4 Relationships You Can Improve With Gratitude

Deeper Things Series – Week #3

Today’s post addresses the powerful practice of gratitude. When we choose gratitude over resentment, everything in our life brightens and expands.

Epicurus once said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” For some of us, our dreams are still on the horizon–a career we love, a husband or wife, a family, or a home. When our goals seem so far away, we start to lose hope and begin to feel that we haven’t gotten what we deserve. However, when we take stock of our lives, we find that there are many things to be grateful for–exactly where we are. Not ten years from now; not in the larger home we desire. But right here, and right now.

In many seasons of our lives, it is easy to allow resentment to grow. But the easiest choice is rarely the wisest one.

When discontentment moves in and takes up residence within us, it affects how we treat our loved ones, our community, our jobs, and ourselves. I know this, because I have been there many times.

There is a better way. When we choose to focus on the good in our lives, we find that there is so much to be thankful for. Do you have clothes on your back? Do you have plenty to eat, and a roof over your head? Do you have people who love you? Do you have enough money to live on each day? If so, you have everything you need. Add to that the extra possessions and amenities in your life, and you are blessed indeed.

Gratitude is a conscious choice that we make every single day. It requires stubbornness–perseverance. Life will throw you some pretty wicked curve balls. If you don’t keep your eyes fixed on the positive side, it is easy to become bitter. Don’t. Stay joyful; stay tenderhearted. Look at your life and see how you’ve been blessed. To be a truly grateful person, your goal in every situation must be to find the good, and focus only on that.

I have found that saying “thank you” as many times as possible throughout the day has two incredible results. First, it changes who I am. Second, it changes my interactions with everyone around me. I want to share with you 4 relationships that benefit from gratitude.

  1. Your relationship with your spouse. What a difference it makes when I show my spouse some gratitude! Everyone wants to feel appreciated–especially by the person they work the hardest for. If I take the time to thank him for his acts of service, his hard work, and his contributions, the affection between us skyrockets. There are two ways to tell your spouse “thank you.” First, you can thank him for the little things he does. (When he takes out the trash, tell that man thank you! It may be his “chore” to complete, but if he didn’t do it, it would fall on you. Remember that, and be grateful for his willingness to help around the house.) Second, you can thank him periodically as a blanket statement for everything he does. For being a good provider; for being such a good father; for helping you at home; for his work ethic. When your husband or wife feels appreciated, they are more motivated to treat you how you want to be treated.
  2. Your relationship with your kids. This one has been surprising to me! When I tell my son “thank you,” and encourage him to thank his daddy, he is a much more sunny, joyful little boy. It is amazing how gratitude slowly but surely enters your heart, and changes who you are. Children thrive when you expose them to both boundaries and kindness. When you teach your kids to be grateful, you are preparing them for a wonderful life. And when you show them gratitude for the little ways they help you, their faces just glow.
  3. Your relationship with God. Walking with God is not about what you can get out of it; it is about having a relationship with Him. But I’ll be transparent here about my experiences. When I express thankfulness to God, and strive to be a good steward of His blessings, I find that He blesses me even more. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (ESV). God blesses us when we show Him we are thankful–with our words, and with our actions.
  4. Your view of yourself. Gratitude gives you less time and energy to look down on yourself. When you’re busy extending and receiving thankfulness, there is less opportunity to complain and feel dejected. You begin to see yourself as a small part of the larger whole. You are no longer the hero (or villain) of your story, but instead one character out of many. Your focus shifts to others–how you can help them, what you can do to lift them up, and how you can celebrate life with them. It takes you out of yourself and involves you in a movement that is bigger than you.

I encourage you to incorporate gratitude in your daily life. Say thank you for the blessings you see around you. Say thank you to your spouse, your kids, and your friends. Seek to have a heart that receives and celebrates the good things in life. What are your favorite ways to express gratitude? Please share below!

 

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The Single Best Thing You Can Do For Your Marriage

Deeper Things Series – Week #2

(Disclaimer: I want to be clear that the ideas I’m sharing here can work in a marriage where 1) there is no abuse, and 2) both partners are rational, responsible people willing to work on their relationship.) 

This week I want to share with you the one thing that has helped my marriage more than any other concept. Over the last several years, I have put in hours upon hours of researching articles, reading books, and asking questions about how to have a great marriage. This is something that I’m passionate about. A good marriage is precious and fragile. And unfortunately, it’s something that can slip right through our fingers.

We all have ups and downs with our spouses–good days and bad. And we won’t always be in sync. That’s to be expected. But sometimes, we encounter hard patches that are much more serious than that.

