You guys, it’s spring! How beautiful to wake up with the chirping of the birds and cool air drifting in through the windows. It’s such a welcomed reprieve from those harsh winter months that kept us locked in and cooped up. I so cherish this time of year for it lends itself quite well renewal and growth. In fact, everywhere I look there’s a tulip getting ready to sprout or a tree starting to turn the palest shade of green. I truly love it.
As the weather here in the midwest turns to the early chapters of spring, I am called to reflection in areas in my life that I want to change or improve upon, whether that be regarding our home, how the little ones and myself spend our days, in my faith and relationship with God, in my marriage (we need more date nights!), or even in my friendships and in dealing with expectations. I do my best to give all of it good looking over and sorting through because this practice of reflecting gives me peace of mind and brings about a calmer, happier me. It’s one of the main reasons I mostlook forward to this season.
When spring rolls around I am always inspired and driven to get back to the basics. The winter months and past holidays have made for that never-ending accumulation of stuff whereupon we pile up on things and dust and dirt and rubbish here at home. I think this rings true for everyone, because in the coldest of cold, it is comforting to hunker down near a crackling fire and barricade ourselves with material items. Clutter becomes easier and we fall into a pattern of collecting. …presents from Christmas, layers upon layers of clothing to keep warm, pots and pans for stews and breads–it is all a part of living in a colder climate and I think we let things in to surround us, to warm us, and keeping our attention away from the harsh winds and inability to really enjoy the chilly outdoors. But now as the shiny new year is really starting to reveal itself, those things are no longer needed and we must make way for new season.
Just as the landscape changes, so too should the inside of our homes. As March fades into April it is best to throw on some uplifting music, get into your stretchy pants, and redefine your space, making it one that feels as though it reflects you and your family. I feel it’s important to create an environment that helps you breathe better. One that you look forward to coming home to, so when you walk through your front door with arms full of groceries and babes and diaper bags you are greeted with a sense of balance and calm.
Simply put, your home should make you feel joy. It should recharge you and excite you and speak to you. Believe it or not it is possible to do so, even if your kiddos are prone to rubbing mac’n cheese on your white cabinets during lunch time. There is a way to pare down to the essentials, making your place of dwelling not only functional, but beautiful and cheery. It is during these months of spring that our family focuses on simplicity, deep cleaning, and getting back to the basics in this sweet little place we call home. But before I get into some of the helpful tips we use daily to keep our home minimal and clutter free, let me go into why we do so. I think this part of the story is oftentimes neglected in home posts for whatever reason.
Andrew and I have been together since we were freshmen in high school and since we’ve known each other we’ve both struggled with anxiety in some form or another. Can y0u believe it?! High school, as in all the way back to braces and awkward hair cuts and friday night football games. We’ve essentially grown up together which is so beautiful to me, because in doing so we’ve gotten to know the deepest parts of one another in a relationship that has gone through many stages of life, from being babies ourselves to having ones of our own. In getting to know what makes for the best versions of ourselves and in how to cope with our emotional imbalance, we’ve come to realize that simplicity in the space we call our home helps tremendously.
We’ve found that our mood is very much reflective of our environment. In college we had our ups and downs with this emotional struggle, trying various forms of medicine and therapy, only to find that taking a pill was a small part of the equation for us. We found when learning how to live together during our last year of college that how we keep our home is vital to our emotional well being. The space around us and how we tended to it was a central part of our happiness and ability to seek harmony within our sometimes frazzled state of mind. This was not an overnight fix, nor are we currently in a place that has let us stop working on ourselves and our emotional well being. Learning about what works best for us as a team was/is a gradual process and one that we still practice daily.
Together, we work hard, yes it’s work, to maintain simplicity as a theme for our lives in a culture that deems excess as the answer to happiness. Over the past decade we’ve been able to find a rhythm that bodes well for us, although admittedly, the addition of little ones to our family has made practicing simplicity a more of a challenge. Nevertheless, we continue to place a strong importance on this type of minimal of living while sharing our home with our (soon to be three) sweet little humans. Having a space that is clean and simple and airy, yet cozy and homey is more than just aesthetically pleasing for the both of us. And it certainly does not mean that we do not make messes or get dirty or forgo things that call for clean up. That is far from the case! We just have a way of tidying and keeping things in order that works for our family.
This post is about tending to a simpler style at home while raising a family, for how we keep our home is essential in helping ourselves find and maintain a sense of joy. Therefore, we like our windows open with long, drapery and our walls painted white. We gravitate towards comfy neutrals with natural pops of color and baskets for collecting and storing. We just feel better when our home is like this, because that sense of emotional happiness spills over into everything else we do. It’s what works for us, and perhaps just might be of inspiration to you.
Some tips on how we maintain simplicity & joy at home:
– Have a donation box for things you find yourself not using any longer. A laundry basket with handles is a good catch all so you can easily lift it to the car. We have our donation box in the basement and I take things to drop off once a month or so. Sometimes, it is more frequently depending on if we are de-cluttering closets. If we are not using it or have grown out of it, in the box it goes and I don’t give it a second thought.
