this week, we sat down together and came up with some family goals. we went through the five categories of well-being [mental, physical, social, environmental, spiritual] and acknowledged that a few had been off for us lately and came up with things to strive towards in each category. In almost all of them, we figured that we need to simplify. living simply is something that's been on our minds, and that we have found to be very helpful, for a few years now. we have a long-term goal of eventually living in and traveling around in an Airstream trailer and so we'd like to get back to living as simply as we can.
here are a few general ways to simplify, that have really helped us as a family:
get rid of things. this sounds so easy, and in reality, it is. but we make it out to be a lot harder than it is! we don't need many belongings, though our consumerist society tells us we need so much--the newest, the latest, the biggest and the best. but if you find as we were doing a bit of spring cleaning a few weekends ago, we went through this criteria when deciding to get rid of something (similar one here): have I worn/used it in the past six months? will I wear/use it in the next six months? if either of those questions were answered with a "no", we got rid of it. if either of those was a "yes", we then asked ourselves: do I love it? do I find it useful or beautiful? then if either of those were answered with a "no", we got rid of it. some things were full of sentiment for me, and were very hard to part with. in fact, that was the only reason anything was hard for me to part with. but by getting rid of things that are sentimental to me, I am not only simplifying physically but also mentally and emotionally, which is so so good.
as for how to get rid of things: there are stores like Buffalo Exchange and Plato's closet that will buy your gently-used clothing. sometimes they are pretty picky with what they decide to buy from you, and you might not get much for items you may have paid $$$ for. you could also try to sell the items yourself -- I made an Instagram page to sell some of my better quality clothes, and it has been really successful! after all attempts to sell, we just bring everything to our local thrift store.
don't buy things you don't need. this also seems quite easy, but is another thing we all continue to do. I don't actually need eight different black + white striped shirts (that is actually how many I had...), even though every time I see one anywhere, I immediately want it. I also don't need 12 dinner plates and a thousand coffee mugs -- there are only two people in this house that even use plates or mugs, and we never have enough people over to need 12, or even eight. I also don't need 20 different shades of red lipstick -- I tell myself that I am on the hunt for the perfect one, and that justifies me buying a new one anytime I see a new brand that looks good. I need one good one, and then I need to stop buying reds. and so I got rid of a lot of striped shirts and we only have four dinner plates + four coffee mugs and I decided to be content with my current favorite red. there are so many different things I could talk about in this section! I feel like I am always spending money on things that aren't necessary, but I don't ever see that they are unnecessary until after I have paid for the item and used it one time and never again.
so now (and we used to live by this rule but somehow totally stopped), if there's something either of us wants to buy, we talk it over and we decide together if it is necessary (and if it's a big thing, we set aside money for it). this way, we both are aware of our finances, first of all, and we also won't be buying things that aren't needed. here's an example: I really needed to get new jeans. I had one pair of jeans, my favorite pair, and the zipper had just broken on em (thats the very last time I buy jeans that aren't Levi's!!!!). I can't really wear jeans with a broken zipper, thats silly. so we talked about it and decided, yep, wearing jeans that have a fully functioning zipper is definitely a necessary thing. so I got some new ones, (Levi's of course!). same thing happened when we realized Forest has outgrown all the pajama's he has. when it was super hot and we realized he didn't have any shorts, or really anything to wear in warmer weather. when we realized we had lost all of our kitchen utensils when we moved. or when we realized we have a lot of books and no bookshelf and they are cluttering everything [we are hopefully getting one this weekend!!!]. those types of things. its important to have a reason for why you are buying whatever you are buying. buy less, choose well. quality over quantity (more to come on that). [we obviously don't have this down completely, but it has become one of our goals!
technology purge. unfollow people you don't actually know. delete apps. take social media breaks. stop caring so much about keeping everyone's opinion of you a certain way. this has been very good for me. On Instagram, I unfollowed almost everyone I don't personally know or don't really talk to anymore, as well as mostly every company--they just tempt me to spend more money on more things I don't need! I also deleted the Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter apps from my phone--if i need to go on any of those, I will wait until I can do it at home on the computer. nothing on your phone could be more important than the real life you are ignoring, in order to look at the phone. social media breaks are so good. if it's your first one, you kinda feel like, "well......what am I supposed to do now", but there is so much of life besides what is on the screen of your phone or computer! social media allows us to see parts of peoples lives without having to actually interact with them. it is literally taking every "social" aspect out of our relationships. so take a break! call a a friend, or better yet, get coffee with them and share details of your lives face to face, rather than silently from behind a screen. we also have started to set aside (at least) an hour a night to simply be together, technology-free. no phones, no computer, no iPad. no Netflix or taking photos or texting. it is wonderful.
simplify the food. there are so many diets and trends and fads when it comes to food, it is ridiculous. I have tried many of them but the thing that has worked the best for me, is simple clean eating. we eat whole foods, fresh fruit and veggies, dairy, meats, grains, etc. and try to stay away from pre-packaged and processed foods, as well as chemicals and artificial colors and flavors. we are not an "only organic" family, by any means, and we definitely do like our double-stuffed oreos, obviously, but by simplifying the ingredients list and by limiting the intake of those artificial things, we feel pretty good. plus I love cooking good healthy but delicious meals for our family, it is probably one of my favorite things.
I hope this is helpful for some people! we are always working on this and always looking for ways to continue simplifying -- we will share as we go!