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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 –

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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…)

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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!

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