Freedom from Busyness: Part 1 – Know (and Respect!) Your Limits

It was auction day at work. I needed to leave extra early that day to make sure that I had time to park in a field far from our office, catch a shuttle, and still be at my desk on time. The thing was, I was already late. Habitually, I would sleep until the last possible minute, throw myself together, and careen out the door at a time that would get me to the office at exactly 8 a.m. No sooner, no later.

I sped along our country highway for approximately two minutes before I saw it: the telltale flashing lights of a police car in my rear view mirror. I was doomed. I knew the speed limit was 55 miles per hour. I knew I was going well over that speed limit. Now I would not only be late, but I would also most likely be issued a hefty fine for breaking the law.

auto-automobile-blur-532001.jpg

I knew my limits, blew right past them, and paid the price. 

Although I haven’t had a ticket since that long ago experience, I have spent much of my life living in a similar manner. I knew my limits – what I could handle while remaining healthy physically and mentally, but that wasn’t enough. I always needed to work harder, take the project to the next level, squeeze that extra event into the day, say “yes” to another commitment…the list goes on. In the end, someone would end up paying the price, whether it was myself dealing with tension headaches and exhaustion, my kids dealing with an exhausted, snappish momma, or my husband taking on extra work for an overextended wife.

The hustle and bustle of the average American life was not healthy for me or our family. I felt overwhelmed by our schedule and exhausted by the many demands on my time. I needed room to breathe, space in our schedule to go for a leisurely stroll or bike ride, and time to sprawl out on the furniture together watching a show. I needed change.

One of the first steps that I took toward a slower and simpler life was to know and respect my own limits. The old “oxygen mask” adage rings true in this situation: I needed to put on my own mask (in this case, respect my limits and take care of myself) before I put on my family members’ masks. I needed to establish boundaries as to what was healthy and manageable for me as a parent, chauffeur, employee, and all the other hats I wore every day.

How does one go about setting limits, though? What does that look like? Here’s where it gets a little tricky, because everyone is wired differently. As an introvert and highly sensitive person (HSP), my personal limits may look much different than those of an extrovert. However, there are some general questions that everyone can ask themselves when it comes to setting healthy limits:

  • Do I feel overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time?
  • Am I able to consistently spend time in God’s Word?
  • Am I spending quality, unscheduled time with my family on a regular basis?
  • Do I have time to pursue my interests?
  • Do I have time for those relationships that are important to me?
  • Do I have time to practice self care?

Take some time to think through those questions. Jot down some thoughts on areas where you would like to see change – more family time, more time to practice self care, etc. Next week we will start to tackle the nitty gritty on how to simplify your schedule and create room for a healthier you and a slower, simpler life!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Choosing the Slow Life

Several weeks ago, my youngest daughter spent almost the entire day sitting in a lawn chair, perched high atop a small mountain of rocks and clay. Bundled up in warm clothes and her winter gear, she sipped soda while watching a new house take shape around the corner from us. Constructions workers were buzzing around like bees while a crane set wall panels into place with precision and grace. It was one of the happiest days of her life. She was fully alive in the moment, engaged in the experience and enjoying it to the fullest.

Fast forward to that weekend. Each day was an empty square – no commitments, no plans – a rare occurrence and pure bliss. Apart from a little Saturday cleaning and Sunday morning church, we spent the weekend resting, reading, and pursuing interests both individually and together.

This is what I want for our family.

animal-back-backpack-6359

A life rich in experiences that resonate with who we are as individuals and as a family. A life that is intentionally slow but full of opportunities to explore, learn and grow. A life where not only do my kids have freedom in their days to be creative and imaginative, but where my husband and I also have space to pursue our dreams and desires.

That sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

The truth is, though, that developing a life like that is challenging in today’s culture. In a world that worships busyness, it is dangerously easy to be swept up in a current of people running here, there and everywhere. There are so many wonderful opportunities available and so much pressure to be involved. Is it even possible?

I think it is.

We are approaching April and May, which rank right up there with November and December as being the busiest months of the year at our house. Easter celebrations, end-of-the-school-year activities, birthday parties…all good events that are worthy of our time and attention. It’s also spring time – our Midwest winter is finally melting and giving way to all shades of green. After months of shivering in parkas, our bodies are longing to stretch and absorb warmth and vitamin D in the beauty of God’s creation.

