How I overcame obstacles on the road to simplicity

vision

When you go to the optometrist for a checkup, you are told to look through lenses at the eye chart (This one…or this one?). At the beginning you will see double, everything a bit fuzzy. Then she tweaks something magical and the image comes into crystal clear focus as one image.

This is the perfect metaphor for what has happened to my life in the past three years.

There were obstacles in the road on this quest to simplify. I didn’t see them before, but now with a new pair of eyes, I hit myself in the head cartoon style and laugh that I didn’t see them before. Looking at this list, it’s no wonder a simpler life eluded me for so long.

1) Time wasting and mindless habits

With each minute I wasted trolling social media or needlessly checking email there was a completely missed opportunity to do the things I love. Read, write, walk, dream, read, converse, de-clutter…did I mention read? That’s the thing about habit (especially the digital kind)—they won’t change unless you mindfully remove the distraction. This is where digital sabbaticals and the release of Facebook came into play for me.

I also noticed that I have a tendency to do things the way I’ve always done them simply because I haven’t taken the time to look at what it blocks from my life. I do not need to spend an entire Saturday running errands and cleaning the house. It’s become a day for family fun, reading, hammock time (weather permitting) and slow cooking.

2) Excessive focus on what others think

It’s a beautiful thing to fully let go of the opinion and approval of others. We’ve always done things a little differently with our family, but I finally realized (wonders of all wonders) that this same principle applies to me. Out of this way of thinking has come a simplified wardrobe, changing my job back to working for someone else, taking note that my interior design style has completely changed and that I don’t want to drive the typical over-scheduled mom taxi. There has been a tremendous amount of freedom that’s come from being brave to just be me, however much I’ve changed over the years.

3) To-do lists that become cement blocks attached to my ankles

There will always be 101 things to do. I never get through the list and for awhile this used to send me into a hand-wringing state of tizzy-fitting. No more. I see now that more than half of the stuff just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Do I really need to wash the bead board in the powder bathroom today? No one dies if things don’t get purchased, cleaned or organized. Phew. As a teacher there is the list for the day, but I love doing that list. It means wonderful things for little people who depend on me. But even with my constant state of flux in my colorful classroom, I know the difference between right now and in a few weeks.

4) Anxiety about What-ifs and JustInCases

I used to have an ability to turn borrowing trouble into an Olympic event. The good news is that constantly fretting about potential inconveniences and catastrophes really doesn’t change the outcome. If they appear, they appear and as adaptive humans, we learn to deal. I’ve had my share of dealing, believe me. Yet, the fussing and anxiety? ‘Tis best to let go of that rope. Now, for the JustInCases (I love this post!), those are a bit more challenging to release. I’m getting better, but I practice it monthly. This week there is a massive garage sale transpiring at the abode. I’m hoping it will spring forth much needed momentum!

5) A firm grasp on a career I wasn’t loving

If you had told me two years ago that I would be back teaching 3rd grade at this point in the game, I would’ve had a good belly laugh. My photography studio and book were front and center and I was hustling on that marketing Disco floor like nobody’s business. It is so great to let that piece go. It wasn’t me, but I was forcing it because of all the work I had done up to that point. So, so much time and effort went into building a successful business. The news flash was: Just because it’s successful financially, doesn’t mean I have to love it and stay with it. It took some letting go of pride and ego squelching to walk away and return to an old profession. The big surprise was that I didn’t even know how much I missed working with kids. To me, it’s the most important job there is. I go to bed every night knowing that I made a difference (even on my worst day). Invested time and money do not require a person to stay the course.

My friend Cecilia met a man in Texas who let go of his dentistry practice to become a craftsman of saddles. He told her he was not a happy dentist and was brave enough to make the change. His saddles were works of art and he lived more simply in order to something he loved every day. It completely overhauled his happiness. I love stories like that!

