Simplicity: New Life

simplicity copyI was torn on whether to share today’s post under the “simplicity” tag or not. But then I reminded myself that this series isn’t necessarily about only sharing tips and tricks for living a simple life. It’s about what simplicity means to me. Keeping that in mind, this post is completely appropriate here.

I mentioned last week that we had a new nephew coming “any day now.” Well, the wee hours of Saturday morning was that day! Will’s sister sent me a text message during normal waking hours on Saturday morning letting us know that she’d had her baby.

Holding this tiny person was a huge reminder to me of just how simply we all start out. We have nothing. We can’t do anything for ourselves. We can’t even maintain our own body temperatures at first. Talk about simple creatures! It’s fascinating to me that we go so quickly from that – a tiny, helpless infant – to adults so absorbed in ourselves and in maintaining busy-ness.

I know that we’re not babies anymore. I know that we can’t revert back to that completely innocent stage; heck, I’m not sure I’d want to. But at the same time, it was so peaceful and nice to just hold the sleeping infant and appreciate the intense simplicity that is his life.



Simplicity: How to Maintain it in a Big House

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We live in a pretty big house. I don’t know exactly what the square footage is, but the house has four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, two living rooms, two stories, and a two-car garage. It’s bigger than we need, but the story behind how we came to live here is rather remarkable. Long story short, the owner called us and offered us the house for a very reasonable price. We jumped on it for two reasons. First, we’d just had Small Fry less than six months before, and we were living in a 2 bedroom apartment. We weren’t feeling crowded yet, but he hadn’t started moving yet, either. Second, the house is way closer to the places we go frequently (namely Will’s book signings and our church) by about half an hour.

It would have been easy to look at the bigger house and say, “We need a bunch of new stuff to fill this place.” But we didn’t. Living in a big house wasn’t an excuse to lose our minds – and our convictions. We have only two pieces of furniture in the house that we didn’t have in the apartment: a coffee table that was left by the previous tenants (they asked us if we wanted it) and a chair for Will. We got rid of our old couch, though, so we’re still ahead in the “keeping stuff limited” game. (Not by numbers, but by volume/annoyance factor next time we move.)

I know I mentioned before that simplicity is not the same as minimalism, and I still believe that to be true. However, I do find – at last for my family – that mostly-minimalism helps us. This concept goes well with last week’s post, now that I think of it. What’s the point of minimalism? To be able to live a less stressful life because you’re not burdened by stuff. What’s the point of simplicity? To live a saner, less stressful life.

Just because we moved into a house that roughly doubled our square footage, that doesn’t mean we suddenly had to give up our lifestyle. So I guess that’s my advice on this topic: Decide (or realize) why you want to live a simplicity oriented lifestyle, and make your decisions based around that goal. If you wind up living somewhere that is perfect in the moment but could easily detract you from your desire to live simply, don’t let it. It’s okay to have a sparsely furnished home. Use things like colored walls and paintings and bedspreads and curtains to make it warm and inviting. Keep the things you need and little to nothing more. Another good trick is to use consumable things to make your home cozy. A few well placed candles all around the house and a nice bar if soap in your bathroom are lovely.

How do you keep your big house running simply?



P.S. If you’re an email only reader, pop on over to the website today and check out my new design – I love it and would love for you to see it!

Simplicity: The Importance of Being Tidy


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I had a bit of a meltdown earlier this week. You see, our kitchen is a source of chronic frustration for me. No matter how good we are at wiping up spills and washing dishes, the clutter always finds a way in there. And once a little bit of clutter has nestled itself onto the countertop, a little more inevitably ends up there too. And so it continues until pretty soon it’s impossible to even fix dinner.

Or maybe that’s just the way it is at my house.

But I’m committed to making it work this time. Part of desiring a simplicity driven, minimalist lifestyle is making more time to spend with the family and spending less time stressed out and frustrated because things are messy. I don’t want to be concerning myself with “How am I going to prepare dinner in that messy room when we get home?” while we’re out having a family fun day. I don’t want to get home and be frustrated and annoyed after an otherwise lovely day.

I want to honestly live the simple life I claim to desire. That’s going to mean paying attention to things and keeping them under control. That’s going to mean organizing the places that are readily visible as well as those that aren’t. (The non-visible places are still a work in progress.) And that’s going to mean training everyone else, especially the children, that the kitchen counter isn’t their personal dumping ground.

