What’s Really Important To Me?

This is a question that I have needed to pause and ask myself. While I have many areas in my life that are important to me, and have a broad vision of where I want to be, I have never listed these areas out, set goals and created a clear and concise plan to reaching and settling into that place.

When I imagine my life of simplicity, I feel a passion and longing for the vision that it generates for me… that’s immediately followed by a sense of defeat. Like many people, I struggle with overwhelm as daily living creeps in and often pulls me in many directions – Away from my ultimate goal to lead a more simplified life.

My vision definitely includes clear surfaces, a bright, clean home with light colors and loads of sunshine coming in… open windows and open doors! A bit of margin in my schedule for family, dear friends, and the things that I am passionate about – like my church, nature, gardening, journaling, more time to write this blog, and things like drawing or learning to crochet.

IMG_6427

It seems that if I could just have enough energy, time, and clarity to begin with, I would be able to get my life “under control.” I have felt drawn for weeks now to get into my tiny kitchen on a sunny day and start the purge. Toss, find a place for much used items, and move other items that get some use, but not daily, to a designated area in the basement. If my little kitchen was clean, shined up, and organized, I feel like other areas would start to fall into place. Like, for instance – meal planning, home cooking and baking, eating healthy meals together around the dining table, gathering family for cards or board games, and fellowship with friends.  Hmmm… all of that. Just from cleaning and organizing a tiny kitchen.

Do my husband and I want our family to live off-grid? Well, some semblance of that sure would be nice. Our home, situated on a windy hill with no trees close to the house, would be the ideal spot for both wind and solar power. Even if it were just supplemental. So this is something we look into often and is a possible goal for the extended future.

We already live in a small home, so that part of my dream is in place. It’s the downsizing and ease of living in a small space that we have yet to master. We have our ducks, the gardens, and our pear and apple trees. Plus we are considering a small orchard, and have thought about hives for bee keeping. So there are many responsibilities, and opportunities, for enjoyable rural suburban living.

Sure, some of these ideas are a far way off, but some could be closer than I think if I just stop dreaming and planning and start more of the actual doing.

I know that everyone’s idea of simple living is different. For me, the attainable goal is first and foremost to live in our small home in comfort. A decluttered, minimal lifestyle, with no frills.  A home of usable items only, that serve a clear purpose or can be used to accomplish more than one task, ease of cleaning, and never a moment of panic when someone unexpectedly stops by. I want to practice kindness and hospitality, enjoying friends, neighbors and family at a moments notice. I want to gather around our farm table, lounge on our back porch, or relax around the fire pit laughing and sharing stories without worrying that there’s too much clutter or that there is so much that needs to be done that I can’t stop and take time for others.

I’m well aware that this is a process. It will not happen overnight, and the best place for me to start is by cleaning up and minimizing in the kitchen.

So… I’m off to do a bit of that journaling to draw up a step by step plan for reaching the goal of simplicity, and will begin by digging into that kitchen! I would LOVE to hear from some of you that have achieved simplicity and where you started? What are some good resources or advice?

Some of my own favorite resources are:

Flylady.net

Sink Reflections by Marla Ciley

The Complete Guide to Getting & Staying Organized by Karen Ehman

Balance by Beth Jones

Taming The To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer

Overwhelmed by Kathy Lipp and Cheri Gregory

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life by Joyce Meyer

The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier

IMG_7122

Best to all who are in this with me, and to those contemplating the idea. It can be done! And it starts with motivation, support, and a willingness to dig in and let go!

“…Clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:4‬

 

 

 

Ways for Women: Update

Update on Ways for Women blog post.

Of A Simple Nature

If you are squeamish, or a man, be forewarned – look away!

As I have been contemplating ways to simplify my life, and be a better steward of God’s Earth, one thing I have been thinking about for quite some time is trying cloth menstrual pads. There are many styles and companies from which to choose once you actually start looking into these.

img_6964

So, I recently ordered a set online (through Amazon from a company named Hailicare) and for the first time… EVER… I am eagerly awaiting that time of the month to try them out. I have to admit they are cute and fold up nicely into a img_6966little envelope-style for transport. I also ordered a set of two wet/dry zipper bags (by Dutchess) for carrying and storage until they can be washed. I will update you on the ins and outs of usage once I have had the opportunity…

View original post 553 more words

Stomping Out My Carbon Footprint

I’ve been contemplating my carbon footprint lately. Thinking about little ways that I can make a difference. I already have strong personal feelings about walking when I can, recycling, buying local, wearing classic clothing that will last for seasons – preferably years (or buying secondhand to begin with), saving and using items I’ve already got, gardening, making purchases with less packaging, etc.