How do we strike a healthy balance of school, celebrations, family time, and still find time to rest and rejuvenate our bodies and souls? Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring how to choose a slow life amidst a whirlwind culture. We will be evaluating different areas of our life that can lead to a slower rhythm overall, regardless of whether we work full time, part time, or are at home.

I want to enjoy the upcoming months. I want to sit on that mountain of dirt with my daughter and share in the wonder. I want to celebrate loved ones and be fully engaged in each moment and activity. I think it’s possible. Do you?

 

 

Freedom From Stuff: Part 2 – Capsule Wardrobe

Okay, let’s just start with this very important disclaimer: I have never been a fashion expert. I was befuddled by the art of tight-rolling jeans in grade school, never owned a pair of Z Cavaricci jeans, and eschewed skirts and dresses for at least a decade during my school years. Oh, and let’s not forget my obsession with black clothing in sixth grade. Oy.

Fast forward to my 30’s, and life was much more complicated – not only did I have to decide what I was going to eat, wear, and do each day, but I also had to make those same decisions for two other little people. Every. Single. Day. Throw in homeschooling, parenting, working, and running a household, and I was overwhelmed by the daily plethora of decisions that had to be made.

Enter the capsule wardrobe. The concept is simple: rather than looking at my wardrobe in terms of “outfits” (this shirt goes with these pants), the goal is to develop a carefully curated, scaled-back wardrobe of interchangeable items that I love.

priscilla-du-preez-228220-unsplash

This was not an overnight change, but rather a change in mindset moving forward with my wardrobe. I had always shopped with the mindset of “I need one shirt/pants to match with the item I am buying.” My new approach is, “Do I have at least two shirts/pants/cardigans to match with the item I am buying?” If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance that I won’t buy it, as it won’t prove to be versatile enough for my wardrobe.

Right now, my daily uniform consists of a pair of leggings, a shirt, and a cardigan. This is a general overview of my closet:

  • Five pair of leggings: one black, one gray, two denim jeggings, and one pair of burgundy (because I’m wild like that)
  • Six tunic-length cardigans: one gray, one tan, one cream, one black and white, one navy, gray and cream, and one gray and white striped
  • Five tunic-length shirts: one burgundy, one gray, one navy, one aqua, and one floral
  • One black dress (because hello, winter)
  • A half dozen cowls and a few statement necklaces
  • Three pair of boots: one black, one brown, and one floral
  • Two sets of comfy clothes that are banned from view of the general public 😉

That might seem sparse to some, or excessive to others. Some say there is a magic number of items to have in a capsule wardrobe; I think it really depends on each person’s comfort level. What I do know is that I love being able to walk to my closet and easily choose my outfit for the day in less than a minute.

So, how does one develop a capsule wardrobe or daily uniform? Rather than trying to muddle through explaining it, I recommend checking out these links for clear, detailed information and inspiration. I have been following Audrey at Putting Me Together for years – she has a classic, comfortable, modest and budget-friendly take on fashion. Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy is also a wonderful resource…both for a daily uniform AND reading material. Check out these links as a starting point:

Above all, enjoy the process of getting rid of what doesn’t work and developing a simplified system that works well for YOU!

Freedom from Stuff: Part 1 – Decluttering

Today we begin the next segment in the Freedom series…a three-part look at “Freedom from Stuff.” Hope you enjoy!

One year into our marriage, my husband and I moved from a tiny, second-floor apartment in the city to my grandparents’ spacious farmhouse in the country, trading in our one bedroom, two closet living space for four bedrooms, multiple closets, tiers of kitchen cabinets, and a walk-in attic. And did I mention that the garage was even bigger than the house? We had SPACE, my friends.

onur-bahcivancilar-140823 (1)

Fast forward four years, and we found ourselves packing up our dreams to move to God’s plan for us – an affordable (aka run-down) fixer-upper in the small town I grew up in, downsizing from our spacious country home to a two bedroom, two closet house. TWO CLOSETS. Thankfully we still had a small attic, but we now had no garage. Space was once again at a premium.

It wasn’t until we made that second, unplanned move that I realized how much stuff two people could accumulate over the course of four years. Suddenly all the stuff that was squirreled away in a back bedroom closet in our old house was now staring me in the face every day, as we had no place to go with it. As our family grew to three, and then four people, we had to take a serious look at how to keep all of our “stuff” from overtaking our house.

