Decluttering: Drowning In Paperwork

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am decluttering and minimizing our living space, as well as getting ready for our new bundle of joy, who will be here in less than two months! Time slows for no one, my friends  🙂

One of the projects I have been working on has been the accumulation of paperwork. Specifically paperwork that was shoved into this beautiful but handy file box:

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Guys, this thing was filled to the brim with paper. Stapled paper, paper-clipped paper, paper that was at one time important, but now, not so much. When I first purchased this file box about 5 or 6 years ago, I had it super organized. File folders detailing exactly what was nesting inside each folder. Folders that were listed in alphabetical order, because that is how I roll.

But somehow over the past few years, with moving to Oregon and then back to California all in the space of 14 months, this folder began to become a “catch-all” for ANY kind of paperwork, whether it belonged in this file folder or not. Even after being back home for over two years now, this file box was still a hot mess.

Time to act.

So I took everything out. Every last bit of paper. And let me tell you, there was a lot of it.

Ah, beautiful empty box…

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I wish I could say that I was able to finish this project in an afternoon or even one whole day, but that simply was not the case. Working on any sort of project when you are in your 3rd trimester of pregnancy, gets tiring pretty quickly. But I kept at it.

I decided what paperwork was important and utilized my current file folders to accommodate these items. What I deemed important enough to have a file folder for:

  • Tax Stuff
  • Automobile
  • Medical
  • Apartment (Lease agreement, etc..)
  • Pet (Important paperwork regarding our cat)
  • My Daughter (Certain in-school projects that I have decided to hold onto. We do not keep all art projects she has made or all homework tests where she scored well. We keep a few important things that we think she will appreciate when she is older and that is it)

Once I decided what to keep, the paperwork items went into their appropriate folders, alphabetically of course!

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Everything that was not going back into this folder box, got shredded, thrown in the trash, or recycled, when applicable. This part took a looooong time. I wasn’t annoyed by the longevity of the project in terms of the discarding and sorting. But it made me realize that we humans are literally drowning in paperwork and it also made me really want to limit the amount of paperwork that actually makes its way past our front door. I am really going to make a concerted effort, along with my husband, to try to curtail the paper that seems to flow like water into our lives. Even something like asking for a receipt to just be emailed to me instead of giving me a paper receipt.

Because here’s the thing: I do not want to do this project again. Like, ever. Even though I have a degree in procrastination (I jest, but it seems like it sometimes), I am making it a priority to deal with paperwork as soon as possible. No more letting it pile up on the counter. No more shoving it off to the side to deal with it “later”, whenever that is…

What I like about this decluttering project is that it didn’t cost me a dime. I already had a file box and file folders, so no extra purchases of those items. The only “cost” was just my time, which was a bummer but at least this project is done.

If you are looking to declutter and organize your paperwork and feel like it is all just too overwhelming, start slow. You don’t have to do it all in one day. I certainly didn’t. Think about what papers are important to you to keep. What paperwork is going to matter a few months from now and what isn’t. Is every receipt necessary? It is definitely a process, but remember the end goal: peace of mind and being able to lay your hands on papers of importance within seconds.

Any tips on decluttering paperwork that you want to share? Let me know!  🙂

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Destination Simple: A Book Review

I have really been into books lately, that have to do with simple and intentional living. I want to have fewer items in my house, less items on my to-do list, and want to stop feeling like I am cramming things into my day.

Enter Destination Simple: Everyday Rituals For a Slower Life by Brooke McAlary.

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I first heard of this book being mentioned in the blogging circles and it being a simple but short and compelling read. Brooke McAlary is also the creator of the Slow Your Home podcast. Although I’ve never listened to any episodes of her podcast, I decided to give her book a try.

Destination Simple is broken into three parts with just a few chapters in each section. It is a very smooth read (seriously, it is only 116 pages!), so it is easy enough to read through while drinking your morning coffee or your afternoon tea  🙂

The author, in the introduction, mentions that she used to live life to the point that she was an “overwhelmed, overcommunicated wreck”. She felt like she had no downtime, and felt that she wasn’t present to the people who most mattered to her, like her husband and children. She realized that she needed to make changes to her life and this book is a compilation of things that worked for her.

