celebration · family · home

Merry And Bright

celebration · happiness · home · self

Joy To Your World

I hope you are wrapped in the warmth of a magical holiday season.

That your children are amazed and filled with wonder.
And your family is overcome with unbelievable joy.
That you find inspiration in little things so you can go on to do big things.
And you are surrounded by people and things you love.
That you recognize the blessings not only in these days but in the everyday.
And you are in this moment and each one hereafter.

Because although this is THE season of giving gifts, it is also about what we give to ourselves: In self-care. In thoughts. In spirit. In hearts. In time. In purpose.

Spread happiness on the outside, but do not neglect the inside. For while it might seem difficult to make the self a priority … when we give to ourselves we can give more to those around us.

Christmas becomes merrier.

The New Year seems happier.

Traditions shine brighter.

Family feels closer.

Memories linger longer.

May your world be filled with joy. May your family be touched by peace. May you have a very Merry Christmas.

~ INSPIRED ME, JOYFUL BE

acceptance · celebration · family · home · letting go

A Perfectly Imperfect Holiday

It is far too easy to fall into the trap. You know the one. Cozy and festive ideas taunt us from magazine articles, advertisements, television shows, store displays, social media, lifestyle blogs, movies, and more. And we believe we must do them – all of them – if we are to experience the perfect holiday.

I have been there. I tried to design the artsiest card, give the coolest present, bake the yummiest cookie, decorate the prettiest tree, serve the tastiest meal, create the warmest memories. Sometimes I succeeded. But many times I failed – not in celebrating the season, but in reaching my unattainable goal of perfection.

My pursuit of the perfect holiday did not leave me euphoric or in a perpetual state of joy. It left me feeling inadequate (I could never reach the ridiculous standards I set), frustrated (my constant efforts to keep up made me anxious and ever-reaching), exhausted (I never stopped moving and neglected to care for myself), and disconnected (my quest clouded my ability to be in the moment).

And when I reflect on those years where I tried so hard, I realize how much I missed. In my hurried and determined haze, I lost precious time with people and the chance to create cherished memories. There was so much more I could have done. More fun. More laughter. More hugs. More love. More conversations. More connection. More time. More everything.

I stopped the frantic search for what could never be found.

I let go of unrealistic expectations so I might hold onto what mattered.

I chose to celebrate perfect holidays in the most imperfect way. Here’s how:

1. STOP COMPARING, START ENJOYING: We are meant to be different and stand out so why do we try so hard to mimic what other people are doing? Why do we believe their ideas are better than our own? This is your holiday to enjoy, not someone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate – find what works for your family, schedule, finances, and beliefs. Appreciate the world you create rather than one manufactured by another.

2. LOSE GUILT, FIND MEMORIES: Some people like to go all out for the holiday while others prefer something more low-key and simple. You should not be ashamed or embarrassed if you do not celebrate to the extent of another person. Discover what makes your family appreciate the season whether that be filling every second with activities or spending quiet moments at home. The holidays will be more memorable if you do them your way.

3. RELEASE FANTASY, EMBRACE REALITY: Often the greatest moments and memories are created when we do not organize or plan them. There will be crooked ribbons and wrinkled gift wrap on packages, awkward family conversations over dinner, houses that never seem clean enough, and burnt out lights on the tree. Messes are inevitable. Expect them. Welcome them. Making room for the chaos will ease the stress when troubles arise.

We all know perfection is a myth and yet we still try to achieve it. Why? Because we want the magic.

What we fail to realize is the magic is already there. It does not come from having the finest of anything or being the greatest at everything. The magic comes from within – our homes, our hearts, ourselves.

The best we can do is often what others want and all we need.

This season, find your joy. Make memories. Make moments. Make merry.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

daily life · family · home · letting go · simplicity

10 Rules For A Simplified Space

My earliest memory of when I got it was when we needed to move out-of-state – fast. This was not our first move nor would it be our last, but it was the one that taught me to let go.

My husband and I were leaving behind our first “grown up” home, a newly built sprawling two-story. We tended, loved, and spoiled it. We bought items to decorate and entertain, things we thought would be great just in caseif we ever, or when we might. And in those weeks leading to the actual move, I realized we had too much. I began a major purge, moving methodically and ruthlessly from room to room until I had bags and piles of items to sell or donate.

And once we moved into our new home with the things we actually used and settled in with little stress, I noticed the satisfaction (and peace) that comes with letting go of excess.

That was almost fifteen years ago, but it took awhile to realize I had become a minimalist {by definition, a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals}. I follow a strategic, yet flexible plan to managing my surroundings. I am not obsessive nor unrealistic, and I am far from perfect.

I have simply learned to be aware.

