Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giving Back in the New Year

Now that 2012 is quickly approaching, it's time to start thinking about New Year's resolutions. Last year my resolutions were to work out 5 days a week, quit eating sugar, and cook more meals at home. Unfortunately, I failed at all three of those resolutions - I barely managed to work out 2 or 3 times per week, I ate sugar like a fiend, and, much to my husband's chagrin, I think I made dinner a total of 4 times last year. But this year will be different!

In keeping with the theme of this blog, and the theme of my life, this year I am only going to have 1 simple resolution: Give Back. Yes, we are in the middle of a recession and times are tough, but there are so many people out there who are less fortunate than me, and so many organizations dedicated to causes that I believe in who could use my support. So this year I will aim to donate 3% of my income to charity.

Of course money is not the only way that we can Give Back. One of the MOST FUN ways that I know of is by DECLUTTERING!!! Here are a few suggestions:

- Donate your used books to the library! Go through your bookshelves and pack up any books that you no longer need. This includes old college text books (yes, Amanda - you inspired this one!), books you've already read that you don't plan on reading again, books you didn't like, duplicate copies of books, and books that your kids are too old for. Then pick out 10 more books to add to your pile as a New Year's gift to me. :D

- Donate canned and dry goods to your local Food Bank! Open up those cupboards and pull out all of those cans of soup that you bought on sale but realized that you don't like, any extra bags of rice or beans, jars of peanut butter, or unopened boxes of cereal. What's left in your cupboards should be neat and tidy, with plenty of room to organize your food by height and width, in even rows, labels turned forward, categorized by type and texture...just kidding, this is what my food cupboard looks like:

- Donate clothing and shoes to your local Goodwill or charity store! There are only 7 days in a week so how many pairs of pants, shoes, and t-shirts does one person really need? Plus with less clothing comes less piles of dirty laundry to wash, fold, and squeeze into overflowing dresser drawers.

- Donate your chotskies to charity! defines chotskies as "Generally useless crap of little or no value." I couldn't have said it better myself! Toss them in a bag and donate those useless, dusty, space wasters to charity so that someone else can have the privileged of caring for them for the rest of their lives - at least until they read this blog!

Hopefully after decluttering these 4 areas of your house, you will be invigorated by your clean, organized spaces and want to do more. If you do, then congratulations are in order because you, my friend, have discovered the wonderful world of decluttering! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Holiday Decluttering Session

As I mentioned previously, I like to declutter before Christmas to make room for all of my new gifts. Here is what I'm decluttering today:

1 Christmas tree stand - our tree trunk was too big to fit in it this year, despite my husband and brother-in-law's attempts to modify it.

1 Purse tag - I bought a new purse and it came with a big, clunky label tag which I have no use for, so it's getting donated.

1 Purse - In following the "One in, one out" rule, I'm decluttering my old purse to make room for my new purse.

1 Strand of broken Christmas tree lights - to be recycled at the next e-waste event.

1 Broken MP3 player and it's computer cord and head phones - Hubby got me a new one for my birthday =)

2 Pairs of Socks - I'm trying to dress more professional for work these days, so no more holiday socks.

1 Christmas Stocking - My friend and I used to give each other stockings for Christmas every year, but this year we decided to take ourselves out to a delicious, vegan restaurant that we both love instead. Good company + good food = Awesome gift!

1 Book - This book will be donated to the library for others to enjoy.

2 Herb Containers - These are remnants of my obsession with decorating my apartment with European things. I'm over it.

1 Shirt - I used to have a closet full of black shirts for when I was required to wear them for my spa job. I haven't worked at the spa in almost two years now...

1 Pair of Jeans - These jeans make my butt look huge. Not a good look for me.

Now that my holiday decluttering is done, let the Christmas festivities begin! 

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Interview with the Lovely Lilly

Bella4Eva: OK, are you ready?

Lillypad: Yes

Bella4Eva: Well hello, Lilly! How are you doing today?

Lillypad: Fine Bella, thank you for asking.

Bella4Eva: So, Lilly, what made you decide to start simplifying your life?

Lillypad: Being a working parent, I felt like I did not have enough time in the day to do all of the things that needed to get done. I felt like I was constantly cleaning and organizing, and I never got to just BE with my family and the friends I enjoy. So I decided I wanted to get organized and I wanted free time.

Bella4Eva: I agree. We definitely did not spend enough time together.

Lillypad: Off the record - the kids on the blog after us are adorable. 

