Go with the Flow

I have this belief that if there is an area of the home that gets messy over and over, that whatever system I have in place there is not working. I know, that isn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff. But before Minimalism came into my world, I used to see this as an organizational issue. So… when the mail and art projects piled up on the kitchen counter, I bought a storage contraption to contain it. When the kids’ art corner was a disaster every night, I bought even more storage containers to hold the growing amount of stuff.

Then I realized that these areas of chaos are an opportunity of a different kind… they allow me to stop and consider if I even WANT any of this stuff. And if I don’t want it, need it, or love it… I need to decide how I can get rid of it or keep in from coming into my life in the first place.

I realized with the mail situation, that our favorite art should be displayed and the rest can go, and that a large percentage of the mail we were getting was actually catalogs. These catalogues were, of course, directly contributing to my buying things I don’t need…. So I cancelled almost all of them. (Anthropologie is my weakness… the photos are so beautiful!) The bills go on the desk in the office to be paid ASAP or sooner (we delegate chores and that one is hubby’s). Cards and letters are read, appreciated, and then put on display with the kids art until the next Trashing of Art Projects.

So by tweaking how we deal with the mail right when or even before it comes it, the problem almost fixed itself.

Up until this morning, another area of continuous mess was my daughter’s closet floor. My sweet daughter, like her Mama, adores her friends but has no problem spending an afternoon reading books in a quiet room. In recent months, I started finding her not just in her room, but in her closet! She was climbing into the bin that I keep in her closet to house outgrown clothes until the box gets full and it heads off to my niece.
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And then, she started making that little space hers. She would toss the outgrown clothes out and use pillows, blankets, and lovies to make what she called her “Nest.” I kept picking up said clothes, refolding them, putting the blankets away, etc. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

This morning it hit me. That box of clothes doesn’t have to live there. I have plenty of room in my closet, which is right across the hall. Why not let her keep her little quiet place and quit fighting it?

So, this morning, I moved the box, did a little tidying, and remade her little nest for her. When I called her up to see it, it was clear by her gasp that I had given her a great gift. She carefully climbed in, pulled out a book, and snuggled in her nest. Sigh.
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Sometimes we keep swimming upstream because we don’t step back to see the big picture. This week I am going to try to identify areas around the house (and life, always life) where I am doing just that. Then, I’m going to step back, evaluate, and figure out how to go with the flow.

Hope it feels this good every time!:)

No Resolutions and a Happy New Year!

Just a very quick post so I can get back to being the patient in my kids’ “hospital.” (cough, cough)

As usual, there is a lot of buzz about resolutions. I know this comes with the New Year, and I am all about setting goals.

But this year, as I was pondering what I might want to choose as a resolution, I was having a tough time. I am already implementing what would be my resolution… further developing and implementing the mindset to declutter my life. To choose only what is most important to me, and spend my time, money, and energy accordingly.

And then a thought popped into my head… I already have my “resolution” nailed down. So this year, I’m not going to have New Year’s Resolutions. I am going to write out a 2016 Bucket List!

And it’s going to be simple. And fun.

I told my husband my plan. His response?

“I like it.”

I won’t post it here, because I wrote it just for me. But I will say it includes things like “Quit hoarding sub days – use some to visit friends” and “Hire someone to help pull the damn weeds.”

I’m going to keep decluttering, and make sure I am keeping focus on the things and people I love. It’s going to be a great year 🙂

If you are with me, and making a Bucket List for the year, I would love to hear about it!

My Simple Holiday

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I’ve been taking a little break from the blog, from decluttering projects, from doing laundry… you know, all non-essentials. 😉

This is my first Christmas without my dad, and also the first Christmas where both of my kids are old enough to actually enjoy the magic of Santa. It’s been very bittersweet, and there have been many times that I have had a clear vision of myself on a roller coaster. White knuckles, loving it and hating it at the same time, just holding on for dear life. Before the holidays even got rolling, I knew I needed a survival plan. So, I decided to simplify.

