Five Unexpected Ways Simplicity Provides Freedom

Good morning, Dear Reader! For all my complaining about the hot weather in the later months assigned to what we call ‘autumn’, I’m getting what I’m owed. Really. Freakin’. Cold. Weather. We went from summer to freezing our asses off in record time. Again – where is that one place that is between 50-70 degrees all year long?

Recently, I’ve been pondering the holidays. I’m faced with the challenge of coming up with something I ‘want’ because people ask. Truthfully, I don’t want anything that I couldn’t buy myself. And I haven’t bought it because I don’t want to clean it. Really. It’s true.

Some wait their entire lives for the feeling of contentment, and – I hope I don’t jinx it – I finally have it. I moved into a tiny home (not a tiny, tiny home…mine is 950 sq. ft) last August, and I could not be happier with the amount of space I have. I currently rent, and I realize the payments are steep, but it’s a good fit for us. At the same time, my kiddo finishes elementary school, where he started five years ago. He flourishes there, and I don’t want to be the person who yanks him out. So I’m doing my best to live in the “now”, which isn’t easy when others keep asking what’s next for us. 

I don’t fucking know, Karen. Mind your own business.

That said, about a week ago, some friends and I talked about getting together soon. One said, “We haven’t seen your new place! We should get together there!” and I don’t know what happened but…

A little bit of panic set in.

What if they think I’m poor because of how little I have? What if they feel they need to buy me stuff because I only have four glasses and two coffee mugs? What if they look in my bedroom, see my sparsely decorated room, and judge me for that? 

Wow. Right? I mean, I choose to live this way. So why am I so terrified of what others think? Because, y’all, despite all the memes about not giving a shit about what others think, not one of us is immune to society’s programming one hundred percent of the time. All of us, from time to time, feel vulnerable.

I asked a friend’s son a few weeks ago why he felt he needed such a fancy truck. Of course, he’s strapped for cash now that he bought a newer vehicle, and his reply was, “Chicks dig trucks. And good chicks dig nicer trucks.” I remember thinking, “Why would you want a snobby ‘chick’ like that?” But…didn’t I do the same thing when my closest friends asked to come over? Insecurity comes in all forms, I suppose.

Anyway, I’ve gotten over it and decided to invite people over. I told them to determine who has the best spine because that is who will be sitting on the floor. I don’t have room to seat more than five people. My dining table seats two. I have no room for overnight guests. And if you plan to shower, come on Mondays. I have four towels. Monday, they will all be clean.

Despite this, I told another friend that I’m maxed out on space I can physically and mentally handle. I work full-time, I’m a single parent, and I volunteer in my community. I have hobbies. I don’t want more rooms to clean and floor space to mop. 

Simplicity grounds me. I feel calm and peaceful when everything is in its place, yet still has a splash of that ‘lived in’ feel.

To me, simplicity offers five benefits I’ve desired for many years. I will always try to convince folks to live a simple lifestyle – and I have since 2011, when this blog first started. Of course, life gets messy sometimes with all it throws our way, so shouldn’t we rely on something ‘constant’ in those cases? Simplicity is my constant. 

So. Grab that drink. Settle in. I’m going to tell you about five ways simplicity benefits me – and you, should you accept this mission.

1. Less stress.

As I mentioned, I’m a busy gal. I don’t want to think about cleaning my house on my days off from work. My brain is often overloaded with my anxiety, so the less I have to look at, the calmer I am. I cannot function when things are messy. When I was a professional grant writer, my colleagues always knew when a deadline was approaching because I’d spend hours cleaning and reorganizing my office. I called it ‘pre-writing planning’. I had to do that before I could write. 

2. I save money.

I never set out to be a cheapskate, and I’m not one. Simplicity and rational minimalism are not really about frugality, although saving money seems to be a by-product of the lifestyle. Often, too, I can find things I need at thrift stores. I don’t buy other people’s junk for the sake of having more trash in my home. But when I can find a perfectly good Caphlone skillet for six bucks, and I need a skillet…I’m going to buy THAT skillet. I rarely go shopping as a pastime. Admittedly, during the COVID lockdown, I got pretty well-acquainted with my Amazon cart – a habit I’m still attempting to break. 

3. I’m pretty organized.

As I mentioned, I don’t function well in a messy space. The messiest area of my home is my desk. It always is, for which there is no excuse. But other than that, I pretty much know where everything I own is located. That’s not to say that I don’t have a junk drawer. I do. (And a few junk baskets, if I’m honest.) But ask me where that one little item is…and I most likely know where it resides. My car keys go in one place. My purse is in another. Backpacks, bandaids, extra bottles of Gatorade…all have a home. 

4. Less toys means more creativity.

Some people criticize the amount of time I let my kiddo spend on his tablet. But, it isn’t as though he’s just gaming all day. He’s creating games for other people. That’s different. In fact, that’s a skill set that can – and does – earn him a little bit of dough. I, too, have very few toys. This allows me to have more time to write. I enrolled in a 24 week front-end developer to gain marketable skills. After that, photography lessons. 

