When I was pregnant with my son, I didn't have very many maternity clothes. Two friends who were finished having babies gave me some stuff, and my mom found some pieces on Facebook sales groups, of all places. I bought exactly one shirt, a pair of jeans, and two dresses for church and baby showers.
I was not thrilled about my expanding shape and didn't want to buy clothes to support it. Still, I thought the lack of outfits would drive me crazy.
It couldn't have been further from the truth.
Along with diet ads and ways to save money, January is often filled with encouragement to organize your home and implement new routines. But why bother? Your spouse may not be interested in going along with your changes. Your kids will just mess up the house again. No one will follow the new routines. And you'll just get discouraged and revert back to the norm.
But it doesn't have to be that way at all.
Did your university have a drop-add period? Mine did. It was the eponymous window of time each semester in which you could drop a class you didn't want and/or add a class you did.
And in four years of college, I never once dropped a class, even ones that I could tell were a bad fit from the start.
It's been a running theme in my life to hold on to things, even when they no longer serve me (or never did to begin with). Somewhere along the line, I had unknowingly ascribed to the theory of "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't,” and I’d taken that to heart. But as I've learned lately, the first step to simplifying your home, your schedule, and your life, is to get rid of stuff.
In other words: drop the class, Em.
It’s not a popular theory. When it comes to simplifying, we like our quick fixes. We want five easy steps to organize our pantry, shiny new plastic storage boxes for our closets, or whatever latest and greatest cleaning fad from Japan or Sweden or Outer Mongolia is currently sweeping the nation.
The reality is much more pedestrian than that. The easiest (but hardest!) way to simplify your life is to get rid of what you don’t use – specifically, items or responsibilities that doesn’t serve you anymore. If you’re looking to simplify by buying more things (self-help books, containers, etc), then you’re doing it wrong.
It still feels weird to say this, but tomorrow is my last day of work. I started my job, as an associate editor for three local business publications, about a month after we moved back from France in 2015. I was still licking my wounds from the mentally abusive job I’d had before we left, and I was struggling to find my place and my passion. This job, part-time from the start, gave me a sense of identity, a purpose, but also some breathing room to settle back into life in the U.S. and discover what I truly wanted to do.
Fast-forward three years and one baby, and suddenly that “blessing” of a job wasn’t such a blessing anymore. I was stressed out, snapping at my son and the dog, begging my husband to leave work just five minutes early every day because I was so frazzled I couldn’t take being on my own. I was resentful of my colleagues, and I regularly turned in sub-par work. And so, after much painful deliberation, I gave my two weeks’ notice.
The change was almost immediate. Suddenly I began taking more deep breaths, slowing down. I became more patient with my son, more relaxed as a mother. Not every de-cluttering mission is this successful this quickly, but for me, saying no to a job that no longer fit was critical.
If you’re thinking of organizing your home or your life (or both!), the first and most important step is to get rid of the junk. It's surprisingly hard work. You'll be amazed at the emotional attachments or reasons for keeping something. It's so much easier to just stuff everything back in the closet and keep on keeping on. But that's no way to simplify your life.
For anyone who is struggling to toss old belongings or well-established commitments, I'll give you two key questions to ask yourself. They sound overly simple, but the best things usually are. Be honest, brutally so, with yourself.
1. Does it serve me right now? // Here’s the thing about old jobs, old jeans, old boyfriends, old everything: at one point, they were new. And most likely, they served you very well in the beginning. But if something doesn’t work for this stage in your life, don’t be nostalgic about letting go.
I recently cleaned out my closet, and I got rid of all but one of my pencil skirts and dress blouses from when I worked at a wealth management firm. They still fit and were in good condition, but I didn’t need them anymore. Same with my job. It wasn't inherently bad, it just wasn't working with my current life stage.
2. Can it be easily replaced if circumstances change? // This is difficult, particularly where schedules are concerned. It was certainly the hardest for me when I was deciding to quit my job. What if I wanted it back? What if, for some reason, we needed my income again? What if I put my son in preschool a few days a week and decided I wanted to work again?
