A Delicate Balance

I don’t pretend to be something that I’m not. And, if you’re like me, you are stressed, tired, and overwhelmed – finding it a challenge to maintain the simple lifestyle you crave each time your world begins spiraling back into its usual chaos. So many books, blogs, vlogs and “systems” lead us to believe that becoming organized, downsizing or leading a simpler lifestyle is a once-and-done effort. But I find that, for me, it is an ongoing, long term process of actions and distractions. Much like the determination put into a successful marriage or the effort to sustain a close friendship. Each of us may embrace simplicity in our own distinct way,

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

but one crucial element that remains is in the fine art of balance.  If you are in a season of life that seems to have more of a hold on you than you do on it, managing a lifestyle of simplicity can become quite a challenge.

Establishing and maintaining margin in your days sometimes seems impossible.  Times can become so hectic with a busy work schedule, personal and volunteer obligations, kids at home, or a teenager who is very involved with activities several nights a week. Every once in a while I find that I have to schedule a day off, or long weekend, to catch up on things.  Today I am cleaning and decluttering our kitchen.  Am I overwhelmed? You bet.  But the goal is to get to a point where I will no longer feel that overwhelm, and where my family will feel relaxed and organized when they come home or enter our tiny kitchen.  So today, all of the expired snacks, extra cooking utensils, stained, frayed, or excess kitchen towels, stray cups and plastic containers are going.  Bon Voyage. Ciao. Arrivederci. See ya – I’m kicking you to the curb!  When I am through the counters will be wiped down and clean, the floor will no longer have sticky spots or rolling tumbleweeds of doggy hair. There will be less choices to search through when looking for items we need, and snacks will be organized and visible… no longer hiding in a mess of opened bags at the back corner of the counter going stale.

One thing this process of sorting is reinforcing to me, is that it’s crucial to repeatedly clear out the storage we have in our compact home in order to put away the things that we need, and use, often. Neglecting to do this on a regular basis (and I am beginning to understand that I need to be relentless in this) is what gets me into trouble every time. We have become so accustomed to having things that we don’t use stored away on shelves, in drawers or containers, that we wind up with the things we do use not having a place of their own and sitting around waiting for the next time someone needs them. So, I am doing my best to start decluttering 15 minutes a day, every day.  Getting rid of empty boxes and recyclables,  going through a drawer, closet, or corner in the basement, sorting through a container of items, papers, or keepsakes that got tucked away the last time I decluttered because I just didn’t know what to do with them at the time or had become overwhelmed.

So, I can appreciate that this is easier said than done.  Admittedly, I work a full day, arrive home and hurry to make dinner, run errands, and get our daughter to and from her own activities.  Like seeing the kitchen for the first time when I walk back in the door from the craziness, the thought of scrubbing a sink full of dishes (we have no dishwasher in our tiny kitchen) blindsides me.  I grudgingly do them, and when that is done, I really do not feel like cleaning, decluttering, doing laundry, or

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I just want to crawl back into bed and bury my head in the blankets…!

picking up after myself and family.  I know there are those of you nodding your head right now while reading this.  We’re not lazy.  We’re overwhelmed.

So, what can we do to get it all under control and enter into a home of comfort and peace instead of one more source of stress in our lives?  We have to be the answer.  We must do two simple things. (Note, I said simple, not easy). 1.) Begin throwing out and going through items for 15 minutes a day, every day.  2.) Put items away when you are done with them. Just those two things.  I have confidence that we can do this. Our homes will not be spotless quickly.  No.  This is an ongoing labor of love for our families, and ourselves, to establish the simplicity and peace we crave.

I started this post at the beginning of this month, and before that had not written for four more. I know, I have been too-long absent from this  blog.  My plan was to start a list – every day – of the things I decluttered in 15 minutes a day.  It was the beginning of the holiday season, and the hubs is working on the house again (we are currently living with 3 living room walls) and I  became highly overwhelmed.  So, now, I can’t think of a better time to begin this endeavor.

So, I am starting my list tomorrow, Jan 1, and for the next 31 days, I will post what I got rid of, put away, deep cleaned, or whatever other strides I took toward my goal.  I know this is going to be a bit of a challenge for me.  But I am more than ready.  Please join me in my personal challenge by commenting below.  (If you are still following.  I am so sorry to have let you down).

