Clutter Free Counter Tops!

Clutter creates chaos.  Chaos creates clutter.  

Somewhere I read, “cleaning house with kids was like shoveling snow in a blizzard!”  This has been my mommy mantra for the past 8 years!  I have resigned to the fact that in my chaotic life there is no room for a constantly clean house.  Even though I believe we must have grace with ourselves and the clutter in our homes–I also realized that my clutter was creating chaos.   

American excess is rampant.  To “simplify” things we gain more gadgets, and fill our home with modern day conveniences. In reality this fills our home with more STUFF.  We regularly find ourselves maintaining our stuff.  Taking care of it, shifting it around, then purging it.  Only to replace it again. Why do we have so much stuff?  How much stuff do we need?  These are the simple questions that I have begun to ask and have loved finding the answers. 


Recently, I stumbled on to a gem of a book called, 321 Stop–stop running and start living .  What I loved about Lorilee’s book is that she not only gave practical ideas on how to simplify your life, she also explained WHY this would benefit your life.  When you tell me to clean for cleaning’s sake…I am not interested…it doesn’t move me  When she explains de-cluttering our homes helps to create more time for building relationships with those we love…I am intrigued.  THAT I want more of.   

So once I read 321 Stop, I found myself hopping on Lorliee’s website for additional thoughts on simplicity and stumbled on to the opportunity to help launch her next book.  This week Lorilee is launching her second book (the perfect compliment to 321 Stop):  Simple Living: 30 days to less stuff and more life.   Simple Living is super short and super practical.  One of her suggestions was to clear off your counters as the eye apparently likes, “horizontal lines.”  Well, my eyes LOVE horizontal lines, and if you have ever been to my kitchen you have never seen my counter tops this clean, so this has been an awesome improvement!  (Amazingly, we have kept them this way!)  



This next phase has been tremendously freeing and our home feels lighter, almost like we can all breathe better.  We have a long way to go, but I am noticing a less chaotic feel in our home and I cannot help but believe it is due to less clutter.  Her book goes on sale this week.  Hope you enjoy it!  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed! 

Jenni 


The Customer is KING

Want vs. Need.  At Farmington Woods Elementary School students are given an assignment to identify the difference between a want and a need.  Needs, as one might guess, are identified as such things as food, water, and shelter.  

Pirates of the Caribbean Lego characters fall in to the category of:  WANT.  Yet, somehow when my son starts talking about The Pirates of the Caribbean Lego set it sounds more like an obsession. One who doesn’t have a mother’s ear or common sense might begin to be persuaded that he NEEDS it.  

Recently we removed cable.  It was a mainly a math thing as cable was a heavy hitter in our budget.  We have not missed it much but the thing I have missed the least are commercials.  (Although DVR does wonders for those too!)  Commercials are very convincing and can somehow create the belief that one might “need” the item being advertised.  (Even though 30 seconds earlier they didn’t know it existed!)  I am guilty of this too.  Commercials and other advertisements remind me I do not have the newest version of the IPhone.  They also make me keenly aware of the Papa John’s pizza that I haven’t eaten in a long time and the fact that I might be slightly hungry.  Commercials also point out that I have had my couch forever and my old just might need to be replaced.   I thought by eliminating cable we would not only lesson the load on our wallets, we might also avoid some of the begging from my children, or the freshly planted ideas that suggest they “need” something new.

Unfortunately, the internet side-swiped me on the “gimmes.”  I found my children lingering on the Lego and American Girl sites–not playing games–but window shopping.  They kept looking at the same pages fixating on the toys they did not have.   If it was not, “can I have?” then it was, “for my birthday I would like,” but it was CONSTANT and I was over it.  Consider yesterday:  I decided to limit online use to the weekends and guess what?  The “needs” and “requests” significantly decreased!  I mean…significantly like by 4-5 less days per week.  My children when not constantly reminded of what they don’t have…actually simply played with what they DO have.  

Adults are not exempt from getting a case of the gimmes.  We don’t know we “need” something until a friend or neighbor shows us how great their item is.  When we don’t hang out at Target or Home Goods we do not realize what awesome things our house or closets are missing.  Commercials are meant to entice us and trigger hunger when it doesn’t exist.  This is a bizarre/obvious phenomenon, but one way we can unclutter our lives is to do less window shopping.  A LOT less.  

I realized the best way to limit my kiddos requests for things they THINK they NEED is to limit their window shopping.  To  not have those things constantly paraded in front of them.  I think the same goes for adults.  I don’t need to constantly visit stores that have plenty of things begging to be bought when I have no need for them and they only clutter up my home and life.  