Keeping the counters clear is only part of the solution, though. Have you ever heard of feng shui (pronounced “fung schway”)? It’s an Asian concept that essentially says that you will feel the way your living space looks. If your area is cluttered and messy, you will have messy thoughts and ideas. If your space is perpetually untidy or in disrepair, you’ll likely be unhappy there.

So when Will and I were cleaning up the kitchen the other night, we did all we could to make the feng shui better, too. (As renters, there’s only so much we can do…) I reorganized my spice shelf because it had gotten very untidy. I made sure everything that belonged in a cupboard was in its home and that the cabinet doors shut fully. I even cleared off the front of the refrigerator, which had been covered – in a messy, disorganized way – with papers (coupons, kid stuff, etc). The only things that went back up were the things that we need/use on a daily basis, which during this season are the boys’ summer reading logs and the paper that records their Good Behavior Points.

All this took about an hour, maybe a little more, but we’ve kept it up for several days now, and I’m much happier with the room.

Now we just need to do the other rooms in the house!



Simplicity: Tendinitis, Transmission, and Tennis



Happy first week of June, everyone! For today’s simplicity post, I want to share with you the wonderful day we had yesterday. It was screen-free until the kids were in bed, and even then Will and I just watched YouTube videos for an hour or so. But first, some background – namely how we spent our Saturday.

Will was off selling books like he does most Saturdays. The kids and I were in ER.

See, my right wrist has been pretty achy for a couple of weeks. I figured it would get better on its own, but it’d been long enough that it was clear it wasn’t going to get better. So I went in. After the doctor felt around in there, she still wasn’t completely sure, so she ordered an X-Ray to be sure it wasn’t broken. Fortunately, it came back clean. That left us with a diagnosis of tendinitis, which is an inflammation of the tendons. They put me in a splint (like half a cast, held in place with Ace wrap) and said to take Ibuprofen to help with pain and swelling. (There’s no visible swelling, but obviously there’s internal swelling or I wouldn’t be having discomfort.) They expect it to be better in a week; if it’s not, I’ll see my regular doctor the next step. So there’s the first T.

Our car has been acting up a lot lately. We’re pretty sure the transmission is almost kaput. We opted not to put additional strain on it by driving the 18 miles to church yesterday. So that second T leads directly into the third.

Before we had kids, Will and I used to play tennis casually. That became much harder as our family grew, but the big boys are now old enough to play too. After playing one day with our old Goodwill adult rackets, it was clear that wouldn’t work long term, especially for Munchkin. So we splurged on kid rackets for them yesterday, along with a trio of kid tennis balls (they’re bigger and softer, which allows them to move just a little slower). We (well, everyone but me) played in the road in front of our house for a few hours yesterday afternoon, and then after dinner we walked to the high school (which is less than a mile from home) and played on the tennis courts. Small Fry’s job was to retrieve the balls after they’d stopped and throw them to whoever’s serve it was. He loved it!

So that was our weekend. Some crazy, some beautifully simple.

How was yours?




Simplicity: Home Decor


I’ve always wished I was better at interior decorating. I go to friends’ houses or to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, and they’re always so pretty and put together (at least the non-kid areas!). But my house always seems thrown together to me. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my house, so I see it more often than I see all those other houses, but I don’t think it is. Because it’s not all our friends’ houses that are so beautiful to me, only some of them. (And I don’t mean to be judgmental of any of my friends; I’m just making a comparison here.)

But alas, alack, I’m no interior decorator. So our home is very basic. Which is the point of what I’m writing about today. When the goal is a simple life, we shouldn’t care about what the inside of our home looks like (within reason). We’re not making memories with the way we decorate, we’re making memories with what we do in them. Kneading bread with Munchkin will matter more to him as he grows than whether our walls had cool hangings on them. Spending time playing board games with his brothers and me will matter more to Seahawk than what kind of flooring we had. And getting down on that flooring and chasing and tickling Small Fry will mean more than what our furniture was.

With that said, I do want to add a little more to the story, though.

I’m only mostly hopeless. Mine and Will’s bedroom is the one room that I feel is “put together.” I’ve mentioned before that we recently painted it, and that helped it tremendously. Once we did that, we decided we wanted to go with  all-white furniture and accessories to complement the red-wine of the walls, so I made us a new quilt (more on that soon) and painted our existing bedside tables white. (They used to be a light wood color.) Those two things really helped to bring everything together. Even without wall hangings, that room feels more “right” than any of the others, decor-wise.

The lighting in this picture isn’t awesome, but it’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about:


What’s your favorite home decor tip, simple or otherwise? Leave a comment and let me know!



