A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: Simplified Space

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

A Simplified Space.  That’s no easy task.

I’m a relatively organized person, and the thought of simplifying my entire home overwhelms me.  But the first chapter of this book clearly lays out not only the HOW of starting the process, but also they WHY it’s necessary.

WHY start with a Simplified Space:

  1. Clutter is the enemy of simplicity
  2. Simplifying you space means giving your home potential to inspire and soothe (pg. 2)
  3. It’s one of the most immediate and satisfying transformations you can make

On board?  Great!  Let’s get started.  But first, remember these things as you start.

Keys to Simplifying Your Home:

  • Buy NOTHING.  Keep track of what you think you might need as you go through the process and reassess that “need” once you’ve completed it.
  • Use the definition of Homemaking: The creation and management of a home, especially as a pleasant place in which to live.  That’s your goal.  Create that.
  • Instead of thinking of decluttering as getting rid of stuff, view it as “giving your home the potential to inspire and soothe” (Pg. 2)

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

Personal Inventory & Defining Your Space – Ask yourself — AND ANSWER — these questions from pages 4-5 & 9

  1. Which parts of my life feels less than simple right now?
  2. What do I wish my home communicated to my family?
  3. Which elements of a home’s design, aesthetic, or ambience are most attractive to me?
  4. Why is it important to invest my heart and effort in this process?
  5. How do I want my home to feel?
  6. What do I want to see when I walk in the door at night or into the kitchen first thing in the morning?
  7. What are my biggest goals for my home?

Answering these questions gives you a goal to work toward.  My former boss used to say “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.”  I’m not great at answering the above questions, but I know that it is helpful.  Especially with a big task like simplifying your space.  Give yourself a defined goal to work toward.

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

Now that we’ve got a destination, let’s figure out the route!  Make a plan.  List every space in your home (Don’t bail yet.  Writing everything down may be overwhelming, but it is how your start).  Remember that this is a marathon.  Slow and steady in this process is just fine.  In fact, it’s probably better than fine because there’s a high probability that you do it better if you take a little extra time.

Emily Ley suggests starting with the most overwhelming space because, upon accomplishing it, you have a sense of immediate gratification and confidence that comes from completing it.  I’ve always suggested that people start in a small area and let that small area be the training wheels on the bike of decluttering.  Either way, pick a defined space and stick with it until you’ve finished it.  Then move on to the next.

I love her suggestion to designate a “Get out of here space”.  This is the place where all of the items that you have decided to donate will go until you have them picked up or drop them off.  I use a few shelves and a corner of our garage for these things.  That way, they’re out of our living space and I don’t have to see them multiple times a day, but they’re not so far out of sight that I forget that I need to do something with them.

We’ve got a destination, we’ve got a route.  It’s Road Trip time, baby!  Grab those garbage bags and get to simplifying!!!

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

Questions to ask yourself as you do the dirty work (Pg. 13)

  1. Are you iffy about it?  Get rid of it.  (Seems harsh, but trust the process)
  2. Do you love or absolutely need this item?
  3. Do you have multiples?
  4. Have you used it in the last six months? (If that seems a little harsh, use one year instead)
  5. Does it have deep sentimental value? (Remembering that we cannot possibly keep every item that has ever felt special)

Key Ideas:

  1. Embrace emptiness and bareness as breathing room for your home and mind (Pg. 15)
  2. Avoid the pitfalls of organization – Don’t set yourself up to fail (Pg. 20)
  3. Sort and store in ways that work for your family – not because it’s looks good on Instagram (Pg. 20)
  4. Celebrate Progress! (Pg. 20)

Quick Tips:

  1. Store similar items together (Pg. 16)  See my example of this here.
  2. Use Heirloom boxes for momentos (Pg. 16-17)  Here’s the system we use.
  3. Don’t set things down where they don’t belong (Pg. 22) Mail is often the worst culprit for this.

My goal is to have this process of going through each space in my home done by the end of the summer.  It won’t be easy, but I have a lot more downtime in the summer than I do during the school year, so now is the best time to do this.

If you don’t follow Emily Ley on Instagram, DO IT!!!  Check out her Declutter highlight to see how she does it.  Or, if you’re more of the written word person, read a post she wrote on her blog last year.

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 :: Intro

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

“What if we traded perfect pantries with matching bins and pretty labels for easy routines we can actually keep, routines that connect our families?”

That quote was one of the first things I saw when I opened up my copy of A Simplified Life and immediately thought that Emily Ley and I should be BFF’s.  I actually shouted “Yes!” after reading it – which garnered strange looks from my family members playing in the sandbox 20 feet away.  When I’ve told people about this book, I’ve used this quote to summarize it.

As we begin to read this book together, the question that I keep coming back to is this:

WHY is the Simple Life appealing to you?

