the simplified life.

It's Not About the Stuff!

Professional home organizers dedicated to helping you let go of the stuff that is holding you back from living your best life.

 

Thank you.

I just want to take a moment to thank you.  

Thank you for being you. 

Thank you for giving me a reason to wake up every morning.  

Thank you for giving me a chance to have a calling rather than a career.

Thank you for helping me put food on my table, keep my lights on and my body clothed.  

Thank you for showing me your insecurities, your dark corners, your fears and allowing me to share in your journey to become your best self.  

I don't think I can adequately express how inspiring you all are to me each and every day.  

You haven't just been patrons, you've been friends.

I feel like one of the luckiest people on earth to get to see one of you each and every day.

 

                                So here's looking at you!!  You're the best!

                                So here's looking at you!!  You're the best!

Be strong and brave and continue on the journey you're on.  It's worth it and you're worth it.  

 If you have something you're thankful for today, leave me a comment below!!! 

So Simple You Can't Help Be Organized

Get Organized!

  • Which one of these is not like the other?  Group like items together!
  • Sort and purge any items that are worn out, expired or otherwise not being used.  Your holey undies...they've gotta go.
  • Contain like items in attractive bins or baskets (opaque ones will always look neater, but be sure you label them!) 
  • Assign a home for each container of specific items (i.e. scotch tape) in your house. If an item isn't there, you know you've run out. This eliminates the “I know I have it somewhere” dilemma...and the "Oh man, what am I going to do with 42 rolls of tape?" dilemma.
  • Make it a daily habit to put items back in their homes.  Seriously...put your toys away!   
  • Make it a weekly or monthly habit to look through your cabinets, bins, baskets and drawers for items you don't use any longer – then grab them and send them on their merry way out of the house!

 

When you're done, reward yourself. But, maybe not as much as this cutie did...

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Game Time

In the years since I started consciously downsizing, I've played a game with myself: "what can I get rid of today". 

We are now in the semifinals of this game, with a month to go before combining households.  

If you want to watch this unfold, stay tuned to the blog.  

 

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This would be the contents of 6 boxes of home decor and clothes I've had at my family's shed.  An entire Mustang full. 

Samaritan House will be getting a sizeable donation.  

Minimal.

I have never been accused of being a minimalist. Ever.

We are most likely moving on October 5th. To a 400 sq ft cottage.

I'm terrified and excited at the same time. 

So while I have long been preaching a "simplified life", s**t's about to get real.   

 

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That would be the contents of under my couches being sorted. Here we go...

Status Quo...and a giveaway!

Every Monday I meet with Elyse Nakajima of World So Wide (life coach, great friend, motivator, all around wonderful person).  We bonded years ago over being artsy solopreneurs with a passion to help people.  Our video chats for the past year have been a bright spot in my week and a source of inspiration both business-wise and personally.  We hold each other accountable and keep each other moving forward...never stagnating.  However, with an impending wedding, my side of the chats has been mainly personal lately and I was feeling pretty guilty about not coming up with the "next big thing" for The Simplified Life.  

The eBook!  The seminar! The online class! Migrate the email! Blog Posts! Send out newsletters! Improve my follow-up times to emails and phone calls! Finding a secretary in case I can't improve! Social Media! Marketing!  *sigh*  My head spins.

Well...I decided to let myself off the hook.  A season for all things right?  Between running a business, planning a wedding and finding new housing for 2 (if you have an in-law unit in your backyard, give me a call! We'll take it off your hands!), it's the season to be aware of limitations and allow a bit of status quo on the business side as my efforts are focused on the personal side.  And time to take a beach day...

Stop and smell the nasturtiums (by Moss Beach)

So how does that relate to organizing?  Well...often successful changes inspire us to make other awesome big changes. Good thing! I hear clients saying they just had a baby and want to get organized.  Or they want to get organized right now because the days are longer, yet the kids are home on summer break.  Or they got a promotion and now feel like their home needs to reflect their new title.  They get started and then feel shame because adding this new project in on top of their commitments is causing everything to suffer.  Bad timing! They are already stretched too thin.  

So here it is...permission to be a slacker for a bit.  I want you to set yourself up for success.  Enjoy the new baby.  Find your rhythm at work.  Wait until the kids are back in school.  Do what you have to do to keep the house running, the power turned on and everyone fed. Then let's work together to figure out the best time to start your organizing project.

