Simplify: What I’m Learning

Simplify: Part 1

A little more than a month ago Mark said that he thought we should simplify. We were hoping to move to a place with some property and that would mean that our home size would probably diminish significantly. Generally in our relationship, Mark tends to be the one more hesitant get rid of things, so when he said simplify, he didn’t have to say it twice.

In the last month we’ve gotten rid of countless bags and boxes of clothes, toys, games, books (yes, even books), dishes, kitchen gadgets, furniture, etc. We filled one side of our garage with things that were no longer needed or used and asked our friends to come take what they could use. The remainder was consigned or donated to the Council for the Blind or Knox Area Rescue Mission.

Our home looks better, stays neater and is easier clean. As a result we’re all more relaxed and spend less time picking up and tidying. The children play more games and have more appreciation for the toys that we kept.

No one seems to miss anything that we got rid of and often the kids will spontaneously mention how nice it is to have less stuff to get messy.

So here are some things that I’ve learned:

Extra stuff wastes time. I’ve always been aware that storing, cleaning and maintaining things we don’t use is a waste of time, that’s obvious. What I didn’t fully appreciate is that keeping things that don’t fit with our family’s vision and priorities can encourage us to waste time by tempting or allowing us to choose activities that don’t fit with our goals.

Let’s use an easy example. If we keep DVD copies of movies which are time wasters, unlovely or not commendable then we are more likely to waste time watching a movie that doesn’t fit with God’s calling on our life. A movie doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ to be a bad choice for a believer. The standard is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent AND worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)

If our house is full of entertaining items: video games, fluff books, sports equipment, toys, etc.  it’s easier for us and our children to make a decision to be entertained rather than being productive or educated.

How expensive something is/was (even if we didn’t purchase it or pay full price) does not equate to how much enjoyment we receive out of it.

When we have too much, we enjoy each item less. Remember the story in the Little House books where Laura and Mary receive a piece of candy in a colorful wrapping? They took so much joy out of this unique experience that years later Laura recalls it with enough joy and wonder to include it in her memoirs. I’m not sure about your kids, but I don’t think that mine would be that impressed.

This was particularly evident in the toy/game category. Before Phase 1 of our simplification project (more about phases in another post) we had a closet full of games that were rarely played and a couple shelves of toys that were dumped out on the floor (not played with as intended) when the children went downstairs to play. We got rid of half of those games and three quarters of those toys and the children are playing games nearly everyday and the toys that we kept are mostly (we still have more work to do in this area) being played with rather than just dumped.

It’s also easier for me to look in my closet and find something to wear and I wear more variety now that everything in my closet fits and is nice enough to be worn in public.

Simplifying is not a one time thing, as you  live with less, you see more surplus. This has been true in all areas. As the children play with the games that we kept, we are more easily able to identify which games are still neglected. As I wear more of the clothes in my closet, I can more easily see the items that I rarely choose. And as we cook more in the kitchen (because we got rid of many of our time wasters) we can more easily see the items that are just taking up space.

Are you working on simplifying? What have you learned?

Simplify: Part 1

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39 Responses to Simplify: What I’m Learning
  1. Betsy Cross
    July 26, 2011 | 8:13 am

    Kimberly,
    I love following your journey to simplify! As a mom of 9 who have a tendency to collect, get attached to AND neglect things, I’m always on the lookout for permission to sort through and give away stuff. I rarely get it. So sometimes I have to bite the bullet and make the hard decision on whether to keep something or ged rid of it. Funny how after the emotion of letting the thing go everyone admits that they weren’t using it anyways, or the house looks and feels better w/o it! What a a lesson on the stewardship we mothers have! Good luck!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Permission to give things away given, permanently.

    Thank you.

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  2. Michelle
    July 26, 2011 | 8:59 am

    So neat to come across your post. Last week I told my husband that we’re clearing out the junk! He cleaned the garage–which was embarrassing. In Sept. we’re having a yard sale and anything that hasn’t been used in 4 years is going.