Simplicity: In the Homeschool



Homeschooling our children is very important to us. It’s something we knew we wanted to do from the time I found out I was pregnant with Seahawk. We never considered any other option, and now that we’re ten years (almost eleven!) into parenthood and five years into homeschooling, I’m so glad we made this choice. I wrote on the “School at Home” page of our 2013 family yearbook that teaching our children at home is one of my greatest joys as a mother, and I truly mean that. Of course there are days when I wonder what it would be like if the older two were off at school for 8 hours a day. Then I come to my senses and remember why I wanted to be a mom! (Hint: It wasn’t so I could ship them off somewhere the minute they turned five so I wouldn’t have to “deal” with them until they were 18.)

So, how do we balance living simply with homeschooling? There are so many different styles of homeschooling out there – almost as many styles as there are homeschooling parents – and it’s all just a matter of finding a balance. I’m going to go over the way I teach today. This is not a tell-all, do-it-this-way-or-you’re-awful kind of post. This is just what works for us, and if you can take some or all of what I say to make your homeschool day easier or better for you, then that’s awesome. If not, that’s awesome too. But enjoy a little glimpse into our day.

We wake up between 8 and 8:30 each morning. I prefer to be the first one up so I can have a little bit of quiet time before the day starts. That doesn’t always happen though. I’m working on getting the kids into a routine that involves them getting dressed, making their beds, and reading a chapter from their Bible before they come out for breakfast, but that’s still a work in progress. We eat breakfast around 9 (typically just cereal or toast, but sometimes biscuits or pancakes). On the days he’s working from home, Will takes Small Fry out in the mornings so the older kids and I can do school more easily and efficiently. (He works in the afternoons on those days.) Ideally, by 9:30 we’ve started our school day.

I’m a visual person, so I need my kids to “do” something for school, not just read a bunch of books and call it a day. I do know that they can learn so much from reading different books – and we run a very literature heavy school – but it still gives me an odd peace of mind when they do paperwork or projects. We’re somewhere between “school at home” and “natural learning.” The first thing we do is bring out the schoolbooks. After reading a blog post last year on homeschool organization by Jamie at The Unlikely Homeschool, I totally took her idea and bought magazine racks – one for each kid. These have been worth their weight in gold for the simplicity it’s brought not only to our school day, but also to the bookshelf in my sewing room where I keep all the school stuff.



Everything we need for a given day (except for the read-aloud books and pencils) is in those racks. Right now, our main focuses are:

  • Spelling – Spelling You See
  • Bible – Apologia’s What on Earth Can I Do?
  • Literature – Little House in the Big Woods study by Progeny Press
  • Cursive Handwriting – This is different for each kid. Munchkin just finished up Logic of English’s Rhythm of Handwriting, so he’s been writing a letter to someone each day; so far this week he’s written to his pen pal in Utah and his great-grandmother in Southern California. Seahawk is working through Patriotic Penmanship, a practice workbook that we received for another review. He likes it because the lessons are very short.
  • Math – Learning Wrap-Ups

We’ve been working our way through An Island Story: A History of England for Girls and Boys and The Burgess Animal Book for Children this year, too, but we’ve got so much other stuff going at the moment that we’re taking a break from those for a while.

On a normal day, we manage to finish all but one of our subjects before lunch – which one varies from day to day. I don’t let the kids choose what they learn per se, because they’re still young enough that there are tons of things that are non-negotiable (times tables and proper spelling, for instance). To help them feel like they still have some control over their own education, then, I let them help decide what order we do the subjects in.

At the end of the school day, all the books get put back in their magazine racks and the racks put away on the shelf until the next day. And that’s how we keep things simple – and organized! – in our homeschool.

What’s your favorite homeschool organizational trick?



Simplicity: Time Outdoors


So. It’s Thursday. And I’m just now posting. Crazy week.

I hope you all had a fabulous Mother’s Day full of special treats just for you. I know I did! We got a family gift on Mother’s Day: a new BBQ grill! Our previous one has been really good for us, but it was time to upgrade. The old one was one of the $20 varieties designed for taking to the park or for small families/couples. We’ve had it for a long time. As a family of five, it just wasn’t big enough anymore, and we were tired of having to eat in shifts whenever we grilled. When we went to Fred Meyer on Sunday and saw that the grills were on sale, we snapped the new one up. And it’s been awesome.

