31 Days to Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Declutter Your Home

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Now that we have talked about what decluttering actually is, it is time to start the process of going through our homes and figuring out what is most important.

There are so many articles and books written about the *right* way to declutter your home, and I will have a post in a couple days with those resources in case you are interested, but here I am going to talk about what works best for me.

The easiest way for me to go throughout my home is to have a room by room approach.  The reason I do this is two-fold.  First, I have three small children, and if I tried to declutter a specific category throughout my entire house on one day, I would never have my house put back together.  Working on one room at a time helps me to concentrate on one area, and to see a.) if something even belongs in that room to begin with and b.) if it is something we actually need in our home.

This is something I tend to enjoy doing at the start of either the spring or fall seasons.  But, I have been known to start going through a room in February, after we have settled from all the holiday madness.  It is something that you don’t want to wait for the perfect time in order to start.  You just need to start.

If decluttering to de-own your stuff is really scary to you, start with the easy stuff.  Surface clutter.

Surface clutter is the bane of my existence.  Whenever I clean off a surface, it then starts yelling at the rest of my family “put your stuff here!”  I don’t know how many times I will have just cleaned off all of the kitchen counters, when my kids will start piling books they have read, LEGO they have put together, and they set it down on my clean countertop.  The same goes for my desk, and my command central table.

If your family does this, I recommend setting out a basket for you to put their stuff.  I have a pretty basket that I pile all the treasures into.  Eventually they come looking for it, or we have a 10 minute tidy and one person’s job is to put away what is in the basket.

Most of the time surface clutter isn’t something that we can completely de-own, because it is oftentimes bills (although if you have any ideas on de-owning bills – I have a couple – please share them!) and other paperwork.  We will get to how to deal with paper later.

Surface clutter can also be little items that you have in your home, that perhaps you wanted to decorate with at one point, but they no longer bring the joy to you that they used to.  Or along the same lines as my kitchen counters, try removing some of your appliances from the counter.  We keep all of our appliances in a cupboard, and it makes me so much happier to see nothing on the counter (except my coffee maker – which is something I see a heck of a lot of beauty in!).

When you reduce the amount of stuff you own, you will reduce the amount of time you need to take care of and manage that stuff, and it will give you freedom to use your time in ways that are important to you, rather than to take care of your stuff.

When you de-own your stuff, it gives you a mental boost as well.  Instead of worrying about all the things you need to take care of during the evenings, on the weekends, you are free to live your life, and to do the things that matter to you.

Having that weight lifted mentally is a huge positive.

We live in a home with only 1 closet, and that closet is actually a second floor entry that Matt hung up shelves for us to use as a clothes closet – and we do hang all of our clothes in the closet for the entire family.  Because we don’t have a lot of closet space, we can’t keep a lot of clothes all the time.  The options are either to store them in totes in the attic (which we tend to do with off-season clothes and hand-me-downs for the kids), or to hang them in our closet.  Because I have very little space, I tend to only keep the items that I really love and wear.  This is the same for my kids and husband. 

Because of this one closet craziness, we are unable to store a lot of stuff away from the public eye.  So we have the interesting dilemma of living in a large house with nowhere to hide stuff.  Instead, most of what we own is out in the open.  This can cause a lot of stress for me because I don’t like to see all of that mess all over the place.  And no matter how many basket systems I work out with my kids, it is too overwhelming to them.  So we try to have less, and that gives the kids the ability to take care of their items without feeling overwhelmed.

Have you sent your kids into their bedroom or playroom before when the floor is covered in LEGO and Shopkins, princess dolls, and yarn? OK so the yarn is probably slightly unique to my home.  Usually what happens is my kids will work for about 15 min and come down either saying they are finished (they are most definitely not), or being so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that they are crying and are paralyzed unable to clean it up. 

It is overwhelming to them to deal with everything out at once.  And while I would love to say the “take one toy out, use it, put it away” approach is a great one, it isn’t realistic, at least not in my home.  My kids like to make elaborate scenes for stop motion movies using any and everything they can get their hands on.  I love that creative play, so I have to make adjustments to my attitude about what comes out when.

If they have fewer toys, they are able to easily take care of them. 

At first you might think that taking away toys will lead to boredom.  And it might at first.  But, I noticed that when the kids have a clear space to play, and only a few options, they play longer, and happier together, than when they have everything at their fingertips.

Start with making it a point to de-own.  Do not bring new stuff into your home just because it is newer, or prettier, or the kids might like to use that.  Then go through each room of your home and weed out what you really, truly do not need.

