6 things this non-camping mom learned about camping with a 6 year old.

By “non-camper” I mean a few things. 1) I don’t really know how to camp. I’m sure at some point in my life I’ve slept in a tent but I’ve blocked it from my mind and replaced it with memories of trips that included showers and running water. 2) I hate to camp don’t love to camp. Camping has just never been high on my list of fun activities. Hiking, being outdoors, fire pits, absolutely. But throwing in that overnight piece is where most of my camping experience stops.

 

I do understand, though, that not only have I married a camper (thank God because where else would I get the supplies for this trip?) but I also have a camper-in-training who thinks it’s the best thing in the world.

 

That being said, a Mommy & Me trip presented itself for Henry and I to get some much needed bonding time and it just happened to be on a camping trip. So I decided–what’s the worst that can happen, and signed up (Ginni hadn’t told me her snake story, yet, thank you very much.)

 

Here’s what I learned.
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See: Non-Camping mom and very-excited-to-be-camping son.

1. Bring a two-person tent, but only if you’re staying one night. (But really, why are you camping for more than one night in the first place?) Chris gently told me that the tent he was giving us to use was a little…well, small. I shrugged thinking it wouldn’t be that big of a deal…until I saw the other tents. The tents with little screened in foyers and canopies that covered the make-shift tent/ground porches set up with legit coffee makers and all. The reason I say this is if you have an eight person tent, I would expect it would take about eight people to put it up. If you have a two person tent, you can pretty well manage with yourself and your six-year-old cub scout who wants to help (and is taller than the tent when fully constructed.)

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2. Amazon Prime a power pack. Yes, camping is about unplugging. But unless you’re willing to also carry around your Nikon DSLR for 20,000 steps, you’re going to use your phone for your camera. Also, don’t put too much into unplugging completely. You’re in the woods. You need your phone.
3. Bring along reading material. You won’t read it. You’ll be too exhausted to read anything when it finally is lights-out but bring it anyway. If you start hearing owls hooting and bugs buzzing and start thinking about how many giant spiders you saw today, (I won’t even get into the possibility of anything larger than a spider) you’ll need that book to take the edge off. (I chose Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and I’m obsessed.)
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4. Follow the plan, but make room for your own free time. This camping trip was one where the schedule was planned from 8:00AM-10:00PM. Each activity was fantastic, but at about 1:30, when we had already logged 13 million camping steps (different than regular steps), I knew we needed some downtime. We came back to the tent, Henry listened to an audio book and I read (see, it did come in handy!) until we both regained energy to get back on schedule.
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Not all camping activities were violent, I promise.
5. He’s stronger than I give him credit for. Yes, there were whiny moments after 5 long hours of hiking from place to place but when it came down to it–this little boy is braver, stronger, and more independent than I want to admit realized. Case in point–I fully thought we would be fishing sans-bait until he dug deep into his little cup, pulled out the wiggly worm, and lanced him through the hook without a second thought. While that may not seem like the biggest deal, we’re talking about a little boy who would normally be team-worm in this scenario.
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6. It’s worth it. The heat, the exhaustion, the bugs, the giant spider that I stomped to death is no longer with us, the lack of shower, it’s all worth it for this face. I got more hugs this Saturday than I have in the week combined (and that’s saying a lot because Henry is a hug-boy.) He was fully in his element and the camp experience will be one we both cherish because mommy stepped out of her comfort zone for one night to embrace the little boy he has become.
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*#7 would be wear bright green matching shirts so you don’t get lost in the woods.

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A simple wedding.

Last night we held a small celebration to celebrate our wedding and, of course, one of our main objectives was keeping it simple. And, since this is a blog about my trying to simplify my/our life, that’s what I’m writing about today.

First, let me tell you–we were incredibly lucky to have found the venue we did. It’s a small farm in Kernersville, Smith Hollow Farm, that is owned by the nicest people and the setting is just perfect for what we wanted–outdoors/bbq/kid friendly/farm/lake/firepit/etc/etc/etc. The really nice part, though, was that we honestly felt we didn’t have to decorate. They have made the space so beautiful with hanging lights and wood accents, that it is a perfect spot just as it is. I did put together some table toppers and a few little things but we especially chose this location because of the simplicity in decorating, honestly believing most of it had been done for us.

The whole night, in fact, was designed so that everyone (including Chris and myself) could relax and not feel stressed or pulled in any one direction.

Here’s how we designed a simple wedding:

Table Decorations: 

The table decorations are flowers I picked up from Michael’s over the last couple of weeks while they were on sale. They were part of their spring flowers and while they are fake, I love that they don’t look like regular fake flowers. Side note: these are also what I will be decorating our entire house in now that the wedding party is all done.