 So relax, pat yourself on the back for keeping things mostly together...and remember that timing can dictate how successful you'll be. 

For the record, giving myself permission to slack off a bit freed up some bandwidth and I spontaneously decided to migrate the business email over to Gmail.  NO MORE LOST EMAILS!!! HOORAY!!! 

SO....that was a long one.  If you read all the way down here (yay!) and you'd like to be entered in a giveaway for a one hour coaching session with Elyse, leave a comment below. If you're brave, tell me what's getting in the way of organizing for you.  If you're not so brave, just say hi... :)  The winner will be drawn at random on Friday.  

Vibrating.

With energy. With happiness and disappointment.  With the desire to do, be and create.  To help and to heal.  Today was a slow starter...a lingering hangover of tiredness and a bit of melancholy.  Finally rolling out of bed brought a delicious cup of coffee.  The kind I'm trying to slow down and listen to.  Dripping slowly in the Chemex.  Promising a refresh and renewal.  

Slow down.  Stop. Breathe. Go back. Fall back. Way back.  Fall into the great unknown and not be afraid.  I feel as though I'm at a crossroads and with a fast approaching wedding, I suppose I am.  But in a spiritual sense as well.  I began my practice of yoga again.  At a place appropriately called Being Yoga.  Being is something I struggle with.  Being.  Not doing.  Not thinking.  Just being.  And yet, for the past two weeks, I've been stretching mental and physical muscles not used since my high school devotion to Rodney Yee yoga VHS tapes.  And you know what?  The (almost daily) panic attacks stopped.   There might be something to being. 

Home...

...is where the horse is.  I couldn't figure out why I was so drawn to heading back to Lockeford every couple of weeks, when before, my life's mission was to flee from that place.  But when I pulled on my cowboy boots, turned on Kat Country 103.3 and headed towards the barn, it dawned on me.  My heart and soul will never be full and happy if there isn't a horse around.  Period.  I suppose this is one huge "well duh", but I guess I didn't realize what an impact not having Pony around was having on me.  Mom rode when she was pregnant with me.  Horses are in my DNA.  I need them like I need air...my big, goofy, lovey spirit animals. 

On my journey of simplicity and peace, this realization was a huge turning point.  Horses make my heart and soul sing.  Peeling off the layers of stuff in my home and leaving just the things that make me light up a bit and smile when I touch them....that makes my heart sing.  Going into someone else's home and helping them uncover what makes them peaceful and joyful....that makes my heart sing too.  

 

              Because really, I'm his favorite scratching post...and sometimes it's the little things that matter most.

Simplified Summer

So the kids are home and your spare time just took a hit.  How do you maximize your time and minimize your stress?

  1. Google Calendar:  If you're not already using it, this is a magic bullet.  You can make a calendar for each family member and never miss an important lesson or meeting again.  If you want a brief tutorial, send me an email and I'd be happy to walk you through the setup.
  2. Unstructured Time: Choose a day each week that is unstructured.  No lessons, /, or plans of any kind. Give yourself permission to let go for a day, and them permission to make a mess, get dirty and act like kids.  You can doze on the couch and hose them off in the backyard at the end of the day. 
  3. House Care:  Spread your cleaning tasks throughout the week.  If you do a little bit a day, you'll never have to have a big crazy cleaning day.  Remember, ABC (Always Be Cleaning)! This could also be the time to splurge on a session or two with a house cleaner, or a maintenance session with your favorite home organizer.  :)  Just sayin'.  
  4. Watering:  Plant and lawn watering time can do double duty as fun play time in the sprinklers for the kids!
  5. Family time:  The San Mateo Fair runs from June 7th - 15th, other free things include hikes at Huddard Park, heading to Moss Beach to see the tide pools, and walking through the many wonderful neighborhoods in San Francisco.  
  6. Outdoor Time:  One friend takes her kids outside as much as possible.  The benefits are many - your house stays cleaner, they get to play and they are tired out by the end of the day and ready for bed.  Head to your local park and let 'em run.
  7. New Toys:  Now that the kids are home more, they have more opportunities to ask for and receive new toys.  This is a good time to start teach them "one in, one out".  If you explain that old toys will be going to a little kid that needs it, your kids will usually be excited to share!
  8. Craft Supplies:  Stockpile an arsenal of craft supplies, books and games: you're going to hear "I'm bored!", so be prepared.
  9. Snack Food:  You'll also hear "I'm hungry" at least 1,000 times.  Popcorn, veggie sticks and ranch, fruit, jello, and anything else you can make ahead (or buy already made from Trader Joe's) can be a sanity saver.  The last thing you want to do is be in the kitchen on a gorgeous day.  
  10. Laundry:  The kids are going to have more chances to get dirty during the summer, and that equals more laundry.  Doing a load a day is an easy way to avoid having to deal with a mountain of dirty clothes on a Saturday, when you'd rather be out playing with them.  That said...
  11. Keeping Clean (or not...):  Feel free to give yourself a break (while saving water,  and time spent bathing and doing laundry) and let them be a little dirty this summer.  Unless they've been playing in a mud puddle, most kids (and their clothes) can stand to go a day between washing and bathing.  

