The Simplicity Blog
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By Amanda Zaidman of Constructive Parenting
As humans we evolved in a time of scarcity. For most of human history there was never enough to eat, never the promise of a roof over our heads, never the assurance of safety and stability. Fortunately, many of us no longer live with scarcity but the pendulum has swung the way. Now it is almost too easy to get food, clothes and other goods affordably. In fact, it is so easy that many of us have found ourselves surrounded by too much. Our brains haven’t caught on to the fact that resources are no longer scarce and we continue to crave more, more, more.
This plays out in many different ways. We can’t eat just one chip. We start to feel down and we rely on retail therapy for a pick-me-up. We hear about the latest gadget, and instantly thoughts of owning it consume us. We hear about our neighbor’s child playing soccer or competing in gymnastics and we get a pang of guilt that we haven’t signed our child up for that sport yet. The result is regret about expanding waist lines, homes filled with too many things, and a schedule that is so full that we don’t have time to just be together as a family.
I am not preaching from a soapbox. I live with a constant desire to have more, do more, and be more too. But feeling guilty about this desire is not productive. The goal is to acknowledge that this need for more exists so that we can gain the freedom to make different choices. Because what we know about the brain is that when it is constantly overwhelmed by “too much” (food, stuff, activities, choices) we become stressed and the result is that we end up walking around with a very short fuse.
Think about it. When was the last time you lost your temper or completely over reacted, and you surfaced from your anger only to wonder “whoa, what just happened? That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be?” Maybe you cursed at a driver who cut you off as you were hurrying to an appointment in your car. Maybe you completely lost your temper with your spouse or your kids. If you are tired of feeling stressed out as the result of our “too much” life styles it may be time to simplify.
This is where mindfulness comes in. We have all heard this trendy word but what does it really mean and how can it help? Mindfulness is simplifying where we place our attention so that instead of always being distracted by a worry about the future or a concern about the past we make an intention to bring our focus back to the present moment. We are so used to multitasking and we are so addicted to distractions that it is actually really hard to focus on what is going on right here and right now. But when you make the choice to slow down (to literally pause), your brain gets the message that things are safe and the stressful feelings dissolve. The result is that you gain the ability to choose how you want to respond to a situation rather than always having to look back after the fact wondering why you reacted the way you did. There is a famous Viktor Frankl Quote that captures this best, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
The following are tips for how mindfulness can help you simplify so you can get back to your best self.
Start with your values
What are the things that are most important to you and your family? Come up with a list of five values or positive traits and write them down. These are the qualities that you want your children to possesses as they become adults. These values can become the backbone for your choice to live mindfully. Believe me, making change is hard and when you feel the pull to give in or give up having a little backbone to lean on is super handy.
Mindful choices in daily life.
Once you have identified your values think about how you can start simplifying your daily life. If gratitude is important to you and you have noticed that lately your children seem entitled, maybe it is time to pare down the number of toys they have. Parents find that when kids are less overwhelmed with so many choices, favorite toys are rediscovered, creativity increases, and play becomes more peaceful between siblings. If the playroom isn’t the only room that has become chaotic with “too much” stuff, consider hiring an organization company to help you create a space that better reflects your values.
Next take a look at your schedule. If every minute of every day is filled with organized activities, it may be time to simplify here as well. As parents we feel pressure to give our children as many opportunities as possible and this may mean lots and lots of lessons. Piano, Spanish, tennis, golf, baseball, gymnastics– you get the point. After a long day in school children need down time for their brains to decompress from the stress of being “on” all day. They need time to play outside, time to build forts in their rooms and time for boredom. Yes, boredom. This gives them the opportunity to be their most creative selves.
If your family is still too busy with activities after school to relax together, why not make family dinners together a priority? This is a mindful choice that we can make as parents that allows us to create meaningful bonds with our children. While you are together you can spend time mindfully eating (pausing to consider where your food came from, how it got to your table, what flavors make up the meal). You can practice mindful listening as each person shares about their day, what they are grateful for, and what they learned from the mistakes they made (mindful listening means giving your full attention to the other person rather than thinking about what clever thing you will say next). When you are done you can mindfully clean up together.
