I hate to be one of those fickle bloggers, but this little blog has found a new home over here.
Thanks for reading my ramblings on simplicity!
I hate to be one of those fickle bloggers, but this little blog has found a new home over here.
Thanks for reading my ramblings on simplicity!
It's no surprise that it's only midway through November and I'm already consumed with thoughts of the Advent season (which will be upon us before you know it!). As I've said before, finding myself excited for Christmas, really any time of the year, doesn't surprise me at all. What suprises me is how much stress I'm already feeling this year as we approach the holiday season. It might just be that we have an unusually busy November, and so I feel like the full schedule has already begun too soon. It might be because I'm working a lot more than I want to be right now and so the weeks seem to FLY by lately (which I'm not a big fan of). It might be because I really want to build margins into our schedule this Christmas season, so that there will be plenty of hours spent doing nothing more than listening to my favorite Christmas albums on repeat mode, gazing at the lights on our tree, and appreciating all this season means to me - and those margins are going to be hard to preserve this year.
Whatever the reason, I've come up with a few ways to alleviate some of the stress I often submit myself to this Christmas:
How about you? Any ideas on where to build margins into your life, what to simply give up, and how to narrow it down to what really matters?
If you're seeking out inspiration in this area, you've got to watch the Advent Conspiracy videos-especially "Enter the Story." I re-watch them every year - such a good reminder of where our priorities should lie.
November 1st marked the first day of the 30 Days of Giving Challenge that you may have seen around the blogosphere. It started last year in November on the blog Kingdom First Mom and I participated then. It was such an eye-opening experience to have to write down at the end of the day, ways in which I was generous (that were above & beyond what I might do normally) and to find myself having gone through an entire day without any sort of generosity.
I don't know about you, but I always feel like there are so many areas I want to work on in myself, that a 30-day period of really focusing on one trait seems to simplify things, and opens my eyes to how much I need to grow.
The other amazing thing from this experience last year, was seeing how faithfully God provided the resources to be generous. I realized that I was merely the middle-man, the steward, of God's generosity. Last year I have no idea how we were able to keep giving without running out of resources, but it was such a testament to God's provision. It reminded me of the miraculous story of Elijah & the widow- who's flour & oil never ran out. God can provide the "flour & oil" for his people in need, He just wants us to be the middle-men - and that's exciting, isn't it?!
So, I'm off on this 30-day journey again this year. Let me know if you want to join me or you can sign up on this year's official 30 Days of Giving Website. I hope to periodically check in, but also to occasionally post creative ways to give and organizations close to my heart that could really use our generosity. Have fun!
Yesterday I was standing, hands on my hips in the middle of our playroom when Matt said, "You have that look. You're on a purging kick again, aren't you?" And boy was he right. In the past few months we've probably taken close to 10 loads of clothes and household items to Goodwill. How is it that a couple who's only been married 6 years (in January) has already accumulated so much? When we first moved into our house from our tiny condo I was overjoyed at the amount of storage we gained. Well guess what... in only 3 years we completely filled it! I know that baby equipment and kids clothes take up a majority of it, but still...
So, every few months I've been going on a new purging spree- getting rid of all I think I can handle and then in a few months, realizing I can get rid of even more. This week I've read so many great posts on decluttering our stuff, that I thought I'd share a few with you.
I think the best blog post I've read on the topic is this one (even if you don't read the others, check this one out):
How to See Past Your Mountain of Stuff to a Place Called Enough, which is a guest post from the author of the Life Cleanse Starter Kit that I mentioned before. She writes in this post about her father-in-law downsizing and the months that it took their family to go through the stuff he'd accumulated in his house over 30 years:
"I found myself wondering what the point of it all was – all this accumulating. Here was all this stuff that no one really wanted – that had little value in the end. It wasn’t what made his house a home – his marriage was."
I've also done a great excercise this week from the Life Cleanse Starter Kit that has you assess every space in your house for how cluttered it is and whether it causes stress or feelings of peace. I now have a list of areas in my house that are stress-inducing and whenever I have 20 minutes, I go through and declutter one to cross it off my list.
Here's a list of more blogposts from this week about our mountains of stuff and how to get rid of them:
So there you have it. If you were looking for inspiration to declutter, clean, reassess priorities and possessions, look no further. And if you need even more encouragement, we can cheer each other on. Because although it can be daunting, it feels SO good once you're done!