5. Simplicity provides space for what I truly value.

The most important person on the planet to me is my son. With less space and clutter to consume me, we can spend evenings together and take mini-roadtrips to see friends on the weekends. I can work on my own hobbies and I’m currently working through a 28-day challenge to keep my cleaning schedule intact. I am a bit stingy with my free time, but I do make time for those who are important.

So, my near-panic attack when my friend suggested coming over reinforced to me that my simple little life is okay. Of course, I’ve been living this lifestyle for a over a decade (with a few bumps in the road here and there). But, it is always good to reflect on the importance of it from time to time.

How about you, Dear Reader? What changes do you want to make to find simplicity in your little corner of the world? What do you already embrace as a practice? 

As always, here’s your song. I had no idea who Casey Abrams was until I found this little gem, but you can bet your bottom I’m going to be looking him up on Spotify this weekend. Enjoy your weekend, and try not to freeze to death.

Don’t Go Big Or Go Home

Good morning, dear Reader. You know that saying, “Spring has sprung?” Well, not here. I’m rebelling. Last week I sent my kid to school in shorts and by 10 a.m. it was snowing. I felt terrible when I picked him up and he was shivering uncontrollably. Alas, my “mom of the year” card is already in jeopardy over so much I can’t even bother with worrying about it anymore.

We enter April still focused on the ‘letting go’ theme I mentioned here, and as I’ve said, I’m really, really letting go of stuff as I pack up to relocate. But, I think I will pause on that thought for a moment and go a bit deeper. Do you want to venture into the back of my mind with me a bit? You sure? It’s kinda cray-cray there sometimes. Okay, then!

Grab a drink. Settle in. Here’s what is swirling in my thoughts today. Can we talk about this…

Go big or go home.”

You’ve heard this phrase, too, I’m sure. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. Some self-help guru probably wrote a book about it, and it’s sitting next to the book that coined the hashtag Boss Babe. I get the sentiment. Do your best. Work hard. If you can’t/won’t give it 1000% then don’t even bother…blah, blah, blah. But…

Go big or go home is broken.

It’s old. It’s insulting. It implies that ‘home’ is a punishment.

It should be…

Go big AND go home.

Home is family – whatever that looks like in your world. Home is where your children or pets, or children AND pets live. You may live alone and that’s awesome, too. My point? Home is where your heart can find some peace. It’s where your soul can finally settle down after you’ve kicked ass and taken names all day. It’s where the #bossbabe can put on a ratty old t-shirt, go braless, and have a sip of Tullamore Dew without judgment. It’s where the bathwater contains Epsom salt and lavender, and the time you spend in that bath is limited only by your intolerance for lukewarm water.

I lived in chaos for years. I recently chose to stop that pattern and get rid of the external factors causing that (and truthfully, the internal ones, too). Last year, I literally spent thousands to find places to ‘relax’ that were not where I typically receive my mail. I practically begged people for the opportunity to housesit just to get a little privacy. I bought a new car for the sole purpose of car-camping just to get away from the ever-present barrage of questions. I lived here but I didn’t live here. You know?

Home is where our priority should be – to find the quiet spots and recharge. If you are constantly finding ways to ‘get away from home’ then something’s not working. Your home should be a place of refuge, a source of peace from the outside world.

So, let’s work hard AND THEN…go home. Shall we?

Today’s message is short but powerful. As always, here’s your song. It definitely is an oldie. Kenny Chesney still had hair, and everyone was still trying to figure out the real reason he and Renee broke up. But it fits, right? And it’s nice. So, pour that drink. Take off that bra (Dudes, go commando). Settle in and rest.

Until next time, bottom’s up! Cheers.

PS…If you loved this, then feel free to share it on all the socials. Hugs!

Another Matter of the Heart

There’s a story I don’t share much. I allude to its content from time to time, but I don’t really go into detail. I don’t go into detail for several reasons such as:

1) Its content is not something by which I want to be defined.

2) After all this time, I try to tell a new story.

3) If I don’t discuss it, it won’t hurt as much.

However, I realize after eight years the subject does define me, to a point. It allows me to not only tell a new story, but to change my entire value system. And, while time does heal pain, the void is never really filled so it doesn’t really matter if I talk about it or not.

Tomorrow marks the eighth year I have lived without my only sibling. A young man with a seven-month old son left the world at the age of 27, suddenly without much warning. The one person I was to tease throughout my entire life. The one with whom I was to discuss matters regarding our parents’ health. The one I would leave my child to if something terrible happened to me first. In just one day I went from being someone’s sister to being an only child. It crippled me emotionally for nearly half a decade.

The details of the ‘old’ story and how this happened are not really necessary here. What does matter, however, is how life’s events are meant to teach us valuable life-altering lessons.

Lessons like…

1) Relationships and family are more important than work.

2) Saving for a rainy day is important.

3) When someone is in need, time is of the essence.