Start a formal mindfulness practice.
If your goal is to truly simplify where you focus your attention so that you can live more fully in the moment, the best way to do this is to start a formal mindfulness practice. If the thought of sitting for 30 minutes in silence seems like it could never work for you, remember to try to set yourself up for success by starting with small manageable steps. Try downloading a mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace and learn to pause and ground yourself by focusing on your breathing. Do three-minute guided meditations for a few days in a row. If you miss a day don’t beat yourself up, just start again. If you want to take it a step further take an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course in your community or online. Remember, the goal of mindfulness meditation is not to sit with an empty mind. Rather it is to notice when you get distracted and gently bring your attention back to the present. Likewise, the goal of living mindfully is not to be a perfect. It is to notice when you are making a choice that is not aligned with your values, to learn from that mistake and then to start again with intention.
For other helpful parenting tips check out Constructive Parenting
October is here, which means the holiday season is fast approaching! Before your technology makes you start screaming, carve out some time to get your digital world under control. To some of you, technology might haunt your dreams or seem like a bunch of hocus-pocus. Current Technology Consulting is here to help so that your technology is no longer a trick but more of a treat!
Whether your computer needs a tune-up or you need help with holiday computer-related projects, Current is here for you. To schedule an appointment, click here!
Current Technology Consulting Services
Tech Time for Your Technology,
Founder, Current Technology Consulting
By Simplicity’s Lorin Hamilton
So I was sifting through Netflix looking for something to watch other than Friends or Gilmore Girls, you need a break every now and then, when I came across this documentary on minimalism. I thought the summary looked interesting and decided to give it a try. Among other thought provoking ideas, there was one that stood out in my mind the most. What if I worried less because I have less?
I have always been told it is better to have more because more gives you protection. More gives you more joy. More gives you more financial freedom. More just gives you more everything. But what if having more gives you more worry, gives you more greed, gives you more jealousy or gives you more self-doubt. Is the ability to have more truly better than allowing yourself to have less?
I have been struggling lately with the idea that my life did not turn out exactly how I thought it would, which is an age-old cliché, I know. I guess I thought I would be happier. Or just comfortable with everything I have accomplished up until now. But so far, I feel overwhelmed with this need for having more, which is uncomfortable. I am just living day to day for the hope of getting to that “place” one day. How depressing is that?!
So, what if instead of constantly thinking of what I need to do to get more, I learned to live with less? Would that make me happier? Would that make me appreciate what I have and where I am at this point in life? Would I worry less about money? Would I just worry less in general? Now there’s a thought!
Project 333 is a movement or lifestyle mentioned in the documentary. It is the practice of only wearing 33 items within 3 months, hence 333. So you only have a total of 33 items including shirts, pants, shoes, outwear, and accessories. Underwear, workout clothes and pajamas don’t count toward the 33 item total. Can you imagine having a 11 foot by 11 foot walk-in closet with only 33 things in there?! I mean give me a break. There is no way a woman who works could have enough outfits to wear to work and for casual outings on the weekends to stay within the 33 item rule. However, I am painfully wrong. Tons of women are doing it and are making it work. Many, many Pinterest posts of the 333 capsule wardrobes are there to prove me wrong.
Being inspired by all of these women and the hype, I wanted to see if it would work. I wanted to see if living with less would give me more comfort with the “place” of life I am in. So the following Saturday, I forged my way into Project 333.
At the end of the day, I didn’t quite get to the 33 item total, but I did put more than half of the clothes in my closet in boxes. I also turned my hangers backward, so I would know at the end of 3 months if I really had worn all the items I had left in there.
I feel great! Like a big weight has been lifted. I walk into my closet and it is clean! I have always struggled with keeping my closet tidy, but now it is tidy all the time because hardly anything is in there. I love being able to quickly pick something out to wear in the mornings.
