Simplifying

I have never thought of myself as materialistic, but then I see how much stuff we accumulate.  Just thumbing through magazines, I pine for all the lovely things I could buy if we had the money.  If we had the money.  Why can’t I just be content, rather than looking at that greener grass next door?  And besides, who says it’s actually greener?   

Recently I wrote about my love of organizing, weeding and pruning those rooms in our homes that are overgrown with excess stuff, putting things in their places.  When I find it hard to cope, when I struggle with life and motherhood, having things in order gives me peace of mind and helps me feel more in control.

I find solace in simplifying, as if I’m clearing my head at the same time.  Simplifying is… freeing.  Simplifying my eating habits, simplifying hygiene, simplifying my hair.  Simplifying my routine has remained a challenge.  I keep wanting to start each day with prayer and devotions, something that only seems attainable on my kid-less Thursdays when I have most of the day to myself.  In the past I’ve made a rule for myself – no computer until naptime so I can devote my attention to Gwendolyn and Josiah.  This lasts for a while until something comes up, I need to check e-mail, we have a rainy day and the kiddos are on my nerves and I just want to do something else other than read and chase them around the house. 

However – I did simplify internet!  A while back I said farewell to Facebook, apparently a growing trend.  I was wasting time on trying to keep up with superficial relationships.  The change has been refreshing, and just like fast food, I won’t be going back.  Now when I’m on the computer I use the time to catch up on e-mail, share family pictures, shop for gifts or necessities, and jot down whatever musings my be rolling around in my brain.    

How about simplifying possessions?  At first blush, this may not seem all that difficult.  We all have a pair of skinny jeans lying around, some old books unread on the shelves, dusty knick-knacks we remain ambiguous about but still display on a bureau somewhere.  But what about all that other stuff, the stuff we think we need?  I felt the need to simplify these very things in my life, and when I read about one wife and mother’s approach to downsizing I was intrigued. 

I had already begun to amass a pile of things to purge – books and toys borrowed from Meme and Pepe’s, duplicate kids’ books and toys, clothes that don’t fit and some that will hopefully never fit again.  I’ve tried to approach our possessions with these questions:

Do I/we love it? 
Do I/we use it?
Will I/we use it in the near future?      
In the case of clothing, Have I worn it in the past year?
If something is torn/broken, Do I want to repair it?

Even if I’m not using something right now, I tend to think, You never know – we might need it later!  I used to have a mental list of things I needed for the kids, before they even needed them – Winter clothes!  Shoes!  Activity books!  But wouldn’t you know it, they get hand-me-downs, gifts from the grandparents, and somehow they are provided for.  I have an ongoing Amazon wish list, adding to it every now and then to keep track of things I’d like for the family.  I’ve been able to pare this down by swapping media, checking things out of the library for free, borrowing from friends.  

When my grandmother passed away last year, we went through the process of going through her things, cleaning out her house.  I ended up with her dining room hutch, which meant I was able to clear my cupboards of the fancy glasses, extra dishes and serving pieces. 

I chose only those things I wanted to keep and display, use on occasion, and the rest is being given away.  It’s so nice to be able to see those beautiful things every day, rather than have them stuffed away in the back of a cabinet; I used to have to kneel on the floor and crawl inside the cupboard when I was looking for something! 

As I read what others have to say in their journey, in their mothering adventures, I’m hearing more and more about Minimalist Parenting.  In a world of so much stuff, the idea of getting back to basics excites me.  I love how my kids can spend hours outside on a nice day, just playing with bits of nature in the yard.  Sure, it’s not always fun doing their laundry afterwards, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.  *grin*  Think of the simple things that catch their interest: cardboard boxes (How much fun are they, seriously?  My babies always preferred the wrapping as opposed to what was inside the box!), a bathtub or sinkful of water and some plastic cups, a baby doll for their nurturing side, some cars or trucks to go vroom! vroom! with.

Yeah, I have a bunch of toys that we’ve received over the years, but these don’t come out all the time.  It’s interesting to see what they choose to play on their own.  I’d rather cultivate their natural curiosity, let them learn and think for themselves, rather than have them be entertained with all the bells and whistles of technology.   I do, however, rely on the occasional Praise Baby DVD or kids’ movie when I need to get something done; we might not watch television, but we love movies!

