Learning to simplify is what I feel like I did from age 23 (when my daughter was born) until age 27. I feel the effort I spent on learning how to simplify was time well spent, and I’m really enjoying the benefits now, a few years later. I’m going to talk about some ways I’ve simplified, and I hope to encourage you to intellectually tackle (it’s really more of a mind/heart matter than it is a physical one) what you need to in 2014!
This Making Room For Healthy Changes post is the start of a series of posts to help you make room in your time, budget, and more importantly cluttered mind, to make the healthy changes that you’ve been meaning to make.
Your goals will vary- they can be anything as daunting as doing the GAPS Intro or as simple as using a few more natural remedies and finding a source of local grassfed beef.
Simplify is part of this series because when we learn to prioritize and be intentional with our time and belongings, we have more room to do what we really want to be doing.
We Don’t Need to Own What Other People Own
I talked about this some in my budgeting post, but it helps in more ways than just the budget. I worked hard on ‘swimming up stream’ and not worrying that I didn’t have the same ‘stuff’ as my neighbors. When my daughter was born, we really were in a small place, and didn’t have much money. We didn’t have a bouncer, infant carseat (I had one that stayed in the car and went 5-35 lbs), changing table, or even a crib (I used a port-a-crib until she was 2 – like 5 times – she mostly co-slept).
I never really bothered to learn fashion, and I haven’t felt at all motivated to keep up with any sort of style. I have a couple good friends who will rescue me from my style-unawareness from time to time, but not having the drive to look through catalogs or the mall has helped not only save money, but save time and energy as well. Clothes might be your ‘thing’, and that’s perfectly okay too, but if you don’t like shopping but feel like you have to keep up with the latest styles, that might be something you take the time to think about and then drop it if it’s causing you more stress than pleasure.
On the other hand, I did spend this time realizing that books very much are worth it for me to purchase. I read a lot! I enjoy reading, and I feel like purchasing books makes a positive difference on my family. So I learned to give myself permission to buy books :) Why not rent from the library? As finances dictate, this is a valid option as well, but I prefer to buy most books due to the ease of availability, and then I give away or keep as needed after I’m done.
I’m not a keepsake person either. I take tons of pictures of my kids, and I try to get them into a photobook (made online) every year, and I print canvas prints fairly liberally for our walls. But as far as keeping their old clothes, toys, or other items- I don’t feel the need to at all. I find I get more meaning by looking at their smiling face in a picture of them wearing a certain outfit than I do from keeping the outfit in a box somewhere.
My kids are similar in size now, so they aren’t passing anything down, but when they were a size or two apart my general rule was that I’d only keep something for one year. When I tried stockpiling clothes for future wear, I found that I too often forgot about them, or when they came out of storage they didn’t fit quite right, etc. Now I use the kids’ consignment shop as my ‘clothes storage’ – selling them anything that’s still in good condition, and purchasing what we need as we need it from there.
Freeing yourself from owning things just because you think you ‘should’ is a hard exercise, but once you get the hang of it, it feel great to not have the emotional attachment to ‘things’. You’ll have more energy, time, money, and space for doing your life’s purpose rather than sorting, organizing, cleaning, and otherwise fussing with your belongings. To help get you started decluttering, Nourishing Minimalism has put together decluttering charts to help you go room-by-room this year. See them here.
We Don’t Need to Do What Other People Do
Full time school, two sports, and a music activity for a 5-year-old? I wan’t ready to embrace the packed schedule of early elementary education yet, in favor of hikes, visits to the many parks in the area, festivals that happen locally on the weekends, and even learning how to do chores alongside me as my kids are still thrilled to help and love to learn!
As you can imagine, I love cooking with my kids, we spend a lot of time together in the kitchen, or with them at the kitchen table while I work on something in the kitchen, them asking me questions and drawing or writing or figuring out math problems. But. Just because I love this doesn’t mean that you need to love it!
How we spend our time is another way that we can simplify. It’s not about one thing being more right or wrong, it’s about embracing what is right *for your family* and leaving what isn’t.
Some areas that I don’t spend my time, but others see value in, are elaborate holiday crafts and decorations (though this is getting more fun as the children get older), mom’s groups when my kids were younger, shopping as I talked about above, or going to theme parks like Disney. I do love road trips, and especially day trips to things that are less than 2 hours away. You might not. It’s all good :)
What are your simplification goals in 2014?
I still have some, though since I’ve been working on this for so long, they’re easier for me to obtain. I need to organize and simplify my paperwork into a few binders (IEP/special needs, general household stuff like bills and insurance, and the one for Health, Home, and Happiness paperwork). As the seasons change I always need to go through our clothing, and I also need to keep on top of my kitchen stuff to make sure I’m not holding onto something that doesn’t get constant use.
If you need help to get started, check out the decluttering worksheets found here!
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You are a very wise woman for focusing on your relationships rather than things. As I am sure you have been told, your children will grow up far too fast so cherish these preschool years. My youngest is now 16 and I find myself dreaming about when they were little, I miss that time so much. Thankfully I am a montessori teacher and I get to spend my days guiding precious little children in their explorations. Reading your column about spending time with your children cooking and doing chores made me so happy. It is the best thing you can do with them! I also was fortunate to be able to stay home with my children when they were little. Other than a fabulous Montessori preschool , my children did swimming lessons in the summer and that is the only extracurricular activities they did prior to age 6. Then they began playing an instrument at age 6, young enough to be thrilled but old enough to progress quickly. So cherish and enjoy!
Love this post, Cara, and couldn’t agree more. Will definitely be sharing this via social media this week. Investing in relationships and keeping life balanced and simple is definitely my mission as well. So reading your wisdom here is a true blessing. Thank you! :)