I recently met a woman who for one solid year has decided that she is not going to buy anything new for herself.   (Don’t think she was talking about coffee or lunch…but new material items.)   I think it is an awesome idea…but even wondered what that might look like for 1 month…or 2?   One of the ways we simplify is to get rid of the old and NOT get anything new.  

This video powerfully spoke to me and made me want to simplify…it rings so true as we see the “Gimmes” played out in day to day life.  It both convicts and nauseates me at the same time.  (Customer is King) Today in an attempt to simplify I will do less window shopping…a LOT less.  Because I am not king…He is King. 

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni 

The Road to Busyness is Paved With Good Intentions

Busyness is the enemy of intimacy.  The word “busy” fills me with irritation and guilt all at the same time.  I hate being told I am too busy.  The truth is…I am…and I have been for a long time. 

I read recently that the average age of a gamer is 32.  (I actually think I threw up in my mouth while reading this.)  The author goes on to say that “instead of raising families or creating culture, we are sitting in our living rooms with our eyes glued to the television, simulating life.  We are escapists, cowards, and thieves…(don’t miss this!)
We are avoiding the truth that screams at us from the stillness: ‘There is more.  You are more than this.So we anesthetize the truth with busyness.”   Wrecked (pg. 46)
Most of us are not avid gamers…we actually fill our time with wonderful things like family, service, church, and friendship.  Yet even those things have us continually spinning on a hamster wheel of life and not truly living…still asking the question, “is there more?”  
Recently Chris and I have been cleaning house.  Literally and figuratively to get some of the clutter and busyness out of our lives.   Here is what we are finding…
Busyness does not equal importance or position.  Busyness I am finding, equals DISTRACTION.  A full schedule is not all bad.  Busyness is.  There is a fine line that I have walked all of my life between full days which have brought life to the full…and busy days that have sucked the life right out of me.  Busyness sucks your full life away. 
The next few weeks of blogs should really be a treat as I share my journey and also some of the wonderful resources that have encouraged and inspired us in living more simply.  Today, I wanted to actually give you TO DON’T LISTS to make.  Instead of listing all of the things you are doing, have to do, or are responsible for in this life…why don’t you try making these lists instead???
1.    A STOP DOING List: 
I shared my own story in Simply Insane .  I made a painful choice to stop doing something.  This choice altered our entire family structure…and I would not trade the freedom I feel for anything in the world.   What could you stop now that would free up more time for the things that you value and the relationships that you cherish?  
2.    A LIMITList:
This could be things that you enjoy but are actually stealing precious time away from more important things in life.  They are things that are not necessarily harmful but also aren’t crucial to your well-being.   Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial…so LIMIT those things. 
3.    Get Rid Of or Give Away List:  
Consider this some of the tangible clutter that is filling your home or heart.  I have several wonderful resources on this subject.  There is a whole corner of the world right now that has a niche in minimalism.  Minimalists want folks to take a hard look at what they have and why they have it.   321-Stop is a great first read if you are considering getting rid of clutter.  It has some compelling reasons WHY to do this as well.  She also very shortly will be releasing her complimentary handbook which is : Simple Living–30 days to less stuff and more life.   This too is an awesome read (I got a sneak peak this week) and it is a super helpful tool to navigate and downsize different areas of your life!  
Begin to make your lists today.  They do not have to be long.  The sooner we begin to embrace that less actually IS more,the sooner we will find freedom from our schedules, ourselves, and our stuff! 
May You Be a Blessing While DOING Less,
Jenni 

Simply Insane

The Road to Simplicity Began While Running on Empty

It is not popular to question the status quo…it is weird even.   To consider a slower pace of life or hop off the hamster wheel of busyness is rarely done.  In an attempt to not lose our minds or relationships with one another, we have started opting for slowness and simplicity.   

