Simplified Summer Challenge PRIZE

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

This past summer, a group of people from this community read through Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life together and used the book as a guide to simplifying our lives.  At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now (most take less than 5 minutes) that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

I’m giving away all of these goodies to the person who completes the most Simplicity Challenges by Friday, September 28th.

Prizes include:

Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

Grocery List Pad by Emily Ley

Y-Weave 5 Piece Basket Set

Kenra Volume 25 Hairspray

Essie Gel Couture Set

Post-It Page Markers

Cable Clips

Go-Go squeeZ Variety Pack

To earn these prizes, comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed from that chapter.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed will get this swag.

I’ll make things easier once you’ve completed challenges, by linking below to each chapter’s blog post.  Log your challenges in each blog post’s comment section, and I’ll add them all up to determine the winner.

Chapter 1 – Simplified Space

Chapter 2 – Simplified Style

Chapter 3 – Simplified Meals

Chapter 4 – Simplified Schedule

Chapter 5 – Simplified Finances

Chapter 6 – Simplified Hospitality

Chapter 7 – Simplified Technology

Chapter 8 – Simplified Self

Chapter 9 – Simplified Motherhood

Chapter 10 – Simplified Faith

Happy Simplifying!!!

Seasonal Transitions

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

My daughter turned 5 on Sunday and started Pre-K yesterday.

Excuse me while I cry in my pumpkin spice latte.

Not because she is getting older or has started school, but because summer is over.  We just wrapped up the BEST summer and returning to the reality of a schedule and commitments is more than I can bear.

This is my daughter’s second year of “school”.  She did preschool two mornings a week last year, and I struggled hugely with that transition.  I thought the same thing that you probably did when you read ‘two mornings a week’: That won’t really change much for us.

I was wrong.

I was determined to do this transition better this year.  Here’s what I learned last year and am trying to do better this year.

How to Ease the Pain of Seasonal Transitions

Create a Schedule

This seems obvious, but if you think that you can skip this step, you will regret it.  Start with calendar appointments (things that have fixed times) and then add in what tasks have to get done each day.  You can see how I do this each season here.

Write down a weekly routine; what you do each day.  Make this as specific (schedule each day) or as vague (a brainstormed list) as you prefer.  Writing it down helps you to anticipate what’s coming next so that you’re not caught off-guard.

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Schedule Tasks & Set Reminders

Think through the periphery tasks that come along with your schedule.

For instance, now that my daughter is back in school, her backpack will need to be packed 3 nights a week and I will need to plan a snack for each week.

Your Reminders app on your phone is your BEST FRIEND in this situation.  Set a recurring reminder for the days and times these tasks need to get done.

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximzingdaysblog.com

These small things seem like no big deal, but when added to other “small tasks”, the compounded weight of getting them done can make you feel like your drowning.  Let your reminders app be your life preserver in this case.

Switch Out Seasonal Wardrobes

If you live in a place where shorts and t-shirts are worn after Labor Day (not here in the tundra!), do everything except actually switching the wardrobes out of the dressers and closets.

Go through and inventory what you have, make a list of (use this free printable) and purchase what you need for each person for the upcoming season.  Wash it and have it ready for when the weather does finally change.

Create a “Drop Zone”

Find a spot in your house that works best to be the place for all the things you need to get out the door in morning.  And to drop all.the.things when you return home in the evening.

Shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, papers, keys, coats, bags… the list goes on for miiiiiiiiles.

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Word of Warning: Don’t let perfection get in the way here.

The goal is not to make the space look like a page out of the Pottery Barn catalogue.  Don’t let that unattainable goal stop you from achieving the purpose you need here.

If space prohibits you from having all these things in the same spot, fit as many as you can (realistically and functionally!) in one spot, and then designate spots for the other things.  It’s more important that everything have a home than everything’s home being in the same place.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Think through what you need to do to make a busier season work.

You can’t expect to just do what you’ve been doing and add in a bunch of new stuff and have it work well.

That’s what I tried to do last year and it bombed.  BIG TIME.  For any of you who have been around for more than year and follow me on Instagram, you may recall a teary Instastory related to this….

Reconsider morning and evening routines.  Enforce strict bedtimes for everyone (including yourself).  Prioritize self-care.  Set reminders on your phone for the things you will inevitably forget.  Hang a file folder on the wall for papers that need to be signed, read, returned, etc.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

We all have adjustment periods.  Try as you might, there’s no way to know exactly what you need to do until you experience it.

Use this adjustment time to your advantage.  Acknowledge pain points and work on solutions to alleviate them.

And when it’s too much and your kid didn’t get her form turned in in time to go on the field trip and you just served frozen pizza for the third time this week and you’re wearing your underwear inside out because it’s better than going commando?  It will be okay.  Sure, you could have done a few things differently and had a different outcome.

But you can’t change the past, so now, ask yourself, “What can I do to make it better from here on out?”

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

How I Use My Simplified Planner

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Let’s just start with the reality that the pictures of the inside of my Simplified Planner are not Pinterest-worthy.

