Hey! I’m Lindsay and I’m really excited to be a new contributor for 2015. I blog over at Lindsay Ross Blog (I know, super creative name). I started my blog for several reasons, but mostly to build a community of people who believe in using the Internet for GOOD. My main focus for blogging is just to help people in any way I can. I write about all sorts of things. I’m a photographer and a believer in telling the every day stories of our families through photos. So I share lots of photography tips to help people take the right kind of photos. I also share stories of hope to uplift and inspire, real life stories of real life people to inspire better understanding and more compassion, and ideas for living a healthier life in every aspect (spiritually, physically, and mentally). Along with anything else I feel is useful, inspiring, or funny.
This is me with my family. We’re kind of obsessed with Lake Powell. It’s our happy place.
For my first post here, I get to share some of my tips to help you simplify life. A very fitting topic as we enter a New Year and probably have ambitions of making this our best year yet. I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately, of simplifying, and have been working hard at doing just that in every area of my life. Sometimes I fail miserably. But I think I’m making baby steps towards living a simpler life.
So. Here are 9 strategies I use to simplify life. And this all comes with a disclaimer that my life is anything but simplified and easy. But I do what I can to simplify where I can so I don’t get sent to the crazy bin.
1. The first and most important step for me was to figure out my “WHY”. Why I do what I do. In every single area of my life. Why I chose to become a parent. Why I choose to be a stay-at-home mom. Why I have a photography business. Why I exercise. Why I read. Why I clean (or don’t clean) my house. Why I sign my kids up for the activities I sign them up for. Why I blog. Why. Why. Why.
I ask myself that question a lot. And I put in the work to figure out my underlying WHY. Once I figured that out, all the decisions I make have to support my why. Then, if certain things don’t align with my why, they get taken out of the equation. A surprising amount of things were taken out of our lives and it definitely simplified things. First things come first to make sure I’m supporting my goals (for myself AND for my family) and things that don’t matter as much get taken out of the day.
2. Learn to say “NO”. This seems to be hard for women and mothers. We serve. We help. We people-please. And we genuinely want to be able to do it all. But, as we all know, we can’t. Which requires us to say NO. If we take the time to figure out our “why’s”, it makes saying no a little easier. When we say “yes”, we’re saying “no” to something else. And vice versa. So if we put our first things first, we have to be okay with saying “no” to the other things. And if we have a strong enough why, we won’t feel guilt for saying no (well, most the time anyway).
3. Ask for help. Again, seems to be hard for humans in general. But I’m quickly learning, life is a lot easier if we GIVE help AND if we ASK for help. Most people I know are genuinely happy to help other people. But many times we just don’t know exactly what to do. When we ask for help, we’re giving people an opportunity to do good. It strengthens them to help, and it strengthens us to receive the help. We belong to each other and we’re meant to take care of each other. Life gets a little more simple when we’re willing to ask for help.
4. Organize your digital photos. I’m a photographer so I have to throw this one in there. And it probably fits better in a post about being more organized, but being organized makes life simpler so I’m including this. Photos are incredibly important to me for so many reasons. But I was feeling dread (and guilt–because I’m a professional at worry and guilt) about organizing my years and years and years worth of photos on my computer. I claimed they were important, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for easily, I wasn’t printing anything, and I wasn’t displaying anything. Because they were disorganized. But then I sat down one day and vowed I wouldn’t leave my computer until those photos were in order. So I could find what I needed to easily. And get rid of the guilt and dread I was feeling about it. Forty-five minutes later, I was done organizing over 5 years worth of digital photos. 45 minutes. And now when I want to print something, or my kids need something for a school project, I can find it quick and easy.
5. Give your kids chores. A few of my kids are old enough now they can start helping out quite a bit around the house. I finally found a chore system that works great for us, and for the most part the kids are pretty good about doing their daily chores. My oldest was complaining about having to work too much one Saturday and my response was “It’s not my job to pick up after you and take care of everything for you. My job is to teach you how to do things for yourself.” And we’re working hard around here to to do that. Initially it’s a lot more work for me to teach them how to do things and then watch them spend 45 minutes trying to sweep a 2 foot square area. But over time, they’re getting better. And it’s starting to pay off and make my life just a tiny bit easier. And it’s teaching them they can do things for themselves.
6. Get rid of stuff. The past few months (and for the next year to come), I have been waging a war on excess. It feels like my entire life consists of picking up crap. All. Day. Long. I have recently read 3 excellent books on the topic of excess and it’s motivated me to make some changes around here. So I’ve been moving from room to room in our entire house and slowly getting rid of everything we don’t need. Which, embarrassingly, is a lot of stuff. The kids aren’t quite as pumped about it as I am, and anytime my 5 year old can’t find one of his toys he immediately starts crying and asks “Did you give it to the homeless shelter?” But I’m determined to spend more time doing things together instead of filling our house with stuff we don’t need. And if I never have to pick up another Lego, Polly Pocket, or stray sock it will be a good day. The less we have, the less we all have to pick up. Simplify your business with health cloud business attorney on speed dial.