You see, I didn’t get on a plane from Connecticut to Missouri fast enough. I didn’t do it because I was really busy with work…I didn’t have a dime in my savings account…I thought it was a simple stomach ache and that was not important enough for me to fly clear across the country. Between the time I got the “You need to come home” call and the time I actually arrived, my brother had slipped into a place from where he would never come back. I never got to say goodbye. And that haunted me for many, many years.

It also changed me. It changed me in so many ways that I wish I could go back to those people who angered me with their “There is a gift in this tragedy” statement. I would say to them “You were right”. Because, folks, why else must we endure such pain if not for growth?

So, how did this change me? How did I grow?

Nobody’s work is more important than family. I live by this in my job now and promote this value to those I supervise and with whom I work. I also remind my superiors from time to time that family is a priority for me. I’ve quit ‘dream jobs’ to be with my family. It isn’t hard to make decisions when you live your values.

Buying useless crap takes valuable resources away from you. When I lived in New England, I lived in a house I really could not afford and bought items for this house I really, really, really could not afford. So, when I got the call my first thought was “Where the hell am I going to get $900 to fly to Missouri?“. Eight years later, I can tell you with all truth and honesty: I think of that moment whenever I am about to buy something major that would deplete my savings account. It has stopped me many times from buying something I do not need.

Don’t ignore your intuition. When a friend is in need, today is the day to pick up the phone. Today is the day to stop what you are doing and write that note. Not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not ‘not ever’. I knew something was wrong on that Friday. I should have called home that day. Instead, I waited nearly 36 hours for my father to call me…and another 12 hours to arrive at the hospital. I think Facebook is a wonderful place to get information. It is not a wonderful place to show someone how much you care.

What does this have to do with simplicity?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Except that this event, along with a few others, led me to my decision to stop working so much, quit buying so much, and take the time to sit on a blanket in the yard watching a storm roll in last night with my son instead of washing dishes.

Every one of my ‘simplicity’ heroes has a similar story. An ‘Ah-Ha’ moment, if you will. What’s your old story and how did it help create a new story? Are you a ‘simplicity-minded’ soul and if so, how did you arrive here? Are you in the midst of your own painful life event that has given you pause? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy weekend!

PS…I’m giving my dear friend and editor time off to deal with her own set of priorities and family issues. If the blog is a complete grammatical mess – I take full responsibility.

Wrapping Up March With Weekend Reads

I finish a few blogs for April and I’m ready to get started on the room of the house that is one colossal cave of clutter. (Okay, maybe I exaggerate…but definitely a room that bugs me.) As we launch the weekend and prepare for some new awesome advice from the Sho-Me State Girl herself…here are some fantastic reads:

All the weekend reads are inspired by my boss who announced that she’s quitting and moving to Hawaii.  (Hang on there…let’s not throw a party just yet. I actually like her). But here’s the kicker…it’s kinda my fault she’s moving. Yep. She read my blog and decided to take the plunge. I could not be more proud. (Of her..and of myself!)

So…get that cup of tea/coffee/glass of wine because these are some cool and brave souls:

Read about the Jordan’s who live in Siloam Springs, AR. I am thrilled I ran across this story because Siloam Springs is just a hop, skip and a jump from me. I want to load up the kiddo and go meet them. Maybe I will – I have all this free time since I don’t have to cook anymore. (That, my friends, is called foreshadowing. You will just have to wait!)

Could you live in a house the size of your garage? Well, Jon and Ryah Dietzen are doing it. And it seems to be working out just fine. This is the coolest garage I’ve ever seen. (I actually lived in a 250 square foot cottage when I separated from husband number one and it was really, really cool. I had everything I needed – including some peace.)

So garage living isn’t your style? Okay. How about a bus? Yep. You read that right. A bus. In fact, my grandparents sold their home when I was a little girl and bought a fifth wheel trailer. They lived in Missouri 1/2 the year and Texas the other half. I don’t really even remember their old house. I just remember cool trips to the lake to visit.

Starting to think that ‘minimalism’ and ‘downsizing’ is just for those of us who bought into the American-Dream Myth and are up to our eyeballs in debt? Not so much. Here are some people you just might be surprised by:

The creator of Tumblr. Yep. The Billionaire extraordinaire: David Karp

Joe Greenstein, co-founder of Fixster is cashing in his billionaires to help the poor. Okay, maybe not all of his billions, but he certainly isn’t spending it on fancy cars and lavish homes.

Aaron Patzer, the founder of Mint.com, who sold his company in 2009 for $170 million. He lives in a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment, and recently replaced his 1996 Ford Contour (with 150,000 miles) with a $29K Subaru Outback.

And the two founders of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz and that other guy embrace minimalism, too. Moskovitz could afford any home he wanted but lives in condo. He bikes to work and leaves his Volkswagen hatchback in the garage. The other guy’s Facebook profile says his interests include “minimalism” and “eliminating desire.”

