The Power is in the Editing

Art is the elimination of the unnecessary 4

Like so many people, I love design magazines and blogs. Image after beautiful image appears and inspires us. We read and pin and buy and buy again. But something still falls short. Why is it so difficult to achieve what is seen in magazines? It would be easy to say lack of funds, but I think it is something else (aside from the fact that magazines are completely unrealistic). To me, the most powerful indicator of a beautiful outcome—of any kind—is the editing.

Can you image if an architect combined every design period in one house? Or if a chef added every delicious ingredient to a single dish? Or if a writer had endless plot lines in a book? Disasters. It is their expert knowledge of what to leave out that makes the greatest difference.

In our world, where we can potentially see and buy and experience everything available, it is easy to continue filling our homes and lives with more.

The power is in the editing. Knowing what to keep and what to let go. When to add and when to hold back. This is one crucial difference in a life well lived and one full of physical, mental and emotional clutter.

Could You Use Cloth Napkins Every Day?

fantastic cloth napkins from Fog Linen

A few years ago, I attempted (and failed miserably) to go paperless in our kitchen. I loved the idea, but I just couldn’t work out a system to ditch my paper towels successfully. But one thing did stick: using cloth napkins at every meal.

We have a dozen white cotton napkins that we keep folded in a big stack. Being white, they are easy to keep clean, and I definitely don’t iron them.

I totally get that this sounds like a lot of extra effort, but the additional laundry is minimal, and it really makes a meal feel so much more special and purposeful (especially those very humble dinners following a sleepless night!). Now those pretty napkins from our wedding aren’t sitting in a closet gathering dust. We use them and enjoy them every day.

Just an idea.

Napkins above from Fog Linen.

On Using Our Best

My mom went to Sweden last year and (among other things) brought back some beautiful linen dish cloths for me. The first thing she said was “you just need to use them and enjoy them!” Ah. She knows me too well.

It is easier said than done, right? Using those things that seem precious and special? The lovely dish cloths stared at me for a few weeks. I knew it would only be a matter of time before they were marked with who-knows-what baby food. It’s not that we are careless with our things—a kitchen just gets messy with two young children afoot.

I finally bit the bullet after about a month, and you know what? Every single time I use those cloths to dry my dishes or some sweet chubby little hands, they bring me joy. These cloths are soft and beautiful and exactly what I love. A simple pleasure. They make washing my dishes more pleasant and they remind me of my thoughtful, sweet mother.

And yes. After a year, they are showing signs of wear. But just think of they joy they’ve brought me in the mean time—totally worth it.

Are you saving anything in a drawer or closet for a better time? Maybe today is the day to break them out and celebrate this wonderful world we live in.

If you’d like more inspiration for using your best, check out a favorite blog of mine here and here.

Fog linen dish cloth

Dish cloths similar to the ones my mom bought me can be found here. When mine bite the dust, I’ll be buying these.
(Do you know about Fog Linen? One of my favorite stores!)

4 Tips for Doing Less to Have More

rose of sharonA remarkably large Rose of Sharon, maintained by someone who doesn’t do everything, but does a few things extraordinarily well.

I spend a lot of timing talking with young mothers. No matter how different another mother may seem, there are still so many similarities and areas of common ground. I think many mothers would say that their hearts are bursting with joy and love for their children and simultaneously they are dog tired and maxed out.

When I am listening to these sweet mamas who are trying so dang hard—not to be the best, not to be perfect, just to be normal-pretty-darn-good-moms—it always seems to come back to wanting less. Less to do, less to clean, less to fulfill, less to juggle, less to find, less to worry about. Less!

So … what to do?

It is not an easy answer and it totally depends on your life, but to me, we can never go wrong simplifying. Simplify our homes. Simplify our schedules. Buy less. Admire less. Pin less. Have less.

This is very easy and very hard at the same time. I totally get it. And I know reading these words can seem like more (!!!) to do. So here are some suggestions if you find yourself wanting to make a change.

1. Limit Commitments. Think of your commitments that are negotiable. If there is any wiggle room at all and it doesn’t bring you incredible amounts of joy, remove it from your calendar or to-do list. Maybe not forever, but at least for now. Things like the extra unnecessary project at work, the birthday party way across town, the board seat you don’t really believe in or coffee dates with a friend who just brings you down. There are some things in life we have to do—everything else is a choice. Find the things you don’t really enjoy and don’t have to do and drop them like a bad habit. There might be some guilt with this, but it will be so worth the time and mental space gained.

2. Reduce Clutter. Our stuff drags us down. With fewer things, we have less to clean. Our houses feel more spacious. We have fewer decisions to make. It is easier to find something we lose. We have less to maintain. We have more in our bank account. Are you noticing a trend here? Have less to have more.

3. Remove Little Aggravations. We used to have a kitchen garbage can with a broken lid. It wasn’t the biggest deal, but I only realized how much it aggravated me once I finally replaced it. Little annoyances like these pile up throughout the day. How many of them do you have in your life? How is it affecting your mindset? Make a list and commit to ridding your life of these small but impactful aggravations. Maybe even bring in the pros to help (see #4). It will do more for your sanity than I can say.

4. Bring In The Pros. Even if it isn’t in your budget, where might it be beneficial to get help? Housekeeper? Lawn service? Handyman? Painter? Professional organizer (I couldn’t resist :))? Date night babysitter? It might feel indulgent or too expensive, but consider it an investment in your mental health. It will be cheaper than therapy! And if you can totally afford it, stop trying to do it all yourself. Who needs that gold medal? That’s a race I have no interest in winning.

Hang in there, mamas! You are doing the best you can!

How to Handle a Pack Rat Partner

A friend recently asked how to handle her husband’s pack rat tendencies. This is a wonderful guy, but he has a hard time parting with things, particularly memorabilia and old books. I saw the loot, and I agreed it was quite a lot. Unless you find yourself in a dire situation (see #3 below), I would never recommend cleaning out someone’s things without their knowledge. It is unfair and a recipe for hurt feelings. However, I understand the frustration you feel living with their mess. Here are my suggestions for how to tackle a situation like this:

1. Set a size limit. Allow him to keep only what fits in a certain size or number of containers. This permits a reasonable amount of junk to stay while still drastically reducing the stockpile. Don’t criticize or micromanage what he wants to keep—let him decide. The photo above still has far too many containers for my taste, but at least it is neatly sorted and stored.

2. Garage sale profits are all his. If your partner has things that are of potential value, have a garage sale (or craigslist them) and tell him he can buy whatever indulgent thing he wants with the money (as long as it isn’t more clutter!). A new driver or perhaps a bottle of Pappy might provide just the right encouragement. Set a time limit on this, though—that the sale has to be completed within X weeks (or then you get to choose how to spend the money!)

3. Give negative notice. Sometimes there are desperate situations where one person refuses to cull their belongings—to the detriment of the family. In these extreme cases, I would suggest taking a page from your attorney’s book and give negative notice. This means you say something like “whatever is not cleaned out in X weeks will go to goodwill. If there is anything you want to keep, pull it out and organize it before then.” This will be a tough one to pull off peacefully, and I don’t recommend it lightly, but if someone won’t budge, it might be the only option left.

A final note: Be sure your partner has an area in the home that is all his own and he can keep however he pleases. Everyone needs at least a small place that is hassle free. Above all, choose an ideal time to discuss this and try to be as kind as possible. And … good luck!!