On page 8 of the intro, Emily Ley lists her “whys” and I encourage each one of us to do the same.  It doesn’t have to be as eloquently written as hers.  Mine won’t be.  But it should be written down.  Just get the gist.

In the interest of full disclosure, my why is:

I want a more Simplified Life so that I can be “all there” when I’m spending time with people.  I want to have availability to help others whenever I see a need.  And I want to fall asleep not feeling overwhelmed by what’s to come the next day.

As I read through the Intro and she lays out her intentions for the book, I appreciate the balance that she works to strike between intentionality and doing the hard work, but not becoming enslaved to it.

It’s a delicate balance.  That is one hard tight rope to walk.

“What has to get done gets done”, she writes on page 9 of intro.  The trick, for me, is redefining what constitutes “what has to get done.”

Do you feel like you’re running around with your hair on fire?  Are the joyous sounds around you being drown out by your brain reciting your to-do list?  Are you debilitated by how much there is to dig out from in order to have any sense of order to your days?

Then let’s keep reading…….

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



Trouble Spots: Desk Drawers

Organizing Desk Drawers :: maximzingdaysblog.com

I wrote a ‘Trouble Spots’ series last year where I asked people what some of their toughest areas to organize are.  Responses included Refrigerators, kids’ closets, Linen Closet, Bathroom Closet & Under the kitchen sink.

Another area people said that they had a hard time with, but that I didn’t write about was Desk Drawers.

I felt like I needed dramatic before and after pictures of the areas I was organizing, and the truth is that my desk drawers just aren’t messy.  *Cue eye roll now*

I’m not bragging.  Organized desk drawers are simply a survival technique for me.  Messy workspaces make me claustrophobic.  Messy desk drawers, for me, means bills don’t get paid, permission slips don’t get signed and no necessary life things that require pen and paper happen.

It’s a dumb excuse not to help you all with it, but that’s what happened.

Organizing Desk Drawers :: maximzingdaysblog.com

This spring, Emily Ley (creator of the Simplified Planner and author of A Simplified Life) hosted something she called the #ruthlessdeclutterchallenge where she ruthlessly decluttered one room/area in her house each day.  I watched admiringly on Instagram.  And decluttered ZERO rooms along with her.

(To see more about this, follow Emily Ley on Instagram, and check out her ‘Declutter’ stories highlights).

Throughout the process, one of the things that she kept saying was not trying to do everything at once.  By ‘everything’, she meant declutter, clean and organize all at once.

But that’s how I organize.

I’ve always decluttered, cleaned and organized all at once because

  1. It’s more efficient – It seemed to me that the best time to clean out the cupboard was after I’d pulled everything out and the shelves were bare instead of making it a separate task and pulling items out twice
  2. It’s the only way that deep cleaning happens in this house – Who are we kidding?  I’m not going to pull everything out of the cupboard JUST to wipe down the shelves.  It’s just not going to happen.

But what I realized as I heard her give this instruction repeatedly over the course of decluttering her house is that I get overwhelmed at the task and the amount of time the task takes when I’m trying to do it all in one fell swoop.

It was a total paradigm shift for me to think about it from the perspective of ‘What if I just declutter the drawer?  That’s it.’  Instead of feeling like I had this huge task in front of me, I thought “I can do that in less than a half hour”, and what once seemed insurmountable was now an accomplishable task.

I made an uncharacteristically  vulnerable choice and decided to declutter my desk drawer on Instagram Live.  I pressed record and talked through my thought process as I followed Emily Ley’s advice and decluttered my desk drawer.  (I searched the world over to try to find that video to share what this process looked like, but, alas, Instagram deletes live videos after 24 hours, so it is gone).

Per Emily Ley’s Instructions, my desk drawer organization process went like this:

1 – Empty the entire contents.

First things first.  Just empty.  Don’t think, evaluate or make any decisions yet.  Simply take everything out.

2 – Decide what goes back in.

Look at everything all at once.  Doing it this way gives you a comprehensive idea of what you have and then you can make better decisions about what goes back.

3 – Put un-purged items back in

I had drawer dividers that worked and fit well, so I matched the size of my items to the spaces I had in the divider.

Organizing Desk Drawers :: maximzingdaysblog.com

A lightbulb went off for me when I was finished.  I realized that even though the drawer wasn’t messy before, I still had stuff in there that I didn’t need.  And visual clutter leads to mental clutter, so the more I pare down, the more simple life gets.

Organizing Desk Drawers :: maximzingdaysblog.com

Going through this process was a springboard for me.  I am leading a group of people through reading Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life and working through her suggestions for simplifying.  Enter here for a chance to win a free copy of the book and read more about our goal to live a #simplifiedsummer.

