Less | Pursue Ultimate Simplicity

“Dormice don’t work to a strict timetable; their hibernation is dependent on the weather. They spend the early autumn building up reserves of the liquid brown fat that make them squishy to the touch; as Hazel shows me, you can leave fingerprints on a hibernating dormouse, so fluid is the layer of fat underneath its skin.” Wintering by Katherine May

I had no intention of skipping blogging last week, but it seems as though I’ve slipped into a state of Wintering. The quote above is one of my favorites that I’ve used countless times in this blog because, as I’ve said before, I think I have some dormouse DNA. It’s been hard to get up early enough to squeeze in some writing time over the last couple of weeks, especially when it’s cold in the house and the cats are wrapped around my feet and legs when my alarm starts going off! And I have some lingering respiratory challenges from the flu a few weeks ago that has made it difficult to get meaningful rest at night, which makes it even harder to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve tried to keep in mind that one of the wonderful things about Less is that, simply by doing less, I am honoring my word. That’s helped a lot and Less has given me a tremendous feeling of relief when it comes to my day to day life — that is a very good thing!

My Vision of Less:

I reread The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up over the weekend. This is one of my favorite books because I really love the last two sections that are full of the Japanese philosophy of animism, which I’m very drawn to. But this time I took special note of Marie Kondo’s opening chapters, which are about how to prepare yourself for the ultimate tidying. She advises readers to visualize their destination before you start to help narrow down your goals.

My ideas are still forming, but you won’t be surprised by this because I’ve written about it for years. I’m basically looking for margin. Space. Open shelves and clear counters. I want to be able to reach for an item I need without moving a huge stack of things to get to it. I want energy to be able to flow around the objects in my home, instead of everything being crammed together. I want to have room on my shelves for plants and objects that bring in energy. I want it to feel easy to put things where they belong. There was a quote in the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that caught my eye this go-round: pursue ultimate simplicity. I want ultimate simplicity!! Life is hard all on its own and I don’t need anything else gumming up the gears around here.

My go-to mantra has been less clutter, less spending, less waste and those are the three major tasks that I’ve been pondering with Less. Here are a few thoughts that I’ve had about them over the last couple of weeks:

Less Clutter:

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who has stacks and stacks of things in the way all of the time, who has to shift and sort through everything all day long. Clearing clutter is just such an overwhelming task for me. Every time I think I’ve done a good job, things pile back up within hours. I have no idea where all of the stuff comes from, but it feels like lava shooting out of a volcano: our stuff is constantly erupting all around me and I can’t get a handle on it.

So I started in an easy place over the weekend: my bookshelf. I have one small bookshelf in my bedroom that holds all of my own books. We have other bookshelves around the house for the kids and for our homeschooling library, but I don’t keep any of my books anywhere else in the house — only the one small shelf in my room. I try to keep my personal collection to around 30 books and it was time to cull because I was beginning to stack books on the floor around my bed because I’d ran out of room on the shelf. I managed to packed up forty books pretty quickly to take to Goodwill over the weekend. Somehow, over the last year or so, I had doubled my collection of books without even realizing it. It feels nice to have a sleek and clean shelf again and I even have some empty space that gives me a bit of margin. Room to breathe!

Biggest Lesson: Stop buying books because utilizing the library has so many benefits. I save money and space when I borrow books from the library and return them to share with my community. The biggest benefit is that I actually read the books I borrow because there’s a due date on them. When I buy books, they tend to linger on my shelves much longer and may not even ever get read. So many of the books I put into my donation box were unread. That’s a waste in so many ways.

Second Lesson: We’ve gotten into the habit of breaking down empty boxes as soon as they come in the house or when we’ve used up whatever’s inside of them. I’m trying to break that habit so that I always have a box for Goodwill that’s available and easy to use. It makes it much more likely that I’ll plop an item straight into the box and not have to think about it again, simplifying this whole process.

Less Spending:

I have put in one Amazon order this month and that was for pants for the kids, which were desperately needed. We’ve gotten a few deliveries for our Subscribe & Save items (cat food, cat litter, toothpaste, etc) plus some other toiletries that Matthew needed, but I tend to order random things here and there that feel necessary in the moment but really aren’t. I am very proud of the fact that I haven’t done that in January!

Luckily, I don’t tend to do a lot of shopping in stores, so I never overspend out in the community. I only leave the house to pick up Colton in the evenings and to go to the library once a week. I stop at Dunkin’ after our library trip and have no intention of cutting that out of our routine. It’s a wonderful treat and we all love the ritual of stopping after story time. So when I say less spending, it’s not an effort to tuck away every spare penny. It’s simply an effort to be mindful about how I’m spending money. And our weekly Dunkin’ trip makes the cut!

Biggest win: a couple of weeks ago I mentioned how the poor lighting in my living room has affected my cross stitching. I said that I’d be on the lookout for a lamp to help with this, but even while writing that I was thinking about how I didn’t want to bring anything else into the house or spend any money. I knew there had to be a solution with what I already own. Finally, it occurred to me: my headlamp. And it does the job! There are so many wins with this discovery: I’m not bringing anything new into the house (less clutter), I didn’t spend a dime (less spending), and I’m utilizing something that I already own (less waste). Win, win, win.

Less Waste:

I’ve made an effort to check the fridge every couple of days and use up some leftovers. We had two dinners of leftovers this week, which is unusual. I tend to create a weekly meal plan and then prepare something new for every lunch and dinner, no matter what’s leftover in the fridge. I’m going to try to be less rigid about following my meal plan and declare leftover days as needed, rather than what might be built into my plan. That will create less work for me in the long run anyway because I’ll be preparing less food from scratch and won’t have so much to clean while completing my big fridge cleanings every couple of weeks.