While I personally don’t feel like a stressed out wreck, and I am absolutely present for my husband and my daughter, I liked her forthcoming pages about how to just slow down. Brooke talks about how we need to single-task and not multi-task, the way our society says we should.

“Single-tasking is the antidote to modern life, where we are taught that to be effective, productive, and worthwhile, we must multi-task”. -Brooke McAlary

By doing one task at a time, we can practice mindfulness and stay in the present moment. Brooke asks readers to do just one thing at first, something that you do every day, and try to do just that one task, without also doing something else at the same time. It will give you a chance to clear your mental clutter, even if it is just for a few minutes.

My favorite chapter in the book was Chapter 3, entitled “Emptying Your Mind”.

“Our minds are cluttered. We are overwhelmed with to-do items, commitments, errands, and must-remembers…Do you ever get to bed, begin to relax, only to magically remember everything you were supposed to get done that day?” -Brooke McAlary

*slowly raises hand*

I bet there are quite a few of us in that boat. Our brains have a hard time shutting off once our head hits the pillow. We are tired but we can’t sleep because our hamster wheel of a brain is going and going!

Sound familiar?

Brooke’s solution is the art of “brain dumping”. It is basically an exercise where you take 5-10 minutes and simply journal and write down, or “dump” the contents of your brain onto paper. Write down those frustrations, those to-do’s that didn’t get done, problems that are bothering you, anything that is occupying space in that beautiful brain of yours. Get it out onto paper and out of your mind. This will help you to think more clearly, process what has been committed to paper and help you now to be in the present, without being bombarded with all those shoulda, coulda, wouldas! Some people prefer doing their “brain dumps” in the evening before bed, others prefer to start their day off in the morning and journal right away. Do what works best for you!

Destination Simple is chock full of tidbits to help you slow down and add some simple living techniques to your life.

I definitely recommend this book if you want to be intentional with your time and carve out space to really and truly be fully present!

 

 

 

Are Nesting and Minimizing Compatible?

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My answer is yes.

But before I give my whys, lets define the term “nesting” for those not in the know. Here are two similar definitions from two different websites:

“Nesting is the act of preparing your home for your baby’s arrival, often fueled by big bursts of energy late in pregnancy”. – BabyCenter.com

“Nesting is the urge to clean and organize during pregnancy…to get your home ready for your new baby”. -AmericanPregnancy.org

Basically you are getting your home ready for your beautiful baby and making sure everything is ready to go when you come home with your new bundle of joy. Diapers at the ready? Check. Bottles ready to go? Check. Piles of paperwork that needs to be sorted through? Check. Wait. What?

Yes, I am in the nesting phase. I am making lists of what we need for the baby since it has been 7 years since my daughter was born so we are basically starting from scratch. I am slowly accumulating what we need and getting ready for our new arrival in a couple of months.

But…

I am also decluttering and minimizing things that have absolutely nothing to do with the impending shift in our family dynamic.

I am cleaning out closets. I am sorting through drawers. I am going through mountains of paperwork that seem to have accumulated over time. I am getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose or are useful.

I am cutting out the crap.

And it is not just because of hormones and the whole nesting vibe that comes on about this time during pregnancy.

I am doing it because it needs to be done.

I am well aware of the sleep-deprivation and major life adjustment that comes with a newborn and the first few months of a parent’s life. I remember all too well that phase with my daughter, and there are days when you literally are in survival mode and wonder when was the last time you ate a meal.

With a baby and my older daughter to take care of, there will be zero time to declutter stuff that shouldn’t be here in the first place. There will be no time to minimize and be intentional about what is occupying unwanted space in our home.

So I am doing it now.

When I do get a burst of energy, I am tackling a project. When I need to take a break,  I take a break. But when the next burst of energy comes, I am in minimize-mode and getting things done. We live in a small apartment and anything extra that has no use can make our abode feel very overwhelming quite fast.

Any tips or tricks you have when it comes to minimizing your stuff? I’d love to hear about it!

Difficult Roads Often Lead To Beautiful Destinations

14 months.

14 long months if I am being truthful.

I moved to the state of Oregon from my home state of California in July of 2014 and packed up the car and left in September of 2015 and moved back to California. Two vehicles filled with my husband, myself, our daughter, our cat, and whatever we could squash into the cars that would be taking us on our new adventure.

