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Creating a home where the living is easy

Simple living means something different to each of us. Urban or rural, working out of the home or not, raising older kids or newborns, driving or walking – we each have aspects of our individual lives that make our days simpler. Small steps in life can make moments at home easier.

Let’s face it, we all know life isn’t easy, but it can be easier. It has taken my family years of taking small steps to get to where we are now, and we are nowhere near where we hope to be even next year.

Here are some steps that can be taken in the here and now, no matter your situation, to make life a little simpler at home.

Make Both Time and Space for You

Often, it’s been so long since I have had either time or space for myself that I don’t even realize how much I needed it until I am holding onto it for dear life. The problem used to be that when I had the time, I didn’t have the space to retreat to.

I remedied that by creating a corner in my living room just for me – a cozy place to curl up with a book or my laptop, a wall shelf to set a cup of coffee and to add some touches like flowers and candles, and I had my space.

One of the minuses to living in a smaller home is that I can’t escape 2000 square feet away to one of 12 bedrooms. But making a space for me that works in my home has been a life saver. Home doesn’t have to be large to have space. Even the smallest of spaces can be carved out to provide a retreat for a weary soul.

End the Piles of Paper

Paper seems to multiply like bunnies in my house. Between stuff sent home from school and mail, it sometimes feels more like an office than a home. Make a system so you can find what you need and get rid of what you don’t.

This article on real simple solutions for an organized and efficient home is packed with inspiring ideas, but the one I love the most is the notebooks. A great way to tame the papers that enter daily.

Control Your Clutter

Yes, I’m still going to talk about the stuff that accumulates around the house that makes life more chaotic than anything. There is nothing like walking through my house with a big cardboard box and filling it with things to donate that are doing little more than taking up space.

Each time you remove something, think of it as making space for something new, something better. Even if that something better is nothing.

Grow a Garden

Photo by Remodeling This Life

In the spring and summer months, it’s easy to grow anything from a container garden , to a square foot garden, to a farm full of fresh produce, if that’s what you’ve got to work with. I loving sending my two kids out my back door to grab strawberries for a school lunch.

I love stepping onto my patio for herbs and veggies to throw into a stir fry at dinner, instead of making another trip to the store. A garden doesn’t have to be big or even beautiful, but it does make life a little more simple.

Photo by Remodeling This Life

What are some things you do that make your home more simple?

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  1. laura@move to portugal

    Hi Emily, lovely post!

    We have minimal furniture; no room ever feels crowded and you don;t have to walk around stuff all the time.

  2. aimee

    great post! in addition to the great suggestions you have above (we try to do all of those), i think having a routine and being consistent are huge for having easier living. our daughter has to put away any toys she has gotten out before she can leave her room, go to bed, play outside, etc. we do dishes immediately after dinner so the kitchen is clean, etc., etc.

    our house is currently on the market and i’ve been amazed at how much “easier” it is to do a quick round before a showing with the routine/consistency and decluttered spaces. regarding the “me space”…our realtor wanted to highlight a little nook under the eaves at the top of our stair so she had us stage it with the rocking chair from our nursery and a small table. i love it so much! i wish i’d thought of it sooner so i could have enjoyed the little reading space for the last four years.

    • Jen

      I was told once a long time ago that you can’t organize clutter. It’s still something I struggle with.

      I thought it was going to break my heart into a million pieces a couple months back when I moved all the living room furniture (except sofa and bookshelves) and decorations into the kitchen. I cleared off all flat surfaces and walls and window coverings (except bamboo shades). Then I added things back one at a time.

      Nothing on the flat surfaces. Only put about half the stuff back on the walls. Decided the bamboo shades were enough for the window and didn’t put back the curtains. Then I made a goal to remove 20 items from the 3 large (6ft) bookshelves in there.

      I immediately boxed it all up and went to goodwill. I’ll admit I got teary eyed on the way home. I felt like I gave away a piece of me.

      Then, about a week later after a particularly long and emotionally exhausting day, I came into my living room, sent my daughter to her room to do homework, and just sat on the sofa. Then relaxed. It was at that moment, that by letting go of “things” I had allowed myself enough space for me in my house.

      This article is timely…. and I need to move onto my bedroom. I wonder if I would see a marked change in my daughter’s behavior too if her room was equally uncluttered?
      .-= Jen´s last blog ..Triathlon Musings : Arm Sleeves =-.

  3. Laura

    I am always trying to battle the clutter. It feels like an uphill battle most of the time, especially when the kids bring home toys from other houses that other moms were trying to get rid of!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Observations from Digital Detox Week. =-.

