24 Hours With … Maia James from Gimme The Good Stuff

With so many resources available for non-toxic living, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Add to that the panic-stricken feelings the subject can induce, and avoiding the topic altogether might feel more appealing. Maia James, founder of Gimme The Good Stuff, somehow balances deep knowledge in non-toxic living while also being totally realistic, reasonable and personable—a rare combination! Her web site is full of well-researched and well-reasoned recommendations—it is definitely worth a look (I was really surprised about some things I learned from her). As a Huffington Post writer and celebrity consultant, Maia devotes her career to helping people, particularly mothers, reduce toxins in their lives. Maia lives with her family in New York, and this is her 24 Hours.

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Do you work inside or outside of the home? If outside of the home, what are your hours? I work inside my home, in an office in my apartment.

What is your childcare/schooling situation? My older son is in kindergarten all day, and so I work during the younger one’s nap, after they both go to bed, and then a couple of mornings a week I have a babysitter here to play with my 15-month-old while I work.  All other times, I try to just be a mom for the boys, and not be multi-tasking with my iphone in one hand, trying to surreptitiously check email while reading Curious George. I sort of pull this off, but not always as well as I would like.

What is breakfast, lunch and dinner like in your family? Pretty chaotic. My one-year-old only wants to eat with a fork, so it’s always a huge mess. Breakfast is usually oatmeal with chia seeds and maple syrup, or French toast which we make with sprouted bread.  Lunch is often leftovers from dinner, but I admit to doing a fair amount of whole-wheat mac and cheese with broccoli thrown in! My husband often makes dinner (lucky me)—often either salmon or chicken, with a vegetable and a grain, like quinoa, brown rice, or kamut, which the kids like with butter and tamari. We make pizzas on premade crusts when we feel lazy, or sometimes a pasta with shrimp or veggies. I don’t eat meat, but my boys do, so sometimes I’ll make homemade tofu burgers and my husband will make grassfed beef burgers for himself and the kids.

Do you meal plan or wing it? Do you like that? A little of each. I sort of plan in the morning, so that during the afternoon I can start prepping dinner a bit…but I definitely don’t lay out the week’s meals every Sunday. I wish I could be that organized!

What is the most challenging part of your day? The stretch in the late afternoon to early evening when I’m waiting for my husband to come home can feel really long, and I know it’ll only be worse this winter! My husband now knows that if he stops on his way home—be it for a 6-pack or toilet paper—he may have his head ripped off for daring to be delayed even 5 extra minutes!!

What is the easiest part of your day? When the kids are finally in bed and I sit on the couch and do work while my husband lets me monopolize the TV with terrible shows like The Bachelor.

In terms of running a house with a family, what do you feel like you have figured out? [Long long pause]. I think I’ve figured out how to prepare meals with two kids underfoot pretty well. Sometimes that means letting the baby bang on pots at my feet, sometimes I’m holding him in one arm while I stir and Felix is playing on the ipad.

Does anything still stump you? Most things! I still can’t believe it when I visit people with kids and their homes are spotless and perfectly organized. I just don’t have a good handle on this yet. I feel like I walk around cleaning and picking up ALL day, yet the place always is a mess.

How do you take care of yourself and recharge? As I mentioned, every night I get a little recharge by putting my feet up, watching something mindless on TV, and drinking either a Kombucha, a good IPA beer, or a glass or wine. I actually find working on my business relaxing because I so rarely get dedicated time completely to myself!.

If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it? I would love to have one solid hour of time just devoted to snuggling or being silly with my kids, without feeling like I need to be doing anything else at all.

Any other tips you’d like to share? Get a handheld vacuum cleaner! Somehow it took me 5 years to do so, and it’s changed my life.

What does a usual 24 hours look like in your house? The kids are up at around 6:30 a.m. and my husband leaves for work really early—the boys and I have a little lazy time in our jammies, reading books or snuggling, and by 7:00 we are up eating breakfast, then getting dressed, brushing teeth, cleaning up, packing lunch, and out the door at 8:20 to walk my older son to school. From 8:45 to noon I either have a babysitter and I work or I take the baby to the park/a music class/to see a friend. Then we eat lunch and I put him down for a nap, and then I nearly sprint to my computer to catch up on the piles of work that are always waiting for me! Wolfie wakes up at around 2:30, at which point we have to leave immediately to pick up his brother. We often run an errand after this—grocery store or other shopping—or sometimes I take my older son for a playdate. We get home by 4:00 or so and I start dinner by 4:45 so the kids can eat at 5:30, which is usually around the time my husband gets home. After that it’s the standard bath-cleanup-stories-bedtime routine, with the goal that the kids are both sleeping by 7:15! I try to get myself in bed by 9:30 since I always read for at least an hour before going to sleep (mostly The New York Times on my phone but ideally a bit of fiction, too!).

