Sunday, April 12, 2015

What Really Matters

It's Sunday, and I'm reflecting on one of the most stressful weeks I have had in a while.  And the thing is, most of the stress, was good stress.  One of my best friends started having contractions last Sunday, I was so excited and eager to do anything and everything I could for her, all while, handling one of my biggest work events of the year on Wednesday.  The baby came on Tuesday night, happy and healthy, the parents beaming with happiness.  I too was beaming and felt honored and lucky to be at the hospital to share in their joy.  The next day I got to work early and had a 12 hour rush to put on the largest and most well attended event we had.  I worked hard, many challenges came my way throughout the day, and I handled all of them and found solutions.  I went to bed on Wednesday, physically and emotionally aching from the stress.  The next morning it all caught up with me, I had the stomach flu.  Friday, was a healing day and building up my strength.  This weekend, with an ok from my doctor, I continued to assist my friends with their new baby.  I also, made a Target run with the new father.

This is where I saw the positive effects of my week play out.  Normally Target is my minimalist place of 'sin', where I get tempted to make frivolous purchases, especially when stressed out.  That day, I had a list of 7 things:

dish washer detergent
laundry detergent
dryer sheets
plastic sandwich bags
panty hose

And guess what, that's all I bought.  Not one extra thing went into the cart.  I saw some things that were colorful, shiny, glistening and calling me to pick them up, try them on, "I'll make you feel amazing!" they called to me.  But no, they wouldn't.  They would just take up space and end up causing me more stress.

The events of the week put everything in perspective: stuff doesn't matter.  Stuff wasn't going to help me help my friends during one of the most amazing times in their lives.  Stuff wasn't going to help me handle the hurdles I faced with my event at work. Stuff wasn't going to help me get better from the stomach flu.  And the last thing my friends needed this week was STUFF.  They and I, all needed love, support and care to get through this week.

As I enter a much less stressful week, I hope to take this lesson with me.  When stress strikes, some TLC is the cure, not a Target run.

Here's to wishing everyone a simple and lovely week ahead!

Friday, April 3, 2015


I have a love-hate relationship with the holiday of Passover.  It is a pain in the butt to prep for both physically and mentally, and often emotionally.  It is a time that I look at my kitchen and think "oh my god, how am I going to do this!"  But the cleaning and the preparation always get done some how and it leaves me feeling very zen.  There was something cathartic about clearing out my refrigerator and all my cabinets and carefully deciding what went back in, what would be taken to the food pantry and what could finally be thrown away.

This holiday also forces me to meal plan, in a way that I don't seem to have the will power to do during the rest of the year.  I keep kosher for Passover pretty strictly, and will not eat out during the full 8 days.  I prep different options and have my lunches and dinners all planned out.  It makes the whole week very relaxed and very simple.

I also am forced to actually get up earlier so I can eat breakfast at home and make myself coffee to go because I can't just stop on my way or eat at the office.  This makes my mornings during this week nice and slow without the rush and the stress.

Passover is a time to reflect on the past and how it affects our present. It helps me appreciate what I already have in my life instead of desiring more.  It brings people around a table for every meal to connect.  While the prep may be labor-some and sometimes intense, it allows me to enter a focused and present state that I always try to take with me when it ends.

For those of you celebrating Passover, I hope, as you put the finishing touches on your tables and dishes, that you find that moment of peace and serenity to wash over you and relax into the rest of this beautiful holiday!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Minimalist Re-set

Hello everyone.  I've been gone for 7 months because frankly, I had not been living a very minimalist lifestyle. I had taken on too much and said 'yes' to too many things.  Clutter had even begun to creep its way back into my car and my home.  People kept asking when I would write another post, and I simply had nothing to share.

At the beginning of the New Year, I decided it was time for a minimalist reset and over the last three months I have been decluttering and simplifying different areas of my life.

At work I: 

  • Reduced 3 drawers of files into one 
  • Shredded/recycled what was not needed
  • Scanned and filed away digitally what I thought we should keep  

At home I:

  • Gathered three bags worth of clothes and shoes to give away
  • Culled and organized 'out of control' paperwork
  • Had old laptops wiped clean and put up for sale
  • Went through cabinets to throw away old food/toiletries

In Life I:

  • Started saying 'no' more often to make sure I have time for myself and my relationship
  • Left a few groups I was a part of to make more time for things I really love
  • Restarted my small business, Your Simple Home, and tackled a new project with a new client
  • Started making home cooked meals
  • Signed up for a plot in the community garden for spring
I feel energized and motivated after my minimalist reset.  I hope to write more now that I have simplified life just a little bit more.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Camping: Simple Living at It's Finest

A few weeks ago I did something I haven't done in years, and something my husband and I have never experienced together.  We went camping! I can't tell you how excited I was about this getaway.  I grew up going camping with my family nearly every summer and I love the outdoors.  Memories of hiking, camp fires and smores made me giddy as I thought about how to recreate them as an adult.  We drove 4 hours south to Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois.  The scenery was breathtaking, our campsite modest.  No running water, only an outhouse and a fire pit.  We pitched a tent, unrolled our sleeping bags and started to make dinner around the camp fire with our friends.  I immediately felt relaxed.  My mind was clear.  The air was filled with the smell of smoke and barbecue.  People played guitar near by and kids squealed with laughter.  Forest noises of cicadas and crickets rose up and the twinkling of fire flies appeared.  We didn't need to rush anywhere or do any work. No to do lists, no errands, no plans.  We just got to sit by the crackling fire and be together.  Throughout the weekend we hiked, swam in a river and enjoyed more time around the camp fire.  We went to sleep when the stars came out and woke up with the sun.  We were completely disconnected from phone service or electricity.  We only had whatever belongings or food we had brought and we made due and even got creative with campfire recipes. There were no distractions at all.  Simple living at its finest.

