Category Archives: simplicity

Simple Living// Three: Fall Matters

Spring cleaning is great, but fall decluttering is truly valuable.  Fall matters, and here’s why.


A long time ago–no idea where or when really–I read something that compared autumn to the “letting go” process that we need to go through in order to grow.  I grabbed on to that idea, and I’ve thought about it often over the years.

The tree naturally drops the leaves that once served it well.  Those leaves sprouted from buds last spring, and since their beginning, they have been a source of nourishment for the whole tree.  They spread their green selves toward the sun and got to work creating chlorophyll to feed the tree.  It’s an amazing system.  But as cold weather approaches, the leaves end their food-making role.  They stop creating chlorophyll, stop nourishing the tree.  The tree drops them to the ground, leaving empty space where each leaf had been.  The braches are bare, ready for the new buds that spring will bring.  If the tree held on to all the old leaves, there would not be room for new leaves–the tree’s only source of food.  There would not be room for growth.

Okay…the analogy isn’t too hard.  I’m sure you are getting the picture.  We have to drop stuff if we want to have room for the things that really matter.  Want to grow in knowledge?  Drop the “noise” that clutters up your mind and wastes your time.  Want to grow in your faith?  Drop the voices that aren’t feeding your soul.  Want to grow in the way you organize or manage your time?  (Imagine me raising my hand enthusiastically and shouting “Me, me!”) DROP THE CLUTTER.

But here is the best part.  Trees do not mourn the loss of their leaves.  They aren’t out there in our backyards thinking, “I can’t lose these leaves.  I worked so hard to create them last spring.  I can’t get rid of that one.  It’s such a beautiful shade of red.  Oh no!  Not that one!  It’s the biggest leaf I’ve ever seen.  No, I’m keeping that one.  I don’t want to waste it!”  That doesn’t happen.  The leaves simply do not serve the tree any longer.  They must go.  Why do we analyze each item and place value on it that is far higher than its practical worth?

I have a closet full of things that served me once-upon-a-time.  They don’t serve me any longer, so I’m passing them to someone who will enjoy them, value them, and be blessed by them.

This is why fall matters to me.  It is an opportunity to drop the old and settle in for a beautiful season, free from the STUFF that holds me back.  I have many wonderful memories of fall, and the emotions of those happy times come flooding back and motivate me to make new autumn memories with my husband and children.  I can’t do those things freely if I’m held back by old thoughts, old regrets, and physical clutter.

What will you drop this fall?

Simple Living // Two: Inspiration

I received a great response from my first Simple Living post.  Thank you, dear readers!  It seems that the desire to simplify is strong among my friends and family.  I feel encouraged by your messages here and on Facebook.

As I said in “My Story”  (linked in case you missed it), my love of simple things and a simple lifestyle has been present my whole life.  I have many inspirations all around me, and I’m pleased to be able to share them with you.  Some of these sources are new to me while others are not new at all!

  1. YouTube Minimalists:  I love YouTube!  For a long time, I thought it was about silly cat videos and wild teenagers, but I was wrong.  Sure, you can look up singing kittens, but you also can learn many new things.  I’ve been learning plenty from some inspiring and interesting content creators such as Melissa Alexandria, Samantha Lindsey, and Coco.  Their videos make me excited and hopeful!  Melissa promotes a positive, can-do attitude.  She discusses a wide range of topics including minimalism, food, and sustainability, and I simply love her channel.  Samantha is a fairly new YouTuber, but I won’t be surprised to see her audience grow and grow!  She is a favorite of mine because we share the Christian faith, and that isn’t a common trait in the minimalist movement.  She speaks in a gentle, pleasant way that makes you feel like you are chatting with a friend.  Coco’s channel is called “Light by Coco,” and I love the whole atmosphere of her beautifully edited videos.  Everything about “Light by Coco” is simple, graceful, and elegant.  YouTube is loaded with videos on living simply, and I enjoy many of them.  One final favorite is Sprout and Blossom by a woman named Mary.  It’s a great channel, and you can also visit the accompanying blog;
  2. A Visit to My Sister:  I’m sure that Kristy would not call herself a minimalist, but she has some of the habits and characteristics of one.  When I visited with my sister and her little family this summer, I was struck (again) by the simplicity of how they live and the simplicity of what they enjoy.  We are alike in many ways, and pleasure in the small things of life is something we’ve always shared.  We do have a big difference though.  Kristy is inherently, naturally NEAT.  I am…not.  When we were kids, I envied her perfectly tidy room.  Now, I feel inspired rather than jealous.  I have trouble with paper clutter and little bits and pieces of things being kept for no real reason.  My sister doesn’t seem to struggle with those things, and it shows in her home.  I may be the Big Sister, but I know when I can learn something from my little sister!
  3. My Children:  While my children are definitely a big reason for our clutter, they also play a big part in inspiring me to minimize our belongings.  They don’t need stuff.  They need me–not Mommy cleaning all the time or trying to distract them so that I can take care of messes.  I know that a simple life will allow them to thrive and truly enjoy this magical time called childhood.
  4. Jesus Christ:  This is my last and most important inspiration.  Among other things, Jesus teaches simplicity.  He teaches that the only “things” that matter are the things of the heart.  Modern Christianity might seem like a culture filled with stuff, but Jesus actually  lived a life of few possessions, and He showed others that the physical elements of their lives pale in the light of eternity.  He called His disciples to leave behind their homes and belongings in order to follow Him.  They couldn’t be weighed down by the stuff of life if they were going to accept Christ’s mission to travel around the known world healing people and teaching the message of new life.  Sure, it’s probably pretty easy to not worry about your sandals when you are the Son of God.  I get that. Even so, Jesus is the perfect model of simplicity.  Something to think about…