Bella4Eva: lol

Lillypad: The mom has a haircut that I could see on you.

Bella4Eva: Lethally Fab? The haircut that is an imitation of Christian Siriano?!?! That's a boy haircut!

Lillypad: The Cole's

Bella4Eva: Oh

Lillypad: I like's sharp.

Bella4Eva: I can't find it

Lillypad: Oh well never mind back to the interview.

Bella4Eva: OK, so after you made the decision to simplify your life, what was the first thing that you did?

Lillypad: I started organizing but when organizing the house did not seem like enough, I sat down to make some lists. Lists of what was important to me and what wasn't. From there I had to decide what I was going to reduce or remove from our life. Not just items, but activities and people.

Bella4Eva: What kind of people did you remove?

Lillypad: I reduced the amount of time I was spending with people who obviously were not going to be a major part of my life, people who were toxic were completely removed (I decided I could love them and pray for them from a distance), I reduced the amount of time I was spending with people who were not permanent (coworkers, classmates, people I once knew), and I stopped trying to hang out with people who were always busy (if they want to see me they will make time). Then I made a list of people that I was going to put effort into seeing, even if it meant flying to where they were. That list of people are the ones who are a priority.

Lillypad: If there were people on the list who made it hard for me to be with my family, then they were removed. For example I had a friend who was really vulgar and in order to hang out with her I would have to leave the children at home because she couldn't tone it down in front of them - so she was removed. I love her, she is a blast to hang out with, but I do not want to ditch my kids every time I have to see her. My kids are a part of me and people enjoy them as they would enjoy me.

Bella4Eva: Glad i made the list!

Lillypad: Yes, you did!

Bella4Eva: What else did you remove from your life?

Lillypad: I no longer take organizer rolls when volunteering.

Lillypad: I say no to birthday parties for people we do not see ourselves knowing for long or for people who do not come to our parties.

Lillypad: If my children are not enjoying or learning from an extra curricular activity then I stop going right away.

Lillypad: I got a new job and left the company where I had a long commute and they were not flexible with my children's schedule. The old job also caused me to have a lot of stress.

Bella4Eva: What about things you owned? What section of your house did you start decluttering first?

Lillypad: I started with the hall closet where we keep the medicine, towels, sheets, and cleaning supplies. It was packed full of stuff and we couldn't find anything we needed.

Bella4Eva: How does your hall closet look now?

Lillypad: Like I need to go through it again, lol.

Bella4Eva: Sounds like a great idea for a future post!

Lillypad: Yes, I will post about it in a few days.

Bella4Eva: Yay!

Bella4Eva: So how did your family react to all of the changes you were making?

Lillypad: The kids enjoyed being able to find things when looking in the closet and they did not notice that we were reducing the amount of activities we went to.

Lillypad: My sister said she was proud of us.

Bella4Eva: What about your husband?

Lillypad: In the beginning he didn't really understand why I was making these changes, but he has now learned to love every simplifying, frugal, and decluttering change. We recently had a major life change and it just so happened that simplifying fit right it. He is now the master declutterer and really enjoyed simplifying the Christmas list this year by reducing the number of presents we are giving out.

Bella4Eva: That's great!

Bella4Eva: How many years has it been since you first started your journey?

Lillypad: It has been about 4 and a half.

Bella4Eva: How does your life now compare to how your life was 4 and a half years ago?

Lillypad: It is really different. We had a good life then, but I feel my life is much better now. We are not struggling with feelings of obligation anymore. We are still decluttering as any parent of two children will be, but it is easier now and takes less time.

Bella4Eva: I've definitely noticed a change since you started this process. Your house is much more organized, you seem less stressed, and happier.

Lillypad: Thank you for noticing...I am trying.

Bella4Eva: So, what has been the hardest part of your journey?

Lillypad: Staying focused when others do not understand what you are doing or are not on board. Another really difficult part is getting distracted...when you get distracted, you take a few steps back and have to re-implement what you have been doing, like going back to declutter the hall closet again.

Lillypad: I just sent you two emails. Can you tell me if you got them?

Lillypad: I want to use one of them as a picture for my daughter's evite for her birthday party but I need to make it look fancy. It is a princess tea party.

Lillypad: Did you get the email?

Bella4Eva: Hold on a sec.

Bella4Eva: No, I did not.

Lillypad: I am not sure what is going on here.

Bella4Eva: Dunno.

Bella4Eva: Have people given you a hard time for trying to simplify?

