Slowing Down the Speed of Life

In the past few months I have heard and read more about the Slow Movement, of living a more thoughtful life.

Slowing Down the Speed of Life | ShalomMama.com

I’ve seen references to:

  • The Slow Food Movement
  • The Slow Home
  • Slow Blogging
  • Slow Lifestyle

In an ever increasingly loud, hi-tech, and chaotic world, finding calm and peace can be a challenge. Slowing down the speed of life to be more deliberate can sound old fashioned, unrealistic and maybe even a bit crazy.

But I would hazard a guess that those that think you are crazy for wanting that kind of life, secretly want the same opportunity, but are not willing to make the changes necessary to make it happen.

To many of us however, it sounds like a breath of fresh air.

It’s not always easy; the peer pressure to be involved in everything and say yes to everything can be intense. Plus we want an answer to our emails or texts right away, we want the website to load immediately. Basically we don’t always want to wait, we want it now so we can move on to the next thing.

To move slower and slow the speed of life does take some adjustment in your lifestyle and mindset. It takes intentional decisions.

Slowing down fits right in with simplifying life and both slowing down and simplifying are part of living an intentional life.

I’ve been active, pretty much since I was born. Sitting still was never (and honestly, still isn’t) easy for me. I move, shift, wiggle, bounce my leg, tap my finger, something that involves movement and probably annoys anyone sitting next to me. So looking at a slower life, while it sounds delicious, I know at times would be hard. I still can’t sit at my desk for very long – I’m up and down a lot.

One of the ways I am working on slowing down is to pursue 2 of my words for the year – Creativity and Simplify – by taking some new photography classes. These classes are centered around still life photography, learning to create images using props from the home, from nature and more.

Through these classes I’m finding it is a great opportunity to slow down deliberately, to focus (pardon the pun …) on what is in front of my and my camera lens.

Learning to really see not, just glance around. To observe, see details and understand composition and lighting. While time may go fast while I work, my brain slows down, the racing thoughts subside and the massively long to do list fades from view. It is wonderful.

The intent of these classes by Kim Klassen is to carve out time to just be. To breathe deep and focus.

She started her adventure with still life photography during a difficult health crisis in her family. This became her escape for a short time during the day. It was a time and space she carved out just for her, a time to breathe deep, enjoy beauty and create art. She now shares her art and teaches still life photography, what an amazing gift!

Right now my slowing down is in my photography. But maybe for you it is cooking more meals at home, taking a hot bath, or scheduling time to sit and read a book. Look around your life and pick out one area where you could slow down.

Before I forget, here is one more way to slow down :). Letter writing.

You know that snail mail treasured item we usually only get on birthday’s and at Christmas now days? Did you know that February is National Correspondence month? There are a couple of challenges out there to write one letter a day during the month of February.

I love this idea – not realistic for me and my life right now, but a wonderful idea. What if you decided to slow down and send out one handwritten letter or postcard a week for a month? What if we took time to craft words that would encourage someone and brighten their day?

How can you slow down the speed of life today?

3 Simple Secrets for Cleaning Less

Keeping my house in order is essential for my sanity. Clutter makes me feel really anxious and I can’t relax with a mess around me.

3 SIMPLE SECRETS FOR CLEANING LESS

Thankfully, I’ve discovered some simple ways to keep my house in a clean-enough state without spending all of my time picking up messes.

1. Declutter

The number one way to spend less time cleaning and my favorite. The less stuff you have, the less you have to clean. You may  be nodding your head in enthusiastic agreement, and if you are, proceed to number 2.

If not, maybe it’s time to get rid of some stuff. Like the toys the kids never play with or your second set of dishes or the clothes in your closet that you never wear.

If you want some help with this task, check out my post, How to Declutter Your Home.

2. Get laser-focused

If I know that I need to get something done and I only have a certain amount of time to do it in, I zoom through it with laser focus. And then I wonder why I don’t do that everyday…

This is great when it comes to cleaning (especially if you’ve done the decluttering part). Some people call this White Hurricane as a fun way to motivate the kids to clean up before Daddy gets home.

This works best for us after dinner.

Pick a certain amount of time (thirty minutes is more than enough time for our house and I find a time crunch is a good motivator) and get to work. Upbeat music helps a lot, too, and makes it more fun.

When time is up, the dishes have been done, floors and counters cleaned and the rest of the house has been straightened. Then there’s plenty of time to hang out, watch a movie and read stories before bed.

3. Get help

Our “school” focus for the last few weeks has been on teaching the kids how to help us around the house. And we’ve found something interesting: when we let them do the chores they like to do, they’re much more willing to help out.

So rather than trying to force them to do everything, we’re letting them work in their strengths, which is working out really well for us.