At times, it may feel like you and your spouse are constantly moving in different directions. You can never see eye to eye on anything; you criticize each other; and you can’t seem to work together. You lose sight of the things you used to love about your spouse. Resentment grows and festers.

Sometimes it feels like you’ve hit the end of the road. It seems there’s noting more that can be done.

One Simple Change 

But there is something to be done. Even without your spouse’s agreement or participation, you can make one simple change that will turn your whole world upside down. (In a good way.) I know this, because it happened to me.

The single best thing you can do for your marriage is this:

Realize that the only person you can change is yourself. 

 

You’ve probably heard this before. But take a breath and allow it to really sink in. It is better to work on yourself, than to try to “fix” somebody else. Your spouse’s problem could be poor communication, unkind words, or a lack of understanding towards you. But instead of focusing on how they treat you, focus on improving yourself. Put your grievances to rest, and do what you can to change your life…instead of your spouse’s.

Take a moment to think about this. Probably two-thirds of what we do involves trying to influence or change other people. Unfortunately, more often than not, the person we’re trying to change is our partner. Especially if you’re a recovering control freak, like me!

I had no idea I was so controlling until I got married. I had always been an independent person with strong viewpoints on a lot of different subjects. I knew I had a big personality. But I had no idea I was so bossy!

This can be true of both men and women. When you make the enormous change of incorporating another person into your life, chaos is bound to ensue. Even if you and your spouse are extremely well-suited, you inevitably do a few things differently. Okay, let’s be honest here…a lot of things differently.

We have to understand that our way of accomplishing things is not the only way, or the best way. And, even if we still believe it is the best way, we cannot force someone to think how we do. It just doesn’t work. And if you try to pressure or coerce your spouse, you will alienate the person you care about the most.

Is it really worth it? Does everything have to be done “just so?”

Keep this in mind, too. You can be generally pleasant, and treat your spouse well, but still be too bossy. You don’t have to act like an ogre in order to be controlling. I had to open my eyes to this. I still tried to be a very considerate partner, and do things that would make my husband happy. But the truth of the matter was, I still had not changed the one thing that would help my spouse more than anything else.

It is so much better just to let it go. When he doesn’t want to talk, let it go. When she needs space, let it go. When he says something rude or inconsiderate, let it go. When she does that thing you’ve told her countless times not to do…shake it off and let it go. For your own sake. Focus on what you can do to change.

As frustrated as we get with our partners, and as much as we might want to change them, that anger and desire for control won’t help us one bit. The only thing that will actually help us as individuals in the long run is this–to try every day to become a better person.

This effort to grow must be kept separate from our partners’ expectations, our sense of what we deserve, and our hurt over old wrongs. We have to grow because we want to. Not to please our spouses (although it will probably have that effect). Not to please our family or friends. But simply because we want to become better, stronger people in and of ourselves. It is something to pray about, seek wisdom on, and continue to pursue day by day.

When I let go of my frustrations in my marriage, discarded my expectations for my husband, and focused on changing myself, my marriage took a 180. He was ten times happier, and began treating me with the respect and tenderness that I had wanted all along. And I finally experienced the peace I had been searching for.

An Important Piece Of The Puzzle

I want to mention one more thing here–a piece of the puzzle that can be difficult to understand. Choosing to work on yourself does not negate the wrongs that your spouse has done to you. Those things are still there, especially if the behavior continues without apology from your partner. In focusing on your own growth, you are not forgetting about the behaviors that have hurt you. Your feelings are still valid. But, look at it this way. You can’t change what has already happened. And you can’t change what your husband or wife chooses to do in the future. But…you do have control over your own personal growth.

The key here is focus. When we decide to shift our focus to work on ourselves, it becomes incredibly liberating. Because you’re no longer trying to control your partner, you don’t have to worry as much about what they do. It’s not your responsibility anymore!

Join The Discussion

I hope that this concept will be as helpful to you as it was to me. There are a lot of hurting people in the world, living in dysfunctional, broken marriages. But many of us have a really wonderful husband or wife, who’s simply frustrated and unappreciated. Give them permission to be themselves…warts and all! After all, this is what we desire from our spouses as well. Every one of us simply wants to be accepted and loved, even though we make mistakes. Extend that grace to your partner…and when you’re frustrated, look into yourself and search for ways to stretch and grow.

What marriage advice would you share if you could? I’d love to hear your perspective. Join the discussion here and on Facebook!