So when I went online to calculate my actual footprint, I was aghast at the results. Admittedly, I did not know the exact answers to many of the questions off the top of my head, but made my best estimated guesses just to get an idea.

img_6991

Well, I am ashamed to admit that it is significantly larger than I would have thought. In fact, it is larger than the average American. What!? I don’t fly, drive recreational motor vehicles, have a sauna or heated pool or jacuzzi… and our house is one step away from being featured as a “tiny home.” Luckily, a footprint can be significantly lowered with some minor changes. Here are a few things I have learned during  my research. Some will not only be easier on the environment but will save you a decent amount of cash over time and many are good for your health as well. (Bear with me if these are not new to you.)

img_7004Power down your gadgets. Unplugging your chargers when not in use, and putting your computer into sleep mode can save you hundreds of dollars and help save the planet.

Adjust your thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two in winter. This can also save you 15% on your heating bill.

Invest in a programmable thermostat that can be set to shut off, or dramatically reduce the temperature setting, when you will not be at home.

img_6900It may be a little cliche, but I love this one. Plant a tree. One 10 year old tree releases enough oxygen to support two human lives.

Wean your family from processed foods. Go vegan or raw a couple of days a week. We already have Meatless Mondays at our house, so this is not too much of a stretch for us.

Switch from disposable household products to reusable. Eliminate paper towels and other paper products, invest in reusable sandwich bags, bento boxes, etc. Use your own totes at the grocery store, and buy biodegradable trash bags.

If you live someplace where public transportation is an option, utilize it. But if you can’t, even driving the posted speed limit (or 5 miles less when you can), and avoiding rapid acceleration and braking can alter your fuel consumption.

And of course, my all-time favorite – hang your laundry out in the fresh air and sunshine to dry instead of using the dryer. It will smell wonderful, eliminates most wrinkles, (Hey! No using up electricity to iron either!) and the UV rays from the sun will naturally fade stains on fabric.

I have found that The Great Energy Challenge website is a reasonable place to start. So much information there, and practical ideas for you and your family to begin a new “energy diet.” I will definitely be incorporating several of these ideas into our lifestyle. Some we are already doing, and some may take us a while to implement. But, we’ve got to start somewhere. I believe that by slowly integrating any of these practices into our everyday it will collectively make a difference.

img_7005

Isaiah 24:4-5 “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants … .”

Psalm 96:11-13 “Let the heavens rejoice and the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord….”

Ways for Women: Update

If you are squeamish, or a man, be forewarned – look away!

As I have been contemplating ways to simplify my life, and be a better steward of God’s Earth, one thing I have been thinking about for quite some time is trying cloth menstrual pads. There are many styles and companies from which to choose once you actually start looking into these.

img_6964

So, I recently ordered a set online (through Amazon from a company named Hailicare) and for the first time… EVER… I am eagerly awaiting that time of the month to try them out. I have to admit they are cute and fold up nicely into a img_6966little envelope-style for transport. I also ordered a set of two wet/dry zipper bags (by Dutchess) for carrying and storage until they can be washed. I will update you on the ins and outs of usage once I have had the opportunity to give them a try.

Simply said, my understanding is img_6965that they are easily hand washed, or run through your laundry, and then hung to dry. Some reviews I read suggested to rinse them out while in the shower, which seemed to be the preference of many. I will try all methods and let you know my thoughts.

Until then, looking forward to trying these little cuties, saving money, and leaving a bit smaller environmental footprint!

img_6967

UPDATE:

I recently had the opportunity to give these a “go” and wanted to let you know how it went. They were as easy to use as the disposable  commercial variety and were not a hassle at all. They are easy to clean, comfortable, undetectable, and much more fun to see zebras smiling up at you than the usual dread!

I promised that I would try the different methods of cleaning, and as not to disappoint, as well as to discover what works best for me, I did just that.

