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3 things I’m NOT doing in 2016

It’s always fun this time of year to think of the things I will do in the next twelve months—get back to a running routine, for example, plant a container garden in our current rental house, and expand my travel writing (hopefully with restoring a vintage travel trailer in tow—we’ll see).

But just like how everything needs to have a place in our homes—or else something has to go to make room for a new thing, so, too, it goes with time. If I want to have time in my life to pursue new and good things, I need to say a hearty no to something else.

I call this my To NOT Do List.

In order to have time and mental space to pursue the things I’m truly interested in, here are a few things I’m crossing off my list in 2016.

1. I won’t be fancy with our meals.

I love cooking real, wholesome meals in tandem with my husband, Kyle (he also loves to cook, blessedly). But after a year of nonstop travel, I’m still relishing in the beauty of simple, standard meals (on the road I was surprised more than anybody how much I craved cooking a simple roast chicken, veggies, and potatoes).


There’s something freeing about landing on about a dozen quality, solid recipes that our family loves, and simply rotating through those. If we ate all twelve meals for dinner, plus made enough for leftovers, plus had one night of low-key grazing (that’s our typical Sunday plan), this means eating those meals only twice per month.

Our two-week menu rotation, seen on Plan to Eat
A screenshot of our current simple menu plan rotation.

No reason to get fancy about this. I just make a plan for two weeks, then repeat until we crave a change. (If you’re curious, I use Plan to Eat to house all our recipes, drag-and-drop menu plan, and generate our grocery shopping list.)

2. I won’t hound the kids about their tasks.

At ages 5, 8, and almost 11, our kids are old enough to do a sizable portion of the house cleaning. We don’t do straight-up allowance, per se, but we do give them a commission for basic upkeep of their stuff, their spaces, and good attitudes towards tasks we ask of them.

And at this age, I shouldn’t really need to hound them about getting them done (alright—it’s okay if the five-year-old still needs reminders). I created laminated chore checklists for each of them, then mark which tasks we need them to do that day.*

This frees me from both needlessly worrying about whether they’re given ample opportunities to show responsibility, and from spinning with exhaustion hearing my voice asking them to do the same things ad nauseam.

reed with chickens

*I’m sending a free PDF copy of our kids’ chore lists in my monthly newsletter for January, which I hope to send out soon. If you’re not yet on the list (it’s free), head here to sign up, and you’ll get the PDF.

3. I won’t make my own cleaning products.

I’ve made my own cleaning products for years (a lot of my recipes are in the back of my first book, Organized Simplicity), but right now, that’s just one. more. thing. to deal with. I want to focus my mental energy on work and writing projects, helping with my kids’ education, and encouraging Kyle as he starts his new business. These all take higher priority for me.

Having healthy cleaning products at the ready makes things easier right now, and I don’t feel guilty about this in the slightest. In fact, I have them auto-sent to me via ePantry, along with several other of our household staples (I even get our toilet paper here).

My favorite brand is Mrs. Meyers, mostly because of their out-of-this-world scents made from a blend of essential oils and plant-derived ingredients. All holiday long, I actually relished in the excuse to clean my countertops because that meant I could use my Orange Clove-scented multi-purpose spray. (I’m unabashedly nerdy that way.)


I’m moving on to lavender for the new year, and I honestly love every product I’ve used. And right now, ePantry has a fantastic deal on Mrs. Myers products.

If you place your first order with ePantry this week, you’ll get these things, free:

  • Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap
  • Grove Walnut Scrubber Sponges
  • Grove Kitchen Towel
  • Casabella Cleaning Caddy

With this new year’s offer, they’ve also added the following stuff to your order (but you’re welcome to change these out or add more things, so long as the total is at least $20):

  • Mrs. Meyer’s Foaming Hand Soap
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Spray
  • method Antibac Bathroom Cleaner
  • method Toilet Cleaner
  • Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soap
  • Be Good Dish Brush


The total for all of this is $26.24, which is a song (I priced all this at a nearby big-box store for a collective $70). Head here to sign up and place your first order by Friday, January 8 at 6pm PST.

If you’re already an ePantry user, like me, you can still get this deal for 50% off—head here to add it to your basket.

I love delivery services because things I’d buy anyway comes straight to my door (I started using one for occasional grocery runs, and it’s been a game-changer). So often, these services don’t include the toxin-free products that are a non-negotiable in our household. Which is why I’m over the moon that ePantry has brands like Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Earthpaste, and Acure Organics (plus many, many more).