7. Give yourself a break on the spotless house. I don’t do well with clutter. It grieves my soul. So I don’t like a messy, cluttered house. But. I also don’t like cleaning all day. There are a lot of things I’d rather do than spend my life keeping my house spotless. I do my best to keep the house picked up (the kids each have a zone they’re responsible for keeping clean) and counters cleared. But the deep cleaning and mopping and vacuuming get done when they can (and honestly, mopping just makes me angry so it gets done rarely). I don’t like mess, but I don’t stress about spotless. And I have this sign hanging right by my front door to remind me to stress less about a perfectly clean house. And it gives people a fair warning they won’t find a spotless house if they dare enter.
8. Quit folding laundry. Laundry seems to be the one thing I hear moms lament about the most. And oddly enough, it’s one thing that doesn’t overwhelm me. Because I stopped folding my laundry and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. If some of you have OCD tendencies, you’ll probably want to stop reading this and skip to the next number. But if you want to save yourselves loads of time, forge ahead. I wash all my laundry on Mondays, switching loads throughout the day. It’s usually done by afternoon. I sort the laundry into piles for each member of the family (there are 6 of us). Once sorted, I put the clothes in a basket and put them on each person’s bed. My 10 year old, 8 year old, and 5 year old are all responsible for putting their clothes away after that (the 5 year old still needs help hanging things up). They can fold if they want. Or they can just throw it in the correct drawer. I realized they were just messing up all the folding I was doing anyway, so we eliminated that step (although some kids still choose to fold). And it simplified my laundry. And my life. Then whichever kid is driving me the most crazy that day gets to match all the socks 🙂
9. Exercise. I realize this may sound odd because adding one more thing in to your day wouldn’t simplify things. But for me, exercise makes me feel better. And when I feel better, life doesn’t feel quite as dramatic. Exercising takes away some of my mental anguish and worry, and thus makes things feel more simple even if they maybe aren’t.
Take the time to figure out your WHY. Why you’re here. Why you do what you do. What you want to do. Where you want to go. Who you want to be. Filter everything through that why. Learn to say “no” and ask for help. Exercise, organize, and de-clutter. And definitely quit folding your laundry.
Here’s to a New Year and a more simplified, manageable way of living. I look forward to getting to know some of you. Do you have any other tips to help simplify your life? I’d love to hear what works for you!
I know I already raved to you about this post, but I have to tell you, my toddler has been so annoying during her break from school, and I’ve been giving her more chores so she doesn’t just sit and watch TV (she’s been complaining of boredom). It’s awesome. She’s mopped the whole house, put away laundry, and organized food storage. She loves being useful and I love not hearing, “Mooooommm, what can I DO?!”
My standard reply to any child that says, “I’m bored” is – I’m not in charge of entertainment, I’m in charge of chores. Now, did you need something to do?
This is perfect Susan!
Mariel @ Or so she says... says
These are soooo great and RIGHT ON. I’ve been trying to work at saying no more AND have just recently been trying to organize my pictures. It’s true that it’s this weird guilt-filled looming cloud that hangs over me, knowing my life is getting more and more unorganized every day that I put it off. I love it. Thanks for the awesome post!!
Love this, such great ideas here that we all need!! I love that you don’t fold your laundry. I hand each of my kids their stack of clean clothes and tell them the same thing!
Becky, Not folding laundry has made it much less overwhelming. And having kids who are old enough put it away is a necessity around here!
Love the post… my wife even shared it on our FB, so I saw it. Now what I really want to know is what program or method did you use to organize 5 years of photos in 45 minutes?? Holy Cow it is a weight on me. I have literally tens of thousands of photos and I still need to digitize about 4,000 more. I would love your input.
I would love to hear what Lindsay does too! I’m pretty backed up on mine, but what I try to do is just create a folder for every year, then drag the photos into the appropriate folder. When I’m ready, I’ll probably go through and create a Shutterfly style album (online created scrapbook) for each of the years. It’s nice to have just handfuls of folders, that are in chronological order, rather than one big folder with zillions of pictures!
Bryce and Mariel, If you click on the link that talks about organizing posts, I did a post about how I organized my photos. I used iPhoto and I had about 40,000 pictures in there at the time. You can use something besides iPhoto, but that’s what I have. I organize them by year and then by month. It’s easier to find things that way than to divide them all up by topics. I also put Vacations in a separate folder and Holidays in a seperate folder. I go through the whole process on my “Picture Display Movement” series. It talks about all things photo related (loading, backing up, organizing, printing, and displaying photos)