Tag Archive | simple living

One Step Forward, and Duck!

one step forwardLast week I wrote down a list of my goals and then why I wasn’t accomplishing them. I called it my goal thwarter list. I wrote a post about it. And I have to say I’m surprised that list has helped me. After more than four decades of being less than organized, it seems I can get my act together. A little bit. Sometimes.

This week I put my Bible, journal, and other stuff I use in quiet time in a basket. Little portable basket. I want a place for quiet time, a comfy chair or a spot in the sun on warm days. I’m still working on that. But even having everything in a basket where I can carry it to today’s spot–that’s a big help. So, score one for me.

Last week I also finished teaching. Since January I’ve been teaching classes at a homeschool co-op. High school kids. And it simply wasn’t a good fit from the first second. It’s weighed on me heavily all semester, taking time, bandwidth, and bringing more stress than it was worth.

With that over, I have more time and brain space to do other things. For instance, this week my parents might come visit, and I have time to clean up a little bit. Score another one for me.

Which brings me to another goal thwarter. I’m not great at cleaning house. Not deep cleaning. There might be mold on my shower curtain. The bathroom used by all my guys might smell like a bathroom used by a bunch of guys.  I decided part of the problem there was not having the right tools. This week I bought a few special cleaners, replaced the shower curtain, and put a simple routine in place so I can stay ahead of it. (And why, you might ask, can my adult/nearly adult sons not do this themselves? Because there are a few areas where I am a parenting failure. And this would be one of them. That’s a whole different post, I’m afraid.)

So. A few victories. And that’s great incentive to keep going.

However, sometimes a goal simply has to be set aside, because it’s not a true goal. It’s a dream. And regardless of what all the pretty memes on the internet say, not every dream is possible. And I can waste a lot of time chasing certain dreams that should be let go.

I ran into that this week. Several fellow bloggers linked me to a bundle of ebooks all about organizing, self care, cleaning, spiritual life, all the things important to me right now. Pages and pages of ideas. Pages and pages of ideals. Pages and pages of dreams that would crush me if I let them, because there is no way I could possibly implement all those ideas and end up with my perfect life.

And that’s the problem with some of my goals and dreams. I want perfection. I want a week where nobody interrupts, where nothing clutters my schedule, where the dogs never jump on me while I exercise and my blood sugar never slows down my gardening and there is never mold in the bathroom. It’s all good. And usually in that dream, it’s all about me. My time, my goals, my dreams, my perfect house…

Once again I’m experiencing forward motion in my goal to simplify and organize my life, and once again I’m facing that worst of enemies, me. Once again I have to put all this at Jesus’ feet and let him decide what’s really best.

This week I have unexpected company coming. I’m excited, but it wasn’t in the plan. A friend needs help one evening. I’m delighted to help, but it wasn’t expected. And the list goes on. God doesn’t really consult my list of goals, dreams, plans, and expectations when he puts my weeks together. My perfect life makes him chuckle, because it’s often selfish, rarely a challenge, and always fails. Then he listens to me rant about it, and he shows me a better way.

I’m allowed to keep mold off the shower curtain. Clean dishes, lack of clutter, a wise budget, and a comfy place to meet with him–those are fine. But when I find myself so focused on this idyllic life that doesn’t exist… Well, that doesn’t help anyone.

My schedule is open. I’m seeing victories. And yet spiritual battle comes with every new step. I have to dodge lies I tell myself and those I get from the world around me, and I tend to forget that even in the simple life, battle never ends. I have to duck a lot of arrows, because there’s an enemy who strikes out because he doesn’t want to see me gain ground in any part of my life, especially when I’ve given that life to the Spirit for safekeeping.

I’m excited about progress. I think I can see some old, long-desired goals come to fruition in my life. If I can watch the battle part and not let myself get swept into obsessive perfectionism or pure selfishness, I think I’ll be just fine.


Organizing the Scattered Soul

scattered soulBecause I’m a homeschooling mom of four, people think I must be organized.  I’ve had people ask me questions that assume a person who successfully educates her children must have lists and routines and tips and tricks to make things run smoothly. To which I always laugh, because really, there’s not a whole lot of organization going on here.

Not that I haven’t tried. I adore lists. When I’m writing lists, I don’t actually have to do any real things.  Lists are easy.

