Ask Yourself…

I’ve been creeping away to Barnes and Noble for hours at a time to read a new book that I’m obsessed with ReThink: The Way You Live by Amanda Talbot. Yesterday I finally finished it.

So eye opening. Talbot questioned design and made it real, tangible and comforting. I highly recommend the book. I especially appreciated her methods for creating a home specific and personalized – something I’ve gotten away from:

We love a good netflix binge, but we hate our sofa.
We love to have outdoor get-togethers but our porch and yard are a disorganized mess.
We love a good warm bath, but the tub is almost always dirty.

Why am I not making our home a place that accurately reflects our family’s rhythms?

A couple questions to get you thinking…

Where do you congregate in your home? Where do you spend most of your time? When I asked myself this question I realized that David and I have a routine, coffee, work, dinner, couch, bed…So why not make these rituals all the more precious and beautiful?

What do you love? We love coffee and food. We love full plates and a kitchen full of people. We love board games and movie night. Our home needs to reflect these things.

Who lives here? David and I are laborers, I own a cleaning business and he has just recently started his own carpentry and landscaping company – we work hard with our bodies, feet and muscles. When we come home we need rest. Our home needs to reflect that.

Being business owners we also have a lot of office-details to handle every day, meaning we need a place to organize, schedule and plan. Our home needs to reflect that.

Easy simple clean up. Low maintenance. We’ve already been working all day, we don’t want to come home to more cleaning and mowing. Our home needs to reflect that.

We desire a life that is natural, healthy. Clean. Not smelling of the garbage can and a banana peel that was left out over night. Instead, a place of refresh. Our home needs to reflect that.

We need to be inspired daily  – to work harder, be better and to strengthen our businesses and ourselves. Our home needs to reflect that.

We need a time of calming, a place to disconnect and tune out. Our home needs to reflect that.

Talbot encourages her readers to design a space to work with the family’s rituals, rhythms and routines. What are your rituals? What is the rhythm that you follow every day without thought? I’d like to encourage you to make your space (a bedroom, an apartment, a house) reflect you and your needs – not the latest greatest trends. How can you make your home a precious space for your family this week?

Meaningful.

12224518_999926390027468_1319818625_nThe word “meaningful” has been tottering around in my head for the past couple weeks. (tottering?)

Sometimes words and their meanings just stick and won’t go away until I’ve properly dwelled on them. Pondering and dwelling and constantly thinking about stuff is basically my life. Some might call me an introvert, but I decided that I actually am not a big fan of labels. So I’m decidedly a: “whatever the heck I want to be at the moment.”

Back to that word: Meaningful.

The term is deeply personal. But incredibly important.

Living a meaningful life means you live your life with intentionality and purpose. Living on purpose. If you read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey you’ll know it by the term, living pro-actively instead of re-actively.

A huge desire of my heart is authenticity. And that takes true effort. A proactive lifestyle means you aren’t constantly putting out fires and reacting to problems. Instead choosing proactivity, meaningfulness and authenticity means that you are ready for the curveballs and the changes, you’ve prepped your heart and life to get the most learning and joy out of everything you can.

Life I said, a meaningful life is a personal thing. I can’t tell you what it looks like for everyone. But to give you an idea for yourself, here’s what mine looks like:

Time set apart to spend with Jesus every day. A focused prayer life and prayer journal. A decision to be a blessing. And a commitment to go and do where the Lord leads.

And organized priority list. The other day I made a chart of the things that are important to me and the main things that I need to focus on right now. For whatever reason, some things that I was doing didn’t make the list. Maybe they weren’t important enough. Maybe they didn’t put me in the right mindset. Maybe I was spending to much time on them instead of the things I deemed more important. Whatever the reason, away they went. Seeing those decisions on paper solidified them, even if just for this season.

Once I have my priorities, let everything go. I tend to be an easily stressed out person. Definitely not something I’m proud of. However, I’ve accepted this about myself and decided that a big part of my life needs to be letting go. Take a breath. Don’t worry about it. This keeps me focused on the here and now, instead of worrying about tomorrow’s problems. It’s a constant practice for me, but it definitely helps me create that meaningfulness in my days.

