Seeking Simplicity

02.07.2017

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I think people in general will seek a level of simplicity in their lives. I know I  strive for my own simplicity. This may boil down to simplifying a routine or a room in my home, or simply clearing my mind of clutter. It makes living and creating memories much easier to accomplish and it frees up my time for activities that I want to participate in, rather than feel obligated to do.  I honestly work at this each day. Due to the ever changing winds that we deal with in life, I constantly reevaluate my routines and make sure that I’m not taking on activities that I either don’t want to do or know that it will complicate my life in ways that are unnecessary.

Sometimes the clutter in our lives will come in, even for a short period of time. But let it only stay for a short period of time. I found this article from Apartment Therapy, who outlines steps to Seeking Simplicity very clearly. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Simplicity: How to Start Living a More Minimal Lifestyle (from Apartment Therapy)

  1. Give yourself a clear, personal goal (and a timeline)
    1. What is your personal definition of a more minimal home and life? Is it to have only the bare minimum of objects? Is it to declutter a whole room of stuff you haven’t looked at in months? Is it to learn to live with less or stop buying things you don’t need? There’s no “right” way to be a minimalist; we can all have our own definitions of simple and stress-free. Just take the time to define it for yourself. Not sure where to start defining what you don’t want in your life? Focus on what you do want — what makes you feel alive, what you’re passionate about — and then begin to strip away the things (physical and otherwise) that are getting in the way of you doing more of what you really want to be doing.
    2. Give yourself a clear goal, with broken-down steps to attain (and remember to write down the things you need to complete those steps). And then give yourself a time frame to achieve each step (not just the final goal). Consider making alerts on your calendar so you are held accountable. And don’t just write down what the goal is — write down why you want to live more minimally (less stress, more money, less stuff to haul on your next move — it can be anything that means something to you).
  2. Decide how your home can help you live a more minimalist lifestyle
    1. Your quest for a more minimal lifestyle might point you in the direction of a smaller or simplified home. This is a big step for folks who own or rent homes, but not impossible. Again, start with a goal of what you want — be specific. Not sure what you want? Do some traveling — and look to stay in homes in the size range you’re thinking about. You’ll be able to visualize your future life easier if it’s a size you can downsize to. Or perhaps the size and type of your home is okay but it’s what’s in it…
  3. Declutter
    1. This seems pretty obvious, but it can be the most painful step for folks who have a real attachment to many of their items. Start slow and intentionally. Throw out or donate everything you obviously don’t need first. Then take and hide everything you think you could do without for a few months, to give yourself distance to be able to give them away. Then use that motivation to gather the courage to take decluttering as extreme as works for your dream, minimal lifestyle. Keep reminding yourself that stripping away as much stuff from your life will make it easier to achieve a more simple life and allow you to have more freedom. You don’t have to only live with a bed and a laptop; again, you get to decide what living more minimally means to you.
  4. Train yourself to live with less
    1. If you’ve been used to creature comforts for a long time, you might not be ready to take a minimal plunge all at once. Consider having comfort-free weekends or months, slowly eliminating comforts and luxuries (even as simple as pricey haircuts or weekly movie dates) and seeing what feels okay to lose, and what things are too valuable to your happiness to give up.
  5. Ask yourself “do I really need this?” all the time
    1. Before you swipe your credit card, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” And ask yourself all the time. At first you may easily justify purchases out of habit, but as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy.
  6. Be a re-user
    1. Another great habit to explore on the path to a more minimal way of living is learning to be a great re-user. Save packaging to reuse for other things. Learn to repair and fix things rather than replace. Use old clothing for scrap fabric for DIY projects. Be open to being creative to find ways you can reuse something you already have rather than buy something new.
  7. Invest in high-quality
    1. When you do have (or want) to buy something new, splurge on high-quality items that are meaningful for you. Remember that it might be nicer to have a sparse home filled with dreamy designs you adore versus full of things you just sort of like. But also remember that, again, you define what minimal means.
  8. Be clear about why you want to be more minimal (and remind yourself often)
    1. Go back to the first step above regularly, especially when things get tough, so you can remember why you’re trying to live more minimally in the first place.
  9. Forgive yourself and keep trying
    1. As someone who has given away everything they owned one and a half times now, I can assure you, we manage to acquire stuff at impressive speeds. And also sign up for a lot of work obligations, too. This is just human nature. But don’t give up on your quest to simplicity if you wake up one day and notice you’ve let a lot of unneeded stuff clutter up your home or schedule. Just start over at the top, breathe in, and keep trying.
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Tips For Keeping Clutter Away