 

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Simplifying Your Closet: 4 Steps To Create A Capsule Wardrobe

Too Many Clothes, But Nothing To Wear

When you open your closet, do you like what you see? Is it organized, with plenty of space for your shoes and clothing? Can you locate things easily?

Or do you find that your closet is constantly in disarray? Not enough hangers, too many shirts and dresses crammed in together? Do you feel it’s difficult to find things that match, to complete your outfit for the day?

My closet was a wreck for many years! I was constantly behind on laundry, too, so I could never find the top to go with that certain pair of slacks, or the sweater to complete my outfit. I spent twice as much time as I needed to, just running around the house trying to find the clothes I wanted! I had way more clothing than I needed, but somehow I always felt like I had nothing to wear.

The Solution

Then I discovered the capsule wardrobe method. This is a popular method for organizing your clothing and downsizing your wardrobe, so that you can mix and match outfits easily. I decided to build a capsule wardrobe for myself. Now when I look in my closet and dresser, I can find everything I need for the day. There’s much less rushing around like a crazy lady, just trying to get dressed! (Now the laundry piling up…that is something that I still struggle with! But hey, we all have room to grow…)

How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe

Today, I’m going to walk you through the steps for creating your own capsule wardrobe. It is pretty simple. The only difficult step, really, is being willing to part with some of your clothes that don’t fit anymore, or that you haven’t worn in 10 years! At least, that was the hard part for me. Let’s dive in.

  1. Go through your closet and dresser, and donate any clothes that: a) no longer fit, b) you no longer wear, or c) are ruined. This is the time to purge. You have to create space in your closet, so that you can find the clothes you wear on a regular basis!
  2. Look at the remaining clothing you have, and see what outfits you can create from these pieces. Remember that you can use one top for several outfits, and and that top can become extremely versatile. For example, take a look at this peach blouse:

Related image

 

You can use this top with jeans, brown flats, a brown cardigan, and a chunky white necklace for a dressy-casual look.

 

Related imageImage result for womens jeansImage result for womens tan cardiganImage result for womens brown flatsImage result for chunky off white necklace

 

But, you can also use that same peach blouse for a work outfit.

Related imageImage result for black pencil skirtImage result for gray womens blazerImage result for black pumpsImage result for long pearl necklace

 

So you can see, that peach top can be used in drastically different outfits and settings. This is not a new concept, for sure. However, the exciting thing about a capsule wardrobe is that you want every piece of clothing you own to be versatile in this way! The goal is to have pants, slacks, skirts, dresses, tops, and sweaters/jackets that can all mix and match interchangeably with each other.

3. Purchase any items of clothing you might need to tie your wardrobe together. You may find that you have a lot of tops that go with your jeans and slacks, but no cardigans or jackets to complete the outfit. In that case, you would need to invest in a couple of quality jackets or sweaters to round out your wardrobe. Or, you may find that you only really have 1-2 pairs of shoes that match all your outfits. If this is true, then it’s a good idea to check out some deals at Payless Shoe Source or Walmart, and find some cute shoes for a good price. Another category you might need to bulk up is jewelry. Choosing 2-3 good quality necklaces, in colors that match your outfits, is a great investment.

Before you purchase these items, look at the clothes hanging in your closet. Do you see any prevailing color themes? Are most of your tops purple, red, blue, or another color? Do you tend to stick with neutrals? What color schemes would you like to create with your wardrobe? Keep those colors in mind as you purchase your new pieces.

Keep in mind, too, which colors work well together. A good rule of thumb is to have one dominant color in each outfit–a color that really “pops.” An example of this would be red, purple, pink, or blue. Your other colors could be neutral–tan, black, off-white, white, or denim. One thing that’s very popular right now is to use red as an accent color in your outfit. But red only works well with a few colors. Examples include red and blue, red and black, red and brown, or red and white. However, it’s never a good idea to mix red and purple, red and pink, or other colors that are very dominant! They generally don’t go well together in the same outfit. If you’re unsure how to mix and match colors, do some research on it. There are endless resources to be found online. Educate yourself a little bit before you go shopping for your new clothes. (Another thing to remember is that you don’t have to spend boatloads of money to achieve a capsule wardrobe. The whole purpose of the idea is to have just a handful of pieces that all work well together. So you don’t have to run out and buy 10 new tops and 8 new jackets. One or two jackets, and one or two new tops–this will work even better.)

Your essential pieces will be determined by your work and personal life. I do not work in the corporate sphere, so you won’t find a single blazer or pencil skirt in my closet! However, for other women who need those articles of clothing, it’s good to have 2-3 of each. Think about the outfits you’ll need to wear to work, on a night out, when hanging out with friends, and when running errands. That should give you an idea of the essential clothing you need.

Let me give you an example from my closet. Here are the clothes I currently have:

  • 10-12 dressy tops, all of which are different variations of blue, pink, brown, black, or red
  • 1-2 pairs of jeans
  • 1-2 pairs of black slacks
  • 5-6 cardigans or jackets, all neutral colors (black, tan, denim)
  • Several T shirts, sweats, and shorts for around the house
  • 5-6 maxi dresses in colors of blue, black, green, and red

All my tops can be worn with all my pants. All my sweaters match pretty much every outfit. This is the idea you’re going for.

4. Remember to accessorize! The key to sprucing up a capsule wardrobe is accessories. This includes jewelry, shoes, and handbags.

For shoes, I am a huge fan of ballet flats and flip flops. Here are the shoes I wear almost everywhere:

Image result for red flatsImage result for leopard skin flatsImage result for floral flatsImage result for white womens sandals hempImage result for black flip flops with thick sole

I’m also a long necklace kind of gal. Here are the types of necklaces I have:

Image result for chunky off white necklaceImage result for long red necklaceRelated imageImage result for long turquoise necklaceImage result for long necklace with black tassel

 

All these necklaces and shoes match several of the outfits in my closet. And my jackets/sweaters, shoes, and necklaces all match each other, as well. So here is an example of an outfit I regularly wear:

Image result for dark pink topImage result for womens jeansImage result for floral flatsImage result for black cardigan

 

But I can also use my pink accents as a pop color with a black dress:

Image result for black casual maxi dressImage result for denim jacketImage result for floral flatsRelated image

Here are some other outfit examples, where I’m using the same red and tan accessories in different ways:

Image result for blue leopard print topImage result for tan cardiganImage result for womens black pantsImage result for long red necklaceImage result for red flats

 

 

Image result for blue casual maxi dressImage result for tan cardiganImage result for long red necklaceImage result for red flats

Hopefully that gives you a general idea of how a capsule wardrobe works. You can choose a handful of tops, bottoms, jackets/sweaters, and accessories, and then mix and match as many outfits as you want! You can always find something to wear, and it requires much less upkeep.

What tips would you share for keeping our closets manageable? What has worked for you? Please share in the comments below!

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Honesty: The Hardest Thing To Give

 

Deeper Things Series–Week #1

Honesty

 

Today’s post is about something that is simple to understand, but hard to give. And that is honesty.

When I started this blog, my desire was to share ideas and tips about how to live a simpler life. Helping others and creating a lively, productive community are two of the most important things we can do in life.

That is still my desire–to provide useful solutions for everyday problems. To help with the little things that need tweaking, or just flat-out drive us crazy! (You know what I’m talking about–your living room is never clutter-free, or your kids’ rooms are always disaster zones.) Simplifying our lives can improve those little things.

But I have another goal that I want to achieve with my writing. It helps with the simplifying process; it is a necessary part of it. But this goal also stands on its own, and flows into every aspect of my life. It is more important than any other reason I have for writing.

That goal is honesty. I seek to be honest with myself, and help you to be honest with yourself too.

Honesty is difficult to achieve. It’s like an onion–lots of layers. Once you think you’ve achieved it, you peel back another part of yourself and discover that you have to start all over again.

Honesty Is Just Telling The Truth–Right?

We equate honesty to telling the truth. Or, in another way of speaking, honesty is not telling a lie. But there’s so much more to it than the absence of a blatant falsehood. To be truly honest, I have to ask myself, “Am I comfortable with who I am when I do (fill in the blank)?” In other words, in any given situation, is my approach the right thing to do? 

Honesty is the ability to face yourself, even your ugly side, and see it for what it is. And honesty is also the ability to tell yourself, “I am wrong. I need to change.”

With my kids: do I tell them the truth when I fail? Or do I gloss it over, and pretend that I am an all-knowing authority figure, never to be questioned? Honesty.

With my spouse: do I find ways to share with him when I am hurt? Do I find a constructive, direct way to tell him when I am angry? Or do I bottle, and bottle, and bottle, until I’m lost in resentment and can’t see what I ever liked about him? Which approach is more truthful–and will I choose the better path? Honesty.

With my work ethic: do I look for ways to get out of doing my job? For me, this is most difficult around the house. I do. Not. Like. Cleaning. I have to take a hard look at myself and say, “Am I really too busy to do that today? Or am I making an excuse because it makes me cringe to do that?” Am I being truthful about what I can accomplish that day? Honesty.