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I also picked up pretty glass jars wherever I could find them, which was mostly Target and Michaels. Target dollar spot had the pretty textured ones and Michael’s has a whole selection of metal plant holders. Wait until that 20% coupon on everything, including sale items, and you’ll be all set!

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Most of the signs came from Target as a last-minute find and even our guest book was a dollar spot find.

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We also didn’t have a color theme, which was probably one of the best choices I’ve made for the wedding. It allowed me to say “this is pretty and I want it in the wedding” even if it wasn’t a specific color. That freedom was much greater than I would have thought.

Favors: 

I should preface this with the fact that I’m allowed to say it’s simple because I didn’t do a ton of the work. Chris is the one who went to Lowes and bought 50 succulents and then to Walmart and bought 50 tiny canning jars the day before the wedding because I saw an idea on Pinterest.

But never mind that…I was really happy with the favors because they were simple enough to put together, didn’t cost a million dollars, and (I hope) something people thought were cute and wanted to take home. Option B was Mentos wrapped with notes that said “mint” to be together so you can all thank me later for skipping that one. Okay, thank Chris.

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Activities: 

The last part I really can’t take credit for, except in choosing a location that had kids activities built in. We had a fire pit for smores, hayrides, farm football, cornhole, and more. Kids could visit the farm animals with their parents and run around. I found all these cute “things for kids to do at a wedding” ideas on Pinterest and not a single one of them would have happened because there was just so much fun stuff to do at the location itself.

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I have a million more pictures to share, and trust me, I will. But, I wanted to get this out there—our party was simple so we could spend time with the friends and family that came to celebrate with us. And just because it was simple, doesn’t mean it wasn’t full of love, great food, and great times. It just meant we were also able to enjoy it in the process.

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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. We are officially less than one month away from saying “I do” and I have finally picked out a dress, flowers (homemade on etsy!) and shoes. So the important pieces are covered. Ha.

And then, just to add a little more excitement to the mix, Chris and I made an offer on our first house together. Friday morning we became officially under contract and, while inspections are today so I still want to hold my breath before sharing too much, we are over the moon with the possibilities. We’re hoping, once we officially close, to make this house feel like our home by decorating with a mix of diy (I’m taking furniture building classes!–Also, Chris already knows how to build furniture) and unique finds we acquire along the way.

Let’s just say this blog is about to get a lot more decorating-ish.

I’ve just created a Pinterest Board: Simple Home Decorating to help keep me on track. We both love the farmhouse style and, while we will have space to fill, we want to make sure we’re only bringing in items that create the home-feel we are seeking.

Speaking of, is it any surprise this guy is one of the first pieces of art work we picked up to decorate our new home?

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Source: Homegoods!

I was also completely inspired by Magnolia’s instagram pic here:

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Seeing as I kill every plant I look at, I love the idea of fake flowers that provide the look of real (and actually look pretty real). They’ll never replace natural flowers but we’re all doing the world a favor by not sacrificing living plants for the goal of my decorating.

So a quick trip to Michael’s and I had my start. I will more than likely order Joanna Gaine’s actual plants shown in the picture above because I couldn’t find *quite* what I was looking for but I did get pretty close.

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The flowers are actually for the wedding party decorations! Here’s a sneak peak:

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Basically I’m picking flowers I can later use as house decorations. That’s fair, right?

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Coziness.

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My cozy morning.

I found what I’ve been missing. Driving down the road I was listening to one of the favorite podcasts, By the Book, and this episode was all about The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. And it was everything I needed in that very moment.

What I realized I was missing was the connection between simplifying and still living comfortably in my home and spaces. I like the warm blankets laying on the couch. I like the Polish Pottery Easter bunnies sitting on my mantle right this very moment. I like the 8-million drawings Henry made, and the family pictures, and the invitations, taking up every inch of the fridge. Taking away all of these things for the sake of simplicity was starting to feel like losing in another way.

Let me start over: By the Book is a podcast one of my good friends introduced me to where Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer read a self-help book and then live that book for two weeks, after which they give their hilarious and brutally honest results. They lived by and reviewed KonMari last year, which is a book I’ve read and processed myself. They chose The Little Book of Hygge and immediately said it was the anti-KonMari. It’s all about creating warmth and comfort in your home, while still simplifying and slowing down.

