Showing posts from 2015

Truly Living a Simple Life, or Not

Since my commute to work is a little over a half hour, I decided to try out audiobooks, both fiction and nonfiction, hoping it would help me enjoy my ride a little more. I have found that neither worked for me as I kept missing important parts of the book due to traffic, or the narrator. Recently, I started listening to podcasts and found they are a perfect morale booster for my day.

Today I listened to Playing it Safe on the Slow Your Home podcast series. Mark Shapiro discussed authenticity, both in how you live your life and daily truths. My last blog post discussed the Simple Life principles we live by; and I knew I wanted to write a follow up. The topic of authenticity helped me think about why I don't always feel I live a simple life

Overall, we are meeting the principles we set forth for trying to live a simple life. Daily, however, it doesn't always seem so simple. Over the past year, we have decluttered and I arrive home to a pretty cleaned-up house. The kitchen counter …

Principles of a Simple Life

Our journey to try and live a simple life has been relatively private so far. Although I write about it online, comment on other's blogs about it, and occasionally tweet about it, we have not discussed it personally with anyone outside of our house. When our daughter first came home from college in August, I explained some of it to her, and she, on her own, had already started to to adopt some aspects of it; but we haven't had any family discussions about it either.

A longtime friend agrees she wants to declutter and downsize her home (seems to happen as you age and children grow). A co-worker wants to do the same and live in a tiny house, as soon as she can get her husband on board. I think my boss has a capsule wardrobe, but may not call it that, and I feel I would offend her by asking.

We feel it is more important to just try and live our views, than to explain, proclaim, convince or whatever. We have always been rather private people about these topics to begin with. My u…

Acknowledging Other Perspectives

A different perspective created a more interesting picture. 
Teaching middle school students provides you many, many interesting situations. The variety of comments my classes came up with never ceased to amaze me. Silly, snarky, insightful, naive; words and sentences blurted out with few filters. Our Social Studies conversations could be rich or veer off course in a second.

Often, their comment was on track, but totally different than what I anticipated. A different life perspective created thoughts different than my own. I stopped, paused, thought, and agreed yes, that was another way to look at the situation.

Similar situations happen all the time in our lives yet how often do we stop and take the time to acknowledge another's perspective?

I’ve noticed I don’t always do this with other people in my life. I hear their thoughts and ideas, but I usually dismiss them because I have my own thoughts and ideas. This can happen at home, work, or when with a group of family.

At issue…

Why We Still Go Shopping

While we try to live a simple life with less, both belongings and in our daily life, we still go shopping when we need something; in other words, we have not instituted a shopping ban. A couple of times a week you will find us in the store, sometimes twice on a weekend, or maybe one weeknight and once on the weekend. So how does this fit into a simple life? The best I can sum it up as is that we shop with a purpose.

When my husband and I started dating, trips to the mall were a frequent activity that we liked to do together. Often we had no purpose in mind other than to spend some time together. As the years progressed, shopping as an activity continued sometimes with a purpose and sometimes without. Too often the trip with a purpose had us coming home with a lot of impulse items. All of this contributed to our home having too much stuff. It also turned into a pastime we handed down to our children. Need something to do? Let’s go shopping. Have two dollars from doing a job around the…

A Great Week with Gratitude

This past week was a good week, simple, low key and almost effortless. Of course life isn't perfect, but I think (hope!) that we have finally settled into a routine with everyone living at home. There was nothing on the calendar this week except work, which in and of itself went well. With the great weather, I walked outside five days this week, plus exercised inside for four. We ate healthy dinners together as a family and every one had time to relax in the evenings. I felt like I had a good, simple week.

Then I read this blog post, 9 Tips for Having a Great Day. The first line struck me:

"Whenever I have a great day I like to take some time  and reflect on what made it great."
It went on to say that sometimes its obvious to figure out what was great, but sometimes it is not. I'm sure I have read other posts with this theme, but for some reason, I started thinking that really, I had a great week! I just didn't notice it.

It was then I realized it is the small mo…

Typical, Daily, American Life

Many years ago, early 1997 to be exact, my sister's college assignment was to photograph typical, daily, American life. At that point, I am pretty sure she was living in a downtown efficiency apartment, part bohemian, and part wondering how to pay the next rent check. So, she called me up and asked if she could come photograph our family as it was at that time. We decided on a day when she could come over for dinner (bonus, free dinner for a college student!) and the photo session commenced.