Simple Living // One : My Story

Hello, friends,

Today I am starting a series that I’m calling Simple Living.  Simplicity has been a core value in my life and on this blog for many years, but I’ve been distracted from that theme for awhile.  Here is the story of how the journey began and where I am now:


I grew up in a family that values simple things.  We were never into “keeping up with the Joneses.”  We’ve always been a DIY kind of family, and my kids love to talk about how “old fashioned” Papa is because he heats his home with a pot belly stove and uses wonderful spring water from the hill out back.

In 2001, I married my college sweetheart.  As brand new college graduates, we didn’t own much, made very little money as graduate student teaching associates, and had an absolute blast!  We were very careful at budgeting and even saved enough money to take a two week vacation to Florida (including Disney World) when we had been married about a year and a half.  We got our first credit card that year, and we did so only because it was required for the hotel reservation.  We used only cash for every aspect of the trip.  We needed few things, and we were so busy with school and enjoying married life that we did not accumulate much.  Except books.  I can make no good excuse for our book collection!  Anyway, we moved out of our tiny (but adorable) attic apartment in 2004 after finishing our masters degrees and bought our first house.  We continued our graduate work at a new university and added two children to the mix by 2008.  Our house was small, and we were rapidly filling it with THINGS.  We continued to keep our schedule fairly simple (if you consider school, work, church, and family simple), and in general, my preferred aesthetic then and now is simple, clear, and fresh.  I don’t have extravagant taste, and I would choose a single daisy over a dozen roses any day.  YET the sense that we had too much was creeping in.

In the summer of 2011, we welcomed our third child and moved to Florida.  It was a huge move.  A thousand miles.  My husband had received a new job at a small university, and the kind people there helped us find a rental house until we could buy a home.  Our time ran out at the first house, and we moved into a second rental.  All of that moving around taught me an important lesson.  We had moved to Florida with only a small fraction of our belongings.  We packed only a small collection of clothes for ourselves and our children.  Our two boys packed one small box of toys and books.  The houses were furnished and had kitchen supplies, so we only took sheets and a few bath towels.  You know what?  It was wonderful.  I only missed  a few things–my vegetable peeler and some of my books.  When we successfully purchased our new house, I truly did not want the bulk of our stuff to come into it.  But the stuff came.  We were moving from 1100 square feet into more than 2000 square feet.  It was easy to stash away a lot of things that we really did not need, and the clear lesson was RIGHT THERE.  We only needed a fraction of what we owned, and after four month with only a small amount of our things, I only desperately wished for my lovely vegetable peeler.  (And after this blog post, my mom sent me a great peeler in the mail.  Thanks, Mom!)  This was a golden opportunity!  We should have been very, very discerning about what to keep, but instead, we loaded everything into our new house.  Many of those boxes hadn’t even been opened when we moved again (those same 1000 miles) less than two years later.  A lot of those boxes are still in our basement!

That brings me to this spring.  I started making some important changes in my life that I wrote about here.  I needed to clear my head and my heart.  Around the same time, I read a blog post by my friend, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is many things, but two of her most important roles are homeschooling mom and entrepreneur.  She blogs at, and I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts.  Anyway, she wrote about going from hoarder to minimalist.  Somewhere along the line, Elizabeth recommended the website Becoming Minimalist and specifically, the post called “How to Stage Your Home for Living.”  Big things were happening inside me.  I needed to return to simplicity, and I finally felt ready to make it happen.  I realized that I was one of many people who are looking for ways to reduce STUFF and enjoy a life of simplicity.