My closets and drawers are not overflowing. My cupboards and pantry are not disorganized. I do not have to search for an item. In fact, I know everything that is in my house at this exact moment. I knew I had mastered my version of minimalism when a friend visited our home, looked around the garage, and asked, “Where is all of your stuff?”

I simply try to minimize clutter while maximizing the bulk of my time. And while there are countless guides out there (from which I gleaned my favorite tips), these are the steadfast habits that work for me.

MY HOUSE RULES
1. ONE IN, ONE OUT: Whenever something comes into the home via shopping, gifts, or random acquisition, I ask A) do I want to keep it? B) if I keep it, what can go? If option B, I seek an even trade (i.e. a shirt for a shirt) but any item will do. THE GOAL: Create a balanced living space and prevent things from piling up.

2. MEMORY LANE: Family members often request I take or store something of sentimental value. If I do not have use or room for it, I am unafraid to say no. However, I will take things I can display every day as a reminder of a loved one or put to good use. THE GOAL: Do not confuse the memory of an item with its value.

3. PLACE FOR ALL, ALL IN ITS PLACE: When I bring items (groceries, purchases, etc.) into the home, I put them away as soon as possible. As for paperwork, mail, or receipts, I either throw, file, or note to follow-up before the clutter overwhelms. THE GOAL: Put items in their rightful place. If there isn’t a place, create one.

4. LIKE THINGS TOGETHER: I group similar items in the same area (all sport items in the garage, all jackets in one closet). This system develops a sense of what I have and what I use. It also avoids duplication and simplifies tasks like shopping and cleaning. THE GOAL: Ease the task of managing your space.

5. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: I have a perpetual donate/sell pile in my basement where unwanted items go. If I am unsure about something, I put it in the pile. Often I forget I have it and willfully let go. I donate/sell twice a year and when I sort the pile, I rarely reclaim an item. THE GOAL: Give yourself time to let things go.

6. ONE AT A TIME: If you are hesitant to get rid of things or unsure where to begin, go slow. Look for one item to trash, donate, or sell each day. Or try One Room A Month or One Area Per Week. Work at your own pace but keep it measurable. THE GOAL: Break the process into pieces to make it less daunting.

7. 80/20 CLOTHES: The idea? We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. Lose the items that do not fit, need repair, are impractical, do not match your current lifestyle, or still have tags. Simplify your mornings, re-sell designer brands, and regain your confidence. THE GOAL: Wear what makes you feel good.

8. FAMILY AFFAIR: My husband has learned to appreciate the fact that we do not have a lot of clutter. But, I have also learned to allow him to let go at his own pace. Forcing someone to minimize their surroundings never works. It only makes them resentful. THE GOAL: Share strategies, be patient, and appreciate any cooperation.

9. CHILD’S PLAY: Dealing with children is a delicate balancing act. Kids tend to keep and hoard it all. They become possessive and believe everything is valuable. I have worked around this by focusing on and teaching my son the first rule of One In, One Out because even trades are the easiest to explain and maintain. Other things like his bobble-head collection and baseball cards are not subject to the rules, however. I never pressure him to get rid of something he treasures. Young kids may not grasp the concept so ease into it. Older kids should be able to understand the meaning of letting go vs. holding onto things they love. Guide their decisions but give them final say. Do not openly question their choices and be sure not to press them to give up too much. In our family, we go through certain items like clothing at set times (seasonally) so he knows what to expect. Toys and games are done over holiday break when he can take time to organize his space the way he likes. THE GOAL: Encourage lifelong habits while giving them the freedom to choose.

10. COLLECT EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS: Allowing material items to consume valuable time, attention, and energy leaves little room for the activities and people we love. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the task, seek the help of a therapist, professional organizer, or friend. THE GOAL: Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

It is never too late to start (or start over), and establishing steady habits now will make it easier in the long run. Even the smallest change can reap huge rewards. Try mastering one rule, then another, and another. Seek to replace the things with people and activities that bring you joy. Realize how living with less can lead to so much more.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

family · home · obstacles · parenting

A Simple Life, Complicated

I am a self-proclaimed minimalist which means I like to simplify my surroundings, tasks, and schedule. But I am also a realist. I understand that sometimes in life, we need to complicate things.

Case in point: Our son has been asking for a dog for a solid year. From last year’s birthday to Christmas to this year’s birthday. It was obvious he was not giving up, and it would likely be the first item on his upcoming holiday wish list.

My husband and I did not want a dog as much as our son did. In fact, we have had a dog in the past and know what is involved. However, after much parental discussion, we came to this conclusion: We would get a dog.

After searching and inquiring and finalizing all of the necessary steps, we adopted this sweet little guy.

He is old enough to understand the rules yet young enough to keep up with our family. He is a power snuggler and master at stealing hearts. He came from a rescue organization, was in foster care, and needed a home.

He needed us. But perhaps more importantly, our son needed him. He needed things only a dog can give.