Letting go of those worries allows me to focus on the little moments. What is life without little moments?! Seriously. I don’t know. Need an idea of what I’m talking about? Read these posts on 10 Sweet Little Moments and don’t tell me that this mentality wouldn’t help a person live more fully. I have made lists of these moments since I was 12 years old. Even now, I could mindlessly be typing on my computer or I could get in tune with my senses and feel the soft sheets under my toes, hear my essential oil diffuser bubbling, see the soft sunshine come through my window and smell the coffee warm in my cup. For me, it’s these moments that give my day beauty.

Visualize the person you want to be and go be it. I like the way that The Avett Brothers said it in their song Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise, “Decide what to be and go be it.” This visualization gives you a goal to strive for, it helps with decision making because you know what you want the end result to be. (This is definitely subject to change as the Lord leads.) For me, apart from the spiritual aspect (which is constantly changing and evolving), I want to be a healthy, artistic, creative mountain-hippie woman. || Someone who savors good food, good music, good health and the beautiful outdoors. Someone who brings sunshine and flowers into her home. Someone who takes the time to make homemade Christmas presents and yogurt in the crock pot. Someone who doesn’t have a lot of “stuff” taking up space, but revels in the margins. Someone who cares about the earth and the people in it, making sustainable decisions for her home and life. Someone who loves beauty, but doesn’t need perfection to enjoy life. Someone who dresses well, but doesn’t obsess about her appearance. Someone who cooks delicious healthy meals, but doesn’t freak out if she burns the quinoa. Someone who sits quietly on the mountain top to look up at the sky and feel God. || Now every decision I make today should point to this woman I want to be. Should I buy that $3 glitter phone case made in China? Probably not. A. glitter. yuck. B. doesn’t sound like a fair-trade option. who was hurt so I could buy a cheap item? C. Maybe I shouldn’t even have an iPhone, it sure does take up a lot of mind space. (I told you, I think a lot.) Having that vision in my mind helps me to make decisions that fit the desires of my heart.

Don’t be afraid to be “Weird”. Maybe you’re the only person you know without a facebook. Maybe you feel guilty for eating meat but everyone calls you crazy. Maybe you don’t want to go to college, but instead want to spend the next 4 years serving as an international missionary. Maybe you’ve researched GMO and now can’t let another non-organic vegetable touch your lips. Let me tell you a little secret, there are some really weird people out there who make decisions for their lives based on the convictions in their heart instead of what everyone around them is saying and doing. And I have mad respect for those people. Add that to my “visualization”! Be a person that lives with conviction.

I fail at these practices daily. I have a conviction to live sustainably and naturally, but I still drink hot chocolate from a non-recyclable carton and have been seen buying $3 shirts from H&M. Even though I fall short from the person I’ve decided to be, I still am closer to her today than I was yesterday because I have her in the front of my mind. Having that vision makes me google “healthy natural hot chocolate recipes” (even if I don’t end up making them) and keeps me searching thrift stores for second-hand shirts that aren’t screwing up the economic system. One step at a time, guys. Decide what to be, and go be it. Be a person that lives with conviction. Go out and live your most meaningful life. 

Questions.

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God’s Word can influence so many questions in our hearts and souls. I know that’s how it is for me. The constant “How does this apply to my life?” rings in my ears every time I open up the Word. We read about Paul and the apostles – they lived radically for Christ. Giving everything. 100% aspirational, we all want to be like them. But we still have to pay rent, right? How does that work with working a daily job that isn’t quite “ministry based”? We read about being humble and living simply, but what about starting a business? How does “self promotion” work in all this? How much is “trust” vs. “take action”? Where’s the balance for me?

Sometimes we think that questions mean that we don’t have faith or that we doubt God. Don’t believe that. Your questions are proof that God created us to seek and desire Him. He called us in His Word to actively seek to know Him more through testing and discernment: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Wait – did that say “test”? Heavens! We’re not allowed to test GOD, RIGHT?!
Guess what guys. God is way bigger then us. Please stop creating Him in OUR image and understand that He’s not that grandpa figure that might get mad if you say the wrong thing. He’s not going to get “offended” if we use the wrong words. Not that we shouldn’t strive to honor and respect God (He more than deserves it) but I promise you, God is bigger than any mistake we can make.  The sooner you believe that the sooner you’ll stop having faith in the wimpy God of your imagination and you’ll put your faith in our mighty God, the Alpha and Omega. GUYS, He’s the freaking beginning and the end. Do you really think someone with that much of a big picture is really going to freak out and punish you because you’re an idiot human? *Spoiler, he knows your an idiot human, he expects it, and he loves you anyway*

Your questions are proof that you are not satisfied to know God on a shallow level. You want to know Him more + more.
You want to live 100% for Him and your heart won’t rest until you’ve found His purpose for your life.