* * *

Removing simplicity obstacles is not a go-to-a-workshop-have-a-good-cry-and-reinvent-my-life territory. This has been a incredibly long baby-stepping journey where each obstacle was noted and conquered gradually. A control craving person does not have an epiphany over coffee. She documents the need for it and then intentionally releases it with each (almost) fearless step toward the Land of Letting Go and Changing Circumstance.

I’m also clear on the fact that this boulder removing process isn’t even close to being done. I will forever be sitting in the optometrist’s chair with adjustable lenses…and that’s a good thing.

How ’bout you? What obstacles have you uncovered in your quest for a simpler life?

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On my SIMPLICITY radar

Radar

There have been many posts about the power of one…

…as in only owning one thing in a category of stuff. I’m not a one fork/one bowl/one glass person, but in the way of wardrobe and beauty regimens, I’ve found some staples that can stand alone. The Hayes did a great podcast about splurge items and I found that there are a few I love in my universe and I can pitch the rest:

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1. I am a one-purse-girl now. Too many purses were taking up space in my closets and I found that I used one 90% of the time. I figured out that a backpack is the way to go because I’m always errand running and need my hands. Plus, I’m sporting a closet that channels Johnny Cash, so it goes with everything.

2. Got rid of all old sandals and invested in one good pair. Spendy, yes, but they’re comfortable/durable/adorable—worth it.

3. I now own a one-coat wardrobe and I love it. In the Northwest you can get away with all things casual, so a dress coat isn’t needed. I’m always cold and this wearable sleeping bag fits the bill.

4. I pitched all hair care products after experimenting to see which one really does the job. This is also not cheap, but you need very little to make it all happen.

5. I tossed all old lipsticks after I figured out that I just can’t keep it on. It’s either on my teeth or looking like a clown mouth, so I opted for a dark gloss that goes with everything. ‘Been wearing this one for years and I love it.

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Well…how many times have I searched under the subject of minimalism or simplicity on my Amazon.com prime documentary list.

Phew. Looks like the boys are here to save the day.

I just wanna squeeze their rosy cheeks like a proud grandma and tell them thank you. I can’t wait to see it!

* * * * * * * * * *

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I’m late to the party with discovering Michael Hyatt, but I really enjoy his podcasts. It’s a cattle prodding kick in the butt for me when I’m feeling like a deflated balloon. Simplicity really is about taking charge and making things happen. It’s not an easy road and I’m mustering up the commitment to create lasting change. His words in my earbuds seem to resonate with my soul and I’m taking a proactive stance in achieving things on my list. Mundane things even…like finally de-cluttering the attic that looms like a T-Rex above me.

* * * * * * * *

Donald_Miller

I’m a huge Don Miller fan. I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for his new book (having read all his others twice). I loved the advice he gave on the Beyond the To-do List podcast about the discipline of writing. I downloaded his Storyline productivity schedule (on the sidebar of his blog) and it has really helped me with my own writing process.

* * * * * * * *

I hope your own quest for simplicity is going well, friends…I’d love to hear what’s working for you!

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This week on my SIMPLICITY RADAR

Radar

Good reads:

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Dan and Vanessa Hayes have written a book for moms….and friends, it’s a great one. If you’ve ever tried to be SUPERMOM instead of a super mom, this one is for you. So many  useful tips and lots of great videos and links. They poured their hearts into this project and it shows.

For the next two days, a pdf of the “Super mom vs. Supermom” will be available on the Edit and Forget it page on Facebook. You can request to be a member through this link. After that, I’m assuming it will be available on their site.

* * *

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Thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for completely obliterating existence as I know it in the Blair abode.

If simplifying, sorting and tossing were Olympic sports, you would’ve watched me on TV last month, instead of the crazy people on death defying jumps and small skirted cuties scraping ice chips off their tushes in the rink.

I am on a mission, friends, (hence the debut of c’est blog).

Mrs. Hatmaker is a personal hero of mine. In her latest book, Seven, Jen’s family identified seven areas of excess and in seven months fought against “modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence”. This woman makes me think—seriously think (and laugh out loud too, because she’s hilarious) about our own family ways. I feel a surge well up from deep down that has been festering like an active volcano with an eruption plan.

