Simplicity

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

scissors

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!

About That Dress You Seriously Love But Never Wear

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Do you own any clothes like this? You love it. You look great it in. You may even get compliments on it! And you think to yourself “this is a great dress.”

And yet. You never wear it. Never. At least not anymore.

I had a dress like this that hung in my closet barely worn for the last four years. I bought it following my first pregnancy when I was out of maternity clothes but still appreciated those loose, breezy cuts. So now when I put it on, I feel like I’m back in that slightly awkward stage. Ultimately, I don’t feel good in it.

These are the hardest clothes to get rid of. The things that look great, fit, are in perfect shape, etc. But you just don’t wear them for whatever reason. The thing is, there always is a reason. It just may not be clear what that reason is.

What to do? Commit to wearing it within a time period (say, two weeks) or it is gone. More than likely you won’t wear it, so you can even just skip this step. Where did my dress end up? Consigned. And it felt so good—better than I imagined—to get it out of my closet.

Do you have anything like this?

A Children’s Book Full of Lessons About Simple Living

Little House Books

I find endless pleasure in re-reading the entire Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. To me, her writing is incredibly inspiring as a mother, as someone aiming for a simpler life, and as someone who occasionally tires of the daily grind of household and parenting duties.

The Ingalls lived a simple but hardworking life. From sun up to sun down, they cared for their home and family with very few breaks—and certainly no complaints. Their land, house and livestock were lovingly tended every day, with each member of the family playing a vital role in the upkeep. They took pride in their farming, gardening, sewing, carpentry, baking and other skills. The Ingalls saved for, invested in and then used and treasured beautiful heirloom items. After a long day of labor, they relaxed by reading poetry or hymns, singing together or listening to Pa play the fiddle. The occasional day of leisure might include riding horses, playing in a stream or picking wildflowers. Reading about their diligence and good nature is simultaneously inspiring and humbling. (It also sounds a bit far fetched, I admit, but I still love reading about it.)

The Little House books are so well written and with such interesting plot lines (yes, really!), I’d argue they provide just as much education and inspiration as books more formally discussing simplicity, time management and family life … perhaps even more so.

Have you read these books (I didn’t until I was a young adult)? If not, I encourage you to take a look, no matter your age or season of life. You won’t regret it.

Simple Pleasures: Community Loaves’ Fresh Bread

Although I would love to be someone who bakes her own bread, it isn’t in the cards these days. Thankfully we can still enjoy homemade bread from Community Loaves in Murray Hill. Baked with organic ingredients (many of which are locally sourced) in a shop that feels more like a friend’s kitchen than a commercial venue, the bread and other bakery treats are worth going out of the way to get. On top of that, they don’t store their breads in any plastic, which is the real reason I started buying from them. (We are slowly removing all plastic as much as possible from our lives, and it is quite challenging.) We indulged in a few treats after a morning swim today and devoured every bit.

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Community Loaves
1120 Edgewood Avenue South
Jacksonville, Florida
w-f: 7:30-2pm
sat: 10-3pm

If you cannot get to their primary location, they also sell a selection of their menu at Grassroots and Native Sun (this is where I often get it), as well as a few other places. At these locations, the bread also comes in paper bags, so not to worry about the plastic here either. At $6 a loaf, it is only $1 more than an organic pre-sliced loaf from a traditional grocer, and it is far superior in quality. Not to mention it supports lovely people in our own community.

A few tips: this is not your regular bread. It isn’t sliced, and it should not be until you are ready to eat it. Yes, this is slightly less convenient, but aren’t most things that way that are healthier and safer? And after a little while, the extra step or two becomes the norm. For storage purposes: keep your bread in its paper bag and then either store in a wood or stainless steel bread box or a loosely wrapped plastic bag (yes, it is plastic, but at least not touching the bread). Do not place it in a sealed ziploc (as I have!), as this cuts off too much moisture. If the bread gets too hard, loosen your container a bit. If it gets too soft, open it up a bit. In the future, I might buy a few loaves at once and freeze them for convenience, but I’d like to ask the owners about this first.

We are still new to eating bread this way, and both children are not completely on board, but we are working on it. If you go, don’t miss the savory stuffed baguettes. A certain one-year-old I know tore this to bits, and I was able to sneak a few bites, too.

6 Ways to Feel Less Busy

sweet asylum

Many of my clients feel much too busy. They are overworked, overwhelmed and over feeling this way. Some things are out of their hands, but there is usually quite a lot that is possible to change. Once we pinpoint what those things are and create an action plan, I can see their shoulders begin to relax and their brows unfurrow. These are some of the things I discuss with my clients who want to feel less busy:

1. Stop using the word busy. What we say to ourselves and to others has a significant impact on our perception of things. “Busy” unfortunately has become the new “fine” in conversations (e.g. “How are you?” “Busy!”). When I was pregnant with our first child, I knew I wanted our lives to slow down. I became committed to ridding “busy” from my casual vocabulary as much as possible. It still slips out from time to time, and I cringe when it happens. For the most part, we are as busy as we choose to be. Not only that, we are not even usually as busy as we claim to be! No doubt children, careers, homes, etc all create an exceptional amount of work. But all of those things are also such blessings. We can choose to see them as aggravations that take up our days, or we can realize that these are our choices and how we perceive them has a tremendous impact on our mental and emotional health.

2. Avoid multi-tasking. I do violate this sometimes, and whenever I do, I always find I’m left with an icky feeling. Neither thing is done well, and it takes me longer to go back and correct my mistakes. Single-tasking is becoming more popular for good reason.

3. Set aside the iphone/ipad/laptop/TV. If we actually clocked our time wasted on these devices, it probably adds up to a whole lot more than we care to admit. Think of how much more happily (and peacefully) we could spend that time—reading, relaxing, visiting with a friend, going on a walk, taking a long bath, etc. My trick for putting down my phone: I ask myself “will I be glad how I spent this moment of free time?” Of course the answer is always “no,” and I usually find a better alternative pretty quickly.

4. Choose to do less. There are some things in life we have to do. Everything else is a choice. Figure out what you can stop doing, and then stop. Maybe not forever, but at least for now. Buy a Halloween costume instead of sewing it yourself. Quit being the family videographer and let someone else take a turn. Drop out of the playgroup that isn’t meaningful. Pass on the big project at work and go home earlier to the family. Forget yoga, sleep in and take a walk with your kids instead. Pick up takeout instead of cooking for that dinner party. Cancel the trip to visit those relatives who are just the pits. And for pity’s sake, give up the scrap-booking if it doesn’t bring you joy!

5. Incorporate quiet, mindful activities when you can. From small moments in the car to larger chunks of time spent meditating, walking, swimming, painting, kayaking or whatever activity puts you in state of flow. It is important to bring quiet to our days, especially when young ones are about. These peaceful periods re-energize us in extremely valuable ways.

6. Get help if you can. If you are able to, consider hiring help—with the lawn, the house, childcare, or whatever it might be for you. If we are losing our minds trying to do it all ourselves, what is the point? Sometimes our time is far more valuable than money. Consider it an investment in your mental health.