A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Motherhood

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

“There is no one-size fits all way to simplify parenting.  But there are ways we can manage the chaos and infuse our families with principles of Grace, Structure & Order.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life

I began my recap of the chapter on Finances by saying that there isn’t a topic on which I felt more unqualified to give any advice, but I’d like to amend that statement and say that I feel about a million times less qualified to write anything on parenting.  We’re just winging it about 85% of the time.  And that’s being generous.

However, like so many other areas that this book covers, the way that she breaks down the different areas and ways that we can chip away at the struggles gives me hope.  Did you find that to be the case as well?

Managing Physical Stuff

1 – Minimize The Amount

Start with toys and ask “What do they actually play with?”  Donate what they’ve outgrown (or store away for future children) and toss what is broken or missing pieces.  Even after doing this, our reality is that we still have A LOT of toys.

One option that I’ve heard other people do (but that I haven’t tried….yet) is to rotate toys.  They divide toys up into two, three or four groups (depending on the types and amounts) and only have one group out at a time.  After a pre-determined amount of time (monthly, seasonally, etc.), they pack away that group of toys away and pull out one from storage.  This is a way for toys to seem new to kids without having to go buy new stuff all of the time.

2 – Sort & Sift

Emily Ley suggests storing toys by activity or type (i.e building, reading, art, baby dolls, trucks, etc.).  My warning for this would be not avoid the trap of over-organizing, because kids will not be able to sustain that system and it sets them up for failure.  But, if you’re looking for a way for them to be able to get some toys out without emptying every single toy they own, this system works great!

Another suggestion that she makes – and we have found to be true in ALL areas of life, not just kid stuff – is the “one of a kind rule”.  What she means by to take the time to find something that works for you, and if it is something that you need multiples of (plates, cups, socks, water bottles, etc.), buy all of the the same of these.

I am so diligent about this with our kids’ dinnerware.  Storing kid plates, cups, silverware and the like is cumbersome enough as it is.  The only way I’ve found to not be overly irritated by it is to have one kind of plate, bowl, cup & silverware.  In hindsight, I wish we would have got all the same color of cups and and silverware, but live and learn.

Implementing Systems that Teach Action & Reaction

And now we enter a topic on which I say to you, ‘Teach me your ways, cuz I’m drowning over here’.

Let’s start with her points….

1 – Redirect

I worked as a counselor at Christian camp in college and one thing we learned that has stuck with me since then is “The issue’s not the issue”, the idea being that what a kid is upset about is not actually what’s wrong with them; it’s just a symptom of something deeper.  I tell myself this hourly as a parent.

Redirecting our child’s attention from the conflict to something that helps resolve the deeper issue – or, frankly, just distracts them – diffuses the tension.

2 – Get down on their level

Again, less learned working at camp.

We cannot fall victim to shouting wars.  Which is so easy to do, because we’re justifiably tired and getting up from where I am to walk to where they are only to have to squat down takes energy that I do not have.  But it is a game changer.  Eye contact and being level with your kids reaffirms their feelings and their value.  There’s no better place to start than there.

3  – Get on the same page as your spouse

Kids need consistency.  We all do, but kids need it more.

I’m validated in my kids’ eyes when Dad has the exact same reaction, expectations and consequences as Mom.  It’s still not easy, but it’s easier.

You know what’s not easier?   Figuring out how to do that.  My husband and failed miserably at this last night.  Three of the four members of our family had tears (and only two of the four of us are children, so you do the math).  Grace and communication are the only two things that I know are necessary in this process.

4 – Have a pocket trick

Emily Ley uses a dance party playlist that she starts when they just need a do-over.  I love this idea.

5 – Have a Hail Mary for yourself

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  The Hail Mary is for when the pocket trick ain’t doing the trick.

My Hail Mary is dropping whatever we’re doing, loading up the kids in the double stroller and going for a walk.  In Minnesota, it’s not ideal outdoor walking weather at least six months of the year, but the Hail Mary requires less than ideal circumstances.  I have pushed the stroller through snow many times and on those days where the windchill is 20 below (which happens often in January & February), we settle for walking circles around the mall.

Do what you gotta do.

Create Meaningful Family Memories

When I read this title I thought it would be all about coming up with super creative, fun things to do with your family that they will remember.  Which I hate.  I love fun memories, but coming up with how to get them is so far outside of my wheelhouse.  I’m just not that fun, creative parent.  My kids will leave our house knowing how to organize a mean sock drawer, but they will not leave with stories of elaborate, creative activities.

