Remember my dream kitchen, guys? This is what I (Kenzie) long for, every day. However, I'm not single and I'm a mother, and so chances are, this will never be my kitchen. This is not practical.
I bet you're like me. You're a busy wife or mom or both. You have endless to-do lists that always seem to have more on them than checked off. Well Mama, you're not alone.
Remember, I started my journey into a simpler lifestyle back in September while my husband was serving our country, as a way to occupy my mind and time. However, because I have a knack for organization and a love for this new-found lifestyle, I'm hoping to pass on the torch! Are you ready? Lauren and I are about to take you into Simple Living 101!
Here are some practical ways to implement simple living into your home and life! Each room has its antics. Here we will cover all the basics.
First let's define the difference between cleaning, decluttering, and a simple lifestyle. This is where Lauren chimes in!
Cleaning is maintenance, routine (no matter how often or not often it’s done), and necessary for your immune system. Chores, daily things that keep the house tidy, and normal habits all qualify as cleaning. We think of cleaning as laundry, dusting, and washing dishes.
Decluttering, however is an bi-yearly, once or twice-a-year organizational system. Perhaps, you think of decluttering as a part of spring cleaning. It's dedicated to getting rid of the excess. We think of decluttering like deep cleaning. Hands and knees and elbow grease kind of work like scrubbing baseboards and ridding our children's closets of clothes that no longer fit. The tough part about decluttering is that we often delegate decluttering to a time when our cupboards are avalanching on us and piles of laundry are so high that our kid's have outgrown the clothes still in the pile. Oh brother!
However, a Simple Lifestyle is both of those things in one. It's an on-going, habitual and intentional method for making room or space for growth. And I don’t mean more “stuff” but more room for your mind and your body to be free and creative. This simple lifestyle is vital. To me, it's the meat and potatoes of keeping my home clean and decluttered continually, so that my mind can focus on the things that really matter- my family.
You may all be hooked on the Marie Kondo series on Netflix, Tidying Up. Personally, I haven't found the time to sit and watch the subtext because of the language barrier, but everyone is inspired by the idea of less is more. And I'm buying what she's selling, even if I haven't watched it. I believe that less cleaning and less tidying up means more time with my boys. I believe that less clutter means that my mind is more intentionally creative because my mind has space to think of things besides to mess.⠀⠀⠀
What we want to suggest is to making this not just an occasional task, but more a lifestyle to simple living. This way less time is spent doing all the things- cleaning (because there's less to clean) and decluttering (because there's less to sort and purge and organize). The key here is to make this a less occasional thing and more a healthy habit.
Maybe you're not sold. Here are some questions as you consider exploring a Simple Lifestyle:
What would an uncluttered home mean for you?
What would an uncluttered home mean for your child(ren)?
At this point in time, how would you feel if someone dropped by unannounced?
This is not an easy process. A lot of things we love, the memories we've made, the things that bring us joy, they are hard to part with, but where do we have room for new memories? Where do we get to showcase them? Why do we have 20 year old photos on the wall when our kids now have kids of their own? Personally, I just put the new photos in front of them that way they still live there ;) It's ok to let go of the past to embrace the present. You can do this and we will show you how!
5 Steps to Simple Living:
Most Important Note:
When you start this method, please, I must first warn you to make sure you only tackle one room at a time. Do not take things from one room and put them in another. From experience, this leads me to forget what I was doing in the first place. Find a "catch all" area perhaps just outside the room you're working in and let it be. Let it collect all the things that need a home somewhere else in the house but that you are keeping. This prevents loss time and aimless roaming and distractions.
Step One: Sort
First you sort through all the things in that room. It may be helpful to start in one corner. I also recommend starting in a small room. Don't get overwhelmed by taking on the biggest room in your house. Small victories make for big rewards. If you feel you can conquer one small space, you won't get overwhelmed and quit.
Sort things into 4 piles: Keep, Give, Trash, and Elsewhere.
Keep: Self-explanatory in its nature, simply make a pile for things you are keeping in that particular room.
