Monthly Archives: July 2013

5 Surefire Ways to Create a Cluttered Home

5 Surefire Ways to Create a Cluttered Home
{ via aesthetics of joy }


If you love clutter, if you enjoy feeling overwhelmed, and if your favourite way of dealing with stuff is to pile it up randomly all over your house, then this post is going to be incredibly helpful to you.

I’ve got the five best, never-fail techniques to help you create a cluttered home – and keep it that way.

(If, by chance, you actually enjoy having an uncluttered home that’s easy to live in, feel free to do the exact opposite. You know, if that’s your thing.)


The Five Ways to Create a Cluttered Home

1. Never leave a room better than you found it.

Pay no attention to the toys on the floor, leave the clean clothes unhung and let the coffee cups sit on the bench. As you exit a room, studiously ignore anything out of place, and do not, under any circumstances, pick those items up and return them to their rightful position.

2. Never finish what you start.

This is my personal favourite, and already exists as part of life for those of us living with young children.

No kids? Don’t let that stop you!

Simply start a task, project or activity and stop before you’re done. You may want to succumb to distraction, laziness or procrastination – these are the best ways to avoid finishing anything, and therefore adding to the clutter further.

3. Do not ever tidy up as you go.

Don’t pack the dishwasher as you finish breakfast. Do not pick up the previous game before the next one is pulled out. Don’t file your papers as they’ve been actioned. And most definitely do not, ever, put the clean laundry back in the wardrobe once it’s folded.

In addition, I highly recommend leaving things out long after you’ve finished using them.

That toaster sitting on the kitchen bench? The glass you just drank from? The notepad you just wrote in? The shopping you just brought home? Sure, it might take mere seconds to pack away, but that’s time you could spend making another pile.

This way, you will amass many unnecessary stacks of things in a very short period of time. It’s the perfect way to add clutter to your home with no effort whatsoever!

4. Ignore the clutter creep.

Don’t listen to the frustrations or annoyances that crop up when looking around your home. Ignore the little voice nagging at you. And certainly don’t take any action.

Do not move through your home and pick up everything that is out of place. Do not sort it out. Do not put it back in its rightful place. Simply let the clutter slowly increase, and gradually take over your home.

5. Employ the Shove and Hide Method.

If, in a moment of weakness, you decide you have had enough of the clutter (or your in-laws decide to visit) you must employ the excellent Shove and Hide Method of tidying.

Do not waste your time putting things back in their rightful position. Instead, scoop up an armful of clutter and shove it in a random cupboard. Repeat this process for any piles you find, ensuring the cupboard is nice and full when you’re finished. This means not only are your cupboards now cluttered with random mess, but when you find yourself looking for something, the contents of said cupboards will be spread around the house. It’s a win-win for clutter!


OK, OK, I’m taking my tongue out of my cheek now to say this: I am not trying to make you feel bad. I am as guilty of every one of these things as anyone. I procrastinate, I shove, I ignore the mess and don’t finish what I begin. Part of that is life, but the other part is a lack of awareness.

I figure if we can put a name to the behaviour, if we can see the consequences laid out before us, we are far more likely to actually pay attention and make the necessary changes.

Pay attention for long enough and these changes will become habit. And habits? They become our normal.



What is Enough?

What is Enough?
{ via underthemapletree on Etsy – no longer available }

As a parent, friend, sister, daughter and wife I struggle with the notion of enough.

  • Do I play with the kids enough?
  • Are we having enough sex?
  • Am I healthy enough?
  • Do I call my sisters enough?
  • Have I been a good enough friend?
  • Is it enough to be content?
  • Am I trying hard enough?
  • Am I attractive enough?
  • Do I give enough?
  • Do I care enough?

Enough – not too little, not too much. Just… enough.

After struggling with the idea for a very long time – never feeling good enough, never satisfied, never entirely content – I’ve started to frame the idea of ‘enough’ in a different way. And can I tell you, it’s helping me find some much-needed perspective.

Much like the idea of tilting – where we willingly throw things off-balance and tilt in the direction life requires – I wondered if we could view the idea of ‘enough’ as a long-term notion, rather than something we need to achieve every day?

I think we can. And I think we should.

What does that look like in real life?

“Do I play with the kids enough?” Maybe not today, but sometimes clothes need to be washed, emails returned, toilets cleaned and phonecalls made. On the other hand, do I feel good in my gut when I ask if I’ve played with them enough over the past six months? Yes.

“Am I trying hard enough?” Some days, I phone it in. And on those days, I am lacking. But, again, over the past 6 months? 2 years? 10 years? Yes, I try hard enough.