I organize my computer all the time. In fact, just this week I organized all the images in my computer–those that go with books, with blogs, different folders and files, and it’s a work of art. And I did it because all that takes is a few clicks.  Clicking is easy.

Yes, I’m really a very lazy person. I like life slow, slow enough that I don’t really have to be organized. If I’m so busy I need a day planner, I’m too busy. I tend to plan the day’s school lessons on the fly, while my kid does his math problems. I have no idea what we’re having for dinner tomorrow, and there’s a good chance that will still be the case five minutes before dinnertime tomorrow.

Being organized is great. I spent years wishing I was organized.  But, I’m not wired that way.  The thing is, I’m organized enough, in a way that works for me and my family, for our schedule, for our level of busyness. Or that’s what I tell myself. But maybe there are instances where a little organized, mindful living is in order.

First, I know I have to develop some routines. I am the worst at routine. Fortunately, my Chihuahua Sparrow has been teaching me in this area. This little guy thrives on routine. At night he moves through the house and brings each toy to my bed, until they are all safely settled around us. (My husband, second shift, climbs into bed in the middle of the night and ends up sleeping on dog toys, poor guy.)

In the morning, the dog and I get up first, and Sparrow heads outside and then eats breakfast. Usually Skye the cattledog pup is part of this. But then, once Skye is outside looking for cattle to herd, Sparrow stands at the door to my bedroom and whines. He wants me to get all his toys off the bed. We call it the Morning Toy Rescue, and it happens every morning. I sneak into the darkened bedroom and try to dig toys out of the comforter without rousing my husband, the dog prancing at my feet for me to hurry.

Yep, I was never good at set nap times with my kids, but my dog is whipping me into shape. Go figure.

I’m about to make some changes in my life with respect to my time. I’m about to finish teaching at co-ops and focus on writing a little more, work toward some marketing, see if I can make writing pay a little better. But I can keep limping along as I am and survive. However, there is one area where I have to stop limping and start thriving, one area where I need to organize, one area where I know I’m failing, and failure in this area means failure over all.

It’s why I’m clearing my house and rethinking my schedule and making lists I intend to read. It’s why I’m soaking up information about clearing my spirit and learning disciplines. Quite simply, I need to remember God. Not once a day. Not once a week. But all the time. I need routines that force me to read his Word, pray, reach out to those who need me, write words he wants me to write, etc. And I’m not doing it. In all my years of disorganization, I’ve gotten other things done, but not this one.

Because this one matters. Because there is an acute battle against this one. This one can change the world, and so all the forces of the world oppose it.

I’m reading and listening to podcasts about scheduling and time management. My schedule is open and ready. My home is clearing out of extras that weigh me down. Now I need to put a few routines in place, organize a few things, make physical places, time places, and soul places where regular communion with God happens.  Morning routines, evening routines, whatever it takes.

Having a perfectly clean bathroom and set dinner times are nice, but I can get along without them. But having a casual, whenever-I-get-around-to-it relationship with Jesus?  That’s not going to cut it. This year I’ve tasted the sweetness of being close to God, hearing his Spirit. I don’t want to taste it. I want to eat deeply, every day of my life. I want to choke on it until I’m breathing it and living it with my entire spirit.

And for that, I need to get serious, strategize, and give up my love of randomness, at least in a few areas.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Next week I finish teaching. I just downloaded some courses on time and schedules. My book on spiritual disciplines is out and waiting. I can do better than I have been. Lord willing, soon I will be.

Made for the Garden–Thoughts on the Tiny Life

made for the gardenI enjoy watching shows and reading articles about tiny homes. For someone to glamorize houses smaller than mine makes me feel good. I’m not living in a small, cramped space–I’m thinking about the environment. Being grateful for what I have. Showing contentment. Lots of ways to spin our cheap little house and make us look noble and not crowded.

But you know what? I think I was made for a garden. Big one. Mountains and oceans and forests. Not a tiny home.

I read an article recently that said the tiny home movement is failing because people can’t do it. It’s true we can live in small spaces. It’s physically possible. We need a fraction of what we own. But people fail at it. We weren’t made for that. We long for the garden.

I’ve mentioned my love for the book of Genesis. The fantasy writer in me lets my imagination soar as I imagine the first people. You know what’s missing from the story, though? When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, we never once hear about their house.