We’ve used it for cooking dinner every night this week (except last night). See, it’s been crazy hot here on the west coast – way hotter than normal for this time of year. We’ve had temperatures in the upper-80s, which we don’t usually get until July or August, so to see heat like this in May is practically unheard of. But we’ve been embracing it with outdoor activities. Like cooking and eating outside.

We had something of a block party in our backyard on Tuesday night. It was incredibly impromptu, so not everyone could come. But we did have our across-the-street neighbors (an older, but not “old” if that makes sense, retired couple) and our friends from around the corner who are the other homeschooling family in the neighborhood. It wasn’t anything fancy. We just grilled Brats and boneless chicken and had potato salad and chips on paper plates.

But it was awesome.

Spending time outdoors on a sunny, summer (in the spring) evening, getting to know the neighbors was a great way to spend an evening. And really, cooking over hot coals, eating outside, chatting with friends . . . How much more simple can you get? I look forward to doing this more and more over the coming months!

What’s your favorite way to simplify in the warmer weather? Let me know in the comments!



Simplicity: Wardrobe

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Our clothing is the one area of our lives we’re true minimalists. In fact, in reading some other minimalist blogs, I think we’re more minimalist in our clothing choices than most of them are! Let me first start by breaking down for you what we own. Then I’ll go into the why of our small wardrobes and how we make having so few clothes work for us.


One pair of jeans. One pair of shorts. Two t-shirts. A week’s worth of socks and underwear. Two long john undershirts. One pair of sneakers. One pair of sturdier shoes (he chose Converse All-Stars for his sneakers this year, which are good aesthetically but not that great in real life, so he kept his shoes from last year). One pair of sandals.


Two dresses (we have plans to get one more, but we’re holding out for exactly what I want, not settling). One skirt, which is a holdover from my winter wardrobe. One turtleneck (also a holdover from winter; it’s not quite warm every day here yet!). A week’s worth of socks and underwear. Two pairs of sandals (one black and one white). A pair of black Mary Janes that I got from Goodwill.


Two pairs of shorts. One pair of jeans. Three t-shirts. One set of long johns. A week’s worth of socks and underwear. One pair of sneakers. (When the weather’s consistently warm, we’ll get him a pair of sandals.)


Two pairs of shorts (hand-me-downs from Seahawk). One pair of jeans. One pair of corduroy pants. Three t-shirts. One set of long johns. A week’s worth of socks and underwear. One pair of sneakers. (When the weather’s consistently warm, we’ll get him a pair of sandals.)

Small Fry:

15 cloth diapers. Two pairs of socks (he hardly ever wears them). Five onesies/t-shirts. Two pairs of pants. Two pairs of shorts. One pair of Crocs.

Additionally, we each have a swimming suit (a cloth swim diaper in Small Fry’s case), a pair of pajamas, and a jacket. Those don’t count toward our “allotment.”

We’ve also put aside some of this year’s winter clothes to wear again next winter. That’s something we’ve never done before; hopefully it works out well for us come fall.

We keep all of the clothes in mine and Will’s closet and invite the kids in each morning to choose their clothes and get dressed. It might seem weird to do it that way, but it makes it easier to a) put the clothes away and b) know when everyone’s out, or nearly out, of clothes and it’s time to do laundry.

Here’s a picture of our closet. It’s pretty grainy, so you’ll have to bear with me. The lighting in the bedroom is absolutely awful. This shows most, but not all, of our clothes. We were wearing some of them at the time of the photograph ;).

When I first approached this topic last year, some of you asked things like “don’t your clothes wear out faster?” “don’t you spend more time on laundry this way?” and “that’s really it?!” The short answers are no, no, and yes. Well chosen clothes will last just fine, even through frequent wearings. One thing I learned from my grandma (about quilts, but the same is true of clothes) was “Using [wearing] it doesn’t wear it out; washing it does.” So we only wash our clothes when they’re actually dirty. We don’t wash them every time we wear them, “just because.” A shirt or pair of pants that’s been worn for a day isn’t automatically dirty. We wash our clothes every 2-3 wears, or when it’s visibly dirty. Which is a lot more often for the kids’ clothes (especially Small Fry!) than for ours, but still not every time. This means we only have to do one or two loads of laundry a week.

