Timing is Everything: How Grief led me to Simple.

This summer, my beautiful city experienced record-breaking amounts of rain. Every night was cool and crisp and it was almost magical to sit out on the patio with the kids at night, smelling the rain and watching buckets and buckets of it fall on our massive maple trees, the sidewalk, and the street.

The morning after one such night we were getting ready to leave for a graduation party, when my five-year-old daughter went down to the basement to grab some wrapping paper. Within moments we heard peals of joyous laughter and the sound of tiny feet splashing.

My husband and I looked at each other with the same question in our eyes: “SPLASH???”

We both rushed downstairs to find 2 inches of standing water throughout the basement.

Turns out, the sump pump had given out. We rushed around, grabbing the “important” things and carrying them up to the garage. We were able to save the bedroom dressers that I love, but the bed, sofa, the rugs, etc were waterlogged and already smelly. There were many boxes of jeans, winter clothes, and baby stuff that were ruined. Jackets, camping gear, toys artwork that was leaning against the wall to be hung… gone, along with the bottom two feet of drywall, the bathroom vanity….you get the picture.

We had alot of helpers come in an out over the next several weeks, and all of them said the same thing. They said they are dealing with a ton of flooded homes during this freak amount of rain basically around the clock, and then often with a sideways glance…

“You guys have a REALLY good attitude about this. How do you have a good attitude about this?”

We would shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s just stuff.” And the helpers would nod slowly, looking a little suspicious.

That was true, but it was only part of the truth. Here is the rest:
A year ago this flood would have upset us. So much stuff ruined! So much money lost!

But that was before February 4th. That was before I lost my dad.

I’ll save a description of my dad for another day, when I find a way to do the impossible and condense my love for him onto this tiny screen, but for now I will just say that he was Joy. He was Love. He was Patience. And he was Perspective.

And as my lovely and wise friend Jackie put it…

He was My Person.

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When you lose your person, it absolutely brings you to your knees. For a long time.

And then, slowly, it changes you. It narrows your focus. It brings you clarity. It drives home the lesson that life is short and precious and we should spend as much time as possible with the people and things and activities that we love.

The rest is Noise.

And it makes you want to get The Noise out of your life as quickly as you can so you can be in your life. At least, that is how it is happening with me.

So, dealing with a basement flood is not fun, but there was beautiful opportunity in it. Yes, we lost things that we used and would have kept. Yes, it was annoying and expensive. But the kicker was… A lot of the stuff that was ruined was just weighing us down. I lost count of how many boxes we threw away that contained random crap… college notebooks, knick knacks that we weren’t ready to toss so they have been moved from house to house in an unmarked box, books that we didn’t like enough to actually display, clothes we swore we were going to sell in a garage sale that just never happened. And in one fell swoop, it was in a dumpster. And as we threw it all out, we threw out a mile of to-do lists and we gained hours and hours of time it would have spent to look through, organize, store, stress about, and be responsible for all of it. And time is something that is not to be taken for granted.

I have learned so much since losing my dad. And one of the things I have finally understood is why he so seldom got rattled.

He knew the secret and he lived the secret… that there are a few very important things, and the rest is not worth getting upset over.

And now, still, he is teaching me.
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The Simpler Life

Several months ago, I begin decluttering this house and it helped change my life. I wanted life to be simpler. More peaceful. More in-line with my priorities. And I saw that just by getting rid of excess, I was successfully taking steps in that direction.

I now see that it was inevitable that this path would lead me to where I am now, but for a few weeks it was a little scary. It is not just the house that was feeling overwhelming and cluttered. My life in general needs more simplicity. I was feeling what my husband and I call “The Noise.” That’s the way we describe the incessant din of craziness and busyness that we are supposed to believe is inherent and unavoidable in this modern life of ours.

I have found myself rejecting this idea. Just like I don’t want the clutter in my house, I don’t want The Noise in my life. My husband and I are looking at options we have never considered, all in the name of simplicity.

I found myself in a bit of a state of disbelief that so much in our lives is up in the air. It is exciting but also unsettling. Plus, I am knee-deep in the grieving process right now (more on that in a later post if I can manage it), and I just wanted a reality check that I was on track. Was throwing all our assumptions out the window was the right thing for us right now?

I called one of my friends. She is wise and kind and beautiful and when she talks, I listen.