Living in Oregon didn’t start off difficult or even unhappily. This was our new road and we were ready for our new undertaking. We thought we were in it for the long haul.

But soon the road became burdensome.

As someone who already suffers from depression, I had no idea the toll that the endless days and months of gray weather would take on my already suffering psyche. There were other deeply personal issues that we were dealing with, that were also making life difficult in our newly adapted surroundings. My husband and I felt that this environment was truly taking a toll on our little family. We both had gained an inordinate amount of weight using food as coping mechanisms. He wasn’t happy either and wasn’t looking forward to spending another winter there.

That summer we decided enough was enough and we were going to move back to California that September.

And it truly has been the best decision.

I posted this on Instagram the other day because it reminded me of my life the past couple of years.

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Oregon was indeed a difficult road. For me. This is nothing against that beautiful state. Oregon is indeed gorgeous and I honestly and truly get why people live there and make it their forever home. I absolutely do.

But it wasn’t the right fit for me. Or my little family.

Living in Oregon was a difficult road but I believe it led us to a truly beautiful destination.

I am back in my home state in a city I love. My daughter is absolutely thriving in her local school. My husband has a job that he loves and that he truly gets fulfillment out of. We have made friends here in our local community and we have bonded.

And we have a baby on the way!  🙂

I feel that sometimes you have to go through the bull**** to get to the good stuff. Is everything absolutely perfect? Of course not. No one’s life is perfect. That is a fallacy. But I am happy, happier than I have been in a very long time.

And that’s gotta count for something, right?

Does It Even Matter?

Why are we humans so attached to things? Serious question and I want to explore an answer.

Several years ago, my dad decided to clean out his storage unit and get rid of stuff and get rid of the storage unit entirely. Yay dad, right? Well, as he was cleaning out the randomness that accumulates in these facilities, he came across a bag that was full of my stuff. He dropped it off at my place and I went through the bag dutifully, thinking I was going to throw out whatever was in the bag. I mean, if I hadn’t seen what was in the bag in years, why would I need any of it now? Right? Sort of…

Amongst the debris of my life contained in this bag were sorority t-shirts and sweatshirts, my college sweatshirt, newspaper articles from when I was on the school newspaper in high school, and letterman patches from high school as well.

I got rid of my sorority t-shirts and sweatshirts because once you are not in college anymore, you don’t wear any of these items. Ever. So they went out the door. I sold my college sweatshirt online and the newspaper articles that contained my stories there in black and white… I read them, smiled remembering that time long  ago, and tossed them in the recycling bin.

But the letterman patches from high school? Here they are in all their glory:

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This particular patch, I received from being on the school paper. Simple enough.

This next patch I received, well you can see what it was for…

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I received these patches and I never had the desire to own a letterman jacket. Even in my teen years, I foresaw the actuality of wearing a high school jacket with all these random patches on it beyond high school as futile. A huge waste of money for something I would never wear past graduation day.

So I never purchased a letterman jacket for my random letterman patches. And yet, I still have these patches.

WHY DO I STILL HAVE THESE PATCHES?

Seriously, why?

Am I going to be in conversation with someone and we are speaking about high school and what a terrible great time it was, and I am somehow going to talk about my letterman patches and produce them out of my purse, like some absurd version of “show and tell”?

Am I going to have to prove to someone, anyone, that although I am older and have “mom-brain”, once upon a time I used to be smart? Smart enough for academic honors?

Who cares? Why does it matter? And yet, does it matter?

Even as I am writing this post, I still haven’t thrown away these patches and I have to ask myself why. It’s not because I have fond memories of high school because I don’t. Sure there are some fun memories I have with friends, but being a teenager isn’t the easiest thing under even normal circumstances, and my 9th through 12th grade years were extremely difficult for personal reasons. So no, I do not look at ages 14 through 18 through rose-colored glasses.

Do I miss the days of studying or being a part of something as tense and yet exciting as working on the school paper? No, not really.

