It’s Simplify Your Life Week!

I’ve always thought of August as the month with no holidays. Maybe because it’s just too hot to think about celebrating anything. Ha, ha!

While it’s true that there are no “federal” or religious holidays in August (like Labor Day or Easter), there are a number of other “days” that are declared as special by some.

I found out that August 3-9 is considered National Simplify Your Life week.

While I couldn’t find an actual definition for this, I did find a number of other blogs that discuss it, especially those focused on helping organize your space, time, and just life in general.

I’ve always been a natural organizer, as my mother can tell you. From “playing” with my dolls by arranging them from smallest to biggest to “re-organizing” every crayon box I’ve ever owned by color families, bringing order to my surroundings is something I’ve always done.

Organizing books
Just some of the books on organizing that I’ve accumulated over the years

I say, “I can’t function in chaos,” and that’s so true. When I’m surrounded by a mess, my brain just shuts down and I can’t think straight. I have to create order first, and then I can think clearly again.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this year, one of my goals for 2017 is to restore “balance” in my life. To find a way to fit in all the things I need to do so that there is a semblance of order and purpose. So I can make sense of it all and get it all (or at least most of it) done.

It has been a struggle, but I’m trying. Little by little.

Simplifying is just one part of organizing and creating balance. If you’ve ever watched any show on HGTV, you’ll see that the first thing the designers do is clear out a space so that it’s empty, and then start filling it with the most important things for that space.

If it’s a bedroom, obviously the most important thing is a bed. And then there are other essentials, such as dressers to hold clothing and lamps to provide lighting. And lastly go in the non-essentials, such as wall art, curtains, rugs. These things aren’t essential to the “function” of the room, but they do bring a sense of completion, a feeling of comfort and enjoyment.

Our lives are that way, too. We first should evaluate everything in our lives and decide what is essential, what is functional, and what brings joy. And then make a place for those things in the proper ratio.

For me, my essentials are my faith and relationship to my Lord, my family and friends, and my writing, which I believe is my calling. The functional things are my job (because I got bills to pay, ya know), my home, clothing, food, transportation. The things that make it possible to live. And then there are the things which bring me joy – art, music, entertainment. Reading books, drawing, playing piano, watching television. These are the little pieces that add spark and color.

But in the wrong ratio, they cause chaos.

Just like a bright color or bold pattern can overwhelm a room design, too much of the wrong things can cause imbalance and unpleasant consequences. If all I did was sit around and draw pictures, I would be in big trouble. I would have no job, no money, no food, nothing clean to wear, and my family would probably put out a “have you seen this kid” poster for me.

All kidding aside, though, I’m going to work on simplifying over the next week. I’ve already started with my email inbox, opting out of emails subscriptions I do not read and coupons I never use. And putting the rest in folders that make it easy for me to find what I’m looking for.

Simplifying your life can start, well…simply. What’s one thing you can do this week to simplify your life? Share by leaving a comment below.

The Joy of Rediscovery

As part of my path to “balance” this year, I’ve been working on cleaning out and re-organizing my house. (remember my “Word for the Year” post?) It’s slow work, as I’m only able to do a little at a time due to time restrictions and other obligations. But it’s very rewarding.

Cleaning out an area, even if it’s just a small kitchen drawer, feels so good! Usually, if I just do one small area, I get energized and want to do more.

Last weekend, I cleaned out 2 boxes of stuff I was storing in my basement. Then I moved on to the kitchen. I was just going to do “one drawer,” but I ended up tackling the whole thing. Every drawer and cabinet and the pantry!

At the end, I had 4 bags of trash to take out. It felt GREAT!

Once the old stuff was cleaned out, I re-organized what I wanted to keep. Everything fit so nicely on the shelves and in the drawers. Those items had room to “breathe” with empty space around them, and I had some “room to grow” for new items I may need later.

I also found a few things I had either forgotten I had or lost all together.

My “old” apron

One of those things is an old apron that once belonged to my grandmother and was later used by my mother. I “inherited” it during one of those times when my mom was cleaning out her own kitchen. Actually, I think I said something like, “Don’t get rid of that! It was Granny’s! I want it!”

I’m not usually the sentimental type. I can throw things out and never look back. But there are just a few things that tug on my heart strings, and that apron is one of them. I don’t really remember my grandmother wearing it because she passed away when I was young. But I do remember my mom wearing it and telling me how it had belonged to Granny.

Something about it conjures warm, happy memories for me. The smell of my mom’s kitchen when she was cooking homemade biscuits or peach cobbler or something good straight from her garden. Me, hanging around watching, maybe helping, but probably reading a book. Ha, ha!

But, it reminds me of being home, of feeling safe and warm, and loved. And happy.

The apron is worn out and faded. But whenever I come across it in my own kitchen drawer, I smile.

I don’t wear it much myself, mostly because I don’t cook very much. Which is another issue I’m working on.

A friend of mine has been shaming me into cooking again. Well, actually, I guess I’m shaming myself. It seems like whenever we talk, he’s always cooking something. And it always sounds so good, and healthy, and economical. And grown up.

And I look over at my frozen, microwavable burrito and feel like a cop out.

I CAN cook, I say, I just DON’T.

Truth is, I used to cook. And I was pretty good at it. But life got busy, and I “didn’t have time” for bothersome things like cooking. Why bother when I could just nuke something, open a can of something, run through the drive-thru window somewhere? And there are still days when that is really all I can manage.

But I think there’s something to be said for cooking a meal. Taking the time to plan it out, buying the ingredients, putting everything together. The way it fills the kitchen and the house with delicious smells. Even the mess and the clean up is good, in a way. It forces me to slow down. Take time AWAY from things like social media, the computer, the television.

I’m up, moving around, working with my hands. It’s soothing, cathartic. Normal.

Before there were microwaves, electric stoves, and take out – food was WORK! Our ancestors had to hunt and kill their food, grow it in their gardens, and go through the process to bring food to the table.

And it was good for them.

My “famous” spinach lasagna

Tonight I made spinach lasagna. This is a recipe I’ve had for years and made many times. It’s a lot of work, but it always turns out well. I figured, if I’m going to start cooking again, I should probably start with a “sure thing.” Once I get back in the habit, I will try some new recipes. For now, an old standby will do.

So, I tied my grandma’s apron around my waist and cooked! And you know what? I really enjoyed myself! It’s amazing what you can discover, or rediscover, when you slow down, clean out, and find those hidden treasures.

Now, it’s your turn. What is something you used to do that you’ve stopped doing? Why did you stop? What would it take for you to start again? What kind of joy could you get from rediscovering something? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.