So, now that the mechanics of what we do and how we work such small wardrobes are out of the way, what about the Why? I’ll be frank with you: this is mostly Will’s idea. I sometimes think he pushes too hard for the tiny wardrobes, but I also understand our roles in the family and I’m willing to follow him and not rock the boat, so to speak, on things that don’t matter that much. The idea is that we want to be ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice if God calls us somewhere. And if you have leave in a hurry, what do you absolutely need to take with you? Not the kitchen full of dishes and small appliances. Not the bookshelf full of books (which we’ve consolidated almost all of to our Kindles and/or library use). Not the desktop computer, printer, and scanner. What you need is clothes. There are other ways of dealing with the other stuff once you get to where you’re going, should the need for such a hasty departure ever arise. In that vain, we’ve decided to keep our clothes to a minimum so that if we ever find ourselves in that situation, we can move quickly. Of course, such a scenario isn’t ideal, but we want to be prepared nonetheless.

I have just one more parting comment on the topic before I “sign off.” This wardrobe may seem drastic to some of you, but it’s not that much smaller than what we had “before we were minimalists.” I’ve read stories and articles about people with hundreds of items of clothing and dozens of pairs of shoes. That’s never been us. I don’t think I’ve ever had more than ten or twelve outfits at a time in my entire adult life. So cutting from twelve to four isn’t such a big deal. Additionally, I understand that this kind of choice isn’t for everyone. I won’t condemn you if you have a walk-in closet full of clothes and shoes. I won’t understand it, but I won’t condemn it ;).



Simplicity: The Gods Must Be Crazy



We spent some time with my in-laws this week and watched this movie. Have you seen it? I don’t really recommend it; I didn’t enjoy it. But there was a bit of a life lesson in simplicity found in it that I found refreshing. But first let me give you a short synopsis of the film in case you’re not familiar with it.

The movie opens on Xi (pronounced Key) and his family, a group of tribal Africans who are just living their lives with no outside interference or Western influence whatsoever. One day, a “large, loud bird” (an airplane) flies overhead and “the gods” drop a gift on our unsuspecting main character and his tribe: a glass Coke bottle tossed out the window of the plane by the pilot. While the tribe was perfectly happy before with nothing stronger than wood or bone (not even rock), they’re now fascinated by this “thing” that they’ve been blessed with. They use it for everything: as a rolling pin for their dough, as a weapon, as a musical instrument . . . the list goes on and on. They soon realize that because of this “gift,” they’re no longer happy just being . . . well, just being.  The scarcity of the bottle – there’s only one – has caused jealousy and strife to enter their previously peaceful existence. Xi takes it upon himself to take the “evil thing” and toss it over the edge of the Earth so that his family can go back to their “normal” lives.

There are a couple of other plot points, and while the whole thing seems like a muddy mess for a while, eventually the pieces come together and everything is resolved. Those other points don’t matter that much for what I want to talk about today, though, so I’m not going to go too much into them. I will mention just one of them, very briefly, for reasons that will become clearer as we go here.

Just a few hundred miles south of where Xi and his tribe live is the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa. (And that’s really all I’m going to say about that particular plot point. Told you it’d be brief.) The comparison between the two cultures is where the meat of what I want to talk about comes from today. I’m going to start with this quote from the film, said by the narrator:

And here [South Africa] you find civilized man. Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment; instead, he adapted his environment to suit him. So he built cities, roads, vehicles, machinery, and he put up power lines to run his labor-saving devices. But somehow he didn’t know where to stop. The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier, the more complicated he made it. So now his children are sentenced to 10-15 years of school, just to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat they were born into. And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings, now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt every hour of the day to his self-created environment.

How deep is that? I know it was included in the film (made in 1980, by the way) for comedic effect, but my oh my, how fascinating those thoughts are.

So true.

And therefore so sad.

We consider ourselves to be “civilized.” But how much are we missing out on because of that? We suffer from depression. We work so hard to support our lifestyles. We get bored and angry.

Imagine a simpler life, like that of the Bushmen. Before the Coke bottle dropped in on them – the only thing they’d ever seen of Western civilization – they were just people living a simple life with not a care in the world. They were very gentle people. They never had to punish their children, because there was no misbehavior among the children. There was just life. And it was a beautiful life.

Now, I don’t really want to live a life in the African bush, and I’m not suggesting that we should do that. But we should strive for the simplicity and contentedness that the characters in this movie had. They didn’t have any stress in their lives. They weren’t worried about money or food or shelter. They trusted God (albeit the wrong god) to provide their food and water for the day. We should do that. We should quit stressing and working so much to support our lifestyles. We should take some time, at least a little bit, to just relax, to enjoy our families. We should get outside and enjoy our environment – and by that, I mean the natural environment, not the one we’ve adapted to meet our needs because we didn’t want to adapt ourselves to the environment.

We should learn some lessons from the African bush.