Lillypad: If I text you the pics, can you save them and email them to me?

Bella4Eva: I don't have internet on my phone.

Lillypad: Oh, bummer.

Bella4Eva: What are you doing?

Lillypad: Writing an invitation to my daughter's birthday. =)

Bella4Eva: What were you saying about being distracted? lol.

Lillypad: lol!

Bella4Eva: Have people given you a hard time for trying to simplify?

Lillypad: No, just not understood what it means. I find that people like to be busy and say they are busy as if it were a status symbol. I have also noticed that people do not want to get rid of what they have. I think it is because most people like to be in control of their things, so if you give them the idea then they do not want to to do it, but if it is their idea then they are all for it.

Bella4Eva: Have other people noticed a difference in you or your decluttered house?

Lillypad: Yes people have certainly noticed my decluttered house and they enjoy the homey feeling that my house has now. People feel more comfortable coming over and relaxing there.

Bella4Eva: That's definitely encouraging.

Bella4Eva: Is there anything you've decluttered that you later regretted?  

Lillypad: I cannot think of anything...maybe some clothes.

Lillypad: But I don't get rid of things that are important to me.

Bella4Eva: Were you able to find something in your closet to wear in place of the item that you gave away?  

Lillypad: No, I will need to buy it. lol!

Bella4Eva: lol!

Bella4Eva: Great, there went our readers.

Lillypad: I do not have the perfect closet yet. That is a different post.

Lillypad: That questions sucks - it is an entirely different topic.

Bella4Eva: OK fine

Lillypad: If I want to look crappy, then yes.

Bella4Eva: LOL!

Bella4Eva: OK last question. What would you say to someone who isn't sure if they are willing to let go of things in their lives?

Lillypad: I would ask what is keeping that thing, person, or place there? What makes them a priority?

Bella4Eva: OK, well that is all the time we have today.

Bella4Eva: Thanks for talking with me!

Lillypad: Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Pre-Santa Cleanup

Every year around the holidays I get some much needed time off - two weeks to be exact. At first I thought I would spend the entire time doing "Holiday Things" with my kids, but then it hit me that what I really needed to do is clean up and get organized. A little winter cleaning, if you will, BEFORE Santa brings all of those new and wonderful presents. I thought it would be the perfect time to organize and wrap presents without children. Did you hear me say without children? That's right, I made the decision to drop the kids off at Daycare for a couple days while I got the house in order.

In the past we did not have a childcare system in place. My husband stayed home with the kids while I was at work, and then when I was home, it was his time off. So the kids and I would enjoy our time together and nothing would get done.

We all know that when kids are around productivity decreases. It is extremely difficult to try and organize or clean something when you are busy separating arguments, making sandwiches, or kissing boo boos. Obviously, if I was going to get things done, I would need to remove the kids from the situation.

Bringing the kids to daycare simplifies life in a few very important ways, leading to less frustration, more time, and a happy Mama.

Reasons For Bringing My Kids to Daycare:

1. I will not have to hide when I wrap presents, I can take my time, and I can spread things out.

2. I will get more housework done in less time.

3. The children will not be scolded every half hour because they are bored, and being bored turns into an episode of siblings gone wild.

4. The children will not be here to make another mess while I am cleaning, have a debate about whether or not they still play with a toy they received three Christmases ago, or have a dramatic breakdown about why they cannot help clean.

5. When the children are home for the rest of the two weeks I will be PRESENT with them because all other obligations will have been completed and my heart will be focused on making this a special time together.

The kids complained a little about going to Daycare and I did receive a few remarks about how it was unfair to them, but as a parent who works full time I know that my time with my kids is limited. So if I have to sacrifice two or three days of their two weeks off so that they can have the best mommy possible when they do have me, IT IS WORTH IT.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Do you smell that?

It's the scent of VICTORY!!!!!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen! I have succeeded! The impossible has been achieved! VICTORY IS MINE!

Here it is! Right in front of you! Revel in its GLORY!

Bum bum BUUUUUUM!!!!!!!!

Are you amazed? Did you fall out of your seat? Do you KNOW what this IS???

It's clutter!

But not just any clutter. No, this rare and precious clutter comes from a previously forbidden declutter zone. A place where no declutterer has gone before! But I have been, and I HAVE PREVAILED!

Ladies and gentlemen, this clutter came from My Parents' House!

That's right! Today was the day the barriers were broken down!

Today was the day the good fight was won!

