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?

Forget Resolutions: Make a Habit to Simplify in 2013

This is an excerpt from my latest post for Home Your Way. You can read the entire post here.

In my late teens and 20s I was an athlete. I worked out a lot.

Eighteen workouts a week for 48-50 weeks of the year.

Most of the workouts were out on a lake rowing in a long skinny boat, but in the afternoons I would hit up the gym for weight training sessions.

I spent many years observing the annual cycle of gym goers.

December is a great time to be at the gym. It’s quiet. People are out celebrating and any thoughts of muscle burn or finally getting in shape get farther away with every indulgence in savory appetizers and late night out.

January is a terrible time to be at a gym. They’re packed. Classes are full. There are wait lists to get on treadmills.

Luckily by mid-February the New Year’s Resolution crowd has thinned out. By late spring most of them are gone.

Why do all those gym goers fail at their resolution to get in shape?

Because they made a vague resolution instead of setting a goal and creating habits to achieve the goal. They resolved to “get in shape” or maybe even “go to the gym three times a week” and eventually the snooze button won out over their will power. There was no goal like do 100 burpies without stopping or ten full push-ups or finish the endurance spin class without having to take a break, to keep them motivated and working hard.

Resolutions rarely work. Setting a goal however, one that creates a new habit in your life, does.

Resolutions vs. Habit Forming Goal

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal?

Read the rest of this post at Home Your Way.

Decluttering in 2013: Join Them





Are you seeing a trend in the 2013 goals and resolutions floating around out there?

People want clutter gone. For good.

If you’re one of those people ready to purge your home and calendar of excess in 2013 here are some ways to do it.

Unsure of where to start with decluttering?

You can read about the first few months of my journey, the many hours of decluttering, selling on eBay and Craigslist in September, October, November and December of 2010. It was neither easy nor pretty but you’ll get the gist of how I did it and the work involved.

When I think back to that time I know two things kept me going when it got hard: my sister was purging her storage space at the same time, and I wrote about my de-cluttering goals and progress here on this blog.

Having a friend on the same journey was motivating and helpful. If you’re trying to kick start de-cluttering ask your friends if anyone has simplifying goals for 2013. It’s good to have a shoulder to cry on when you realize you spent $85 on a dress that you never wore, never fit you and is now going to Goodwill.

I also recommend writing down all your tasks and all your accomplishments. Having a record of the work you have already done will give you momentum when the journey gets a bit harder.

It was nice to look back through the pictures and posts here when I felt like I had barely made a dent in our clutter. I could read and see that yes, we had in fact taken two car loads worth of housewares to the Salvation Army. Those notes reminded me that our ‘to sell on Craigslist or eBay’ pile in the dining area would some day, some how, be gone.

Wondering how living with less works when you have a family?

Before Christmas I quietly packed up a box of my son’s toys. I looked for things he had outgrown and that he no longer played with frequently. Santa and family also tipped me off about what he would be receiving at Christmas so I kept that in mind as I decided what would stay and what would go.

He hasn’t asked for those toys in the four weeks since I put them away. Win.

If you have others to consider when purging, a partner or children, I recommend Faith Jane’s book Family Sized Minimalism. It’s filled with moderate yet actionable ways to reduce your possessions while still keeping your relationships on healthy ground. I also like that Faith, a mom of three living in a multi-generational home, gives advice for all lifestyles: large families in small homes and small families in big homes. Her approach to minimalism and how to use it in a family setting is practical and attainable.


Want things out of the house now and forever and ready to commit weekends and evenings until it’s done?

Start. Today. Now.

Put a box in every room and every time you come across something that is broken or you never use or you’re keeping for a just-in-case scenario that has yet to happen in the seven years since you bought the item, put it in the box. If you’re too scared to donate or sell the contents pack it away in the garage for six months and then reevaluate.

If you’re motivated and want a thorough guide to decluttering your home check out Tanja Hoagland’s 30 Day Clutter Bootcamp.

Thirty days and 30 areas to declutter. Intense but if you start today you’ll be done by the time most of the New Year’s crowd has dropped their meal planning/workout out/budgeting/do more more more resolutions.

You should be able to recoup the cost of the book many times over by selling things in your home you haven’t been using and by being more mindful of what you buy.

As Maggie so eloquently wrote in her list of 2013 resolutions:

Own less crap.
College lit anthologies, a bag of noisemakers, three sub-par yoga mats, really good empty boxes should I choose to wrap something cleverly. Ugh, all this stuff. I don’t need all this stuff. Do you want it? Purge! 2013. – Maggie at Go Mighty

Anyone in home purge mode for the new year? What’s your progress so far?

Today vs. One Day and How We Survived the Norovirus

Last week I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom on linens.

We had the perfect storm of an aggressive stomach bug, a child that hasn’t mastered the skill of vomiting into a bucket and our hang dry laundry system that in this winter weather means 14 hours for wash to dry of a bed sheet and 24 hours for a towel.

We don’t have a lot of spare linens.

Our linen closet consists of two sets of sheets per bed, four towel sets in white (bath, hand, face), three beach towels that we use at the pool and double as guest towels and a fantastic little hooded towel Henry received as a gift with two matching face towels.

The stomach bug wiped out our beach towels in a few hours. Henry’s hooded towel was next along with the folded up extra sheets. We had a good stack of kitchen linens clean so our tea towels helped for two rounds.

The only thing left to use was cloth napkins and placements. Or my nice white towels. Or clothing.

I was also solo parenting and we live on an island without a 24 hour anything to go get back up towels or what not. Options were not good.

God bless sisters that store their home effects in your spare bedroom. As I lamented my linen situation to my sister over Skype she told me about four dark purple and gray towels that were stored in our guest room dresser.

Saved. And as luck would have it the vomiting ended that night. The savior towels were left unscathed.

The virus has since made its way through the adults in our home. This is how we’re preparing for the holidays: get the terrible illnesses out of the way before December.

When this virus has finally run its course (just working its way through the mister right now) I’ll be washing all of our linens on hot and then taking them to the laundromat for dryer time.

Do we need more linens in our home for the what-if scenario of a stomach virus?

Am I foolish to own white towels at this juncture in my life?

Most people would say yes to both of these after debating over using their own clothing as a vomit mat for their son.

And yet, I’m not running out to buy more towels. I’m also not frantically getting a dryer installed.

My lesson from this: we survived. Without a lot of towels. Without a dryer.

A few years ago I would have used this as a reason to hit up Bed Bath & Beyond for dark towels or started pricing out dryers.

Today I’m comfortable knowing that these things rarely happen and I can’t plan for every eventuality.

That’s one of my lessons from downsizing and getting rid of closets worth of things that I worried I might need one day.

One day you might need them.

One day you might use them.

But if you want to live your life for One Day, you’ll miss a lot of Todays.

You’ll spend a lot of time preparing for the 3% of things that might happen instead of enjoying the 97% of things that do happen.

Any disaster scenarios you’ve given up preparing for? Besides earthquake, flood and fire of course.

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