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Health, Simplify

The Year of No Thank You

Do you ever overcommit? Do you then promise yourself that you will stop?

Do you?

You do?

Me too.

And I’ve been racking my brain to figure out why.

I want to be a person who naturally takes on less. I want to know my limits. Even when I tell myself to cut back on commitments to create more space in my day, somehow I manage to add more to my schedule. It’s classic commitment creep.

So this school year I’m trying something different.

It’s the year of letting go of what is not necessary in order to take back my time. It’s the Year of No Thank You.

Last year we had a baby. And my husband’s business doubled its number of clients. I returned to a full-time job after maternity leave. And I was teaching a baby wearing dance class. All of a sudden we were really busy.

I’m sure you understand.

But see what I mean about commitment creep?

Something had to give.

Earlier this year I took a personal inventory to figure out how we got to our overwhelmed lives. And then I took action.

First, I gave up teaching the baby wearing dance class. It was taking up 3-4 hours of my Saturday mornings. My little one was outgrowing our baby carrier and it was an easy transition to give the class to another instructor. I decided to limit my fitness teaching to subbing cycling and yoga classes for the year to keep a toe in the fitness world.

Next, after much discussion with my husband, I decided to leave my full-time job at the nonprofit where I had worked for over a decade. It was a very hard decision. I believe in the mission of the organization, but out of necessity I was also working in our family business. It was too much. After doing the math, we realized that the transition to teaching more and working in the family business would only mean a small pay cut.

So now my schedule has much more flexibility. I still teach part-time and help out with the family business. Some weeks I work a lot in the business, but other weeks I can focus more on our family. So far, so good.

And now I’m saying “No Thank You” to other commitment opportunities that come my way. In fact, “no thank you” has become my mantra. Because by saying no to additional responsibilities, even if they are amazing, I am saying yes to unstructured time with my family. And that is what the Year of No Thank You is All About.

Let’s see if I can keep this up. 🙂

Have you been able to say no thank you to commitment creep?

 

 

Family, Simplify

Frustrated Shopping? Your Guide to Experiential Gift Giving

Maybe you are still stuck trying to think of the perfect gift for your favorite traveller who hasn’t quite settled down or your best friend who is in full declutter mode. Maybe you want to give to someone that has waaaay too much stuff. What do you do?

Consider an experiential gift

Gifts of experience can be the answer to the question “What do I buy for someone who has everything?” or “What do I buy for my minimalist family member?” Perhaps you decide to gift them an activity or help them out with your expertise.

For example, my hubby is pretty handy, and he is always helping out my Mom with projects around her house. I think she appreciates his help much more than anything he can buy since she can no longer do the work herself.

What other kinds of experience gifts can you give?

For the kids:

  • Tickets to the local zoo
  • Tickets to a children’s museum (if you have one in your area)
  • Tickets to ride a train (really, any train. I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love a train ride)
  • Make them a certificate valid for a special outing to their favorite park with you.
  • Take them out for their favorite meal
  • Give them a day of yes. Basically, if they want to do something, then you do it. (I read about this awhile back, and the kids loved it. Let the recipient know they have to keep the requests within reason.)
  • Plan a family outing to one of their favorite places.
  • Take them to the movies or drive in

Frustrated Shopping? Check out our Guide to Gifts of Experience

For the bigger kids (aka adults):

  • Make them a meal or give them a gift card to a favorite restaurant.
  • For active peeps: Book a fun workout of their choice or one they have wanted to try. Better yet, do it together. (yoga, acrobatics, color run, obstacle course, etc.)
  • Help them complete a lingering household project
  • Movie tickets
  • Schedule time to hang out and spend the day on new experiences around town
  • Museum tickets
  • Bake something, bring it over, and spend time catching up while eating
  • Tickets to a favorite sporting or concert event (just make sure the recipient is available on the scheduled date)
  • For travelers: gift cards to their favorite airline.
  • If you are handy: Offer to help them with a project around the house. This is especially helpful for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • For avid online shoppers: offer to renew their Amazon Prime membership. At least you aren’t buying the actual items, just enabling their hobby a wee bit.

Do you have any other ideas for an experiential gift? If so, I would love to hear it. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Family, Simplify

Routine vs. Whimsy – Where do you Fall?

Do you find that you are  a person driven by routine or are you a bit more whimsical?

I had never thought about this much until I took a Myers-Briggs personality test when I first started college. That question jumped out at me. Of course I was whimsical. Wasn’t everybody? I loved adventure and never wanted today to be like yesterday.

Flash forward and now I am in a completely different life stage. Routines keep me sane. Since I am not a naturally routinized person, I unconsciously fought the implementation of family routines with all my might. But life as a Mom is a heck of a lot easier when things get done. Developing habits helps us make sure what needs to get done doesn’t fall through the cracks.

So which of the following resonates more with you?

1) Are you comforted when you find yourself engaged in routines day after day? Does the idea of stepping out of your routine seem a bit daunting?

OR

2) Does the idea of doing the same things every morning or evening seem difficult or impossible? Are you always down for a new adventure?

Are you more like #1 or #2? Somewhere in the middle?

You probably guessed that I am more like #2. I love last minute plans and seeing the potential possibilities in each new day.