I am going to play armchair psychiatrist on myself and give an answer that I believe to be the right one: I have held on to these patches because deep down, it proves to myself that I made it. I made it through the turmoil that was my life at that time and I didn’t let it break me. It is somehow a personal accomplishment for me that I was able to compartmentalize the crap that was threatening to bring me under, and get a spot on the high school paper. I was able to push through the chaos and still get good grades.

I. Made. It.

I made it. I survived. And these stupid letterman patches that continue to follow me into every place we move to, remind me of that.

So does it matter? Sometimes it does.

These patches are, for the time being, staying put until I am able to look objectively at them minus all the emotion that continues to swirl around in the lifeblood that makes up me.

I am not quite ready to get rid of my letterman patches just yet…

Justifications Concerning Money

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My lovely friend Tanya is celebrating a birthday this week and had a post about reflections on life and what she has learned now that she is a year older. One of the reflections she noted, I absolutely loved and want to talk about in more detail.

This is what she said:

“I like shoes. I like purses. I like clothes. I like spas. This does not make me a bad person or a frivolous spender. It means I know where I like to spend my discretionary money, which does not need your approval”.

Boom.

This particular reflection of Tanya’s really stood out to me because I feel as women, we constantly feel the need to justify our lives and what we do with them. We are constantly having to defend our decisions and why we made them.

For example, decisions that always need explanations even though they are nobody’s business:

  • Having children. “Why don’t you have kids? Don’t you want them?”
  • Marriage. “Why aren’t you married? Don’t you want to settle down with someone?”
  • Childrearing: “If I were you, I would stay home with my children. I wouldn’t be working”.
  • Money: “Why do you spend your money on things like that?”

Women get asked these questions and so much more and we end up on the defensive, trying to articulate why we made our particular decision.

The money angle though, is what I want to focus on because I feel like in the blogosphere, this is a hot topic.

Personal finance blogs talk constantly about saving your money, being frugal, and don’t frivolously spend. “Stay home and cook dinner! Don’t eat out…ever!” “Don’t turn on the heater in the winter! Wear four sweaters at a time and cuddle under a blanket! If your fingers go numb, just sit on them! They’ll warm up in a minute!”

I jest, but you get the picture. Finances are important. Paying down debt is important. Having a savings account is important.

But so is having a life.

We are actually meant to live our lives and not sacrifice small moments of happiness in the name of frugality. I don’t mean go and spend all the money, but if fresh flowers on your kitchen table make you happy, that is OKAY. You don’t need to justify that $3.99 bouquet of flowers you picked up at Trader Joe’s.

When it comes to the topic of Minimalism, people operate under the assumption that stark white walls are the way to go. No couch, just a cushion to sit on. No art on the walls. No pets, because that is not very minimalist of you!

That is all nonsense.

You can call yourself a minimalist and still enjoy paintings by local artists on your walls. It is okay that you own a pet and gasp! they require dishes and food and other accoutrements. It is okay if you like colors and your wardrobe isn’t all monochrome.

My point is, we are wired as human beings to enjoy life and you don’t have to justify how you spend your money. You like shoes, fine. You like taking a ballroom dance class twice a week, fine. You like channeling your inner Julia Child and like to bake up tasty treats on the weekend, fine.

It is all okay.

Don’t let anyone ever make you feel guilty for the choices you make in life. No more justifying.

No more defending.

My Own Packing Party

So y’all know (or most of you I should say), know I am a huge fan of The Minimalists. Their podcasts continue to inspire me to make room for the things that matter by getting rid of what doesn’t.

That being said, when Joshua and Ryan (The Minimalists) were downsizing their respective homes and getting rid of what no longer served them, they both did it in radically different ways. Joshua chose the decluttering method and it took him about 8 months to pare down his belongings to what was essential to him. Ryan on the other hand? He had a packing party.

What is a packing party, you ask? Basically you pack up everything you own, absolutely everything, into boxes. This includes your toothbrush, deodorant, coffee mug, your bath towel, etc… Everything goes into boxes. And then, you only unpack what you need. Only. What. You. Need.

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So yeah, that first day you’ll probably need that toothbrush, deodorant, towel, and clothes to wear to work. Maybe after you get home, you unpack a skillet and some cooking utensils and a plate and a fork. Whatever you NEED, you unpack. That’s it.