  4. Jennifer

    I have been a de-clutterer (is that a word? lol) from way back! My mom is a hoarder, and growing up in that enviornment has made it natural for me to hate clutter. I keep furniture minimal, go through the mail and decide what stays and what gets thrown away immediately. I started to get a cluttered house when I had children. All the toys!!!!! I got so fed up with my son refusing to clean his room, going through battles with him every weekend. I finally hit the bottom and said, “If your room is not cleaned in 45 minutes, I’m coming in with a trash bag and throwing everything away!” Well, he didn’t believe me……I have to say I didn’t really believe me either. BUT, I said it…..So, after 45 min everything got thrown away or donated to charity. I mean EVERYTHING…….Now the only toys he has are the outside toys. You know what? He was relieved…..He didn’t even cry. This has been over a month ago, and he thanks me for taking all that stuff away. This taught me a very good lesson. We (parents) think that our children need this or that….”It’s educational!”, but they don’t!!!! What they need is to be outside getting sunshine and fresh air. They need to use their imaginations, play games (remember duck duck goose?), they need to problem solve. Those things cannot happen in a world of clutter. There’s no magic answer…..but if you take one little project a week or a day, it really adds up! The one thing that makes a huge difference to my home…..I take 20 minutes every morning before I leave, I tell the kids to pick up everything that belongs to them and put it away. Then I straighten the living room, my room (yes, I make the bed every day) and my bathroom. My 10 yr old is in charge of the kids bathroom and unloading the dishwasher. It’s a little bit of time, but wow does it change the day!

  5. caroline starr rose

    My space is actually a closet office. Sure, I have to stand on my chair to reach the printer on the shelf above and I balance my feet on a file box while writing, but I love it because its mine alone.
    .-= caroline starr rose´s last blog ..Critique Honesty =-.

  6. Beth - total mom haircut

    I couldn’t agree more with your advice to grow a garden. Do I get to count that one as “my space” too? Probably not:)

    I’ll be sure to follow your link for the paper clutter. That’s one thing I’ve really been wrestling around here lately as my kids have started school and bring home mounds daily. One thing I’ve been trying to do though is deal with the mail right when it comes in the house instead of throwing it down on the steps to be “dealt with later.” That was just resulting in a huge pile that glared at me.
    .-= Beth – total mom haircut´s last blog ..From Dirt To Dinner – A New Project for Earth Day and Beyond =-.

  7. Jill

    I love that top picture. It’s how I want my spaces to look–lived in, but clean, and NOT perfect.

    I think it’s so sad that while so many people in the world have to spend their days looking for food to survive, we North Americans’ magazines and blogs are filled with information and ideas to get RID of stuff. It’s such a weird thing. Many have NOTHING, and our problem is how to organize all our stuff because we have TOO much. I’m not handling this too well.
    .-= Jill´s last blog ..I’m a hater! =-.

  8. Missy

    “Even if that something better is nothing” – genius!
    thanks for the inspiration.
    I recently got on the get rid of toys train and told my boys they could keep three toys (including sets like legos). I boxed everything else up and put it in the garage – they haven’t missed it and it has been a month. Now we are going to sell it on craig’s list and I told them they could keep whatever money we make – that made them excited instead of sad!
    .-= Missy´s last blog ..Beep Beep! Car Themed Baby Shower – Real Party =-.

  9. WorkingMom

    I have been striving to live a simpler life, which is still a goal but closer than ever before. We have a very small house with 1900’s-sized closets, so storage space is at a premium. On top of being from a long line of frugal New Englanders, with hand-me-downs and such taking up much of the available storage, we’ve had to clean out Hubby’s parents’ and brother’s apartments due to his mother and brother’s passings.

    I’ve never been a Shopper, so there isn’t a clothes or shoes issue for me, and I don’t shop for things unless they are absolutely necessary. I buy better quality items, which tend to last longer, in fewer quantities. I’ve finally been able to purge outgrown baby items, as the Baby is the LAST child I will have, and we had a yard sale last fall that moved out a ton of stuff (with the donation pickup scheduled for the Monday after!). My greatest lesson about the kids’ toys has been to do a “Clean Sweep” approach. I pick a reasonable number of say, stuffed animals. We flip a coin. The winner picks first, then the next child, until they each have five of their favorite animals. The rest go, eliminating the clutter while making sure they feel in control AND have their favorite things.
    .-= WorkingMom´s last blog ..Little Rewards =-.

  10. Kara Fleck

    Great post, Emily!