But even creating family memories is something that we should simplify.  Chores can be the source of family memories.  Good ones.

I just love her idea of taking our trouble points and teaching our children how to be part of the solution to those triggers.  Her example of having her son be in charge of collecting dirty in the laundry in order to lessen her burden in the morning is a great example.

Two birds.  One Stone.

Give your children responsibility and let that responsibility be helpful to you.  AND teach them how to have fun working.  It can be done.

My daughter’s job after meals is putting dirty dishes on the dish counter and my son’s is putting the dirty (cloth) napkins in the hamper.  We act silly and talk about doing it “cheetah fast” so that we have a couple minutes for tickle time or a Lego tower before bath time.  And it works 85% of the time.

Imparting Virtue & Character

“You are raising adults, not children.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life

I love this because it’s a big picture perspective.  Which is so hard to maintain in the day-to-day minutia of parenting.  Kids do whatever we do, which is good and bad.  But, let’s leverage that by having them do what we do alongside us at an age-appropriate level.

They can do chores alongside you – and learn how to clean a toilet.

They can do errands with you – and have a conversation about something that happened at school that day.  And help you carry the groceries.  🙂

They can sit in church with you – and build a foundation of faith for all of their days.

They can volunteer with you – and learn the value of giving to others.

Individually, these things don’t seem like a big deal.  But collectively, they are creating memories and are building blocks for the adults they will become.

Which is both inspiring and daunting.

“What if one day, we look back and realize these were the good old days?”

Read some of Emily Ley’s parenting books suggestions.

Simplicity Challenge

At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag.  Like good, helpful swag.   No clutter-y stuff.

Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Self

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Have you ever met that person she describes at the beginning of Chapter 8?  Someone who is calmly confident?  As I read that, all I could think was “I want to be that person….”

But in order to be that person, I gotta make some changes.  Don’t we all??!!

Where Did the Frazzle Come From?

We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.  What that weight consists of and why we carry it differs among us all, but we carry it nonetheless.  I love the way she describes us as “care-takers” of both the day to day and the long term.  That description legitimizes that weight I feel.  Which is good and bad.

Overcoming Overwhelm

1 – Track Your Triggers

Identify those triggers that make you feel overwhelm.  Call it  what it is – overwhelming – AND THEN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEM.  Don’t feel guilty about it or talk your self out of feeling that way.  That’s not going to help the situation.

This may look like eliminating, avoiding or delegating.  At the very least, less the trigger’s affect if you can’t change it.

My husband leaves for work at 8:30 each day and at about 8:35, I would always be so irritated.  There was so much to get done and my children wouldn’t leave me alone to do it.

So, I started waking up at 5AM.  Some days I would work out, which just helped me mentally and some days I would tackle as much of my list as I could while three people were still sleeping.

It changed our days.  It changed my attitude.  And it made me tired.  I still don’t love getting up that early, but I know that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

2 – Give Your Brain a Break

All that empty space in our homes and margins on our calendars that we’ve been talking about needing to create?  We need to do the same thing in our brains.  But that is so much harder than decluttering a closet.

I have vivid memories of being bored as a kid.  Then, I started making my own schedule with my own commitments around 8th grade and I haven’t been bored since.  I haven’t been bored for almost a quarter century.  There’s something wrong with that.

“Somehow, we have gotten into the mindset that if there is empty space, we should fill it.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life

Guilty.

I am a maximizer.  If you have x amount of something, then you better fill x to it’s maximum capacity, otherwise you’re not using it well.  That’s just good stewardship.

Or so I thought.

I’m beginning to learn that this isn’t healthy in every situation and taking care of myself is one those situations.

3 – Find a Relaxing Release

Don’t apologize for it.  Don’t squeeze it in between other stuff if and when there’s room.  Prioritize it.

4 – Move Your Body

Just yes.

Whenever I’m feeling like I’m at my boiling point, I put my kids in the stroller and just walk.  We live in Minnesota, so there have been times that that has meant pushing that stroller through snow.  But the powers of fresh air combined with moving my body is like a miracle combination for a mood-shifter.

5 – Do a Brain Dump

Use Emily Ley’s printable for this.