First I tried what seemed to be the most popular method that I had read – lying it on the shower floor while you are in it yourself. Pros: Easy and time saving. Cons: Hot water sets in stains initially. I found this to actually be my least favorite way. It did set a stain and I ended ended up using a stain remover (when I wanted to avoid all chemicals while keeping the product in the best possible condition for continued use). I ran it through the wash and this is the only pad I have on which remains a slight stain.

Next, I tried simple rinsing in the sink under cold water. This worked well and I hung the pad to dry (as recommended regardless of your method of cleaning). Unfortunately, upon inspection, it did not have the completely fresh scent I desired when dry. My goal is also for the product to remain as sanitary as possible, and to not encourage any type of unexpected, undesirable odors the next time I go to use them. Pros: Quick in a pinch. Cons: Not as fresh as my standards require.

The final method I tried was to simply rinse, soak in vinegar water to freshen, kill bacteria, and break down any stains, and run them through the wash with the rest of my laundry. This was my favorite way of cleaning the pads. I hung them on a sock hanger to dry and when I used them again I felt that they appeared clean, smelled fresh, and I was confident that there was no residual odor or bacteria. Pros: Easy, environmentally safe,  and met my standard for freshness and cleanliness. Cons: None for me.

In addition, I thought I would share my experience of use while at work. I did feel slightly self conscious making my way back and forth, and past co-workers to the ladies room  with my cute little wet/dry bags. And I was a tad anxious as I stepped out of the stall to discretely rinse out the product. But I remembered my goals of simplicity, and environmental friendliness, and felt happy and accomplished. I believe a greater comfort will come with time and use.

Overall, I am very pleased with the switch and am glad I have decided to make the change!

Simplicity Simplified

I am a career blogger by no means. Clearly there have been some gaps between my posts, and even when I am consistent, I have one or two posts a month at best (usually one!)   Regrettably, I have not written a blog since October. It is now nearing the back half of February and I am finding myself inspired once again. Well, maybe inspired is too strong of a word. I have been inspired many times over the months. Let’s call a spade a spade… I am just now making the time to sit down and actually do the writing. To act on that inspiration bubbling up within me.

I want nothing more than to live a img_6330
simplified life. It is hard to blog about a goal that you have not yet attained. So, I need to reset. Write about the journey. In our culture life is everything but simple. You must work hard at simplifying. Which seems a tremendous contradiction in terms! I don’t want it to be hard! Simplifying should be easy, right?? But it’s not. I have decided that it is going to take some research on my part to devise what it is I really want. I can picture it in my mind, but it seems so hard getting there. And I feel so alone in my quest. This world is built on material things and most people buy into it without even realizing it.

What I do need to do is decide what is important to me, personally, and spell it out. There are many ways to simplify – from leaving less of an environmental footprint and consuming less, to living a minimalist lifestyle, to a major declutter, to deciding to go off the grid, or just step back from some of the self-imposed obligations on your own calendar.

So, I am going to read other (more successful folks’) blogs on the subject, delve into some books, pray about it, journal it, and determine what simplicity looks like in my life – and then jump back in! I can’t make the world what it is not. But I can make my part of the world the simple lifestyle that I choose to lead for myself.

So, here goes everything!

img_6444

God is within her, she will not fall!

– Psalm 46:5

October Prose

img_6005The colors of autumn doth spiral from the trees, one, by glorious one.

The crisp air swirls beneath the leaves, dew-kissed with drops before the sun.

With brilliant light, and colors bleed,

The soul of time and space she heeds,

Upon the briskness of the air, with breath and delicate steps she dare,

Crisp and curling stalks blow hither,

With thoughts, and spite, of coming winter.

img_6004

Beneath the majestic oak,

in morning, grazes;

The graceful doe, God’s creature, praises.

img_6006

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭150:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

My Autumn Basket List

imageWhen it comes to seasons, there’s not much I love more than the first, almost imperceptible noticings of the coming fall. The cooler nights, the crickets’ incessant chirp, dewy mornings, flocking starlings that cover the yard searching for insects to fill up on for their journey, the sweet smell of hay being mown and stored for animals to feast on over the inevitable colder months, the placement of the sun lower in the sky, the early morning chill, and that crazy unexplainable sense when you step outside, that it just “smells” like the first day of school!
As the calendar sneaks its way into September, while we’re still not quite sure where summer went, or that we even want it to end at all, suddenly it’s back to school again and we shift our focus to all things fall.