Because I use the heck out of it.

What is the Simplified Planner?

The Simplified Planner is an annual paper planner sold in either a calendar version (January-December) or an academic version (August-July).  There is a daily version, where each page (except for Saturday & Sunday) is one day, or a weekly version, where a page spread is Monday through Sunday.

I think it’s best to let my new BFF, Emily tell you what’s so great about it.

Why a Simplified Planner?

A few years ago, I created this printable in order to have everything that I needed to know for my day in one location.  And it worked really well.  I had great intentions of writing out my goals for the day and using the extra minutes section, but the truth is that just never happened.  And there was no white space, which I found myself wanting.

As I became aware of Emily Ley through reading her book A Simplified Life, I was drawn to the simplicity of the Simplified Planner.

I chose the Academic Daily Simplified Planner.  Academic because our life goes in school-year cycles and Daily because I knew that I wanted a daily schedule and my tasks all on one page.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Let’s call a spade a spade.  This planner, while beautiful, practical, helpful and all the other yummy adjectives is not cheap.  With a steep price tag of $58 for the daily and $48 for the weekly, I wanted to make sure that this is what I wanted and that it would do what I wanted it to do before I doled out that cash.

Emily Ley has copies of both the daily and weekly pages for free in her free printable library, so I printed off three weeks worth of planner pages and gave it the old college try.  I highly suggest doing this.

After using those pages as my planner, I realized that the simplicity of it was just what I needed.  I also liked that it was bound already (as opposed to my homemade printable which would get hole-punched and stored in a binder) and smaller than my binder.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

 

How I Use My Simplified Planner

I have found that it works best to fill out my Simplified Planner one week at a time.  I pick a time each week – most often Friday afternoons – and transfer everything from appointments, tasks and meals into my planner.

Start with Your Calendar

Our family uses iCal for all of our appointments and events.  I open up that week on our calendar and transfer all of the events from our family’s electronic calendar into my planner.  Starting with appointments is helpful because everything else that needs to happen that day gets fitted around those fixed times.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Fill in “Everyday Stuff”

Each morning, I do my devotions, take my pills and make our bed.  Ideally.  To help me remember to do this, at the top of each page, under the date, I draw a little square (or use my daughter’s little square stickers that she doesn’t like) and write D (for Devotions), P (for Pills) and B (for Bed).

I also write in each day’s workout and my rest time.  Some days, working out is a scheduled class at the gym, and some days, it’s just planks on my living room floor when I can squeeze it in.  I have also learned that when I write something in on my planner, I’m more likely to do it, so making my rest time during the final hour of my kids’ naps helps me be more realistic about the available time that I have to get my tasks completed.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Add Tasks

I keep all of my tasks in the app Wunderlist on my phone.  Many of these are recurring, but without having them come up on the app, I will forget them.  I view all of the upcoming week’s tasks on the app and write them in my Simplified Planner.  From that point on, any additional tasks for the week get written into my Simplified Planner and only tasks that are due more than a week out get added to my Wunderlist app.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Meals

I write in each of the three meals that we eat into my schedule because it helps me to mark out the white space of available time.  I don’t plan breakfasts or lunches, so I don’t write anything more than the meal’s name in my planner.

I meal plan suppers, but have learned that what I think we will eat when is almost never how it goes.  I write the planned suppers on these Post-It flags and put the post-its on the days where they are assigned.  Then, when we change our mind, I can just move the post-it and not run out of white-out so quickly.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

After putting the suppers on their days, I will go back through and add in any corresponding tasks that may come with prepping that meal.  Most often this is thawing meat or prepping a crock-pot meal.

Color Code

This is completely optional.

Ideally, I would like to use Emily Ley’s color coded dot stickers to categorize tasks, but they were sold out when I ordered my planner.

Right now, I color code with pens because it gives me a quick at-a-glance way of knowing what my day looks like.

Because I will get asked, my color coding is as follows:
Purple – Errands/Appointments
Orange – Meals
Black – Work
Blue – Blog
Green – Household

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Accessories

I bought the icon sticker set (only because the color coded dots were sold out), the sticker book, the page marker and the washi tape to go along with my Simplified Planner.  If I had it to do all over again, I would just buy the sticker book.  The stickers in it add a fun little touch to the pages and for how much time I spend looking at the pages of my planner, I want to enjoy it.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

There’s nothing wrong with the icon stickers or the washi tape.  I just haven’t figured out how to use the icon stickers well.  And the washi tape is great and some people would love that the colors coordinate with two of the planner covers, but I don’t care about that.  I could have bought much cheaper washi tape at Target and it would have served the same purpose.