Thus began a system of purging that we have been refining over the past dozen years. Now, when purging a room or cleaning the attic, I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Have I used it in the past year? If I go through a whole year without thinking about or using an item, I most likely will not need it in the future. Time to donate it so someone else can use it!
  2. Do I like it? This is a really important question to ask! Do I even like this item? Am I keeping it out of obligation or guilt? Just because it was given to me, doesn’t mean I have to keep it! It took me years, but I have learned to give myself permission to let go of those items and, instead, treasure the kindness and thoughtfulness of the gift giver.
  3. Does it have sentimental value? When we first moved into our current home, I had a huge Rubbermaid container of high school memories. Within that container were shoe boxes filled with paper football-shaped notes from friends, programs from various school events, senior pictures, dried flowers, and other random items from that era of my life. Each time I have gone through that container over the years, I have been emotionally ready to let go of more of those items. Today, that huge container has been reduced to one small shoe box of the most important memories from those years.

A fourth question that I ask, but this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, is whether or not the item is dual purpose. Living in a house with such limited storage, it has become important to me that the items I keep are not only decorative, but also useful. For instance, I love collecting vintage Pyrex, which I display on open shelves in my kitchen. These bowls also serve as my everyday mixing and serving bowls. Another example is mason jars. We inherited a plethora of mason jars with this house, both the clear and the blue glass ones. The blue glass ones line my window sills as decor, but can also be used as an impromptu vase or candle holder. The clear ones have become our drinking glasses as well as containers that can store a myriad of grains, pastas, and sauces as needed.

The beauty of decluttering is that owning less stuff means managing less stuff, which frees me up to pursue things in life that are more important to me…like drinking coffee and watching Gilmore Girls reruns. 😉

Freedom from Money: Part 3 – Contentment

When I think of the word “contentment,” I picture my grandparents in their mint green kitchen. They are sitting at the kitchen table together – my grandpa in his everyday uniform of a plaid shirt and striped overalls, my grandma in her wheelchair wearing a floral top and polyester pants. The kitchen floor is a worn gold and white flecked vinyl; the honey blonde kitchen cupboards are scarred from years of a wheelchair rubbing up against them. Everything about the picture is worn and had been out of style for a good twenty years. And yet, if you would mention replacing something to my grandpa, he would just shrug his shoulders, crinkle his forehead and say, “Why? It works just fine!” They lived by the simple concepts of using things until they wore out, and making do or doing without. They knew contentment.

13925365_1242980755736493_2375424257928460579_n(My grandpa’s well-worn boots)

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered contentment, but that is far from the truth. I have spent much of my adult life seeking and striving for the next thing – whether it be a promotion, a newer vehicle or a nicer house. God has gently grown me over the years by continually placing me in humbling circumstances that are quite the opposite of what I had been seeking. Rather than a promotion, I was let go. Rather than a nicer house, we moved to a fixer upper. Rather than a newer vehicle, He provided an older, more reliable one. The list goes on and on.

Through His refining, my desires are changing. Sure, new and pretty things would be nice, but I’m learning to be content in His wise and timely provisions.

The philosopher Epicurus said, “The secret of contentment is not to add to a man’s possessions but to take away from his desires.” In other words, true contentment comes not from having more, but from wanting less. When our wants are fewer, that will have a direct impact not only on our bank accounts, but on our entire outlook on life. Contentment brings about appreciation for what we have, thankfulness for all that God provides, and peace in the knowledge that He will continue to provide for all our needs.

As we finish up this segment on freedom from money, more than anything, I hope that you find contentment in God and His provisions, for then you shall be truly free!

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom from Money: Part 2 – Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping

I. AM. SO. EXCITED. Guys, I realize it is the bane of many people’s existence, but I stinkin’ love grocery shopping! The aisles full of choices…the unexpected sale items…the new products…the Costco samples. I love it all!

In my post several weeks ago, we talked about developing and living on a budget. The reality is that food takes up a pretty good chunk of our living expenses, and, if you are on a tighter budget, you are most likely eating at home more than not. Even with eating at home the majority of the time, groceries are still going to cost a small fortune. However, there are a few simple strategies that we can put into place to help save some dough.

