One of my favorite things to say to an overwhelmed mama is this: you cannot be everything to everyone all at once. Simplify.
Minimalism has made such a massive impact in my life. After it took effect in my home it started spilling over into other areas of my life- my calendar, my to do list, my routines, my health, even my relationships and my beauty regimen. When you discover the beautiful effect of simple, the natural next step is to carry it over into everything you touch.
I learned how to bring the philosophy of less into my life the hard way- by overindulging in all the things, all the commitments, and then all the depression as a result. But there is one very straightforward way that you can simplify your entire life, and you can start right now.
Ask yourself, “what is essential?”
The word essential means “absolutely necessary; extremely important” and it’s everything for those desperately seeking to simplify.
We are so good at stacking up unnecessaries in every area of our lives until there’s no more space for what matters most!
We say “I don’t have time for that” when what we really mean is “I have prioritized too many other things so that I don’t have the energy/space/desire to do that” or maybe it’s simply “that is not a priority right now.” It’s sad because if we really look at our life, most of us would likely find that the things we’re saying we don’t have time for are the things (or people) that should be non-negotiables.
I don’t mean to just dish out a bunch of tough love here while I stand on a pulpit. I’m so guilty of a lack of priorities and have to constantly remind myself. I’m growing, learning, and getting better, so we’re in this together, k?
In his book, Tim Ferriss talks about deciding what will get done by imagining you have a gun to your head and can only do what is absolutely vital. It’s blunt (my kinda guy) but it gets you thinking. If you had to choose what was absolutely crucial, HAD to get done, what would it be? Isn’t it kinda silly to prioritize anything else? All the rest can get done later, but some things can’t, so those things should take up the best time of our day. Those things should take up our space, not the stuff that doesn’t make us feel alive or keep our families functioning.
This is essentialism.
Let’s say you’re overwhelmed every time you walk into your kitchen. You hate cooking because it leads to washing a hundred dishes and takes all night. If you were to walk in there, look at your dishes and cookware and ask, “what is essential?”
How much would you feel able to let go of? You’d see that four different sets of dishes is certainly not essential. Actually, only one plate per person in your family is truly essential. You’d see that you don’t really need all those pots and pans, rather, just the four you use every time you make a meal. The others are just there because you bought them and because everyone else seems to have that many pots and pans.
You’d end up with less dishes to wash, more time on your hands, and a newfound love for being in your low-maintenance, uncluttered kitchen. I know this because it’s what I did in my own home and what I help thousands of other women do in their homes in every room, every nook and cranny through my online decluttering course.
Let’s say you feel overwhelmed and reluctant every time Sunday night rolls around. You know another week is starting whether you like it or not. I don’t believe that living for the weekend is abundant life- I think that sucks. I want to be present and feel purpose and joy in the week because that’s when the bulk of our lives our lived (five days versus a two day weekend). Memories are made in the day-to-day stuff, and I don’t want my kids to remember me going through the motions while I was focused on the coming weekend. So let’s say you find yourself feeling super overwhelmed and unhappy every time a new week is about to start.
Ask yourself, “what is essential?”
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Look at your calendar. Is it essential that you say “yes” to every single one of these commitments? Are you maybe feeling reluctant because you feel taken advantage of? Like your time isn’t your own because deep down you wish you didn’t have to do all the things you're doing? That’s on you, girl. Get real with yourself, learn to say no, and re-evaluate what you’re filling your calendar with.
This isn’t to say that every day is full of rainbows and butterflies and you never have to do anything you dislike, but it is to say that you’re in charge of your life and no one else cares that you’re feeling reluctant right before every Monday rolls around, so if you don’t like the way things are going, change it. How can you simplify the clutter of your schedule? Are you doing way too much at home? Maybe you need to start laying down some rules and boundaries with the people who share your roof so you’re not playing the part of the maid. Are you saying “yes” to too many things out of obligation? Learn to say no more often.
So how can we apply essentialism to the specific areas of our mom lives? Let’s talk through the main areas of our lives and work it out together.