It took a few training sessions, but we have helpers who actually like folding and putting away laundry (most of it), cleaning the toilets (oh thank goodness) and washing the dishes (especially Isaiah who usually ends up soaked).

While the initial “job training” takes time, it is so worth it. You just have to learn to breathe through the water spilling on the floor…

Simply Clean Home. An eguide to help you clean less and live more.Simply Clean Home

For the last few years, I’ve been asked a few questions over and over again. When that happens, I usually write a blog post to address it. But for this question, a post wouldn’t suffice – I needed a whole book. What’s the question?

“How can I declutter my home so I don’t have to clean so much?!”

I can so empathize. When my dream of staying home with my kids was finally realized, I thought it would be all snuggles and play dates. Ha! We snuggled, alright. But only after I’d spent the better part of the day cleaning. And was my house spotless? No.

There was just so much stuff, it required constant care to keep me from going crazy (turns out clutter stresses me out – a lot). As for play dates, those only happened if I had time in my schedule to leave the dreaded housework and go somewhere else.

There was no way I was inviting people over – that would just mean more cleaning!

Thankfully, that’s no longer my reality. Now, it takes me about 30 minutes to do my major chores and 30-45 minutes of daily tasks to keep the house tidy and peaceful (as peaceful as it can get with four kids, anyway).

I’ve learned a lot about keeping a my home clean simply in the last few years and I’m sharing them now in my latest ebook.

And so, I give you Simply Clean Home. It’s an easy-to-follow guide designed to help people clean less and live more. It’s broken down into three sections:

  • Decluttering
  • Cleaning
  • Now what?

Because some of us need ideas for what to do with ourselves once we don’t have to clean all the time anymore.

Click here to learn more.

It’s December, What Can You Stop Doing This Christmas?

I don’t know about you but I’m so glad that all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are over. My inbox was slammed. Some emails I didn’t mind getting and even was interested in, but the sheer volume was getting to me. I unsubscribed from more than one list just to get them out of my inbox.

It's December, What Can You Stop Doing This Christmas? | ShalomMama.com

All those emails with sales info and hurry messages were stressing me out. Here in the U.S. our Holiday Season is on a bit of a late start – by about a week and that adds to the urgency a lot of retailers feel about getting as many sales in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If my inbox was any indication there are some worried execs out there.

While Thanksgiving kicks the season off for retailers, for me it officially starts when I pull out my Christmas music CDs, usually the afternoon of Thanksgiving :). That to me is when the Christmas season has started, followed quickly by putting up my Christmas tree.

This year it hasn’t helped as much as usual. I’m having the hardest time “getting into” my favorite season of the year, Christmas. The music, the traditions, the gifts, the food and sometimes even the weather all contribute to the magic of this time of year.

I’m a traditions kind of gal. I like certain things done certain ways at certain times of the year. When they don’t happen or do not happen quite the way I’m used to, I tend to feel disappointed. Each year I am determined to simplify Christmas so that I can intentionally celebrate and not be totally and completely stressed out.

But often that conflicts with the traditional side of me.

This past weekend I had time to think about this a bit more. 2014 has been a difficult year, more difficult than I had anticipated. I do think that is contributing to my struggle to relax and enjoy the start of the Christmas season.

So I am starting a new tradition this year.

Stopping.

Taking more time to just sit and listen to my favorite Christmas music. Sitting and enjoying the beautifully decorated tree at night with all but tree lights off. Reading the Christmas story and following Joseph and Mary as they journey to the Bethlehem. I want to remember what the Christmas Season is really about.

  • Stop biting off more than I can chew in the handmade gift department, last Christmas was close to a nightmare!
  • Stop trying to Do It ALL in the short weeks leading up to Christmas.
  • Stop making ALL of my baking traditions.
  • Most importantly stop trying to make it a perfect Christmas.

I am going to simplify Christmas.

Pick my favorite and most important traditions. The things that if they don’t happen I will be truly disappointed. When I look at it that way, there are really only a handful of items on my list.

I am going to make it an intentional Christmas. Gift making will still happen, but on a smaller scale. Packing in as many events as possible is going to fall back to a minimum. Baking will be on a much smaller scale too. At home nights with Christmas movies and popcorn will probably increase.

This Christmas I want to slow down and enjoy, not push my way through to the next thing to be done. Just thinking about it helps me relax. The beautiful soft Christmas music playing in the background as I write this and the beautiful tree sitting in the corner helps too!

What can you stop doing this December?

My Ridiculously Easy Trick for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen

My Ridiculously Easy Trick for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen

Have you ever gotten frustrated about how much time you were spending in the kitchen so you could feed your family nourishing food? Yeah, me too.

My ridiculously easy trick for spending less time in the kitchen | Shalom Mama

Several years ago, I discovered the concept of real food – stuff that my great-grandparents could grow/raise and/or recognize. I was thrilled because I’d seen such a huge difference in my health even by switching to cooking from scratch. How much better would I feel if I cut out the remaining processed and chemically-laden stuff we were eating?