Last year my journal was totally depressing.  It was filled with pages of lamenting and whining about the busyness of life and in it I complained that I felt I was running on empty.  Our lives were way too full and the daily schedule was suffocating me.   On the outside, most days I was holding it together–but the inner turmoil was crushing.  I felt defeated and like a bad mom, a bad trainer, a bad wife, a bad friend, a bad daughter/sister…you name it, I felt BAD.  
On paper we had a great life!  Unfortunately we had filled our lives with so many things that we loved–we were losing a bit of ourselves in the process.   It was all good stuff…just too much good stuff!      
Maybe I long for slowness because I am  an Indiana girl.  We lived in a small town and did not “hustle and bustle” growing up.  Team sports were not crazy competitive like they are here–certainly not in elementary school!  The sleepy town would shut down around 9pm and was quiet…I’m talking crickets.  Maybe it was a longing for my kids to have an “Indiana childhood”…or for me to have a slower Indiana life.  But the truth was I felt that I was constantly running from carpool, to work, to preschool, to the grocery store, to the elementary school, then to a practice, then home quickly to eat something and then back down to work or rushing to put the kids to bed so than I might complete household chores and prep for the next day.   I am exhausted typing this and this only speaks of the activities never mind the the relationships in my life that needed to be cultivated.  Where was there time to rest, to play, to look my children in the eyes and truly listen, to share a meal together, to go for a walk after dinner or hold hands with my husband???  The answer:  there was none and I was coming undone. 
I began to wonder how in the world I could ever find relief because I KNEW this was not life to the full.  I saw others that lived much more simply and I began to long for their lives.  They ate meals at the dinner table with their family, they had gardens, and they did thoughtful intentional things for others because they had time to do so.  They also appeared to have patience with their children because they were not shuffling them to every activity under the sun, they were not rushing through bedtime routines because they had 20 other things to check off the list before they themselves went to bed.   They seemed to enjoy a slow evening and even “connection” time with their hubby was celebrated not resented.  Their lives were not boring they were sane. 
So I did something that made absolutely no sense–but all the sense in the world:  I decided to cut my workload in ½.  I ended class times that were not convenient to my family.   It was PAINFUL as I adored the women that I worked with.   The style of training that we do is so personal…it is a job that I love.   I knew the “feel” in my studio would be different and the financial ramifications that it had on our home as well as on my business partner were significant. Yet, that one decision created an immediate sense of relief, peace, and slowness in our home that we had not felt in years.  It was what I hungered for and had been begging God to give.  I even saw my children’s stress level begin to lower and my relationship with my kids and my hubby exponentially improved.  This choice was the catalyst for a whole new mentality in our home.  One that is focused on preserving our sanity…one that focuses on true simplicity and hearts of service. 

Simplifying looks different for everyone.  Whether we are simplifying our schedules or our “stuff,” this type of effort can bring a great deal of peace to our lives.  So I know that every journey looks different and cutting your workload in 1/2 may not be the best option for you.  The results from the “after effect” are what really matter.  I am hoping I might be able to share a few ways to make decisions that will create this type of peace in your home as well!  
Our family is on the journey—we have not arrived but I am passionate about this subject and excited to see where God is going to take us as we simply surrender.  My next few blogs are going to reveal several areas of our lives that God has shaken up and even wrecked us a bit.  It is humbling to write about all of the ways that I have “missed it.”  But I believe that growth happens when we own our actions as well as share them with others so that they might avoid some of the potholes we hit along the way! 
May You Be A Blessing and May You Find SLOWNESS…
Jenni 

Coming Out of the Closet

A few friends and I decided to embark on something we are calling The Sacred Adventure of 7.  They are brave women who want to look at life a little differently.  They want to eliminate excess and strip away some of the distractions in their lives so that they might more clearly see and hear from Jesus.  They want to live like Him and they know that in America (and the Western World) there is a spiritual depravity that begins in our closets.
So that is where we begin.  I spent over an hour in my closet on Saturday.  I tripped over several pairs of shoes as I muscled my way through my clothing to decide what 7 items  I would wear for the next 21 days…straight.   I did not just stand there for an hour, I purged old sports bras that didn’t fit, and pulled out clothing that had pit stains and others that clearly were worn back when I had babies.  (Why do I hang on to these items…FOREVER?) 
In that “closet time” I was struck by several things.  Most who know me, know that I am not “fancy” when it comes to clothes.  When first beginning this challenge most people would say that this month should be a “snap” for me because ½ the time I wear the same clothes over and over again.  I am a minimalist who dresses for comfort not style.  Anything “cute” or “trendy” that you have seen me in has been a gift or hand-me down from a fashionable friend.  (You know who you are—and I am very thankful for you—you clothe me and my children and we are snazzy because of you!)  But overall, I am a lazy dresser who is stuck having worked with high school students for one too many years and then has not transitioned in to “mom” clothes whatever that means? 
In this “stuck” place I live with WAY too many clothes.  No matter how “not cute” or “trendy” I am…I still own 7 identical white camis from old navy.  I own 5 cardigans and 8 black hoodie/jacket/pull-over type thingys.  EIGHT!  Whenever I go to a sporting goods store and leave with a clothing item Chris asks… “is it another black hoodie?”  I am obsessed.   I clothe myself for comfort.  The What Not to Wear folks would be knocking down my door if they actually saw what was in my closet!  Until recently I owned 2 pairs of velvety/velour OVERALLS…one in maroon and one in green corduroy.  Do you know how comfortable those were??  I still refuse to get rid of my jean overalls that were SO cute and in style in college with the prayer that they might come back in style…eventually?!  I love a good pair of sweat pants…but own 6!    You see the pattern…in choosing comfort…I choose a LOT of comfort. 
The items in my closet total 227.  (Not including sock, bras, and underwear.)   After reading this, for some, you are disgusted because yours is double that number.  For others you are disgusted because yours is ½ that number!  Either way I am disgusted because it is so far above and beyond my needs…and I purged before counting!
So why 7?  Jen Hatmaker wrote a book called, 7: The Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  In it she outlines her journey through 7 months of purging her home and life of areas of excess.  I sensed that this was the very type of shake up I needed to get a better handle on the rat wheel or rat race that we run daily trying to keep up with the Jones’ or even just “better our lives and the lives of our children” for the sake of financial philanthropy.   After reading her book, I was struck by the fact that you can be very generous with what you have and still be living a life of excess.   This was something that was starting to gnaw at me.  I sensed that I was unintentionally going through the motions in this life and realized I was getting sucked in to something I had not signed up for:  entitlement and greed.  Because I was American and worked hard wasn’t I entitled to a great house, car, clothing, vacations, etc?  I was living a life of excess.  And worse, there were people within a few miles from my home who were living with far less.   I am not stupid—I knew this—but my actions seemed to indicate that I didn’t really care.  I wanted to figure out what that meant and it seemed that living with less might actually shift my perspective. 

