Simply No Sleep Tonight

So, what do you do when your pets are keeping you awake all night? Write a blog post, of course!  With two cats and a large dog residing with us in our small home, it is not unusual for this to happen.

083B84A4-FA0B-4BF1-B369-97205C429EEAThere seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, and tonight it simply happens that one of our cats insists on being in and out of our daughter’s room, which is right outside of our room.  The door remains closed because said daughter does not keep everything up off of her floor, and our doggie has a penchant for a good sock! So, needless to say the cat needs in, so that she can meow and scratch to get back out, so she can meow and scratch to get back in, and so on and so forth. This can go on endless times as fickle kitty can’t make up her mind. (Can’t we just clone her to be in two places at once?, I start to wonder around the 10th time of crawling out of bed to open and close our daughter’s bedroom door.)

It was only a matter of time before the dog, who was sound asleep under our bed, would be disturbed by the ruckus and decide it was time to get up and add a little bit of her own action.

Sinced I’d crawled in bed early, I hadn’t taken her out for her final potty break of the night. As soon as I said “outside, go potty” our Golden Retriever had a burst of energy, bouncing and flouncing on the bed as I tried to sleepily pull myself from it, yet again. Because we live in a cold winter clime, I had to dawn a coat and boots, waking my husband in the process, who had fallen asleep on the couch watching tv. Sure, if I have to be up, why shouldn’t he? Lol!


Out we went. Tromping through the snow, down past the berry patch, fruit trees, the garden area, and duck coop, making our way over the hill for a little “rest stop” along the way, and some exercise for us both (and wanted by only one of us!). After nosing around for some tracks, some droppings, checking the deer feeding stations and salt lick our neighbor keeps, and the bunny tunnels in the straw and grass clippings out behind the shed, we made our way back up the hill for a little raucous “frapping” in the snow, as we call it – when a dog simply breaks into a manically fast sprint of abandon in circles and all around the house or back yard, all in fun. Willow loves the snow and has a favorite level spot in the yard where she likes to let this urge take over!

All business done, we’re back in the house all cozied down again with fingers crossed for a bit of peaceful rest. Following one last bout of “I simply must chew my noisy bone at the foot of the bed, and shaking the whole mattress while I’m at it…” we are now finally settled and, I hope, ready to get some sleep in the few meager hours left before sunrise.

Goodnight!  Rest peacefully.


Oh. My.  I just realized it’s Daylight Saving Time and I am losing an hour, to boot! 😱


Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Winter

FFC9DE0D-9A90-455F-8524-E1F6A59EA18EOne thing that makes my already rewarding job fun, are visits like the one I enjoyed with a potential new donor-partner yesterday. I had the pleasure of a personal, guided tour through the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, in winter.90E72807-5EF5-473E-867A-150798CAD497 What a beautiful season to experience their 60 acres – salvaged and restored from a decimated strip-mining location – and now full of wooded hiking trails filled with whimsical curiosities, and educational stops, for both kids and adults alike.

Not all of the acreage at the gardens are developed at this time. They are still a young attraction of a mere 2 years.  But, they have grand plans for the future, and much is in the works currently.

Right now, the gardens can boast a grove of Colonial variety apple trees, an original 1700’s restored log cabin (with a chicken coop housing several gorgeous Plymouth Rock layers), a lotus pond stocked with bluegill and bass, a combination educational building and gift shop, apiary with working honey bees, a gazebo, picnic grove, a variety of educational tours, and a penchant for doing things as organically as possible (for instance, hiring a host of local goats to clear invasive plant species from a hillside that was then developed into their Asian gardens).

While we strolled, sharing knowledge of all things nature, we found ourselves tracking a possum, several deer, and possibly a fox or coyote along our way. I was intrigued, too, by their penchant to protect and bring attention to trees that are indigenous to our region. I am 2D310CCD-B044-43BC-B399-954687D3ADD8definitely going to be checking out the app that was recommended for identification of trees in our area. (Virginia Tech’s V Tree.) I was inspired, as well, to dig deeper on my own into our local agricultural extension through Penn State University.