12.22.2016

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I thought I would list some general tips for keeping clutter away. I use most of these techniques. I own very few items now so it’s easier for me to keep track of household items, including my own possessions. It will come to a point when you will de-clutter so much, that the majority of these tips won’t apply any longer. When you get to that point… it’s BLISS… so ready, set GO! … or you know… just start whenever you’re ready to.

General Home Rules:

  1. Remove at least 1 thing per day from your home that you can donate or sell – If you are able to complete this task, by the end of the year you will have removed 365 items from your home..
  2. Host a yard sale – Sell unwanted items faster than you would on Ebay or Craigslist.
  3. Commit to only keeping 1 or 2 special pieces of your child’s artwork per month – At the end of the year, opt to have your favorites made into a keepsake book (try Shutterfly.com).  Check out our post How to Organize School Artwork and Projects for more ideas.
  4. Put items away after use – Putting things back in their home after each use will make cleanup easier.
  5. Clean as you go – Try cleaning at the same time you are cooking and you will have less mess to cleanup afterwards.
  6. Schedule to de-clutter your home for 15 minutes every night – This is the strategy that the most organized person you know uses.  Check out our post How to De-Clutter When You Only Have 15 Minutes or Less.
  7. Adopt the “one in, one out rule” – With this rule you will never own too many things.
  8. Stop shopping when you are bored – Buying items because you are bored will create debt and unnecessary items cluttering your life. Direct your energy to another feel-good activity, hobby or project.
  9. Stop using paper coupons – If you don’t have time to clip coupons, stick with electronic ones through apps.
  10. Commit an ongoing effort to keep your life free of clutter – Don’t fall back into old habits after you worked so hard to create a simple life. Be consistent and remember why simplifying your life is important to you.

Kitchen:

  1. Create a Sunday basket and place all incoming and outgoing papers in the basket– Refer to this post to see what a Sunday Basket is all about and how to create one of your own.
  2. Keep your dining surfaces clear – Use this 15-minute de-clutter strategy to make sure your dining spaces are always ready for eating or entertaining.
  3. Get rid of extra sets in the kitchen – If you have double measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc., now is the time to get rid of the extras.

Bedroom

  1. Limit toys to 7 per child – If you have 3 kids, that’s still 28 toys in the house! Most kids only need their favorite 1-5 items that they play with daily.
  2. De-clutter your closet – Many people have more clothes than they need. Refer to this post for tips to de-clutter your closet.

Living Room:

  1. Keep home décor minimal – Less clutter around the house makes it easier to clean.
  2. Organize your junk drawer or get rid of it– The junk drawer is often forgotten about until it’s so packed full that it will no longer close. De-clutter your junk drawer regularly. Only place items in it that you use every day.
  3. Get rid of old electronics, cords, cell phones, etc. – Still have that mobile phone from 8+ years ago? Now is the time to donate it.
  4. Use the back side of printed paper – Recycle paper that has a blank backside by placing it in a clipboard and using as a scrap notepad. Once the backside has been used completely, place in a recycling bin.
  5. Delete old files from your computer – Schedule a de-clutter session on your devices. Keep an external hard drive of of files you may want to keep, but don’t clog up your computer’s hard drive. 
  6. Declutter your social media accounts – Unfollow people with annoying status updates or FB groups that no longer interest you.
  7. Declutter your mobile apps – Delete apps from your phone that you don’t use regularly.
  8. Ditch junk files on your computer – Try piriform.com/ccleaner to purge useless items.

