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Simplicity Inspiration

Just looking at this home makes me relax.


Photography by: Ben Rahn, A-Frame Inc.

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Simple tips for a simple home

In my last post, I talked about clearing space out in your home in order to have, well, space. Even though we might feel a need to fill every drawer and closet up, it’s a good idea to leave some drawer space for unexpected items, and also keep in mind that the being-able-to-see-the-floor idea works well with closets, too.

Here are just a few tips that I’ve either implemented or will be working on this month:

Find a home for everything and group like items with each other. There’s no need to keep the coffee in the cabinet across the kitchen from the mugs, which are around the corner from the coffee pot. Simplicity is all about making life easier, so try to see what you can do in your daily routine to do just that.

Look at your walls with fresh eyes. It might help to actually take everything off your walls in a room and start fresh. Sometimes we need a blank canvas to work with. Could your walls use a fresh coat of paint in a warmer hue? We recently painted our downstairs a warm golden brown, and have heard from many people just how “warm” it actually feels now. It’s also made the room more interesting without adding more pictures/paintings/stuff to it. We decided not to hang up all our photos and wall decor, but instead to use a couple of fun throw pillows and some new curtains to add color (very cheap! Made the curtains myself, and I don’t even know how to sew!) At first, our walls seemed bare to me, but now I feel content and peaceful in the living room instead of restless. I credit this to not having so much visually competing for my attention.

Do a quick run-through each evening before bed and do a 10-second tidy (big up to that limber chick on Big Comfy Couch). Just sweep through and put stuff back. This one tip is priceless, I swear. If you do it a few nights in a row, I promise it will start to become second nature and you won’t be able to relax until it’s done. (my next post will delve more into simple cleaning. Just know that I’m not a Flylady, mmkay?)

Don’t stop just because you let things go for a week. It’s ok to get a little lazy and screw up, or let that same dang pile of papers grow again. Just try your best to be consistent and keep at it. If you’re like me and not naturally “gifted” with the clean and organized gene, you’ll have to work at this much harder. That’s fine. That’s life…learning new skills to make life more enjoyable and peaceful.

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I found the floor!

The main reason I picked simplicity as January’s Challenge is I feel that getting your environment and schedule in order helps set the tone for future goals. Having a clean, uncluttered environment enables us to focus on the task at hand, rather than the overflowing baskets and piles of papers all around us. Uncluttering (spell check is trying to tell me this isn’t a word. I’d have to politely disagree) and ridding your home of excess stuff also makes life easier when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your surroundings. And dang if it doesn’t just let you relax a little bit and enjoy life more. There’s nothing worse that stepping over homeless legos and seeing piles of US Weekly when you just want some peace and tranquility while watching Toddlers and Tiaras.

The first thing to do is to figure out what it is that bothers you in your home. Do you have to walk around a piece of furniture to get to another room? We had a movable island in the middle of our kitchen. Anytime I wanted to go from the sink to the refrigerator, or from the oven to the table, I had to walk around this thing. I kept thinking that I really needed it for the extra surface space itt provided. And to, you know, catch all the paper and unopened mail that came through the house. Finally, after about the 300th time of running into the friggin’ thing and being overwhelmed by the fact that it made more than 2 people in the kitchen at once a nightmare (family of 6, hello) I moved it out of the kitchen. Ah, I can breathe! I can move around freely, several people can pack lunches at once, and I found I didn’t even need it after all. Once I continued clearing off surfaces in the kitchen, I have more than enough room on my counters to place dishes and whatnot. I also fixed the paperwork/unopened mail issue by dealing with it as it came in the door and not waiting until the pile of bills fell on someone’s head.

“Only furniture should touch the floor.” Once I read this rule it helped me look at my home with fresh eyes. Your floors shouldn’t have anything on them other than rugs and furniture. No stacks of books next to the bed, no toys stored right on the floor against the walls.

Speaking of furniture, what can you do without? Do you have a random bookshelf cluttering a wall that’s too small to house it? “But what about my books?” you ask. Get rid of them. I know, I know, this is very difficult for a lot of us bookworms, but really, unless they’re some great rare collection or was written by your now-deceased grandma or you actually refer back to them, what are you doing with them? It’s not like you couldn’t have that exact book in your hands within a day if you really needed it again. Sell them, donate them, and you can get rid of that particleboard bookshelf that you have to walk around every time you want to get to the powder room. I keep only the amount of books that fit on a single shelf in my bedroom. If I find myself struggling to fit another book in there, I know it’s time to pare them down. (Now, I’m a regular patron of the library, and at any given time I might have 5 or so books on my bedside table, but I don’t “own” them, meaning, I’m not tied down to them.)

Back to furniture. As you’re looking around your home, ask yourself if you truly need each piece. Does your living room really come together because of those mixed-matched tables on either end of your sofa? Do you need that separate stand just for the microwave or could you place the microwave on a stationary surface and get rid of the stand you stub your toe on once a week? Does each room need a huge clothes hamper or could you put one in the hallway bathroom and let everyone share? Do you need that basket beside the rocking chair to hold all the magazines you “might” get to reading one day, or can you recycle those and move the basket out?

Be brutal as you’re doing your inventory. It may take some time to get used to the look of the actual floor showing through, but I promise your place will not look bare and unlived in once you’ve gotten rid of excess furniture and things littering your floors.

I like to work on a room at a time, but sometimes this can seem like a huge undertaking, especially if you’re like I was and have entirely too much junk crammed into every nook and cranny. Maybe breaking it down by sections would be doable? It can seem overwhelming at first, but once you get started on a shelf or drawer, you might just find you have the momentum to keep going on to the next area. Then again, you might call it a day. Be gentle with yourself at first, remembering that getting rid of our stuff sometimes takes a lot out of us. There is a lot of sentimental value in “things” and it can be painful to separate from what we’ve spent so long feeling like we couldn’t live without. But I promise life will move on without that ancient CD collection contained in the CD tower in the middle of your living room. 1994 called…they need that junk back.

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