As it is now, dinner was at 6 pm. Our family then consisted of myself, my husband and our two year-old daughter - oh, and I was pregnant, due in a couple of months. We tried to ignore her as we went about our usual routine of cooking dinner, and setting the table, our daughter helping with what she could. After grace, we ate dinner. Simple, fairly uncomplicated (minus the camera following in our kitchen) and nothing out of the ordinary for us. Her professor rejected her assignment because it w…

Simple Life - A Week in Review

To describe what I mean when I say Try a Simple Life, I think the tagline for my blog "Our search for a simple, low-stress, low-cost life" is pretty accurate. I have added the word "peace" to that description on occasion, and all of it still stands true. So how are we doing? Each week has its ups and downs, and some months go better than others, but this week went well.
Week in Review

In fact, this was a better-than-average week. Changing the time I leave for work was a very good decision. My drive is less stressful and I have been able to exercise three days, while still allowing plenty of time to make dinner afterwards. My husband and I even got in a few walks while dinner was cooking, bonus exercise and relationship time. We have had temperatures in the 70 degrees this week and since it can snow in November in Wisconsin, quite a gift. Therefore, two days of exercise were on my bike. My original goal for biking this year was 500 miles (all after work or on weekend…

Ways to Simplify Holiday Decorations

As we put away our Halloween decorations, my mind jumps to our Christmas decorations. Well really, the stores have had Christmas decorations in them for a few weeks, right along side the Halloween candy it seems. My mother had a few, simple decorations; but instead of following suit, somewhere along the way, ours got out of control. Actually, I can pinpoint exactly when that started.

Early in our marriage, we attended a church service where the deacon talked about how his wife would completely transform their home for the holidays. Their every-day decor would be replaced by holiday items, and he just loved coming home to the transformation.

Since this coincided with the first Christmas in our new home, I latched on to that idea full force and over the years made, and acquired, enough holiday decorations to completely transform our home for the holidays. I sewed curtains, scoured craft fairs, and accepted all the holiday-themed presents people wanted to give for my December birthday an…

When Storage Containers are a Good Idea

Amidst fanfare and propaganda, The Container Store recently opened in a nearby mall. This store can organize every aspect of your life, even things you didn't know you needed to organize! (Sorry, I never thought of buying storage containers for the inside of my refrigerator.)

A quick Google search for organizing your home yielded 58 million articles to to help you organize your stuff, including information from HGTV, to these 52 Brilliant Ideas. It is obvious that Americans own a lot, so much so that we need 58 million pieces of advice on how to organize it all.

Did I head to The Container Store's grand opening? Nope. I just drove past on my way to work and breathed a sigh of relief that I don't need storage containers. In fact, since our decluttering adventure began last February, we are slowly, yet surely, getting rid of storage containers. This batch went to Goodwill this weekend.
However, the title of this post is "When Storage containers are a Good Idea", s…

5 Hidden Costs of Our Belongings

The average American owns a lot. In fact, the Los Angeles Times stated the average U.S. household has over 300,000 items in it. Wow, that is a lot of stuff! As you look around your home, how often do you take into consideration the cost of all you belongings? Is that something you think about?

Sitting here in my living room, looking around at all we have, the first cost that comes to mind is the purchase cost of everything we own. How much did we pay for our couch? Or the chair I am sitting in? For insurance purposes, you may have done a mental calculation of what it would cost to replace all the items in your house. This is probably a pretty large cost, and the one people think of most often.

When we want to acquire a belonging, the first thing we think of is the cost to buy item. How much will it cost us to buy it? Can we get it on sale? It is a better value for our money than another option?

As we progress on our journey toward a simple life, I have been thinking about all the hid…

Tips for Times When Life Isn't Simple

Life has not been simple this past month. It hasn't been bad, but it has been different and at times, messy. As we rolled into Summer, I was very happy with the way we had tried to simplify our lives and have time on our side. Lately though, I feel like I am lost in the clouds.

I'm sure everyone feels this way at certain points in their life. Time doesn't stand still and with its movement come changes. Some are small adjustments, others are large challenges. Either way, they require us to adapt and weather them out. 
Our children, who graduated from high school and college, are now working full time and living at home. They are a blessing, but having a full house again has required some adjustments on our part. Added in were unexpected repairs to the cars and the house, which proved to be a little stressful (water backing up in the basement) and somewhat costly. My work has been extra busy requiring at least one night until 9pm, right after a weekend I spent out of town. U…

Taking Time to Relax

What do you find relaxing? Do you find listening to your favorite music relaxing? Are you a person who feels rejuvenated when you spend time outside or go for a walk? Maybe you need peace and quiet to relax and just be. Other people find it very relaxing to be with friends or family. Or do you have trouble identifying what is relaxing?

Identify what is relaxing

In trying to live a simple life, identifying what is relaxing is part of the process. Look for something that allows your mind and body to unwind and recharge. When you strip away all the distractions of daily life, the must-dos, the requests from others, can you identify what is relaxing?

Honestly, my first response is "It depends." What I might find relaxing one day, may not work the next. My moods tend to change and what appealed to me yesterday, might not today. I have a few go tos, like being outside, or finding a room that is peaceful and quiet for Yoga stretches.
Trial and Error: As I mentioned above, what I fin…

Commotion - Is it Good or Bad?

Commotion is all around us. Sometimes it is more prevalent, and sometimes we allow it to cause stress in our lives. How we view that commotion, is the impetus for it to be stressful.

The other morning, a lot of things were happening at once. My daughter and I were leaving the house for a charity walk at the same time our son was leaving for work. We could hear the noise from construction about a half mile away, and the neighbors were getting a new roof which necessitated a lot of workers, their trucks in the street, and many air guns to attach the shingles. We all started feeling the stress of the commotion.