    I really liked your point about DVDs. We have a large selection and one thing I told my daughter, we are clearing out the junkie ones.

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  3. Abby
    July 26, 2011 | 9:09 am

    I am amazed at how many people seem to be simplifying right now! We just realized a few months ago that we needed to do this. My husband built a small house that we had intended to sell, but in the end we felt like the Lord was wanting us to live here- and to simplify! I still need to get rid of toys, clothes, etc., but we are working on it. I wrote a post on my blog about. Check it out when you get a chance! I have enjoyed reading your blog & will continue to follow you on your journey to simplify!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Abby, I loved your post. We feel the same way, that God wants us to do more for Him by giving up some of the ‘fluff’ in our lives, so that we are more able to serve Him.

    Thanks.

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  4. Elizabeth
    July 26, 2011 | 9:56 am

    Thank you for this post. A little less than two years ago we moved across the country with almost literally “the clothes on our back”. We had 4 suitcases – three of our clothes, and one for our homeschool supplies and toys (for our family of 3).

    At the moment I wasn’t sure how we would “survive” with so little, but I learned how little you really need and the beauty of less. My then 4-year-old developed a a love of drawing. We truly utilized and enjoyed the few books that we had. The few simple toys like a jump rope and a bouncy ball were used in many creative ways. I remember sitting in the house when my husband went to work, wishing there was more to clean!

    Your post has encouraged me to seek out that simplicity again. It is amazing how much one can accumulate in two short years. There is so much stress and work in the keeping up of “things”.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    And your comment has inspired me. We have a long way to go, thank you.

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  5. I Live in an Antbed
    July 26, 2011 | 10:11 am

    I love to think of simplicity as a spiritual discipline–it is that important. And it is time to go through our house, too! Way to go!!!

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  6. Sara
    July 26, 2011 | 12:05 pm

    What timely posts! I’ve been forced to really simplify, because I found I could no longer keep up. The more I simplify, the more weight, I feel has lifted off of me. Thank you for sharing your journey as well. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

    Blessings,
    sara

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  7. Melanie
    July 26, 2011 | 12:39 pm

    I just can’t tell you how much I LOVE this post!!! Yes, yes, yes! I have been struggling with simplifying and trying to help my family understand that we aren’t making a huge ‘sacrifice’. It will help us be happier!

    Hope you’re having a wonderful week,
    Melanie

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  8. Lena
    July 26, 2011 | 1:21 pm

    I’ve been following a gradual plan to simplify. It’s had it’s ebbs and flows. The finale is here. We will be downsizing (significantly) and I’ve decided to sell everything, (o.k., almost everything)!!!!

    Please keep us in your prayers.

    This is the so-called civilization of “consumption” or “consumerism” which involves so much throwing away and waste. [...] One quickly learns –unless one is shielded from the flood of publicity and the ceaseless and tempting offers of products — that the more one possesses, the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled… ~ Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo ei socialis (28)

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  9. Dawn@OneFaithfulMom
    July 26, 2011 | 1:34 pm

    In the next 2 weeks, our second son will be moving out. That means that our remaining 8 children at home will be switching bedrooms.
    I asked my husband if we could please move everybody around…that way I can go through all the bedrooms!! SO look out kids…a big cleanout is coming!!

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  10. Jeree
    July 26, 2011 | 1:45 pm

    I agree, very timely post for my family as well. I just quit my job to stay home with my 8 month old son even though worldly “logic” would say it was not smart because of our financial situation. But, I need to be home for my family and we are trusting that God will meet our needs. We will be moving very soon to a much smaller place (likely a one bedroom instead of our current 2) and are “simplfying” as well. Thanks for the encouragement!!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I pray that the Lord will bless you abundantly as you seek to serve Him. Enjoy all the time with that baby!

