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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stutzman


Updated: Feb 13, 2022

As August rolls in, the end of summer brings changes for many. The house may have become cluttered as you spent more time enjoying the weather, or taking summer vacations. The kids are getting ready to head back to school, and the weather is changing. This week is your chance to really focus on simplifying your life in order to maintain a healthy balance between your mental and physical health.

My own house feels chaotic between the teenagers coming and going all summer, just coming home from our trip to Lego

Land, and the stress of deciding whether to continue home school, or send the kids back to traditional school amongst the rising Covid cases.

Personally, between my daily life, kids, and owning several businesses, people are always asking me how I do it! 99% of the time it's just orchestrated chaos, and I do all I can to maximize my efforts in all ways.

This first week in August is to remind us to take some time to slow down and simplify the way we live. I am always looking for ways to make things easier on myself! It's one of the things I say to my boys the most, "STOP! Work smarter, not harder!" After recently retiring from my 15 year career as a Neuromuscular Therapist due to health issues, I not only know how harmful stress is on the body from the standpoint of a medical professional, but I experienced some pretty scary stuff with my own health recently, and I was too busy to even stop and recognize my body was trying to tell me there was something wrong!

The very first thing to do, is to identify the variables that cause your stress. What are the little things that you just can't stand? How are you doing with your own mental and physical health?

One of my own pet peeves is the mail pile. Everyday the mail comes and it gets tossed on the kitchen counter. With five members of the family all pausing to go through it, and subsequently leaving the opened mail and torn envelopes on the counter, it's a constant frustration. Dinner comes, and there are papers strung from one end of the kitchen to the other. So I usually do what everyone does right!? I grab it all in a haphazard pile and shove it in the basket where several days (ok...weeks) of mail overflow. I LOATH that mail pile, and it causes me to have a little tick of anxiety when I see it. So this week I made it a priority to go through all the papers in that pile, and rather than waiting to go through it later, I shuffled out what I knew was junk mail and tossed it in the recycle right away. I then quickly separated what was left into piles for each person. I made it a point to tell everyone in the house, "there's your mail, take care of it." I also went and changed to paperless billing on all my accounts, and set up alerts so I didn't miss anything in the world that is email. My hope is that within next week we will all be in a routine, and I will no longer have mail strewn across the kitchen, or overflowing piles to go through. It is a simple solution to a simple problem, but it was something that added to my daily stress.

Speaking of mail, when was the last time you cleared out your email? While you are dealing with those emails, take a moment to unsubscribe to things that no longer interest you. Turn on auto-pay and go paperless. Not only will it help you stay up to date, but it will also help to reduce your carbon footprint and help lower the amount of junk mail in and out of your mailbox!

Another way I simplified this weekend was by taking the time to organize my pantry and kitchen. It's one of those things that gets overlooked in day to day life. Now, my brain says "you don't have time for that, it's going to take forever". I decided while I was on a roll to get it done now and no procrastinating. I had just put dinner in the oven and it was going to have to bake for 55 mins. That was my goal; tackle the pantry and get it done before dinner was ready.

I began by emptying the top shelf, removing the bags from boxes of stuff that was old or expired; recycle those boxes but not the bags of food inside! I then wiped down the shelf and added shelf liner; measuring from the back forward, and using the cut lines on the back so that it wrapped down around the front of the shelf. I then put in foods that are on my menu of healthier things. I did the same with the next shelf. When I got to the bottom shelves I followed the same routine, but put foods and snacks the kids could eat, but that I am trying to avoid, like cereal and chips. This will help all of us to find things more quickly, rather than digging around and not being able to find anything! What I thought would be a never ending process, was done within time to pull dinner from the oven!