Before we begin, let me just say that I am not a pro at this! There are people out there who are extreme sale seekers and coupon clippers – I am happy for them, but I don’t have the time or desire to invest myself in those endeavors. Consider this the barebones guide to saving money on groceries, and feel free to expand upon it as you see fit!

  1. Identify which stores consistently have the lowest prices on quality food, particularly meat and produce. This doesn’t need to be a huge research project – no need to apply for a grant or take a sabbatical from work! Just peruse a couple flyers each week, or keep your eyes open when you’re shopping, and you’ll become familiar with where the best deals can usually be found. In our area, I have found that Aldi and Costco are my best sources.
  2. Create a file of consistently used recipes. This might look like a binder of printed recipes, a Pinterest board, or a good ol’ recipe box! I find Pinterest to be wonderfully helpful for both finding and organizing recipes. Looking for some great recipe sources? Check out a few of my favorite blogs:
  3. Plan your meals. I like to sit down for an hour or two and plan a month’s worth of meals. Admittedly, that can be a little overwhelming at times! Planning a week or two at a time works great, too – whatever works for your schedule. To keep things simple for planning, I follow a rotation, which gives me a loose structure with room for variety:
    • Mondays: Pasta
    • Tuesdays: Tacos/Mexican
    • Wednesdays: Soup or Salad
    • Thursdays: New Recipe Night or Leftovers
    • Fridays: Homemade Pizza or Eat Out
    • Saturdays: Brunch
    • Sundays: Slow Cooker (lunch), popcorn for dinner
  4. Make your list. Once I have my meal plan in place, I take a look through the recipes to see what I need for ingredients. A paper list works just dandy for this, or you can use an app like Out of Milk, which is my preference. When you shop from a list, you know what you need and what you don’t, which can add up to significant savings!
  5. Go the extra mile…plan for leftovers! Another way to save a chunk of change is to bring your own lunch to work, which is much easier when you have leftovers on hand. Make a double batch of one meal and enjoy the leftovers for lunch throughout the week!

This can be a lot to take in, so don’t try to do it all at once! Start by observing prices at the places you shop – or maybe check out a few stores you don’t normally shop at. Slowly put together a collection of recipes. Then maybe try planning a week’s worth of meals, making your list, and shopping for those items. With time, it will become second nature, saving you both time and money in the long run!

Hitting the Pause Button…

Earlier this week, I was reminded of an important truth through my own current situation, and I feel the need the hit the “pause” button to share it before moving forward with this Freedom series.

I recently had an appointment with my wellness provider to discuss doing a “system reset” for my body. I walked out of the appointment with some great supplements, a list of “approved” foods (low carbs and no sugar), and the assignment of meeting with a personal trainer to set up a strength-training regimen. Oh, and don’t forget to do yoga, too. And I need to reduce my stress. Oh, and you should get this all done before we meet again in three weeks.

Needless to say, about a week into these assignments, I found myself completely frustrated and reaching for the M&Ms even more than before. I poured out my frustration to my husband one evening, wondering why I had zero motivation to work out, eating healthy was overwhelming, and I was more stressed out than ever.

My husband, in his wisdom, had the answer:

Their solutions and expectations don’t fit your current life situation.

He was absolutely right. From their point of view and in their current life situations, the things they were asking me to do were completely doable. However, I am in the thick of raising and homeschooling two tweens, running them to their activities, working, blogging, and everything else that comes with running a household. My cup runneth over, proverbially speaking, without adding in a complete lifestyle change.

I have been mulling over that truth all week, and as I continue writing this series on freedom, please know that I understand that it is not a “one size fits all” solution. We all have unique life situations, and what works great for me is not going to necessarily be the best solution for you.

However, moving forward, my hope is that you can glean a helpful bit here and there that you can apply to your own life, or adapt an idea to incorporate it into your life situation. After all, the goal is FREEDOM, and how can we be free if we are stuck in the bondage of systems that aren’t practical for us? So, ignore what doesn’t work for you, and adapt upon what does.

I will be doing the same with my health assignments. They are all great goals, but tackling them all at once is an insurmountable task, combined with daily life. So, I am going to tackle them bit by bit, doing what is feasible, and giving myself permission to cast aside what is impractical in my life right now. My first goal? Get more sleep. Right now, I can completely handle that challenge. 🙂