There are peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys for everything in life. Sometimes we feel that we are enough, other times we are filled with doubt. I think that’s simply being human. But reframing the idea this way has shown me that enough really IS enough.

But what about when it isn’t enough?

When you ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough over time?” and the answer is silence. Or worse, when the answer is a pang.

What do you do then?

When that pang reverberates in my gut I know I need to pull up and listen. I know I need to make a change, or ask a different question.

“Do I call my best friend enough?” PANG. No. Pay attention and make a change.

“Have we made enough time to unplug on the weekends?” PANG. No. What can we do differently?

“Am I present enough when I do play with the kids?” PANG. No. How can I change my approach?


My aim, in turning the idea of enough upside down, is to be mindful and intentional about what I’m choosing to do.  Instead of being carried away by panic and regret and frustration at not being enough every day.

Essentially that means if I haven’t played with the kids enough, there’d better be a good reason. If I haven’t called my best friend enough, again, show me a good reason.

It’s a matter of listening to your instincts, your gut, and that little voice inside your head that when given a longer view of things suddenly becomes quite wise.

“Relax. You’ve done enough over time. That counts,” it says.

I think it’s time to listen.


Do you ever struggle with feeling like you’re enough?  Would taking a long-term view help you feel better?

Simple Living in Real Life – The Family with Teenagers

Simple Living in Real Life - The Family with Teenagers

Simple Living in Real Life is a series where we take a closer look at how different people approach simple living.

The theory of “living with less” is straightforward enough, but how does that actually look in real life? Each interview delves into how different people apply the ideas of simple living to their every day.

Simple Living in Real Life: The Family with Teenagers

Recently I’ve been thinking about the challenges families face in creating a simpler home, as they move through the various stages of life. And it’s clear that every stage has its own set of challenges.

While I can confidently deal with excessive toys, hand-me-down clothes and the sparkly bits of plastic little girls collect, I am clueless when it comes to teenagers. And given my own teenaged predilection for ticket stubs, band t-shirts and endless copies of GirlFriend magazine, the idea of creating a simpler home with teenagers fills me with fear.

Fortunately, Rita Ramstad from This Sorta Old Life is here to shed some light on this exact issue, as well as share her tips on creating a warm, personality-filled family home.

Simple Living in Real Life - The Family with Teenagers

1. Tell us about yourself, your home, who lives there and what you do.

Sometimes I think simplicity is so appealing to me because our family life is complex: We are two divorced single parents, raising three kids between us–which means we juggle the needs and coordinate the schedules of three kids and four adults, as well as the extended families of all four adults. Each of our kids is on a different schedule with us, which means that sometimes we have one with us, sometimes two, and sometimes all three.

Earlier in our relationship, our lives felt crazy! We each maintained our own household, living 40 miles apart. I had a home in the mountains and Cane had an apartment near the city. Two years ago, my job was reduced and Cane’s student loans came due–and both of us realized that we couldn’t sustain the lives we’d been living. So, we decided to merge our households and find one central location. We moved to a 70s split-level home in a suburb located between our homes, which is also where both of us work. (Cane is a high school teacher and I am an instructional coach to teachers.)

We’re living in a place and house that neither of us would have chosen when we were younger, but we’ve grown to love it–I think, in large part, because it serves our life well. It’s a modest home just like many, many of the other homes that surround it. We’ve grown to appreciate its humble history and the needs such homes meet for so many real families.

2. With teenagers in the house, how do you encourage simplicity? Particularly when your kids have their own tastes/needs/money?

I suppose the best way we do this is by example. We don’t bring a lot of things into our home. We use (and re-purpose) things we already have. We have routines. We don’t over-schedule. We create spaces to support space in our lives–a reading platform in our backyard tree, a hammock for lounging, a family room we can hang out in together.

We are fortunate that this is an area of relative ease for us: None of our kids are particularly enamored of “things.” That’s partly due to their personalities. It may also be that we limit cultural messages to buy–we cut cable TV two years ago. Great decision!

Simple Living in Real Life - The Family with Teenagers

3. Do you have any tips for staying on top of teenager-related clutter?

Close their bedroom doors! Although I’m writing this with a smile, it is one of our best sanity-saving tactics for living with our teens. Both of us regularly shudder when we look in our kids’ rooms–and we do, occasionally, declare them intolerable and demand a clearing out–but we think it’s important to let them have their own space and (within reason) do as they see fit with it.

As for our common living spaces, we do our best to keep it tidy all the time by picking things up every day. Before bed, we try to make sure that everyone’s stuff is put away. We have the kids keep their personal things in their bedrooms. We have designated places for backpacks and shoes. And, honestly, we nag a lot.