In my imagined garden world, there is no house. This is the world before rain. I imagine a perfect climate, where sleeping beneath the stars is possible. There were no wild animals hoping to eat Adam and Eve. No marauders sneaking through the darkness. No rain. Why live indoors?  Given a huge, safe, living garden, why would anyone even consider enclosing a space and hiding there?

They ate from the garden, so maybe they didn’t even cook. Imagine living outside, tending a garden, and eating straight from it whenever you got hungry. Your ceiling was as high as the clouds. You had space to walk and run and twirl without hitting a wall or knocking over a vase or a TV.

I don’t know what edged this garden. Could they see mountains in the distance? Since there was no rain, streams must have run through it. Maybe one side was edged with a river. I imagine they could see for miles, and maybe they could walk for miles. They had space.

There is tendency in our world for space to equal money. Those with money live in big houses. Those without live in small houses. Even in crowded countries where most people expect to live in tiny apartments, the wealthy find ways to get space. So we imagine people who want space are greedy, unable to be content with a reasonable amount of room.

Tiny home living is (was?) a movement that says living small can be a choice that has nothing to do with wealth. But then tiny home owners struggle to stay. Maybe our love of space isn’t about wealth. Maybe it isn’t about greed. Maybe it has to do with our beginnings.

God built a huge world, and he put two people in it. He put them in a garden. He raised the sky so high they couldn’t imagine touching the top. He surrounded them with mountains wreathed in mists and oceans with unknowable depths. He told them to explore it, care for it, and subdue it.

Soon after we married, my husband and I moved, with two small children, to a large, seventy year-old home with high ceilings and big rooms. It was in a bad part of town, and it was a money pit, but I loved that house. We had a couple rooms we never even furnished. Instead, the kids would race around in those rooms. My husband worked out in there. I would simply stand in the largest empty room and breathe.

It wasn’t expensive, although keeping it standing was. We didn’t stay long, forced to move for a job, but I am forever ruined. I miss high ceilings and empty spaces. I wasn’t made to live in a cave. That came later, when the world became dangerous and there were reasons to hide.

No, we were made for the garden. If someone offered me a larger house, I would take it. I know I want land–even if I live in a tiny house, I want to see out, gaze across empty, open distances. It’s where God started us, in a big world, in a garden. And that is my longing and always will be. Space. Life. Sky too high to touch. Waters too deep to plumb. Tiny living is fine. But for me, I’ll take space any day.

Four to Go

dreamstimefree_662199In January, I started a sixteen-week commitment that was the wrong thing to do. The spring has been stressful,  because I have been giving time, energy, and mental bandwidth to something that wasn’t right for me. I did my best, fulfilled my commitment, and I am now four weeks from the end. The tunnel ahead has light. The future is almost here.

With more free time in my near future, I’m able to think about what I want next. I want to finish decluttering my house, faster than I’m doing it now. I’m a potter who hasn’t touched clay in three months, so maybe I can do some creating. I’m a writer who’s been slow to accomplish anything this year, and I want to write more. I can whittle down the pile of good books I want to read. Spend time with relationships that need attention. Renew my commitment to exercise and take care of my body.

This week I wrote a blog post about anxiety and self care. Then I hit a wrong button and sent it out early, so it might not have been read. Who wants to read two posts in one day? The gist of that post was the question of whether or not someone can plan life around anxiety, depression, other mental/medical issues. I struggle with type one diabetes and feel no guilt when I take care of myself. But the anxiety that plagues me–I feel like I’m supposed to ignore it, not make decisions or plans with that struggle in mind. It’s a question I haven’t entirely answered yet. God and I are still working on that one.

Enter the idea of simplicity. The idea that it’s okay to whittle my life down to things that truly matter to me. That God might ask me to do things for which he has gifted me, not just things that are hard. Maybe it’s okay to clear my life, schedule, mental bandwidth and then fill it all back up with better things. Things that reflect the skills, passions, and experiences God has given me.

Until now, I thought that I had to do what was expected. I had to volunteer and accept everything that came along, everything that was good. Even if it was hard, even if it brought a lot of distress, I said yes. Sometimes because it was hard I thought I had to do it, to prove I wasn’t letting anxiety–or any other weaknesses–plan my life.

Recently, I feel like I can say no to good and wait for better, look for Best. God is calling me to write and share my books. He’s calling me to tend a few precious friendships. Maybe to share my knowledge/experience through a small group study. Pour my life into a few souls. Pray with others. Delve deeper into God’s heart through his Word. I think it might be time to look at both my strengths and weaknesses when making plans. Maybe weaknesses are planned by God to help me on my way, to point me in certain directions. He will use them, but I thought that meant he wanted me to ignore them and move on. Maybe, as long as I don’t use them as an excuse to sin, I can let them help me determine the paths he has for me.