Get rid of the guilt. Don’t settle for the mediocre. Delve into the Word of God, questions on hand, seeking His answers. The Bible is rich. It’s living. And it’s amazing Your life isn’t written clearly in the black and white ink, but it is written on the heart of God. And the more you seek HIM, the clearer your path will be. 

Not sure where to start?

– Seek His Word DAILY. This doesn’t mean a sweet lil’ devotional book glanced over in the 5 minutes before you rush out the door. This is Bible Time! Pick a book of the Bible (I would suggest one of Paul’s letters or a gospel book. But if you feel called to read Leviticus you go for it, I’m sure God will speak), and search a chapter every day. Read it at least 3 times, underline + highlight what strikes you, write in the margins, write your insights in your journal. EAT THE WORDS (metaphorically speaking)! Chew on them. Digest them. Saturate your body, heart + soul with them. Sound dramatic? It is. And it’s wonderful. BIG things happen in the life of a Christian daily seeking God’s Word. Because like I said, that book is beyond rich.

– Pray. I could write an entire post just on prayer because it is AMAZING. But for now I will just say this, pray about absolutely everything. And write it down to reference later, to see what God has done. Pray whether you “feel” like it or not. Pray even if it feels like you’re talking to air (you’re not). Be honest with God, because he knows every depth of your heart already. If you’re mad at Him, tell him, ask forgiveness and ask for help. If you think He’s awesome, tell Him. If you’re questioning His existence – ask Him to make Himself real to you today. Pray lame stuff that you’re embarrassed about (he already knows about it anyway).

I have to tell ya’ll a secret thing I prayed (that I’m actually kind of embarrassed about, but whatever, I’ll deal.) – I asked God to make me prettier. No, no, before you get the idea that I’m all holy asking for a “pretty heart”, that’s not what it was. I wanted to be PHYSICALLY BEAUTIFUL, like a model, a real head-turner. I told Him that I was embarrassed to ask such a shallow thing. I told Him that I know it’s shallow and definitely not what I should be praying for. I’m not ugly, I’m incredibly healthy and I’m incredibly blessed. How could I ask to be prettier when there are people starving in Africa? But that was honest. That’s what I wanted. And I told God, if it’s not His plan to make me prettier then maybe make me feel prettier, or teach me how to not be so vain and selfish. Maybe a good lesson in humility was all I needed. But guys, I was honest. I’d been (ashamedly) dwelling on physical beauty for some time (read: my whole life) and GOD ALREADY KNEW THAT. HE KNEW MY STRUGGLE. Once I accepted that and asked His help e v e r y t h i n g changed. I prayed, wrote it down in my journal and forgot about it. Over the course of the next couple months, God has taught me about beauty. Not some neat “inner beauty” mantra that I read in a book. But He taught me His personalized-Elisa-version of beauty. He taught me to see His creation (myself) through HIS eyes. Then I started seeing other people through His eyes. Then my skin started clearing up and my eyes got brighter – why? Because I was relying on God (not stressing) and was happy with who I am in Him. He taught me that because I asked. It’s amazing what God can do.

Another lame prayer: I asked God for more clothes. (I’M VAIN AND I REALIZE IT. GOD AND I ARE WORKING ON IT) Within the course of 2 weeks I got like 8 bags full of name-brand hand me downs from some friends and family. A friend of mine asked God something similar, she asked a new wardrobe. She had received several bags of clothing that didn’t quite fit. God answered her prayer and said, “I’ve given you clothes.” And this woman, led by God, learned to hem and alter all those clothes to fit herself perfectly. Now she is skilled enough to hem and alter and sew clothes for others, blessing them and blessing God.

Husbands and Wives, guess what? Prayer works for you too. My sister taught me this one and it blows my mind every time. If I want my husband to do something or be a certain way, I try (and oftentimes fail) to not say a word to David about it. Instead, I ask God, “Please help David to do so+so. If that’s not Your will, please help my heart to be changed to accept it and forget about it.” GOD ANSWERS THAT PRAYER. Seriously. It’s mind blowing. I’ll turn around and David will be doing that thing I prayed for. OR I’ll realize, it doesn’t bother me anymore! GOD IS MORE THAN CAPABLE.