Simplify Your Life With These Product Tips

12.08.2016

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Part of the reason why I know my day to day life has a simplistic routine, is that I’ve set it up that way due to my investments in specific products. I keep my rooms simple and clean and the one rule I follow, is that items must be off of the floor, including any storage bins. I thought I’d list a few tips of how I organize the living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

Living Room

  1. Invest in a thermostat – Thermostats are components of which sense the temperature of a system so that the system’s temperature is maintained near a desired setpoint. They are useful in that they will sense the temperature of the space and turn on or turn off when the desired temperature is met.  
  2. Purchase multi-functional furniture – Try an ottoman that doubles as storage, etc. Be sure to check out our post for 10 Items You Need to Organize Your Home Like a RockStar with more multi-functional furniture ideas.
  3. Less items to display – If you have more items to display out in the open, the likelihood is that you have to dust them more often or  worry about those items falling over or being damaged somehow. I’m not telling you to get rid of everything out in the open, but the amount of items will correlate with the level of maintenance of them.
  4. Keep items off of the floor– The less items you have on the floor, when you vacuum or sweep,  you won’t have to stop to pick up all of your items first. Vacuuming or sweeping will be a quick visit to each room and you’ll be done before you know it.

Bathroom

  1. Use dry shampoo – Try dry shampoo (for your entire family) and spend less time getting ready. Try this version or a homemade version here.
  2. Stop using shaving cream – Organic soap bars works for both men and women as a replacement.
  3. Use multipurpose beauty products – Try a lip stain that doubles as blush and eye-shadow.
  4. Stop coloring your hair – Coloring at a salon is pricey and time consuming. Your natural color is probably gorgeous. Embrace it!

Bedroom

  1. Start a wardrobe capsule – Creating a wardrobe capsule will change your life. Check out this post to download the template to start yours Capsule Wardrobe Planner by Un-fancy.
  2. Keep items off of the floor– The less items you have on the floor, when you vacuum or sweep,  you won’t have to stop to pick up all of your items first. Vacuuming or sweeping will be a quick visit to each room and you’ll be done before you know it.

Kitchen

  1. Invest in and use a crockpot – Use your crockpot as often as possible to cook ready-made meals.
  2. Invest in and use a pressure cooker – Use your pressure cooker as often as possible to cut down on cooking time.
  3. Make your breakfast the night before – Try overnight oats with fresh fruit for a grab-and-run healthy breakfast.
  4. Make your lunches for the week at the beginning of the week- I think most of the working class has a busy schedule no matter what job  you hold. Making your lunches at the beginning of the week saves time and energy during the week so you can spend that time doing something you prefer.
  5. Keep healthy snacks at your desk – Keeping healthy snacks at arm’s length will ensure that you reach for them rather than the vending machine goodies.
  6. Stop using kitchen paper products – Try using cloth towels to dry hands, dishes, or wipe up spills/spots. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Stop using paper plates. You will simplify the items in your home and reduce waste and costs.
  7. Invest in a coffee/tea French Press – A basic coffee maker with a timer (like this one) will ensure your pot is brewed before you wake up. Try this one to reduce waste if you rarely drink coffee/tea.

Keep Life Simple

11.29.2016

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So we’ve officially moved into the season between ‘fighting over products while shopping’ and ‘opening said products in one swift move’. I usually don’t go buy physical objects for this season, I tend to buy gifts in the form of experiences, however, I do understand that not everyone approaches this season the same way. 

The holiday season tends to bring on another level of stress, with the year rounding out and the pressures from the holidays added to the pressures from work and family, it can be an overall anxiety driven few months. With these additional stresses, I wanted to post some tips to help everyone to remind them to take care of themselves first and foremost. and perhaps to help keep the home front a little more simplified.

Life will always get more chaotic and complicated, but as long as we recognize it, we can counter it with with a well thought out defense.  I practice a lot of these tips, so even if you can try just one tip and simplify your life, you might be pleasantly surprised. So here it goes, I hope you guys enjoy it!