We arrived back home and while I was sad to leave the wonderful weekend I was very thankful for my shower and flush-able toilet! Even after just 2 days living in such simplistic conditions, I was thankful for the things that I do have and have a renewed sense that I have all I need, and I have no desire for anything more.  This is one of the reasons I love minimalism.  You get rid of excess, and you stop having the constant desire for more.  You feel content with yourself, and more comfortable with where you are and who you are.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fresh Produce and Apartment Living

After moving back to the states I knew I was going to miss the abundance of fresh, local produce available just steps from my apartment building in Ramat Gan, Israel.  Even though we now live in farm country, somehow it is more difficult to access fresh local produce on a daily basis.  Our area has a wonderful farmers market, but only on Saturdays and sometimes we cannot make it there on a weekly basis.  We decided to recreate our herb planters that we had in Israel, but wanted to experiment with growing some produce in pots.  Living in an apartment means no yard to create a large garden.  We decided to start small with one potted cherry tomato plant, and a pot for green onions made from an onion that had started to sprout in our kitchen.

We have been benefiting from constant fresh green onions for some time, and they seem to be flourishing in the tiny pot on our patio.  But today, we finally got to taste our first ripe cherry tomato grown organically on our own patio.  And may I say it was sweet, juicy and delicious!  There is something so satisfying and rewarding about growing your own food.

Apartment living has been wonderful for our minimalist lifestyle.  The perfect amount of space, no maintenance, no yard work, and low cost.  However, the ability to have our own garden beds is something that keeps me wondering if we would want to get a small house with a yard in the future.  Luckily we have plenty of time to think about it and we will be sure to weigh the pros and cons to stay true to the quality of life we want to have.

Definitions of "minimalism" and "simple living" are different for each person and each family.  It is about living consciously and putting value and importance on what really matters to you.  That could mean living out of a backpack, not owning any furniture, having a flexible job or being able to grow your own cherry tomatoes on your patio.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Minimalism Maintenance

It has nearly been 2 years since I embarked on my journey towards minimalism.  I have gotten rid of a lot of belongings and cut down on what I purchase and bring into the home.  All my clothing, both for summer and winter can fit into one suitcase, all of our books fit onto two shelves on a bookcase, and paper clutter is at an all time low.  Even with all of these goals accomplished, even a minimalist needs to do some maintenance every now and again.

This weekend I found that some minimalist maintenance was in order in my home.  I took the plunge and got rid of the rest of my makeup and toiletries I was hanging onto and not using, I went through our lone junk drawer in our coffee table, reviewed our paper files, chose two more books to donate to the local library and found 2 more items of clothing to give away.

Even though this wasn't a huge purge or a massive overhaul with shocking before and after photos, it felt good to check in with how my home is functioning and how it makes me feel.  Do you have the feeling that you need some simple living maintenance?  Here are some tips I lead my Your Simple Home clients through:

1) Sit in each space and reflect on how the space currently functions and how it makes you feel.
2) Think about how you WANT the space to function and how you WANT to feel in your space.
3) Do the answers to 1 and 2 match?  If they do, fantastic! If not, some maintenance may be in order.
4) Set goals for your space to help you with decision making on what to keep and what to purge.
5) Work one shelf, drawer, table, etc. at a time.  Take it slow, this is not a race.

What other maintenance tips and tricks do you use to keep your home simple and enjoyable?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Honoring Memories Through Possessions

I was recently inspired by one of my Your Simple Home clients. While at her home, my client explained that she had a hard time letting go of gifts family and good friends give her even if she absolutely hates the item. Because the item was given with love, she was filled with feelings of guilt at even the thought of letting it go. We decided to start off small and tackle a bookshelf in her study. We came across a lot of clutter, however, she shared some extraordinary items full of family history and amazing memories.

One item was a framed, handwritten letter from her great-grandmother.  She wrote the following story: "...this letter was written by my great-grandmother to (in the voice of my grandmother) announce the birth of my maternal grandmother. I cherish it not only because it is a family heirloom, but because it is written in a very different era (hand-written, even) after World War I but before World War II. Simply put, it was a period I cannot fathom but this piece at least allows me to imagine."

The second item was a vintage Ken doll,  She wrote,  "When my paternal grandparents came to this country after the Holocaust, their financial resources were obviously limited. My understanding is that both of my aunts received Barbie dolls... sort of. My oldest aunt was given a Barbie doll, while my younger aunt was given Ken. You can imagine the disappointment that my aunt felt. So my aunt gave this doll to me when I was about 13-years old. It serves as a reminder of what my family went through in order to thrive in this country and the sacrifices---big or small---that had to be made by all. It is not particularly attractive nor is it in good condition, but it's of great importance to me."

We discussed how these items made her smile, brought her joy and many positive family memories.  We then worked to declutter the items on the bookshelf that did not bring her joy and that took up space and energy.  By getting rid of the excess styff, these treasured items could be displayed and honored in a way that they could be enjoyed by her and her family on a daily basis.

She wrote, "Being able to have both items represented in the room has been wonderful!"

We all assign emotional value to our possessions, and if an item carries memories of loved ones, they can bring all sorts of emotions to us.  When clutter is an issue in our lives it comes time to take stock of the possessions we have and think about why we have them.

Questions to consider:

Does the item bring me good memories or bad ones?

Do I enjoy having this in my home and in my life?

Am I able to enjoy the item on a daily basis?

Sometimes we love the sentimental items we own but they become lost on shelves, in piles and in storage.  When this happens, we do not honor the memories the item gives us and we miss out. Getting rid of the excess, of the items that do not invoke positive emotions, we make room for the ones we cherish.  Our homes should be places of comfort and joy.  By making conscious decisions of what comes in we can maintain those feelings.