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Source: Barnes and Noble

The ladies had mixed reviews and I am going to Barnes and Noble today to pick up my own copy and decide for myself. But there was one word that kept being repeated that changed my whole mindset while listening (and it’s not hygge). It’s “cozy.”

The one thing I don’t want to give up on my search for simplicity is the coziness of a warm, lived-in, home.

Now, that being said, I’m not actually comfortable in clutter. So simplicity is still the focus, but now there’s something more to it: a cozy simplicity. And finding our simplicity.

Also, I woke up today and while scrolling through my social media I saw EMILY LEY posted on instagram about hygge! It just makes sense.

 

 

Starbucks Study Break. For a six-year old.

There are days I feel I hit a wall with homework and chores and dinner on the table by a certain time. This week Henry has a number of morning-work sentences that have to be caught up on for one reason or another and I needed more coffee  wanted to make it maybe a little more fun so we decided ​to work at Starbucks.
It’s no surprise it’s easier to work in a coffee-shop environment. My grad school loan should have included an allotment for Starbucks, itself. But I never really think about it as something that will help a six year old.
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But it did. One slice of warm pumpkin bread and an hour, we had pushed through his sentence corrections, without much effort at all. There were no legos sitting out to distract him. The TV wasn’t staring at him from across the room, asking to be turned on as soon as the work was complete. Mommy wasn’t distractedly folding clothes and trying to clean dishes while trying to help sound out words–my full attention was on him.

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We may make this a new habit. Once a week, Starbucks study date with mommy. It’s a simple fix that I honestly believe saved the evening for us both. The truth is, the reason he had so many sentences to re-do is not because he doesn’t know how to do the work, he just doesn’t want to do the work. And if he didn’t want to do it first thing in the morning at school, you know at 5:30 in the afternoon, after a full day, he certainly isn’t over the moon to re-write more sentences. Changing the environment changed the feeling of what was being done and we both left happy and ready for home.

The Planner.

The one area I am shockingly not drinking the Emily Ley kool-aid is with my planner. Don’t get me wrong, I love Emily Ley’s planner. I was first introduced to the Emily Ley brand because of her Simplified Planner. It’s adorable, and, duh, simple. It might be on the pricey side but my rule of thumb is if it is something I use every day of the entire year, I’ll fork over a little more for it to do exactly what I need it to. As a school librarian, it just doesn’t do what I need it to. I need a planner that allows me space to look at my entire week, write in media assistant lessons, and add class visits, co-teaching, etc., without running out of room.

That being said, my planner of choice is the Erin Condren Teacher’s Lesson Planner. I convert as many people as possible to this planner it’s just. that. good.
I’ve also had multiple librarians ask me within a few minutes of meeting me if I had an Erin Condren planner. When you have found the holy grail, you share.
She offers one million adorable cover choices. I went with the “Floating Florals” pattern this year but didn’t get it personalized just so I could rush shipping. (You can also purchase new covers whenever you get a wild hair and want that fresh planner feel.)
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You are in charge of placing all the month stickers but that’s tedious and horrible sort of fun.
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For classroom teachers there is an entire section dedicated to your grade book. It’s more space than I need for my media assistants so I often do two-three pages for their grades and save the extras for something like battle of the books meetings, etc.
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The lesson side is the really beautiful part. There are seven “subject” blocks across the top and Monday-Friday on the left hand side. These take a year to write in for yourself are completely customizable and it’s worth it.
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I have four blocks of classes each day so I often use one of the extra blocks as a to-do list and then one for exercise or dinner plans. It’s a very clean lay-out and perfect size.
I won’t lie, Erin Condren planner’s aren’t cheap. It’s an expense I am willing to make once a year, though, because of how much I rely on my planner and how perfectly this one works for me. Because of that it’s worth every penny.

Art and Such.

I’ve put organizing on hold for a few days (okay a few weeks) while we’ve been getting back into the swing of scheduling and working full days and homework is replacing snow-cream-making.

And everyone getting sick.

Can it be spring already?

Ok, moving on…What I have started doing, though, is really thinking about what additional items will be needed to purchase to help with the actual organizing. Remember, Emily Ley says no purchasing until the process is complete and I’m starting to see why. At this point, in my office/craft/storage/whatever room, I so far have about 5 baskets/containers of various sizes and shapes that have been emptied and I need to determine what to do with them next.

Here is one item I’m coveting now to buy later:

This leads me to what has truly taken over my thoughts and focus: storing pictures and Henry’s art.
This has long been one of the most overwhelming things for me to figure out–how to store/print pictures in a way that allows me to actually keep and see what I’m saving. I back everything up in google so I don’t have to worry about losing pictures. But, I’m awful about actually printing them. I am ashamed to say I think the only printed pictures in our house are ones that have been given as gifts.

