As a teacher, there is a refreshing element to summer. It is where I find time to rest my body and mind from the bustle of the school year. Sure, I take trips, plan play-dates, and shuttle my kids to camps, but I also reorganize my closets and drawers, donate things that no longer serve us, and schedule quiet mornings to lounge. Simplification feels good to me.
I have been on a journey over the last few years to simplify my life. I mean this is in so many ways: simplify my home, simplify my wardrobe, simplify my calendar. Let me describe my journey to you, and explain why I am a fan of making moves towards simplification. I am by no means an expert, just a mom on a journey who has noticed a difference.
My simplification journey began when I read The Seven Experiment by Jen Hatmaker. If you are unfamiliar, in this book Jen and her family focus on reducing in 7 major areas of their lives: food, clothing, spending, media, belongings, waste and stress. I was inspired! To take an honest look at the American excess of our lives and do something about it. I did the study myself and starting taking steps in my life. Reducing my belongings was a breath of fresh air. This is not easy. There are many obstacles in the way: a spouse who comes home with a crystal punch bowl and toys with 3,000 parts, children who want to save every little thing they make at school or find in the gutter, lots of what ifs about what you might need to wear or use one day. BUT, I can tell you that for me it feels so good to be overwhelmed by less. Putting away less, making eye contact with less, keeping track of less. I like it a lot. Some of the challenges were impossible for me to accomplish, but I felt so good about what I did attempt in this book study, and the way that my mind began to shift. I have always been one to keep a list of all the rings I want, but now I began thinking more about what I truly need. Do I still want things? #duh But I don’t always get those things now.
When I later read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist I was inspired to apply this same idea, to reduce, when it came to my calendar. What I learned from her was that I should exercise my no. If presented with an opportunity and I don’t feel an immediate yes in my soul, then it’s probably a no. I have begun to intentionally build downtime into my schedule. I try to only schedule one event a day that it outside of our regular schedule of work and school. Because I have three kids this is not always possible, but sometimes it is. I don’t accept every party or playdate invitation. I don’t say yes to every activity that they want to be a part of. Life is full of seasons. This week we have volleyball camp in the morning and recital rehearsal in the evening, and it is exhausting, but it can’t be helped. I am already thinking about Fall, when dance starts up again, volleyball and football are in season, cheer is in the thick of it, etc. I can’t say yes to every good opportunity. I just can’t. That is key thinking here. If an opportunity is good, it doesn’t mean you have to take it. If your heart says yes, then go for it, but if you hesitate, it’s probably a no. We need rest. We need quiet time. We need afternoons to just sit around and be together. We need time to lounge, to read, to bake, to nap. My mom will probably find this paragraph hilarious as we are constantly on the move, but I think I have really begun to say no to opportunities that I want to say yes, or opportunities that I feel obligated to say yes. I recently kept Jordan home from a youth group because we had been somewhere every night of the week, and guess what??? It was ok.
Another resource in this area is The Purpose Show podcast. I began listening to Allie in August of 2018. This mother made her fortune in teaching simplification and decluttering to her followers. I began to apply some of the principles that I learned from her. Decluttering feels so good. Do I use it? Do I love it? Do I absolutely want or need it? If not, then I don’t need to store it. Letting go of our excess is freeing to our minds. If I drink from the same coffee mugs do I need the other seven in the cupboard? No! In January she led a 30 day declutter challenge that I played along with. I did what I felt called to do, not what felt like suffering. This idea is reiterated in Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchin Rubin. This tiny manual is easy to read and follow, and has many practical tips. She stresses again and again that what is good for one is not necessarily good for another. The process should be about what is pleasing to you and your family. I will always have a ton of Christmas decorations, because that is what gives me joy, but I can tell you that last Christmas I was more picky about the decorations I chose to display. That felt good too.
I think it’s important to note that this road may not work for everyone. Some people love their things. Those people really take care of their things, and are fulfilled by their things. Tossing out excess might feel torturous to them, instead of freeing. Some people, like myself, thrive off of full calendars. I do think that downtime is important even to these types of people, but saying no to a dinner with friends might be more refreshing than an evening at home. I like to have less dishes, but lots of denim. This works for me. Everyone needs to find their own path. In this season for me simplicity means less on my freshly painted walls, a single flower in the center of my table, and mornings without a plan.
If you are intrigued, but don’t know where to start, start with the bathroom. There are few, if any, items with emotional attachments under your bathroom sink. (I learned that trick from Allie (above)). It’s easy to toss makeup that’s expired, conditioner that you will never ever use, a curling iron when you have three. And once you are on the high of that bathroom you can hit the linen closet, the pantry, your drawers.
In addition to the sources listed above there are tons of resources online. I would strongly recommend each that I mentioned throughout this blog post. I would love to hear your personal tips for simplification. Comment and let me know what you think.