By Erin Long
I love connecting with others and, even though most of my schedule revolves around spending time with people, it’s a challenge to really connect. Between my three young and busy kiddos, writing blogs, being involved in my church and community, my husband’s work schedule, and the daily running of our home I have to be creative to find the necessary time to set aside to spend with others.
So I’ve simplified my life as much as I can so when someone calls and wants to get together I can usually say, ‘YES!’ and our home is never far from being ready to have people over.
Where to begin
The area I’ve simplified that’s had the biggest impact on my ability to connect with others is owning less stuff.
When we simplify what we own we free up time and mental energy to focus on what matters: connecting with others. By clearing our homes of excess stuff we spend less time managing it (cleaning/organizing/shopping for/repairing/etc.) and we have more time to invest in relationships. The connections we make with others give our lives a richness that objects never can. By owning less stuff we are able to make relationships a priority.
Yes, we make our homes beautiful and we enjoy the things we have in them but those things serve us, we don’t serve them. And when we have too much stuff we end up wasting our precious time on it and not the relationships and activities that give us life.
It also means we’re less stressed out. When we don’t own as many things we don’t have as many things to put way, or to move around to get to what we’re looking for (if we can even find it in the midst of everything else). Our minds are more at peace and it’s not a huge hassle to get our homes ready for company.
So let me suggest some categories you can own less of to give you more time to invest in connection.
We spend a lot of time shopping for clothes, picking out what we’re going to wear each day and then doing laundry. We only wear a small portion of our wardrobes and most of it just sits there, taking up both physical and mental space. When you downsize to a capsule wardrobe and only have the clothes that you love to wear, it’s a much less daunting and time consuming task to open your closet and pick out what you’re going to wear because you have fewer choices that all coordinate and make you feel beautiful. You can read about my capsule wardrobe here. Additionally, Project 333 encourages you to pare down your clothing, shoes, outerwear and accessories to 33 items for a 3 month time period. It’s a comprehensive plan that will give you a place to start when you’re ready to purge your wardrobe.
The same theory applies to kids clothes as it does to adult clothes, expect that kids clothes take up even more time. It’s a lot easier to quickly change your baby’s outfit when you don’t have to go searching through mounds of clothes to find something that actually matches or to tell your older kids to get dressed to only later find them standing in their pjs in from of a closet with too many choices. And there’s less laundry. And that’s always a win.
Between birthdays, Christmas, other holidays, and doting grandparents, kids toys can get out of control in about 0.3 seconds. While a big purge can be traumatic (I’m speaking from personal experience here) removing a few unplayed with toys at a time can add up. Even getting rid of all the garbage makes a huge difference (I’m looking at you, Happy Meal toys). For gift-giving occasions consider giving something your kids need, an experience, or something consumable. New clothes, a trip to the zoo, or an extra special treat make meaningful gifts that won’t suck up your time and can encourage connection with your kids.
Like our closets, our kitchen cupboards are full of items we rarely use. Are there any single use items, like a bundt pan, French press, or trifle bowl that you don’t use? Or a small appliance that you absolutely needed but, as it turns out, you don’t? Or do you have more wooden spoons, mugs, and cookbooks than you need? Getting rid of them can streamline your kitchen and allow you to find what you need more quickly. All good things when you have people over.
While it’s fun to have decorations for every holiday and to liven things up by switch out everyday decorations, it takes time to put them out and take them down (think of the proverbial Christmas tree that overstays the holiday season). Fewer, well chosen decorations can create the atmosphere you’re going for without taking away from celebrating with the people you love. If you need some ideas about manageable holiday decorating, check out Jessica’s blog post on how to decorate for any holiday.
When we intentionally chose to only own things that contribute to our lives and get rid of the things that just take up our time we are left with a peaceful home and heart and the time and energy we need to connect with others.
So let me encourage you to look at what you own and think about what things take up time that you could use to connect. Because the relationships we build are vastly more important than anything we own.
Erin Long is a world traveling mama of three. You can find her on her own blog, Home and Grace, where her most recent post – What Minimalism Means to Me – ties in perfectly with our simplifying theme this month. She’s also a regular contributor to Red and Honey and the story of her youngest child’s transcontinental birth is included in Knocked Up Abroad Again available on Amazon.