Now, let’s get started…!

Addendum… I was looking for some photos to add to this since I have not been doing much photography either (do you really want to see my chaos?:) And remembered my lovely new inspirational planner that I am looking forward to using.  Designed by another blogger, whom I find to be amazing, Darlene Schacht of Time-Warp Wife Ministries. I took a couple of quick snaps of it lying next to me on the bed, flipped the pages, and it fell open to a section in the back that I did not know was even there.  I am even more excited now to start both my lovely new planner, and my New Year challenge!

So, I promised I would update what I have been doing.  There is much to be done and some days I have more time than others, but I am feeling confident that I am making a dent in it all and that is what keeps the momentum going!

  • Jan 1 – Three small bags out of the bedroom closet, top drawer of dresser gone through and organized.
  • Jan 2 – Time in kitchen spent washing, drying and putting away dishes, removing boxes and recyclables, cleaning kitchen floor and around doggy dishes.
  • Jan 3 – Grocery shopping and planning ahead.
  • Jan 4 – Deeper clean of bedroom closet (some organizing items I had purchased online have arrived). Started putting them together and am looking forward to the organizing process tomorrow.
  • Jan 5 – Rose early to do a rebound workout (mini trampoline). Will check back with the day’s accomplishments.  – Hello again!  I cleaned out my nightstand tonight. That may sound like an easy one to you, but mine has three deep drawers packed to the gills. I feel lighter having emptied it out.
  • Jan 6 – Made a donation drop, sold some books at Half Price Books, exchanged leggings for correct size, did a load of laundry, went through jewelry and set aside some pieces to sell online and others to donate.
  • Jan 7 – Rebound workout, decluttering kitchen counter and table.
  • Jan 8 – Went through 2 dresser drawers, cleared tops of hubs dresser & nightstand.
  • Jan 9 – Rebound workout, decluttered one drawer and files at my office, deleted all unnecessary emails from my phone.
  • Jan 10 – Honestly, was exhausted and took a nap tonight. But not until all of the dishes from dinner were washed.
  • Jan 11 – Built the small organizer shelf and containers for the closet. Yep.  Just getting around to that!
  • Jan 12 – Started moving my winter sweaters down to the shelf where I can reach them much more easily and situated my soap making items, candles and other ingredients for making natural essential oil products into a new, attractive container. Cleaned the bathroom.
  • Jan 13 – Meal planning, grocery shopping and making meals from mostly what we already have in the pantry, fridge and freezer.
  • Jan 14 – Unsubscribed to several e-mails and gifted some gently used items to a few appreciative friends.
  • Jan 15 – Pampered myself with a glass of wine, a cozy blanket and a good book.  I had a very dear friend at work that left our office today to move onto other opportunities closer to home and I allowed myself the evening “off.”
  • Jan 16 – Went through junk mail and tossed it, along with some ads and our local town paper.  Cleaned out fridge and Trash went out for the morning.
  • Jan 17 –  O
  • Jan 18 –  Went through files at work. Tossed junk mail, washed dishes.

 

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Putting On My Super Hero Big Girl Panties

My recent absence from this blog is an indicator that I , myself , am much like you.  I share my journey to simplicity through 0DB31FC6-2FF9-418B-9D53-BE9B9F5C7390writing, but I claim no expertise. I struggle. My house is still as messy and cluttered as yours (maybe worse, even), my schedule has a tendency to get out of control, and the chaos can easily become overwhelming.  It’s a challenge to write on a subject when you’re knee deep in it crashing down around you.

Our daughter recently returned home from a mission trip to New York State with our church youth group. I had missed her, and her dad had to go into work, so I agreed to take her and a friend to see a movie that evening.  We saw The Incredibles 2, a fun film!  During it I heard my daughter lean over and say to her friend, about Elastigirl, “She looks like my mom!”  Mind you, this comment didn’t come as this flexible super-mom reached beyond-human lengths (literally!) to perform an amazing feat or super heroine rescue.  No. She was standing at the bathroom vanity while brushing her teeth and speaking to her husband with a mouthful of toothpaste!  Nonetheless, we do share a physical resemblance and my ego was just a tad inflated, briefly, to have heard my 14 year old daughter compare me to a super hero.