First Day of School
First Day of School

Over the past year I have done much to hone my planning skills, to help keep on top of things, and to simplify my days…and life. I do try to make my planning times fun, or at least somewhat creative (by using a goals planner with lots of colored pens, highlighters, and stickers, journaling, incorporating fun apps on my tablet and phone…) and I would like to incorporate the idea of a seasonal “bucket list.” Not keen on the term, however, I think I’ll mix it up a bit and call it my Basket List. Who doesn’t love the beauty of a simple, well-crafted basket?

image

So, as I sit with window open, listening to the gathering crows, a hawk’s shrill call, and enjoying the cool breeze with my second cup of  morning coffee, won’t you join me as I contemplate the things I would love to accomplish this autumn? Fun things, things that need done, healthy changes, and goals to make our family life more efficient and enjoyable.  Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to start your own list.

My 2016 Autumn Basket List:                (In no particular order).

image

  1. Change floral arrangements and front door wreath to Autumn.
  2. Declutter our home office.
  3. Clean the carpets.
  4. Lose 10 more pounds.
  5. Harvest the last of the pears.
  6. Visit the large local crafts store with my daughter to plan some fun projects.
  7. Go through my cool weather clothes and donate what no longer works.
  8. Prep gardens for cold weather.
  9. Buy and carve pumpkins from Ritter’s Farm up the road. (Plus get gourds, Indian corn, hay bale and corn stalks).
  10. Schedule another riding lesson for our daughter.image
  11. Visit the Tall Ships Festival on Lake Erie.
  12. Prepare and freeze make-ahead meals.
  13. Harvest any remaining root veggies in the garden.
  14. Dry herbs for winter use.
  15. Visit Soergel’s Orchard for apples (still not producing worthy apples from our own tree) and enjoy their Fall Festival.
  16. Make gingerbread.
  17. Visit a haunted house.
  18. Do hay rides out back for our daughter and friends.
  19. Plan a trip to Lancaster (Amish country).
  20. Winterize the duck coop.
  21. Rake our elderly neighbor’s leaves.
  22. Purchase two new comfy sweaters (and let go of two older ones).
  23. Oraganize the pantry (which I just inventoried yesterday – yeah!)
  24. Trick or Treat with neighbors.
  25. Have every last back yard fire with friends that we can squeeze in.
  26. Enjoy that first day in cozy-clothes for fall, curled up and reading a good book.
  27. Watch spooky movies with my hubby.
  28. Celebrate our 22nd anniversary in October.
  29. Winterize our fledgling wisteria.
  30. Finish cleaning the garage.
  31. Start downstairs remodel that didn’t happen last year when hubby got sick.
  32. Move holiday bins to the new garage shelves!
  33. Finish writing friendship journal and mail to BFF in Ohio.
  34. Start daughter’s dance lessons again.
  35. Buy daughter new winter coat and boots.
  36. Make chili and cornbread.
  37. Start a new study with my small group: Francis Chan’s Forgotten God.
  38. Change garden flag to fall.
  39. Purchase local winter honey.
  40. Read two books just for enjoyment.
  41. Start a small quilting or crochet project.
  42. Hike Boyce Park with a friend.
  43. Make crockpot apple butter.
  44. Start weekly walks with my sweet neighbor.
  45. Ride my bike in the cooler weather.
  46. Attend Laurelville Trust retreat with Mia Khoene.
  47. Continue planning ahead and setting goals.
  48. Clean off back porch and store patio cushions and wicker.
  49. Write out Christmas cards (with all school photos that haven’t been shared)!
  50. Start Christmas shopping.
  51. Start paying more attention to moisturizing skin and caring for hands, feet, and lips.
  52. Attend Shaker Wood’s Christmas in the Woods Festival.
  53. Alter this list as needed!

So, as the days grow inevitably shorter and we wake one morning to realize the leaves are turning, I hope that you’ll turn a new leaf with me and make a conscious effort to slow down and enjoy your surroundings, your loved ones and friends, your neighbor’s, church family, and all of God’s bountiful gifts this harvest season!

image

““You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭34:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