Responsibility – Our son is at that magical age (13) where he should be held accountable for more than good grades, sports practices, and lawn mowing. Thus, he has already been designated Head Dog-walker.

Companionship – As an only child, our son has friends at school, in sports, and around the neighborhood. And while he is excellent at being in his own head and enjoying alone time, he deserves a reliable buddy.

Understanding – Our son has already bonded with the dog which will hopefully put him on the path toward unconditional love, patience, and compassion for those who do not always treat him right.

I admit I will struggle with the extra time, effort, and general stuff that comes with dog ownership. But as a parent, we often have to bypass our wants so our children might get what they need.

I will try.

Try to treasure the moments when my son is sad, and the dog makes him smile. Try to cherish the times my son feels alone, and the dog provides company. Try to appreciate the moments when my son seems unsure, and the dog gives him confidence. Try to value the times my son requires comfort, and the dog provides that and so much more.

And hopefully one day far in the future, I will look back and remember how much I tried. Tried to do my best to help my son along. Tried to be patient. Tried to shine as a role model. Tried to teach my son the challenging parts of life can bring the most joy. Tried to show he is strong enough to navigate this difficult world.

I will never stop trying. And because of this, I choose to complicate my simple life with a small dog who will change our everything in a big way.

 


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

celebration · home · renewal

Breaking Away

Spring has arrived! The season of rain showers, baseball, egg hunts, birdsong, flowers, and promise. And yet despite it all, I am ready for a break. Spring break, that is.

Our little part of the world takes a late school break so when it finally arrives, my family is in desperate need of rest and relaxation. Sometimes we coordinate a big trip and venture across country but the past few years, we have retreated to our happy place – a city where we lived for a couple of years, one nestled among soothing mountains and fresh air.

When my husband and I moved there, it was opposite from what we knew with a differing landscape and culture. But we fell in love with the area, so much that even after we moved away, we began to call it home. Perhaps one reason? Our son was born there and though he has been raised elsewhere for much of his young life, he has come to appreciate his birthplace as much as we do.

And so we are breaking away from it all and escaping to our home away from home. It is familiar enough that we can forego strict itineraries and explore on a whim. Hikes, tours, restaurants, scenic drives, attractions. We have been there and done most but enjoy it so much we do not mind doing it again. The area is constantly growing and changing, and there is always something new to see and do. It never disappoints.

My family will revisit and renew and recharge. And when we return to the daily grind, hopefully we will look back and remember … it is possible to break away from it all.


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daily life · home · simplicity

Replace The To Do With I Did

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This week was going great until Tuesday night. Well, maybe not great but relatively good.

In trying to juggle my multiple writing tasks, I am in desperate need of a more structured schedule. And this was THE week. I was motivated to get organized with book outlines, blogging, family needs, and big house projects. I was committed to my TO DO lists. I was planning and prioritizing and letting go of perfection and then it happened …

LIFE.

Late Tuesday evening my son was injured in basketball practice. Not a sprain or broken bone but a fall flat on his face, bloody nose, split swollen lip, broken front tooth in half and root exposed kind of injury. My husband and I dropped what we were doing and ran over to where my son and his coach waited. As I went to hug my boy, I saw the destruction to his sweet, handsome face but perhaps more importantly, I detected the fear hidden behind tear-stained eyes.

The TO DO list I stringently toiled over just minutes before no longer mattered. I did not care about spring landscaping or my new book idea or the baseball equipment I needed to buy. Too much to do was immediately scratched off and replaced with one solitary thing: the well-being of my child.

A fellow basketball parent (who just so happens to be an endodontist) was gracious enough to perform emergency treatment. At a time when I am usually ready for bed, I sat in a shadowy medical office learning all about pulpotomies while watching my son handle it like the champ I know he is. As he leaned back in the exam chair with bright light circling his bruised mouth and blood spattering his shirt, I became hyper-focused in the moment.

I awoke this morning with a different to-do list and a desperate need to get my son smiling again. I have no idea how long that will take. It may entail a lot more treatment and pain and medication and soft food and mom snuggles. But I am ready.

My other TO DO list has been forgotten. I have put all other things on hold in order to focus on one: my I DID IT list.

Because once we get through this parenting challenge and look back, I will see that I DID whatever I could to help my son. I DID drop everything and focus on what matters. I DID show him the love and patience and compassion and help a child needs when they are hurting so much. I DID take time to research and ensure the best recovery path. I DID reduce stress and the overwhelming aspect of it all by eliminating distractions. I DID IT and my family came out better and stronger.

I like the idea of an I DID IT list so much I am instilling it in my planning sessions. This weekend while I map out my schedule for the following week, I will also reflect on the previous week and acknowledge the atta-girl, way to go accomplishments.

No matter how big, no matter how small, I want to be able to say I DID IT.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE