Living with enough: The Art of Simplifying Recap

35 or so of us gathered last Saturday and were inspired to simplify our lives. We talked about boundaries with others, boundaries with ourselves, shifting from scarcity to enough, and how simplifying our stuff does a whole lot more than making our house look tidy.

Ever since Michelle and Sarah spoke, I have been thinking about how I’ve grown to be very simple. My home is minimalist. I’ve done the whole “capsule wardrobe,” I’ve sold all the excess, and am learning to be very conscious about what I say yes to in my days. In the past year I went from a total yes-woman, to a “nah, no thanks, not for me,” kind of lady. All of it feels good.

The area I’ve noticed I over-indulge, however, is the online world of information: the constant need to be absorbing information, learning, growing, and hearing the perspectives of others.

I listen to an average of 2 podcasts a day as I cook, clean, and work online. I also am a part of 5 facebook groups, read numerous blogs, always have a book in hand, and follow experts in my field on every social media outlet. I consume information like nobody’s business.  

There are so many voices coming at me every day, it’s hard to know which ones are the ones I should invest my time into. Some of them give contradicting advice and I find myself in opinion-information overload! The catch: it’s hard to know it’s even a problem, because hey, at least I’m eager to learn, right!?

Not right.

My “desire to learn” is wrapped up in my mindset that I don’t know enough to start, that I am not educated enough, and that I must learn just a little more if I want to be be an expert in my field. It’s scarcity. It’s lack. Nothing is ever enough- myself included.

The things in life we over-consume can hold us in bondage;

whether it be appointments, work, projects, clothes, education, even food.

If you find yourself living in over-consumption, examine your motive. Is your heart whispering,

Not enough, not enough, not enough, or I have everything I need?

If you’re like Michelle, maybe you need to cut back on the busy and just be still with yourself-

You are enough.

If you’re like Sarah, maybe you need to declutter and get rid of stuff room by room-

You are enough.

If you’re like me, maybe you need to select your intake elegantly and just take action.

You know enough-



Presentations are on the Podcast

More photos

Gathering Giveaway provided by Courtney of Always Rooney!  photos by  Jenn Fortner  &  Karen Beiler

Gathering Giveaway provided by Courtney of Always Rooney!

photos by Jenn Fortner & Karen Beiler

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Simply Get Started

By Sarah Jenkins

See if this sounds familiar: You're having people over. They'll start arriving any minute now. You're feeling a little frazzled, and also a little sweaty, as you take one last look around.

You breathe a sigh of relief, knowing your guests have no idea what's lurking just beneath the surface of your home...

...the drawers filled to the brim with junk mail, desk gadgets, random purse contents, and anything else you shoved off the counter top.

...your closet stuffed so full that it could spring open like a can of party-gag snakes if you tapped on the door.

...whatever else is hidden under your couch. I won't ask; you don't have to tell me.

Some of you have never known the rush of this last-minute scramble. And to you I say: I do not understand your life.

I am not a good house keeper. I'm a thing keeper. An accumulator. A high-functioning semi-hoarder with some skeletons in the closet. My skeletons are hidden beneath piles and inside bins and between stacks. They're back there behind some free T-shirts, sentimental knickknacks, books I never plan to read, and a pair of pre-Obama administration khakis.


My relationship with my stuff is a problem I've been trying to solve for a long time, but I finally got serious about it this year after I discovered The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Now, when any book promises life-changing magic and Harry Potter is nowhere to be found, there's some major heavy lifting to be done in the "Prove it!" department for me. But I tell you what: I'm a believer.

A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.
— Marie Kondo

Have you heard of #konmari?

If not, here's a 2-minute introduction to tidying expert Marie Kondo, which touches on both the helpful and hilarious aspects of her so-hot-right-now decluttering method.

I know, I know. Greeting your house? Thanking your trash?! Some of this sounds bonkers at first. But something can be bonkers and also true. (Lookin' at you, 2016 election.) And it's true that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has in fact changed my life.

It's okay to roll your eyes; I get it.

Surely it will help to know this wasn't an instantaneous burst of magic. It's been a months-long endeavor, which has required me to unlearn years-long habits, so I can't do the process justice in just one blog post. (I will dig a little deeper Saturday. Come hang out!

I do have one idea I'd like to share, which I think can be helpful to anyone--no matter where you land on the minimalist-to-pack rat spectrum. No matter which skeletons live in your closet.

Simply Get Started.

Everybody has their own "stuff," mine just happens to be STUFF.

Not everyone needs to KonMari their clutter away, but I think we all have our Big Scary Thing (BST). BSTs can show up anywhere: Your health? Your job? Your relationships? Your dreams? (Ummm brb. Going to go stress eat some Cheez-Its after making that list.)

We all have the thing we wish we could change or improve about ourselves.

Probably more than one thing, if we're honest. Facing those things is scary. It's easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed.

But one thing this process has shown me is that you (yes, you!) have the power to change your life.

This surely sounds too good (or too simple) to be true. If you hear a voice in the back of your head saying, "Sure. Easy for you to say, Miss Mystery Hour. Miss Internet Fad. Miss Doesn't-Know-My-Life," you can kindly tell that voice to shut straight up. I have that voice in my head too, and that voice is a dummy. That voice is fear.

Fear doesn't want to change--not even for the better. So it's going to find every way it can to keep you exactly as you are. One of fear's sharpest tactics is giving you reasons not to go beyond the maybe-someday-I'll-do-it place.

If you're facing a Big Scary Thing of your own, as I was before starting my KonMari project in November, I want to challenge you to take one small step toward doing something about it. Do the one thing that takes power away from your fear:

SImply get started.

Whatever that means for you: Read a book. Ask for help. Make a list. Call a friend.

Take just one step. Then tomorrow take another one. Try it. Bonkers as it sounds, I think you'll find there's some unexplainable magic lurking just around the corner from the place where you need to start.

Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given, the door will open.
— Rumi

Eliminate the Unnecessary

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary can speak.
— Hans Hofmann


Out of all the buzzwords of the past couple years, simplify is my favorite. In the midst of my busy life, the idea of simplification--even the mere mention of the word--feels like a daydream. Something we yearn for, but never quite achieve.

I, and many of the people I know, are experiencing this collective phenomenon of being too busy. There are many important tasks, and not enough time in the day to do them. More and more, it seems the important tasks increase to the point where we are juggling too much, losing track of our own priorities, and rushing through life.

Then, in the midst of the rush, we start to talk to ourselves:

When did I acquire so much stuff?

Where did all of these obligations come from?

Why do I feel so powerless to fix it?

In the middle of one of these unhelpful self-talk sessions, two thoughts occurred to me, materializing in my mind like the time I realized there was only one toothbrush in our bathroom because sometime in the past ten years my husband had given up on having his own and adopted mine but when did this happen and how did it take me so long to notice and how is this acceptable?

  • Number one: If i am too busy to do all the important things, maybe I am calling too many things important.
  • Number two: I chose this. Each and every task, obligation, or item, somehow or someway, was something I allowed into my life.



As an idea, simplicity resonates with us. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. I hear people wistfully dream out loud of simplifying by minimizing their wardrobe to a capsule and downsizing to a tiny home to force themselves to limit consumerist tendencies, which we are convinced have complicated our lives.

"I only allow myself one new item a quarter, and it has to match each of my other 5 items in an elegant display of Scandinavian design," we say, in excited sotte voce, "and in order to bring a new thing into my home I have to sacrifice another thing I love, like my dog, on the altar of the minimalist gods to placate their anger at my purchase..." 

This isn't meant to be a lampoon. I have a well-organized wardrobe. I intentionally live in a small house. I carefully consider every acquisition to ensure I'm not wantonly contributing to my own suffocation by possessions. I have found that regulating my behavior is helpful to me. 

But if it is solely a behavioral adjustment, I do become a caricature of the movement because this sort of behavioral regulation is based on an imposed, and sometimes arbitrary, set of rules.



Simplification isn't just about rules. It's about eliminating the unnecessary, and sometimes being ruthless in what we give that title, so that we can see the truly important things. It's about our trajectory through life. When all relationships, opportunities, and ideas share the same level of importance, when it is all speaking to you at once, it is impossible to discern the voice of the necessary. This is why we simplify. In the acts of removing the unnecessary distraction of too many possessions, the temptation to pursue opportunities that aren't right for us, and limiting time with certain people (that's right--not everyone is entitled access to our time!), we begin to discern our purpose and embark on our mission. 


where are you going?

Is what you are doing on a daily basis contributing to the trajectory you want? Or is it distracting you from the direction you want to be traveling in? With a trajectory mindset, we can begin to sort out the unnecessary masquerading as necessary. We can eliminate the clutter of things and possibilities. We can simplify our minds and our mission. Simplification is a single-minded attraction to what is necessary.

If the sound of your life is a robust, warm, jumbled combination of work, relationships, and necessary tasks, don't mistake that for the cluttered clamor of the unnecessary. We should all strive for a life bustling with purpose and people. We eliminate distractions to make our lives as purposeful and people-centered as possible.

Examine your own trajectory. Are you using the principles of simplification and minimalism (or any other buzzy idea) to try to put a fix on your unhappy life?

When our everyday purpose and mission and decisions are in congruence with our trajectory, when having enough is enough, when we can refine the category of important to mean absolutes and feel the freedom to say no to the rest, that is when we have really heard the unnecessary speak.



This post was originally published on Kate's blog. You can read more of her thoughts here.

(Astral Nebula by Hans Hofmann)

Thoughts on Simplicity Now and Then

I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and the world, as an artist, as a citizen. But I want first of all- in fact, as an end to these other desires- to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh / A Gift From the Sea

This excerpt is from a book that my dear friend, Sarah Jenkins, gifted me two summers ago, and it changed my life.

She picked the book out for me as we were perusing through a glorious old book store that summer. I was telling her about a trip I was getting ready to go on- camping on the beach with my sister- and her eyes lit up. As she handed me the book with browned tattered pages and an 80's cover with a picture of a seashell on it, she said, "YOU NEED THIS." And she was right. Oh-so-right. 

Up until that point I hadn't considered much my need for simplicity or to be in the moment, and I certainly hadn't searched out books on the subject. At the time I had a one-year-old son. I was 31. I was on the brink of changing, no-- completely blowing up-- my worldview and how I saw myself, but I didn't entirely recognize it at the time. I needed someone to speak wisdom about how to stay sane amidst the many hurdles modern life, parenting, and aging throws at us as we try to become more of who we want to be in our relationships and our inner-selves. This book held the beginning of a revelation and revolution I needed then, and continue to need now.

I picked this book back up recently after it came up in a conversation and I was reminded of its wisdom on the topic of simplicity. The second time around reading it was equally as life-altering. Back when I read the book the first time, I wrote a blog post summing up how it had truly captured what I needed in my life at the time. A reminder that to feel at peace I must have my inner and outer selves be congruent. Its funny how reading old journals or old blog posts are equal parts pleasurable and painful, given that many of the same desires of the past I still desire now.

From that post--

"How very quickly one starts to realize when spending  several days in the open air just how much one can do without. So much of my life is spent in a distracted haze-- worrying about all the little things that add up to one big thing. Appointments, self-imposed deadlines, dates, friend outings, daycare, being sure my son is learning at the correct pace. None of that has much to do with furthering my inward self. While at the ocean enjoying a simplistic life, I thought for quite a while about how modern life offers a certain sort of severance. Lindbergh writes, "This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace. It destroys the soul."

Summer has begun, and I am in the middle of a short season of lighter work, longer days, travel, and an easier schedule. I have found myself relishing in a much-needed break from my every day hustle and longing for a realignment; a simplification in the hectic world I have chosen. 

I wonder now, in what ways am I still living fragmented, distracted, and clinging to the things that I think bring life but actually inhibit it?

I have come a long way from those early days of child-rearing with all its re-imagining and realigning of goals, but there is still so much to learn; so much to work through. I know I continue to rush from one thing to another, spilling out my energy to the tasks at hand and tying up my inner self to the constraints that schedules, timing and obligations bring.  Back then I felt like I was too busy, too pressed, too scheduled-- and while I have made many changes; the act of simplifying has not always been one of them. Maybe this was a good time yet again to read such a life-altering book. To look around and look into myself, to adjust and grow. To call from with myself a sense of peace and practice of the things that matter. 

“May the outward and the inward man be at one”
— Phadreus
photos by Michelle Houghton

photos by Michelle Houghton

Goal-Setting Gathering + Madison's Break From Setting Goals

Can you make a goal to become someone else? 

I've used goal setting as a way to take charge of my life so I could become better... better like the others. (You know, all the people killing it at life.) Have you been there? Setting a goal out of fear that your life will never unfold quite right if you don't "take charge" of it?

I have.

The biggest frustration with it all was that no matter how many self help books I read on achievement, no matter how organized I was, how minimal I lived, how much I wrote down my goals, prayed, journaled, and pushed to achieve then, it never felt good; and often I'd forget about the goal altogether.  Only to find the goal written on a notecard inside a book I never finished reading... oops. 

So what changed? 

How did I go from frantic goal-setting mode into a healthy, balanced relationship with setting goals?

I got help.

No, no, not help achieving the goals.

I mean real help. (from a professional.)

Turns out, wanting to achieve goals in order to become like someone else isn't the healthiest state of mind to live in. My comparison, shame, guilt for who I was, dissatisfaction with my own life, and jealousy over the successes of others were not issues that could be cured by setting goals OR achieving them.

I spent 6 months without setting goals. I saw a counselor and a life coach and decided to become the best version of myself I could be, which meant healing from the past, accepting who I am, developing healthy friendships, and learning to use my strengths. I'm still on the beautiful journey, only now I'm more me than I've ever been, and it feels great. 

I'm back to setting goals too! Only this time they are heart-aligned. 

Now, each new goal I create ads to my life and comes from a place of abundance, not fear of what will happen if I don't achieve them. 

My current goals finally feel good because I am living with intention. 

At our last gathering, Kate and Emma both touched on intentional living and becoming the person of your dreams while going after your goals.  Every step in the journey is a part of the process. Every day of shooting your arrow at your target, even if you miss, is a step in the right direction. 

No matter that looks like for you right now, you are in a perfect position to take the next step, to aim at your target and shoot.

Being intentional isn't just about achieving the big things, it's about taking steps in the right direction. Your first step to intentional living may be healing, like me. And that's okay, in fact, it may be the most important step of all.

10 Tips for a Productive Life

At first I was going to call this article, "10 Tips for a Productive Work Day." But the more I thought about it the more I felt like productivity isn't just about work. I like having a productive weekend or night at home too. (But, of course, I love a good vacation day spent doing NOTHING as well!) I would really like to have a productive life, but it's sometimes a bit of a struggle. Here are ten tips that help me stay on track.


1. Make a to-do list. 

I am absolutely lost without a to-do list! I (try) to write out a list every morning just before I begin the day. I've also found that if I'm feeling overly anxious about a big project at work or looming deadline I sometimes make my to-do list the night before. This makes me feel like I'm getting a jump start on the day.


2. Give yourself small rewards for completing big tasks. 

I don't know about you, but I am all about rewards. It might be something as little as, "Once I finish getting through all my emails I'll go make my afternoon cup of coffee." Little rewards don't have to be about money or things, get creative and find small ways to motivate yourself to hustle. :)


3. Find ways to break up your workday (or night). 

I feel like I have a pretty decent attention span, but I'm not super human or anything. It's good to break up tasks that take a long time or that are physically demanding in any way. For example, let's say you're a photographer and you have about five hours of editing to do one night. Work for three hours then give yourself a snack or paint your nails. Then finish up that work. Also, if you sit a lot in order to work make sure to build in a few stretch breaks into your day. You'll feel better!


4. Avoid addictive time wasting activities.

 I recently confessed my love for Cany Crush Saga. I'm no stranger to time wasting activities. Facebook can be a trap. Smartphone or internet games can also get super addictive. Avoid these when you're trying to get something done. Check your FB during the last five minutes of your work day (maybe as your reward?). Also set limits for mini "time wasting" sessions. It's ok to need a mental break, but don't get sucked in. For example, next time you go to check Instagram while you're suppose to be working look at the clock first. Give yourself only 2-3 to scroll through your feed then stop.

5. Get as much done as early in the day as you can. 

It's a ripple effect thing. Personally, I'm sort of morning, sort of not a morning person. You know? I have a hard time getting up in the morning! But I've noticed that when I do get up and get rolling on my to-do list for the day I already feel so accomplished by nine or ten in the morning that I feel confident about the rest of the day. Start your day with a bang! The momentum will keep you rolling. Then you have the evening hours to relax and unwind.


6. Tackle that really tough to-do first.

 I know. You don't want to. Me neither. But once it's done it's done! I find that I'll often leave a really tough or bummer to-do at the bottom of my list for days and days longer than it should have been there. And it's just looming over me the whole time. Just do it. You'll feel better. And then you'll only have the easy stuff left to do. 


7. Showcase your success. 

This is motivation fuel for the future. It's ok to feel super pumped and proud when you complete a tough goal or finish a super long to-do list. Tell your significant other. Instagram that finished project. Call your mom. Pump your fists in the air. Celebrate—you did it!

8. Tell someone your goals. 

Now they are your accountability partner(s). Boom. I don't know about you, but I am WAY more likely to finish a goal if I've told someone else about it. This can be as public as you like. You could tell your sister a personal goal. Or you can start a monthly blog series where you share your goals for the month (like 4 Simple Goals) and then you share progress. You decide who you want to tell, just tell someone. 


9. Be realistic. 

We all need breaks. Plan to come back to difficult or frustrating tasks later. Sometimes things don't come together like we'd hoped. Sometimes a task turns out to be way more physically demanding than we thought. Be honest with yourself. Take a break if you need. Just be sure to make a specific plan to come back to the project, maybe seek out some help if you need.


10. Make goal setting a habit. 

Maybe the whole to-do list sounds annoying, or cheesy, or overwhelming to you. Find what works for you. And don't worry if it feels weird or even scares you a little at first. It will start to feel like a normal part of your daily life. And you'll start to feel weird/off if you miss it. It'll become habit, like brushing your teeth. It's not overwhelming or annoying to remember to do this simple task twice every day. But it wasn't always a habit, probably your parents had to remind you a lot at first. Let goal setting become a routine and positive part of your everyday life.

photos by Emma Chapman courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

Emma Chapman is the Co-Owner of A Beautiful Mess, a mega-popular lifestyle blog which inspires people all over the world.  Emma is not only a successful entrepreneur, but she is also an author, an app-maker and developer, a food-blogger, a photographer, an incredibly creative crafter, an avid traveler, has some excellent training in Improv acting, and co-owns a restaurant with her husband Trey and friends called The Golden Girl Rum Club in Springfield, MO. Basically this lady gets stuff DONE and does it WELL. 

We are so incredibly lucky to have Emma speaking at our next gathering on June 18. We can't wait to hear more from Emma in person! Get your tickets here, and thanks, Emma, for sharing some seriously amazing tips!