The good news is there are a lot of people who are stopping and redirecting themselves…and their families…just like the Hatmakers.

There is hope for our excess-filled nation. The promise of a new awakening to Less is More excites me to no end and books like this one push the movement further into view. Thank goodness for that.

* * *

Documentaries:

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I have Amazon Prime and watch lots of documentaries for free. Stumbled on this one somewhere and I found it hopeful for a generation who might be changing the game.

* * *

Blogs:

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For the design obsessed there’s Home Adore They feature many small dwellings that are loaded with good design and space efficiency.

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For the tiny house obsessed (raising my hand over here in Washington):

Small House Swoon

and

Tiny House Swoon

provide some dreams for what may be possible someday.

* * *

Project 333 wardrobe additions:

After purging random multi-colored items that never seemed to go with anything, I have assembled quite the widow wardrobe. I found the perfect addition to my summer capsule items:

dress

Lovely for day or night (just add wedges and a sassy scarf). It is made of swimsuit material, so if you wanted to spontaneously hurl yourself into the waves, it would most definitely be okay.

Speaking of sassy scarves, I’ve been turned on to a wonderful company that creates the most beautiful accessories (and all for a fabulous cause):

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I figure this will be my go-to scarf for all of spring and summer. It’s light, neutral and goes with everything.

* * *

‘Hope you find some of these helpful. Thank you for being here as I blissfully blog away the ideas scampering through my busy brain.

I’m uncovering a whole-lotta awesome in this quest for less.

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Project 333 ~ My closet struggle

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It’s a closet Johnny Cash would feel comfortable with. Minus the jeggings and striped pink sweater.

Have you ever seen so much black on one shelf?

So after reading about Project 333 for months now, I finally body-checked my resistance and started some serious sorting and pitching. My beloved calls this “playing closet”. It’s a quirky thing, but I only felt comfortable pulling the essentials out with all of my other clothes staying put on the left side…with a sheet over them…Casper-style. Yes, it looks like I’ve got a shower stall in there, but the whole point is that I can’t see them, right? Out of sight (or under sheet), out of mind.

It really does feel a lot more relaxed getting dressed in the morning. I can see what can mix and match so much easier, and I’m not overwhelmed with a sea of color and patterns. It’s no surprise that black dominates here, and I have the accusing teens to prove it..”Maaa-ooom, you look funeral bound 80% of the time!” Oh, well. It’s slimming, chic, doesn’t show our dog’s hair, and I happen to really like Johnny Cash.

I perused people’s wardrobe capsules while trolling online for Project 333 inspiration, and I found that many of them were just too monochromatic or one-color-heavy. The Northwest is a dark and rainy place…I’m desperate for many colors…like Joseph and his fancy dreamcoat. I have my Frenchie days where I just want to wear my BlackbootsBlackDressBlackcardigan. Then there are the days that only a bright multicolored sweater and sparkly Converse will do. It’s just. enough. variety.

I’m feeling like I should have done this long ago! Looking forward to the ease of having my wardrobe be an uncomplicated activity.

If you’re taking this project on, I’d love to hear how it’s going!

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updateWhole30

Hoo-boy! Hardest thing I’ve ever done, eating-wise. I’m doin’ it, though and following the darn rules. It started February 10th.

The positives:

-Skin is clear and a bit glowey…really enjoying that

-Bloat is gone and although theWhole30 folks recommend not measuring/weighing oneself until Day 31, I believe I’ve lost some cm in the waist

The Sugar Dragon is close to being kicked to the curb (don’t test me with gummy cokes, though…they’re a weakness)

-I discovered that alcohol does not need to play a part in my nightly ritual

The negatives:

-I’ve been cranky and short with my offspring

-I had a couple of days where emotions took over and I felt a bit out-of-body, and not in a good way

-My energy didn’t go up to the high level it is now until Day 18

-I experienced the “kill all things” stage for one day too long

*Looking forward to eating a bowl of Kashi (of all things!) on the 11th. Even though my spouse thinks it “tastes like the front yard”, I miss my sticks and twigs.*

Have a wonderful week, friends!