On my birthday in June, I wrote this in my journal:  “I’m on a minimalist journey.”  I realize that it sounds totally melodramatic!  (I even cringed a little while typing it.)  But here is how I see it.  A journey can take you anywhere. I set off on this journey with both feet, and I have to keep moving forward to see where the road takes me.  I’m pretty sure this journey isn’t going to bring me to the place of only owning what I can fit in a backpack.  That might be great for some people, but I’m aiming for something far less extreme.  I just want to feel content, spend more time with my kids, and less time cleaning.  I want to see clear, open spaces around me.  I want to own things that I love.  I don’t want my things to own me.

I have had success with birthday resolutions in the past, and I’m particularly excited about this one.  I dove into decluttering immediately after my birthday.  THIS is what sat in front of my house on July 4th weekend:


And that was just the beginning.  In addition, we’ve donated three enormous bags of clothing to charity.  I have a big box of books that is headed to our local library.  I’ve thrown away about 20 bags of junk since June.  (Note: I deeply regret that I did not recycle more things.  I’m making a commitment to do better at recycling now that my belongings are more manageable.)

So that’s my story so far.  In my next installment, I’ll write about some of the people and resources that inspire my desire to live simply.

Thanks for reading!



Hi, friends.  In February, I posted my resolutions and goals for 2015.  Half of a year has gone by, and I thought I should give a little update.  I was determined that my goals wouldn’t be forgotten this year, and I’ve been working on them diligently.  If this isn’t of interest to you, simply pass on by.  I understand!  I’ll be back on Tuesday with a Project Food Budget post.

Resolution #1: Be more fun!  I think I’m doing better at this.  I try to say more “yes” and less “no.”  We’ve done some new and interesting activities such as visiting a natural playground and even going to the movies once–a very rare occurrence for me, but it makes my kids SO happy.

Resolution #2: Send more snail mail.  Well, I started out strong, but then I missed a few family birthdays.  (Sorry, guys.) I dropped off of this resolution a little bit, but the last couple of months, I’ve picked up on sending mail again.  It’s fun, and I’m glad that I’ve been intentional about communicating with friends and family outside of digital means.  I love knowing that I’m making someone smile at the mailbox.

Goal #1: I’m declaring 2015 to be THE YEAR OF CLEAN.  We aren’t where we want to be YET, but we’ve made wonderful progress!  This makes me so happy!  Now, if you stop by my house, you will find a mess.  Definitely.  We are deep in the decluttering, organizing process, and that means that piles have been created and disorder reigns, but I remind myself that this is temporary.  Right now, we are working on the basement and ALL of our closets.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t simply keep on tidying like I’ve always done.  It was time to do an overhaul and create clean, simple spaces all over our home.  In late spring, I started researching minimalism and simple living.  I don’t think I could ever be a strict minimalist, but the idea of having only what I truly need and love appeals to me.  On my birthday in June, I promised myself that I would work toward a more minimalist life and living space.  (I like “birthday resolutions,” and you will see below how that has worked for me in the past)  As of July 4, we had disposed of 12 large garbage bags of stuff, and we have a growing box of donations to give to our local shelter.  There have been many more bags in the last month, but I lost count!  “Simplicity” has been a theme in my life and on my blog for many years; however, I had definitely strayed from the concept.  I’m excited to be returning to living my values.

Goal #2: I will return to playing the violin. While I’ve definitely played more in 2015 than I did in 2014, I’m not really keeping up with this goal.  I keep my violin out in plain view so that I can try to catch a minute here and there, but I hope that I can pick up my study this fall.

Goal #3: I will work on the DONA (Doulas of North America) reading list, and I will register for a doula certification workshop) through a recognized certification agency (TBD).  Yes!!!!  I’m thrilled to report that my personal study of the reading list has been moving along beautifully.  I adore every book I’ve read, and each week, I feel more prepared for a career as a professional doula.  More importantly, I am enrolled for doula training in September with ProDoula, and I am excited to make my dream happen.  When I announced my goals in February I wrote, “I’m still not certain how or when a doula business will fit into my family life, but on my birthday in 2014, I made a promise to myself to pursue certification in earnest.”  We’ve been working on having my husband respond to the baby (19 months old now!) when he gets up in the night, and Cory has been able to put him to bed, too.  The little guy isn’t night weaned, but he is willing to accept Daddy instead of Mommy (although a bit hesitantly), so we’ve decided that we are in a good place for me to begin taking clients with due dates beyond my training.