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  11. Melissa
    July 26, 2011 | 2:45 pm

    I so agree! I’ve been doing this a little at a time as we get ready for a move across country. I’m going to go back and read all you have written and look forward to future post.

    It feels so much better to not have so much “stuff” cluttering up your home. You have inspired me to go through my book and DvD collection.

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  12. Cathy
    July 26, 2011 | 3:26 pm

    I agree with others. Everyone is simplifying! We’ve done a lot of tossing stuff or giving it away too. We even had a yard sale. I think God is moving many of His people to get rid of stuff, so that our focus is not on our stuff but on Him and on the relationships He has blessed us with.

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  13. abba12
    July 26, 2011 | 5:44 pm

    I did have a question, what about craft and project items? Aside from clothes I don’t generally keep clutter, i lived out of a box for a year between my parents divorce and my wedding which cured me of my hoarding tendencies! But you need so many little items and bits and pieces for sewing and crafty persuits that I find myself snowed under in this area, but unable to part with anything because all I can see is a lovely item it could make. Would you suggest a better organizational system is more important in this area, or would you toss some craft stuff, and if so, what do I toss! lol

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    This is a great question. First realize that everyone has been blessed with different gifts and so what we’re doing may not work for you.

    My girls enjoy sewing and currently we have a whole room dedicated to sewing. So, I haven’t cut very deep in that area, but if we move I will have to.

    I like to knit, sew and draw. I know that my husband would love for me to spend more time drawing but could not care less about knitting. So I got rid of all of my knitting things except what would fit in one tote. It was a serious purging of yarn and patterns.

    Since I’ve sewn very little in the past years (since children), I also got rid of all of my sewing things that the girls aren’t using.

    As far as craft things for kids, I cut that by about half. We kept some play dough, glue, scissors, markers and paper. In the next phase we’ll be getting rid of most of our craft books (because you can find so much online).

    I think just looking at things realistically. Are you regularly using things from your stash to create gifts, beauty or other useful items? Keep more. Is your stash sitting there becoming bigger because you don’t have the time to make what you dream of making? Keep less.

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  14. Jennifer
    July 26, 2011 | 9:21 pm

    We also are getting rid of any unwanted items. My prayer this past year has been for the Lord to take away any desire for any “fluff” in my life. It feels so good to clean out. I am not a clutter bug anyway but my whole dining room is full of “fluff”. I can’t wait to hear more about this! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  15. Trooppetrie
    July 26, 2011 | 9:26 pm

    being in the military it has really helped me to get rid of things. I love getting rid of things. I know it sounds silly but I keep a basket in the garage that way as i see things i do not need i just throw it in the basket

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  16. Gabe
    July 26, 2011 | 11:29 pm

    We’ve really been working on simplifying too. As an earlier poster mentioned also, being in the military does help with keeping things simple (for some). Trying to find places for things every time we move gets old, I only want to do that for things we need/use/love, and I want to help our family need/love less of our stuff! It is a constant process; every time I think I went through and found all that we could get rid of I turn around and do it again!

    I think we need to work on our family vision a bit more to help us in this area as well. We would also like to buy some land in the future, but it can be hard to focus on that and live like that is where we are going when it is a long way off (we have at least 7 more years in the military).

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  17. Angie
    July 27, 2011 | 7:56 am

    We just spent yesterday going through the toys & games. We will continue today. With 4 kiddos ages 6 & under I just couldn’t keep up with the mess. Our little 1 is turning a year soon. He is asking that people give him cloth diapers instead of toys if they want to give him a gift ;)

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    What an amazing little guy you have there. Our Bella (1) asked for money so that she can contribute to purchasing a house debt free. They should get together. :)

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  18. Rachel
    July 28, 2011 | 4:48 am

    Beautifully put! And so true. We’ve recently reduced our stuff by about half, and our lives feel so much richer. I’ve put up a post linking back to this article on my blog.

    Hope you don’t mind that I quoted you!

    http://trialanderrorhomeec.blogspot.com/2011/07/simplicity.html

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I don’t mind being quoted. Thank you Rachel.