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









#simplifiedsummer Giveaway

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

If you’ve been around here (or my Instagram or Facebook feeds), you’ve heard me talk about my latest obsession: Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life.

My husband bought me the book for Mother’s Day and I finished it in three sittings (admittedly, those sitting were spread over the course of three weeks because I’m terrible at making time to read).

I was about two chapters in and I looked up at my husband and said “I want to buy this book for all of my friends”, to which he responded, “No, you don’t.  You want your friends to do all the things in the book.”

He was right.

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

This little blog was started over three years ago with the desire to help people find rhythms and routines to get the most of each day so that you are able to enjoy the good stuff in this life.

That’s the entire premise of this book.  BUT, she takes it a step farther and really emphasizes the idea of creating margin in our lives.  This has been truly convicting to me.  As I work to “maximize my days”, I’m realizing that I may be shoving them too full.

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

So much of being a blogger has been a one-way street of me spewing out info and, comparatively, not getting much back.  I want to try something more interactive.

Consider it an online book club.

My idea is this: I encourage you to buy A Simplified Life and let’s all read it together this summer.

One chapter a week.  That’s not much at all.  I am a horribly slow reader, and most chapters didn’t take me more than 5 minutes to read.

Each week, I will write a blog post about the chapter, summarizing it (so, if you can’t bring yourself to read it yourself, cheat and read my synopsis.  It’s fine.  No one will know).  I’ll also share about what this looks like for our family and our home.  On Mondays at 2PM CST (starting Monday, June 18th) I will go live on Instagram and facilitate a group discussion.  We can ask questions of each other, share what stuck out to us, what we struggle with, what  we’ve found that works – all in the name of encouraging one another in this journey of simplicity.  I will collect questions people have about each chapter regarding the methods and answer those in Instastories on Thursdays.

My hope is to build a community that equips one another and spurs us on in tasks that may seem insurmountable, but are not.  Power in numbers, right?!

Participating in this requires BUYING and READING the book.  I am offering a giveaway for one book.  I do wish I could buy it for every one of you, but that’s just not realistic.  I can, however, buy it for one of you.  Enter below for your chance to win the book.  The winner will be announced Friday, June 8th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There will also be a grand prize at the end of this little endeavor for the person who most puts into practice the ideas Emily Ley gives you to get started.  Each chapter ends with a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which involve a list of her ideas of how to do what she’s talking about.  Comment on each week’s blog post how many of those ideas you did (this is a total honor system thing).  At the end of the book, I will tally them and the person with the most will get some swag.  Like good, helpful swag.  No clutter-y junk.

As we’re working through this process together, take pictures of progress and use the hashtag #simplifiedsummer so we can all be encouraged by each other’s achievements.

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

Get reading!



Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I Am Currently…..


This sleep shirt.  (For pajamas, not as actual clothes.)

I found a white version on a clearance rack during a recent shopping trip and was intrigued by the lightness of the fabric.  I get super warm when I sleep, but I like having something covering my shoulders, so I thought this shirt would be a way to do that without sweating the whole night.  And I was right.

It is super comfortable and keeps me cool.  I love it.


A Simplified Life by Emily Ley.

Guys, this book is life-changing.

My husband got it for me for Mother’s Day, and I cruised through the first half that afternoon.  The chapters are Simple Space, Style, Meals, Schedule, Finances, Hospitality, Technology, Self, Motherhood & Faith.  She breaks down each of these areas of our lives and gives practical tips for how to simplify each of them.

It’s a quick, easy read, but the good stuff comes from doing the workbook-type tasks that are part of each chapter.  It is thought-provoking, encouraging and convicting all the at the same time.  I could write an entire post about it.  There’s an idea….



Where have these been all my life?  I can’t stop eating them.

Do yourself a favor and buy the biggest bag you can find.  You can thank me later.



It finally got warm here, so I spend every minute that I can outdoors, which leaves no time for TV.  I will turn The West Wing or Hawaii Five-O on Netflix while I’m folding laundry, but that’s about it.

My husband watched The Carter Effect, a documentary, last weekend while I was away on a Girls Weekend and said it was excellent.


Bumble & Bumble Dryspun Finish texture spray.

Of course, I learned about it from The Small Things Blog, but didn’t want to pull the trigger on ANOTHER hair product.

I pulled the trigger and it is PERFECT.  I can’t explain why it works, but I know that when I spray it on my curls before combing through them, my hairs stays fuller & curlier longer.


That this might be the year that I can grow herbs.  I’ve tried the last four years and killed them every single time.

Last year, after killing all of them that I planted, my husband put his hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said “You need to admit that there are certain things that you cannot do and growing plants is one of them.”

I promised him that after four fails, I was done trying.  But I just love fresh basil sooooo much.  Maybe five is my lucky number.