When Ryan did his packing party, he did it for 21 days. He only unpacked what he needed. And you know what? At the end of 21 days, 80% of his stuff was still in boxes. He said that he couldn’t even remember what was in those unopened boxes.

And you know what he did? He donated and/or sold what was in all those boxes that contained 80% of his stuff. Donated it. Sold it. Gone. Buh-bye.

I bring up this story of the packing party not just because I find value in it, but because it inspired me to do my own version of a packing party.

I am moving quite soon into a bigger apartment. I am currently living in 530 square feet with my husband, daughter, and cat and our accompanying accoutrements. We are a close family and living in a small space has been fine. Or rather, had been fine. We are moving into a slightly bigger apartment, just an extra 150 square feet or so, but this new apartment will have a bigger living room and a bigger bathroom which is really what we are looking for.

As I stated above, we are an extremely close family and enjoy spending time together. Some extra square feet in the living room actually gives us a bit of breathing room and gives my daughter more space to play. And a bigger bathroom, well, I don’t think I need to explain why that is a plus  🙂

But back to the packing party…

We are boxing up our belongings dutifully, but when we arrive at our new apartment, I will only be unpacking what is needed. Now although Ryan in his example boxed up absolutely everything, I am not boxing up my purse, or my child’s school lunch box, or anything like that. But the items that are being housed in cardboard boxes, are not just going to be immediately unloaded and dumped on the carpet to then scramble to find a home for. I want to be deliberate with what we have and what we actually use, and not just hold onto something because we always have.

I too, am going to give the experiment 21 days, as did Ryan, and whatever has not been unloaded by the 21st day, will be banished to either be donated or sold. I figure since we are moving, now is as good time as any to do this.

Are you guys interested in doing your own packing party as well? What do you think of it all? Let me know in the comments!  🙂

 

Find The Words To Help You Find Your Way

As most of you know, I am a huge bookworm. I am also a fan of quotes and the accompanying verbiage that motivates. Let’s face it: life is hard. We are all swimming in the same ocean trying to avoid the eventual tidal wave that comes our way and knocks us off our feet for awhile. Once that proverbial tidal wave recedes, we remember that we can swim, and we paddle out into the ocean once again.

If you happen to be in the midst of a tidal wave and you are looking for some help, here are some books that I think are awesome and may help you get the earth back under your feet  🙂

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by The Minimalists

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If your life is spinning out of control and you feel overwhelmed by the clutter in not just your life, but your mind, this book is for you. And don’t worry, it is not a book that tells you to get rid of everything you own and sleep on the floor! But it will help you sort out the values that you feel are important and make adjustments accordingly.

Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen

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If you are looking to get healthier, look no further than this book. For the record, I cannot do a handstand to save my life, nor does Rachel make you try to do one. This story gives voice to Rachel’s story about how yoga saved her from a life that was on a complete downward spiral. She shares simple yoga poses, meditation practices, and some super healthy recipes to get you going on your way!

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

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This book. I loooooved this book! For a complete review of my love of this tome, and why I think EVERYONE needs to read it, click here.

10% Happier by Dan Harris

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Amazing book. If anxiety is getting the best of you and you’ve heard about meditation and aren’t sure what exactly it’s all about, check out Dan’s book. He is a broadcaster for ABC who had a panic attack on national television and this is his story about how meditation helped him.

Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

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This book, just wow. Lysa writes about how broken we can feel and get as women and how we can overcome that. Although Lysa does have bible verses sprinkled throughout, please don’t let it deter you if that’s not your thing. This book will break open your heart and put it right back together again. In a good way 🙂

Everything That Remains by The Minimalists

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I know I have two books listed here by The Minimalists but this one is my absolute favorite! It basically chronicles how Joshua hit rock bottom in his life (his mom died and his marriage ended in the same month), and with the help of the concept of minimalism, he shed which didn’t matter in his life and began to focus on his relationships and what was actually important. In turn, his best friend Ryan saw how changed Joshua’s life was and embraced lifestyle changes of his own. Want to know how The Minimalists became The Minimalists? Read this book. Some life-changing stuff here that you can totally apply to your own life.