I explained everything that we were considering. I expressed a little bit of uncertainty that so much was up in the air. And then I got really quiet.

Without missing a beat, my friend laughed and said…

“Sounds perfect. You are just de-cluttering your drawer!”

Me: I’m listening…

“You have your Life Drawer open. You took everything out and put it on the table. Now you are being very mindful and deliberate about what you choose to put back into your drawer. Into your life.”

YES.

See why I listen to her?

That night I lay in bed and pictured everything in my life out on a table and an empty drawer in front of me. I picked up my husband and put him in the drawer and I smiled. I picked up my kids and put them in my drawer and I smiled. I picked up my beloved family and friends and I put them in the drawer and I smiled. I picked up our dog, Charley, and I put him in the drawer and I smiled, even though he weighs 30 pounds and takes up 2/3 of our bed every night. 🙂

And that was it. The rest I will figure out as I go.

PS. This beautiful friend of mine writes a beautiful blog about her journey since her daughter was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome. Check it out at http://leaningintolove.com/

Yes, you have to wear pants. How and why to declutter your kid’s wardrobe.

The other day, one of my dear friends called me with a confession.

This undisclosed friend had just spent an undisclosed amount of money buying new clothes for her daughter.

She explained that her eldest daughter had zero fall/winter clothes, and that this year, she was doing things different. My friend explained that she realized that her daughter had 5 or 6 favorite shirts, a couple beloved dresses, and a few leggings that she wears constantly… and that’s IT. So, this year instead of her normal habit of buying a ton of cheaper clothes that my friend really liked, she bought just a handful of outfits that she knew her daughter would love (fun prints, colorful), and bought them at a higher quality store. We talked for a while about what we thought that sweet spot would be for each of our kids. How many pairs of pants does a kid really need?

What started out as a tongue-in-cheek confession ended up as a great lesson!

I couldn’t wait to get home that day and hit my son’s room. You see, I am ridiculously lucky and I have several friends that have passed on entire wardrobes of little boy clothes. In the past when he outgrows a size, I go through all these boxes of generosity and pick out all the clothes that fit him that season, and literally, his drawers were overflowing. But recently, I have noticed that the same 6 shirts come out of that shirt drawer and go back in, folded and clean for the next week. In order of importance these are: Darth Vader shirt, Spiderman shirt, T-Rex shirt, other T-rex shirt, other other T-Rex shirt, and in a pinch, he will settle for his Paw Patrol shirt.

Try to say no to this face.
Try to say no to this face.

After the conversation with my wise friend, I fully realized how unnecessary this is.

My goal was to simplify his wardrobe down to what he loves and wears over the course of one warm weather week, one cold weather week, and a few items he might need for the occasional dressy event.

1. SHIRTS. I went to his shirt drawer first… I picked out a week’s worth of short sleeve shirts (see above list), and a week’s worth of long sleeve shirts. In what situation would he need more than that?
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That’s what I ended up keeping. Here is a photo of the shirts I gave away.
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The pile on the left is all shirts to donate!

2. PANTS. Next, I was on to the pants drawer. Let me start by saying my son has an opinion about pants. Mostly he finds them unnecessary, but after losing every argument about why undies should count as pants, he has some rules, people.
Rule number one: No buttons. Don’t ask.
Rule number two: No “cold pants.” Cold Pants are the adorable track suit pants. He has four such suits and he avoids them like the plague. #nocoldpants
Rule number three: I will choose between pants and shorts. Not Mommy. Not Daddy. Not the weather. ME.
So yeah, I’m not fighting it. I took all his adorable track suits, , all khakis and jeans save 2 pairs of each for dressing up or cold weather, and I packed them up to give away.

3. JAMMIES. I picked out just enough favorites to line the bottom of the drawer. This way, he can pick out what he wants without making a messy drawer.
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4. OTHER. In the bottom drawer, I kept two sweaters, two zip hoodies, and his beloved West Point sweatshirt. He mostly wears his spiderman hoodie everyday anyway… the rest are to tide us over in colder weather or laundry day.
5. SOCKS AND UNDIES. No reduction here. If you have a 3 year old boy, this needs no explanation 😉
And that was my adventure with my son’s clothes! How do you feel about the numbers here? Too many items? Too little? How many clothes items does your child need?