Speaking of dinner...I am not organized enough to be the person who had every meal planned out, but to help simplify I try to buy in ways that make dinner go a little smoother. I try to buy large packages of chicken, and even whole chicken. When I buy ham, I get a bone-in large portion, this way I can make several meals from one. I may cook the ham, then let it rest a night so we don't have it two days in a row, and use what is left for ham and beans. I'll save the bone and freeze to throw in for broth some other time. Making spaghetti? Cook 3 lbs of beef and season, then freeze some for later. That way there is always options for quick meals on hand for nights I really don't feel like pulling out the stops on dinner.

Maybe what would simplify your life has nothing to do with home or work, maybe you need some self care! You still can add to your happiness in some way this week. Maybe you enjoy getting a massage, or hiking the trails.

Perhaps you like music or to paint. If nothing else we can all benefit from taking a moment each day to close our eyes, take a few deep breaths and center. By breathing we oxygenate the blood and brain, helping to focus and rejuvenate for a moment in time. In our fast paced world, taking a minute for a metaphorical "time out" will do us all good.

In case you need some ideas on how to make the most out of National Simplify Your Life Week, here are a few things I personally do to make my life a little smoother each day.

  • When cooking ground meat, I make 3lbs at a time rather than just one. With some onions and seasonings, it can be frozen and reheated quickly to toss in your favorite dishes. Same goes for chicken. Don't throw a big pack of chicken in the freezer to fight with when its time for dinner. Toss all of it in a pressure cooker with some water and bullion, cook 30 mins and you will have several batches of shredded chicken to toss in the freezer ready to go.

  • Every time I enter a room in my house I pick up 5 things. It may be clothes, shoes, snack remnants, dishes, Nerf guns, rocks, big sticks, skate boards...with 3 crazy boys you never know what you'll find.

  • I time my self. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but it helps. For instance, I really, really don't like doing the laundry. So one day I timed myself to see how long it actually took me. Turns out 2 min is all it took. Right!? Now no matter how much I want to put it off, I'm reminded it literally takes me 2 minutes (yes this included folding the laundry straight from the dryer) and I might as well do it right now.

  • When feeling overwhelmed, I take a moment to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths and turn on some music. It always lifts my mood and gives me a little pep.

  • Drink a glass of water. Your body and brain need water to operate, just like fuel in your car. Take a moment to fill up the tank.

  • Plan your meals before shopping, having everything on hand and planned in advance helps take the stress off of what to make for dinner. I don't plan certain days, just several meals. That way I am open to what I feel like eating...or cooking. Make bigger batches and freeze some so you have quick meals to heat up on those days that get away from you.

  • Stretch! Before I step foot out of bed or get into bed, I take a moment to stretch out my body. Ever watched an animal lay down and get up? They ALWAYS stretch! Our body needs that slow stretch to decompress after a long day on our feet, and after not moving much for hours while sleeping. Animals always do what's instinctual, our brains just override our instincts sometimes. Take a moment first thing in the morning to do a big full body stretch before you climb out of bed. Take 10 mins to stretch during the day, and again before you get into bed. I have been a neuromuscular therapist for 15 years and this is always top of my list for advise to my clients.

  • Attach some command hooks around the house to keep things off the floor and in place. If you turn them upside-down and attach to your trash can, it makes a great hook for the handles of the bag to keep it from slipping down into the trash can when something heavy hits the bottom. Keep extra bags in the bottom of the cans so one is already there to replace when you take the trash out.

  • Cut down on screen time. With Covid this past year screen time has increased. Play an old fashioned board game. Turn on some music and dance while you de-clutter. Make a "walking" date with a friend where you both commit to a time to go for a walk and call each other to chat (no text or zoom) but to actually talk on the phone during your walk. You don't have to be together to be together!

  • My last, but most important advise, is to say No! It has taken me 37 years (and I still suck at it) to learn to say no. It's okay if someone has hurt feelings, or is unhappy with you. Boundaries are one of the most important factors of mental health. You can't please anyone if you can't please yourself. It's not selfish, its survival. Once again, it is okay to say no to what ever it may be.

I hope you enjoyed my blog and that it inspires you to find new creative ways to simplify your own life this week!

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