We've been chugging along with the letter of the week idea that I mentioned in this previous post and I wanted to share some of the great ideas & resources we've used. Most of these ideas came from your comments and follow-up emails, so I have you to thank, really.
Anyways, just wanted to share the wealth of good ideas that some of you have been sharing with me. Anyone else doing this and have great ideas to add to the list?
Mondays are often the day of the week where time flies by and I have no idea where it goes. It's my day between the fun of family time on the weekend and my often crazy work day on Tuesday. So a lot of pressure seems to fall on poor unassuming Monday.
Every other week Monday starts with a morning playdate up at the Shoreline playgym - which both Leta and I look forward to. But I realized something funny about the rest of the day after the playdate on my weekly trips up north. Having lived in Shoreline before Leta was born, I'm thoroughly familiar with what I like to call the "Bargain Mecca" of North Aurora. Costco is up there. My favorite thrift store is up there. The dollar store is up there, among a ton of other bargain favorites that I no longer allow myself to visit. And Monday's are our grocery shopping day, so we often go to a grocery store up there, too. Unfortunately, all of this can add up to a day where all of our freetime is spent up north running from store to store with a 3 year old in tow - because "I'd better hit them all while I'm already all the way up here" (as if 175th is really THAT far from where we live).
Then I return home, with a now cranky 3-year old who's been rushed from place to place and had her rest time pushed back further and further, with a car full of groceries & stuff , and suddenly my time with my daughter for the day has been sucked up in a vortex of bargain-seeking followed by
an evening of getting ready for the workday tomorrow.
I write all this not at all to complain about our schedule (it's obvious that I've chosen it), but to point out the folly of my choices that I'm just realizing this morning.
I woke up super early this morning because I was craving some time for reading and inspiration before this busy day got underway. And I stumbled upon the blog Momentum Gathering and her "Free Life Cleanse Starter Kit". Always one for simplification how-to's, I started reading it and was so inspired by her approach to time usage. The kit leads you through a few excercises in tracking your time and then evaluating how you feel about where it's going, questioning how to reprioritize so that more time is spent doing the things that bring you joy. (I highly recommend it!)
Although I could say that bargain-shopping brings me joy... it's not lasting joy. Lasting joy would be time spent playing on the floor with my daughter, in awe of what her imagination comes up with next, and taking the time to actually notice and appreciate things like her adorable toddler hands manipulating playthings. Before I know it those cute little hands will be grown up and gone. I need to make choices that simplify my time better, so that more of it can be spent consciously in ways that reflect my priorities and bring me joy instead of disappearing and leaving me unfulfilled.
How about you? If you take a minute to evaluate where your time goes, what are the things that take up your time but don't bring you joy? What might you eliminate from your schedule in order to free up pockets of time for what you really crave?
If you know me, you know that I crave the Christmas season during all of the other 11 months of the year! It is not suprising for me to become homesick for Christmas in the middle of June- my husband would attest to the fact that this often happens. I realize it's not even quite Halloween yet now and I really am trying to live in the moment- appreciating each season fully before moving onto the next...
But, that being said, I will admit that for some reason, Christmas suddenly popped up on my radar this week and try as I might, I can't keep myself from thinking & getting excited about it. I'm excited because this year is going to be different...
All around us, especially in the blogging & simplicity realm, people complain that the holidays becomes too stressful. And I definitely see that- although I LOVE the busyness of Christmas activities. If we had a Christmas party to go to every night in December, I would be in heaven. However, the stress I do allow to fester every year relates to Christmas gift-giving.
I love gift-giving! I'm the type who might have bought your Christmas present the previous April. I always want to find everyone the perfect gift and I thoroughly enjoy process (especially if it's found for a bargain). However, finding the perfect gift for everyone in my life has become stressful. And then I don't take the time to sit back and soak in the season because I'm trying to fit in last minute trips to the stores or working like a crazy person to finish homemade gifts.
But not this year. This year I have vowed to make relationships, memories and love the focus of all our Christmas activities. My mom doesn't need more jewelry or my dad another gadget. Thankfully our family members are all blessed with everything that we really need. So this year I want my freetime to be spent showing our family members love and building memories in the process. Stressful trips to the mall are taking the back seat to time spent in relationship. We will still give gifts, but are focusing on simpler, more meaningful ones. And I may not find the perfect present for everyone, but like I said- can tangible gifts (especially the ones in our price range:) really compete with quality Christmas experiences?