What do you need in your week that falls under the category of self-care? Don’t overthink here. Most of us aren’t doing a dang thing to take care of ourselves on a weekly basis, so just focus on adding one simple thing. For example, coffee with a friend. If you added that one small thing to your week, every single week, I bet you’d look forward to it and leave that coffee date feeling refreshed and like your perspective on life is better. Know yourself. Are you an introvert (restored and energized by being alone) or an extrovert (restored and energized by being with other people)? Maybe your self-care will look like a simple weekly walk by yourself - time to reflect and be restored by the quiet. Choose something that speaks to who you are and is actually adding to your life, not taking from it.
This is the area most of us feel is a crazy mess of all different colored scribbles. It’s so chaotic we don’t even know where to start, so we just avoid it and go take a nap. Don’t overthink it, mama. We’ve got this. Look, it is totally unnecessary and non-essential that you are cleaning up all day every day and the house is still barely ready for company to come over. When you have too much stuff, that’s how your days will end up going. You need to declutter. What takes up your space takes up your time, so less stuff in your space means more time in your day.
Ready to go all in and ditch survival mode for good?
My decluttering course has helped thousands of moms all over the world simplify their homes so they can focus on what matters most.
Where do you start when you’re already overwhelmed and short on time? Look at your day. What area of your house do you see sucking up the bulk of your time? That’s a great place to start. For me, it was the kids’ toys. They were everywhere all the time and not even really being played with (more so just dumped out). Once I purged and got intentional about what toys deserved to take up space and aligned with the imaginative childhood I wanted my kids to have, I instantly created more time and space for myself. This gave me momentum to keep going into other areas and more time to tackle more decluttering!
There are some things we need to do that aren’t our favorite, I get that. But there are also things we can totally remove from our plates that we are doing out of plain old obligation or guilt. This is not time well spent! We don’t get that much time and our season of raising our babies is pretty short, so we need to be more intentional about how we dish out these sweet minutes we get! When you’re unsure of whether to keep or kick a commitment or event on your calendar, ask yourself some questions to uncover how you really feel.
1) Is this event in line with my purpose in life?
2) Why do I feel like I need to do this? (be honest, yo)
3) Is this an obligation or something that truly needs to be done by me?
Outside of our immediate family (husband and kids) most of us still have lots of other relationships- friendships, relatives, coworkers, etc. People are usually not shy about taking your time and energy and again, no one is going to make sure you’re prioritizing your life in a healthful way. That’s on you. Just because someone is in your life forever by relation doesn’t mean they have a right to your energy and time. Got that? Read it again and let it sink in. Okay, moving on…
Look at the relationships you are currently spending time and energy on. Are any of them with vampires? Some people just suck the life out of you and leave you drained and empty. Those are not the kind of people you need to be spending your time on. What is essential here? It is essential that you have enough energy to fulfill your role as a wife and mama. That should be the focus, not being polite and obligated to these other people who are obviously not good for you. So it’s time again to get real with yourself. Do you need to take care of yourself by getting some professional help via an awesome therapist to work out whatever ish inside you is making you crazy around this person? Do you need to distance yourself from that person whenever possible? If this is making you feel things because you know you have situations like this in your life, read this book now.
Few areas are as over complicated as health and wellness. It’s a billion dollar industry, and I believe part of that is because people like to procrastinate doing hard things by convincing themselves they need further help preparing to do it. What I mean by that is, people want the result but they don’t want to start doing the actual work, so they spend all this time hiring coaches, buying and reading books on all these different ways to get healthy, rather than just doing what everybody knows- eat clean and move more. So simple!
My hope for those of you who have read to the end of this post is that you feel inspired, not defeated. I hope you see how simplified each area of life can be if you just change the way you’ve been thinking!
I like what Marie Forleo says. “Everything is figureoutable.”
I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed by your desire to simplify, I want you to understand how to apply essentialism to your mom life and feel invigorated by how much sweeter life can be for you, right now!
Don’t be stressed about how to live this out. Just start.
Open your eyes. Where is there too much going on? What in your life has you feeling completely depleted? If your answer is an exasperated, “everything!” Then just pick one thing. Start. Simplify. Cut back. Choose less. Say no to something. You CAN do this, and it IS worth the effort!
How can you apply essentialism and the art of simple to your life? Where have you already implemented this or where are you excited to start? Share with me in the comments!