The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 13: And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  I find myself wondering if sometimes my weaknesses help mark the edge of that path.  Maybe they can be a guide as much as my strengths and skills. Sure, God asks us to do hard things. But where did I get the idea that everything has to be hard? That God asks me only to do things that hurt? That something that makes me feel good about the person God made me is wrong? Sure, my passions can take me to uncomfortable places. But when I let things that aren’t that important take me there… Maybe I don’t have to do that just to prove I’m bigger than the self God made me to be.

I recently set up a home gym in the room that was a disaster, and I’m using it to care for my body. That was a victory. I’m clearing out belongings that should have left my house years ago because I’m learning that my things aren’t part of my identity. I stepped onto the path of simplicity for physical reasons, because I was sick of clutter and ugliness in my home. I had no idea it would spread so far and touch all of my life. Time, identity, rest, self care, growth…

Just a few thoughts. In four weeks, I feel like I’m getting a second chance to put some priorities in order. I’ve spent enough time talking to the Spirit this year that I’m confident he will help me plan my summer, my fall, whatever he wants me to plan. I hope I am more open to hearing him, following him, trusting him. I can set things free, simplify my world, and see what amazing things God wants to do through me.

Four more weeks.

The Victory Gym

victory gym(Author’s note: Simple Living Friday has been moved to Wednesday this week, because this is Holy Week, and I want to focus elsewhere on Friday. But, I really wanted to share this post, because it makes me happy. So. Onward.)

I have experienced a great victory in my quest to free up space in my home, and I’m excited to share it. This week we unveiled the workout room.

My husband has always been interested in exercise. He has a black belt in Kempo and likes to do things here at home. My oldest son works as a mover but also has education as a personal trainer. Our house is littered with exercise odds and ends, but since there wasn’t one spot large enough for an adult to lie flat on the floor, those things were clutter. I am sick to death of clutter.

So, I looked at what we called the school room and went Hmmm. I don’t teach my kids in that room any more. It contained furniture we didn’t use. It had a table whose sole purpose was to be a landing spot for homeless items. It is the first room a person sees upon entering our home, and it was a black hole. If something disappeared into that room, it made more sense to purchase a new version than to dig and find it. It was just that bad.

So. The table was taken apart and stored for my engaged son (Thank you, Ikea, for furniture that can be disassembled).  An old sofa was carried to the street, ala my mover son. A few things were added to the pile at the door heading to Goodwill, because I’m human and seldom completely finish what I start. Someday I will make another Goodwill trip, possibly when it gets so bad we can’t get to the door.

The room had some space. It was amazing. The animals wandered in circles as though they had no idea what to think. Space.

I began to move exercise stuff into the space, and I looked online for foam flooring. That was a bust. There is no line in the budget for foam flooring. Then I took my weekly trip to Aldi, the grocery store, and this week they had very inexpensive foam flooring. Score one to God for the assist–we now have an area of foam flooring , enough space that two people can lie down in there.

The animals got even more excited after that. Space and a soft place to stretch out or curl up. Even better, I kept opening the window to let in the warm spring air, and cats like nothing more than sitting in an open window watching a human clean house.

The room isn’t perfect. It still houses an item or two my son plans to take when he gets married in October. There are a few odds and ends that don’t have a home. I’d like to put something fun on the walls. But it’s the first real victory in my quest to simplify my life. It’s more than simplifying and decluttering. I gave a room a new focus, putting space to good use, making it work for us instead of us working for it.

Of course, now I need to tack a few exercise routines to the wall and head in there. Last year I worked out faithfully at a gym with my son as my personal trainer. It improved many areas of my life, including my diabetes. This year, his job changed and the gym moved to a place where personal training can no longer happen, so I’ve been letting go of my exercise time. I hope to use this new space to get that part of my life back. It will take discipline, but I’m learning a lot about discipline right now, so I think I can do it.

Regardless, seeing fruit makes me want to tend the garden better. If I can see one room improve, I can see more. I feel energized in the spring, which is filled with life and hope and new beginnings, and I’m ready to move on and keep this up until the entire house brings the same smile as our front room.