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Ellen Parr, Elastigirl, from the Pixar franchise The Incredibles

Undoubtedly , I fall short – so short – of claiming such a grandiose title. I struggle, REALLY struggle, under the daily weight of responsibility and obligations. I think, if only I had enough time, or energy, to get this or that done. If only I could snap my fingers and my house, yard, gardens and shed would be decluttered, clean, and in perfect order. If only I had the super-power and strength, the amazing flexibility of Elastigirl…

How can I get there? You have followed me as I’ve taken time off work to make serious strides in our basement. You’ve been with me while I took a leap of faith into a smaller, more manageable closet of clothes, pondered ways to reduce my carbon footprint, and even as I attempted different methods of gardening to produce more food with less effort and limited space for my family… These are all things I do not regret and I have definitely learned from and strive to continue.

However, life marches on and keeps throwing new curves. Yep. We’ve had lots of green beans this year! Some tomatoes are starting to ripen, I’m assuming all is well under keeps with the potatoes, the loofah are growing on vines with vibrant yellow flowers, and pears are hanging low on the trees waiting to be harvested. But… I have had another year of battling the critters. It is so disheartening to lose ALL of our zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, and kale. No blueberries, peaches, or apples. Not a single bite has been left unconsumed by the groundhog, bunnies, deer… Yes. It is very frustrating.

Has my wardrobe grown? Sure – I’ve added a few pieces here and there. But the seasons have changed here, and I am still pretty committed to letting go of what isn’t working, I haven’t used, or have upgraded.

Not sure where my environmental footprint stands these days (feeling like Bigfoot here), but I can say that with recent news stories I am convicted more than ever that we need to stop using all of this “throw-away” plastic and packaging. I am wishing there were more places that would commit somehow to selling items with less packaging. It actually sickens me to realize how much we alone toss, as one small family, and even the amount of our weekly recyclables. It’s staggering.

And the basement? Oh. The basement. It continues in its apparent quest to mock me and remain the family dumping ground and go-to spot for quick stash and dash operations!  I am taking another week in September and will be tackling some of these long-neglected on-going projects once again.

So, now that I’ve “come clean” – yeah, that’s right, corny pun fully intended. It is time for me to put on my big girl panties (or Elastigirl cat suit!) and stop wallowing in my emotionally-stagnating LACK of self-proclaimed simplicity. It’s time to take responsibility for my part in this ongoing declutter of so many areas of my life, stop being overwhelmed by it, and do what I can to continue moving toward the beautiful, uncluttered life of my dreams. It’s that simple.

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A Pinterest-Worthy Garden

IMG_9165This year I have created my first Pinterest-worthy vegetable garden.  It’s far from perfect, but I justify referring to it in this way because of all the research, learning, planning, and serious effort that went into the final product. 🙂  I should say that, though I have been organically growing since I started gardening, I have come from the old school of tilling the ground and planting in rows.  Over the cold winter months, however, I spent much time visiting blogs, listening to podcasts, collecting images and ideas on social media, reading books, and learning all I could about different methods of growing food for my family.

During this time I quickly came to the conclusion that there is not one technique only that will work for us. Instead, I was intrigued by varying types of ideas.  Using a number of these this spring, I was able to create an aesthetically pleasing garden, planting a variety of vegetables in a limited space to feed my family.  I believe it will be a work in progress as I implement different methods and varieties of vegetables over the next couple of seasons to determine what thrives, what veggies we really enjoy, and which methods produce best and make the most sense for us.

There are, as mentioned, a few ideas that I have begun to put into practice this year.  One of those is vertical gardening.  For the first time I have used a few different types of trellises: A bamboo tee-pee for climbing beans, a square cucumber trellis, and an a-frame for varying types of squash, under which I have also planted some more shade-happy varieties of greens such as lettuce and spinach.  In addition, I am trying no-frame raised beds.

