Monday, January 27, 2014

Simplicity and Waving the White Flag.

So. The first few weeks of January just about did us in.

I'm sure that it's my decision to simplify. I mean, surely. Surely the Universe sensed the desire for my life to take a deep breath and in the middle of my cleansing inhale, it threw chaos into my open mouth and left me choking on my good intentions.

It's the only reasonable, sensible explanation.

See, I started by organizing some closets. And our desk/computer space. Good, good, Katie's on a roll, yay.  Then ... we got sick. And I mean, it was the kind of sick that just lingered. It started as a stomach bug for all of us. Five sick, pukey people is enough to drive anyone to the edge of insanity. After the puking subsided, I never seemed to recover and ended up at Urgent Care with a doctor wagging her finger in my face, telling me I was "severely dehydrated" after a 103 fever left me not eating or drinking for close to a week. Fantastic! Throw in the fact that this is all happening in the midst of a "polar vortex" that turned my back patio into a skating rink, and you've got a nice big pile of STRESS.

Oh, wait, did I mention we also added this little lovely to our family?

Meet Sophie. We love her.

Between illness, a new puppy, a grass fire in our front yard (did I leave that out?), freezing temperatures, and good intentions, I finally threw in the towel. I waved the white flag and my hubby and I loaded up the kids, dropped Sophie off for a sleepover at the vet, drove to Arkansas, spent a day and evening with my parents, and headed out for a date alone.

We needed a little "Come to Jesus" meeting with each other.

Through chapped lips I told my hubby that I was kind of horrible at keeping my cool amidst the deluge of insanity that had befallen our home. So, we put our heads together and came up with a list. A list of ways we can encourage each other and encourage the existence of simplicity once again in our home. Because, let's face it--life is full of variables that we cannot control. What we CAN control, however, is the environment in which they occur and our responses to them.

The first item? CUT THE NOISE.

Our lives are noisy. Plenty noisy. We have three kids, four chickens, a cat, and, now, a puppy. And those are all good noises. They are the soundtrack to our life. So, we decided to cut the unnecessary noise. In this case, we mean all things media.

Now when my husband walks through the door from work in the evening, we power down. No TV, phones, iPad, laptop, nothing--until the kids are in bed. I limit TV throughout the day, but it's easy when my hubby comes home to turn the TV on, or check our phones incessantly, things like that. Now, it's quiet (well, we still have Pandora going, so ... there's that). The kids help me set the table. We take longer at dinner now, waiting until everyone has finished before we're excused, making sure we're all talking to each other and engaging our kids. Then, the kids help me clean up. And then ... well, then there's lots of wrestling, tickling, reading, etc. until bedtime. It's tricky because the POLAR VORTEX has kept us from spending a lot of time outside, so we have to figure out how to stay entertained inside until bedtime. My hubby reads the next chapter in whatever book he and the kids are currently reading (right now it's "Farmer Boy" from The Little House on the Prairie series--my favorite!), and then we do bedtime.

And then? Then my hubby and I try to play a game or do something that doesn't immediately involve turning on the TV and zoning out. We just try to do something that can at least present the opportunity for conversation, whether or not the need for a discussion on any particular topic is there. We're typically exhausted and end up laughing at our terrible game-playing or conversational skills because our brains are numb by the end of the day, but shoot. We try.

I have to say, it's been great. We're focused on the kids and they're focused on us. And it's still plenty chaotic, it's just ... the good kind of chaos.

So, there you have it. The not-so-pretty journey towards simplicity in our home. Hopefully, there will be more steps to come!

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More Simple Thoughts.

Simplicity is tricky because it isn't always convenient.

Despite good intentions, a day can go from zero to crazy in a matter of moments and keeping calm amidst the storm can be a little challenging. All it takes is one hectic morning to throw a tidy house into chaos or a calm heart into frustration. I can wake up with a plan to keep things simple, but life doesn't always acquiesce to my desires for serenity. And that's the challenge, I think. To find out what simplicity really looks like and how it can apply to a household with three little kids. How do we encourage our kids towards simplicity, too? Are we teaching them the value of a quiet life or are we encouraging busyness? We glorify busyness and productivity in an attempt to thwart laziness, I think. But, it just means we've lost the balance of hard work and rest. Synonyms for simplicity are clarity and straightforwardness and oh, I love the way those words sound. Clarity. Straightforwardness. Cut through the fat. Streamline what matters.

In my journey towards understanding simplicity in my own life, I realize how much of it is an attitude. I can "do" simplicity until I'm blue in the face (cleaning, organizing, purging, etc.), but until my attitude reflects my actions, they are in vain. To take a deep breath and approach things as they are, not as my imagination blows them up to be. When a toddler walks in with toilet paper wrapped around her head, I see little fingers and chubby cheeks that will be gone all too soon, not a frustrating mess to add to my already long list of things to clean up. One aspect of simplicity must be to live in the present and appreciate the here and now, I think.

Just some thoughts on this rainy morning.

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Simple 2014.

My resolution this year is to simplify.

Redundant, cliche...possibly. Yes, probably. We hear it all the time because we are constantly needing to be reminded of it. Simplicity is just so hard to maintain amidst the busy clutter that life constantly hands us. Things to do, places to be. Going, going, going.

But, I'm going to try. I'm going to try to wedge some peace into the chaos. To nudge some grace into the stress. To peel away the unnecessary layers that produce unnecessary frustration. Each personal situation presents its own challenges and I know that the things that may give me stress may not produce stress for someone else--or, someone else's stress may not happen in my life. But we all experience it on some level and I'm going to try to get down to the nitty-gritty of its existence in my life.

My first step is my home. To declutter, to finally sell the stuff I've been meaning to sell and to give away the rest and throw away the trash. To see smooth surfaces and open spaces, rather than filling every nook and cranny with stuff. To decorate intentionally, for my walls and shelves to wear the photos and words that represent us.

My second step is social media. I give up Facebook at some point every year, and this year I've already hit that "some point". Despite good intentions, I find myself once again mindlessly scrolling through my phone when I could be engaging the actual reality happening around me. It's my own failure at self-control and sometimes, the best way for me to regulate it is to discontinue it. I have no idea when I will start it back up again, but the few days I've been away from it have been liberating. Isn't that odd? (It just means I was on it too much.)

The third step is relationships. To strengthen the strong friendships. To invest in the ones who need investment. To give feet to my love and turn it into action, better.

My goal this year is a Simple 2014. I am praying that God will continue to show me the cluttered areas of my life and to give me the grace to refine them.

So. That's what I'm up to.

Have a lovely day!