What is the one area of your home that you are most concerned with de-cluttering?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Declutter or De-own

You had to know the D word was coming, didn’t you?  Decluttering is something that is a bit of a buzz word these days.  If you just declutter your home, life will become a happy place for you and your family.  Of course that isn’t completely accurate, but decluttering is an important part in the simplicity process.

Now, when we talk about decluttering, we do not mean MINIMALISM – although if minimalism is the direction you and your family want to go, more power to you.  In fact, I will say that I would love to be a minimalist, but my family does not entirely agree with everything I say about minimalism, so we need to compromise.  That is what family is about, right, compromise.  If you are single, this is all about your decisions, but if you have other people in your household, make sure you involve them in this process…otherwise it doesn’t work.

I feel like I have been decluttering for years, and honestly I have.  I could not, for the life of me, figure out why year after year I was still giving away garbage bags full of stuff.  Well, part of that reason is because we have growing children, each year they grow out of clothes and toys, and we are able to move forward, but there is another problem…and I would bet you have this problem too.

I didn’t make this connection until I listened to an episode of the Slow Your Home Podcast a few months ago.  Brooke said she had heard a quote from Joshua Becker and when she said it, it resonated with me completely.

Don’t just declutter, DE-OWN.

This is so incredibly simple yet also a bit of a slap in the face. 

I am really great at going through a room and trashing all the stuff that is no longer working, necessary, fitting, etc.  However, if you then let that same stuff (in newer working order) come back into your home, you have accomplished nothing.

Now, that isn’t always something you can control.  There are birthdays and holidays that often come with more stuff, but there is also the everyday, when you make a *quick* trip to Target to get some more all-purpose spray, but walk out with a new top, three toys for the kids, that thing you thought you might need at some point, and look it is on sale.  $100 later, you have a bunch more stuff that you probably do not need, and yet you now bring it home and try to find a place for it.

If you are spending time organizing constantly, then you are not decluttering.  Instead you are just moving stuff around trying to make it look aesthetically pleasing, but not actually finding that lightness that we talked about yesterday.

Some fun examples for you from my home.

I love books.  I read books all the time.  My kids use a literature based homeschool curriculum.  We have a lot of books.  In fact, I often receive books in the mail from publishers to review.  It is a wonderful thing, free books.  But, you know what, a lot of these books are not books that I love and will read again.  So why am I holding onto them?  Honestly, I have a hard time saying that I won’t need something again (this will bleed into the next example), and books are something that I want to fill my home with.  However, I am usually able to say that I won’t read that book again, and just because my kids might one day also want to read that book is not a reason I should hold onto it.

So I started donating books to the library.  Now I know if I want to read it, all I have to do is stop at the library and check it out – also, funny thing about libraries, they are filled with books.  If I find that I am repeatedly checking out one specific book, I can purchase it and add it to my collection, but it if is a one off, well then it can stay at the library.

The next example is dishes.  We have a lot of dishes.  I *think* that we are going to entertain, so obviously we need all these dishes.  In reality we only use all these dishes a couple times each year, so we store them.  And we don’t even store them well, they are sitting on top of my armoire as we speak – see!

please ignore the tablecloth and headphones...Lucy isn't quite ready to leave these things alone so they go where she cannot reach them!

I think that having extra dishes is fine if I am constantly entertaining, but I’m not.  And more often, if we are entertaining, there are a lot of kids involved and we go the paper plate route – it makes more sense for my family.  Now, you may entertain every week with beautiful tablescapes, and you need those dishes.  I do not.  So this weekend I am going to pack them up and donate them to Goodwill.

You may think that decluttering is almost an every season occurrence, and that can be true when it comes to kids’ clothes and toys.  There are things that can always be weeded out of your home.  But, when you go through your home to declutter, you should look at it as de-owning, not just decluttering.

Tomorrow we are going to talk more about how to actually go through our homes to de-own our stuff.

What is one thing that you have trouble de-owning in your home?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Goals & Dreams Resources

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Over the past few days we have been talking about our dreams, and how they are not so out of reach if we can break them down into smaller goals.  Goal setting, and even dreaming, can be a bit overwhelming, so I wanted to share some of my favorite resources for these two very important parts of life.

At the end of 2013 I had hit a wall.  I wasn't living the life that I wanted, and it all kind of culminated right at the end of the year.  It was at that point that I drew a line in the sand, and realized that I wanted to live differently, I didn't want to float along, I didn't want to continue to people please.  I wanted to reach my dreams.  You may have had a similar experience in your life where you said "enough is enough, let's get this done."

In early 2015 I bought three books that were life changing for me.  Each one spoke to similar things, but were all from different points of view.  These books I continue to read and refer to, and recommend over and over again.