So, I am coming up with three areas of focus:

  1. Printed pictures/art to frame.
  2. Printed pictures to keep in book form.
  3. Storing artwork and grade-keepsakes.

 

I have tried multiple ways of printing out and storing pictures and it just hasn’t worked. I found FreePrints, which mails 89 4X6 prints to you each month for only the cost of shipping. So I have about 400 4X6’s in lovely FreePrints boxes that I haven’t even opened to sort and scrapbook. I broke down and gave in to a photo book from SnapFish. Emily Ley does a “Year Book” for her family and that seemed the be the most appropriate option for us. I uploaded about 350 pictures, put them into very simple templates online, and submitted using a 70% off coupon. It took me a little while to get it the way I wanted but I didn’t use their themes or include any writing in the book so it really could have been quite a bit more time-consuming.

I absolutely love it. Henry loves looking through it. And while I thought it would feel a little empty without descriptions, with all the colors and good-feelings, we haven’t missed them at all.
Secondly, Chris hung frames that I love in the hallway to make the place feel more home-y and they look awesome. I printed a few replacement pics and switched them out just as soon as picking them up from Target  about two weeks later.
While you may be reading and thinking this is entirely too obvious, it has taken me a long time to get to this point and realize 1) I’m not a scrapbook-er 2) If it takes longer than an hour, I probably won’t do it.
Lastly, I have decided to take Becky Higgin’s suggestion on storing children’s artwork in this article:
And, eventually, I’d like to begin photographing Henry’s artwork like this: https://beckyhiggins.com/tips-for-photographing-childrens-artwork/
I had to print both articles to take in all the information. I’m telling you–this is new territory for me and I’m taking them as the professors they are and not stepping out of their suggestions.

But, overall, this has been very nice and very simple.

The Capsule Wardrobe

I cheated a little bit and moved on to Chapter 2: Simplified Style in Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life. I’m no where near the whole-house decluttering she’s making do in Chapter 1 but I did get to my closet and felt it would be a good idea to mix a little—cleaning out the closet has to also mean cleaning out the clothes.

The idea of the capsule wardrobe is a little overwhelming because it simplifies your clothes to an extreme. Another blogger I follow, Kelle Hampton, wrote about her recent experience with this concept here: Creating a Capsule Wardrobe and I immediately related. She’s much more bold in her choices than I am, but I feel on the same page as she does in approaching the concept as a whole.

At this point I haven’t actually removed more than about three or four pieces from my wardrobe. I did, however, take everything down, put it into piles, and hang it back up in order of item. This helped a ton in itself and gave my very patient fiance a full 1/2 of the closet instead of the 1/4 he was currently working with.

What I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was the concept of 37 items–until I went to pinterest. There seem to be some discrepancies here about what that actually means. Most people, though, say it’s per season, and with four seasons, that’s about 148 pieces of clothes all together (although I’m sure some overlap).

Here’s what I’m looking at now:

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Source: https://www.therefinery.ca/refined/wardrobe-capsule.html
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Source no longer available.

What I do appreciate about Emily Ley’s chapter, is the belief in choosing a few key, well made pieces and not buying simply because something’s on sale. I would argue, though, that the two are not entirely separate of themselves. I grew up with a single mom on a social worker’s budget who knew how to make a dollar spread. She shopped for us almost exclusively at goodwill but always bought top brands that were made and tailored well. This is still one of my favorite things to do–goodwill shop and text my friends bragging relentlessly about all the clothes I am finding at a fraction of the cost. Ann Taylor dress for $6? Yes, please.

That being said I am also incredibly guilty of buying a shirt that I kind-of like from Target because it’s marked down to $8.99 or the skirt that’s 20% on cartwheel.

And when you shop like this—goodwill randomly finding awesome pieces and target for clearance, and then every once in a while buying an outfit at full price, it makes for a hodgepodge of a closet that can sometimes be awesome and sometimes be very frustrating.

Basically I have a ton of clothes and nothing to wear.

In Chapter 2, Emily asks you to define your signature style and, with a few exceptions, to stick with it. I was discussing this with my friend and it definitely seems to be one of the most challenging points. We also discussed the frustration of what do we do when we purge those clothes? Go on a shopping spree of all well-made perfectly selected wardrobe pieces? Emily Ley does not advise this (remember–no shopping yet.) 

What I’ve decided to do before throwing away all of my clothes, is to create a pinterest board with outfits I love and would wear daily. I actually have a few from the past but I think it’s going to be better/easier to start fresh.