I like to think of it like I am going into some sort of minimalist hibernation.

I don’t have a lot of emotional strength in reserves right now, and so I needed to remove all the extras. I needed to declutter my holiday to the absolute bare essentials so that I could live it as fully as possible.

Here is how I am surviving and thriving this holiday:

1. Selective Cancelling
I was once called a “raging introvert,” so Step One in getting through this holiday in one piece was to cancel the parties and gatherings.
I. Just. Can’t. The talking, the socializing… it can be so fun, but it can also be draining, and I don’t have it in me this year.

And that’s ok.

There was one exception. Some dear friends of ours invited us to the mountains. Skiing, hot tub, fireplace, snow… these are a few of my faaaaavorite things! And these friends of ours, along with their family, are so warm and kind and real and are the type of people that just invite you to BE YOU. Shoes off, feet on the couch, swearing-like-a-sailor, laughing and crying YOU. That kind of gathering didn’t drain me, in fact I think it saved me. Thank you so much, T family and TR and WR. I am full of gratitude for you all.

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2. I did my best with presents and let the rest go
I had a whole post planned on what strategies I was implementing for keeping the holiday toy-splosion to a minimum, but then, you know… Hibernation.
I will write about it next year, but for now I will just say that I made a list and I did a decent job of sticking to it. I just plopped down in front of my laptop one night and gave my Amazon Prime a good workout. I didn’t worry about budget or sales because none of the items on the kids’ wishlists were even close to big ticket. It took me one night and it was done. My husband bought himself his presents because he is Superhusband. And we drew names for all the adults in my family (THANK GOD) and just had one person to buy for. I am sure I missed some people,

and that’s ok,

because anyone I would be buying a gift for is someone that loves me and has nothing but grace for me. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure seemed that way.

3. I spent a lot of time alone
Turns out, Holiday Hibernation is a dish best served solo. I have a very wonderful friend who reached out to me when my dad died and gave me the only advice (pretty much the only conversation) I actually remember from that time.

He said, “Grieve unapologetically.”

Accordingly, there have been lots of long hot baths, lots of meditation (in bed, under the covers… SO WHAT!?), lots of tears and alone time, and it has saved me. My sweet daughter even said to me, as we drove to my mom’s for our Christmas celebration, “But Nana doesn’t have an upstairs or a living room. Where will you go if you need to cry and feel better?” She wasn’t sad or pitying me. She was being observant and savvy… at 6 years old she sees that sometimes you just need a little alone time and a little cry.

And that’s ok.

4. I simplified dinner. And everything else.
Beef Wellington became Shepard’s Pie. No homemade whipped cream with Daddy’s French Toast. There may have been some mac and cheese, take-out, and hot dogs in there somewhere. And we all survived!

You guessed it… OK.

5. I stopped drinking alcohol.
I know what you are thinking… NOT OK.
I get it…If there is any time to have a nice big glass of wine, it’s when you are sad and stressed, right? I had several reasons for doing this, but I think more important are the benefits… which probably deserve their own post. Hmmmm.

For now I will just say that I was there for it all. I was present. I felt my way through the holiday, joy and grief and pain and loss and all. I will never have to do the first holiday after losing my dad again. It would have been easy to numb myself a bit, but then I knew next year would be just as hard. I wanted to go through it, get through it, and look forward to next year.

Bonus: I facilitated the easiest declutter of my life
Picture it: Christmas morning. Kids are psyched about all their new stuff, they can’t wait to rip into all those new toys. Boxes EVERYWHERE. I grab three big Amazon boxes and told the kids that we needed to make room for all these new toys, and to please run around and gather some things to donate. They instantly made it like a game, and those 3 boxes were filled in minutes! My husband and I just looked at each other, quietly picked up the boxes, and slinked off to the laundry room. And then high-fived.

Overall, it’s been a beautiful and restorative holiday. I have had lots of time home with my incredible husband. We’ve had more talks, more movies and popcorn, and lots more snuggling with the kids. It’s been wonderful.