So with all that, I have to admit…one thing that perturbs me about the ‘simplicity culture’ is that it is centered around reducing a carbon footprint, canceling out debt, or counting items so one can brag about the fact that one only owns 99 things versus ‘the other minimalist’ who owns 100. I haven’t decided if it is a ‘fad or a movement’. I own over 1000 items. I do not recycle. I do not grow my food. I do not have anything that is ‘solar panelled’. I am not interested in going off grid (Okay…I’m a tiny bit interested in going off grid but that’s because I have a tab bit of rebellion and anti-socialism in me and certainly not for environmental reasons….). I don’t want a house that is 120 square feet and moveable. (My SECOND home in Monterey Bay – maybe.) I love those people. They inspire me. But, alas, I am not one of them.

Who am I? I am a 41 year old woman who wants to spend my time pushing my son on a swing in the park instead of vacuuming my house and neatly storing my hobby supplies. I want to giggle on the sofa with my husband instead of worrying about the three rooms we never use that still need organization. I want to spend time with my family when they visit instead of worrying about the fact that I only have eight plates that match and the matching coffee mugs were gone A LONG TIME AGO. I want simplicity. I want peace. I want freedom and joy. And…I want that for you, too. If that means you realize you need to quit your job and move to Hawaii…then sweet! Just let me know I was responsible for that decision! (wink, wink). Then I will know I did what I set out to do. And that makes my heart sing.

Looking forward to April. Tell me all about those closets and the March challenge. Get ready to clean that kitchen.

Announcing the April Challenge:

Find two small appliances you think you can live without. like your microwave or (GASP!) a coffee maker. Take them to your storage closet. Don’t use them for ONE MONTH. Use only one favorite knife this month. And lastly…vow to not cook for at least ONE NIGHT each week. Outsource it or eat something simple and easy. Can’t wait to hear!

Wrapping up the March Challenge:

I actually found several items with which I could still part and not feel bad. I’m headed to the consignment store…and then to the thrift store. So thrilled! What about you? How did it go?

Do You Need More Storage or Less Stuff?

Denise’s Notes: This week’s post is reblogged from Unclutterer. Deb Lee originally posted this on Tuesday and I know it will certainly resonate with some of you in light of what I’ve been writing about for the last few weeks. It definitely goes along with my tongue-in-cheek comments about all the organization tips on Pinterest. You don’t have to organize what you don’t own. 

Raise your hand if you think you need more storage space in your home. Anyone think that if they just had more storage areas, their home would be easier to maintain? Sometimes I wish my home had more closets, especially a dedicated linen closet. But, I’ve found a way around that and, honestly, I don’t need a separate space to keep towels and sheets, which means it’s probably more of a want and not a need.

Of course, if you live in a small home, your storage options may be limited. You’ll likely have to use tried-and-true techniques (maximize vertical space, use under bed storage, hooks, armoires, etc.) and take advantage of creative solutions, like using multi-purpose furniture or hiding things in plain sight. You might even come up with some unconventional ways to keep your stuff, like using a car or minivan (that isn’t needed for transportation) as storage space.

In a recent blog post over at Extraordinary Observations, Storing Private Stuff in Public Space, the author started giving this some thought. He reasoned that it would be very convenient (the vehicle would be parked close to his home) and when he crunched the numbers, he found that it would be a cost effective option, too.

… street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

It’s an interesting notion and it seems to make sense from a monetary standpoint. For anyone seriously considering this as a solution, another question comes to mind. Why not reduce your stash so that the car isn’t needed for storage? You wouldn’t have to worry about the types of things you could store in your vehicle (since it’s not temperature controlled) nor would you have to be concerned about someone stealing it. With one less spot to maintain, you’d also have less work to do, fewer decisions to make, and more time to focus on other things. And, you’d have the option of selling or donating your car, both of which come with financial benefits.

Though the benefits of living with less are clear, going through the process is not always straightforward or easy, especially when you have to let go of things that you’re emotionally attached to. When faced with the task of uncluttering and downsizing, it’s important to remain focused on the positive outcomes of reducing the number of things you own (particularly if you don’t use or want them). Keep in mind that you can also handpick who receives certain items which can help put your mind at ease. Of course, simplifying doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything. You’re simply prioritizing and carefully selecting which items you will bring the most value to your life.

Ultimately, anyone going through this process will need to answer this question: Will a storage unit (of any type) be a regular and permanent part of your life, or would you prefer to find a way to live well with less?

Do You Have the Guts to Simplify?

Stephanie Stevens

Denise’s notes: This week’s post is by guest blogger, Stephanie Lynn Stevens. I stumbled across Stephanie’s blog via Living Simple Free’s weekend reads a few months ago. I knew instantly that if she and I lived closer, we’d be buds! Enjoy!HoHo
I have written before about how overwhelmed I was at our old house with so much stuff.

I was way too sick to declutter or even to wrap my mind around what this should look like.

That is one of the main reasons things got worse in the housekeeping department, not better.

But the other half is that I just didn’t have the guts to let stuff go.

I would look at the stack of lovely but rarely-used puzzles and feel so much mommy guilt for wanting to get rid of them.