For Your Mental Health:

  1. Stop multitasking – Give your attention and focus to one thing at a time to complete a long list of to-do items.
  2. Stop driving aggressively – Take the steps to stop aggressive driving habits by getting enough sleep, planning ahead and using etiquette and kindness to other drivers. Remember that if children are in the car, they learn from watching you.
  3. Stop going crazy for holidays – Stop stressing to bake/cook a huge holiday meal. If you host during the holidays, ask everyone to bring a dish for a potluck style dinner and there will be less work for you. Stop over-shopping for the holidays. Try the 4-gift rule for Christmas: something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read.
  4. Accept that change is in order – Acceptance is the first step to changing bad habits. Once you have accepted that you need to change your life, take the next step toward a simplified life.
  5. Program your mobile photos/videos to auto-upload to a cloud account – Never worry about uploading photos again – Try Google, Amazon, Picasa, YouTube.
  6. Use a combined social media app (Instagram)– Try Hootsuite – it combines your social media accounts and shares a post on all sites at the same time.

For Your Home:

  1. Create a command center in your home – a command center is the ultimate hub to keep your family organized. For tips to create your own, see this post.  My favorite command center item is this dry erase calendar.
  2. Create a cleaning routine and schedule it on your calendar – Schedule laundry day’s, trash days, housecleaning days, etc.
  3. Downsize – Get rid of items you don’t need or move into a smaller home.
  4. Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions – Read articles for free online instead.
  5. Stop buying trending clothes – Purchase classic, high-quality items in neutral colors and you will rarely need to update your wardrobe.
  6. Eat simple meals – Less thinking means faster, easier meals. Keep it simple with simple ingredients and meals that are fail-proof. Be sure to check out our post Clean Eating for Less Than $70 a Week for a family of 4 (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks included with a shopping list!).
  7. Make freezer meals – Double your dinner recipe and freeze the rest for later. If you do this every night, then you will have 7 additional dinners in the freezer for next month.  Here are 365 days of freezer meals for more ideas.
  8. Use your leftovers – Pack them for lunch the next day or use them to make another meal – many leftovers can easily be made into a soup.
  9. Use simple recipe ingredients – Stop buying spices/ingredients for one meal. Purchase basic spices and ingredients to minimize items in your pantry.
  10. Make one-pot meals – Reduce clean up by making an entire meal in one pot.  Here are 120 one pot meals for some ideas.
  11. Unsubscribe from junk emails – Try unroll.me for bulk removal.  I did this and was able to unsubscribe from 110 subscriptions in just a few minutes!
  12. Cancel cable – Try on-demand options like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Video.
  13. Print as little as possible – Read documents, books and recipes online. Save these items online or as a document to your computer. Less paper lying around means less to organize later.

For Your Organization:

  1. Consider signing up for an Elfster account or create an Amazon Wish List feature or giving Groupon experience gifts  
  2. Keep reusable bags in your car – These bags always come in handy for stores that give you money back for bringing your own bag (like Target) or those that charge for their plastic bags (like Aldi).
  3. Telecommute, carpool, bike, jog or walk to work instead of driving – take the stress of commuting with one of these options.
  4. Stop using credit cards and pay cash for everything – Get rid of the stress of paying interest for that T-shirt. Freeze your credit cards, pay them off and start using cash only – unless you are able to pay off credit cards in full every month.
  5. If you need a credit card, consider one with rewards benefits – If you absolutely need a credit card, choose one with big rewards. Pay the balance in full every month to reap the full reward benefits – otherwise the reward is not beneficial if you are paying interest.
  6. Upload/Download DVDs/digital copies to the cloud – Try Vudo/Ultraviolet to upload DVDs, digital copies to access movies on-the-go. Download/purchase movies online and store them in your cloud account, try Amazon Video.
  7. Share cloud files with family – Share your budget spreadsheet or contact list with your spouse.
  8. Write canned emails – Try the canned email feature in Gmail and save emails that you regularly send out with the same verbiage.

Take Time For Yourself

11.24.2016

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As the holidays have come upon us here in the United States of America, this time of the year can be quite stressful. I thought I would make a list of ways I think everyone can or should try to take care of themselves, this includes physical and mental health. 

Since I already posted this as you are reading it now, I plan on spending the day in my stretchy pants. Stretchy pants are great for all occasions, today just happen to be a day where I eat when I’m starving and end up too full.

