lives will start to lead us down a beautiful path.

Right for me means identifying and embracing what brings us joy. And perhaps letting go of the rest.

Maybe this means backing off some commitments or cleaning out a closet or two. Maybe we need more time outside or maybe more time on the phone with our best friend who lives across the country. Whether we need more or less of something can only be determined by our own circumstances. But certainly it should be what’s right for us and what brings us joy—not what some magazine (or blog!) says we should be doing with our lives.

Happy 2015. Let’s make it a great year.

Photo by me. One of the first blooms from my new japonica. Nothing like a big, bright white flower on a gray winter day.

Finding Peace While Seeking Simplicity

looking at the trees in paris

There have been a rash of articles lately about the pressure on parents, particularly mothers. I won’t rehash their arguments (or whether I agree), but I do feel they have some fair points. Which got me thinking, “is this simplifying thing just another way for mothers compete?” And then I thought how silly that sounded because that would be the exact opposite of simplifying. And then again, I remembered we are all human.

Here’s the thing. Simplifying should not something else to worry about. Simplifying, at its best, is a solution to other problems … not a source of panic or guilt or obsession on its own.

No good deed goes unpunished, and anything can be criticized or made into a competition. For me, and I hope for you, simplifying won’t be seen as one more task to complete but rather a new way of viewing things. Stepping back. Taking a deep breath. Focusing on the things most important to us. And letting go of the rest.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, simple holiday season and a very happy new year.

Photo from traveling a few summers ago.

Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em

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Part of pursuing a simpler life is recognizing when I’ve gotten in over my head. Even though I really try to avoid a jammed schedule, sometimes it is hard to say no to things—especially when those things are all fun.

We host an annual party that we look forward to all year. It includes around 60-70 people (many under the age of 4!) packed into our tiny house, and we still manage to have a blast. We were gearing up for this year’s party (invitations sent! supplies purchased!) when we realized it just wasn’t going to work. Multiple days of travel for both of us, work commitments, family commitments, birthdays, other parties and other fun things all coinciding within the same two weeks. What were we thinking?? Well, we weren’t.

One night, while still working at 11pm, I knew it was too much. Something had to give. We looked at everything, and canceling the party was the obvious solution. Major bummer. But our stress level went way down immediately.

Have you ever said no to something you really, really wanted to do? Hard, right? But it was a very valuable lesson for us: if something is a priority, make it a priority. Next year, we will.

A Tip for Avoiding Impulse Buys

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My 3 criteria for all purchases (needed, non-toxic and beautiful) are wonderful in theory, but sometimes they still aren’t enough to stave off an impulse buy. So then I ask myself another very important question:

Where am I going to store this?

If I cannot imagine where it will go or what I will get rid of to accommodate the new item, then I don’t buy it. Annie wrote about this a while ago, and called it “living within your spatial means.” Brilliant concept. And it really works. If I am unable or unwilling to make room for something new, I probably shouldn’t be buying it.

Usually this does the trick. More on keeping out the clutter here.