Make it Happen by Lara Casey - This book is all about, you guessed it, making it happen.  Taking your dreams and turning them into reality.  Realizing that you are able to do what you want, you just need a plan to get there.  It is incredibly motivational and gives you a good kick to get things going.  When reading this book, you may want to have a notebook handy because you will definitely be coming up with some amazing ideas you hope to implement in your life.

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst - The tagline of this book is amazing "making wise decisions in the midst of endless demands."  We all feel like we have so much stuff commanding our time, which is part of the reason we want to simplify, but giving ourselves permission to say no to the things we really do not want to do is difficult.  Telling anyone no is something that can cause a large amount of stress in your life.  It did for me, however, once you make the commitment to say no instead of always saying yes, it is incredibly freeing.  Lysa gives some very practical wisdom about making the right choices for you and your family.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson - An amazing book talking about how you only get one life with your family, and you want to make it count.  Sally is a wealth of knowledge on parenting and homeschooling, and how to incorporate what is important for your family (that family mission statement and values) and turning those ideas into an amazing family culture.

The last item I have is not a book to read, but a book to interact with.  It is the 2018 PowerSheets Goal Planner by Lara Casey.  Now, these have not been released quite yet, but they will be before this month is through and I will be back with more info about them when they are available.  I started using this goal planner for the first time in January, and it has been amazing to really get to the bottom of what my goals are and the small steps required to reach them.  

I also will recommend writing down your goals and dreams.  Keep them handy so that you know what  you are working towards!  When you accomplish small goals that are leading to that big dream, celebrate it!

Do you have a dream that you fear is too big?  What are some small steps you can take now to move towards that dream?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - How Simplicity Provides Freedom

Over the past several days we have been working on our big picture dreams, and figuring out how to break those down into goals.  But, I know what you are asking yourself, how does simplicity provide freedom?

We have managed to define that simplicity looks different for everyone.  Just because someone thinks of simplicity as living off the grid does not mean that is your definition of simplicity.

But how does simplifying your decisions, your finances, your outside obligations, even your possessions, give you freedom?

You will find that when you start to simplify your life, your heart will be lighter.  You will have the option to be more carefree, instead of worrying about the next thing.  Simplicity means lightening your load, and when that happens you will find peace and freedom in that simplicity.

It may sound strange, and you may think to yourself, what does that even matter?  But, when your heart is lighter, your entire outlook on life changes.

Does this mean there will never be difficulty – absolutely not, and in fact there are times when it will be more difficult.  Stepping off that main path, taking a detour when everyone says the direct route is right in front of you, can be difficult.  I can’t say that everything will be easy from here on out, as we have discussed before just because you are striving for simple living, or simplicity, does not mean that life becomes easy, far from it.  However, when we strive for simplicity, the freedom, the lightness that simplicity provides will change our perspective.

Remember that when you are simplifying your life, your decisions, your finances, you are saying no to the things that are not bringing value to your life, or that you do not value to begin with.  This makes so much more room for the yes that you want to say.  Instead of having to say no to something you are passionate about, you are able to say no to the things that aren’t important to your family’s mission, and say yes to that one thing that is so important.

As we move through the rest of this month, we will be going through some ways to actually make those changes, practical tips that will help you to simplify your life.  You are not trying to fit yourself and your family into one idea of simple living or simplicity; rather you are making your own way.  Knowing yourself and your family is very important in this project, so I recommend going back and looking at your family mission statement, and your list of values.  What is the most important thing for you?

What is one thing that you can remove from your life today that will create lightness in your heart?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Dreams into Goals

Yesterday I talked about how sometimes setting goals can hold you back from reaching your dreams.  I’m sure that some of you thought I might be crazy.  But, honestly, when we set goals, we sometimes set the bar a little too low because we are afraid of failure, and those big dreams we have seem so far out of reach. 

However, I also said that setting goals is part of the process of reaching your dreams; I just wanted you to start dreaming first.

How do you set goals? 

There is the tried and true SMART method of setting your goals.  It needs to be Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.

That R is always the hang up for me.  In the actual acronym I believe Relevant is the term that is used, but Realistic works just as well here.  Realistic.

Well, my guess is that some of your dreams, which need goals to be achieved, will not be completely realistic.  This is the main reason I wanted us to think about our big picture dreams yesterday, without “realistic” holding us back. 

It is easy to get to realistic and then start to doubt yourself.  Is this something you could really do?  It doesn’t seem very realistic to live off the grid, it doesn’t seem realistic to not involve the kids in a lot of extracurricular activities and instead do one activity together as a family, it isn’t realistic to live in a small house with the number of kids you have, it isn’t realistic to not take out a car loan, or not use credit cards.