And the strange thing is, I don’t feel the need to get more stuff. I have everything that I could possibly need. Now instead of going shopping, I can go out and have more experiences other than the inside of the mall. The possibilities are endless. And that brings me happiness!
By having less, I can finally discover the feeling of being comfortable in the moment and not have those constant thoughts of needing more.
Watch out garage, you’re next!
Simplicity Kids & Teens has been busy getting clients ready for school and helping them start the year off on the right foot. Here are a few tips.
1) Make a checklist for all the school supplies needed for the school year. Typically schools provide a list of recommended school supplies. Be sure to take your list with you when you go shopping. Each child should be responsible for shopping for his/her own supplies. Make this a family trip. Create a place near where your children do their homework, to store all the school supplies.
2) Organize the backpack. Backpacks are very helpful for storing and carrying school supplies. Before organizing your backpack, make sure it is completely cleaned out from the previous year. Be sure to stock backpacks with the necessary school supplies. Assign each compartment of the backpack so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. If the weight of the backpack is a concern, wheeled backpacks are available.
3) Create a system for school papers and artwork. Artwork and papers can easily flood an entire room. Set up your system before the first day of school. As a family, decide what system you are going to use. Not every piece of paper can or should be kept that arrives home from school. Set up a bulletin board or a special place in your home to celebrate each week’s best work. Either toss the rest, file what is important, or store the work in a tub that will needed to be purged at the end of the year. Take a picture of the artwork or school project. A good rule of thumb is to keep no more than 5 pieces that best represent that year.
4) Plan and pack lunches ahead of time. Prevent emergency grocery runs by planning ahead! Review school lunch rules and guidelines. Keep the pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthy choices. Meet with your children to plan lunch ideas. Pack lunch after dinner and refrigerate overnight.
5) Create new routines. Routines help establish security and confidence in a child’s life. Regular schedules provide a framework that allows children to learn how to manage their time and attention. Children thrive on repetition. It is important that children understand what is expected. Effective routines help keep a family organized.
Hi everyone! My name is Kadie Kersey, and I am the founder of Uptown Errands!
I have always known the importance of a balanced work and home life. However, many of us struggle to find this balance. There are never enough hours in the day to complete our never-ending, ever-growing “To Do” lists. Until now!
My company, Uptown Errands, is an errand-running service that allows people and businesses to outsource their “To Do” list! Need to pick up dry cleaning? No time for grocery shopping? Need an oil change? We’ve got you covered! Uptown Errands offers a wide variety of personal and professional services to help you take control of your busy life. With our help, you will have the ability to accomplish more! And, we assure that your time will once again become your own.
Errand Services are priced at $30/hour* and can be booked online using our easy-to-use booking tool, which can be found at the top of each page of the website or with a simple phone call, email, or text!
In September of 2014 I took a solo month-long road trip across the country. All of my belongings for survival fit into one Chevy Cruzer. During that month I came to realize that I could survive on much less than I was used to. When I returned home I started the process of simplifying my life. I was always an extremely organized person, but I wanted to get down to the basics and have more room in my life for what’s truly important – the people in it. I’ve slowly gone through different categories that have helped me take back control of all that “stuff” we all accumulate over the years. I want to share with you 8 steps that helped me take back control of my life.
1. Go through all of your paperwork. I mean everything. Paper hidden in filing cabinets, drawers, closets, laying in a pile on the counter. Make three piles – one pile of junk paper to recycle, one pile of paper to shred, and one pile of paper to file away. Then, as you go through your papers to file, see if you can go as paperless as possible. Enter every bill that you’re able to online. A lot of companies do automatic withdrawal so you don’t even have to think about it (as long as you have the funds in your account to cover your bills that is). For the papers you absolutely need to keep label file folders and neatly organize them in a filing cabinet so that you can easily find what you need when necessary. Every few months continue to go through the files and weed out what you don’t need. Also, when I get my mail I immediately go through it and do this process as well. I weed out the junk to recycle and put important papers in a bin to file once per week.