I’ll be posting these here: My Capsule Wardrobe Pinterest Page

My goal moving forward is to take it slow, remove wardrobe pieces I know don’t fit, either me or the style I “define” and then eventually start adding pieces back in. And then go shopping!

At Goodwill. Because even with this challenge, I can’t justify spending $40 on a shirt just yet.

With that thought in mind I decided to make a goodwill run-through to break up this snow day. I spent $35 and bought the following: (I know, I know, it’s cheating. Sorry, not sorry.)

  • Gap Perfect Bootcut Jeans like these:
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    Source: Gap
  • Sweetheart (no brand) jeans
  • Banana Republic Yellow Cardigan (original retail $60)
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    Source: Poshmark
  • Ann Taylor Purple Cardigan
  • JM Collection Gray long Cardigan ($60 original retail from Macy’s)
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    Source: Macy’s
  • Talbots Green Lace Blouse–This exact shirt: (yes, that says $89.00!)

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    Source: Poshmark
  • Lands End pink and blue striped shirt
  • Gap color block white and gray sweater

That’s EIGHT items for less than one of these would cost full price at the store. However, I made certain to only buy clothes that fit me and my ideal style. (There was an adorable dress for $5.00 that wouldn’t zip and I almost bought it anyway–you know, in case I lose 10 pounds and it zips then?)

Day 18 the Simplicity Challenge was this “Ruthlessly clean out your closet.” This is still a little overwhelming because of the what will I wear?!? fears. But I may be able to tackle it sooner rather than later now that I’ve had my Goodwill-shopping-works reminder.

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Here are a few more articles on a simplified/capsule wardrobe from Emily Ley:

Simplified Style Wardrobe Essentials

Investing in your Wardrobe

Chris has *mentioned* that ideally I would be getting rid of at least 8 pieces to bring these new ones in. And I plan to tackle it…soon…

 

Pain Points/Command Center

Today’s challenge on Emily Ley’s instagram #simplicitychallenge2018 is to identify “pain points.” These are defined as stress triggers that occur daily–her example: kids not finding their shoes in the morning and solving this by putting a basket of kids shoes near the door.

My first instinct would be school lunches. I’ve been packing Henry’s lunch more regularly recently and while it’s generally super simple, it seems we are scrambling in the morning to get it done. I do like the idea of a lunch box drawer (where general lunch box stuff is stored for easy access) but I’m not quite done with drawers/kitchen in general so this may be a part of the process that has to wait until I have the next “pain point” figured out: the command center.
I love the idea of a command center. And when you look on pinterest there are some beautiful ones:
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Source: https://www.hobbylobby.com/Home-Decor-Frames/c/3?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=Buyer_Donna_Home_Accents&utm_campaign=Family_Command_Center
And any of these from DesignerTrapped.com and her article on The Best Family Command Center: 
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Those are all perfect for people with the actual space to have it. (Note to self: Next house needs command center room.)
At the present moment, we just do not. At least we don’t have space that we would really want to use for that and space that would actually look semi-decent organized at the same time.
What we do have, though, is an *almost* empty kitchen cabinet. (Don’t worry, Chris, I won’t be de-cluttering any State mugs.)
In my head our final product will look something like this from The unOriginal mom:

 

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Source: https://www.unoriginalmom.com/
That will require a little more planning on my part. But will definitely be the ultimate goal at the end of this process.
Simple…

Simplified Living–It’s a start.

I’ve tried for years to de-clutter and embrace a simpler way of living–less stuff, less clutter, less stress, less worry, less. And yet almost daily I find myself struggling with actually making that a consistent way of life. I hold on to papers, I buy cute trinkets at the dollar spot, I hoard.
With 2018 properly underway, I am bringing the simplicity goal to the forefront of any resolution and seeking out the experts.
I follow quite a few bloggers and one in particular, Emily Ley, has dedicated her career, and a good part of her life, to simple living. Creator of The Simplified Planner, Emily Ley’s goal is to help you create a life of simplicity through intentional living. And she just happened to write a book about it.
A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living is my first read/research for 2018.
But here’s my disclaimer: while I am searching for a path for 2018 through the guidance and advice and life experiences of others, I also know that this particular lifestyle has to fit me and my home and my fiance and my six year old.

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I like to blog in the sense that it allows me to reflect on, and hopefully remember, what I’m studying. So that’s what I’m hoping to create–a blog of my journey to a more simplified life. Or maybe I just miss my lit reviews from grad school a little too much.

Simple.