Goal #4: I will take my blog seriously!  Have you noticed that you’ve been hearing more from me?  My blogging pace isn’t where I would like it to be, but I’m so happy with the progress that I’ve made.  Project Food Budget has been especially helpful in keeping me motivated.

So, that’s the update.  Blessings to all!

~*~*~*  Erica  *~*~*~

In Focus — 5 steps I took to Zoom into Better Living

Have you ever simply known that your life had gone a little out of focus?

You are still doing the same basic things, the same routine that has been keeping you going for years.

Yet, something is off.

You find yourself holding your breath, waiting for normal to arrive.  Hello, Normal?  Where are you?

You don’t seem to have time for the things that you once did simply for pleasure.  Tea from the kettle–not the microwave.  An impromptu photo shoot simply because you’ve got cute kids and a perfect patch of sunlight coming in the window.  A game of UNO.  Popcorn and a movie after the kids fall asleep.  Falling asleep yourself next to your dearest love (even though that kind of irritates him).

Where did those joyful little moments go?  When did every day become decidedly less fun?

That’s where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been restless and lacking contentment.  Late 2014 and all of 2015 so far have brought in new challenges that I had never faced before.  There have been many joys and amazing days, but illness and losses in my life and in the lives of people I love put things into a new perspective.  I expected those painful events to fill me with an urgency to LIVE–really live deeply and abundantly–but instead, I felt stuck, disappointed, angry, and frustrated.  Instead of turning to sources of encouragement that I could count on–God, family, the Scripture, dear friends–I turned inward and to technology.  Have you ever drowned your sorrows in Facebook?  Have you numbed the here and now with a hefty dose of daydreaming while reading about other people’s lives on other people’s blogs?  That’s been me.

And then my nine-year-old was working on a family crest.  He worked hard. Markers everywhere!  He drew a shield, divided it to represent each family member, and then he came up with an icon to represent each of us.  Cory was a weight because Daddy is strong.  I was a little laptop–because Mommy loves the computer.

Wait, did you hear something?  Oh, yeah.  That was my heart shattering.


A number of things–the laptop drawing near the top of the list–helped me to finally see that I needed to take some concrete steps to turn things around–to pull things back into focus.  These are the steps I took, and I’m still working!

  1. I prayed.  I confessed that I been focusing on me and my shortcomings instead of the larger picture of the life God wanted me to live.  I confessed that I had not been living with gratitude.  I confessed that I had not been using my resources (including time!) with intention and intelligence.  I thanked God for loving me anyway!  I thanked Him for my children, my husband, my parents, and the rest of my big, wonderful family.  I thanked Him for friends at our church, in our community, in our past and our present.  I asked for focus, for patience, and for the grace to approach my family and MYSELF with gentleness.  I asked for contentment and peace.
  2. I reached out.  One of the biggest sources of my frustrations and disappointment is the lack of organization in our home.  This has been a problem forever.  I could blame having four children.  I could blame homeschooling.  But I would be pretending!  Let’s be real here.  I have struggled with messes since I was a kid, seemingly cleaning my room every single day but always living in a disaster.  My mom keeps a beautiful home.  I had plenty of positive examples, but I fail regularly.  So…I reached out to an old friend who is an organizer.  We are just figuring out what working together will look like, but it feels wonderful to feel like I have a teammate!
  3. I returned to activities that matter to me.  It might seem crazy to add MORE when my plate is already pretty full.  However, I did some real soul-searching, and I realized that I had dropped a few things that were true treasures in my life.  So in April, I returned to a La Leche League group.  I’ve been an accredited Leader with LLL since 2008, but I have not been affiliated with a group since we moved in 2013.  It was time.  I always thought of LLL as my “positive peer pressure.”  The meetings lift my spirits, confirm my parenting choices, and connect me with like-minded mothers.  Serving mothers and babies in the Leader role always does something good in my heart.  In addition to La Leche League, I added a little crafting and remade my old homemaking binder.
  4. I set some healthy boundaries.  That sounds all psychological and sophisticated, but it is actually code for “got my lazy bum off the computer.”  I use the computer for good things–researching homeschool ideas, looking up recipes, connecting with friends and family–but I get sucked in.  I get wrapped up in things of no importance.  I’ve been feeling like I had way too many voices in my life.  Articles, comments on articles, opinions upon opinions upon opinions!  I needed some mental quiet.  I so easily allow time to slip by, and I’m often left with a lingering feeling of disquiet after I’ve read something controversial.  I’ve strictly limited Facebook to Saturdays, and in general, I’m keeping my computer time quick and on task.  This is a hard one for me.  I asked Cory to make up a new password for Facebook, and he is under strict orders to never tell me!
  5. I surrounded myself with inspiration!  I visited a long-time friend who always inspires me with her amazing work ethic and her fun sense of humor.  I also found two quotations that spoke to my situation and made me feel motivated to create change.  I printed them on pretty paper and taped them on the wall.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11

^^This passage from the Psalms helped me remember that as long as I am in God’s presence, I have what I need to be content and joyful.  Everything else is bonus!

