The Simple Year

This is a guest post from Kerry Reifel of The Simple Year. Kerry is sharing her story of simplifying and offering a very unique opportunity to share yours. Read on for more details. Thanks, Kerry!

What makes life simpler?

Is it an organized spice rack?

Could it be wash and go hair?

Is meditation the answer?

Or maybe, it’s the perfect glass of merlot after the kids go to bed?

I think yes, to all of these things. Simple is different to everyone.

Our family is nearing the end of a year-long project in which we pledged to buy nothing new.

We call it The Simple Year.

As we wind up, I’d like to report so far we have all survived, in spite of my kids initial misgivings. And by misgivings, I mean complete horror. In fact, I might say our lives have been improved—overall. Although on any given day I might be pulling my hair out trying to figure out how I’m going to acquire a science fair presentation board; but those moments have been fewer than the wins.

I think it’s important to mention, in many ways, we’re a typical middle class family with busy school age kids and a working mom. I don’t view myself as extreme in any way. In fact I would say I appear pretty much like all the other moms in the carpool lane.

Before we started our project, while I wouldn’t say we were hoarders, we did our fair share of consuming.

But for the last few years, I have toyed with the idea of some grand scheme to reduce our footprint, live simply, and to demonstrate to the children that some of the best things in life aren’t things at all. So that plan sounds very noble, but somewhere in the back of my mind was a nagging fear that such a project would decrease the quality of our life.

It is a scary leap.

Suddenly, the right opportunity presented itself. My husband was sent on an all-expense paid trip to the other side of the world for six months by his employer, the US military. At that time, the kids and I decided to move halfway across the country to some familiar territory.

It was a perfect opportunity to take only a small portion of our things and box the rest up for storage, a trial run at shedding some of our possessions.

Then we started our Simple Year.

My self-imposed rules were that we could buy consumables, such as food, healthcare products and medicine but everything else had to be either purchased used, repaired or we had to do without.

In the beginning I was prepared and had plans for all of the major holidays, birthdays and back-to-school. I approached all of those on high alert and those went off without a hitch. It was the unexpected nonsense that tripped me up, the thumb drives needed the next day for school, lost swim goggles and tights for a business meeting.

Actually, they are still causing me grief, probably as you read this. But, it has been worth it. I think we all have learned to be satisfied with a little less. My kids recognize scarcity which is a new concept to them. And, I have learned to think about solutions other than buying my way out of problems.

I have been documenting our journey on my blog The Simple Year. It has kept me honest and given me encouragement at times when I just wanted to break down and buy new running shoes.

Now that our Simple Year is nearly over, our family will still continue to live in much the same way we have been for the last year. But I think at the end of April, I will have said enough on the topic, for now.

I know there are other people out there with a Simple Year in them as well. I would like to find someone with their own project to take over the blog with its readers and online community.

Kerry and her family

Do you have a Simple Year in you? I have more details here:

What If I Give Away Something I Eventually Need Again?

my second son relaxing on my second breastfeeding pillow

Long time no blog. What can I say, I’ve been hanging with this guy, his brother and the patriarch of the family. When I have some spare moments, usually while nursing, I am reading. Recently enjoyed The Light Between Oceans and stayed up a bit too late with a baby asleep in my lap while I finished State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Hope to be back to blogging more regularly soon and with that, doing a light spring clean out of our closets.

What if I give away something that I will need again?

This is probably the BIG FEAR of parting with a lot of stuff.

I might need it some day.

I might have to rebuy it.

It’s true. You might have to purchase or borrow something you gave away. From experience, it’s not nearly as bad or stressful as you think it will be.

Before our big move overseas I sold and gave away a lot of baby items. One thing I was fairly certain I would rebuy: a nursing pillow. I was hopeful we would have another child and hopeful nursing would work out again for us. Probability of needing that nursing pillow in the future: HIGH.

Yet, I gave it away because I didn’t want to lug it overseas. We brought 14 boxes of housewares, clothing and even some baby clothing and cloth diapers. The nursing pillow would have made it 15 boxes. I decided someone else could use it instead of shipping it overseas and letting it wait in the closet for me.

Do I have any regrets after having to rebuy a nursing pillow? No.

I am sure there will be other instances of having to rebuy. Perhaps we will move back to Vancouver and I will take up snowshoeing again. And I’ll probably buy a pair of second hand snowshoes similar to the ones I sold years before.

It’s okay. It’s just stuff.

And stuff should be used and cared for – not packed away for fear that, even though you haven’t touched it in six years, you might need it again in the future.

Anyone else have to rebuy something after giving it away?

The Simplest Gift




We’ve received some lovely little clothes for our second son since he arrived. Lovely notes in the mail and hugs and texts and emails of congratulations.

Along with the thoughtful notes and tiny clothes, we’ve received meals.

We had a weekend of incredible dinners brought to us, enough for a feast and leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a bounty of salads, beautifully prepared meats and vegetables and fresh berries for dessert that left all of us very full and very happy. It was not only delicious but also unexpected and so very appreciated.

One afternoon I sent my husband a message saying I was very tired and that I would defrost something from the freezer for dinner instead of cooking. He replied that a coworker had brought in a home cooked meal for us that he was bringing home for dinner. Fortuitous timing that I was so grateful for. As we tucked into a beautiful homemade meal that evening I felt so much gratitude for the kindness of friends.

Every meal that has been made for us has been a delight in so many ways: a much needed reprieve from cooking, great fuel for the long nights of being up with a newborn and an inspiration as we tasted flavor combinations and cooking methods that were new to us.

Giving a meal is such a simple gift and yet it has such a big impact.

A meal gives the gift of rest and nourishment. It’s fuel, kindness and a break in a Pyrex container.

Read the rest of this post a Home Your Way.

photo credit: visualpanic


Going Dark: National Day of Unplugging 2013


Are you joining me and thousands of others as we ‘go dark’ for the National Day of Unplugging?

I’ll be without cell phone or Internet or television from sundown this evening until sundown tomorrow.

My only exception for screens will be my Kindle. I’ve been saving the last third of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects as my Friday night read and plan to get a few chapters of Alone Together in on Saturday.

It’s just 24 hours. I know for some people this will seem daunting but I can tell you from experience it is so worth it. I did a week offline last year and not only learned a lot but felt so energized and rested from it.

Here are a few links I have liked this week:

Have a wonderful weekend and hope to hear that some of you are joining me for the National Day of Unplugging.

– Rachel

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