Today was the day my mom let me declutter a shelf on her bookcase!!!!

One small step for me, one giant step for my mama!

Love you, mama :D

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tis the Season

I love Christmas. I love the lights, the stockings by the fireplace, the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, thick slices of pumpkin bread, and of course, Christmas Carols!

Did you notice that I left presents off that list? It's because presents and I have a love/hate relationship. In theory, I love finding the perfect gift, wrapping it up, decorating it with a bow, and placing it under the tree. I love seeing the look of joy on someone's face when they open their gift, confirming that I have truly chosen the perfect thing.

In reality, the amount of times that I've actually found the perfect gift is far less than the amount of times my perfect gift has ended up being completely, terribly wrong. Like the time I bought my then boyfriend/now husband one of those custom coffee mugs with our photo on it for him to use at work. I knew he loved coffee, and I knew he loved me - best gift ever, right!?!? Wrong. Apparently no self-respecting 18 year old wants to bring an extra large coffee cup with a cheesy photo of him and his girlfriend to the construction site to show off to his coworkers every day. He used that thing a grand total of zero times before I finally ended up just passing it on to my parents. Now my husband has the joy of watching his father-in-law drink coffee out of it after every family meal. He'll never escape the watchful eyes of the happy 18-year old couple we once were. That's the problem with personalized gifts - they can never be donated to Goodwill because the thought of a stranger drinking out of a cup with my face on it is just too weird.

Now that I'm a certified decluttersimplifyminimalist-aholic, I ask myself these questions when Christmas shopping, "Will the person actually use this, or am I trying to force my tastes on them? Will this gift benefit them, or am I just adding to their clutter?" And of course, "Will they ever be willing to part with it once they finally give in and let me declutter their house for them (I'm talking to you, Mom!)?"

This year I'm trying to cut down on the number of gifts that I give people and stick to gifts that are useful and, if I know it wont offend the recipient, pre-owned. is a great source for used books, dvds, and video games in "like-new" condition, and you can get them for a great price.

Though I love giving Christmas presents to people, receiving them can be stressful for me. I like my house to be clutter-free and the thought of bringing in piles of new presents to find places for puts my OCD decluttering tendencies into overdrive. To combat this, I usually fill a bag or two for Goodwill before Christmas comes. I am a big fan of the "one in, one out" rule which basically says that for every new item that you bring into your home, you give away one item.

It can be helpful to create a wish list for family and friends to get ideas from, thereby hopefully eliminating some of the "thoughtful" gifts that people who, after braving the crowds at the mall for weeks in search of the perfect present, finally cave in and purchase; things like giant baskets of body lotion, or a membership to the Fruit of the Month club. I'm fortunate to have an overly generous family who love to buy me presents, however, they are usually not very excited by my requests for Whole Foods gift cards and dish soap. So now I direct them to my Amazon wish list where I keep a list of books that I want with a note next to each book that says, "Used copy, pls." That way, I get a giant stack of books to read during the Christmas holidays - which I love - and once I've finished reading them, I can pack the books up and donate them to my local library.

I then sigh a big sigh of relief at having removed the giant stack of books that was cluttering up my living room. :)

Wishing you all a wonderful, stress-free, Merry Christmas!

Why Simplify?

Like many of you, when I think about trying to simplify my life, it makes me shiver; maybe even gag a little. Not because the end result isn’t rewarding, but because the road getting there can be long and windy, and windy roads make me car sick. The thought of change can be overwhelming. I think, "I can't fit anything else in my schedule, how am I going to have time to start a life overhaul?!?"

So I sit back, take a deep breath, let the nauseating feeling of stress remove itself from my body, and remind myself about all of the benefits of simplifying:

By simplifying, I will be able to spend more time doing things I want to do (study languages with my children, travel, garden, the list goes on) and less time doing the things I'm obligated to do (go to another meeting, birthday party for an acquaintance, clean the house, shop for a present for a child who will be receiving 30 more, and this list goes on and on and on)

By simplifying, I will be able to find what I need when I need it, not two weeks later (I really would like to know where all of my son’s sweatshirts are.).

By simplifying, goals will no longer be goals, but achievements.

By simplifying, tired and busy will be something that went out with the 80’s and died there.

By simplifying my home life, I allow room for the things that are most important to ME, to flourish. ;)

By Simplifying, I will have time to take a shower in the morning, put on lotion, fix my hair, wear clothes that have been washed (and put away), and find my purse without thinking there is no time for myself and I must get the kids' stuff together.