Give: Make a pile to give away. This is everything that must go-away! We highly recommend donating any children's clothes or toys to your local foster closet (Many children coming into care only get 5 pieces of clothing when they enter foster care: a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, a jacket, and 2 shirts because of the lack of supplies. And, honestly, before I entered the world of foster care and adoption, I didn't even know there was such a thing. It's also a great way to show your children that it's important to care for those who have less).
Trash: Throw away. Recycle when you're able. Need I say more?
Elsewhere: Perhaps you've found an item that isn't in the right place. No... this would never happen. Like we mentioned in the note paragraph above, do NOT leave the room you're in (except for bathroom breaks of course and an occasional snack)! Place the item some place where you can sort all the things later- somewhere it won't be in the room, so it's not in the way, but somewhere that when you're done with that room, you cannot look it over without taking those items to their desirable location.
Ways to decide which pile:
1. Do I love this?
2. When did I wear/use this last?
3. Is it damaged?
Step Two: Purge
Now purge all the things. Take them to the places you've told them to go. Take the trash out. Give the "stuff" away- that's right, put it in the car NOW! Don't look back. That dress you haven't worn in 3 years- bye! Those tiny shoes that your baby wore on her 3rd trip to the doctor before your tubes were tied- see ya on some other little baby's feet. Trust me, you don't need this stuff. You have to part with what you part with and move on. If you have no room for growth, you'll get no where.
Step Three: Clean
Now, clean Mama clean! Seriously, I don't have any tips or tricks for this. I have a few products we like to use, but I don't know that you need help here. We love Magic Erasers for everything, Lysol Wipes, and Thieves. I also love the smell of Mr. Clean's Gain all purpose cleaner. Other than that, you got this. I won't preach natural or toxic or non-toxic. You do you Mama!
Step Four: Organize
We love us some baskets, organizing shelves and keeping systems...oh and the labels. Here are a few of our faves:
Kitchen (+ Pantry)
In the kitchen lives the junk drawer, the redundant spice bottles, the 15 different brands of ziplock bags, and then the food. No more. It's time to simplify!
I'll be honest, most people are afraid of open shelving. You might be afraid of clutter. I'm not. I crave the openness and I love it! Why? Because:
1. It gives me more space so things don't go hiding in inconspicuous places where I can't find them (you know what I'm talking about- those lazy Susan's that trap small lids and tiny items that go missing for years until you finally throw away the matching piece just before it's found-AH!). and
2. It keeps me accountable for keeping things clean. I can see everything and I can see what I have in stock and what I need more of, with ease.
I can also store all my kitchen tools on the shelves and get to them easily from bowls to my instant pot.
Photo credit: @fourthandmaple
How fun are these file sorters by @homganize as veggie sorting baskets? Brilliant!
I'm also a sucker for anything in pretty white bins and calligraphy! These pantry sorters by @tideelife are so accessible and clean.
Excess in the Kitchen:
Plates- Storage or Donate? Seriously, why do we have all these dishes? We don't even have room to store, at my house it is definitely time to donate!
Mugs- The best rule I have found is, "Only keep your Monday morning mugs. You know, the one that you look for on Monday morning, that seems to make the coffee stronger, better, it brings a smile to your face. Keep just those."
In my own kitchen: I utilized old Coca Cola crates as spice racks. These are by far my favorite kitchen element. They keep them off the counter, labeled and accessible. They aren't only aesthetically pleasing to me, but also functional. I also don't like knife blocks (anything I can get off the counter is off). So my knife organizing system is a magnet from Ikea. The more simple, the better!
I've heard all my life parents (mine included) say "I want to give my kids a better life than I had." The problem I hear with this is the heart of this is typically, I want to give my kids more than I had. While in theory that sounds innocent, I don't think kids are crying for more things and stuff. I think, now, more than ever that kids are longing for the affection and time and attention of their parents. My 14 year old is living proof of this. He calls me out on it constantly. Even though I work from home and he is with me 24/7, because at this stage of our life we are homeschooling, he still begs for my focus.