That missing piece would probably turn up, puzzles are educational, and when the kids did want to work a puzzle they really enjoyed it.  Besides, it was a special gift from ____________.

So I’d hang onto it.

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding stuff. The packrat’s famous excuse is “I might need it someday.”

For others of us, we just like our stuff.

Have you ever watched the show Clean House?  Remember the people who don’t want to get rid of their 1980’s shoes because they might come back in style or they wore them on their first date?

It’s ridiculous when we see it in someone else, but a lot of us do the same thing.

My sister, who has a great ability to let things go, says we should treat clutter like a poisonous snake.

But for some of us, it’s a snake we can’t bring ourselves to kill.

I wish I had been not only able, but willing to pitch my stuff.  I know now that I wouldn’t have missed most of it.

Do you have the guts to get rid of your stuff?

A challenge: What are you going to get rid of TODAY?

Embrace freedom!

***********

Denise’s notes: I’m starting two new projects (I know *rolls eyes*…THAT certainly helps with living a simple lifestyle! Whatever.) Anyway…if you are a subscriber, check out my new (low maintenance) blog. If you live close to me, soon you will see a cool addition to the neighborhood in my yard. I need books for all ages, so if you are decluttering your bookshelf soon…I’ll take those old books! So excited!

Six Steps to Cleaning Closets: Doing the March Challenge!

We are a week into the March Challenge and I just want to say a few things about over-consumption of clothing. The truth is, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. When I first read this, I tested it. I brought out my seasonal clothes, hung everything on white hangers (the infancy stages, mind you, of my infamous ‘white hanger theory’). When I wore an item, I hung it on a colored hanger. Then, at the end of the season, I took note of everything still left on white hangers. I realized I didn’t wear these clothes all season (and there was A LOT!)…so out they went. Now, I do a version of the white hanger theory twice a year. Here is an idea if you don’t have white hangers.

If you haven’t started the March challenge yet (and you know who you are!) here’s how you get started:

Determine what you have.  The first step in your process is to remove everything from your closet. Do this when you have more than just an hour of spare time. Make it the project for the day. It is time-consuming and emotional. I find that a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with this activity. I also suggest bringing in your closest confident who will tell you, in all honesty, if you should keep an item. (My husband once said, “I hate that shirt. It makes you look like a hippie.” Well, even though I like to embrace my inner bohemian at times, the ‘hippie’ look isn’t quite what I was going for, so out went that shirt).

Decide what you really need. Like I’ve said, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time, so use frequency of use as a benchmark for deciding what to keep. You know you love it. You know it’s your go-to sweatshirt on the weekend. You know you look hot in those jeans. Keep them. But some things are only worn on special occasions, and truthfully those items can be paired down. Some would even argue one simple black dress is really all one needs for ‘special occasions.’ (Guys, I don’t expect you to wear a little black dress. But, seriously, all you need is one really good suit.)

Admit the relationship is getting old. If you are still hanging on to an item you used to love, acknowledge that…and be prepared to chuck it. My mother has a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt with a thousand holes in it. I’m pretty sure she still has it because it represents a family vacation. I’m also pretty sure she has photos of that vacation and therefore, Mickey could be thrown out (Mother, I know you read this blog…yes…I’m talking to you). There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to things because it holds sentimental value, but if you’ve still got your prom dress from 1989, its time for your friend to intervene. Pour another glass of wine, remember dancing with that special person to some Richard Marx song…and get rid of it.

Be honest about how you look in it. Does this flatter you now that you’ve lost (um…gained…) 40 pounds? Try it on, get the friend to give it thumbs up or down…and move on. Here’s the only time I would recommend that you set some time to go pick up some classic and flattering pieces of clothing – but only if you really need them.

Consider your life now. Last weekend I realized that all my old work clothes were stuffy business suits from back in my ‘high paid consultant’ days. Now, I work from home and usually in my yoga pants. I kept the black dress, a pair of black slacks, a jacket that matches both, and out with the rest. While you are in your decision-making mode, consider what you do on a regular basis now. “Well, when my child goes to school, I might reenter the workforce.” Okay, great. That’s five years from now. If you wear THAT you’ll look like a dork because it’s 7 years old. Toss it.

Grab those things you love and put them back. Grab those white hangers (or do this instead….). I’ve done this for two weeks. It’s not looking too good for that old Eddie Bauer sweater with holes in it…poor baby. No matter what ‘organizational system’ you choose (white hanger, reverse hanger, Project 333, etc.) make it easy. Avoid a system that is too complicated. Simple is better.

What to do with what is left.

Donate it to charity. Honestly DONATE IT TO CHARITY. I think people who talk themselves into selling stuff on the internet (like on Craigslist or eBay) are just looking for a reason to hang on to something a bit longer. Ugh. Just get rid of it already.

Throw it out. If your item has stains, rips, or ‘just needs a little mending’ do not donate it. Thrift store shoppers do not want your crappy stuff any more than you do. Be considerate. (I made cleaning rags out of my hubby’s old stained t-shirts – thus reducing my need to waste so many paper towels – so you can even repurpose it if you can’t bring yourself to throw it away. Here’s another great idea I’m gonna try!)

Give it away to a friend. Sometimes donating to charity isn’t as fun as giving it to someone who would really like it. I recently had a month-long Give A Way project that was a blast! My silver cocktail dress is going to my step-daughter this week. I’ve worn it one time. It will make a nice graduation dress or ‘fancy dinner’ outfit for her. My son was in the NICU for 8 days when he was born, so when he outgrew his NB clothes I gave them to the NICU in honor of those awesome nurses. Snow suits were recently shipped to my girlfriend in Massachusetts – (hahaha…you are up to your eyeballs in SNOW!!!). Same with several wool hats and scarves.

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself. You can do this. I know you can. It is not easy. It can be hard. Keep going.

Let me know how you are doing…I’d love to hear about it. Comments are awesome!

This Week’s Challenge:

Set a time to do this project now! Write it in your calendar. Call your ‘buddy’ and ask them to meet you for the day to start this project. Gather your supplies (boxes, trash bags, white hangers, um…wine…etc.). Get excited – you are about to take the first step in your life of ‘freedom’.

Announcement:

For the rest of the month, I will be taking time to get some posts ready so that my poor editor isn’t subjected to my lack of planning. Do not fret, dear readers…I will still post but will highlight some great guest bloggers. That way you will still get some really awesome info and be introduced to some wonderful like-minded people in the process. So excited!!

Simplicity Is An Inside Job

Hmmm. Simplicity. What does that even mean? One of the most interesting epiphanies I’ve had over the last two years was the realization that each time I chose to add an activity to my calendar or an item to my closet, I was mostly seeking fulfillment. Looking back it seems like ‘crazy talk’ when I say that out loud, but you see, I always felt there was something missing from my life. What never occurred to me was that somethingwas me. I was missing from my life. The more activities I added, the more responsibilities I accepted, the more possessions I bought only created more of a void. Those things separated me from the stillness I needed to really get to know myself . Finally I started to realize what really mattered to me was spending time with my friends and family, reading a book, writing or putting another spin on my already-fantastic banana bread recipe. Listening to a really great songwriter and getting a super-restful night of sleep were also things I realized I needed in my life to be happy.

Those things, the ones that give me the greatest joy, are the simplest. They don’t require a season pass or a new outfit. They don’t ask me to spend hundreds of dollars or even to clean my house. This may seem simple to some, maybe even a bit boring, but to me they are the lifeline to keeping my sanity.

Simplicity means making room for the things that really matter amongst the noise of life. Some of us are so busy and so caught up with impressing other people that we don’t even know what that means. Linda Breen Pierce’s book, Choosing Simplicity, reminds us that many of the challenges we create – and even some of the health issues we have – are consequences of our belief that we have to have everything. Finding value in what you NEED versus having everything you WANT gives you freedom to say “I choose to relax.” I spent a lot of my life seeking the impressive career, amassing material possessions, and purchasing letters to plug in after my name by way of huge student loan debt. In the end, I realized what I really love to do wasn’t enhanced by any of those things. In fact, it took me 28 years to realize what my 8th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Childers, learned about me the first week of school. I love to read and I love to write. Neither of those require an MBA nor do they require a 4,000 square foot house.

At some point, hopefully, everyone who feels lost can come to the realization they are missing out on the things they truly value and enjoy in order to live a life someone, at some point, told them they should live. There are a lot of reasons why we believe that line of nonsense,and it takes some longer than others to realize it is just that: nonsense. But, of course, the turning point for many is one simple question: Why are you living your life?

You don’t have to live in the country to enjoy a simpler life. You can own more than 100 things. You can paint your walls any color you desire. You can buy your vegetables at the grocery store. The change to living a more free and balanced – more simple – life comes from within you – not outside of you. Living outside of yourself is what got you into this mess in the first place. Pick a handful of things you really value – and that should be enough to start you on your journey.

If you’ve read through past posts, you know my story. I won’t bore you with it again for awhile. But in the coming months you will hear from some of my favorite people who left an old life behind to pursue the life they truly value. Ken, who left a high stress broadcasting position to open a thrift store; Kathryn, an author who left her full-time job to finally finish her novel; and Liz, a world traveler who bought an $8 wedding dress at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and buys the majority of her possessions from Craigslist so she and her husband can have the resources needed travel to far away lands. My plan for this year’s blog schedule has lead me to some very interesting people and I hope you will be as inspired by them a I am.

Weekly Challenge:

Is there something on your calendar that you just dread? Can you get rid of it? For me I host a monthly database management group (I know, right. Sounds so exciting…!) but lately it hasn’t done anything to light my fire. So, this week I have decided to send out the notice that the meeting is cancelled. Forever. What can you get rid of this week?

