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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo Copyrighted by Roger Coles

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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.

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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!

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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 –

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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 ;).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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