4. You write a lot about interior design, furniture and decor, and you have a fabulous, warm, character-filled home. How do you balance your passion for decorating with your desire to live a simpler life? Do you find that a difficult balance to achieve?

Yes! This is a question we return to again and again in our writing. It’s one we haven’t yet found a clear answer to. I suppose one thing that helps us is that we pretty much reject the idea of decorating. We do love art, and we adorn our walls with it, but we don’t love decoration for the sake of decoration. When it comes to making decisions about what to bring into our spaces, we have developed a few questions that guide us:

  1. Does the item serve or support a function?
  2. Is the item personally meaningful?
  3. Do we have space for it? If we don’t, are we willing to part with something else to make room for it?

Unless the answer is “yes” to at least two of these questions (and ideally, all three), we don’t bring it in.

Also, we don’t shop for recreation. We love browsing through thrift/vintage stores–because we love looking at things with history to them–but we don’t visit them unless we have something in particular we’re looking for.

Simple Living in Real Life - The Family with Teenagers

5. Share with us one major change that’s helped simplify your life.

A huge change for us was combining our households/lives and moving to a central location where both of us work. In some ways, it’s been complicated. Merging families can be hard and messy! But living close to work, and sharing the job of running a home and raising kids, has made many things simpler for both of us.

Another major change: Working less. Two years ago, my job was reduced from full-time to 80%, which means that I work only 4 days a week. At first, that scared me to death. I was barely surviving on what I was making. But that is what prompted our decision to merge our households, and I now see that it was a huge gift.

We didn’t need two separate homes. Merging our families has been challenging, but it’s also been rewarding. Working less means that I now have more time to take care of our needs as a family. I’ve had time to pursue writing, something I’ve always wanted to do more of. I’m more relaxed, I’m healthier, and I’m more present in our life. Those are things I could never buy with the extra money I had working full-time.

From this experience, I’ve learned to question beliefs that feel like bedrock truth.

6. Do you have any tips on creating an interesting, beautiful home without creating clutter and excess?

When we merged our homes, we had tons of clutter and excess! It took most of a year for us to sort through it all and determine what we really need/want. So, our first tip is to give yourself the grace of some time. It took months or years to accumulate your stuff; you can’t fix it all in one day or week. Go slow, be thoughtful, allow yourself to examine the emotional component to stuff, know that you’ll get there.

Now that we know what we need and have most of it, we live mostly by the one in/one out rule. We don’t need 2 vases of the same size. If I really want a new one I’ve found, I get it only if I’m willing to let go of one we currently own. Our exceptions: Books and art. We love those, and we’re OK with that. If there’s something you love, we think you should give yourself permission to indulge a bit. (That said, we do regularly edit our collections of both and pass on to others items that we no longer adore.)

The most important thing, though, is to bring in only what you love. Wait for the things you love; they will appear in time. Don’t get something that’s not quite right “just for now” unless it truly is a necessity you can’t live without. We really don’t need much to survive, and thriving comes from a home/life you love.

Do you have teenagers living in your home? Are they clutter-magnets like I was?

Hands Up, Who Wants a Perfect Life?

Hands Up, Who Wants a Perfect Life?

“I just wished my life sucked a little bit more, you know?” 

— No-one. Ever. 

We’re surrounded by images of perfect homes, perfect parents, perfect kids. We flick through Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram and are bombarded with curated images of split-second perfection. We willingly invite this virtual utopia into our home via blogs, magazines and websites.

And it is so easy to believe.

It’s just so easy to slip into believing that these images and the light-hearted way perfect lives are described are actually real.

In fact, it’s probably easy to believe that the photo above is real. That this image represents the reality of my afternoons.

But come on now. You’re an intelligent person.

It is not reality. No image is, regardless of how carefree and laidback it may appear.

The caption of my above Instagram photo was, “Sanity Break.” And while that particular afternoon was very pretty, I was sitting in the hammock for approximately 28.5 uninterrupted seconds as my one moment of escape. I wasn’t relishing in the perfection of my day, I was escaping the reality of it. Just for a brief time.

And that reality? The kids had been busting my butt all day, I was hormonal, frustrated and facing the prospect of another night of completing the dinner-bath-books-bed routine without Ben.

I didn’t post it to show how perfect my life is (it’s not). I posted it to celebrate a very brief moment of calm in an otherwise chaotic day.


The reality is that everyone has crappy days, horrible weeks and difficult months. Everyone shouts at their kids. Everyone argues with their partners. Everyone has stages in life where the annoyances and the mess and the complications that don’t feed our souls take over. And you feel overwhelmed, undervalued, absent.

That is called life.