I know that this post isn’t “due” until next Monday, but this has been on my mind and it made sense to just write it and publish it now. I’m hoping to touch base with my word more often this year, so you’ll probably see these pop up at a greater frequency in 2023 and at my own pace and schedule. I’m not sure how often that will be, perhaps every other week? I can tell you that Less has been in the forefront of my mind for years and I have a lot to say about it! And writing blog posts always helps me sort through my overwhelming thoughts and find a kernel of doable action. So I’m looking forward to narrowing down my vision and taking baby steps this year.

We’re in a snowy snap right now (finally), so Colton had a snow day on Friday and today will be a remote learning day for him, so I’ll be busy getting him through his work this morning and helping Bryce with a few of his own learning activities. It’s been a long weekend! I hope to be back on Wednesday with a reading update. Until then — take good care!


17 thoughts on “Less | Pursue Ultimate Simplicity

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  1. I think this is such an excellent start to your word, Katie! First… I want to tell you that you are not alone with the clutter issue. And if you are feeling alone, just remember this… Kat has stacks too! LOTS of stacks! 🙂

    I love the goodwill box idea and I am going to utilize that when I go through some drawers next week! Thank you for that brilliant idea!


  2. When you have children, you have more clutter! Here’s a suggestion for leftovers, put them in freezer boxes and stick in the freezer. You do need to remember they’re there but I do this all the time. It’s so handy to have something prepared in the freezer that I can get out at the last minute and microwave. It’s ok to have a slow time, we all need that. Blessings!


  3. A huge thing for me to stay on top of the clutter is systems and everything having a place. My 9 year old and I spent TWO HOURS cleaning her room yesterday, which was a disaster largely because she didn’t have designated places for things. So, we made her a craft shelf, a bin to put finished crafts and papers in, a spot for her library books, a lego bin, etc. I’m really hoping that she sticks to these spots instead of just throwing literally everything on her dresser. I can generally keep on top of the clutter but after having kids it is SO MUCH worse. Every day they bring home piles of stuff from school. I try to throw as much away, right away, as possible, but they are little pack rats and want to keep every scrap of paper! So, part of it is just accepting this season of life.


  4. I love this topic. We have plenty of piles around here and no kids so . . . One of us is a keeper so that makes it hard 😉 I use Grove and Thrive which keeps me from needing to go to the store and the boxes are super sturdy. I always have at least two boxes on hand to fill and get out of the house. This week I am working on the kitchen. Do two people need 12 bowls?


  5. You are definitely not the only person with clutter. It’s an ongoing problem here, and I have to make time to tackle it (because my husband’s solution is just to throw everything away, which is wasteful and potentially problematic if we’re talking about paper and important documents!). I think you’ve hit on something very important in that less isn’t just about not doing or spending as much but being more mindful about it. I guess it’s impossible to think about less without also thinking about more in some respect!


  6. Clutter just builds up and when you have children you have more stuff. After years of wishing one clean-out was enough, I concluded it’s an ongoing process. I just need to keep moving around the house tackling one area/closet at a time. You are off to a good start.


  7. I could read you write about this topic all day long. I feel you on the clutter; my nemesis is paperwork. There’s an ever growing pile of it in my study’s in tray (you can’t actually see that there’s an in tray, the pile is so high)… it would probably take 20 minutes to just get it done.

    Actually, you’ve inspired me. I’m going to do it now.

    I admire your discipline around limiting your book collection! That is incredible to me! I have two floor to ceiling bookcases in my study, they are overflowing with books… a lot of them have NOT been read. I agree with you 100% about the benefits of the library, the deadline means the books get read – I am EXACTLY the same! Most of the unread books I own are non-fiction books I’ve bought (or been gifted) before I rediscovered the library… I’m not sure if I could cull them all. Although I would like to have a shelf free to put art supplies on. Hmm. I will think more on this!


  8. You are doing amazingly well. With three Boys, a very messy husband, a dog , a cat and two Guinea pigs we too had stacks everywhere. Oddly son one was the best at tidying, and son three who usually had everything passed down to him became the best at throwing things away. Put the family to work, it’s their home too. Messy husband had the garage all to himself, which is why it’s on my list to fettle this year. Keep going.


  9. I really loved reading this, Katie. I have been decluttering and cleaning a lot and I do think about the concept of “less” or making do with what we already have. I really enjoyed this whole post. I love Marie Kondo and her book is so soothing and lovely.


  10. Agreeing with everyone else: when there are children in the house there is clutter. And in my case, when there is a husband in the house there is clutter – he saves EVERYTHING!! I caught him the other day pulling something out of the recycle bin that I had put in there (he thought he might use it in 20 years). Ugh! I love the way you are looking at LESS – not just clutter, but spending and wasting. We usually keep a TJs bag on hand to fill with whatever needs to be donated. We also compost which helps with the food scraps. I’ll look forward to future posts on this from you!


  11. These are such helpful lessons for ALL of us! I can tell your monthly updates are going to jumpstart ideas for me, too! creating space – literally & figuratively – feels like something I typically feel like doing in the spring, but I’m craving it now, too.


    1. Thanks, Mary. I just want things to be a tiny bit easier and to have a little margin. I’ll be very happy if I can make ANY progress with that this year!


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