In areas where you have to organize kid stuff, here are a few photos we found helpful. This is where I implement the something old, something new rule. If something new comes, something old must leave. This ensures that clutter is minimized, so less clean up for you and the kids. The less there is, the more time you spend enjoying each other instead of all the stuff. Those are memories that will keep!
We sort by color, category, and frequency of use. Things that are barely used are put further to the back or bottom. Things used more frequently are towards the front of the basket or cabinet.
Organizing Boxes: Wood, clear, open crates... who cares as long as it gets the job done! And labels! The things make it not only easy for you to find, but easy for the kiddos to put away. This will take practice. We recommend making it a regular chore to check over and make sure everything is in the right place. Perhaps once a week. I know that sounds daunting, but as it becomes a habit, the kids will be more apt to make sure it's in the right place the first time. This will teach them organization, responsibility, and feel like they are a crucial part of the family- their help is needed. It's a win win!
Trust me, even as a teenager, my kid loves structure. He hated it at first, but I was told consistency would pay off. Now that he's been home with us for nearly 8 months, it has. He is still learning, and we don't expect perfection, but he knows what is expected of him and being a kid doesn't mean you just get to play play play all the time. He understands if he doesn't put something away correctly the first time, he will only spend more time correcting that and less time having fun. Stick it out Mama!
Photo credits: (Top Left: @niceandneathomes Bottom Right: @mumzandmunchkinz)
Bed linens: I've started sorting our bed linens with their matching pieces, folded inside their pillow case. Depending on your space, you may want to use baskets for each bed size or a different shelf. And labels or tags are a beauty in any space- especially for guests!
Towels/Hand towels: I make separate stacks for each size and fold them in the same direction. While I allow Freddie to fold and put away his own laundry, I tend to be a little more OCD about my towels and washcloths than in most areas in my house, because it is a very small space. So, instead of getting upset, because I don't run a military house, I just do those myself. One day I will make sure he knows how to do these little things, but for now, him sweeping the house every other day is much more helpful to me- we have so much sand in Florida that we and our 3 inside animals track in.
Use of Space: I think you have to get creative with linen storage. Not all of us have an ample amount of storage space, so I think your particular needs will vary, however I like the idea of hanging organizers and these hanging throw blankets, especially for the seasonal ones. It keeps them fresh and off the floor.
Photo credits: (Left- @lifestorage, Right- @kelleynan)
Step Five: Repeat
I might argue that this step is the most important of all. Why? Because this is what keeps this a lifestyle and not just an event or an occasion. This is the oil that keeps you going.
Ways I repeat this in my daily life:
1. Purge the Kitchen: Every week, the night before the trash pick up comes, I empty the fridge, not only does this help me make sure that I don't buy something on my list that's already in my pantry, but it ensures that I organize before bringing groceries home to fill my over-stocked pantry and fridge. Thursday before I go to the grocery store on Friday morning, I make sure nothing needs to be removed before I bring in all the new. We have less waste (because we do feed our scraps to the birds) and it takes less time deciding what last minute things we need before we stock up. More on this next week!
2. Something old, something new: This one has been hard on my son, but when something new comes in, if it's replacing something old, the old must go out. At first, my son who was in foster care for a year and a half was extremely attached to two pairs of shoes which looked like they had never been worn a day in his life. However, I let it go for a few months, bought him some new shoes and when I was planning a trip to the foster closet, I made sure to ask him if he wanted to send them off. This time, he was a lot less attached. Be gentle, but set the example Mama. It doesn't matter if it's shoes or a semi-favorite toy, kiddos have memories attached. Bargain with them if you can- you can keep 5 of your favorites and we can give 2 to a child who doesn't have a stuffed animal to keep them cozy at night!
When in doubt, remember why you are seeking a clutter-free, simple lifestyle. It's all about perspective. We have found most of these helpful through trial and error, and it may look completely different for you. We are just here to share our experiences in order to better equip you if you choose to take this journey with us.
We would love to know if you have done it what worked for you. It is a journey we are still on, and maybe one day we will have more answers. For now, we are walking with you.
Lauren and Kenzie
*Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.