I use the washi tape on the monthly spread for things that last more than one day and on the daily spread to mark off a large block of time during the day.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The page marker is my only product that I wasn’t happy with.  It’s too narrow to easily find the page and I have found that using a binder clip works much better.  The binder clips is not as pretty, I’ll give you that.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Monthly Calendar

I use the monthly calendar to track birthdays and anniversaries (where the icon stickers did come in handy) in addition to all-day or multi-day events (marked with washi tape!) or other notable events.  I don’t like to clutter this up with every appointment we have on our calendar, but it is helpful to have a place where the big stuff can be seen in a calendar view.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Notes Section

The bottom section of the Daily Edition Simplified Planners used to be divided into two sections; The left half was for ‘Meals’ and the right half was for ‘Notes’.  Beginning in 2018, the Daily Editions now have one large Notes space at the bottom.

I love this feature.  As I mentioned earlier, I write my meals information in my schedule, so I don’t need to use the bottom part of the page for that.  It’s also a really handy place to write whatever I need to remember from that day.  Instead of having a bunch of little pieces of paper floating around with necessary information, when I need to find something I wrote down, I can find it in a Notes section in my planner.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

After one month of using my Simplified Planner, I can’t imagine going back or using anything else.  It has helped me to use my time well and prioritize what matters.  Which is all I really want out of a planner.

What’s your favorite planner and why?

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

2018-2019 Academic Editions are sold out, BUT Calendar Editions of the Simplified Planner launch on September 5th.  If you want one, I highly suggest ordering on launch day because they do sell out.

How I Use My Simplified Planner :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Faith

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

“And what does the Lord require of you?  Seek justice.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with thy God.” – Micah 6:8

I love that this book ends with this chapter.  Reading the book through a second time as part of this group has made me think more deeply about each of these areas of my life.  As it should.  And as I read this chapter the for the second time, one thought couldn’t escape me.

It all comes back to faith.

With each chapter, I have shared my struggle in each of these areas in my life.  They are (but are not limited to….):

  1. I have more stuff than I need and I just keep accumulating it
  2. I don’t really like the way I look
  3. I’m well-intentioned with my meal planning, but when the time comes, I’m just too lazy to actually make the food I planned
  4. I want to do all of the fun things and not miss out on stuff, but I also thrive from just being home and doing nothing
  5. I want all the stuff.  The nice, pretty stuff.  All of it.  But I can’t afford everything that I want
  6. I love the idea of being hospitable, but really, I just want to stay in my comfort zone in my home and not have to make small talk with people I don’t know or don’t really like
  7. I get an endorphin rush when I see ‘likes’ on my Instagram photos
  8. I want all the things I need to feel rejuvenated (and there are A LOT of them) ALL.THE.TIME.
  9. Motherhood is so darn hard.  I want to do it all and be the best and I am just not.

Do you sense a theme in all of that?  Discontentment.  Lack of trust.  Selfishness.  Laziness.

Each of those struggles is deeply rooted in an area where faith is lacking.  And no amount of simplicity challenges are going to fix that.

Simplicity Challenges are great.  I highly encourage everyone to do all of them.  You have got to start somewhere.  But the deeper struggles will only be resolved by a healing that does not come from ourselves.

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

It is only when we trust in God’s promises that He has redeemed us from ALL of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we can even begin to deal with these issues.

  1. God has given us more than we will ever need.  Even if we die of starvation and live a life on this earth riddled with pain and heartache, the promise of eternity with God in heaven is the only thing that we really need.  And the only thing we absolutely could never attain on our own.
  2. I am God’s child.  Created by Him.  My value is not determined by my outward appearance, but rather, by who made me and calls me His own.
  3. God’s grace and forgiveness covers my sins.  All of them.  Even the silly ones like being so lazy that I won’t get up off the couch and make food for my family.
  4. The things in this world are good and many are blessings from Him, but the moment they become THE thing in our lives, our priorities need some readjusting
  5. The stuff of this world does not bring real happiness, satisfaction or joy.  Stop expecting it to.  Or hoping it will someday.
  6. My time on this earth is not about my comfort.  I have been put here to be an ambassador to a gospel whose cornerstone is inclusion and love.  Live in response to the undeserved inclusion and love that I have experienced and pass it on.
  7. I am God’s child.  Created by Him.  My value is not determined by other people’s approval of me.
  8. True rest comes from a relationship with God
  9. I am not enough.  I never will be.  And depending on myself to be everything my children need not only sets me up for failure, but it is lying to them.  I have to rely on God’s strength EVERY DAY and trying to do it on my own will only end badly.

When people hear that I write an organizing blog, I get the question, “Where do I even start?” quite frequently.  I don’t always answer this way, but my honest answer to you now, in light of this chapter, is….

Start here.  Start with what matters.  Start with where you started.

Created by God, separated from Him, and bought back at an immeasurable price. And end with His promise that this isn’t all fixed in a day.  Or a lifetime.  God spends our entire life refining us, continually pointing out our sin to us, so that we can continue to see our need for Him, ask Him for His forgiveness, which we are guaranteed in Jesus, and living with a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.  And is bigger than an organized home, a simple wardrobe and a delicious dinner menu.

Simplifying begins and ends with faith.  Trusting God isn’t easy.  And trusting God doesn’t make things easy.  But when we start with trusting in His promises, this simple life that we are called to live is filled with purpose and joy.  And that’s why we all started reading this book in the first place.

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 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