If you have any other simple summer solutions, please leave them in the comments section!


                                        This post brought to you by Jezebel the cat.

                                        This post brought to you by Jezebel the cat.

Favorite Organizing Items

There are certain items I find myself recommending over and over again.  In fact, I love them so much I use them in my own home and have included the photos below:

 

 

Piece of Furniture:  

For just about any storage need out there, the Expedit series from IKEA will allow customizable storage solutions in a neat, easy to maintain fashion.

 

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Storage Bin:

The most often recommended item in terms of storage are Sterilite’s Lapis Storage boxesfound at most Targets.  They are inexpensive and perfectly sized for a myriad of tasks from organizing pantries to under bed compartments.  The 16 quart size is useful for storing books as its size doesn’t allow it to get to heavy when full.   As a rule though, if a bin is going to be in plain site, not hidden in a closet, make sure it’s a solid color.  If you can see through it, it will always look messy.

Another favorite is Rubbermaid’s Clever Store line.  They have straight sides that allow you to use all of the space.  Target carries the green handled ones, but any from that line should be fine.

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Hangers:

The best hangers out there are Bed Bath and Beyond’s Heavyweight Hangers.  They are $6.99 for 12 and the best thing you can do for your closet is give it matching hangers.  Think of how nice the clothes look in stores…that’s mostly due to the matching hangars.  Don’t forget your $5 off $15 or 20% off coupons for BB&B.  They  accept “expired” ones so don’t throw old ones out.

The best hangers for coat closets are the wood ones called BUMERANG (ha ha!)  from IKEA. At $3.99 for 8, they won’t break the bank, but will make your coat closet look like a million bucks.

Clients often ask about the slimline hangers that are generally covered in a felt-like material.  I find that while, yes, they do allow you to shove more in your closet, your clothes now cannot breath from being so squished and wind up wrinkled.

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Closet Organizing Systems:

Honestly, the best thing you can do to organize your closet is pare down what you have in there.  So many people want to know what magical system from California Closets they should install,  but I personally feel those are just an expensive way to exacerbate the problem of having too much stuff.  They give you more drawers and shelves to pile things on, and if you already lean towards being disorganized, that is exactly what you don’t want.  A shelf and a hanging rod with a shoe rack for your shoes and some plastic bins on the shelf for miscellaneous items and off season clothing are really all you need.  If it doesn’t fit there, it doesn’t fit in your life.  If you have a walk in closet sized wardrobe, and only a 5′ wide sliding door closet, it’s time to have a stern conversation with yourself on how much of it you really need.  Sure you could squish more in, but our goal here is to simplify.

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Hostess with the Mostess

 

With Indian Summer firmly here and the holidays quickly approaching, I’m betting you will be having at least one houseguest between now and New Year’s.   Heck, you’ll probably BE a houseguest at some point as well.  What can you do to make that go more smoothly and not derail your organizing plans?  But what do visitors have to do with organizing?

Nothing messes up the fine aesthetic you’ve worked so hard to achieve like Cousin Johnny’s toys scattered in your kitchen; Aunt Linda’s curlers, lotions and potions scattered in your bathroom and dear sweet Uncle Bob’s muddy boots mucking up your entry way.  