2. Clean up your computer. Go through your email and make folders so that you can easily sort your daily emails into the proper place. Unsubscribe from all the junk email you get so you don’t have to waste your time going through and deleting unnecessary emails. Organize your pictures into folders so that you can have everything neat and tidy. Delete old documents or programs you don’t use anymore. Then back everything up.
3. Go through your books. Do you really need all those books on your bookshelf if you have already read them? Pick out your absolute favorites that you will read multiple times, sentimental ones, or books you need to reference for work or school and then donate the rest. Go to the library for books, or borrow one from a friend. A perk to that is you can discuss the book with your friend after you finish reading it.
4. Clothes. Many people have more clothes than they need. Myself included. I had four closets full to the brim – yes, four. And that is after going through them year after year, yet I still found myself with too many clothes. My method to simplify was a challenge I gave to myself. I was going to wear every single article of clothing that I owned. If I didn’t want to put it on in the morning, then it went in the sell/donate pile. If it didn’t fit, then it went in the sell/donate pile. And if, at the end of the day, I didn’t like wearing it, then it went in the sell/donate pile. I had 24 pairs of jeans. Who could possible need 24 pairs of jeans? Not me. If an event comes up, instead of rushing out to buy a new dress, ask your friends if they have one you could borrow. Chances are most dresses you own have only been worn a handful of times anyway, but it would be like a brand new dress to one of your friends. Do you have a ratty old t-shirt…perfect, turn it into a rag to clean your house. Old towels? Make them dog towels for your pet, or donate them to your local animal shelter.
5. Use it up. I was going to use everything up in my house before buying more. That included all my bathroom toiletries, all my paper supplies, and all of the food in my pantry. Before, I tended to buy multiples of things so that I would never run out, but that just creates more “stuff” piling up around your house. The whole purpose is to simplify and reduce the amount of things you have. So, once you are down to the basics, you can keep an eye on when something is running low and then get it the next time you are at the store. That way you won’t buy unnecessary items, and your food will always be fresh. Clear out old medicine that has expired. If you have 50 pens and pencils do you have a friend who is a teacher who could use some extra supplies?
6. Refrain from impulse buying. Surprisingly I have done really well on this one. I used to get whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. If I walked into Target to buy one item, I would come out with five. Why? Because I saw it and thought I needed to have it at that exact moment and the next thing I knew I was paying for $100 worth of items when I came in to only spend $20. Decide what you are going out to buy before you go to the store and stick to it. The idea is not to bring extra unnecessary items back into your home when you are trying to clean it out.
7. Having less makes you feel like you have more. More freedom, and more room in your life for the things that truly matter. You appreciate what you do have, take better care of it, and use everything you own. You have less stress by having everything organized in it’s place, less clutter, and less to clean. And you will find that you have more money by not needing to buy everything you think you need or want. Also, try selling some of your items and then putting the money into savings for a rainy day, traveling, or an emergency fund.
8. Enjoy nature. Now that you have simplified your material life, go out and enrich your internal self. Time spent doing something you love is worth it’s weight in gold. Exercise your body and mind in whatever way makes you feel good, whether it be lifting weights, yoga, meditation, hiking, walking your dog, reading a book, a favorite hobby – whatever it is, just get your body and mind moving. You will 100% always feel better about yourself after you exercise or do something you enjoy. Eat better. Use food as the fuel it is meant to be. Keep yourself feeling good and staying strong by watching what you put in your body. Find out where your food comes from, read labels, educate yourself. We only get one mind and body. Take care of it.
I hope you find yourself headed towards a simpler, happier life! If you want help in clearing the clutter in your home contact the experts at Simplicity Organizers!
By Lauren Schilling of Simplicity Organizers
2017 READ a Book, GIVE a Book Celebration!
Reading is a life skill and it is unfortunate that during the summer months, many students lose valuable literacy skills when they stop reading during their break from school. Summer reading loss negatively impacts our struggling readers, and ultimately our entire community. Children who do not have access to books or adults who can read to them are especially susceptible to falling behind over the summer.