Lots.

The trouble was, I got a bit ambitious and tried to do everything I read about in, oh, the first week or so (story of my life). The results were … frustrating. I was spending a ton of time in the kitchen when I’d rather be elsewhere.

Part of the frustration was that I felt so scattered with everyday basics. Yes, I had a plan for what we were eating, but there was still other stuff that I needed to make on a regular basis that were independent of the menu and I usually ended up cramming those tasks into one stressful day.

Thankfully, I eventually got a clue and created a routine that has since simplified my real food journey so much, I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out.

The entire process took me less than 30 minutes, which included brewing a cup of my favorite tea and printing off a blank weekly calendar. And the result? A streamlined, simple routine that helps me quickly get things done in the kitchen so I have time for other stuff. I even applied this to my homemaking. Win.

Ready to make your own routine?

Step 1: Make some tea

Or coffee. You know, something tasty. I find it helps me think better when I’m sipping on a yummy beverage (this post brought to you by my husband’s homemade porter).

Step 2: Write down your tasks

What all do you need to get done each week in the kitchen? Do you bake bread? Make yogurt? When do you menu plan? Write down the tasks that need to be done every week but don’t necessarily fit in with your daily meal plan.

Step 3: Choose one task for each day.

Then write those items on your calendar. That simple. Here’s a look at my routine:

  • Monday: Bake bread
  • Tuesday: Make yogurt
  • Wednesday: Make bone broth (we have baked chicken every Tuesday for dinner)
  • Thursday: Soak beans
  • Friday: PRN projects (things that come up less often)
  • Saturday: Menu plan

Easy peasy. Seriously. This simple act of writing out what needs to be done and only doing one task a day has been wonderful. When combined with the simple prep I need to do for my daily meals, this routine makes kitchen time minimal.

Got more tasks that you need to do weekly? Do two items a day if need be.

Real Food Journey

Your Real Food JourneyNeed a little more help with incorporating real food in your home? I highly recommend my friend Trina’s book, Real Food Journey.

Trina’s a real food expert and coach who specializes in guiding people gently to steady progress on this journey. She’s also a lover of simplicity (and has even lived in a bus with her four kids) who knows how important it is to keep this journey as simple as possible.

Her book has so many great tips and tricks for keeping real food simple, saving money and, most importantly, not stressing out about what you’re eating.

It even includes how-tos for doing everything listed in my weekly routine.

I took lots of notes as I read and even added some of Trina’s recipes to my must-try list. And I’m so excited about experimenting with more fermented foods – she made it sound so much easier than other books I’ve read.

This is definitely a must-read whether you’re a real food beginner or have been on this journey for a while.

You can check it out here.

Do you have a weekly routine? How do you keep things simple when it comes to real food?

What Does It Take To Create A Simple Life?

What Does It Take To Create A Simple Life?

If you read this post, you know part of the answer already.

“A Simple Life Means an Intentional Life.”

What Does it Take To Create A Simple Life?

I’ve been asking myself, what does “Intentional” actually mean?

It’s a word that seems to be everywhere you look in blog posts, podcasts, and books, but what does it actually mean? Is each author using the word in the same context? Using the same definition?

According to good ole’ Webster’s Dictionary, intentional means: “Done in way that is planned or intended”.

“Planned”. Ugh. I don’t know about you, but I have a love hate relationship with that word.

The left-brained, logical, to-do-list part of me loves the word. That part wants to know the details of who, what, why, where, and when.

But I don’t always live in that part of my brain. I also enjoy frequent visits to the creative, right-brained part of me, the part that runs away from that same word. This part of me thinks a plan is restrictive and unrealistic. Sure, I’ll follow it for a few days but then something unexpected (unplanned…) happens and that plan flies out the window.

It’s only days later that I remember, oh yeah, I had a plan … and by then I have to re-adjust the entire thing and start again. Not fun.

I like to blame it on not having a good system or the lack of having the correct tool to help keep me on track. Excuses, excuses – I’m the problem not the tool.

So what’ a gal to do?

1. Know your values and priorities – and review them often.
I find this is where I easily get stuck, not reviewing often enough. Life gets busy and I get trapped in the midst of busyness and forget. Forgetting means…

  • It’s much easier to run through the drive-through and not make dinner because I did not think through my week or day and plan accordingly.
  • It’s easy to keep working until late at night and push aside my need for downtime, writing, doing something creative, or spending time with family.

2. Know your why.
Why do you want to create a simpler life? What does this mean to you?

I can’t overemphasize this one. Knowing your why does two things. First, it helps you push through the tough times and second, it pulls you forward and helps motivate you when you want to quit.