So what do you do?  You make sure, you guessed it, that everything has a home.  The trick is to fool your guests into being neat and clean…you don’t actually need to point out that they are messy, just kindly show them the space you made for them.  Chances are, they will take the bait.

Much as the empty cabinets and vanities in hotel rooms are there to be filled and make you feel at home, providing a place for each of your visitor’s items will help them feel at home (and help you maintain your organized bliss).  Even if you don’t have a spare bedroom and they are couch surfing, chances are there is still a shelf in the bathroom you could clear off, as well as one in the hall closet.  

Some of the main considerations are:

  • A few hangers in a closet for their jackets and ironed shirts

  • A drawer for unmentionables

  • A spot in the bottom of a closet for their (now empty) suitcase or bag

  • An empty drawer or shelf in the bathroom for their toiletries

For bonus points:

  • Have a spare set of linens and towels that are just for guests…it alleviates the “oh S*** I haven’t had time to do laundry” moments (a bath towel, hand towel and 2 wash cloths plus a set of sheets should do the trick)

  • A spare pillow (not couch cushion) is also nice (and can be had for $4 at Target)

  • Fresh flowers and a candle (cliched but homey….think how stoked you’d be to walk into your guest room and see those!  Most people seem to love vanilla, steer clear of allergy inducing florals)

  • Some refreshments and snacks that are just for them, OR a shelf in the fridge/kitchen cabinet if they are going to be staying with you for a while.  It will give them a chance to shop for food and not eat all of yours!

If you’re going to be a (GREAT!) houseguest, please keep a few things in mind:

  •  You’re staying in someone’s house, not a hotel..it is not okay to leave your crap everywhere!  They are probably struggling to stay organized too.

  • If you have special dietary restrictions, it’s often best to bring your own food.  

  • You may be a “shoes on” type of person staying with a “shoes off” person.  Just keep your shoes off.  Even if they tell you it’s ok.  Really. They will love you for it.

  • A small hostess gift (under $10) makes hosts quite happy.   Flowers, a candle, a bottle of wine…it doesn’t need to be fancy, and it should preferably be consumable…you don’t want to add to their clutter!  When you accidentally track mud into their house, or cause their toilet to overflow, you’ll already have points in the bank and they won’t grumble as much!  Promise.

  • Don’t pack too much.  We are all guilty of packing at least 3 pairs of shoes and 5 tops more than we need.  Don’t do it.  Unless you’re visiting Auntie Elenas’s Chateau in the South of France, there probably won’t be room for your stuff.  Just put those alligator sandals back.  It’s snowing.  You don’t need them.

Having a houseguest (or being one) can be be a blessing or a curse.  Make it a blessing.  Enjoy the time you spend with them, and if they are doing something that is annoying you and easily remedied, just tell them.  Most of our loved ones really don’t annoy us on purpose and would love to be pointed in the right direction.

If you have any ideas to share on how to be an excellent houseguest or how you make your own guests feel welcome, please share them in the comments below! I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

Until next time, stay organized!

xoxo Kat

 

So Where Do I Start?

Ok Kat, I get it.  A Place For Everything and Always Be Cleaning. But how and where the heck do I even start? I have too much stuff and not enough time.

I get it…we are all super busy and change is super scary. We all have at least 5 roles we play in life, be it parent, child, spouse, significant other, friend, employee…and each of those takes so much time and energy that the thought of tackling anything else in the day is daunting.  I get it and I think that you understand by now that the more you have, the more energy you have to expend on it physically and mentally.  So your head is in the right place, but how do you get started?

Sometimes you just have to push through.  After procrastinating on posting this blog for the better part of this month (because I was busy, had clients, was out of town, etc. etc.), the stress of NOT doing it became too much to handle.  I wanted to take a nap this afternoon, was even in bed ready to do so, but I couldn’t sleep because I knew I needed to get this done.  So when I say, I hear you, I get where you’re coming from, I actually do.  My stumbling block may not be organizing, but we all struggle with something.   I’m writing this in hope that it will inspire you to push through.

Go to that first little drawer in your kitchen that’s messy and has 493 items in it that you probably don’t need, want or even remember owning.

Start there.  Start with that drawer.  Open it.  Take out a couple of the items and hold them in your hand.

Do you love them?

Are they special?

Have you used them in the past 2 months? Past year?

No?  Why do you own them?  Start small, throw something away, recycle something and put one more thing where it actually goes in your house.

How do you feel? A little better?  How many minutes did it take?  Was it scary?  Was it less scary than you thought it would be?  Did it maybe, just maybe, feel pretty good to start?

Let me know in the comments down below one item you tossed or donated and how it made you feel!

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Get Rid of It

So you finally made the decision to let go of a few things…now where should you take them?

Here are a few of my favorite places:

Electronics Recycling

Green Citizen: Free electronics recycling, electronics buybacks and data destruction services.  They have numerous Bay Area locations.


General Green Living

Recycle Works:  San Mateo county’s one stop resource for recycling, reusing and green living.  They  have a handy map that links to garbage and recycling collection in the county.  Click on your city to find out specific resources.


Bulky Item Pickup 

Recology:  They allow 2 bulky item pick ups per year.


Hazardous Material Pickup

Rethink Waste: They have a door to door pickup of haz mat.


Donations

Everyone has heard of Goodwill, but FreeCyclePick of the Litter, and St. Vincent de Paul’sare all great ways to get your things into new hands.

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ABC

IF you've worked in sales, you've probably heard the acronym ABC: Always Be Closing. I'd like to borrow that for a minute, with one small change. Instead of closing, cleaning. Always Be Cleaning. What Kat?? Always be cleaning?? No way. That sounds awful. Ok, but what sounds worse? Spending 5 minutes every day? Or spending 2 or 3 hours, or more, every week? And let's be honest, that 2 or 3 hours won't happen every week, but will most likely turn into 1 or 2 days you'd have to spend at the end of the month to really get things back into shape. Yuck. And when that doesn't happen, you'll be spending your 2 weeks vacation every year just digging out of the mess that's accumulated. Double yuck. There are picnics to be had and time to be spent with loved ones on your days off, why waste that time cleaning and organizing?

 

We already discussed Number 1 of (Cue dramatic music) The 2 Major Principles Of Organizing in a previous post. A quick refresh: Major Principle 1: A Place For Everything And Everything In It's Place. Everything you own has to have a home or you will never become organized. Major Principle 2: Always Be Cleaning, putting things back in their home, is the key to staying organized. ABPA (Always Be Putting Away ) isn't nearly as catchy as ABC, so work with me on this. I'm not saying you perpetually need a vacuum and some Windex in your hand, I'm just saying you need to make like an 8 year old and put your toys away when you're done playing with them.

 

Your goal is to have this be second nature. At first it will be “Oh, silly me, my keys don't go on the dining room table, they go on the key hook inside the front door. Let me go hang them up right now”. Eventually that will be replaced by hanging the keys up immediately upon walking through the door and voila, no lost keys, no extra clutter. When you're bringing in your mail, it gets sorted into recycle or filed immediately. Groceries get put away immediately. The bag and wrappers from In N Out go into the trash/compost immediately upon finishing the meal. Your kid's school books and papers go back into their backpacks as soon as they are finished with homework and the back packs go to their home by the front door on those hooks you have for them. Dishes get put into the dishwasher/washed by hand immediately upon finishing with them. And kids' toys. Don't get me started on kids' toys. If they are old enough to walk, they are old enough to start teaching “Put your toys away!”. Trust me, they will thank you later. And you'll thank me when you don't have to clean up a room that looks like Toys R Us exploded in it. Be their Mom, not their maid.

 

Please remember. This is a HABIT. It takes 21 days to establish a new one. Be patient with yourself, but be firm. No one is going to put your toys away for you, unless you really trained those kids well!! If you think I'm crazy and it's not really that simple, email me. We'll work through it and figure out how to get your place in order.   