Now that I am a Mom, I’m finding that life is much smoother when I stay true to my daily habits and only treat myself to whimsy once in awhile. Yet committing to routine day in and day out is still a struggle.

If you are a whimsical or adventurous person,  you feel my pain.

In order to simplify life with young kids, you need to have a plan and execute that plan to maintain consistency for them and some order for you. At least in our house, no one else is going to make sure we have clean clothes, food in the refrigerator, and bedtime rituals. And honestly, a consistent bedtime is hard for us to maintain because my husband is a lot like me. We get home from work and want to hang out with the family. Heck, we might even go on a small adventure after dinner. And then we look at the clock and try to rush through bedtime routines only to realize that our daughters are late for bed….again.

Sometimes being more organized and routinized will simplify your life. Like when you have kids.

Other times letting go and making do on a whim is the best way to peel back your life to the essential.

Honestly, I don’t think there is a right answer to the routine vs. whimsy question. Your particular life stage may require routine. Or your structured life may benefit from a dash of whimsy. As we move through life, we constantly have to adjust and find a new balance that works for our souls and our circumstances.

Meditation Garden
Family, Simplify

Finding Pockets of Simplicity In Chaos

It’s already been a day and its only noon. My 3-month-old is particularly fussy this morning and my 3-year-old has managed to acquire pink eye. I have been running around the house all morning trying to wash everything that my 3-year-old could have possibly touched before we realized her condition. It got me thinking…

So many of us are busy, busy, busy. Even if you dream of a slower pace, when you currently have a full plate, how do you slow down? How do you find pockets of simplicity? Especially when you encounter periods that are especially chaotic.

Even amid our busiest, most overwhelming days, we can find pockets of simplicity. It will look different for everyone, but it can be done.

Here are a few ideas that I have tried:

  • Breathe. Do you have time to close your eyes and breathe? Even a 30 second time out to breathe can help bring things into perspective.
  • Clean one small area if you feel like your surroundings are closing in on you. If you desk is overflowing with paper or your kids have made a mess of your house, you may feel extra stress. Feeling like you have control of one area of your environment can make all the difference. Even if it is a corner of your desk or part of your kitchen counter.
  • Reduce your use of technology. How often do you have to check email or social media? Can you put your phone down to engage in other aspects of your life? Set limits.
  • Find a place of quiet. Even if for a few minutes.
  • Find the positive. What is good in your life?

Today is one of my more chaotic days. I am taking time to sit still and breathe when there are gaps between calls for Mama’s help. It helps keep things in perspective. And with a fussy baby, I am thankful for any pockets of quiet that come my way.

Let’s see if I can continue to follow my own advice today.

How do you cultivate simplicity on your particularly chaotic or stressful days?

Family, Simplify

There is nothing simple about being pregnant while raising a toddler

I have met my match. Try as I might to keep our family life simple and under control, my lack of energy often goes head-to-head with my 3-year-old daughter’s willpower. And she is a good kid. I just don’t have much energy these days.

There is nothing simple about being pregnant while raising a toddler or preschooler. There just isn’t.

And with a high risk pregnancy I have to take it easy in addition to dealing with my malaise. Of course, my daughter takes full advantage of my weakened state. I try to maintain boundaries, and sometimes I succeed, but often I do not.

Honestly, I am just plain worn out at the end of each and every day.

It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mama, it’s a lot to handle.

When you are pregnant with your second (or any child after that, I’m sure) you realize how good you had it when you were pregnant with your first. You had time for naps. Glorious naps.

Your older child doesn’t care if you sleep. Ever.

So right now is all about survival.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it in the end. 🙂

Family, Simplify

The challenges of simple living when you run a brick-and-mortar business

I daydream that my husband and I own a business that allows us to work from home, or better yet, from any location we want.

Yet my husband runs his family business, so that is not the case. And there is nothing simple about running a brick-and-mortar small business.

When employees don’t show up, then guess who must step in? Yep, we do. When a customer demands something above and beyond, they demand to talk to the owner. And guess who that is?

No one cares as much about your business as you do.

And I’ll share with you a dirty little secret kept by many small business owners.

Once you have been burned by employees or vendors, then you become smarter, and you may hold your cards closer to your chest. This means that you are less likely to let go of work that you really should allow someone else to do. But you won’t let it go because you have been taken advantage of, and you still aren’t over it.

Sigh.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for most of us it doesn’t mean the ability to shorten our work weeks. At least not yet. Simple living when running a brick-and-mortar business

It means doing the most important work to build your business, safeguarding what you need to, and then delegating the rest.

There is an art to knowing what work you should do yourself and what to delegate to others. Sometimes it all seems too important to delegate. And that is when life really gets out of balance.

I’ll be honest. It can be frustrating sometimes.

We are learning to step away and scan the whole business system to make more strategic decisions. It is just too easy to get lost in the day-to-day details of running a business and not take the time to think of its future direction and how to be more efficient.

But if we can continue to force ourselves to look at the big picture on a regular basis, that means that we can spend more time with our family away from work.

Luckily, our home life is fairly simple.

And when you already live simply at home, it gives you breathing room when the small business isn’t quite there yet.

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