I have a few ideas for this year that I'd love to share in the coming month. But I want to hear from you? What are your ideas for how to keep our priorities in line during the holiday season coming up and not let stress overshadow the true joy of the season?
I have a confession: sometimes I let this blogging world we're in the midst of plant seeds of discontentment in my life. In the book our small group is reading about cultivating contentment, it asserts that a surefire way to become discontent is to compare yourself to others' situations- yours will always fall short in some regard.
I realized in talking about it last night with our small group that I often let this social-media-saturated culture we're in the midst of become something that threatens my already tenuous quest for simplicity and contentment. I subscribe to a number of blogs- I don't know how many...my husband would probably tell you it's "A LOT!" And there are many that are so inspiring- the blogger mom with 8 kids who homeschools and still has time to knit her own clothes, grow her own vegetables and cook everything from scratch (ok, I actually made that one up, although it's probably out there & there are many that come close to meeting that description). Inspiring...until it becomes a source of feeling like I'll never measure up & am less content in my family of 3 waiting for it to grow, trying so hard to balance working part time, providing for my daughter, and still eaking out a little space for creativity and reflection in my life.
And isn't funny how in blogging, we can choose what we let others in on? Everything can be so rose-colored, because the author can choose to leave out all that is not. And who can blame a blogger for that- why would we want to focus on the negative? And yet, the always-positive-always perfect world that can be portrayed isn't honest. Struggling to be content in all circumstances is honest, because...let's be honest... complete contentment and constant joy is elusive...at least until that day that we're finally in God's presence.
So, in this spirit of honesty, I went through my subscriptions list & removed those that I know foster a spirit of comparison in me that leads to discontentment. Remove the temptation, right? And I continue to work on having a joyful spirit of gratitude for all I've been blessed with instead of focusing on (really the few or unimportant) things that might be lacking.
Right now I'm thankful for Fall- for the change in weather, for family time that we've been trying to give priority to in the evenings...gathering in the living room around a fire, sipping hot tea, reading books to my daughter and being thoroughly unproductive...but loving it!
How about you? What in your life breeds discontentment that could simply be removed?
My daughter "playing a drum", "fixing things with tools," and serving me a "salad lunch" all with just a stump, 2 sticks, and some leaves...
I'm sure I've mentioned before that I am a bargain shopping addict. I hate to admit it, but a little while ago if I had been given a few free hours in which to do anything I wanted, shopping would have probably been number #1 on my list. There's just something about bargain hunting- the thrill of the hunt, the pride in seeing how much money was "saved" (although it all could have been saved if I hadn't purchased anything in the first place), the power of knowing all the best places to go and where to get the best deals on which items. It's a rush. Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Until recently, I felt so dumb in admitting the excitement I feel at finding a good bargain. But then I read the article: "Is Consumerism Killing Creativity?" and realized that my excitement makes sense.
According to research cited in the article:
"It turns out that our consumerist impulse stimulates the same part of the brain that fires when we’re on the trail of a great idea...The juice that fuels the seeking system is the neurotransmitter dopamine. The dopamine circuits ‘promote states of eagerness and directed purpose,’ Panksepp writes. It's a state humans love to be in."
The article goes on to say that this rush from consumerist hunting is the same as experienced in the rush of a creative idea or creative project completed. And yet, which one leads to more contentment? Which is a more valuable skill: the creative arts or shopping?
And ironically, this article points out that creativity is actually encouraged by a lack of consumerism. When we have less to work with, we are forced to be more creative.
One of my favorite terms that I just learned in this past year is "upcycling." According to Wikkipedia it's
"...the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value."
I love that! It's basically being creative with what you already have in order to avoid consuming more. In a society that capitalizes on discontentment by making us feel like we always need "more," the idea of not searching for more, but re-creating what we already have is a breath of fresh air. And definitely requires creativity to be accomplished.
So, I'm trying to curb my bargain shopping addiction and focus on creatively using what I've already been blessed with - allowing the creative juices to flow more freely. And above all, striving to be content.
"Edna had kind of a secret formula that I finally figured out - don't compete, don't complain, don't compare. I don't know what age she was when she learned this but by eighty she had it down pat...Edna's heart had found contentment because of what she had inside of her. She lived in a little clapboard house in a small town, never traveled more than 500 miles from home, had no car, and little money. But everything she had, I wanted...She got excited over simple things. She enjoyed her surroundings and made them beautiful. Her heart wasn't restless...she lived every day like it was her last. She trusted God that life could be enjoyed through a dimension beyond what she could see of feel."