Are there any books that you have read that you feel have helped you overcame obstacles in your life? Let me know in the comments!  🙂

March in the Rearview

The month of March went by with a whoosh, right? Whew…  🙂

A quick look back:

What I enjoyed this month: Reading, obviously! But also trips to see my beloved ocean and coffee dates with friends  🙂

Huntington Beach is my favorite local beach and it makes me feel all the feelings when I am there!

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I read Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham which I looooved!! If you are a Gilmore Girls fan, than this book is for you! Lauren talks about her life and of course, behind the scenes stuff about the BEST SHOW EVER!!!

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I also drooled over read The Minimalist Baker’s cookbook Everyday Cooking. I want to eat everything in this book, especially her recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bread. Yup. You read that right  😉

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What I am absolutely over: Choices for White House appointments/jobs who have absolutely no qualifications for said job, but get said job anyway. I can’t even…

On the healthy living front: I did really well exercising this month until the last week of March. Ugh, so annoying. But the good thing is, is that I recognize that it has been a week since I worked up a sweat and I am getting back into my routine. Older = wiser, right?  😉

On the minimalism/decluttering front: If you remember, I mentioned that for the month of March I was going to declutter 3 separate areas of my home: the kitchen, electronic stuff (my computer), and the bathroom. Suffice to say, I accomplished my tasks! Guys, I actually have ONE EMPTY DRAWER in my kitchen!!!! *cue squealing* I love that one empty drawer. I refuse to let anything get in its recesses again!

I also unsubscribed from emails that I no longer want to receive, and blogs that I no longer want to read. Mission accomplished.

And as for the bathroom, icky nail polish, expired medication, and make-up that has probably seen better days, has all gone in the rubbish bin.

All in all, March was a very productive month and I am looking forward to getting some more things accomplished. I’ve got momentum, y’all!!!

By the way, all my pictures in this post are from my Instagram account. Come say hi!  🙂

How was the month of March for you? Did you get in any decluttering?

Living a Life That Is True To You

Along with several other words in today’s lexicon, the word “values” has sprung up in more conversations and blog posts over the past few months. “What are my values?” and “What do I value in life?” seem to be the springboards onto which fraught conversations are run.

Value can be what you esteem to be worth relative merit or importance; what you consider to be essential or important. What you won’t back down on.

But are you backing down? Are your values taking a back seat to the monotony of life or the frenzied clamor of life and its draining entities?

Are you living a life that is true to you?

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“I’ve started asking myself: What type of person do I want to be? How do I express my interests and values? Am I living a life that’s true to myself and not the life others expect of me? By spending more time dreaming about what I want for the future, I’ve started to form a better idea of who I want to be and where I want to go”. -Sarah Moss

I am utterly enamored of this quotation by Sarah Moss because it causes one to step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and really examine what is adding value to our lives and what is not. It causes one to think about the things that they are doing and wondering introspectively if these things are being done for someone else because it is what is expected or are they being done because we want them to be?

You are never too old to re-imagine the direction of your life and decide that things aren’t going quite the way you expected. It is also okay to feel a certain way about things and not feel guilty about them.

For example, I value my time with my daughter as sacred. If something is going to impinge on that time with her, I say no to other requests of my time. My child is only young once; there will be a point where as she gets older, Mom is no longer “cool” and friends will become her end-all, be-all. Children grow so fast; before you know it, they are out of the house and on their way to college. So for me, my daughter and our quality time come first. I place a high value on that.

While not related per se, minimalism helps me in this capacity. If I had to spend my time constantly arranging, organizing, and taking care of all of our things, I would have less time to spend with my daughter. Instead of snuggling together and watching a Charlie Brown cartoon, or baking cookies together, I would be cleaning, organizing, and taking care of our stuff.

And that is just not okay with me.

My life is a simple one, because I have made it so. That is not to say that I don’t experience heartache or have difficulties that I continue to overcome, it means that I choose a simple life because it aligns with my values. I strive for a minimalist lifestyle because spending time with loved ones is important to me and spending time taking care of stuff, is not. A simpler life helps keep me on my way to having more fullness in my life.

I still have dreams that I can’t wait to bring to fruition. Approaching a new decade in my life has brought home to me so many things, and I still continue to learn and grow and remind myself to stay true to the essence of who I am.

Are you living a life that is true to you?