This visit truly inspired and reawakened my passion for gardening, tracking, hiking, plant identification, natural survival skills, living off the land, and all things wild and natural. It fueled the fire of my already smoldering spring fever. But even better, it reminded me of the importance of simply being one with nature.



Let. Go.

Often when I use the word “simple” I am referring to a pure, honest and uncomplicated action. Easy to understand and to grasp the concept of. But that does not make it “simple” to do.


Many of us struggle with the action of letting go in our lives. We can’t seem to let go of thoughts, grudges, bad habits, things we don’t really need or anxious thoughts and worries. We can’t seem to let go of the past, allowing ourselves to live simply in the joy of the present moment.
We’ve got to begin letting go of the things that burden us in our lives or we will never be able to move forward in the pure joy of living abundantly, with less.

The giving up of “things” we are holding tight to, without good reason, is an obvious first step to the freeing act of letting go.

Making the decision to let go of our “stuff,” whatever that may be, is a powerful step in the right direction to living a life full of simple joy and pleasures. Less IS more. Less tension, less responsibility, less clutter, less upkeep, less decisions, less debt, less angst or fear, less guilt, less indecision, less self doubt… I could go on and on. But the best part is – that letting go, whatever that means for you today, is the first positive step to more peace. More love. More space. More joy.
More of simple living.

I want you to think of what you can let go of today that will bring you closer to your personal goal of what living simply means to you. Is it letting go of those unused sporting items in the garage? The double sets of tools stashed all over the place so that you can never find them when you need them? The 50 or so kitchen gadgets you never use? Or could it also be letting go of that grudge you’ve had against a family member or friend, once and for all? Healing that relationship with even a small act of kindness and forgiveness toward them? Maybe for you it is


allowing yourself to do something you are passionate about but never seem to have the courage to take that first step. Maybe it is thinking less of protecting self and more of sharing with others. Let go of the fear! Take a baby step forward in that area – whatever that is for you – and begin living free of the suffocating act of holding tightly.

S – Spend less.

I – Identify your priorities.

M – Minimize possessions.

P – Plan ahead.

L – Let go.

E –


Addendum: The photos used in this post are from one of my visits to Laurelville Mennonite Retreat Center with one of my dearest friends. I adore the simplicity of a small cabin of minimal furnishings and “things.” I aspire to get my own home closer to such simple means.

Eureka! The Beginnings Of A Capsule Wardrobe

I wasn’t sure with my lifestyle, experiencing all four seasons, and my (ahem) “personal fashion sense,” that I would be able to create an adequate capsule wardrobe.  However, in my quest to simplify, I was not able to let this whole idea go altogether. First of all, it fascinated me. And it makes such common sense in living a simple lifestyle to have less to worry about and from which to choose (and store, and wash…)

My “help”

Kind of reminds me of our old turn-of-the-20th-century apartment, with the shallow closets, and learning that when the building was constructed people lived with less. They only had so many clothing items from which to choose. Going to church or a social gathering?  Wear your Sunday best. Cleaning the house or gardening? Wear your common clothes. In mourning? Get out your black dress. It was as simple as that for middle class society. So, why not for us? I have to admit, imagining only 5 outfits to choose from for work each week sounded pretty inviting.

So, after doing a bit more research, I dove in. Turns out everyone living with a capsule wardrobe is not a trendy twenty-something up-and-comer with a fast-paced New York City lifestyle. That is, of course the glamourized version of a minimal wardrobe that can be found in social media and makes us think – “I love that!… I could never pull off that look” in the same breath. So, instead of using those guidelines, I began thinking of  my personal stash of clothing and my own lifestyle. What sort of clothing do I wear, use and need?