    I agree that a garden – even a small not especially beautiful one – is a wonderful simple pleasure. And, truly, what could be easier on an August day than taking the 20 or so steps out to my tomato plants and picking dinner? 🙂

    On Time and Space – “The problem used to be that when I had the time, I didn’t have the space to retreat to.” This is me right now: I have the time carved out for myself each day (I’m one of those extremely early risers) but I don’t have a space just for me … I’m working on this though. Even a comfy cushion for the porch swing and a nice blanket to cuddle up with the morning coffee seem like good starts.

    Thanks for the food for thought and the good reminders …. best wishes!
    .-= Kara Fleck´s last blog ..Congratulations to The Green Hour Book Giveaway Winners =-.

  11. Angela @ Homegrown Mom

    I am currently redoing my bedroom to make it more relaxing, which means getting rid of lots of clutter! We’re also researching container gardening for our small side yard. Love reading posts like this, they’re so inspiring!
    .-= Angela @ Homegrown Mom´s last blog ..Wednesday Workbox Day =-.

  12. The Nester

    Is it sad that as soon as I saw the first photo I knew I was looking at Emily’s family room? Even though I’ve never been there?

    I just bought a can of white paint. And I’ve been on a white painting frenzy. It’s amazing the magic powers white paint can have, it makes everything seem new and fresh and quiet and makes me think twice about other old and dingy and loud things I have around my house. Somehow, white paint is forcing me to simplify.
    .-= The Nester´s last blog ..Layering, to Create a Cozy Outdoor Space =-.

  13. Kika

    One things that makes my life feel simpler is having lots of used dishes, furniture, etc. I just don’t stress as much if it gets marked up, broken, whatever. I certainly encourage our chidren to take care of our belongings but if the inevitable happens…. less stress. Same goes for our vehicle – spills, dings, etc., are less stressful b/c we don’t owe anything on our van and it was used, although in nice shape, when we bought it.

  14. Joseph Nally

    Thank you for the short but mighty list. My problem is that de-cluttering can sometimes mean shoving things into closets. This is, in reality, not at all de-cluttering.

    My goal this Spring to make home living easier is by clearing those dark closets (storage) around the house.
    .-= Joseph Nally´s last blog ..Teaching Lifelong Lessons From Everyday Life =-.

  15. Kris

    Great post. I personally have the corner part of our sectional to myself as my ‘nest’. That is where me and my laptop reside, and nobody goes there but me.

    I also have the ‘touch only once’ rule in my house when it comes to certain items. For example, when mail comes in the house, it either gets recycled or filed- no piles on the counter.
    .-= Kris´s last blog ..Exercise – Find Something You Love and Stick to It! =-.

  16. Jackie Lee

    You are always so motivating. I wish you could come talk me off the ledge every day. 🙂 I walk away from your posts (and others) and feel so encouraged and then it never amounts to much. I would LOVE to have a living room that looks like that top picture. It’s just a matter of actually taking the action to do it though… *sigh*
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..What’s holding you back? =-.

  17. Kara

    I like to put things away, in their designated home, after using them. None of this place it on the open counter and then deal with it later business. I’m happiest with empty counters, tables, etc.

  18. Rae

    I get rid of everything I can, when I can. But the biggest way to simplify my home is to ask myself one single question when I am out shopping:

    “Do I really need this?”

    Do I really need another purse? Do I really need these decorative picture frames? Does my niece really need another stuffed animal? Or is what my home needs more love and more personal time spent with each other. This one question has really helped me simplify my home and my life.
    .-= Rae´s last blog ..Nature Watch: Hybrid Fruits =-.

  19. Luschka

    I particularly like where you said “Even if that something better is nothing. ” That is so true. Clutter is our biggest problem at the moment, and we’re doing our best to conquer it!
    .-= Luschka´s last blog ..The Doula Path (Part 2) =-.

  20. Kelli

    I agree with a previous poster that having worn in things causes less stress about breakage or damage. I’m not out to impress anyone! Having a garden, as you said, is also a great way to feel “back to basics,” growing our own food…feeling the earth in our hands. It’s such a great stress reliever.
    .-= Kelli´s last blog ..Tuesday Truth #10 – I can’t stop looking =-.

  21. Emily

    This is a great example in which less really is more. I am always surprised how rejuvenating a good redecorating session can be!

  22. Den Ford

    A home without clutter and a workplace without over the top health and safety issues sounds totally a world I would love to be in. We also have the rule of getting the children to tidy up as they finish with one thing before getting the next thing out and it certainly seems to make life much easier come the end of the day

  23. Eva

    I love Square Foot Gardening because it’s one way to grow a lot of food, with very little land. My husband gives some tips on his site.

  24. Kate

    The link to the page on notebooks just leads me to a blank page.

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