And guess what? He’s not like us. He doesn’t run out of time. He isn’t stressed. There’s no such thing as “wasting God’s time”.

So when you talk to God – be real. Talk to Him with your whole heart, soul and mind. If you use a swear word, I promise God really won’t care. If you don’t say the right words, I promise He’s big enough to deal. Gradually, the more you talk to God, the more He’ll teach you to honor and respect Him. He will teach you how to pray. And it will be a genuine REAL process. Not a fake formal prayer. Be honest with your questions and doubts, guys.

P.S. Sometimes God says “Wait.” “Not right now.” or “I am going to teach you something first.” It’s important to accept His answer, no matter what it is. If that’s hard for you, I understand. Pray for peace and patience.

A couple other ways I like to seek answers from God: 

– Fast from social media. That stuff gets in my head and stays there, fuzzing it up and distracting me. Taking a break allows me to give God all my attention, and to clear the clutter so I can more readily hear His voice.

– Journal. Write everything. Like I said above, I love writing my prayers to see how God answered them. Copy down your favorite verses. Break apart chapters of the Bible and turn them into list-form (that’s one of my favorite things to do). Write down your goals and dreams and aspirations and ask God what He wants you to do with those dreams. If writing isn’t your thing, try a drawing journal. Draw your heart.

– Take a break from secular music. Again another “mind clutterer”. You need to be led by the spirit here, but when I’m feeling far from God, I need a reminder of His presence and His love. Worship music is the perfect tool for that.

Your path is unique.

God’s plan for you is personal.

You won’t figure it out by reading my blog or talking to other people who seem to have it all together.

Seek God and His Word and I promise amazing things will happen in your life!

a guide to self care.

IMG_3568Self care.

Sounds so…selfish. Right? Especially for Christians as we are taught to sacrifice “self” and serve others.

Jesus is our inspiration and guide and even he took some time, spent with the Father, to recharge and fill up. And he is absolute perfection itself! So don’t you think we, as imperfect creatures, need to take the time to recharge?

++ If you’re one of those people that can serve + love + do life without burning out than CONGRATU-FREAKING-LATIONS. You’re ahead of the game so why don’t you just go ahead and advance to boardwalk. (excuse the sarcasm)

But for the rest of us, including myself, I get tired. I get worn. I get stressed. And I need to crawl into a little fox hole with God and R E C H A R G E.

To give you some ideas for yourself I’ve come up with a list of “10 Self-Care Tips” that I abide by. It’s a personal issue and everyone is different, so don’t feel like you have to fit in my version as an anxiety stricken introvert. My husband is an easy-going extrovert (bless him), so his list would look more like “Hang out with the guys. Buy a new cool toy. Watch my favorite show while cuddling with Elisa.” And that’s totally ok :)

10 Self Care Tips and Practices

by Elisa Cobb

  1. Spend time with Jesus. NUMERO UNO, guys. For me, this looks like cuddling up with my Bible, journal and a cup of coffee. Quiet time. Alone with Jesus.
  2. Go for a walk. Like I said above, I’m an anxious person (it’s not something I’m proud of). Going for walks helps calm me down and get my perspective straight. I like to put in earbuds and listen to inspiring music. Sometimes it’s worship, sometimes its Jonsi and sometimes it’s classical. Worship is the best, though. Nothing centers me more than a walk with worship music.
  3. Take a bath. Make this intentional, not just utilitarian. Use epsom salts, candle light, music, your favorite book.
  4. Sit alone with your back up against the wall and your legs crossed indian style. Stretch your back up the wall and take deep breaths. Close your eyes. Focus on Jesus. Focus on your blessings.
  5. Write or Draw or whatever-artistic-thing-you-do. I have a million journals filled with rambles and thoughts.
  6. Make a “nest” with pillows and blankets and cuddle up in it. Watch a show that makes you happy or read your favorite book.
  7. Give yourself guilt-free permission to say “No Thanks” to that volunteer request or invitation to a night-out. I promise you, IT’S OK. But know the difference between a good opportunity to stretch yourself, learn + grow versus an outing that is just one thing to many on your schedule.
  8. S T R E T C H. Do yoga. Move your body.
  9. EAT. Preferably something ultra healthy (scrambled eggs + sauteed veggies + potatoes, for me!) or even a piece of dark chocolate. This isn’t a chance for you to eat your feelings, this is an opportunity to nourish your body. Also make a cup of green tea for yourself, drink it slowly.
  10. Listen to your body, listen to the cry of your heart. I hear you all now, “The heart is deceitful…” And yes, it is. I agree, obviously. George MacDonald once said, “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” That soul is eternal, so take care of it. Confess when you need to. Bask in God’s presence when you need to. Be with people when you need to. Be alone when you need to. Be gentle with yourself.