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  19. Stephenie
    July 29, 2011 | 7:04 pm

    I desperately want and need to simplify for our family! We are expecting our 7 child in 6 weeks and my biggest issue is with clothing. When you have a large family and you have clothing that older ones outgrow, do you keep it for the younger ones? How much do you keep? Where do you keep it? I live in a double wide with no attic or basement. I am torn between keeping clothing I know I will need later and feeling like I’m hoarding and not trusting God to provide later on. BUT, the clothing clutter is killing me! Really! If you have addressed this somewhere on your blog, please let me know. I am new to your blog, but gaining much knowledge from what I’ve read so far. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I understand about the clothing. I think that is a difficult issue. I tend to get rid of much of our clothing. Although I do keep things that someone will be wearing the very next season. (For example, I have a 14 year old girl and a 13 year old girl. I keep all of the 14 year olds outgrown clothes and the 13 year old wears them the very next year.)

    I posted more about this with pictures and some specifics on what and how we store.

    We have extra space in the garage to store clothing. If we had less storage space, I would definitely keep less of it.

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    Angela Reply:

    I loved this whole series and am replying in case you see this now and are still smothered in clothes, Stephanie. :) My children are almost the same size now, but I used to save clothes and found that the younger one ended up with too much. Clothes weren’t even all worn, and we saved all that clothes just in case we had another. I finally decided to pass it along and let someone else use it who actually can. I can only imagine your situation, but it sounds like you need space and calm more than the stored clothes. If you save any, I would suggest saving just your five favorite outfits in each size. That way, you have the peace of mind that the child will have something to wear, and you can fill in a few things in a style they like. If there are several *years* these clothes will be stored, I would give it all away or save even less, like one pair of pants and a couple tops.

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    Angela Reply:

    When we saved things, we used those vacuum bags to take less space. Don’t overfill or they burst! Even though we had the space, I am still glad we gave it away.

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  20. Weekend Wanderings
    July 30, 2011 | 2:04 am

    [...] “Simplifying is not a one time thing, as you  live with less, you see more surplus.”  Simplify:  What I’m Learning [...]

  21. Melissa
    July 30, 2011 | 5:27 pm

    We too are on a mission to simplify. Shortly after we started, we realized that one of the biggest areas we needed to simplify in was finances. When we looked around at how much we spent on all the things we were now getting rid of, and probably never really needed in the first place, we knew that we need to overhaul! We are trying to simplify in many areas of our lives, and enjoying the peace we feel when we reach new goals. I’ve been learning about new ways to accomplish goals, or get things we need, and I’m learning how good it feels not to waste so much money!

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  22. Debbie @ Cheaper By the Bakers Dozen
    July 30, 2011 | 11:35 pm

    Homeschooling moms are notorious for holding on to all things ‘educational’. I liked what you said about games. One thing I did to help us decide which games we wanted to keep was to “assign” a game a week for a few months. We played the same game several times a week, then at the end of the week we knew whether or not it was a Keeper. Unfortunately, many of the $$$ games I purchased at HS conventions and educational catalogs didn’t pass muster.

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Great idea. And we also found that the expensive ‘educational’ games are the ones that we eliminated first.

    The farther down this educational road I am the more convinced I am that we are making this much more complex than it need be. A lot of people are making a lot of money by selling more and more and more ‘things’ that you need to give your children a good education. What happened to reading good books, having good discussions, listening and making beautiful music and exploring God’s creation with your eyes open? :)

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  23. Kimberlyb
    August 1, 2011 | 3:06 pm