But, what if it is realistic to do those things?  You only need to change your thinking.

This is something that is incredibly difficult to do, and we have been talking about it a lot over the past several days.  There are things; finances, possessions, commitments, relationships, that are holding you back.  How can you change your thinking in order to accomplish these dreams and goals?

The difficult part about setting goals after dreaming is that it can take a long time – the T part of the SMART goal. 

I am someone who likes to have everything done immediately.  If I make a decision, I want the finished result as soon as the decision is made.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work this way.  In fact, it rarely works this way.  What about you?

Most likely the reason that feeling is alive and well is because of the instant nature of our lives today.  If you want to watch TV, you turn on the TV, if you are bored there is the internet, binging something on Netflix, an iPhone that has a constant source of game apps that you can mindlessly play (I am a big fan of Solitaire – geek I know!).  You don’t have to wait for much of anything these days, and that has caused a lot of us (me included) to think that as soon as we decide on something it should happen.  And when it doesn’t immediately happen we can begin to get discouraged.

How do we combat against losing hope when setting goals to reach our dreams?

Set smaller goals, and set them more often.

When you look at your big picture dream, the next step is to break it down into smaller pieces.  Your dream is going to be this huge, almost unattainable, pie and the sky notion, but when you sit down with that dream, you need to make it into smaller pieces so that you can start to reach that dream.

Perhaps your dream is to travel around the country with your family for a year.  Awesome dream – it is something I would love to do.  However, you have debt.  Or your job doesn’t allow you to work remotely.  Or maybe you are so involved in your community that if you left for a year you feel like everything would completely fall apart (this isn’t the case, people are surprisingly resilient when it comes to change).  Pick one of those things, and break it down even further to accomplish that one goal – become debt free.

It will help if you work backwards.  If you want to do x then you need to do y.  If you want to do y then you need to do z, and so on – although you might want to start earlier in the alphabet!

Once you have looked at your big picture dream, and then made a list of smaller steps to actually get to that big picture dream, then you are ready to make your SMART goals. 

Look at those smaller steps, each of those should be the start of a goal.  Some of these smaller steps might have multiple goals attached to them.  If being debt free is one of your smaller steps, you are going to need to break that down even further.  “I will pay off x by such and such a date by working an extra job, making my lunch at home, by not buying coffee every day etc.”

This is how you make your dreams reachable.  While it is wonderful to day dream about what you want out of life, unless you begin to proactively break down that dream into manageable steps with goals attached, it will continue to be way down the line, always just out of reach.

When you look at your big picture dream, are you able to work backwards to see some of the smaller steps necessary to make that dream a reality?

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Dreams

There seem to be two types of people in this world, those who give it their all and continue to reach their dreams, and those who make excuses as to why it just isn’t happening.

I happen to fall in the second camp.  I am really great at figuring out what I want to do, but not so great in coming up with the steps to achieve that dream.  In fact, I bet a lot of us fall into that second camp.  Do you see the life that you want, but are unsure of how to get there?

When you think about your dreams, do you tend to make excuses as to why they can’t or won’t happen?  Today, it is easy for you to have so many things going on in life that it seems impossible to be able to move forward with your dreams.

There are bills to pay, there are mouths to feed, there are responsibilities that you have.  You are frustrated with your circumstances, you can’t figure out how to get from point A to point B.  You know that you are on the cusp of some big accomplishment, but for some reason it feels like it is constantly just out of reach.

Now, most people will tell you that you need to write your goals in a SMART way, and then you will be able to reach them.  Honestly, SMART goals are really really important in the process, but sometimes you don’t know how to measure your progress, or it might not seem quite attainable.  This is when it can start to be frustrating.  You see the big picture, you see the end result, but you have no clue on how to get there.

You are letting things hold you back.  Your relationships, your possessions, your finances, all of these things can hold you back from reaching your dreams, but only if you let them.

It is a hard reality to face, and one that my husband and I have been discussing a lot lately.  What exactly is holding us back?  What changes do we need to make in order to live out our passions?

We live in a very old house.  It needs a lot of work.  We got a lot of work done when we first bought the house, and then babies and bills started to arrive on our doorstep, and it was no longer feasible to do as much work as we had been doing. 

It is often a heavy weight on us.  We seem almost at a standstill as to what is next because we have this big home that needs a lot of work.  We struggle because we are blessed to have a nice big house that easily fits everything we own, and everyone has space.  But, it also is a weight on us, always looking ahead, but never quite being able to grasp what it is that we want.