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ProjectEnough

Enough  \i-ˈnəf, ē-, ə-\ :   equal to what is needed

This word has lost meaning for me along the way.

I’ve been trying to reacquaint myself with the concept and have identified several opportunities to embrace it. As an American accustomed to a certain lifestyle, I’ve become lazy about challenging myself to stay within the confines of enough. I realize that enough means many things to different people, but I do know what it should look like for my family and me…and I hafta admit…

This

ain’t

it.

Although I’m thoroughly fascinated by the Joy of One concept…and I love the idea of Project 333.…and I covet the Tiny House People’s simplified existence…I’m still tuning in to what enough looks like in my home and in my own head.

I’ve identified the areas where I’ve wandered off the enough path.

I’m aware that it’s best to focus on one goal at a time (for maximum success), so the plan is to be aware and purposeful in one area for a month at a time.

February ~ Enough is Enough….Commitment to maximum health with TheWhole30

March ~ Enough Stuff….A moratorium on buying anything new

April ~ ‘Enough Said….Listening more/Talking less

May ~ Enough Already….A mass media hiatus

June ~ I am enough/You are enough….Only allowing positive things to be said about myself and others

* * *

My February focus, Enough is enough, is already underway (started this in late Jan.) and that’s another whole post in itself.  Hoo-boy! It is really clearing my head (and my tummy issues–bonus!) and I think I might be walking into a way of eating that will stick with me for the long haul. The positives are too plentiful to ignore the fact that TheWhole30 is one amazing thing to do for your body and future longevity. I finish the month of protein/vege/fruit/fats intake (with no other carbs) on March 10th and will do a re-cap of how I redirected my meals…it’s not easy, to be sure…but really, really worth it.

March brings a hold on my Amazon.com problem. By problem, I mean my weekly visits to get “just one more book”…be it for my job as a teacher or for my own development (nonfiction are my favorite), I can spot something worth throwing in the ‘ole cart every visit. Yes, I always buy used, but friends…like anything else, these items add to a whole lotta crazy wallet drainage…not to mention the space these books take up in my home has become an issue. Avoiding the mall and other places of temptation will not be hard and I’ve pitched any kind of catalog temptation, so we’re good there, but the cyber-shopping? Good grief, I need some awareness! I think just using the computer for blogging and work will be in order.

April is when I will hyper-focus on what people have to say…and when I do speak, I’m hoping it will consist of mostly questions about what the other person has shared. I notice that with my 3rd graders, they are usually thinking about what they want to say when someone else is talking. This is normal when you’re eight…not so much at 43. Being present and really hearing another’s words is important and I’d like to be better at it.

May will bring some solitude, I believe. Although I’m not a big TV watcher (2-3 recorded HGTV segments are my “shows”), the commercials I’m fast forwarding through are still seeping in. I’m also witness to the materialism when it’s blaring in the background with someone else plopped in front of it. We’ve done a pretty good job of limiting mindless screen domination…funny thing, my kids’ favorite is The Brady Bunch series on Netflix. ‘Watched it twice! We’re deliberate about what we DVR and make a date to watch it…but those damn commercials…the more is better message is definitely affecting me and the little people in our house. I’m over it. In fact, I’d love to see this month’s project turn into a step toward getting rid of it all together. It’s not just TV, of course, when dealing with the effects of advertising. I’m banishing magazines and ad-heavy internet content as well. Pinterest is a black hole I seem to fall into when it comes to seeing how others live (particularly with home design). I think the first step of enough and being content, is not having the superfluous, excessive more, more, more that creeps in through the media.

