Simplicity

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.

5 Tips for Keeping Out the Clutter

While cleaning out the family car recently, I said out loud to no one in particular “where did all of this stuff COME from?!?” It is shocking how quickly clutter can creep into our lives, even when we actively avoid and remove it. But just like exercising and eating a healthy diet are ongoing commitments, so is decluttering. Prevention and maintenance are both necessary. And with that, here are five ways to keep out the clutter.

garbage and recycling

Sort at the door. I go through every bag in our foyer before it gets into the rest of the house. I’m ruthless about this rule. School backpacks, swim bags, shopping bags, my purse (a black hole for the family), mail and deliveries, etc. A lot flows into a house of four people. We have a garbage can, recycling bag and usually a Goodwill bag right there just waiting to be filled, and filled they are.

Remove the temptation to shop. Unsubscribe from emails and catalogs. If we don’t know a sale is happening, we can’t be tempted. (Double bonus: less mail and email!) And by not viewing shopping as a hobby, our leisure time can be spent doing something far more enriching for our lives.

Decline freebies. An obvious tip, but noteworthy nonetheless. My trick for avoiding this trap? I ask myself “would I pay my own money to own this item?” If the answer is no, I know to decline, no matter how generous the offer.

The old “wait 30 days” rule. The idea is to wait 30 days before buying anything other than the necessities (food, toothpaste, toilet paper). Put the items on a list (I use Evernote) and if you still find you truly need it in 30 days, then maybe buy it. When I follow this advice, it is incredibly effective (but easier said than done!).

Know your Achilles heel. Amazon is/was my downfall. I realized it was a problem when I would receive boxes with no clue of what was inside (please tell me this has happened to you). Recently, I placed a moratorium on Amazon for two weeks, and it did wonders to break the habit. If one store plagues you (Target is often a culprit for my clients), then avoid it to see if you can cure the issue.

4 Effortless Indulgences for Your Day

It can be so tricky to find time for oneself. Daily responsibilities can bleed into late evening and before we know, it is time for bed. A trip to the spa might seem light years away when juggling work, life and young children. So how can we experience small, indulgent pleasures throughout our day? By building them in so they run on autopilot.

Here are four suggestions that require no extra work (once you own them) and then three more tips if you have a few extra seconds:

Comfortable pillow and bed

A comfortable pillow and mattress. I see a lot of bedrooms in my work, and it is surprising how many people sleep on old, uncomfortable pillows and mattresses in the midst of a beautifully decorated bedroom. This is a no-brainer. These items should be extremely supportive of our body types, and a top priority when budgeting for the bedroom. While this might mean buying something new now, once accomplished, it doesn’t require additional thought or action for many years. (We have this organic mattress and these organic pillows. More on our decision to buy an organic mattress soon).

Appropriate, updated undergarments. I’ve mentioned this before, and I really believe this impacts our day more than we might think. Have you ever worn an ill-fitting bra? It is the pits. It feels terrible all day long, and it doesn’t look so great either. Stretched out underwear is the same way. These things don’t have to cost a fortune, and it is worth the investment to buy the right item for our bodies and our clothes. Getting dressed each day will be more pleasurable, and the nagging annoyance of a stretched-out strap will be gone.

A favorite cup for coffee or tea. Most adults drink some sort of hot beverage in the morning. I use the same cup every day (I have two of them). They are fragile and certainly won’t last forever, but I am not saving them for another time. I am using them and enjoying them every single day. Might seem like an obvious idea, but after making this change, my clients always tell me how happy they are they did it.

A refreshing face wash. This is what I currently use in the morning, and it is like a mini trip to the spa. Making that 30 seconds more enjoyable is totally worth it.

And here are three tips if you find yourself with a few extra seconds:

Essential oils in the shower. Many mornings (or evenings), while the water is heating up, I put 8-10 drops of oil in the shower—usually lavender or eucalyptus. It makes the experience feel more special and indulgent.

Turn on some music. Frequently in the afternoon, my children and I have a dance party. We put on Pandora and shake our sillies out (Hello, Raffi). During dinner prep, I choose a different station that is more mellow and relaxing and leave it on for the rest of the evening (Hello, Miles). We also have favorite stations for weekend mornings. Using music to cue our daily and weekly rhythms has a surprising impact on the flow of our life.

Slather on a rich lip moisturizer. I feel like lips are often forgotten in evening routines, and they certainly age just like everything else. My latest favorite is Beautycounter’s peppermint lip balm. It is super moisturizing, even into the next morning (and non-toxic!).

None of these are novel ideas but I find extra reminders and encouragement can go a long way. How do you build in little comforts and bits of respite into your day?

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A Helpful Item For Every Dresser

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In the top drawer of each dresser in our house, there is a pair of scissors. A breakthrough idea? Of course not, but it sure has been helpful—more so than I imagined. From cutting off tags and loose strings to random craft projects happening around the house, scissors in each room have made such a difference.

The two best pairs we own were found at a nearby estate sale. At $2 each and excellent quality (hand forged steel), I couldn’t pass them up. I never thought good scissors could make such a difference (except in sewing), but boy was I wrong. You can find similar ones here and here. Now I look for scissors at every estate sale!