This year we hope to start a vegetable garden, and in the near future raise chickens for eggs.  Teaching our children and imparting our values, being self-sufficient, eating healthily, simplifying our grocery shopping… these are all good things.  There is always room for improvement, and though I’m not ready to be car free, I’m working on all that other stuff.     

What in your life could use some simplifying?  Is there excess stuff that you need to purge?  What do you find hardest to part with?  How does it make you feel when you let go of these things?

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7 thoughts on “Simplifying

  1. Hm!
    What in your life could use some simplifying? Is there excess stuff you need to purge? I always feel like I could do with less stuff. Well, not exactly. I often keep a wish list of things that I believe will simplify my routine, for example, but there’s always old stuff hanging around. I’m currently going through the house and it is so much work! I am creating a pile but it seems there is no simple way to get rid of it. It would be nice to just know what I needed for years to come and not buy anything else in the first place!
    I keep trying to simply my time on the internet and not feel like I have to read all the blogs in my feed, so I can stick to my routine at home, but Facebook does complicate things. I keep going through my news feed to not miss anything and find out how my friends are doing and yet I wonder if it even means anything to them that I care/comment/offer a hand.

  2. I agree with you 100%! I tend to drool over things that would corale and organize things I already have, or make life easier. But I also love getting things for the kids; when they get gifts, they’re like gifts for me, too. Impractical things seem like luxuries. :) And cheerful, colorful things – especially handmade, like on Etsy – really gets me pining. *swoon*

    If you need help going through things, I wouldn’t mind helping out. We could even do a Thursday so I’m by myself. It might help having someone relatively impartial. I make piles for consigning, donating, giving away to someone I know. You could list things on craigslist, freecyle, send e-mails to people you know who might want to take something off your hands.

    I, too, agonize over what to keep and what to toss. What if I got rid of a whole pile of things and ended up having to buy them all over again? Maybe that’s the FAITH part… having faith that something will come along, someone will come along with what you need at the right time. And honestly, what do we really NEED? That’s a tough one.

    I’ve added a number of blogs to my subscriptions, but since they’re not all people I know, I don’t feel compelled to read them whenever there’s a new post. If the title is intriguing – something about motherhood, crafts, health, a good recipe – I may read or skim it. Since I don’t have many friends who blog (I can only think of you, Becky, and Ashley), it’s not much to keep up with. I always appreciate feedback from people I know, so I would think your friends would feel the same way about your comments. If they never have anything to say about what’s going on in your life, however, that does seem one-sided.

  3. Enjoyed your post. looking forward to reading more for inspiration. For the last couple days I’ve been looking for bloggers that are downsizing. I’m in a *getting rid of stuff and simplifying* mood. Not sure how simple my house can get, but anything will be an improvment. I’m good about my closet/bedroom. I’m ok with the stuff in my kitchen, always going through that. My garage is a wreck, haven’t gone through that in about 3 years and my office needs some serious work. We could move in the next year, so I’m thinking about that and would love to get a smaller place now that my kids are growing up. one has moved out. another moving out soon, one dd left. Funny how we needed such a big house 6 years ago and poof…now we don’t. happens fast.

    1. UGH… the garage is my husband’s domain! He’s practical, though, and doesn’t usually hang onto anything he doesn’t/won’t need. However, with a 2-car garage (which only holds one car and all his tools), you can fit a lot of stuff in there.

      What’s in your office? My husband is self-employed (but also has a paying job, along with being a volunteer fireman), so it can be interesting trying to figure out which documents to keep. He doesn’t want to go completely paperless, sending all our information into cyberspace, so we do have to file things here and there. I clipped a couple articles about document-retention guidelines, and once you get some folders and tabbed dividers they’re pretty easy to organize.

      Since we don’t have any bookshelves (yet), what we have in our office is really limited to what gets used there – computer, paper, pens, ink refills, packing/shipping supplies, phone books, my stationery/stickers, his professional books, and a file cabinet with receipts/records. Though I spend much of my time in here (like now!), it’s not my favorite room to be in because it’s not as cheerful as the other rooms in my house. :) Though I do love the paint color in here…

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