So I am coming out of the closet.  I am ready for truth…healthy doses of humility and perspective.  I have no idea what this next 7 months will bring but I am hoping it will bring me closer to my Maker and closer to the way I was designed to live. 

I wasn’t sure when the best time was to actually post this blog…but I recently read another book…an ebook…and it has similar themes and practical suggestions for living simply.   (http://321-stop.com/)   Her book is different from 7…and I love Jen’s real, humble, and hilarious humor…but Lorilee’s book is great, practical, and a very helpful read as one examines living more simply.  So I figured today was as good a day as any to post about this adventure and share my headaches and hardships as I plunge and purge through the excess in my life.   Hope you enjoy the blog and the book! 

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed! 

Jenni 
  

Green Toes, Green Juice, and God’s Goodness

When my mom gave me a pedicure for Christmas she had no idea that her gift would give me little shimmering soft green pigs.  Yesterday’s pedicure propelled me in to a wonderful mental place ready for a sweet weekend of solitude and sinking those shimmering toes in the sand.

Years ago on Young Life Staff it was strongly urged that we take a day or weekend of solitude every 6 months.  It was encouraged so that we could mentally slow down, quiet ourselves, and get some quality time with God.  It was a regular part of our lives and Chris and I used to count down the days until we could go away even just for a few hours.  We would come back refreshed and ready for the rampant pace that we kept.

After going off staff and having children my solitude days were much more infrequent.  Understandably, quiet moments were almost obsolete for the first few years with toddlers.  Over the past year or two I have longed to go back and get some quiet time alone with God.  With no agenda…just stillness and quiet.  A listening ear, somewhere in nature, a Bible, pen and journal.  

A friend offered her beach house for the weekend and I jumped at the chance to go.  Another friend let me borrow her juicer and so with several gallons of green juice in my system (maybe not gallons) I am feeling quite refreshed and ready for God’s goodness.

When someone first suggested solitude to me, I thought it was an utter waste of time.  First of all–what if you carved out the time and God didn’t show up?  What if you tried to slow down but were completely distracted the whole time?  What would I do without a phone, email, or TV for that long?   What was really the purpose?  Wasn’t it sorta selfish to just go be by yourself and read and pray?  What about feeding the poor–wouldn’t my time better be spent in service?

There were many answers–but of course the first was that God modeled rest.  Doubtful he needed rest on the 7th day of creation–but he modeled it.  Jesus consistently took time to get away from the crowds and disciples to be alone and pray.  But honestly for me I have found that…

I forget.  I forget that God loves me.  I forget that He wants to spend time with me.  I forget that He wants me to daily put my trust in Him.

Listening is not my strong suit.  “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)  I am so quick to speak and become angry and listening slows me down.  In solitude there is no one to talk to.  The waves are crashing and I am listening.  When I stop talking…eventually I am better able to listen.

Busyness is the enemy of intimacy.   If I long to grow in my relationship with God I must slow down long enough in an attempt to better get to know Him.

Weekends like this remind me that I need to be way more intentional about my daily quiet times.  I need to be quicker to ask forgiveness.  I need to be more faithful to pray for others and specifically to surrender my entire day to Him.  Sometimes my time is half hearted or not thoughtful…it is mundane.  In times of solitude I am aware of my desperate daily need for Him and it awakens my soul.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Find Solitude for Your Soul.

JC