I am by no means anti-Instagram, anti-Pinterest or (heaven forbid!) anti-blog. I like new media. But it isn’t real life. It’s no-one’s real life.

But by inviting these images of perfection into our heads, by being envious of them, by trying to attain them, we are buying into the myth of perfection. And I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:

Nothing and no-one is perfect. And that’s OK.

By inviting it in, we are giving this myth of perfection undue credit. We are choosing to compare our lives to these edited, censored glimpses. And it’s wrong.

It means we are left sapped of our energies, feeling inadequate, less than. And do you know what? We are doing this to ourselves. It’s not the media that’s doing this. It’s not bloggers. It’s not misogynistic, airbrush-wielding faceless men working for fashion magazines.

It’s us.

So I propose we put these beautiful images, perfect glimpses, wonderful ideas and magazine-worthy lives where they belong. As entertainment. As celebrations of fleetingly beautiful moments. As “sometimes” fun and occasional frivolity. But let’s stop making them more than they are, and let’s stop allowing them to make us feel less than.

Because you are enough. And if you think you’re lacking in some real way, looking at images of impossibly perfect toddler birthday parties on Pinterest sure as hell won’t help.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Do you ever find yourself feeling inadequate when faced with the barrage of impossibly perfect images we see every day? 


Can You Own a Birkin Bag and Still Be a Minimalist?

{ via SubjectArt }
{ via SubjectArt }


This is a post from guest contributor Vanessa Salas of Shed Mom. Enjoy, and learn more about Van at the end of this post.


“That’s the thing about needs. Sometimes when you get them met, you don’t need them anymore.”

— Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

When I first heard about minimalism, I immediately rejected it. The root word is partly to blame: minimal. It gives the impression of having to endure scarcity to the point of deprivation.

Nobody likes feeling deprived. I know I don’t. And it’s certainly not the reason why I’ve become a minimalist.

If it were only all about organizing, spending less money, de-cluttering, or removing objects for the sake of simply owning less stuff, I would never have considered adopting this lifestyle

What made me take a second look is a shift in focus that has allowed me to take pleasure in the things I already have or want to buy.

In an alternate universe, I’d be a proud owner of a $10,000.00 Hermes Birkin bag. Applying a minimalistic view point means that I’d allow myself to be awed by its exquisite craftsmanship, and appreciate the painstaking hours it took to hand-stitch such an magnificent object. If I’ve had to be on the waiting list for years before acquiring this thing of beauty, I’d treat my eagerly-awaited acquisition as a reward for my patience. It is a tangible reminder of how far I would’ve arrived in the eyes of the world.

Imagine yourself in my make-believe Louboutins. If you have a bunch of other stuff lying around, filling up your home, adding to the clutter, how can you value your Birkin when it is surrounded by other things that are vying for your attention, removing your awareness from this object that you adore so much?

The point is to remove all the extraneous stuff so that you can have the space – literally and figuratively – to focus all of your energy on the things that you value the most. 

There’s nothing minimal about this shift. It’s simple, it’s small, but it makes a world of difference. It has the capacity to encourage an expansion, not a contraction, of how you view your surroundings.

This ‘expansion’ inspires you to become more mindful of your acquisitions. You stop moving on auto pilot. You begin to question the endless cycle of consumerism and the value of acquiring more. Are you buying this because it’s what everyone else says you should buy, to fit a certain image? Or are you buying it because it is something you genuinely like, for reasons you’ve figured out for yourself?

After the initial rush of acquiring a much-coveted object fades, being mindful gives you a sense of clarity that will change your perception about stuff. It has a domino effect that extends to other areas of your life. You may find yourself moving on to other things. Things that probably matter more.

Like family. Or relationships. Leaving a legacy. Creating instead of consuming. Staying healthy and alert. Volunteering your time to worthy causes. Or other decidedly less materialistic things.

At some point you might feel the need to voluntarily give up all your other stuff. Even the Hermes Birkin bag / flat-screen TV / whatever item you initially thought you couldn’t live without.

The aim of minimalism is not to leave you wanting, but to remove the clutter that serve as distractions. By doing so, you take stock of what your real priorities are and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. It allows for a singularity of purpose that frees you from the mindless cycle of consumerism you’ve either knowingly or unconsciously become accustomed to.

You can call yourself a minimalist and still derive pleasure from your most prized possessions. You’re actually encouraged to do so. That doesn’t mean you can’t lead a simpler, more mindful life. The key is in really enjoying and making the most of what you already have without succumbing to the pitfalls of needless excess.

Vanessa is a former corporate trainer in the financial services industry. She is now a full time homemaker, freelance writer, and aspiring minimalist. In, she writes about creating space for what matters most. Find her on twitter @vansalas.