Don’t feel the pressure to keep it all in your head.  Writing it down releases it and releases stress.  And, oftentimes, looking at a list makes you realize that there isn’t as much as you thought there was when it was all just flying around in your head.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Simplified Self Care

1 – Fill your well with Joy, Happiness, Play, Laughter, Creativity & Self-Care

If at least one of these isn’t part of your day EVERY day, then you need to re-prioritize.  There are definitely seasons where experiencing all of these every day isn’t a possibility, but one of them every day isn’t overindulging.  It is necessary.

“Practical self-care is important; this includes taking care of the body God gave you.  You only get one.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life

2 – Schedule Annual Appointments

Make a list of all of the annual appointments that you should go to each year.  Then assign a season to each one.

In our family, we do annual physicals in the fall (it helps that three of the four of us have fall birthdays, so they line up), Dentist appointments in January & July and Eye Exams in the spring.  Each January, I make all of these appointments for the year.  It’s okay if you don’t know your schedule 7 months from now.  Get it in the calendar and change it if you need to.  You’re more likely to re-schedule an appointment you already had than to make a new one.

3 – Get Out & Move

File this under ‘Don’t Overcomplicate’.

You don’t have to do Cross Fit every day (but props if you do!) or train for a marathon.  Just move.

Park far away from the grocery store.  Leave the dishes after supper and walk around the block.  Turn up some music and have a spontaneous dance party with your kids.

Just move.

4 – Do Things that Make Your Body Feel Cared For

I run early on Monday mornings and then don’t go anywhere the rest of the day.  So, after my run, I take a long shower.  I deep condition my hair, exfoliate my face and shave.  It feels so good.

My favorite hack for feeling better than I may look is painted nails.  I almost always have painted nails.  Because even when everything else is a hot mess, painted nails add a level of polish (no pun intended) that makes me feel not so grimy.

5 – Learn the Foods that Make You Feel Great

And eat them.  This is not rocket science.

Figure them out.  Buy them.  Don’t buy the other stuff (or keep it somewhere where you’re not tempted to eat it).  Eat it.  Feel Good.  Repeat.

6 – Let Predictability & Habit Simplify Your Life

Default to routine.  Make few decisions less often.  Then, when you get bored, vary only the things that need to be different to change things up for you.  But rely on what works.

Simplicity Challenge

At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag.  Like good, helpful swag.   No clutter-y stuff.

Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Technology

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

“With all those lights, dings, buzzes & notifications, no wonder our brains are on overload.”

THIS chapter has made, far and away, the biggest difference in my daily life.

I didn’t even realize that I needed to simplify the technology in my life until I read this chapter.  I wasn’t always on my phone – for large chunks of the day, I didn’t even have it on me, I deleted emails and unwanted photos and I knew where all of my apps were.  But then I read these pages.  And then re-read them.

My first time reading Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life, I decided to simply read it and wait to follow any of the suggestions until I had finished it.  But after finishing this chapter, I knew that I needed to make these changes right now.

I wasn’t always on my phone.  But I was on it more than I wanted to be.

I didn’t have unneeded emails in my InBox, but I was captive to the ding of an incoming email.

There were no photos on my phone that weren’t keepers.  But those photos weren’t anywhere except on my phone.

I could tell you where each app on my phone could be found….. after really thinking about it for a minute or two.

I made some of her recommended changes on a Sunday afternoon and the following Monday was one of the best days I’d had in a long time.  I got my chores done (technology) interruption-free and enjoyed distraction-free time with my kids.  Time that I had more of it because I wasn’t wasting time on my phone.

Are you sold yet?  Here’s where to start:

Simplify Tech Gear

  • Gather all of your “gear” not tethered to a wall (including devices, chargers, cords, power supplies) together.  Pull out all of the keepers – what you currently use – and put the devices and accessories away TOGETHER. Get rid of everything else.  Gazelle and Amazon have buy back programs for used tech and Best Buy will recycle it for free for you.  There is no need to hold on to that Nokia phone for nostalgia purposes.  Pitch it!
  • Create a charging station – that is not in bedrooms.  Give all of your gadgets a resting place away from sleeping areas.