And, March is almost upon us. Let’s prepare mentally for the challenge:

March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

Sharing the Love…

As my editor, Kathryn, looks over several of my newest blog posts, I decided to share some inspirational pieces with you.  I made a promise to my readers that I would stay on track this year and I want to keep the momentum. If you ever wondered how I got started in this new lifestyle and developed this mindset, then I want to introduce you to some of my favorite people!

Grab some hot cocoa, a cup of coffee, or a nice steaming cup of tea.  Settle in.  Relax.  (How can I?  I’m so damn busy?!?!)  Just do it, already.  It’s important to take a deep breath, rest, and restore your soul.  Start now.  And start reading about some of these amazing lives…

Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker.  I will sound like a complete cult follower and a possible weirdo by admitting this out loud about a man I have never met but JOSH BECKER changed my life.  If I didn’t love to write so much and share my battle with materialism with the world, I’d simply just redirect to you Josh’s blog every week.  No one says it better than Becker.

Simple Mom by Tsh Oxenreider:  You don’t have to be a mom to enjoy what Tsh has to say about living a simple life.  She’s an easy read and her ideas are a breeze to carry out.  I picked up her book, Organized Simplicity, at the library (I don’t buy books anymore 🙂 because, well, that takes up space).

Get Simplifized by Dan and Vanessa Hayes:  More of any organizational blog than living the life blog, but they have some excellent tips.  My favorite, and definitely on my wish list, is to build a ‘home office shed’ for both myself and my husband since we both work at home.  That would free up two rooms in our house, or help us realize maybe we could even downsize more (Although, my house payment is less than $620 a month…so I’m pleased with the space and payment.  It might be hard to find something better).

The Complete Guide To Imperfect Homemaking by Kelly Oribine.  I started following Kelly on another blog but since the birth of her 6th (5th??  7th?? ) child she’s only able to maintain one blog now (What???  Really, Kelly.  Get on the ball. 🙂 ) so I’m left to catch up with her on Imperfect Homemaking.  That’s okay.  I love her simple style and love that she manages to raise that many children on one income.  She rocks.

365 Less Things by Colleen Madsen.  Like me, Colleen had no intention in starting some big self-improvement project, nor did she set out to change the world.  Well, she’d done both.  Her practical application to reducing clutter is easy to follow and über easy to implement!

Organised Castle by Fairy.  Just starting her journey into the world of blogging, I can totally related to the challenge of finding simplicity but also finding time to share the message.  She links to several awesome like-minded souls (and even mentions me!!) so check her out.

Finding Contentment – Thoughts on the Downsized Life by Donald Miller.  Some people believe that amassing possessions and debt is the key to being more happy but Donald is not one of them.  He’s not totally convinced that downsizing will make anyone happier, but he does believe that it is a huge component.

I believe when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.  I was at the end of my rope.  I was completely unhappy, stressed out, and felt like I had no free time at all.  I stumbled across this blog one night, and the rest is history.  I hope to be part of the community of people changing the lives of others with my story.  Enjoy that cup of coffee!

Ten Ways I Found Simplicity

When I first sought a life of simplicity, I knew I wanted three things:  Balance, freedom and joy.  I never really set out to ‘live a simple life’ – but in wanting those three specific things, I needed ways to improve in areas that were wreaking havoc with my dreams.  Looking back, the first step in having balance, freedom and joy was to list all the ways my current lifestyle was distracting me from my true intentions.  I revisited my list last week as I planned the ‘Sho-Me Simplicity’ blogs for 2013.  Let’s start this year off with my list and see if you can start here too…

  1. My ‘Stuff’ – Closets overflowed. The garage was an obstacle course. My car was messy. And even though I don’t like to cook much, I had become a victim of the latest rage in ‘new appliances’.  Not only was I tripping over stuff, buying it was keeping me locked under a burden of  debt.  As the cycle (buy…organize…store) continued I realized every room of my house was draining my energy.  I realized what most people on Pinterest have yet to realize:  No matter how cool the ‘organization’ tip is, the truth is, I was still buying, organizing and storing things I  absolutely did not need.  I started with a closet and sorted my way through each room of my house.  Once I realized I was hanging on to things for emotional reasons, it was easier to start purging. I still have things I could donate or sell, but its been a wonderful work in progress.
  2. My Schedule – None of us can “make time” and even “manage time”.  The entire concept is a fallacy.  I can only manage myself using the time I have.  By owning more than I needed, I didn’t have time to do what I really wanted to do because I was too busy cleaning, organizing or maintaining my possessions.  When I gave myself permission to start cleansing my life of useless possessions and activities, I found I could manage myself better and even started spending more time with my friends and family.
  3. My Lofty Plans – I’m an overachiever.  I take on waaaaayyyy too much.  I would have loved to “Keep Calm and Carry On” but the truth is I couldn’t.  I was too  busy.  Each New Year brought at least 14 ‘goals’ (Two in each category:  Finance, Career, Spiritual, etc. etc. – Which is totally STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!).  I finally realized that setting ONLY ONE GOAL was the best thing I could do.   In fact, I was even able to reach that goal because the pressure was off and I could stay focused. Once I finished it, I just added another one to my list.  I didn’t set any this year.  Yep.  Not one goal.
  4. My Emotions – Negative emotions don’t benefit anyone and most likely are useless. Holding on to negative emotions such as resentment, hate, jealousy and bitterness can manifest in various ways in the human body causing anything  from acid reflux to cancer.  My new mantra is “That’s not my issue”…and that has given me so much peace.  I still get angry…but I don’t hold on to it.  I still get anxious but I have learned that trusting the process helps ease that emotion.  Keeping my emotions in check has given me the freedom to not care.  It’s been nice to not care about things that are not my issue.  So freeing.
  5. My Spending Habits – Debt was holding me captive. Honestly, it wasn’t even that much debt and I seriously could have knocked it out in about 24 months if I hadn’t been buying all this stuff (see point #1).  So now I don’t buy what I don’t really need and I’m finding that I’m not being held hostage anymore.  Do I want luxury  items?  Well, yes, at times I  do.  And I even still buy things.  Just because I want to live a simple life doesn’t mean I don’t buy ANYTHING.  I’m just more choosy.  Before I may have purchased 6 items on sale and spent $100.  Now I may spend $110 on one item of better quality.  My favorite combination is to get the better quality item on sale.  Which is usually a fluke because I don’t just go ‘shopping for sales’.  Seriously.  In fact, I hate sales.  (See the photo below for why!) I only need one anyway. (Someday I’ll tell you about my new Pyrex  dish fetish.)
My sis-in-law texted me this photo of a shoe sale she was at at the end of 2012. Eeesh. A nightmare flu-frenzy if you ask me.