    I wish you could give me some tips on controlling my childrens hording tendencies?? Sorry my spelling is horrible one of the reasons I dont homeschool lol. I know my girls have a ton and a half of clothes they never wear but they refuse to get rid of I feel bad about them having to get rid of things rt now due to the fact we had to leave thier father so they cling to things. I wish things could have worked out differently in my marrige but unfortunatly after 4 years of praying for my husband to stop drinking and abusing me i feel god led me to leave for my own sanity and that of my children, but back to the problem at hand. I have a storage locker that I pay for monthly with all the things we could not fit in our tiny apt toys, dolls, clothes, keepsakes and such, I want to go in and just throw out but every time I think about it my heart breaks for my girls and myself. I wish you could come help me purge lol its so much easier when you have someone else to tell you what to keep. The girls have said they will clean out thier closet and purge clothes so we can bring it to our local savers and get credit to get things we need instead of want like clothes for school and such. Any imput from anyone is appriciated!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Kimberly,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your marriage and I realize that you will be dealing with things with your girls that are different that the struggles that I face with my kids. That said, here are some thoughts.

    I do not get rid of things that they REALLY do not want to part with. I do give them a defined amount of space or a set number of items and ask them to figure out what they are willing to give away. Allowing them to give things to friends or to people in need often gets them to look beyond them self and realize that there are others who need the item more than they do.

    Remember that even though they are clinging to things with the upheaval in the family. The things are not going to make them happy. Happy will come by building better relationships with God, with you, with their dad and with each other. Perhaps you could set some goals and rewards as you declutter together. Not ‘stuff’ rewards, but time rewards. For example, go do something fun when they’ve given away enough clothing so that everything fits neatly in the space they have for clothing.

    When you get rid of enough stuff so that you no longer need the storage locker you could take that money and use it to purchase a family pass to someplace really fun (an amusement park, water park, zoo, etc.) or take a vacation together. Again trading ‘stuff’ for time and relationship. They ultimately don’t want the ‘stuff’ they want you.

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  24. Taryn
    August 3, 2011 | 4:11 pm

    I live in a 3 bedroom 2 bath house. We don’t have a basement or use the attic. We raised 6 children. Two are still home. The youngest is 18 and we just finished home educating. We started in 1985. I also have an 18-month old granddaughter that lives with us. We have 5 granddaughters and I watch a few of them during the week. Years ago I read a book by Don Aslett titled Clutters Last Stand recommended by home educator author Mary Pride. I do have some rules- no Disney,no more pets(no vet bills), no holiday decorations(made in China),no statues, no clothes,books or toys with tv characters,etc. on them. Clothes and home education supplies are stored in closets in plastic tote boxes. We don’t hang anything on bedroom walls(dusty). We don’t have clothes with symbols-like the peace symbol,etc. We don’t own any DVDs or CDs(we have hymnals from Abeka) at the moment. Scrabble, chess and checkers are the only board games we have left. We use to have 2 bookcases-now we have one.

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  25. Taryn
    August 3, 2011 | 4:32 pm

    I want to add that I never bought my 2 daughters fashion dolls-only baby dolls. I don’t buy children’s make-up kits or children’s jewelry. I don’t wear jewelry. I never had the time to sell things so I gave things away through the years. I have a daughter with autism-high functioning- who now lives in a group home(in her twenties) nearby. We also have a daughter with type I diabetes(not caused by diet) diagnosed at 5.

    [Reply]

    Angela Reply:

    Taryn-if you see this, I would love to talk to you about the group home. My email is ilovethemso @ yahoo .com (spaces added to prevent spam

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  26. Taryn
    August 4, 2011 | 10:45 am

    One of our daughters-in-law has asthma. Her childhood bedroom didn’t have a rug,tv,bookcase,stuffed animals or anything else that was dusty. She does the same with her daughter. Years ago we gave away our hutch/china cabinet and a few extra pieces of furniture(less dusting for me to do). rejoiceministries.org is for hurting marriages. Christian Light Publications has books and tracts about marriage and divorce- as does Rod and Staff catalog and lasttrumpetministries. Cathy Burns has a tract about marriage(Sharing Ministries, Mt. Carmel PA). Jehovah Rapha.

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