Simplify Your Computer

  • Organize files by category.  Create folders for files, photos & videos.
  • Clean up your desktop.  Delete unnecessary files and keep a minimum number of icons (1-3) on your desktop.
  • Print photos.  If this overwhelming or you are unfamiliar with the concept of a printed photo (to all my millennial readers out there), at the very least, back up the digital copies of your photos.
  • Wrangle your email.  Flag items that needs actions.  Create a “Flagged” folder, and file those flagged email in that folder.  Delete ALL unnecessary emails.  UNSUBSCRIBE to emails that you never read.  You don’t read them, so having them pile up in your InBox is doing you no good.

*If you have your computer organized differently than she suggests and it works for you, do not feel compelled to change your system to hers.  If you don’t know where to start, use her suggestions.

Digital Clutter is Still Clutter.

Remind yourself of this when you see the number of photos saved on your hard drive and going through them seems too monumental of a task.

Update Passwords

Update Wallpaper to Something Serene

  • Now that you can actually see your desktop, make it a picture of something that calms you and brings you great joy.

Simplifying Tablets & Phones

  • Declutter – This means contacts, photos, apps & text threads.  Do this a little bit at a time.  Keep your home screen less than half-full with only apps that you use daily.  Visual simplicity affects mental simplicity.
  • Perform Maintenance – Clean the devices with a safe cloth, double-check your privacy setting and update the software
  • Change your phone wallpaper to something serene.  Again with the visual simplicity.  Emily Ley has a number of free backgrounds on her website.
  • Change your lock screen to something you love.  You will see this often, so make it something that brings a smile to your face.
  • Use reminders.  This is the stuff phones or good for.  Utilize it!
  • TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS.  Take the power back from your device.  If something is truly important, your phone will ring.  If this seems like it’s too much, I suggest that you try it.  Turn off notifications for a day.  See if the world stops.  Or your heart.  If either of those things happen, then turn the notifications back on.

“We no longer know how to sit and look around at our surroundings, taking in the scenery, just thinking, and sometimes just being bored.” (Pg. 127)

Create a Social Media Policy

This will look different for each individual and family, but it’s important to remember that not everything you do needs to be shared.  As Emily Ley says on page 130, “We can’t ignore that our hyperconnected world has also fueled a modern-day addiction that sucks time away from what matters most.”

Take the control back. You life will be sweeter and simpler for it.

Read some of Emily Ley’s tips for Keeping Tech from Taking Over.

Simplicity Challenge

At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag.  Like good, helpful swag.   No clutter-y stuff.

Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Hospitality

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

“Hospitality is really just the way we wrap our people in love and care in the most basic, non-elaborate, meaningful ways.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life.

Basic.

Non-Elaborate.

Meaningful.

Those are three great adjectives right there.  No frills.  No fuss.  But purposeful and selfless.

That’s what I want my hospitality to look like.

I was so excited to read this chapter because, when I read the title, I thought it would be about how we need to get over ourselves and be more welcoming in our homes.  Make it less about us and what our homes make other people think of us and more about others and the value they have that we recognize in them.

There was some of that.  But her take that hospitality and turning it inward to our own families really made me think.

Serving Our Spouses Well

I cannot possibly be the only person who puts life’s every day demands before my marriage.  AND I married a guy who’s love language is quality time, so you add his extra need for time focused on him, and I struggle.

Her long-term view of marriage helps me think about this differently.  A healthy marriage can never be “achieved”.  It is an ongoing, day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute decision.  That’s exhausting and exciting at the same time.

Serving Our Children Well

I often view parenting through the lens of “How do I help my children become healthy adults?”, which isn’t bad or wrong, but reading this chapter made me realize how much of their individualization I am not considering.

I had to think really hard about how each kid feels loved.  And I’m not 100% confident in my answer.

But I know that one-on-one time with each kid is paramount.  I heard a speaker once say that kids spell trust differently than we do.  Kids spell trust T-I-M-E; meaning it’s built over time by spending intentional time with the child.

Emily Ley’s ideas on the bottom of page 107 for low-key families memories are excellent.  So often, we feel the need to over-complicate or make an event of one-on-one time.  There is an occasional time for that, but generally, it’s just doing what we were going to do anyway, but doing it alongside our children with giving them our attention being our first priority.

Serving Friend & Guests Well

This is about attitude more than anything.  Is my main goal in hosting centered around me? Or is my home simply the location where people can come together and enjoy conversation, laughter, food and build community.

I certainly hope it’s the latter.

Day-to-Day Hospitality

This was a gut punch.  I actually wrote “ouch” in the margin of page 113.