My drive to work is full of traffic and I consider that commotion because it is always changing, always eventful, and usually stressful if I let it. Any number of things happening all at once, or as the dictionary defines it: a state of confused and noisy disturbance. This usually translate into stress.

So how can commotion be good, instead of bad? My feeling is in the way you ap…

Save Money by Being Healthy

What a goal, right? Save money and be healthy. Yes, I definitely would like to accomplish this goal! Today I was thinking about our food budget (which is never where I want it to be) and realized that I could spend less money and be healthier at the same time.This led me to think about other things I could try that would be considered healthy choices, and would save money.

Evaluating the things we spend money on, I could possibly eliminate or reduce them and replace them with something healthy.  For example, replacing a bag of chips with homemade popcorn costs less and is a healthy eating choice. Yes, it takes some time to make the popcorn, but it is so much better for us than a bag of chips. Additionally, the whole bag of kernels cost me under $2, which has has 27 servings of 5 cups of popcorn. If you do the math, that is 135 servings. One bag of chips costs us around $3, is full of salt, fat, and preservatives, and is no where near to as many servings as in a bag of popcorn. My hus…

Free Isn't Necessarily Free

Free is king in our house, and recently, I have been trying to evaluate each "free" item we happen upon. For you see, for us - free isn't necessarily free. Often there has been some associated cost, such as additional money, time, and/or clutter in our life. As I look back at all the free things we have accumulated over the years, this is what I found our "costs" to be:

Furniture: We have accumulated a lot of free furniture over the years through various means. When we moved into our first home, my parents gave us a set of dressers from my grandmother. While very nice, and made of solid wood, they showed wear and tear that prompted my husband to spend many hours refinishing. A similar story accompanies two beautiful, antique pieces of furniture in our living room. Both were salvaged from the end of people's driveways in our neighborhood, and both required many hours of refinishing along with the cost of stain and polyurethane. Our children are magnets for f…

Changing My Reading Habits

I am an avid reader and devour books, mainly fiction. Books with happy endings are the only kind of fiction I enjoy - edgy, distraught-filled books don't interest me. Non-fiction books interest me, but I don't often take the time to find ones that I would like to read. Blog posts interest me also, and I have been reading a lot of them lately using Feedly. 
Lately, however, I have not felt as satisfied with my reading. I am rushing through my reading. When I start a book, I can't put it down; I have to finish it. So I read while I am cooking dinner (yes, I have burned dinner because of this), I read while my husband watches a movie, I read during the news, I read after work. 
Reading like this, which I liken to "pigging out" on food, is not fulfilling anymore. In fact, I feel it is not adding anything positive to my life; in fact, at times, it is taking away from relationships. It is stressful. Basically, I have to finish the book. Often times, I am only half lis…

Career Advice to the New Graduate

What career advice would you give to a new college graduate today? If you were that graduate, would you take that advice?

Our daughter graduated from college this summer and is uncertain about the direction her life will head. Overall, she has a good head on her shoulders and graduated with a very nice grade point average. She is conservative in her spending and has a healthy bank balance from last year's summer job. Her credit card has been used minimally, just to build credit. There are no student loans or debt from going to school as we paid it in full. This past year's friendships have her realizing that people bring more happiness than things.

However, she isn't sure about what type of career to head into. My husband has one philosophy and I have another. Though both are colored by our own personal experiences at our age now, not at age 21, ironically, my husband's advice mirrors what he thought when we graduated from college.

Option 1: Get a corporate job, earn an…

Rushing Through Life

I rush through life. My mornings begin by jumping out of bed to the alarm clock. Then I rush through my shower, hair styling and makeup. I rush through my stretching exercises, breakfast, and phone feeds. I rush driving to work, getting to my office and reading my email. I rush through my job duties, my lunch, and driving home. I rush to make dinner and do anything else I want/need to do in the evening.

Are you stressed yet? I am! The question is why do I rush through everything?
Right now, the only answer I have is that I feel like I have too much to do, or that I always have something to do, or that I always have something I want to do. The purpose behind trying a simple life was to remove stress from my life. I am not successful at removing stress if I keep rushing.

Also, trying a simple life was supposed to create extra time in my day so I don't feel stressed. And it has! However, there are so many things I want to do with my extra time that I still find myself rushing so tha…

Saying No

Sometimes it is so hard to say No to someone's request while other times it's easy. There are many things that come into play when someone asks you to do something.If I already have another commitment at the same time, no problem. Sorry, I  say, we are busy. But if I am not busy and they know that (usually because the first question was "Are you free Saturday night?") I have a harder time of it. I think the guilt of being impolite or hurting their feelings comes into play.Our friends invited us to a concert and we were busy. I didn’t really look into the artist because well, we were busy. It turns out she had the wrong date and now we weren't busy. Once we looked into the artist, we weren't interested.Sure we liked the artist, but not enough to pay for it nor take our time to go. I felt guilty saying no. I explained why, but still it felt like an insult. The Japanese would never say no to an invitation. It is considered rude in their culture to do so. Now tha…