 

How do you practice self care?

10 Tips: Green Cleaning on a Budget

I love cleaning green. There are so many harsh chemicals in cleaning products, and it’s a beautiful thing to clean naturally. Especially because that means saving money!

green cleaningI own a cleaning business, Polished Cleaning Services, and we put a HUGE emphasis on natural products. I’ve used both natural and chemical cleaners, and I find that when I stick to the natural stuff I’m a happier healthier creature. Chemical products give me a sore throat and a grumpy spirit. Chemical laden cleaners are also EXPENSIVE. So to me, natural products are a no-freaking-brainer.

There are a LOT of very specific cleaning recipes out there, and I’m here to tell you, it’s really not supposed to be that complicated. Natural cleaning products are truly a dream team, a triple threat of easy, cheap and natural. If you find a recipe that asks you to pull out your measuring spoons then say “See ya later” and re-read this post.

PRODUCTS:

1. White Vinegar. Guys, you can buy one gallon for $4 dollars at Wal-Mart. That’s right, 128 oz for 400 pennies. Pour it in a squirt bottle to clean surfaces, windows, toilets, bathrooms, walls and kitchens. Consider this your all-purpose spray.

– If you hate the smell (and I don’t blame you if you do), add a little bit of Meyers counter spray to your vinegar spray bottle. Honeysuckle is my favorite. Though Lavender is also heavenly. Oh and basil is amazing. Ok, they’re all great. You can get 16 oz in a spray bottle for $3.75. Or add lemon juice for it’s disinfectant properties.

– Pour a bit it in your washing machine as a fabric softener (without the Meyers, of course. I promise the smell will go away.)- Oh and one more thing, HERE is a list of things that you should NOT clean with vinegar

2. Baking Soda. A true queen of green cleaning/household/beauty. I’d love to tell you how I use this to make my own tooth paste but that’s a story for another article (also EXTREMELY EASY). Here’s how to use Baking Soda while cleaning your house: Ask yourself, “Do I need something abrasive to remove this scum/crud/mold?” If the answer is Yes — USE BAKING SODA. Typically one small box is under $1.00 so stock up!

– Sprinkle onto pet throw up/poop to dry it up for easy cleaning (nasty.)

– Use it in your washing machine (or see below where we make our own laundry detergent).

3. Hydrogen Peroxide. I have to tell ya’ll a secret. I was at our local “organic market” the other day searching for a bleach alternative. (I confess, my husband and I have been married almost 2 years and I finally bought my first bottle of clorox bleach.) Being the focused shopper that I am, looked on the back of this “chlorine free bleach” selling for $12.99 and realized that it was nothing more than watered down Hydrogen Peroxide. Guys. IT WAS NOTHING MORE THAN HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. CVS sells that stuff at $1.77 for 16 oz. Water that down and use it, baby! (I also use this to whiten my teeth…but that’s another story.)

4. Dr Bronner’s Castille Soap. I’ve seen this from $15-$20 a bottle – ouch. But, two things to remember: 1. It’s concentrated. So take one third of your bottle, mix it with equal or double parts of water and you’re golden. 2. It’s fair trade, organic and amazing.

– I put a squirt of Dr Bronner’s in the toilet, scrub it with a toilet brush and let it sit. Smells amazing. (Remind me to never again use “squirt” and “toilet” in the same sentence again.)

– Warm water + Dr Bronners to clean out the fridge, wipe down counters, clean floors. This is definitely another “all-purpose” option, HOWEVER, since it’s soap you need to be careful that it doesn’t leave a residue.

CONCEPTS

5. Buy natural hand soap (Meyers, Honest Co., Method) and water it down, 2-to-1. Sounds cheap and tacky but who cares? That stuff is expensive (though natural, which I appreciate) and I’m not here to flush $$ down the drain.