  • When you are working on re-paying your debt and you want to go on a vacation, knowing (and I mean REALLY KNOWING) your why will stop you from pulling out that credit card.
  • When you are tempted to skip exercising that day, knowing why you are exercising will help you tie on those shoes and go do it even when you don’t feel like it.

“Intentional living is about knowing why you do what you do and why you don’t do what you don’t do.”
~Mandi Ehman, Life Your Way

You see, Intentional Living:

  • Is a learned skill, a developed habit. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Is about daily decisions made with your values, priorities and your Why in mind. Even when it is hard and friends and family might not understand.
  • Is a journey of many steps and decisions that move you toward your goal of creating a simpler life.
  • Is about hitting the pause button on a regular basis to evaluate, review and adjust course as needed.

Creating a Simple Life is simple, but it’s not always easy.

It takes planning and it takes daily intentional decisions, and these decisions are not always easy. But it should not be a dreaded thing either. When it begins to feel like a burden, it’s time to hit the pause button again and evaluate what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to be adjusted.

Remembering Your Why

Find a way to visualize what you are working towards, your big Why.

  • Start a Pinterest Board
  • Create a vision board
  • Pin up pictures on a bulletin board
  • Journal it
  • Scrapbook it

Create something you will see on a regular basis that will inspire you and help remind you of what is important.

Share what you learn along the way to creating a simpler life. Sharing reminds you how far you have come and just maybe, you might encourage someone else who is on the same journey.

What’s helped you most as you create a simple life?

p.s. Need help decluttering and starting this process? Join me and a very special guest for a free class on conquering your clutter. Learn more and sign up here.

Is tiny living right for you?

Is tiny living right for you?

Is tiny living right for you?I’m so pleased to share a guest post today from Ethan Waldman. Ethan is a tiny living expert who recently wrote a book on things to consider before you go tiny. Many of you have asked questions about various aspects of our bus journey and a common one was whether it was right for you. So 

Read on for some great tips and a chance to win the complete digital edition, which includes the book plus interviews and video bonuses!

Between FYI’s Tiny House Nation reality show and the (wonderful) Tiny, The Movie documentary splashing the recommended section on Netflix, Tiny Houses are everywhere. And while America is clearly falling in love with tiny houses, tiny living is something else entirely!

Do you think tiny living is right for you? Here are four questions you have to ask yourself before you make the transition to living tiny.

Are you okay with a little bit of ambiguity?

There’s a lot of ambiguity when it comes to tiny house living. First and foremost, is legal ambiguity. The Tiny House Movement is very new, and most city zoning ordinances haven’t caught up, which means that most tiny houses break the law in some way or another.

Are you okay with owning [a lot] less?

When I built my tiny house, I added what I consider to be ample storage. There are two closets in the loft for clothes, plus 4 large spaces under the couch for baskets with additional clothes and other supplies.

However, living in a tiny house means having very little “extra” of anything. You’ll really need to change your shopping and buying habits (no more stocking up on things for the freezer!) when you live in a tiny house.

Are you comfortable with your loved ones?

I mean really comfortable. Because in a tiny house, there isn’t a lot of private space. When my girlfriend Ann needs some time to meditate, she goes up into our loft, but it’s still open to the “great room” in the main cabin.

Are you willing to start experiencing more and buying less?

When you don’t have much space for new possessions, your entire perspective on living life shifts. You no longer seek to buy new things to make yourself feel good. Rather, you seek out new experiences and connections to do it. This shift is one of the most profound and welcome changes I’ve experienced in my life.

Want to learn more about Tiny Houses?

Hi, I’m Ethan and I’ll be your guide! I’m proud to introduce Tiny House Decisions: Everything I wish I knew when I built my tiny house.

In it, I cover all of the major decisions you’ll need to make before, during, and after building your tiny house, including all the systems (like heat) and construction choices (like reclaimed hard wood floors vs. new ones).

If you’re planning to start living tiny, I sincerely hope you’re able to download this resource to help you make your journey as smooth as possible!

Tiny House Decisions giveaway

Ethan is providing one complete digital edition, featuring multimedia extras to one reader of the Shalom Mama blog! This includes:

  • Tiny House Decisions in PDF, Mobi, and ePub Formats
  • 8 Audio/Video interviews with leading tiny house experts
  • 12 video system tours from Ethan’s own tiny house build

Learn more about the book and all of the packages here.

Enter to Win the Complete Digital Edition

To enter the contest simply write in the Comment Section below and tell me how Tiny House Decisions will help you overcome the challenges of your dream tiny home. On Wednesday, October 8, 2014 I will announce the winner.

May this book serve you well in your tiny living journey.

p.s. Need help decluttering and starting this process? Join me and a very special guest for a free class on conquering your clutter. Learn more and sign up here.