I don’t frequently tout brands here on the blog, and I’m all about making things from scratch when it makes sense. But I do when I genuinely believe in and use them—and this is me with ePantry. This service has made our household routine simpler, so I’ll gladly recommend it to you. I think signing up for ePantry is a great first step for simplifying your 2016—especially when it means stocking your supplies for free.


Mrs. Meyers supplies + books by Tsh Oxenreider!
ePantry is loving how much Art of Simple readers are eating up this deal, so to say thank you, four of you will win a set of two of my books, Notes From a Blue Bike and Organized Simplicity, along with a few other fun surprises! These books give a solid boost to a new year, if I say so myself. If you’d like a chance to win the books and surprises, snag the Mrs. Meyers deal—head here if you’re new to ePantry; here if you’re already a user to add it to your cart at half off. (And yep, if you signed up via AoS in the past few days, you’re automatically signed up for the book drawing!)

Don’t forget—this deal ends this Friday, January 8 at 6pm PST.

Add this to your to-do list for the new year: make a to NOT do list.

(Psst… ePantry currently doesn’t ship outside the continental U.S. Bummer, I know.)

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Andrea

    Thank you for putting it out of my head 😉
    I just want to de-stress, so I’m not making it hard on meals or cleaning produtcs. Maybe some other time, just not now.

    All the very best and love from Lisbon!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Right back at you, Andrea! 🙂

  2. Karen

    Would you share your recipe for Mango Chicken Curry?

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It’s actually page 103 of Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread & Wine. It’s an excellent book; I highly recommend it. But I don’t want to publish one of her recipes without her permission…. if she’s okay with it, I’m happy to. 🙂

      • Karen

        Got it! I actually have that book, but didn’t remember the recipe! THANKS!

        • Tsh Oxenreider

          Awesome! Glad to hear.

  3. thisweekinsuburbia

    Buying a grapefruit-scented (my favorite) spray cleaner was huge for me. I love the smell of it and it’s weird how something so little like a scent made me more eager to wipe down my counters 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yessssss to grapefruit. My favorite all-around scent for candles and cleaners. Heavenly.

  4. Dee

    I love this! In fact, for the first time ever, I created a plan for a month’s worth of meals that started this past Sunday. I may have to check out Plan to Eat, but so far, I’m just doing it on paper largely using meals from the Fresh 20 (which I highly recommend).

    Unfortunately, I still have to hound my son for chores. He has ADHD and this past year he became a teenager, both recipes for not getting things done. I sometimes wonder what it would be like with sibling-pressure, but that’s just not happening.

    I applaud your decision on the cleaning supplies. I was going to make my own detergent once, but realized I can get something pretty “clear” for a low enough price that it wasn’t worth it, at least not with my schedule.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve done a month’s worth of plans a few times, and man, does it help! Way to go. 🙂

  5. Jen

    Oh my gosh, THANK YOU for sharing Plan to Eat! I am good about weekly meal planning, but dread the process. PTE looks like exactly the tool I’ve been looking for, but didn’t know existed! Going to do the trial, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be signing up for a membership. I learn so much from your blog and newsletters!

  6. Amie

    Plan to Eat looks great! We do a rotation here too.

    I was actually really disappointed to find out that a lot of Mrs. Meyers products have low marks on the Environmental Working Group cleaning guide, because I like them too. It’s a great resource if you’re looking for less-toxic cleaning options:

  7. Jess

    I absolutely love this concept! This reminds me of the quote, “Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’r not going to do.” (John Cormack). I wonder what it would be like to decide what we would NOT do each year instead of making resolutions? If each year we eliminated unnecessary tasks, commitments, bad habits, what we’d be left with is what we truly value, what makes us happy, and what improves our life. We’d then have the space – mental, physical and energetic – to add in the things we want to do (move more, eat better, complete a project, spend more time with family).

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Love that quote, Jess. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Jan Ramsey Brick

    This is a great idea! I have never been good at saying no and it’s one of my goals for the year. I love the idea of writing down what exactly I’m planning to say no to!

    I’m going to check out those cleaning products too. I use that hand soap and really like it. 🙂

    Thanks Tsh!

  9. Lisa

    I already use Meyers products on a regular basis, so I was super excited to hear everything about epantry, but then at the very end I got the news that I should have considered before getting too excited- no shipping to two of the most awesome states of the U.S. I guess we are still special that way! ?