Right away there were some big differences for me. I do work in an office, but my personal life requires very different clothing. And there is the matter of the four seasons – coats and “wraps” as they used to call them when I was in elementary school – warm sweaters and snow boots, layers in the spring and fall, and cool clothing for the hot, summer months. I live in the Northeast and we can go from temperatures below zero in winter, to hovering close to 100 in summer. Not wearing the same sets of clothing for those two extremes!

Before and after, sweaters. From 15 down to 6.

So, I have been working on creating more of a multiple-pod wardrobe than a capsule. Lol! But it is working for me.  And, I have managed to shave my wardrobe down by half so far. It is a work in progress as I’ll go through each season and see what works. Some items I may choose to replace with one of higher quality that will last longer and be more versatile. Some I may decide were not appropriate or used often enough to justify keeping.

In conclusion, if this idea interests you, but has seemed too daunting, don’t allow it to intimidate you. The idea of downsizing a wardrobe can definitely be done. It may work for you to have 10-30 pieces total. And if it does, go for it! That is a true capsule wardrobe by definition. If 3-4 smaller “pods” work better for you, by all means give it a try.  Don’t be afraid to give some of your pieces away and store the rest for 6 months to be sure this is for you. Or rotate out your seasonal clothes if you have some place to store them. Play with it. See what works for you. Have fun and keep it simple!




Charity Starts With Us

Today I was reading a post on social media about a young Amish woman here in Western PA, who lost her husband to a tragic accident recently. She was left with five little ones and one on the way. Having no insurance, as is the way with the Amish, you may wonder how she will get by in the days to come? However, there is no worry for her there. As is also the Amish way, there has been an immediate outpouring from her church family and community. Allow me to back up here. Her church family is her community. And they  quickly moved into action. The men harvested the remaining crops and cared for the animals. The women put up those crops, cooked and brought meals for her and her family – enough to get through the winter. There will be provisions for this young widow and her children because of the love of her community and their love of God. They are simply doing things the way they know to be Biblically sound. Selflessly and lovingly caring for their neighbor.

Photo from Mansfield News Journal

What struck me most about this particular post, other than sincere sympathy for this family’s loss, were the comments below it. Not a handful, but hundreds. Not one of them derogatory, that I read. Instead, every one longing for a time when the “English” (as the Amish refer to all of those outside of their community) would respond the same way.

Before the Great Depression, when the US government began the welfare program and others like it, lending a hand to your neighbor in a time of need was the norm. Folks were more than happy to reach out to a neighbor who was experiencing distress, and this sort of love and hospitality was understood, accepted gracefully, and offered without the least thought of reciprocation.

Photo courtesy of World News

So what has happened in our culture since then? I dare say, many things I could mention or complain about. But what’s the use in that? Sure there have been trendy outpourings like “random acts of kindness,” or painting rocks with positive messages for others to find. These things are nice. They’re fun to do, and hopefully touch someone with an  unexpected, kind deed. However, they are merely surface efforts.

I want to do more. I want to be more. I want to look at my neighbor in need and think – hey, there’s something I can do here, and proceed to do it.

Photo by World News

I don’t need to provide you with a bunch of statistics for you to know that ours has become a self-absorbed, egotistical, enraged and entitled society with little use for others outside of what benefits themselves.

So what can we do? We can’t change the state of the world around us. But we can change the things we ourselves do, and say. How we interact with others, and react to the situations and people that we encounter. We can set an example of grace by showing our respect for one another. It has to start somewhere. Let it start right here.


Photo Copyrighted by Roger Coles

Plan Ahead

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it is to plan ahead. For everything. Am I perfect at it? By no means. But this I know, when I do not plan, I do not do. And when I do not do, let me tell you, it is a slippery slope my friends!

When I fail to plan, or fail to follow my plan, things seem to set off on a collision course to chaos.  And it is never good.


I am a note taker. And I have planners – I love my planners! I like to make them messy and use colors and stickers, quotes scripture, and record my dreams and goals.  I enjoy making lists, and checking them off as I complete each task. I like looking back over the month to record my successes and determine where I could use a nudge the following month.