6. I have a story to tell you, I tried and tried to make my own laundry detergent. I bought the ingredients and tried a recipe and it wasn’t my fave (it used shredded Fels Naptha, and apparently I didn’t shred it enough so I had chunks of it in my laundry every time I put it away). I had some leftover stuff from those previous recipes (Washing Soda, Baking Soda, those yummy smelling Downy tablets that make your laundry smell like heaven, Borax…) but I didn’t have the correct ratios for the recipes on Pinterest. Being the crazy free spirit that I am, I dumped everything I had left in a pretty jar and used it up. Seriously – BEST EVER. And you know what was the best part? I didn’t stress and it STILL WORKED. And I have a landscaper for a husband, so the fact that the detergent worked on his muddy work-pants means that it’s a miracle. The moral of this story is, go to Pinterest for a concept and adapt it to your life with as little stress as possible. Next time I make detergent I’m just going to buy probably two boxes of baking soda, a box of washing soda, a box of borax and a container of those yummy smelling things (not natural, but I’ll make a sacrifice) and just mix them all together. No bigs, guys.

7. Make your own dryer sheets (See Pinterest), or do as I do and just don’t use them! I ran out of a purchased pack a couple weeks ago and really haven’t noticed a difference since I’ve not used them anymore. Zero waste and budget friendly is a total WIN in my book!

8. As we said above:
Vinegar + Water = All Purpose Spray.
Hydrogen Peroxide + Water = Bleach.
Dr. Bronners + Water = Yummy smelling clean.
Baking Soda + Water = Scrub

9. Buy a scrub brush. Elbow grease is cheaper than an ultra-intense chemical filled cleaner.

10. Re-use old rags. Say “Goodbye” to paper towels. (You can find cheap rags at thrift stores).

+++ So, in a nutshell – Don’t complicate things. Just make good, natural, simplifying decisions. I promise I am not some ultra-energized Susie Homemaker (only in my dreams) who makes everything from scratch and goes a mile a minute. I want to do more than just make cleaning products all day – and these are the tips that I use in my own home. I hope they work for you! +++

What tips and tricks for Green Cleaning do you use in your own home? I’d love to hear!

xo!

25 Ways to Create Margin and Enjoy a Full Life

Blog2Creating margin in your life is a beautiful thing. It gives you peace and mental clarity. In our day and age of materialism and technology, margin is nearly impossible to come by without a little help. Here are some of my favorite ways I create margin in my life, allowing me to more easily live fully and to be happy:

LIVING ROOM

Get rid of your TV/Cable/Netflix/Hulu. Just get rid of it because it’s waaaay to tempting to keep around. Instead of watching tv: read a book, glance at a magazine, write in your journal, TALK to a person face to face (imagine!), play a game (even if it’s solitaire), just sit and be. It’s amazing how much TV crowds your mental space. When was the last time you just sat and spent some time mentally processing? When was the last time you just sat around with a group of people and just “hung out”, without phones, TV and other devices? A couple weeks ago, our WiFi went out, WE WERE TOTALLY LOST. Isn’t that sad? But that wifi being out forced us to make memories – and it was awesome! Try it. Make it a lifestyle. (If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of the TV, then just schedule “NO TV” days/hours.)

– On that note, decrease time on your smart phone. Same reasons as above ^^ Seriously, I can’t tell you the last time I just sat and thought for more then just a minute. Give me a SECOND to be still and I’m pulling out my phone checking Instagram. There were days when that didn’t happen. People were alone with their thoughts, they had to figure out something to do with their time. My husband and I definitely struggle with this one, we were waiting in the car the other day for my brother to run into the bank, within 2 seconds we were both on our phones. Doing something important? NOPE. Just fiddling and piddling and wasting our precious time. So I put my phone down and said, “Hey, how are you?” MAGIC.

– Bring in plants. Take out clutter. I own my own cleaning/decluttering business, so I’ve seen a lot of houses. And there are many, many homemakers out there who live with piles of just STUFF everywhere. Stacks of papers that will “one day” be filed, stacks of memories that will “one day” be put into an album, empty cardboard boxes that will “one day” be needed to mail a random item, lone socks we keep because “one day” we’ll find the match, envelopes that “one day” we’ll open and deal with, broken things that will “one day” be fixed – GUYS. STOP. If you have had an item for a month and “one day” still hasn’t happened – GET RID OF IT. I know that sounds crazy, but thing of it as a cleanse. I promise you, it’ll be 100% ok if you eventually find the other half of that lone sock and realize that you’ve already thrown away the first one. That one-day-maybe matching sock set is not worth cluttering your mind and spirit. So be brutal, and stop stacking crud. Oh and plants add life to a space and clean the air, so stock up.