Keeping It Simple: Uniforms

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from everlane, a favorite store. their 2014 fall/winter line just launched—don’t miss it.

Having a smaller wardrobe, I tend to wear the same things over and over. More or less a uniform, you could say. With two young children, it just accidentally evolved this way to make my life easier. Little thought input, maximum looking good/feeling good output.

Preston often talks about a “runaround uniform” and I love that idea. A go-to look for those days where you don’t necessarily need to look extremely professional but still presentable. A perfect solution especially for stay-at-home moms.

Another way to view this is “worst case scenario” dressing. Meaning, your go-to uniform will work no matter where you go (work, errands, appointments, park) and how you feel (exhausted, bloated, rushed). A big part of this is finding and choosing clothes that fit. Once you’ve landed on those core pieces that always feel right, just keep wearing them! Invest in a few pairs of the same perfect pants, the right tops and the amazingly comfortable shoes. No need to reinvent the wheel each morning.

Variety is not the key here. Sounds boring or strange? That’s okay. You won’t care because your mornings just got a heck of a lot easier. And no one else will care either—I promise.

Everyone’s uniform will look different and of course change from season to season. I don’t aspire to be extremely fashionable—just to feel comfortable and look good enough with the ultimate goal of keeping things simple.

Are your clothes making your mornings easier or more complicated? How could you simplify? More tips for decluttering clothes here and here.

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.

24 Hours With … Erin Boyle from Reading My Tea Leaves

If you are not already reading Erin Boyle’s blog, Reading My Tea Leaves, do click on over. You will be so glad you did. Erin is a freelance writer and former editor for Gardenista. Her aesthetic is beautiful, simple and approachable, and she shares the details of her daily life in a thoughtful and helpful way (her tiny living tips are my favorite). I was thrilled when Erin announced last year she was expecting a baby so that I could see her take on motherhood, and future posts did not disappoint. Lucky for us, Erin has agreed to share her 24 Hours with Simple Baby.

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Do you work inside or outside of the home? If outside of the home, what are your hours? I work inside the home, outside of the home, in cafés, libraries, and in other people’s offices in as many hours as I can wrangle.

What is your childcare/schooling situation? Right now we’re flying a bit by the seat of our pants in terms of childcare, relying on a combination of family, babysitting, and early morning/later evening work trades between me and my husband.

What is breakfast, lunch and dinner like in your family? Simple, harried, peaceful, respectively.  

Do you meal plan or wing it? Do you like that? We do a little bit of both. I really love the ritual of stopping by the grocery store or farmers’ market each day and letting the produce guide me, but we’re working on getting better about having staples planned (and in the house) so that on nights when we’re tired and don’t make it to the market, we’re not tempted to go out to eat instead.

What is the most challenging part of your day? The mid-afternoon on days when I don’t have childcare are tricky. Since I’m just making the shift from a full-time position back to freelance, it’s been a challenge for us to hire all of the help that we need, but we’re working on it!

What is the easiest part of your day? The morning. I wake up early, my husband makes us both coffee, and I log a few hours of work before he leaves for work.

In terms of running a house with a family, what do you feel like you have figured out? Working together with my husband. Every single thing is a team effort.

Does anything still stump you? Of course! There’s a new challenge every day. Thank goodness.

How do you take care of yourself and recharge? By taking a long, slow walk.

If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it? See #9!

Any other tips you’d like to share? Breathe more.

What does a usual 24 hours look like in your house? We’re still in the very new baby stage, so the days are fairly predictable: early mornings, early evenings, and as much sleep and work as possible in between.

Toxin-Free in the Kitchen: Cups & Bottles

Plastic is a tricky one to avoid these days, but we do our best. If you are looking to make a transition away from plastic, an easy (and important) place to begin is with your drinkware—at home and away. Here is what we use:

[EDIT: Come check out my new web site Naturally Safe Home! And follow me on Instagram for more up-to-date tips and information! @NaturallySafeHome]

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Adults: We use glass cups (1), ceramic mugs (2) and stainless steel travel thermoses (3) and cups (4).

Children & Babies: We transition from bottles (8) to regular glass (5) and stainless steel cups (4) as quickly as possible with toddlers, but there is still a time and a place for sippy cups (7) and thermoses (6).  If you don’t feel comfortable with your young child using glass (we’ve had very few breaks), stainless steel cups are the perfect solution. I don’t know why it isn’t more popular! For their glass cups, we just use a small version of our adult glasses and for the stainless steel cups, we all share the same ones. We’ve used Dr. Brown’s glass bottles for both babies, and we have never had a single chip or crack. Highly recommend!

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.

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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.