Being Real

I love the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. The thrust of the story is value. Is it more valuable to be shiny, and attractive, and new–impressive on the outside? Or is it more worthwhile to have integrity–to be real on the inside?

When I was a little kid, I never knew how to fake it. I didn’t understand why some kids would act a certain way with one set of people, then act differently with another set. Polite to your face, then rude behind your back. I saw a lot of people putting on plastic faces–or maybe just conforming to social norms. I could never tell the difference. And maybe, sometimes there is no difference. Movies, media, and our peers tell us to act certain ways so we can fit in. We learn the ropes so we can be successful and have friends. We pretend to feel certain ways so as not to betray who we truly are.

Sometimes you need to put on your game face, this much is true. In the most important interview of your career, you want to exude success and confidence. That’s not dishonesty, per se; that’s courage. And there’s certainly no need to share every fear, hope, and secret with every person you meet! A certain amount of reserve is a good thing.

But, here’s the problem.

When we act like everything is fine and we’re in control all the time, all we’re really doing is wearing a mask. Nobody is in always in control. Nobody gets it right 100% of the time. We’re not being honest with ourselves. And when we act this way, people don’t really know who we are. They don’t know what we struggle with, what aches and hurts we carry around with us, or our strengths. We create this barrier between ourselves and others; and they do the same with us. A lack of honesty is a hindrance to community, and to real relationships.

Why Is It So Hard?

Being honest is really, really hard. The reason we lack honesty, I feel, is twofold. First, we’re held back by a sense of pride. We don’t want to admit it to ourselves when we mess up. When you are honest about your flaws, it is very humbling. But that humility, and that transparency, they help you grow.

Second, we fear judgment from others. And it is true–being honest can incur judgmental reactions from other people. But when we truly stop to think about it, isn’t that judgment misplaced? Don’t those people also have their own flaws to deal with?

In the end, there’s nothing really to fear.

It is difficult. It feels threatening. But seeing yourself for who you really are–it is worth the pain and sweat it takes to get there. And you can never, ever grow to your full potential, if you can’t see what your flaws are.

I like how Billy Joel put it: “Honesty is such a lonely word.” It’s hard to find a truly honest person. It is rare to meet someone who is really in touch with who they are and what they’ve done. And is actively working to change it.

Today, and for the rest of my life, I want to be that person. I want honesty to be something that characterizes who I am. I want to be real. 

And this is what I want for you, too. Let’s choose to be real. Real with our kids. Real with our husbands and wives. Real with the people who intimidate us. Just be the same person, wherever you go. Be who you are, and work on your flaws. And strive to be a better person today than you were yesterday.

Let’s do it together.

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6 Benefits Of A Smaller Home

We all know that the cost of living is on the rise. In certain places, housing costs have skyrocketed! Today, more and more people are re-thinking their expectations, and seeing what size of homes they can truly afford.

Several decades ago, a large family living in a small house was simply the norm. People made it work. I have heard stories from elderly friends about the size of their family, versus the size of their house when they were growing up. One gentleman told me that his family lived in a 1,000 square foot home with 8 people in it. The kids shared beds, spent a lot of time outside, and were all very happy.

In suburban life, this is just not the case, generally. But it does make you stop and think for a moment. If families like his could be happy with less room, so can we.

The incredible thing about buying or renting a smaller home is that it is so much less expensive. Here are 6 benefits to living in a smaller house.