So my friends, I hope this holiday is treating you well. I am so grateful that we are all on this path together. I appreciate all the support so much. I am so thankful to have this space with all of you!

Megan

Going Grey

Don’t worry… I’m not going to try and convince you that you should go grey. I know I couldn’t have convinced myself before I was ready. One day, I suddenly was, and I haven’t looked back. Here is my story…

When I was 22 years old, I started going grey. Let’s just say I was NOT HAVING IT.

It wasn’t long before I started coloring it back to blond. Then I started getting highlights to make it look “more natural”. This went on for a long time. 13 years to be exact.

Meanwhile, in those 13 years, so much changed. I met my wonderful husband and got married, became a teacher, moved cities, became a mama, and tried to deal with the stress of my father’s cancer diagnosis. During all those years, I never considered NOT dyeing my hair. Not even when we were trying to really cut costs.
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Then two years ago, I was too busy taking the kids to the pool and loving summer to get to the salon. I ended up going an extra two months without dyeing my hair. When I finally got it done, I came home, looked in the mirror, and knew something had changed. Usually, I came home from those appointments feeling more like myself. This time, suddenly, I just knew it wasn’t me anymore.

It’s still hard to pinpoint exactly what had changed. I had thought about letting the grey go once I turning 50. MAYBE 45. But then one day, in my mid-thirties, I was just ready.

I know a big part of my decision is me wanting to EMBRACE… not just getting older, but embracing the whole process of this crazy life. You know, first you are young and hip and fun and happening, and you think growing older will be boring and quiet. But then you get older and yes, it is quiet but you like the quiet. And you were wrong about it being boring. It’s sometimes calmer (at least after the kids’ bedtime;) ) and it’s definitely more grounded and interesting and you wouldn’t trade it to go back to the bar scene for anything in the world.

To the great surprise of my 20-something self, I have loved getting older. It’s been painful at times, but with each passing year I learn so much. I experience so much. I love so deeply. I am figuring myself out. I’ve come to realize this thing called life is just so worth living. And I have also come to realize that part of living life is learning to embrace as much of it as you possibly can. The joy, the pain, the mess, the solitude, the wrinkles, the detours, the love, the loss, and yes… the grey.
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Also, I want my daughter to see me embracing the hell out of this aging thing. I make it a point to admire my body in front of her… I will joyfully comment on how strong my muscles are or how my softer-than-it-used-to-be tummy makes a nice pillow for her. And she tells me how pretty my silver hair is and I smile big and thank her.
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Still, there have been a few days where I have had my doubts. On those days I remember that my husband thinks I am beautiful, grey hair and all. And I remember that a few months after I stopped coloring my hair, I went out to dinner with my dad. Out of nowhere, he beamed at me and said, “Your hair looks so fantastic. I have always thought that women who have grey hair are so confident and beautiful.

And so, on the days where I look in the mirror and let the voices of society tell me that youth is the only beauty, I set them aside and instead, I listen to my husband, I listen to my dad, I listen to myself, and I see beauty.
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It’s the Little Things….

Hey friends!
Just a quick post tonight with something that is bringing a quiet calm to a little corner of my life. And it couldn’t be easier!

When I was unpacking the Christmas stuff last week, I came across some of those cinnamon pine cones from last year. The scent was completely gone, but I kept the two nicest ones, and put them each on a small dish. I put one in the main level washroom and one in our bedroom.
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Every few days I sprinkle some essential oils on the pine cones and WOW… it’s really lovely. In the washroom I use cinnamon oil and a little orange oil, about 2 drops each. In the master I use clove oil and orange oil, about 4 drops each. Each time I walk into the master I find myself breathing in the heavenly clove/orange oil, and with it, a little piece of happiness and calm.
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Is is just me? Little things like this bring a smile to my face. I hope it does for you too 🙂

Have a great night!