    Love Art of Simple! Living in rural Alaska and parenting and teaching unconventionally, it really helps me stay up on life Outside, but also fits so well with life here.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I know, it’s such a bummer, right? Sorry about that.

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Lisa—they mean a lot. <3

  10. June

    I love the way you think! No guilt either. It’s priorities. Dr. Dobson always said you can do the dishes anytime but how long will your little ones be little. 🙂

  11. Melanie

    Thank you for sharing! I love products like Mrs. Meyers and I’m excited to try ePantry. I know you may not be able to publish the actual recipes you use, but would you be willing to share the sources? I’m in desperate need of some new recipes.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      A lot of mine are from Nom Nom Paleo, both the blog and the cookbook. I also have a few from Against All Grain (I hear her cookbook is good) and Simple Bites (her cookbook is good!). The rest are mostly from me searching Pinterest using search terms like “easy Crockpot,” “easy paleo,” and “easy gluten-free.”

      Clearly, easy is a theme for me. 😉

  12. Michelle

    Good thoughts. I have a lot of new “to-do’s” and hadn’t focused on the to-don’ts.

    As a Canadian I’m very frustrated with e-Pantry ? Need to find someone down south to order it and send it to me!!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I know, I know…. I wish more companies would send internationally, even if it means offering a higher shipping fee. I’ll give them this feedback, Michelle.

  13. Meredith

    I was just sitting down to do a streamlined meal plan for two weeks at a time when I saw this post. You beat me to it, so I’ll shamelessly borrow part of yours! My goal is not to cut drastically or eliminate fast food and quick service restaurant meals in the new year. I know better, but we’re so often caught between afternoon pickups and appointments.

    • Meredith

      *TO cut drastically or eliminate OOPS!

  14. Jessica

    I like the idea of a “not to do” list! Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Amy Renea

    I wish they shipped to Puerto Rico! USPS offers the same state to state rates, but many companies don’t know and don’t ship. Thank goodness for Amazon!

  16. Monica

    Hey all! I emailed ePantry to ask them to tell me when they start shipping to APO/FPO addresses, and here is what they said, “As long as your put in the correct address and ZIP code at checkout, you can put any state and you’ll be alright 😉 ”
    So I put in my order, I hope I get it!

  17. Sarah

    I love this. We spend so much time setting goals and making resolutions in the New Year, but I can honestly say I’ve never taken a moment to eliminate tasks from my life. There are so many things I take on that I don’t need to…and this post has freed me from them. Thank you.

  18. Cassey

    I’m already an epantry customer and wanted to add this to my cart at the discount. It only added the first part of the list, and I wanted to clarify if the second list you give (the stuff they add if you have over $20 in your cart) was supposed to come along at a discount too (my cart is over $20 on separate items) or if that was just part of the ‘new customer’ deal. Thanks!

  19. Beth

    I love the bit about simple cooking! I don’t know why I ever thought I’d be in the mood to make a complicated meal in the evening after work… I save experimenting for weekends now 🙂 If anyone is looking for a free meal planner similar to PTE, this is what I recommend: There are mobile apps too 🙂

  20. Tara

    Gosh, Tsh! Are we twins? 🙂 without knowing it we have the same to not to do’s. My husband read a book in his former job “Nein sagen heißt Zeit haben” (German for Saying no means having time). So….. now that he quit that job he has time for full-time teaching, which he loves!

    Have a great year not doing but at the same time doing…. what is most important NOW!

  21. Corrie

    Thank you for “no fancy meals” …. I read your blog every now and then and accidently saw this. It has already changed my week and I feel a lot less stressed out. Every family has their favourites anyway, so why not cook those 🙂 Again, thank you for sharing

  22. Julie

    I’ve been a huge fan of your blog since I discovered it a year ago. I have to comment on this post though, because it was an enormous stress reliever for me! I’m handicapped (muscles get worse as the day progresses) & have a gazillion food allergies. By the end of the day, food isn’t happening well, yet it is essential. I know that planning saves time, frustration & prevents stress, but the time to plan, just never happens for me. Posting abt PTE has been a life saver. I did sign up. I love efficiency & this really helps me! I’ve been looking for an easier way for months. I love the accessibility. I got it to feed on my family Google calendar. I love that if my husband runs in the store on the way home from work he can see what we need. I also loved the overall message of this post. I can’t thank you enough!

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