Some people may think this doesn’t sound like simplicity. Well, for me it is just that – a method to keep on top of my priorities and make sure that things get done. Because I am way too good at multi-tasking myself into an impatient, forgetful, angry, hurried, harried, and burnt out mess. Which is when I am the farthest from simplicity, and left feeling like a hypocrite for even entertaining the idea that I can blog on the subject!


Amazingly, however, with a little bit of planning I can be on time. I can have everything I need, and will remember to dress for that afternoon meeting. I won’t forget that I need to mail that package, pick-up food for lunches, or complete the activities for my study. I can have dinner prepared for my family, not get road-rage in the traffic on the way home, and get my girl to dance lessons with time to spare.

There are other ways to plan ahead as well. By figuring out a weekly menu you can shop for what you need, cook from what you already have, or thaw meat ahead of time. You can also plan meals in your crockpot, make dishes ahead, cook and freeze double batches for later, or prepare freezer meals months in advance.

Some folks like to have a specific day for each activity they need to complete, like a specific cleaning task or laundry on one day, errands on another, decluttering or bill paying on yet another. I am trying to develop a plan like this that will work for me. Not quite there yet with my crazy schedule.

Recently I did sit down with my planner and block out the time that I spend each day and on what activities. I’m working on creating margin in my life and have been really surprised at how I have been able to do so. Not loads of extra time, but a bit here and there.  With careful planning and smarter use of what time I’ve got, I am enjoying a bit more margin.

We all have 168 hours in a week. 42 of mine are spent sleeping. 50 are used up working or commuting to work. 25 are unscheduled obligations (ie: Laundry, cleaning, decluttering, meal prep, gardening, doing dishes, grocery shopping, running errands …) and 12 are spent during scheduled obligations like my daughter’s dance lessons, church and church activities, chauffeuring or volunteering.

That leaves 39 marginal hours. Sounds like a lot, I know. Most of them, however are between 8-10 PM. The rest are weekends which seem to have a way of filling up too easily. So, I’m being careful what I allow to encroach upon my time. It is precious and I am not living a life of simplicity when I let it get away from me. Time to be more mindful of time!

S – Spend less

I – Identify your priorities

M – Minimize your possessions

P – Plan ahead

L –

E –


Coming To Terms With The Capsule Wardrobe…

I can’t stop thinking about the capsule wardrobe. I’ve been trolling Pintrest and have found lots of great ideas. I’m still a little scared to try it. Really afraid to let go of some of my favorite comfy clothes!  Not to mention that it is definitely a bit intimidating with the extreme cold we have been experiencing in the North East this winter.

I have loosely mentioned before that I’ve given thought to trying it on a trial basis.  I actually did do this with my work clothes for one week – allowing myself to come up with as many outfits as I could from just a handful of pre-selected clothing items. It was kind of fun.

So, while it still strikes terror in me (maybe that wording is a little harsh! Lol!) to let go of my stash of after-work-cozy-clothes, I think I am ready to challenge myself with a little wardrobe experiment (Cheesy pun intended ;).


I got to thinking about the steps I used to take while decluttering my daughter’s room when she was younger. Naturally, she would never want to let go of any of her beloved stuffed animals. It was tough. They were all her favorites for one reason or another.

So, we would set aside the ones that she played with on a regular basis, or couldn’t sleep without, and tucked the others away in a bag to store in the basement.

I was pretty up front with her that we would leave them there for 6 months or a year, and if she ever missed one and needed it, it was right there and I would get it for her. And I would have been happy to. But I don’t think she ever asked for them. She was always happy and played with the few favorites she chose, enjoying the fact that her room and bed were much less cluttered. In the end, after the designated amount of time had passed, we would donate the stored toys to bless someone else.