  1. Your heating/cooling bill is lower. A small, well-insulated house can save you hundreds of dollars per month on AC and heat. Especially if you live in a colder state, the heating bill can become exorbitant. Trying to keep a 3,000 square foot house warm is much more expensive than heating a 1,000 square foot home. Conversely, in a warmer state like ours, the summer cooling bill can get pretty steep. But in our small home, we can shave off a great portion of that expense each month.
  2. The financial risk is lower. Taking on a significant amount of debt is always a risk. You are planning on the fact that your finances and job situation will not change. But what if they do? Many families experience layoffs, job loss, foreclosures, and bankruptcy–more than we’d like to admit. The truth is, life continually changes, and so will your finances. If you create less risk for yourself by taking on a smaller amount of debt, you can have greater peace of mind. If something should happen to your family, a $600/month mortgage is more manageable than a $1,600/month mortgage. Which naturally leads into my next point…
  3. Your mortgage/rent is lower. This a no-brainer! It’s always a good idea to choose a low mortgage over a higher one. We get tempted by large houses with gorgeous countertops; but think about this. You’ll be paying for those countertops in the form of a huge monthly bill, for years! (Or maybe it’s a workout room, extra office, fireplace…whatever exciting detail catches your eye.) Saying yes to a lower monthly bill is, almost without exception, the better choice.
  4. Less house to clean. I’m not going to lie–this is a BIG benefit in my opinion! I don’t want to spend great amounts of time cleaning my home. Think of all the things you could use that time for: playing with your kids, going to see a movie, having a romantic date with your spouse, having friends over for dinner or a game night, or just resting. A smaller space means less housework for you.
  5. It’s easier to sell. If at some point you need to relocate, selling a smaller, more affordable house is much easier than selling a large house. The market is just naturally wider, because more people can afford to buy your home. There will likely be less fear for you, and less time spent in limbo waiting for an offer.
  6. Maybe best of all…it brings your family closer together. In a larger house, everyone can sprawl out. Teenagers can spend the evening in their rooms on social media; dad can watch the game downstairs; mom can chat with a friend upstairs, or work on a new recipe. While there’s nothing wrong with needing some alone time, eventually that solitude can become isolation. Parents can start to feel that they have no idea what’s going on in their kids’ lives. Kids may start to feel disconnected from the family. In a smaller home, isolation is all but impossible! In our home, we have one TV in the living room, and that is where everyone congregates. If my son and husband want to chase each other around and play, they run through the bedroom, the living room, and the kitchen, and I can hear and see everything they’re doing. I love the closeness of a little house. We’ve made so many wonderful memories in these small rooms, and we are almost always together. When someone does need some space, they can hang out in their room. But most of the time, we just prefer to be together. Those shared experience are more better than gold.

There are definitely some benefits to a larger home. And sometimes, your family grows, and you just can’t fit any more than two kids to a room. You have to upgrade to something bigger. But if you can make it work in a smaller house, the benefits are wonderful.

What has been your experience with living in a small house, or otherwise? Are you thinking about downsizing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thank you for visiting The Simple Lifestyle! Please consider subscribing to my newsletter at the top of this page, and following me on Facebook. Have a wonderful day!

Getting Outside–5 Ways to De-stress

There’s nothing that can compare to filling your lungs full of fresh air. Getting outside is something that we don’t do enough as a society–myself included! This year, one of my goals has been to spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Here are some ideas for getting your family outside.

  1. Start a garden. It could be a flower garden, or vegetable garden. A vegetable garden has the added benefit of being easy on your budget. When you spend less money on vegetables, you can use those funds elsewhere! Regardless of what you grow, the point is to get out there and dig in the dirt. I love to spend a few mornings a week with my 3-year-old, watering our flowers and pulling weeds. We both feel so much more joyful and at peace afterwards.
  2. Get silly with your kids. Let them spray you with the hose! Run through the sprinkler with them! Kick a ball around, play catch, or if you’re feeling creative, run a relay race or set up a scavenger hunt.
  3. Take up hiking. In Florida, we have so many state parks that I still haven’t visited all of them. You don’t have to live in a mountainous area to go hiking. Visit your local state park or national park, and take in the sights. The most interesting parks are the ones with unusual wildlife.
  4. Get involved in city league sports. Baseball isn’t just for kids! Depending on your stage in life, signing up for city league sports may or may not work for you. But there are a lot of sports available, generally–basketball, baseball, and others. It’d be a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the outdoors.
  5. Spend more time at the park. Your kids will love this one! Even if you just relax on a bench and soak up some sunshine, the experience is beneficial to you as well. Find a local park near your house that can become “your park.” Going to the same one several times a month for years can create powerful memories for you as a family. Plus, it costs absolutely nothing to enjoy!

These are only a few ways to enjoy the outdoors, and step away from the stress of daily life. What are some of your favorite ways to get outside and play?

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I’m Bored! 20 Screen-Free Activities for Kids

“I’m bored!” This is a complaint that every parent hears over…and over…and over! My mom used to respond to this by saying, “Do you need me to find you something to do? Because there’s a lot of cleaning to catch up on around here.” It was miraculous how quickly we’d find a way to occupy ourselves!

One of the things my generation struggles with is the question of how much we should entertain our kids. We don’t want to be absent in their lives–we want to take out time to play with them. However, we also don’t want to coddle them. A big part of that is deciding if we should initiate play with them, or if they should play independently.

This varies by age, of course. Children three years old and younger will need some help finding things to do. But as our children grow, they can be expected to play on their own more often.