Finding peace in simple routines

Hello, my friends.

Well, I did it.

December 1st is just a few short hours away, and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. Time to put this Thanksgiving holiday in the books. But… it’s tough. It was my first Thanksgiving without my dad.

I have a name for this heavy, achy weight that lays right in the middle of my chest when I am really feeling the loss. The pain. The empty. I call it The Brick.

The Brick is back for a while. But it’s lighter than before.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We hosted, which is always my favorite. Cooking that bird, setting a simple and lovely table… it is like meditation for me.

But I felt his absence all day. I talked to him in my head, like I do. I had a good cry before anyone arrived and that got me through.
And now, I need a little help getting over this hump.

I came across this article today called 5 Things you should do Every Single Day, Even When life is Stressful, and I think this is where I need to start. I think that when life feels complicated and muddy, I need to get back to a few simple routines to get me through.

My list is not going to be the same as hers. And my list won’t be the same as yours, either. But I think I need a new meditation to start my day off and end it with a simple peace and gratitude.

For now, I think my list will be…

Morning:
1. Wake up, lay in bed and think of one thing I am grateful for before I even get up.
2. Do 15 minutes of yoga and/or meditation, in any combination I feel I need that morning.
3. Make my delicious mocha protein smoothie for breakfast and pack my lunch with healthy foods.

Evening:
1. Get some snuggle/reading/play time with the kids after dinner… even if that means the kitchen stays a mess for a while.
2. Go back to our old tradition of my husband and me setting the timer each night for between 5-10 minutes of speed cleaning (depending on our exhaustion level) after the kids are asleep.
3. Shut down all technology no later than 10:15. Take this extra time before bed to write, read, etc.

So that’s where I am going to start. I’ll adjust as I go, but right now, I’m taking this first step. It’s 10:10…. Time to shut down this computer;)
Goodnight, friends.

Having trouble letting go of clutter? Read this.

Decluttering my wardrobe started with the easy stuff… the items I didn’t really like all that much or were uncomfortable. Then went the stuff I loved but that didn’t fit quite right. Next I got rid of things I used to love or thought I should love or would love someday.

After all this, there was one category of clothes that still remained in my closet. It was the stuff that was beautiful, fit well, was relatively expensive and almost new, or (hard swallow) brand new. These are the items that I have had a really difficult time letting go of….until today!

So how did I finally let go of these things?

I figured it out by accident. One of my dear friends also happens to be a phenomenal human being and is holding a clothing drive at school. He is collecting clothes for homeless LGBT teenagers and donating them for the holidays.

This morning, I was getting dressed and I noticed a pair of nice pants that I paid too much for and then proceeded to wear one time in five years. (The truth is, they are a liiiiitle too small). It suddenly hit me that these pants would be perfect for a young kid going to, say, a job interview.

That one realization and my perspective changed.

Suddenly, all of these brand new or almost new clothes had a new purpose, and it wasn’t sitting in my closet. These nice things were destined to go to a needy kid.

Can I tell you how easy it suddenly was to get rid of those things I had been hanging on to?

So friends, here is what I learned….There are so many things that cause us to hang on to unnecessary clutter, and many of these are completely negated in the face of a good cause.

If you are having trouble decluttering an area of your home, try to visualize who the recipient of these items will be when you donate them.

Too many kids’ books and toys? Picture some happy munchkins, opening those books and toys on Christmas morning. Picture their parents, who couldn’t afford those things glance at each other across the room and throw each other a teary smile.

A box of maternity clothes? There is a pregnant mama out there that can’t afford them. Your clothes that you have been meaning to sell on Craigslist for four years could be keeping her warm.

A ridiculous amount of serving pieces? Post them for free online to a family in need, or drop them off to a shelter that serves homeless vets… and picture them eating a holiday dinner served from your lovely dishes.

It doesn’t matter what you donate or who it goes to… just remember that your excess clutter can be another person’s saving grace, especially during the holiday season.