6. My Voice – Because I like to teach, so I talk – a lot (okay. too much).  But honestly, the less I speak, the better I hear.  In keeping with The Four Agreements, I do my best to be impeccable with my speech which means I try to avoid gossip.  My husband comes from a large family and they are all very close so they share each other’s news all the time.  It’s all a bit mind-blowing to me and I’m sure I seem a little ‘standoffish’ to some but I don’t really talk on the phone much or share information.  But, the good news is if people tell me something, I don’t use it as the leading point of conversation with the next person.  I figure if this cousin wants that cousin to know…that cousin can tell this cousin.  It’s not my job to broadcast the family news.

7. My Diet – I’m not as naughty as you think, so relax.  But, I realized that the fewer ingredients my food has the better it is for me.  I recently started making baby food for my little guy and his foods are so simple: Apples, pears, carrots, peas, and green beans.  My food…well, um…even “Mac & Cheese” has  more ingredients than just macaroni and cheese.  Minimizing unhealthy, unpronounceable foods improves my energy level in the short-term and just might improve my      triglycerides and glucose levels in the long run.  If I don’t have time to eat my veggies, I juice them.  Despite the ‘don’t drink juice’ advocates, I still believe drinking my health food is better than nothing at all.

8. My Screen time –I will publicly admit to a slight addiction to social media.  However, I realized a year ago that the more engaged I was on social media, the less of a social life I had.  (As my step daughter would say…”Imagine the irony”.  I just love her!!) As far as for television, I just had to stop watching the news altogether and limit my entertainment time.  I majored in marketing so I know the tricks and truly, I don’t need to know how terribly uncool I am because I don’t own an iPad, or that the unemployment rate is through the roof.  I have enough on my plate to worry about  – no need to invent problems or get constant 30-second reminders that I should buy something I don’t need.

9. My Connections – People often gripe that they can’t reach me by phone.  Well, that’s because after 8 pm, I power down.  Once a month I take a weekend off Facebook and I don’t read email more than twice a week.  There’s a reason the Amish are so relaxed…and since I don’t plan to buy a horse and buggy, I’m just going to take time for quiet.  This time last year I challenged myself and posted “If you want to see me, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and we can      chat.”  What happened?  Not a lot, but I began spending more time with fewer people and I feel a deeper connection to them.

10. My Multi-Tasking – Finally research is catching up to prove what men all over the world have known all along: Multi-tasking does not work! God created the entire Universe, but it was a focused effort each day.  When He was      creating the sun and moon and stars, He wasn’t thinking about how many land-dwelling beings He was going to make the next day. Be SINGLE  FOCUSED.  It’s a lost art, but so worth it.

So that’s my list.  That’s where it all started for me and it is the list I want to use as a jumping off point for this year’s blog posts on Sho-Me Simplicity.  At first I got caught up in the Pinterest frenzy of organizing and storage tips – thinking I could use this as a way to help you ORGANIZE your life…but truthfully, that’s not me.  I want you to SIMPLIFY your life and I still believe that the less we own, the better off we will be.  So, I’m sticking with the strategy that less is more.  If you want organization tips, unsubscribe from my blog and, well, go waste your time on Pinterest.

Love,

DJ

*I haven’t hired an editor.  I write because I love it.  I post it quickly because I’m excited.  Being rich or famous is not really my intention.  Besides, if I was famous or rich, there would be no typos because there would be an editor.  Until then…deal with it.