Ideas For Occupying Our Kids

Kids can be so creative, when given the chance. They don’t need new toys just because they’re currently bored with their collection. Here are some ideas for kids to keep busy. These are frugal, and use supplies that you probably have at home. The ideas are also screen-free…no technology involved here.  They can be done as independent play, depending on the age of your child. And the best part, in my mind, is that you don’t have to do a lot of prep work. Forget about being Pinterest worthy! These are just plain old activities to keep your kids’ lives happy and simple. (Keep in mind, this list is mainly for children 3 and up.)

  1. Build a fort out of blankets and furniture
  2. Do some coloring or painting
  3. Act out a story with stuffed animals (my son loves to pretend his bear is driving to the store, gets a flat tire, has to go to the car shop, etc. Whatever their interest is, they will incorporate that into their pretend play!)
  4. Do puzzles
  5. Read, or look through books
  6. Play with the hose or sprinkler on a hot day
  7. Make a sticker page (a paper covered with car stickers, a garden sticker page, etc.)
  8.  Grab some sidewalk chalk and go crazy on the driveway
  9. Kick a ball around the yard with a brother or sister
  10. Make some pretend food with play dough, “cook” it in a frying pan, and serve it for “dinner”
  11. Take an old blanket, some snacks, and books into the backyard, and have a picnic
  12. Dig in a sandlot in the backyard
  13. Play with the neighbor kids
  14. Have a play date with a friend
  15. Go to the library and get some new books
  16. Draw a hopscotch board with chalk on the sidewalk, and play
  17. Shoot some hoops
  18. Build a tower (or a city!) with blocks or legos
  19. Start a rock collection or bug collection–use your own backyard
  20. Water or weed the garden (it’s amazing how much kids love getting down in the dirt! Just make sure they’re old enough to tell the weeds from the flowers.)

There is so much for kids to do right at home, without a screen and without their parents’ entertainment. I hope these ideas are helpful to you, especially with the summer months coming upon us so quickly. What are your kids’ favorite activities? Please comment below!

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4 Ideas For Using Exercise As Self-Care

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It’s a known fact–exercise improves your mood, your physique, and your quality of life. And some people love to work out. But if you’re like me, making yourself exercise can be as pleasant as a root canal!

I don’t generally enjoy working out. But I will say that I’m a much happier person when I’m physically active. Here are 4 easy ways you can take care of yourself through exercise.

1. Take a brief walk in the morning. Before your day truly begins, take a quick 10-20 minute walk outside. The fresh air rejuvenates your spirit, and the sunshine is good for your mood too! If you have a large yard and don’t feel like venturing out into the world yet, you could do a few laps around your backyard. I do this with my son a few mornings a week, and we both have better attitudes all day because of it! Otherwise, you could take a walk around the neighborhood. Getting outside and taking in the fresh air will make you feel like a brand new person.

2. Try a morning stretch routine. When I was growing up, every morning around 6 a.m. my dad could be found in the kitchen doing his morning stretches. I decided years later to take on his habit, and it was wonderful! You can keep it simple: neck rolls, stretch your arms, bend from side to side, and touch your toes. Or, maybe you’re a fan of yoga, and there’s a brief routine you like to go through each morning. Both of these are great ways to get your blood pumping and improve your mood.

3. Take up an activity or sport that you enjoy. I love my stationary bike. It’s quiet, so I can use it during my son’s nap if I need to. Or I can hop on while we’re watching TV in the evening. In my stage of life with raising little kids, the simplicity of the stationary bike is fantastic. I use a bike similar to this one.

Taking up something like tennis or community softball is not really in the cards for me right now. But when the kids are older, that might be a great fit. Whatever your interest is, find a way to pursue it! Maybe it’s as simple as keeping your soccer skills fresh by practicing with your school-age child. Whatever activity you enjoy, try to engage in it 2-3 times a week. You’ll feel a huge difference overall!

4. Grab a buddy. Working out is so much more fun when you have some company to do it with! For me, biking while my husband and son play games nearby is more enjoyable than working out by myself. If you want someone to participate in the activity with you, you can grab a walking buddy, or do some exercise videos with a friend. Other ideas would be to join a class at a gym. There are all kinds of options out there now–zumba, yoga, kickboxing, you name it. Besides the workout being more enjoyable with someone else, it also provides accountability. You are less likely to cancel on someone else than on yourself.

However you choose to get moving, try to start today! I know it can be a struggle to maintain a consistent routine, especially with everything life throws your way. But if you’re like me, you are a much happier person when you take care of yourself physically. Try one of these easy ways to incorporate exercise in your day!

What are some of your favorite ways to get the blood pumping? Comment below and join the discussion!

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10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We all have a running to-do list in our heads. Paperwork to complete, appointments to make, jobs to do around the house, projects for work, and certainly loved ones to take care of. Life gets busy. Before we know it, our own well-being is at the bottom of the list.