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!:)

How to use Pinterest to simplify your life

True Confession: I loooooooove Pinterest.

I have spent countless hours browsing all those beautiful photos, and I have learned so many amazing tips… Can I just mention the upside-down pineapple pancakes that I made last weekend? 😉

Pinterest can be an amazing tool if it is used wisely. However, if it is not used mindfully, Pinterest can foster discontent, insecurity, and unnecessary spending.

Case in Point: The other day, after mindlessly browsing Pinterest, I saw a really cute photo of a cozy winter outfit. I did not need this outfit. It was not on my list. But you know, I kind of moseyed over to the Banana Republic website to check out the price of some of these items. Lo and behond, they were on sale! Long story short, by the end of the night I bought several items that I didn’t need.

GRUMBLE.

It was the first time since embarking on this minimalism journey that I strayed from my list, and by the time I woke up the next day, I knew I had made a mistake. It was a cheap lesson, I guess. It all seemed like a good idea in the moment… but by the next day, I realized these things really would not add to what I already have. The shipping was free and I can just return everything, fortunately. It will cost me a trip to the post office and the annoyance of the mistake. But hey, we are embracing imperfection, right? 😉

Overall, it was a good reminder. And it got me thinking about how I can use Pinterest to enhance my life, and how to avoid allowing it to clutter my life.

I came to Pinterest for the recipes. I stayed for the clever DIY ideas. Eventually, I started browsing around.

There have been numerous studies showing that the simple act of looking through a fashion magazine has an immediate and negative impact on self-esteem. Turns out, when we look at picture after picture of these women, airbrushed and unrealistically perfect, we cannot help but compare ourselves and feel that we fall short.

Pinterest is like that, except instead of “just” comparing our looks with those of airbrushed models, we end up comparing every aspect of our lives to an airbrushed ideal. We tailor our Pinterest feeds to display every single image of the BEST possible version of our own reality… the fanciest parties, the most beautiful hair, the most immaculate homes, the most perfect bodies… and it would be impossible NOT to fall short. Friends… JUST DON’T.

I still love Pinterest. And I still use it often. But I have come up with some groundrules so that it is a wonderful tool in my toolbox, not a hook to encourage the idea that unnecessary purchases will make me happier, or that my simple tea party birthday for my 6 year old was subpar. I follow my own rules and I truly feel that Pinterest gives me access to information, inspiration, and ideas that make my life better.
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Here are my Pinterest guidelines:

1. DON’T BROWSE!
Mindlessly browsing “Popular” pins or following every board will inevitably set you up to view image after image of products that make you feel inferior instead of empowered. Here is the thing… if you haven’t independently realized that you have a need in your life… don’t allow advertisers or pinners to artificially create that need.

2. BE SELECTIVE
Unfollow any pinners that give you the impulse to needlessly spend time or money on things that are not important to you. This might include fashion boards, makeup boards, certain home decor boards, etc. It might take a while to weed these out… no rush, be patient. Follow only boards and pinners that provide you with inspiration that is in line with your priorities. For me, this includes whole food recipe boards like the one I have put together, minimalist home inspiration like this one, positive parenting boards like this one, boards that encourage me as I continue to grow out my grey hair like this one, travel boards like this one, boards about simplicity like this one, and others that fill my Pinterest feed with beautiful ideas and images, like this one.

3. LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHERE YOU NEED IT
If you need ideas… search specifically for them. Use that search bar! Don’t type in something like “work outfit” or “kid party.” Instead, try searching for “girl’s tea party games” or “black pencil skirt” for ideas on how to wear an item you already own. When I want to search a subject that is a bit more broad, I’ll use qualifiers like “simple” or “easy.” “Simple Christmas decorations” will give you a much different set of images than just “Christmas decorations.”

I hope some of these tips were helpful to you… happy pinning!

And by the way… here is a photo from the above mentioned tea party. My baby girl had a blast… can you tell she picked out my outfit?;)
sophie and mommy bday