Book Love: Lightly

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but have less to do.” - Francine Jay

I recently read Lightly by Francine Jay and loved its practical tips and inspiring message for lightening up your life. It not only covers the physical stuff that burdens us, but dives into our schedule, our commitments, how we impact the planet, the food we eat and so many other areas. I appreciate that you can open up to any page of this book and are presented with tips to utilize right away. The process is not overwhelming and you are able to make a small change from where you are right now. One of my favorite takeaways from the book is incorporating the mantra “lightly” throughout my day. When I am about to make an impulse purchase or say yes to yet another commitment, I repeat the word “lightly” to myself. I am reminding myself that I want to live a more simplified life with less physical and emotional burdens.

Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:

  1. When sorting and decluttering, round up all items that are in a similar category to get a true understanding of how much you have of a particular item. Take out all of your shoes from your closet, the garage, the hall closet (and anywhere else they may be stored) and assess whether you really need all of them. This can be a very eye opening process since we normally don’t view all of these belongings in one place. How many pairs of boots do you actually wear or need? What about sandals or sneakers? Once you get the hang of this in the first category, do it with your t-shirts and sweaters. Move into the kitchen and find how many duplicates live there.

  2. Set up an Out Box in a central location of your home (the hall closet is a great spot). Anytime someone wants to donate something, they can put it in the Out Box. This is a great tool for staying on top of clutter. When you know something no longer fits or works in your home, put it in the Out Box. Then when the box is full, take it to a donation center. This helps avoid spending an entire day decluttering, because you are doing the job in small amounts each day. This works really well when your whole family participates.

  3. Reign over your house. This is simple, but so very important. Put things back where they belong. Keep counter tops and tables clear of clutter. Ways to help you with this daily task include buying less stuff, monitoring the items coming in (gifts and freebies), and practicing gift free holidays.

  4. Practice restraint when it comes to shopping and exposure to advertising. We are surrounded by messages telling us to buy and consume more. We are constantly told through advertising and marketing that what we have isn’t good enough, what we are isn’t good enough. Limit your exposure to advertising as much as possible. These messages are sneaky and you may not even realize that they are influencing you. Only shop when you need something. Make do with what you have and only shop for necessities. Before making a purchase, consider how this item may weigh you down.

  5. Choose a disposable item that you use daily and replace it with a reusable item. Some ideas include water bottles, napkins and sandwich bags.

  6. Keep a list of all items you purchase for the next month. Review at the end of the month and determine where you could lighten up your consumption. I’m currently doing this right now. Just knowing I have to write down the purchase makes me think twice.

  7. Lightly decline. Practice how you will say no to a common request. Example: “Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t have the time in my schedule right now.”

“Make sure your things tell the story of the life you want to live.” -Francine Jay

Life with a New Puppy

My family has been talking about getting a dog for years. About a year ago we got serious and started discussing what breeds of dogs would be a good match for us. We eventually decided on a Golden Retriever due to their sweet dispositions and the fact that my husband wanted a larger dog. We knew we wanted to get a puppy because we already have two cats, one of which is very territorial (Milo). We felt that by introducing a puppy to Milo, the puppy would adjust to our cat’s dominate behavior. After about 9 months of waiting for a puppy to become available through the breeder we chose, we found out in May that we would be bringing home a little girl in just a few weeks.

I was so excited. I have never had my own dog before and this has been a life long desire. I couldn’t wait for the Saturday to arrive when we would make the 3 hour drive to pick her up. When that day came, we loaded into the truck at 5:30 on that rainy morning and made the trip to go pick up our girl. She was the sweetest chunky puppy. There were only 3 puppies in her litter, so she got her share of milk and it showed. We had a few top names picked out, but we chose Sadie after meeting her. Faith and I sat in the backseat with her on the way home and she alternated between us. She would cry, then she would sleep, and then she would cry a little more. She adapted fairly quickly to our home and our family.

Fast forward about 7 weeks and she has just about doubled in size and my summer has gone by in a flash. I knew puppies were challenging, but I didn’t fully understand how challenging. Sadie is full of energy and has a spunky personality. After the first few weeks I was at my wits end with puppy biting, accidents, and jumping. I talked to multiple friends who all recommended obedience training classes, so I got her enrolled as soon as she was old enough to attend. These classes have made a HUGE difference for us. Both my husband and I are learning how to train Sadie and her bad manners have improved greatly. It is a lot of work training her, but it is worth it to have a well behaved dog!

Sadie and the cats have found their rhythm with each other. Sadie and Milo “play” together, as in Sadie plays and Milo stands his ground. I think they keep each other entertained. Ace likes to be in the same room as everyone, so he just knows to stay up high on the furniture to avoid Sadie.

Needless to say this adventure has been a learning curve with a new puppy. Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way:

  1. We now know we must shut closet doors and bedroom doors to keep Sadie from stealing shoes and underwear. This has been a big lesson for my 11 year old daughter.

  2. We recently realized we have to limit the toys she has out on the floor to just 1 or 2. Otherwise she jumps from one toy to the next and seems to be overwhelmed. Limiting the toys also makes clean up at night a breeze.

  3. I have set up “puppy baskets” next to our front and back door which have all of the essentials we need quickly like a leash, poop bags, ball for fetch, a brush, nail clippers, etc. These have been a great for consolidating the puppy gear into a few spots.

  4. Crate training has been key to us keeping our sanity during this time frame. We have been able to sleep well most nights and she has a safe place to go when we are not home.

  5. Obedience training is worth every penny. Take the classes and do your homework with your dog. All of the dogs in Sadie’s class are showing a ton of improvement and we are half way through.