But if we never take time to recharge, we soon find that we’re frazzled, burned out, and ineffective. There are times in life when you just don’t have much time to take care of yourself. However, as much as we can, it’s important to try to make time for it. Self-care does not only benefit you; it benefits your whole family.

In most seasons of our lives, there are friends and family who are willing to pitch in and help if we ask. This month, make it a goal to ask your husband, parents, or a friend to watch your kids for a couple of hours. (Or, if no one is available to help that long, even 20 minutes can make a difference in how you feel!) Then choose one of these ideas (or any that you choose!) to give yourself some peace and rest.

1. Run a bath. We’ve all heard that bath salts, Epsom salts, and essential oils are great relaxers. Try this out for yourself! Light a candle, play some relaxing music, and take as much time as you want to recharge.

2. Take a nap. We underestimate the importance of rest. Even a 20-minute nap can help you feel rejuvenated! Even if you’re not sleepy, you can just lie down and close your eyes for 10-15 minutes. Relax your muscles, and try to think about nothing at all. When I’m stressed, this helps me calm down instantly.

3. Get some exercise. Find an activity or sport you enjoy, and make time a couple days a week to practice it. Whether it’s walking, swimming, running, tennis, basketball, or cycling, a little bit of movement can change your whole outlook on life.

4. Spend time with a friend. Sometimes we just need some good laughs! Get together with a friend for a coffee date, girls’ night, park day, or play date. If you have shared interests, let that be your excuse to get together!

5. Read a good book. I am a bookworm, so I may be biased here…but I feel that there are few things more restful than getting lost in a great book. Find out what topics you’re interested in (historical fiction, sci fi, biographies, DIY guides–whatever you like!) and check out a new book at the library.

6. Take up journaling. Keeping a journal has been one of the most cathartic experiences for me. When you have a space to explore your thoughts, and the chance to read them on paper, you can solve problems faster.

7. Listen to some relaxing music. Some of my favorites include the Civil Wars, the Piano Guys, Tingstad and Rumbel, and other artists that have a chill, laid back sound.

8. Send a letter or care package to a loved one. Doing something for somebody else can be very therapeutic! I love picturing their reaction when they receive the package or note. It always brightens my day to send some fun mail.

9. Try something new. Take up a new hobby. It could be learning an instrument, experimenting with art, writing stories, hiking, checking out a new gym–anything that sparks your interest.

10. Get in touch with your spiritual side. Take some time to think about what really matters to you. Consider what your mission statement is for your life. Look at the direction you are taking–does it line up with your core values? Is there something more you could be doing to add more richness and depth to your life?

There are many other self-care activities you can try, but this is a smattering of them to help you get started. Even just taking a 15-minute break during your kids’ nap or school day can refresh your soul. Spend some time doing something you  enjoy. You’ll have a renewed sense of your own identity, and your family will benefit from your peaceful, happy outlook.

What are some things you like to do to recharge?

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How Minimalism Can Save You Money

One of the benefits to adopting a minimalist lifestyle is that it’s easy on your budget! We are all looking for ways to cut costs these days. Here are a few ways you can save money by living a more simplistic life.

  • Drive the same car until it wears out. Instead of upgrading to a newer car for the aesthetic appeal, decide to use what you have. You can save thousands of dollars if you take this approach with your vehicle.
  • Use the clothes you already have in your closet. Retail therapy can be fun for you…but not for your wallet! Try sorting through old clothes, and see if you can create new outfits from what you’ve got at home.
  • Fewer toys for your kids means more money in savings. Let’s face it–in reality, kids only need a few toys, the great outdoors, and their imagination to be happy. If you keep their toys to a minimum, you may find that they whip up creative ways to make their own fun!
  • Less keeping up with the Joneses.  Minimalism is an unusual way to live. When you take on this philosophy, you have to accept that other people may not share your values. It begins to matter less and less what other people think about your choices. And with that comes less comparison to other people. When you stop caring about the next iPhone upgrade, you’ll know that the comparison game doesn’t matter to you anymore. And that puts money back into your pocket.
  • If you live in a smaller home, your bills are much lower. Minimalism focuses on using only what you need. When you put this idea into practice by purchasing a smaller home, you reap great benefits! A smaller mortgage and lower utilities will make you a happy camper. Talk about peace of mind!

    There are many other financial benefits to living a simplistic life. Sometimes you won’t realize all of those benefits until you’re actually living through them! What perks do you experience when you choose to live life simply?

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