– I’d like to point out above that I said I own a “cleaning/decluttering” business, NOT a “cleaning/organizing” business. That’s because you should never own so much stuff that it needs hard core organizing. Get rid of those plastic tubs. Keep the stuff you need. Keep the stuff you use, get rid of the rest. I know we have all seen the organization bins covered with dust, your stuff beautifully organized but never ever used. Not to mention, by show of hands, who of us actually KEEPS that stuff organized?! In my house, it always gets messed up. And then it takes more mental space from me to clean it again etc. It’s a vicious cycle of my stuff having ownership over my time and mental space. Don’t fall prey! — KITCHEN: – Here’s a good rule of thumb, only things that apply to the kitchen belong in the kitchen. I’ve used this method with several of my clients, and it’s awesome. Many of us collect the crud in the kitchen. It’s a main space, seriously everyone loves the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean it’s a drop-off spot for mail, jackets, shoes, etc.

– On that note, and this applies for the whole house, give things a home. If you’re short on space then do two things: Figure out what the main mess is. Figure out a home. In my kitchen, for example, one of our main messes is shoes and jackets. We have a small home and the kitchen really is multi-tasking – so I definitely understand the struggle! Our carport door (and the main door that we use) opens into the kitchen so that’s exactly where we drop all of our “stuff”. I know that my husband and I aren’t quite adult enough to take our shoes all the way to the bedroom closet every time we come in the door, and I don’t think we will ever be adult enough to hang up our coats on an actual hanger. Simple solution: Basket for shoes, coat rack for jackets, sweaters and my purse. DONE. See how easy that is? Another struggle for us, my husband has a lot of work type stuff that he needs to gather up every morning and drop every night (keys, phone clip, pocket knife etc.) and those things started cluttering up the kitchen. Solution: We found a beautiful wooden bowl and every night he drops his items into the bowl. SO EASY GUYS. Do this trick for every element of your house. And if you can, make the solution: “Get rid of said item”. Otherwise, give it a home, preferably a basket or bowl, not a pile, and keep it clean. Blog1Use all the food in your fridge. Buy quality stuff and I promise that you won’t want it to go to waste. We have two grocery stores in my town: 1. a cheap, utilitarian store with shopping carts that are to big and glaring fluorescent lighting…and 2. a local, organic grocery store with Non-GMO and intentional practices. Obviously, item-for-item, the latter is much more expensive. But here’s what I noticed, when I buy things from the Utilitarian grocery I don’t appreciate what I have. I let things to go waste (heck it was only $1!) and I usually end up buying more then we can eat in a week. Not to mention, that crud food doesn’t make me feel anything. It’s the definition of “meh”, and I should probably mention that shopping at this store gives me high blood pressure from all the other customers and “rush rush” mentality. Scene 2, the other, more expensive grocer: Every item is like a piece of art (and priced like one too, sheesh), so I enjoy picking out my groceries. It smells nice. There are samples and smiling, healthy people. I choose everything with care, shop around the edges for the best prices and usually leave feeling inspired to cook and create. I can easily spend $50 at each store, but am more likely to use all of our groceries (and not let them go to waste!) if I buy the quality stuff that fills me with joy.

Blog8Declutter the cabinets. Select 10 cups, 10 mugs, 10 plates etc. that you use the most and send the rest to the thrift store. You don’t need 10 wooden spoons, you need one or two. You only need one can opener, one whisk and one sieve. If you don’t use a crock pot, send it out. Don’t eat popcorn? Why do you have a pop-corn maker taking up space in your life?

BATHROOM:

Get rid of beauty products that you don’t use. Get rid of empty bottles. Get rid of stuff you don’t like. JUST GET RID OF IT. I’m not asking you to use one product for everything on your whole body, all I’m saying is if you’re not going to use a product, it belongs in the trash can. Spent a lot of money on it? I’m sorry. Throw it out. Life is to short to hang on to a $12 bottle of gross smelling lotion.

Clear the counters. Now that you’ve decluttered all your beauty products you should be able to fit everything in a drawer or a basket. Lots of bottles and tubes and hairbrushes on the counter leads to dust in the bathroom, and that’s always a weird concept.

