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  • Writer's pictureKate Markovitz

Simplified: Surroundings

I'm writing this in 2020. I hope one day this year will be just a distant memory that warrants a shudder and "We made it."

I'm craving ANY form of stability, normalcy, or peace right now, so the idea of a "Simplified September" popped into my head. While this sorta stacks on "more" to do in the moment, I can tell you from the decluttering and purging I've been doing this year to prepare for a move has CERTAINLY improved my mental health and attitude.

Perhaps you aren't going to follow along exactly week-by-week, but you can always come back to this later



I used to say I lived in “organized chaos.” Despite my tendency to be OCD in my work and HOW I teach, communicate and organize information in my head, my house, office, and surroundings used to be anything but tidy. My natural state is mess.

Yet, I really do crave order and find that the more simplified and less “stuff” I have, the easier it is for me to keep my spaces neat and in turn, my overwhelm and anxieties have dramatically decreased.

Some days, it is CHALLENGING for me to fight my inner toddler tornado, but overall I would encourage it for anyone who seeks peace.

And one more thing, I am not a minimalist (as I stare at 2 different planners and 4 notebooks I use daily). Instead, I'm intentional.

I have one planner specifically for work - which operates as a to-do list too, and another for personal so I don't forget anything major. I like to have separate notebooks for different topics because I know exactly where to find notes about said topic later.

Why am I sharing all of this? Well, maybe you can relate.

I just want you to understand that I'm not the house a magazine wants to come shoot - there is dog hair and Peppa Pig toys all over my floor… but I've benefitted greatly from simplifying my surroundings.

True to Kate form, I will give you some professional resources, and then I'll tell you what I actually did (LOL).


Leave it to the Professionals

Here is a list of simplifying professionals I have come to love from the interwebs. Their content resonates with me, and I hope it will with you too. They usually offer some paid (and free) challenges or products throughout the year:

* Emily Ley - Simplified Planners, Books: A Simplified Life + When Less become More + more!

* Allie Casazza - Your Uncluttered Home, Unburdened, Simplify Your Home School + more!


Simplify Surroundings

(1) Keep, Toss, Donate (or Sell)

I do a little big of Marie Kondo-ing here. I focus on how each piece makes me feel - what's the energy it's bringing to the space? Do I think it's beautiful? Am I guilt-tripping myself into keeping it because a distant relative gave it to me at our wedding shower? Does my eye twitch every time I see it?

Only keep what you really love. If there's something “nice” or new but it doesn't bring good energy to your home, remember that it could be a treasure to someone else (watching Charlotte's eyes light up a shoe box that looks like a treasure chest was the perfect reminder of this). It is okay to let go of items that aren't lighting YOU up.

4 Steps for Simplified Surroundings

Create 3 (maybe 4) piles.

Keep - explanatory.

Toss - if it's in bad condition, best to let it be on it's merry way. Sometimes if I'm trying to decide on something (esp clothes, but we will get there) I'll ask myself “Would you be able to donate this?” if the answer is no, it's usually a toss!

Donate - so many different options here! Goodwill, Veterans, Local church or shelter, Habitat for Humanity Restore, etc.

Sell - set up a date at the beginning of October for a garage sale based on all the work we are going to do together this month. Or put items on Facebook marketplace, 1 at a time.

We are getting ready to move in October and we agreed that all the money we make on Facebook marketplace will go into a fund to decorate and renovate our new place! We already have a couple hundred ready to go. Challenge yourself to make money on pieces that are no longer serving you so you can update!

(2) Keep, Toss, Donate… Again

Take a break (maybe a day or two) and go through all of your items… again. It's amazing how you can pare down each time you pass through with new, fresh eyes (especially once you've cleared the stuff you really didn't love).

(3) Cast a Vision for your Space

I do this step specifically before step 4. I like to choose words or emotions I want my space to spark. I can easily be influenced by “what's out there” - I'll lose my style in the trends and the pin-after-pin that looks the same. “Maybe I do like leather couches?!” Try to cast your vision BEFORE you start arranging or possibly shopping so you stay true to what YOU really envision.

(4) Arrange to your Style

Before you go shopping or add more to your home, take a good, hard look at what you have! Does it feel nice to have a totally empty bookshelf? Do you really need anything else or do you really need to just rearrange what you have? Will it feel like a new space if you simply swap around family room and dining room decor? Resist the urge to just go buy more and see what you can do with what you have! Empty space can be calm. Allow it to be!

Now it's your turn. I'm encouraging you to start in these areas this week:

- Family / Living Rooms

- Dining Room

- Bedroom

- Foyer

You really only have to do steps 1 + 2 as the remaining steps aren't a race. Take your time. Really style your home so it is a space you love and WANT to be!

Next up: September 8th

Simplified: Food

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