Fear plays a big role in this.  You know what you want, but you also know that it is going to take some unconventional means to get there.  It isn’t as easy as getting job x in such and such a country and going up the corporate ladder – that doesn’t seem to be the dream anymore.  Now the dream is different, it is not main stream, and it is off the beaten path.  You don’t have a compass or a map to figure out where to go next.

When you start to simplify the things of life around you, possessions you don’t care much about, commitments that you really aren’t committed to, relationships that may be doing more harm than good, you are able to start to see some of the freedom to reach for your dreams.

You can get stuck in the rat race, or if you are feeling that there must be something more, you can jump off the track and start to dare to do more.  When you let those expectations go, either from others or from yourself, you can start to move forward towards those dreams, and they don’t seem so far off anymore.

Instead they seem to be within your grasp.

Do you have a dream or goal that you think is a bit unconventional?  I would love to hear about it!

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Values

Last week we spent a good amount of time trying to figure out why we find freedom in simplicity – and also how to manage decisions based on what is important to our family.  Today I want to expand a bit on our values, and what that means for our everyday lives.

When you look at your normal day to day, what do you see as the main components?  It could be a number of things.  For me, I see my job as a wife and mom – a keeper of my home, my job as a homeschooler, and my job as a writer and content creator. 

Each of these three jobs is incredibly important to me.  They are all jobs that I have been lucky enough to choose on my own.  I was not forced into any of them, and I do them because I want to.  However, as in most parts of life, there is definitely a pull for what is most important.

When you think about what is most important, you can typically go to your personal or family mission statement and make a decision based on what you have written there.  But, what happens when it is all important?  You have removed the urgent from your life, and instead you are working with a finite amount of time to do the most important items in your mind.

What happens?  Well, an awful lot of stress ensues.

You know that what you are doing is important, and all of these items are part of your big picture, but how do you prioritize and get it all done?

The easy answer – you can’t get it all done.

The much longer and difficult answer is that you again have to stop and then re-evaluate.

It is easy to get swept up in the everyday needs of life.  Last fall I was so overwhelmed, and honestly that feeling did not subside until recently.  I thought that I had it all figured out.  I had found a great rhythm for my family.  I was getting my extroverted daughter into a lot of classes, which I thought she needed to thrive (only to find out I may have gone a bit overboard).  I started to make time for friends again in my own life (being an introvert with three littles at home all day every day makes wanting to be social not much of an option).  I was quickly advancing in my content creation. 

It was all too much of course, and instead of thriving as a family, we kind of crashed and burned.  Realizing that my oldest, while very social, perhaps didn’t need to be involved in so many activities, and really only wanted to have her public school friends over more often than we had been able to do during the school year.

Even though all of these things were important, and they were measured against our family mission statement, they started pulling us with the current.  Instead of being actively involved in the everyday, we would go through the motions of trying to get to the next thing, wondering when we would get home and get a break.

Have you ever felt that way?  The decisions that you had made for you or your family start to sweep you away on path you weren’t expecting?

When you start to reevaluate, it can either show you that for this season you are going to be busy (we all have busy seasons), or you may realize that you can make some small changes to come back to the path that you originally set out on, instead of falling into the current and being dragged kicking and screaming – maybe that was just me that happened to…

If you look at your values, and you see that family time is really important to you, but your kids are involved in several activities each week that pull your family apart, is there a way to let go of one or more of those activities so that you can be together for dinner several days each week?  Is there an activity that your entire family can participate in instead of individual activities?

I love how Renee’s family has made it a priority to do a family sport, rather than individual sports mainly because she wants to be with her family, altogether. 

Now, I’m not much of a sports person at all, I prefer reading to running, but finding an activity that we could do as a whole family is something that I have wanted to try for a while.  What is holding me back?  Fear mainly.  Fear that my kids will not be happy unless they are in organized activities.  I think more often they just enjoy doing the activity, and are less concerned with the way it happens.

If you think about only the things you really want to do – what would they be? 

Would you want to write?  Would you want to read?  Would you want to be outside in nature?  Would you want to cook your food from scratch?  Would you want to travel the country in an RV, or move into a tiny house?  What do you value most?

What is holding you back from doing that?

We have these dreams and ideas, but no real way to accomplish them.  Instead of working towards our dreams, we stay in the monotony of the everyday, doing what we think is necessary to fit in with life, to be normal, to make sure that we aren’t screwing up our kids.

What if instead of working on that ground level, you started to look up more?  Take steps towards reaching those seemingly unreachable goals.  Would that change how you feel about the decisions you do need to make, if you start looking at your dreams not just as dreams, but as what your life will be in x amount of time?

What is holding you back from living that set of values, and reaching your dreams?