As a result, by the end of fifth grade, these students are approximately 2 1/2 years behind their peers in terms of reading ability.
Simplicity Organizers is hosting our annual book drive in the month of May. We are encouraging the Charlotte community to donate gently used children’s books Preschool – 5th grade to our READ A BOOK, GIVE A BOOK celebration. This year we will be donating the books to Windsor Park Elementary in hopes that every single student will be able to take home several books to read over the summer!
We would love for you to partner with us and help us reach our goal of collecting 5,000 books this May!
Books can be dropped off at Windsor Park Elementary or email Simplicity to find a book drop off location near you:
Ballantyne, Barclay Downs, Cotswold, Dilworth, Matthews, Myers Park & Southpark
3910 Sudbury Road 28205
By Caitlin Helgeson
Last fall I stumbled upon the Unfancy Minimalist Blog and was first introduced to the concept of capsule wardrobes; which is defined as a compact wardrobe consisting of staple pieces, usually thirty items and fewer. I was intrigued but apprehensive.
What about all the money I’d spent on the clothes in my closet? There’s no way I would have enough outfits for work, play, and special events if I’d paired my closet to just thirty items. How boring and uninspiring.
Around the same time, I was browsing Facebook when I saw a giveaway from the, Less is More Movement group; a year long movement to help break the cycle of over-consumption and its resulting clutter making space for what matters most to you – a joint venture between Charlotte-based companies Simplicity Organizers and Spunky Avocado. The giveaway was for two free hours of closet consultation, closet purge, personal styling services, outfit coordination and/or personal shopping services from Whitley Adkins Hamlin at the Queen City Style. I immediately entered and was thrilled when a few days later I received notification that I was the winner!
From there I had an initial phone call with Whitley, who is truly the epitome of a sweet Carolina Girl. I instantly felt comfortable with her, like an old friend, and knew I was in good hands with a true tastemaker. I shared with her that my closets were jam packed, but with few things that I actually loved. I expressed interest in having fewer, more quality pieces and that at almost thirty years old, was ready to have a more refined and sophisticated wardrobe.
A few weeks later, Whitley showed up at my house. She was spunky, energetic, inspiring and engaging. I think there can be a sense of intimidation about having a professional stylist come assess your things, but Whitley is so down to earth and feels more like a friend you’ve known forever. She asked a lot of questions about my home decor to get a sense of my style. Then we made the trek upstairs as I unveiled what I had been hiding behind closed doors…
“A streamlined wardrobe represents more time + more money + more energy for the things in life that really matter.” –Unfancy Blog
In full transparency of the actual process, I am showing you the true ‘before’ images. I had so much stuff that I had not only maxed out our master bedroom closet, but was also using the guest room closet which included a dresser also full of stuff. I am embarrassed to share these pictures, but confession is good for the soul, right? And it serves as a visual reminder of the clutter and chaos I was dealing with prior to my closet purge.
Whitley and I systematically went through every garment in my closet. Some items were easy and immediately went into the “no” pile. These were the clothes that I had been lugging from house to house with every move, the ones that I always bypass in my closet with no intention to wear again. Then there were others that I was on the fence about; those I tried on for Whitley who gave me her best Joan Rivers-on–Fashion Police on what worked and what I should toss. By the end of the evening my bed was covered in clothes that no longer suited me and what remained in my closet was sparse.
You can see below that I paired my closet down by almost 67%! Wow, I’m a nerd… Was it shocking at first? Absolutely. In fact, Whitley made an effort to ask me a few times how I was feeling. There is certainly an initial feeling of panic when you stand before your closet and see more empty hangers than clothes.