As most do, I planned and dreamed of what I would plant while waiting for spring to come.  I poured over catalogs, bought my seeds, and was careful to look for organic and heirloom seeds only.  I am very interested in food sources that will return year after year, or seeds that can be saved from season to season, having a proven track record for being hardy varieties and growing well in our area.

 

With my mind set on my first attempt at no-till gardening, I was heavily discouraged by our lingering winter weather with late snows, freezing cold, and frost that wouldn’t stop. I was wishing that I’d known more about no-till methods in the fall and had prepped the ground then for spring, but since I didn’t, I was confused about when to begin and missed the mark when I should have started laying something on the ground to start killing off grass and weeds before the weather turned.  Before we knew it we’d gone from winter into summer-type weather without much of a spring, and the pressure was on to get all of my seedlings into the ground and we ended up tilling.  We did add loads of peat moss, and I created no-frame raised beds, covered them in mulch, with fresh straw for walkways between the beds.  I am hoping that this will do a good job of keeping the weeds at bay.

We were able to get a chicken wire fence around the garden to keep those pesky groundhogs and bunnies at bay this year, and I have employed many marigold and nasturtium flowers to repel them as well.

Large pots were put into use for the first time, as well, to stretch growing space, and I will also continue to plant seeds on varying weeks to stagger harvest times and keep food reaching its peak consecutively instead of all at once.IMG_9163

It has been several weeks and so far we have seen kale, lettuces, green beans, and asparagus. I am patiently awaiting other vegetables to start growing.  The foliage looks great so far, so I am anticipating many types of squash, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers and strawberries among many others healthy options for our family.

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Everything With A Place

For those of you who are born organizers this is likely your favorite part of simple living. Some of you, in fact, may be ready for this “final” step to minimalism right now… Having everything in its place. Ahhh… the ultimate goal! I will humbly admit that I am not there yet. I’m still languishing somewhere around the minimize your possessions mark. But I’ve got big dreams and I have a vision of what this will be for my home and family.

I am well-aware of the freeing sense of well-being and peace that having a place for everything  could bring for each of us. Who among us has not looked at the interior of an Amish or Mennonite home, practical homestead, Swedish lifestyle, or a bare-bones Japanese high-rise capsule apartment, each having everything in its own place. These folks have learned to adapt to their needs with few possessions and a logical place for every one that they do have. Each item can be readily found when it is needed and goes back to its designated spot until its next use.

Oh, how often I have uttered the words, “Where is my..? Have you seen the…? Don’t we have a (fill in the blank) …somewhere!??” If only I had it “all together” and everything in its place. My ultimate goal is to live efficiently. I dream of clear spaces and a simple system for finding what I need, when I need it.

Right now I am still just trying to get rid of what I don’t need, before I start to think I need it!

For me, everything in its place conjures up visions of my in-law’s garage – with Sharpie marker outlined tools, all in their proper place, on a pegboard. This is almost comical to me because I know that my husband did this in his younger days while still living at home. (He does exhibit a bit of OCD tendencies!) But at this time in our life, our garage certainly does not have any such organization. (Truth be told, feel free to apply those previous questions about “don’t we have one?” here!)

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So, when I get there, I’m hoping that having everything in its place will generate the peaceful surroundings I dream of. Creating more margin in my days by caring for less items, no longer searching for what I need, knowing what I’m running out of, and living happily with far less stress for myself and my family.

pexels-photo-909256.jpegI may giggle at the marker-outlined hand tools, but wouldn’t it be nice to grab that set of pliers, use them, and then toss them right back on the board all within a handful of moments?  Instead of giving it considerable thought for 20 minutes before moving four boxes to find an actual tool box, then rifling through it to realize it’s the wrong one… Moving more boxes, other tools, recyclables (that didn’t make it out the last time the truck came because you were disorganized, busy, and forgetful) and still you cannot find either one of the pliers you know should be there?

S – Spend less.

I – Identify your priorities.

M – Minimize possessions.

P – Plan ahead.

L – Let go.

E – Everything with a place.

Here’s to praying that with time and effort we can each, eventually, reach that place of peace, comfort, and ease of organization in our own homes, workplaces, and lives. I am dreaming this for you, as well as for myself, my friend. We are all in this struggle together.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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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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

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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