BEDROOM:

Two words: capsule wardrobe. I’ve written a LOT about this concept in the past, for your reference, but I need to warn you: capsule wardrobes wrecked my style. And over the past couple weeks I’ve realized that was a good thing. I am no longer even capable of walking into TJ Maxx or Ross and just grabbing a $5 shirt (oh and I’ve done a lot of research on fair trade clothing, so how can I buy a $5 shirt when there’s a child suffering for me to have such cheap prices? someone has to pay! But that’s a soap-box post for another day.) because I’m wondering “how does this fit into my wardrobe?” “what would I wear it with?” “does it fit me perfectly?” These are questions we should all be asking ourselves before we add something to our wardrobe, and creating a capsule has definitely helped me get there. I don’t use a strict capsule anymore, but I do live by a lot of the concepts. This keeps laundry from getting daunting. My husband and I each have four drawers and a small closet and we have more than enough clothes. I promise you will too.

Get rid of clothes you don’t love. Haven’t worn something in a year? Take it to the Goodwill. My husband did this and he ended up seriously having 5 shirts. But that was good, because now he can clearly see what he needs to add for a complete wardrobe, and now he can look in his closet and be happy knowing that whatever he picks he will love wearing. Blog5Repeat after me: My bedroom is not an office. Remember what we said earlier about the kitchen? Only things that apply to the bedroom belong in your bedroom. Lack of a specific office space? Ok, in that case I want you to go to a thrift store and buy a HUGE chest, or box or basket. Then, gather everything office-like that you’ve removed from your kitchen and bedroom and PUT IT IN THE BOX. Then put the box in your living room or somewhere convenient but out-of-the-way. Ideally, in a perfect minimalist world, you’d deal with all those things and find a home or create a perfect pinterest-y “office in an armoire” or something like that. But, if you do nothing else, put it in a box. Get it out of your line of sight, get it out of where it doesn’t belong. ESPECIALLY not on your nightstand or bedroom dresser.

Clear the surfaces. I find that baskets really help me with my mental clarity. If I have a ton of stuff on my nightstand that I can’t get rid of, I’ll just buy a pretty basket and put everything in there (extra points if it has a lid!). Is this perfectly minimalist? No. But the space is clear.

– No-Phone-Zone. Imagine a bedroom without the glare of a cell-phone light. Heavenly.

Keep as few furniture pieces as possible. Like I said above, my husband and I live with 4 drawers each and some closet space. I promise you, I promise you, that getting rid of extra furniture will feel better then keeping it all. I don’t know your specific life set-up, but most people really only need a bed, nightstands, dresser, dirty clothes hamper and a closet. Anything more is just taking up mental space.

Dirty clothes go in a hamper, not in a pile. And better yet – get a cute wicker hamper, not a plastic one. Why not make your laundry cute?

– And while you’re at it, make your bed every morning.

OFFICE/FINANCES/SCHEDULING

Move to a paperless system. Not only will this decrease the paper stacked up around the house, it’s also an awesome green option.

Get out of debt. Only use money that you actually have. Just imagine the mental clarity of a debt free life! It’s tough, but I promise that YOU CAN DO IT!

Learn how to say “No.” (And learn when to say “yes”) The “No’s” in your life are what give you boundaries. People are always going to need volunteers and favors – but you can say no. Let me repeat – YOU CAN SAY NO. Figure out your priorities, and if a volunteer opportunity inhibits what you’ve already deemed to be the most important, then very politely decline. I promise that the world will not end and everyone will be ok. On the other hand, saying “yes” can lead to awesome experiences and meeting new people. Find the balance. Blog7Schedule margin. If you’re one of those people who just “looooooves” to be busy, skip this step. I personally hate being busy. I like scheduling time for a cup of slow sipped coffee in the morning or for a brisk afternoon walk. YOU get to create your life, and your schedule is where it all comes together – so schedule happiness.

EVERY ROOM (these are more “elisa’s version of feng shui”):

Clean the space. Clearing away the clutter, like I said over and over above, makes a huge difference, but also take the time to sweep and dust and clear away the soil. This doesn’t have to be extreme, but basic and regular. Think of it as a cleansing.

Open the blinds. Turn on the light. Bring in the day.

Diffuse essential oils and/or light a yummy candle.

Flowers. Blog6 ___

What do you do to create margin in your life? I’d love to hear your ideas!