ITEM BEFORE WHITLEY AFTER WHITLEY
Tops 81 38
Dresses 74 14
Pants 25 7
Skirts 12 1
Hats 12 8
Total 204 68
After the purge we discussed what I felt my personal style was, whose style I admired and what were the most important pieces to replace first. Since I spend most of my time at an office, I let her know that getting some staple work pieces was my priority and then adding in some fun pieces for weekends, parties, and going out would follow.
About three weeks later Whitley returned to my house with a rack full of new clothes to try on. It was like being a real-life Barbie. There is a certainly a comfort about being in your own home and being able to try things on at your own pace. It was actually an enjoyable process which is very different than what I typically find with dressing room experiences. The in-home process helped Whitley to refine my style, tastes and sizes which was important.
I had completely underestimated the stress, disharmony and agitation that my chaotic closet was causing me every morning. I can now open my closet doors with a sense of peace; seeing things that I truly love, that fit me well, and make me feel confident. A sophisticated closet calls for grown up hangers so I invested in Huggable Hangers – crazy the amount of joy a hanger can bring.
I was hit with an aha moment during this process – over-consumption is a disease that can creep into all aspects of life – not just your wardrobe. Food. Social Media. Distractions. Attachment. Natural Resources. Minimalism is not a lack of something, it’s having the perfect amount of something. I feel a huge sense of gratitude towards Simplicity Organizers and Whitley from the Queen City Style for giving me this opportunity! And now the after pictures…
What I learned:
My closet was lying to me! When I started to think about what I wore day to day, it was the same usual few pairs of jeans with a few different tops, and that’s about it. It boiled down to my choices being limited to the same few things that I felt comfortable in. The rest of my closet was full of things that I didn’t love anymore for one reason or another (itchy, missing a button, stained, outdated, no longer fit, etc.)
Prepare for a large upfront investment: Be prepared to spend some money upfront. It is certainly an investment to replace the majority of your closet, but that’s exactly what it is — an investment in yourself to look and feel better. I funded my new wardrobe by selling my old wardrobe. Places like Clothes Mentor will give you cash on the spot for your things. I took my nicer items to consign at J.T. Posh in Dilworth. I also joined a few local selling Facebook groups and had great success with PPU (read here for the premise and lingo). I let friends and family have their pick and then donated the rest to Goodwill (read about their new GW specialty store).
Don’t keep ‘fantasy clothes’: “I’m keeping that for a special occasion.”, “I will wear that again when I lose ten pounds.”, “I have no idea what to wear this with, but I’m keeping it because it’s cute”. There was no reason to keep clothes for made-up scenarios.
Staples First, Fun Later: For me and my lifestyle, I needed staples – jeans (black, white, and denim), quality work pants, quality and comfortable work shoes, a versatile navy blazer, etc. These items helped to build the foundation of my wardrobe and then I was able to fill in with some additional “fun” pieces.
Critique your multiples: I had probably fifteen pairs of jeans folded beautifully in my closet, but I only wear one or two. The other twelve no longer fit, weren’t comfortable, etc.
Say no to miscellaneous t-shits: This was hard for me. I saved every single sorority or fraternity function shirt throughout college. They all represented memories and I had tricked myself into thinking that if I no longer had the shirts, I no longer had the memories. My mom and I made a t-shirt blanket using the shirts I loved the most and I threw the rest away. Now I actively throw away or politely decline every t-shirt I’m offered. If you must accept a free tee for courtesy reasons, give it away or ‘lose it’ before you get it into your house. Once the free tee finds its way into your house – game over. It will stay there forever and become your new pajamas. Trust me, your husband will thank you for saying no.
Quality over quantity: I admit that I used to buy a new $20 Forever 21, Old Navy or Target item without thinking twice. These were the quick hits that I would wear to one specific event and then not like a month later. What I DO need is quality pieces in my wardrobe that I can easily style and re-wear frequently. Whenever you go shop really question your purchase. Are you just buying that because it’s on sale? Is this an impulse buy you’ll regret later? Do those jeans even fit correctly? Will this fall apart the second time I wear it?
Find out the other items on my “30 before 30” list here!