A Place for Everything

And Everything In It's Place. Also known as Numero Uno of (drumroll!!) The 2 Major Principles Of Organizing. Hey, it's my blog, I can be silly if I want to. Ok, I know you've all heard that darn saying at least 8 million times since you were born. The thing is, it's 100% correct. If an item doesn't have a home, it's automagically clutter. It's sitting out, taking up space, becoming an eyesore, and ruining that Better Homes and Gardens poster house that's just itching to get out. Let's be honest though, it would really suck to live in a BH&G home. I'd be afraid to sit on the pristine furniture or leave out the book I was reading, but I digress. Somewhere between BH&G and the current clutter you're wading through is a happy medium. A place where it takes zero brainpower to know where something goes. It takes even less brainpower to know if you need a new roll of scotch tape because you have one roll, in the wrapping paper bin, and it's almost out and you already wrote it on your Shopping List. No second guessing, no “I know I bought a new one, and I know it's here Somewhere”. Oh the dreaded Somewhere. Let's banish Somewhere and replace it with I know EXACTLY where everything is. The end of sleepless nights, tossing and turning, wondering if you can find that kazoo you bought months ago that little Jimmy needs tomorrow at school for music day. Replace that with “Jimmy, please grab your kazoo out of the bin labeled “Music Supplies” in the garage and put it in your backpack”. Ahhh. Rest and relief.

 

So how do you get to a place where everything has a home? Well, I'm going to be frank you with. You need to let go of a few things. I know...I KNOW. You might need it one day. You very well may, but right now it's causing you a big headache. And one day you can buy another at the local store if you “really” need it, which I'm guessing you don't, because we really don't need a good portion of what we have. Phew. So where do you start? You start the reduction in one small drawer or nook or cranny (the actual process is a whole 'nother post), you finish that one small spot, and you go from there.

 

Once you're down to just having the items you need, love and USE, you have to make a home for them. If it's as extreme as laying the item down in a drawer or hanging it on a pegboard and drawing a line around it with a Sharpie, do it. If that's what it takes for that item to go back there, DO IT. You can also write the item's name on a Post It, stick the Post It where the item goes and place the item on top of it. Slightly less dramatic than the Sharpie Method, not nearly as fun. :) Here are a few more ideas:

  1. Group like items, then label the shelf:“Snack Foods”

  2. Group like items, then label the box: “Wrapping Supplies”

  3. Hang hooks for backpacks, towels, robes, keys, etc.

  4. Hang like items together, one home for sweaters, coats, pants, etc.

  5. Group like items in drawers: socks, underwear, shorts, etc.

  6. Group like items in bins: DVDs, home maintenance, light bulbs, electronic cables/parts, batteries, correspondence, hats, gloves, medicine, etc.

 

The bottom line is this: Gather together like items, keep them in once place and one place only, label the box, bin or shelf if necessary in either a temporary (Post It, label) or permanent way (Sharpie Outline).

 

If suddenly a new box of greeting cards appears and it doesn't fit in your “Correspondence” bin, you have three choices. You give it away, you keep it and give away/discard something else in the bin, or you buy a bigger bin. The last is only an option if you physically have the space for a larger bin and you know you will need to write more letters this year and the smaller bin just isn't cutting it. A bigger bin is NOT an option if you don't have room for it and if you're just using a bigger bin as an excuse to keep more stuff than you could possibly use in 3 lifetimes. Be honest.   

Paradox of Choice

The term paradox of choice stems from a study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper in which shoppers at a supermarket given more choices purchased less than those given fewer choices.  Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More that expands on the thought that the greater our choices, the more limiting they become.

Have you ever had that moment in a store where you just stand and look down the aisle of 40 soaps and walk out because you can’t decide?  Or you open your closet and look at all the shirts in there, but feel like you have nothing to wear?  That is the paradox of choice. At a certain point, our brain reaches overload  and it becomes impossible to make a decision.  Decision fatigue is rampant in our 24/7 society and while we may not be able to control things outside our home, inside it can be a refuge of calm and simplicity.

What can you do to help alleviate this fatigue?  Begin by paring down at home.  Instead of 10 white t-shirts, cut back to 5 (or 2!!).  Instead of 15 types of macaroni and cheese in your cupboard, eat through your supply, then replace it on shopping day with just one or two boxes.  These uncertain economic times trigger an intense survival response in people that can cause hoarding type behaviors.  The honest truth is that, while it’s good to be prepared with an emergency kit, chances are, we won’t need our stockpile and having too much stuff will cause us more psychological harm than good.  In such uncertain times, having an oasis at home to relax and rejuvenate becomes even more important for our mental well being.  

Here’s to simplicity.

 

est. 2007.  |  bonded and insured.  |  copyright 2014.  |  the simplified life.