– Make your bed every single morning. After I’ve tucked the sheets into our bed frame, I feel like our day has started. Sure, the kids will find their way onto it at some point during the day to have a good jump or cuddle, but the act of making it just helps my mind get ready for the day.
– Do the dishes before you go to bed. Waking up to a clean kitchen is everything to me as a stay at home mama. It sets the tone that morning and really helps me want to keep things tidy. It is also rather nice to wake up to clean dishes as opposed to ones with dried food. No one wants to clean that first thing.
– Get baskets to help you organize. Put toys and blankets and crayons in them. Not together, but you get the idea. I get most of mine at the thrift store or Home Goods. You can go the route of Pottery Barn, but a basket is a basket. Any old woven thing will do. By getting storage that is beautiful, it will also add to the aesthetic of your home. Keep in mind that storage does not have to be ugly to be functional.
– Diffuse an oil or light a candle to make your space smell lovely and inspiring.
– Designate one place for mail and go through it immediately upon retrieval. Do not make the mistake of shoving mail in different drawers or on random counter tops after you get it, for it will just sit there and pile up before you know it. When I get the mail, I look through it right away. One pile is made for recycling, the other is where important things go, such as bills, invitations, and documents. We designated one drawer for this and go through that regularly if it starts looking full. This whole process takes one minute to sort through and it’s done.
– Have a day every month or so where you, with help from your kids if you can, add to your charity box. Fill it with toys that are no longer being used, old puzzles, and extra art supplies. Take it a local preschool or church with your little ones and practice giving together. This is a beautiful lesson you can teach your little ones while managing the toy situation in your home.
– Pick a one day a week to do your deeper cleaning. I tend to do this on Mondays to start the week offfresh and clean, but any day will do of course.
– Do not get into the habit of collecting more just because you have more space. When we bought this home it gave us more than double the square footage of our last place. We vowed to not fill it up with furniture just because we now have the room.
– Put a laundry basket in each room. This has helped me so much by keeping dirty clothing in one place and not strewn about all over the place. I’ve taught Stella to put her dirty clothes in her basket and each night when we change Theo, his dirty clothing go into his. When I need to do laundry, I bring up my big bag from the basement, collect dirty clothing and towels, and head back down only having had made one trip. This system works well for me.
– Store kitchen appliances out of sight. Unless you use it every single day, it really does not need to be on your counter. And for that matter, if you have not used it in a year, donate it. Chances are you will not be needing it if an entire year has gone by without needing it.
– Keep your flat surfaces clear. Okay, add a tiny vase of flowers or a plant and call it good. Just because you have a giant flat surface to work with, say your kitchen butcher block, does not mean you need to display a bunch of things on it. Give your things a home and practice restraint in showcasing everything all at once.
– Furthermore, use plants as decor. Not only do they liven up a space but they help the air quality.
– Designate a clear, stackable box for kiddo art you want to hang onto. This one is hard for me, given that I want to keep it all. Every now and then after something has been hung on our fridge or wall, I will open the box and collect it. Other times, it will be recycled. With the amount of art projects we do a week there is simply no way to keep it all. This process helps us stay organized while having on to our favorite pieces. You could go the length of creating a digital copy and storing it on your hard drive, but I am just not that technical nor do I want the actual piece of art thrown out.
– Go take ten things out of your closet right now and put them in your donation box. We all have probably twenty things we should get rid of at this very moment in our closets, but ten is a good start. I think I am going to do this after I hit publish.
– Have a small bowl near the entry for keys and loose change somewhere by your front door. This will eliminate you searching everyday for them and give you a place to collect coins should you have them in your pockets when you get back from running errands. If this bowl is small, it will not tempt you to store other things in it. Large bins become catch-alls for trash, receipts, and random bits that end up overtaking the whole idea of simplifying in the first place.
– Likewise, have a small bin for seasonal shoes. Keep the rest in closets or tucked away in a seasonal bin in storage. By having one place to collect shoes when you come in, it will prevent the clutter at the front door situation, which is never calming or pretty.
– For those who are thrifty, just because something is cheap, does not mean you need it or should buy it. I love the Target dollar section as much as the next gal, but be careful. Those trinkets will clutter up your home in a hurry.
– Have kids or husbands pick up toys each night. Yes, husbands too because we all know how much they love playing with legos. Not only does this keep things tidy, but it teaches the little ones responsibility. I like to have a mid-day clean up with the kids before their afternoon naps so things are in place before I start to make dinner as well. Baskets make this so easy because all of the toys go into one place. We try to end our evening with toys in their baskets and puzzles put away, making a fresh and calming space to walk into early in the morning.
– Don’t put coats and purses on the dining room table. Hang them up! Again, everything should have a home.
– Keep a drawer for cords (ours is in the kitchen) and make sure to label them. I cannot tell you how many times Andrew has asked my where the phone charger is, because I am the one always moving it around. But since we’ve made a drawer for chargers and things it has helped us both out when we need to grab something.
– Keep in mind when decorating, less is best. Strive to keep things simple and easy. There is no need to keep old magazines around or blankets you haven’t used in ages. Keep things basic and your home will appear cleaner too, even if you haven’t actually cleaned in say, a of couple weeks.
I hope you guys found these tips to be useful, and as always if you have a question I’ll do my best to help you out. Happy spring!