Ultimately, I decided that holding on a (not very well-paid) job that was stressing out both my family and myself was not worth the off chance that I might change my mind down the road. I’ve remained on good terms with my publisher and editor, and the door to freelance work is open to me if I want to take it. Knowing that, stepping down from my editor role was much easier.
Your decision may not be that clear-cut, but it's likely that whatever you're struggling to toss may still be available to you, in some form, in the future. Physical items, aside from family heirlooms, are easily obtained. Most extracurricular activities, and volunteer opportunities are able to be resumed when the time is right. And while the exact job or relationship you had may not be available, finding a new one might be the best move you could possibly make.
In a society that encourages you to have more and do more, thoughtfully and consciously deciding to let go of what no longer serves you may be the most radical act you could commit - and the one most likely to bring you the simplicity you crave.
Have you chosen to get rid of something that no longer serves you? Tell me about it in the comments! I'd love to hear from you!
If I asked you what the above image was, what would your answer be? A toy giraffe? Maybe if you're a parent, you know it by its proper name: Sophie La Giraffe. Either way, you wouldn't be wrong. But this little slobber-covered rubber toy is so much more.
One of the best ways I've found to grow a life that's simple yet still abundant is to appreciate what you already have. Celebrate your victories. Mark your progress. What you use as a marker might surprise you.
Running a household and keeping a family organized is serious business. And the way you and your spouse approach it can sink you or save you. Today, I'm giving you a glimpse into how we jointly manage our household and what's worked for us.
The Back Story:
Shortly after we began a gluten-free lifestyle, we subscribed to a weekly produce box from a compilation of local farms. We chose what produce we wanted, and the box was delivered to our doorstep every week. It was incredibly convenient.
Except for choosing the produce each week. And then deciding what to do with it.
Brian and I share meal planning and cooking duties fairly equally. I didn't want to choose each week's produce and plan meals by myself. But trying to make the 2:00 p.m. Tuesday order deadline for our Saturday delivery was becoming a problem.
One question that's been on my mind a lot lately is this: how long am I considered a "new mother"?
If I had to guess, I'd say you're considered a new mother until your kid turns one, max. But even now, with a barely-five-month-old, I feel like I'm expected to be an old veteran. I mean, my kid breastfeeds like a champ and sleeps through the night. I've lost the baby weight and successfully transitioned back to working from home. Why am I complaining about feeling lost? I basically have the holy grail of babies!
A couple of months into my work-at-home-mother journey, it became obvious that something needed to change. I had the time and ability to do everything I needed to do. But somehow, every day was a disaster. Every second of my time was taken up, but somehow I was getting nothing done. And my nerves were frayed to the breaking point.
I washed dishes while I waited to hear back from colleagues or interview sources. I checked work emails while feeding and playing with Graham. When I got a few minutes to myself, to refill my tank, all I wanted to do was sleep. By the time Brian got home from work, we'd eat dinner, and then I'd hand Graham to him and go upstairs to get a few, elusive quiet minutes to myself - inevitably interrupted by a screaming baby who wanted his dinner.
We got our first taste of fall last weekend here in South Carolina. The temperatures dropped to the mid-60s at night, and we slept with the windows open. That was one of the best nights' sleep I'd gotten in ages - and not just because I have a four-month-old.
Nothing fires up my heart and makes me happier than the changing of the seasons. I really, really don't like summer, so the arrival of fall is particularly welcome. Maybe it's just the memory of all the years of going back to school, but the transition from summer to fall makes me feel so alive, so hopeful, so motivated, and joyous. Pumpkin spice cappuccinos don't hurt, either.
But though I love the changing of the seasons weather-wise, when seasons change in my own life I fight it tooth and nail.
Is anyone else singing that old Shakira song in their heads now? No? Just me? Fine. The cheese stands alone.
It's not the end of the month, but at this point time is basically one big joke - every month has, on average, 30 days, except the last month of pregnancy which lasts roughly three and a half years. However, I've somehow managed to read things despite my insane pregnancy brain, so here's your Books on Tap. A little late. Oh, well.
Yeah, yeah, I know March is the month that's supposed to come in like a lion, out like a lamb. But this is South Carolina, and apparently we do this in February. Add in some personal crazy and some birthday and baby shower fun, and not a lot of reading got done this month. Ah, well, practice for after baby comes, right?