Have a great holiday everyone! Happy Thanksgiving! You should do the first seven items on the Physical Health list, except for #4, today may not be the best day to start on #4. (Unless you like food burps while working out) And if you do #1, you can knock off #3- see… multitasking—> Boom.

Physical Health:

  1. Take a nap – Schedule a power nap (or longer) when you can. A 15-minute nap will provide you with increased alertness and energy. Longer napping provides the same benefits but can make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
  2. Plan a R & R day at least once a month – Try to schedule at least 1 day every month for rest and relaxation. Try a Saturday all-day movie day at home or take off work on a Monday or Friday and have an extra-long weekend.
  3. Watch less TV – The average American watches 34 hours of TV a week – almost the same amount of time as a full time job! Try reading a book, going outside for a walk or playing a card/board game.
  4. Schedule your workouts – If you don’t add fitness to your daily routine, then you won’t be inclined to workout. Add working out to your calendar and set a reminder. Check out our post with 5 Easy Ways to Schedule Fitness into your Daily Routine for more help.
  5. Meditate – Meditating reduces aging, helps you feel more connected, improves brain function, increases immunity and metabolism and helps you sleep better.
  6. Do yoga or stretch throughout the day – Yoga provides increased flexibility, improved energy and vitality while assisting with cardio and circulatory health.
  7. Go for a walk – walking prevents high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes while improving your mood.
  8. Watch the sunset or sunrise – Watching the sun rise or set will slow down time. It gets you away from digital devices, helps you appreciate life’s gifts and will inspire you.
  9. Carry a water bottle everywhere – Drinking plenty of water has many benefits including keeping you alert and energetic. Try these bottles and never worry about going thirsty again.
  10. Turn off your phone – Sometimes a break from the blinking light on your phone will serve well. If you want to focus on an important task, turn your phone off for less distraction.
  11. Unplug all devices – Unplug your TV, radio, computer, phones, etc. for a while to minimize distractions.
  12. Breathe – Remember to breathe.

Mental Health:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal – Writing in a gratitude journal lowers stress, gives you new perspectives and opens your eyes to what is most important in your life. Try this gratitude journal to get started.
  2. Try adult coloring books/pages – Print adult coloring pages for free online and take a break to color. You will be brought back to childhood memories and the activity is stress relieving. Don’t worry about staying in the lines.
  3. Learn to say “no” to events, get-togethers, hand-me-downs, etc. – It’s okay to say no in our already over-scheduled and busy lives.
  4. Set monthly goals – Start a monthly/yearly goal planning worksheet and refer back to it often.
  5. Listen to audio-books – Try Audible for Free for 30-days and refer to this post for how audible books can simplify your life.
  6. Turn off notifications from social media – Ever post a comment to a friend and then get notified with every comment thereafter? Remove notification on social media.
  7. Take a social media vacation – Unplugging from the Internet overload will simplify your life. Try a 1-week or longer social media vacation.
  8. Stop trying to impress people that you don’t like – Stop buying unnecessary items to show off and stop trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  9. Stop holding grudges – You will feel happier if you just let things go.
  10. Determine your definition of success – Success is defined in many different ways – how do you define success? Is it your “stuff” or is it your happiness?
  11. Stop trying to do it all – Don’t try to do everything on this list right away and stop trying to get everything done all at once. Take baby steps and you will reach your goals.
  12. Stop over-scheduling your life – Make sure you schedule time for yourself every day – whether it’s a relaxing activity like massage, bath, watching a movie or a fun activity like working out or hanging out with friends – stop over scheduling your life with a long to-do list.

Clarity In Our Thoughts

01.22.2016

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DSC_3534Clarity in our thoughts and feelings can bring peace of mind.

Sometimes, getting through the grey areas in life are the most difficult struggles. It brings a level of uncertainty. With black and white situations, you know if you’re going to loose or win. The grey areas create indecisiveness. But if you take a moment, take a deep breath, and stop moving… sometimes you realize the situation was always black or white.

Don’t let the grey areas take over your emotions/health, keep you from attaining your goals, or bring you down. Make a decision, is it going to be black or white? If you really want it, you’ll always see white.