Far too often, I am too busy to do the little things that matter.  I have big things to show for my productivity and how I spent my time, but the little stuff that matters; that builds people up and encourages their hearts gets left undone in my rush.

Creating margin in other areas of my life and has helped me gain a little ground in this area, but not enough.  The last page of the chapter was the kick in the pants that I needed to be better about what I want to be remembered for.

Read some of Emily Ley’s hospitality tips here: Loving People Well Inside the Walls of Your Home, Simplified Family Traditions and What Makes Us Feel Welcome.

Simplicity Challenge

At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag.  Like good, helpful swag.   No clutter-y stuff.

Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Finances

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

“When you simplify your financial picture, you are loving and serving your family well.” -Emily Ley, A Simplified Life

Well, when you put it that way……….

Money is so tricky.  It’s at the root of so much what goes on in our daily lives.  And we’re not born knowing how to handle it.  Many of us (me!) were never taught how to handle money and had to learn some lessons the hard way.

No matter what your history is with finances, you can start making healthy financial decisions today.  Decisions that serve you and your family well.

5 Steps to Simplifying Finances

1 – Become a Numbers Person

This isn’t an area of life where not being “good” at something is an excuse not to do it.  Adult up.  Learn the ins and outs of managing your finances.

Start with the glossary of terms she lays out on pages 83-84, then talk to a professional who is good at this stuff.  We’ll talk more about that in number 3.

2 – Implement a Family System That Works

Find a system that works for you.  What have you done in the past?  What worked?  What didn’t work?  Built off of that to figure what you need.

Dave Ramsey has some great resources to get you started and Every Dollar is a great budget management tool.

Through our seven years of marriage, we’ve had a few different forms of a budget.

In our early days it entailed a whiteboard in our kitchen.  We were both paid monthly, so we’d pay all of our bills, then whatever amount was left was written at the top of the board.  As we spent, that amount got subtracted and when it got to zero, we knew there was no more spending until the next paycheck.  How quaint is that?  Now we use a spreadsheet with columns, equations and color codes.

Whatever system you choose, who does what has to be clearly defined and well-communicated.  One of the many financial lessons I’ve learned the hard way…..

Now, my husband is paid weekly – every Friday.  So, on Thursday night, we sit down in front of that beautifully color-coded spreadsheet and talk through that week’s payroll.  What bills are due that week, extra expenses that have come up, where to designate giving and what to do with the extra (I wish this was a conversation had more often than it is…..).  Neither of us look forward to it.  Or enjoy it.  But it is necessary.  And it has been a game-changer in our house for understanding our financial state.

3 – Find a Trusted Advisor

Shortly after getting married, my husband and I bought a small life insurance policy.  We felt so responsible.  A mere three years later, upon reflecting on that policy, we realized that it was not even close to what we needed.  In those three years, we had purchased a different home, had two children and I was no longer working full-time.

We met with an advisor that my husband has known most of his life.  We had to have the humility to say “I don’t know anything about any of this.  Teach me.”  It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it was one of the best decisions we made.

4 – Decrease Debt

I like thinking about debt like clutter – that it is junking up our lives.  Debt is exhausting and emotionally and mentally draining.  And yet, so many of us have it.  A lot of it.

Choosing to be debt free – and making the lifestyle choices that get you there – is incredibly hard.  We are in the midst of it now, and it is a daily battle.

DAILY.

I want all the things.  And with the click of a couple buttons, I can have them on my doorstep in a matter of days.  Temptation is lurking everywhere.

But there is a better way to live.  The sacrifices and the hard choices are worth it.

5 – Use One Method for Expenses

We think we’re better at multi-tasking our spending than we are.  Whatever method you choose for paying expenses (we have found that cash is best), find one and stick with the same one.  Simplification is the goal here, and this is the epitome of simplifying.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

 

Honestly, this is an area where I feel completely inadequate to give any kind of advice.  This is a real struggle for our family.  But we desire to do this well and we’re working through it.  It ain’t pretty, but we’re getting there.  One small choice at a time.

“No matter how much money you make or how much have in the bank, finances are stressful.” – Emily Ley, A Simplified Life

Read some of Emily Ley’s money saving tips here.

Simplicity Challenge

At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

Comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed that week.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed at the end of the book will get some swag.  Like good, helpful swag.   No clutter-y stuff.

Don’t forget to take photos of the process AND the progress and use #simplifiedsummer so we can all celebrate together!

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com