By simplifying, money stays in the bank account.

By simplifying, I get a calm family and yes, these will be the same blood relatives who currently live with me.

By simplifying, I will have time to breathe fresh air, not 5pm traffic exhaust.

By simplifying, I do not have to hang out with people whose conversation puts me into a deep “I have no idea what you are talking about” coma.

By simplifying, I will have more time to spend with my husband and children.

The reasons for saying yes to simplifying are, as my son would say, a billion quadrillion and one.

Still not convinced? What do you have to lose?

If things in your life are good, then there is room for great. If things are not so good, well let’s keep it real, things need to get better.

What do you get if you play a country song backwards?

You get your life back.

Now the question is, do you want your life back?

Monday, December 12, 2011

And the journey begins...

My name is Lilly. I am a wife, mother, and lover of all things simplified. My journey began in August 2006. I was sitting at work feeling tired and pregnant, staring at my fat feet, eager to get home to my son. I started to think about how the house was a mess, my bills needed to get paid, my friends wanted me to go to dinner, my son wanted to go to the park, I hadn’t talk to my family in weeks, and all I wanted to do was sit with my little guy and read a book. I thought, "This cannot be it...This cannot be the rest of my life!" I started to dread the weekends filled with birthday parties, chores, volunteer activities, and the constant amount of stuff that we were accumulating every time we left the house. Before I went into complete pregnant hysterics, I succumbed to my last resort - I decided to read a book that my Mom had given me after my son was born; it was called Living the Simple Life. Between that amazingly awesome book (no payment was received for that comment, it really is that good) and articles on the Fly Lady website and the Fly Lady book (oh yes she is Fly), I was on the road to finding joy in owning fewer things, a cleaner house, and a life I would soon enjoy.

I excitedly started to tell everyone I knew about the changes I was making because I really wanted a buddy to do it with. I had few takers, in fact only one. I tried to convince Bella, but at that time she was involved in something else…Ah yes, it was becoming vegan. So she wasn’t immediately interested because she was already busy. At the same time Bella wanted me to join her on the Vegan Voyage, but unfortunately I had to decline because OF COURSE that would not simplify my life (Good excuse, right?).

After Bella's complete transformation into veganism we joined forces. A few years later Bella and I are still on this path together. I am not a decluttering maniac, I don’t throw our children’s artwork in the garbage, nor do I keep EVERYTHING given to us. I do really enjoy watching, helping, and being that pushy friend who tells everyone else about how they too can find joy by doing less, having less, and buying less. Ok so that is a little obsessive, but whatever works?!

We are still a work in progress with much to do but can’t wait to share our journey with all of you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Introduction: Bella

In order to protect ourselves from the swarms of Paparazzi that were sure to hound us once our blog went public, Lilly suggested that we use pseudonyms to hide our true identities. So naturally, being the Twi-hard that I am, I chose the name Bella.

Hi, I'm Bella. 29 years old, married, and living in sunny California. My simple living journey started a few years ago when, inspired by the changes that my friend Lilly was making to simplify her life, I began reading Leo Bautista's blog - Zen Habits. I loved reading Leo's story about how he was able to simplify his life by getting rid of the excess, and decided that for my New Year's resolution I would start simplifying my life too. So that weekend I went through every drawer, closet, and box in our apartment and piled up two carloads of stuff to give away. That was the weekend that my decluttering addiction began.

Now, three years later and 15+ carloads of stuff lighter, I am a certified decluttersimplifyminimalist-aholic. My walls are mostly empty, my rooms are half bare, and there is always a semi-full Goodwill bag by the door. While I definitely own more than 100 things, I am constantly on the lookout for more stuff to give away. If you come to my house, you can bet that you will not leave empty-handed.

Both my parents and my in-laws have banned me from helping them declutter. Probably because I am a ruthless, take no prisoners, decluttering zealot, hell-bent on ridding myself and the world of useless tchotchkes and knickknacks in the quest for a happier, simpler life for all!!!!

Just kidding. I'm not that intense.

Admittedly, one of the first things that I zero in on when I walk into someone's home is the amount of excess stuff they're housing. And I have been known to organize my friends' apartments while they sleep...and I do regularly volunteer to help people move in a veiled attempt to locate their clutter and convince them that they don't need it... But "decluttering zealot?" That's grossly exaggerated. I prefer to be known as a passionate minimalist.

But you can just call me Bella. =)