I can’t help but think that this same concept could work for me with my closet and dresser. In fact, I could store in the basement whatever items don’t make it into the test-capsule wardrobe, and allow my teen to be the keeper of them. I won’t even look and allow myself to be tempted. In fact, she would probably love having control over that! Lol! And in 6 months to a year – if I haven’t needed any of them – time to let go and bless another!

I would feel much better about doing it this way.  Just as not all methods of simplifying are for everyone, I am not ready to part with everything in my clothing repertoire without a trial run to see if it is for me. I may find that simply downsizing is enough and after a month (or whatever amount of time I choose to test this minimal-wardrobe concept) – I might ask myself why I didn’t do this sooner!? We won’t know until I try.



The Ever-Tempting Capsule Wardrobe

For a while now I have been kicking around the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe. I am in awe of those who have managed to reduce their full wardrobe down to a bare minimum of pieces.

My closet has been thinned and the dresser gone through a few times over the last year. I am preparing to do so again soon.  So, I have been contemplating the subject yet another time.

It seems that I should be able to manage this. I am fashionable by no means. I don’t collect shoes, and I don’t often buy new clothes for myself. It wouldn’t be difficult to manage with the wardrobe that I’ve got with no worries of pining for the latest styles and accessories. So, what’s the issue then? Well, there actually are a few things that have me stumped.


For example – we live in the North East where we experience all 4 seasons – during which we require different types of appropriate apparel. Another thing is the fact that I work in an office, but my personal style “at home” is very sporty and relaxing… I’m talking yoga pants and hoodies or flannel shirts, jeans and tennis shoes, or boots.  And I do own exercise clothes which I, personally, consider to be vital to my motivation and attempts at maintaining a regular exercise routine.

Some may argue that you can just wear a t-shirt and shorts, which is fine, but it is still another piece of clothing – so, why not? Anyway, my point here is that I don’t desire to have a capsule wardrobe, and be getting sweaty by exercising in business attire, because I will only “allow” myself so many articles of clothing.

7AEED3C6-7EF9-4BC3-BE7D-27D3AC0D0FFEAnother set of wardrobe consider-ations that have me stumped are my 5 gardens. I spend a good amount of time in the warmer months working hard and getting soiled in my extra “work” clothes that are ok to ruin.

So, while loving the idea of a simplified wardrobe, I think that what you do is simply a matter of personal taste. That’s the beauty of a simplified life – there are no requirements. There is no contest. A simplified life can look many different ways. And each new endeavor that you take on to simplify should reflect your own personal style and values.

So, if you are young, fashionable and living in a downsized city apartment, a capsule wardrobe may be just the thing for you! Go for it! And let me know how it goes.

776DF8E4-1F81-4555-AA4A-45C420FBA9FBOn the other hand, if you are a rural suburban mom experiencing all four seasons, who works in an office, attends fundraising functions, drives the carpool, does volunteer work, and gets dirty on the weekends while decluttering the garage, hiking in the woods, or shlepping a wheelbarrow and shovel… maintaining a few smaller wardrobes with select items just might work for you.

So don’t be discouraged. Assess what you have, what you can live without, and what is essential in your wardrobe. Then dig in!


Minimize Your Possessions

Perhaps the most obvious accomplishment in living a simpler lifestyle is to minimize the amount of possessions you own. This is one of my favorite parts of moving toward a simplified existence. I don’t generally find it difficult to let go of what I really don’t need. And there is nothing better than that feeling of peace, space, and relief to walk into a room that has been newly decluttered, cleaned and organized.

But what about the hard E1172DC3-76F8-43C2-8723-52FF007C2F09questions? What happens when others in your family don’t share the same ease of letting go? Or the shared goal of picking up and putting away? It’s not an easy thing. Sometimes it is just too overwhelming. I struggle with this in my own family more often than not. I’ve found that the only thing to do is lead by example. Continue to declutter my own things, clean up and find places for what’s left, and hope that my family is inspired to follow suit. (Then giving praise and encouragement with small accomplishments.) Sometimes it works. Sometimes… I move onto the next thing and hope for the best when it comes around again.