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” ~Kevin Ngo

^^This quotation by Kevin Ngo helped me to think about where I do want to place my focus, and it made me realize that the time I spend planning and strategizing is valuable–not just silly day dreaming.

Nearly a year ago, the auto-focus on my camera’s basic lens stopped functioning.  I was struggling with the manual setting.  My brother-in-law who is a photographer and film-maker gave me some good advice.  He told me to take my time.  He said to slowly move the lens back and forth between the extremes on both sides until I find the sharpest focus in the middle–even though the people around me (including those in the picture!) seem to want me to hurry.  The clear image and perfect light are the reward for taking the time to find that sweet spot.

I’m feeling good these days.  I think I am back in focus, but I’m not afraid to put in the time and effort to live life beautifully.


Room for Learning

Our days are structured around learning, so it is no surprise that the #1 factor in choosing our new house was (for me anyway) the place where we would “do school.”  Now, to be fair, our work happens all over the house, and much of it doesn’t look like school at all.  However, when I saw this sunroom, I envisioned cups of tea, good books, finger paintings, and sunshine.  Here is how our “school room” looks when it is all tidied up and ready to go.

You pass through the French doors to enter the sunroom.  The sweet rocking horse was given to us by the house’s previous owner.  She said that it was enjoyed by her children and made by her sister.  I love having it in our school room.


We already owned the loveseat, and it fits perfectly at one end of the room.  To give you a sense of the size of our room, it is only a little wider (maybe three feet) than the loveseat itself.


The big school table is actually a “retired” library table with two big drawers at the front.  I love that it came from an honest-to-goodness library.  We adopted it from a friend, and it couldn’t be more perfect for our purposes.  Bins beneath the table hold our books and supplies.  The wool, braided tote on the radiator holds our percussion instruments.


The flowered tin is my sticker box from when I was a child.  I still have stickers in it from when I was six or seven years old, plus many new additions.  The little metal buckets are from the Target dollar bin. 


The wonderful owl puppet was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from my parents when he was four.  He adored it when he was little, and the owl still brings a bit of charming wisdom to our days.  The alphabet puzzle is a Melissa and Doug toy from Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake.


We love to use magazines in our homeschool.  We typically use National Geographic Kids and Highlights.  The microscope is a “talking microscope” that we really enjoy.  It was a gift from my in-laws, and it is used very frequently!  The books are ones that we are using currently.  We did a unit on the library.  We’re slowly reading through the Little House books, and you’ll notice our Story of the World (Volume 2) history book and the accompanying activity book, plus some fables and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories, perfect for spring.


This board is the Everyday Display from Creative Memories.  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I’ve seen them on Ebay for good prices.  The board is magnetic.  We made the rainbows  for a unit on refraction and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.


I hope you enjoyed your tour of our sunroom.  We love it!

The Life I Want

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I really want and the life that I can too easily substitute.  I can easily become enthusiastic about new and exciting possibilities.  And then I have to make myself ask, “Do I really want this?”

Obviously, life is sometimes made up of things that we don’t want, and we do not have the possibility to choose otherwise.  Sickness, job loss, death, house repairs, broken cars, and natural disasters aren’t things that we choose to have in our lives, but they are there.

No, I’m talking about knowing what kind of life I want and taking steps to make it happen.  I want a life that is joyful.  I want a life that is simple.  I want a life that is quiet, yet I am drawn to activity and learning and doing new things.  How do I keep a balance between simple/quiet and new/exciting?  How do I manage to not have clutter in my home or in my heart?  THESE are my struggles.

I was drafting this blog post two days ago, and then yesterday, I saw this post at  The author (Tsh) defines simple living as “living holistically with your life’s purpose.”  In other words, you understand the life you were built to have.  Then all the things and activities in your life work toward that purpose.  Tsh says it this way, “all the parts of your life are pointing in the same direction.”  I like that.  For us the direction is Christ, but there is a lot of room in that for figuring out a way to live.  Check out the article.  I think you’ll like it.  And I’ll let you know how I do in figuring all this out!