June is a month to really think before I speak. There is so much negativity floating in our country’s air. I’m always surprised at the outright meanie pants folks on the web who use the guise of anonymous to crucify someone with their words. I’m shocked by how brutal the media is with dissecting the lives of people trying to find their way. I’m not a person who feels compelled to give my opinion on others’ decisions and lifestyles…in fact, I was brought up to love and accept, which for the most part, I feel I do pretty well. But, there is always that less-than-loving thing that can escape from my lips…sometimes it’s about the woman yelling at her child in line at the grocery store…sometimes it’s the guy who’s signaling to me in sign language as he cuts me off…and sometimes it’s just quiet judgment as I watch people at a safe distance. I realize it’s all the same…it’s ugly and dark…not a place I’d like to dwell. I will reel in positivity in the beginning of summer! It’s a good time for it.

Do you ever create little projects for yourself to improve your life? I’m interested.

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Five things to do to help your kids declutter

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Before I wax poetic about closet clutter and the kidlet dilemma, I’d like to point out the resource that supplied my simplifying race car fuel this week. Joshua Becker, a dad and husband and rational minimalism extraordinaire, tells us how to unclutter with our offspring. In a very succinct way, Becker gives advice about each area in the kid declutter journey, but her also reminds us why this process (and all of the other jewels that come with minimalizing our lives) is important. Good stuff, friends.

Helping my kids LET GO.

After reading Joshua’s book I took a good long look at the Scary Abyss, otherwise knows as my teen girls’ closets. I have epic avoidance strategies when it comes to anything closet-related, so overcoming my fear was the first step. Considering I’m as welcome in their rooms as a toddler in a glassware store (they know my intentions after all), it has been challenging to get my hot little hands on the excess. The clothes and shoes remind me of a layer of newspaper in our old guinea pig’s cage…what color is the carpet again? And why is every school paper received this year being horded in a ball the size of Texas? It was clear that both of my lovelies were growing wary of wading through ill-fitting jeans, worn discarded shoes, and sentimental stuffed animals to get dressed in the morning. I do believe the attachment to younger-year-items has waned enough to start the process of letting go, but they weren’t thrilled about trading in a Saturday afternoon for it…until….I did five things:

1) Put on some tunes. Their tunes, specifically. Once we got bopping to some Top 40 and I told them that we could get this thing done in 15 t0 20 songs, it didn’t seem so bad. The energy in the room changed.

2) Let them be in charge. I backed off and sat on their beds, allowing them to pick up each item and hold it up like Simba in the African savannah and we made a group decision about whether it was allowed to take up closet real estate. I allowed the other daughter (the one not in the hot seat) to make creative signs for our carpet piles (“No…Crap I shouldn’t have bought is not acceptable…change, please”) and allowed items to switch from one to the other without protest.

3) Let them pick the charity to receive their clothing. They’ve been watching me deconstruct the house and noted who has inherited our wares. I think it’s more meaningful when they physically walk the bags-‘o-stuff into charitable organizations….especially the toys that have been cleaned, ready for new sets of little hands in shelters and daycare centers.

4) Ask them to try on items in question. Somehow the act of sliding their long legs into high-water pants gets the message home that they are indeed bigger now. Holding on to clothes that don’t fit clouds the good stuff and propels the “I have nothing to wear” state of mind.

5) Know when to quit. Once we finished the closet, I was ready to attack my youngest’s yard sale of a desk. I had a gleam in my eye that must’ve frightened her, because she yawned (twice) and said she was “done for now”. I didn’t push it. If this process was ever going to happen again, I needed to acknowledge the backing off boundary.

The good news is both of my darlings said they felt good about their “new” closets. I believe the word light was uttered in there somewhere, which made my simplifying yearning heart pound like a jackrabbit.

We learned some important lessons in the process as well:

The Mall Crawl (shopping trips that involve meandering without purpose) frequently results in impulse purchases that are destined for the give-away pile after few wearings (i.e., poor use of family funds).

-The 80/20 rule still stands in teen closets…they really do only don 20% of their favorite old standbys.

-Having all items hanging in categories makes it much easier to get dressed.

So….the desks and shelves are next, but I will revel in the glow of their clutter-free closets until it’s time to go at it again…ipod and trash bags in hand.

What are your strategies for clearing out with your kids? I’d love to hear!

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