  6. Don’t buy every new gimmick out there for dogs. We have purchased plenty of things we already aren’t using because they didn’t work for our dog. Talk to other dog owners before purchasing items to see what their favorite is and why. Some of my best advice on products came from a neighbor with a 9 month old puppy. My favorite being a dog hammock for my car. This thing is awesome!

Life with a puppy is a challenge and it is extremely rewarding. Sadie is my walking partner each morning and evening. She is ALWAYS so excited to see me. A dog’s love is unconditional and we are so happy to have her be part of our family.

Book Love: Do Less

“The whole purpose of doing less is to have the experience of having more. Not more stuff, but more meaning in our lives.” -Kate Northrup

There are so many wonderful things I have to say about Do Less by Kate Northrup. I think it should be a required read for any woman out there. I have a type A personality and I have been raised to believe that I need to constantly be busy doing things and accomplishing more to prove my worth. I’m working to change this belief, but it is a belief that runs deep. My life is full of obligations and I have very high expectations of myself. Reading this book was a wonderful reminder that I don’t need to do it all.

“Do Less” is set up in two parts. Part one explains the research that we are more productive when we don’t work so much. When we actually focus on our top priorities, we stop spinning our wheels and get something accomplished. Plus we don’t burn ourselves out, so our health gets a boost. Part two is a series of 14 experiments that you can try in your life. You can do them in any order and at your own pace.

Here are a few experiments I want to try this summer:

Experiment 2: Discover What Really Matters to You

This experiment involves looking at your top priorities in comparison with how you are spending your time. When we don’t ask ourselves what matters to us, we spend our lives doing the things that matter to other people (like parents) or the things that our culture sees as important. When we spend our time in alignment with what matters most to us, we feel much more fulfilled.

Experiment 7: Simplify

We can all find ways to simplify our lives. We live in a fast paced world with so many options for everything. This tends to leave us with homes that are overstuffed and calendars that are filled to the brim. I plan to focus on freeing up time in my schedule. I really benefit when I have time to practice yoga, go for a walk, read a book, and just hang out with my family. When my schedule gets too full, I feel a lot of pressure and anxiety physically in my body. A few ideas listed in the book for ways to simplify include grocery delivery, capsule wardrobe, diaper delivery service, cutting down on holiday gifts, and donating old items instead of going through the hassle of selling.

Experiment 11: Streamline Your To-Do List

Kate’s take on a to-do list is so refreshing! She suggests writing a weekly to-do list that includes your 3 most important tasks. I am guilty of writing 20+ things down on my list and feeling defeated because I only accomplished 2 things on the list. I tend to try to get the small things out of the way before I start my big projects. This generally leads to me pushing off my big projects. When you only have 3 things on your list, you can guarantee they are going to be your biggest items for the week. You don’t waste your time on the unnecessary details that can eat up so much time.

I am excited to give these experiments a try this summer. I highly recommend getting a copy of this book for yourself and seeing which experiments you feel drawn to in your life. We could all benefit from spinning our wheels less and gaining some more meaning in our lives.

How to Organize Your Child's School Memories

At the end of each school year my daughter brings home a staggering amount of stuff. Art projects, notebooks, half used school supplies, papers and more papers. I learned early on that we need to go through the bags of stuff within a day or two of the last day of school. If we don’t those items either end up scattered around the house, or they are left in her backpack for me to find when she is getting ready for school in the Fall. I’ve done it both ways and it is far better to handle this stuff right away.

Step 1: Set Up Your Sorting Space

Determine where you are going to do this project - the kitchen island, dining table, or living room floor. Have a trash can, recycling bin, household cleaner, and two boxes. One box is for any sentimental items you want to save (art projects, certificates, pictures, etc.). The other box is for items that belong somewhere else in the house.

Step 2: Jump In!

I like to go through one bag at a time. I start with the backpack and empty everything out. I make sure any crumbs or gunk hanging out in the bottom of the bag goes into the trash can, then I decide if this backpack will be reused, donated or thrown away depending on the shape of the bag. School supplies are either saved to be reused next year, stored in an arts and crafts bin, or thrown away depending on their shape. Most papers can just be recycled, but I try to save a few that have some meaning. Art projects are the same. I try to get my daughter’s input on what she is really proud of and would like to save. The rest go in the trash. I always find candy wrappers and spare snack food floating around that should have been thrown away months ago. Beware you can find some gross things during this clean out project. Once you have sorted all of the items you can move on to step 3.

Step 3: Put Away Items That Belong in Another Room

Take the items from this box and find them a new home in the house that makes sense. Sweatshirts in the laundry, office supplies in the office, you get the idea.

Step 4: Set Up an Organizing System

This doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive. I like to use clear storage boxes and I combine about 3 grades together in one box. I don’t save everything and I really try to pare down to the special items from the school year.

Another organizing system that works well is hanging file folders in a file folder box. This system is great for certificates, paper, and smaller items. It does not work well for large art projects. You could easily have one box for each child.

Lastly you can go digital and take pictures or scan the items. You can make a book on Shutterfly or similar photo site that includes their pictures, artwork, and certificates from the school year. This would take up the least amount of space because you are not saving the physical items after the book is created.

Step 5: Repeat Next Year

Do this process at the end of each school year and you will make your home a lot less cluttered. You only keep what’s important and the rest is quickly removed from your house.

System Option 1: Clear Storage Boxes

System Option 1: Clear Storage Boxes

System Option 2: File Box with a Folder for Each Grade

System Option 2: File Box with a Folder for Each Grade

Option 3: Scan or Photograph Items and Make a Photo Album for the School Year

Option 3: Scan or Photograph Items and Make a Photo Album for the School Year

Do you have a special system for organizing your child’s school memories? Please share in the comments!