As I’ve mentioned before, I habitually ask myself a few simple questions when decluttering any area of my home, regardless of wether it’s one drawer in my nightstand, a bedroom closet, or a larger project like an entire room or the garage.

  • Do I really need this?
  • Will it bring me closer to my goal?
  • Do I have another one like it, or something that can be used in its place?
  • How often do I actually use it? Do I even use it?
  • Can I borrow one instead?

8A789C89-BF34-42B3-AC32-EB569A09DCE9Finding that you don’t truly need it or love it? Box it up to send off to the Vets, or place it in the car for the next drop off. Don’t look back.

I have been working temporarily from home for the first time this week and I have to say how much I have had the itch to sink my efforts into another round of decluttering. But alas, I had to keep my head down and focus on other priorities! Still, the New Year is coming and I am dreaming of fresh starts. Aren’t you? Let’s make it SIMPLE and encourage one another along the path to our goals in this new year!

S-pend significantly less

I-dentify your priorities

M-inimize your possessions





The Immense Power of One Simple Word

For a number of years I have been practicing the discipline of One Word. One Word is the simple act of selecting a single word (not a phrase, not even two words – One. Word.) on which to focus throughout your entire year. This has never failed to both dramatically challenge me as well as improve my life in many unexpected ways.

Your word can be a fruit of the Spirit, a discipline, an attribute of God, or even a character trait that you wish to develop.

For me, the annual selection of this word is done prayerfully and with much meditation. I have come upon my word in various ways over the years. Sometimes it is something that weighs heavily on my heart, and I don’t want it (Fearless). But, in the same instance, cannot deny it. Other times it is something I am sorely lacking and know that I need much of to make an extensive change in my life (Joy). And still other times it is revealed to me by God through scripture, a feeling that will not go away, or repetition of a subject coming up in my life in many areas that resonates with what I have been struggling with, or seeking (Journey).

This year my word was revealed to me early on and with little effort… Clean. Excuse me, what God? Did you mean something else?
No, Barbara, CLEAN.

Ok. I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it too. Oh, this can’t be right. I am focused on simplifying, decluttering, letting go… cleaning! This must be a self imposed word.

So I spent a little more time in prayer. And it was swiftly revealed to me that I need to focus, not only on cleaning my house, but in having a clean heart, a clean spirit, a clean mind. My body needs to be cared for, as His temple, through clean eating, and that there are many other ways in which I need to “clean” up my act. Well, ok then. Clean it shall be!

So, what do we do with this One Word once we have it? There are numerous ways that you can choose to focus on your word throughout the coming year. Do a word study and journal everything about your word that resonates with you. Questions about an aspect of your word? Write it down and do a little research into that, too. Do a scripture search and memorize some verses that feel right with what is being revealed to you. Pray and meditate often on how your word is moving in your life, and how you can live it out. Share your word with a group of trusted family or friends (or blog readers!)and discuss how this word is coming up in your life often, and what changes are occurring in you because of it. Jot your word down in different places so you won’t forget about it. I plan to post mine in my planner to come across unexpectedly throughout the year, just penciling it in, as well as getting creative with fancy lettering, color and stickers to remind me how vital this simple word will be to me each time I stumble across it. Remember it. Ruminate on it. Allow it to follow you throughout your days and make a conscious effort to have it at top of mind each time you are challenged. (And you will be!)

There are books that can be found on this subject if you want to know more – simply search your favorite online retailer. One Word can also easily be found and read about on the internet, through blogposts, etc. and there are even free devotionals on the YouVersion Bible app (which is always free of charge). But, if you are not a person of Christian faith, no worries! This awesome annual discipline can still be an amazing tool to focus your priorities and goals for the coming year!

Best to you all! Blessings in your One Word selection, and have a happy and healthy New Year!