Green and Simple: Simplicity, Wherefore Art Thou?
After an overwhelming spring, simplicity is the key to a fun-filled summer.
For the last couple of months Green and Simple has been all about the Green. The Simple has been more elusive.
As the early spring beckoned, I felt compelled to be out in the thick of it. We hiked trails we hadn’t hiked in years and breezed down bike paths we had never ridden with the kids. We even added new plants to the front flower bed, into which we’ve put very little effort over the past decade. So it’s the outdoors I have been drawn to write about lately. As with writing, the time spent outdoors steeped in nature has helped keep me sane during this less than simple spring.
Just as we were rebounding from our first foray into soccer, in which we enrolled all three kids, the end of the school year was approaching. Field trips, school performances, poetry slams, class picnics, an ice cream social … I could go on about the seemingly never-ending stream of places to be, food to bring, gifts to which to contribute, and milestones to celebrate.
No, I’m not that important nor popular -- quite introverted, actually. But, as anyone who is responsible for another person knows -- whether a child, an elderly parent, or other dependent -- layering another person’s activities upon one’s own can be crazy-making! Multiply that by two or three and the crazy-making increases exponentially. Now that we’ve recovered from an overwhelming spring and are on the cusp of summer, I find myself harkening back to simplicity as the key to a joyful summer.
Over the course of the past year I have been exploring a new career path that combines my interest in environmental education and outreach with my marketing, communications, and writing background. And now, as summer approaches, I find myself in the conflicted place of eagerly seeking work, while at the same time, wanting to embrace the summer full-force with the kids. Our youngest will be starting kindergarten in the fall, so the nostalgic pull to live it up with him and his sisters this summer is quite strong.
But that nostalgia is countered by financial realities, requiring a boost of creativity to make it all work. So, as I explore work opportunities, I’m also looking for ways to make the summer fun, engaging, and yes, simple.
And so, I offer a sampling of things that help me to slow down and simplify when life gets overly complex:
- Keep one in the queue
- Get dirty
- Think in themes
- Make a wish
Keep one in the queue
I’ve been knitting on and off for years. It gives me an outlet for energy that might otherwise be spent pulling out my hair. It’s also a diversion that forces me to slow down and engage different parts of my brain and body. When I’m in a groove, I’m swinging the sticks and strings whenever I have a free minute. If I don’t have my next project lined up before I finish the current one, I loose my groove and it can take weeks, sometimes months to get it back. Whatever your thing, knitting, puzzles, crosswords, novels, be sure to keep one at the ready in the queue!
Typically I’m the last one out of the house in the morning herding the little ones along as I go, I’ve recently adopted a new strategy. I announce that I’m ready and will meet the kids outside. Then I head to the flower bed and begin pulling weeds. The kids are drawn out of the house by curiosity and I get a few minutes in the dirt. A little dirt under the nails in the morning will keep you grounded the whole day long.
Think in Themes
When I feel overwhelmed, I look for patterns, sort, and think in themes. For laundry, I always skip color and sort by tops, bottoms, and others. It makes hanging and folding go much quicker when you are dealing with a load of like items. Themes are great for meal planning: Mondays - breakfast for dinner, Tuesdays - pasta … Fridays - pizza and smoothies, etc. Themes offer a quick starting point with lots of options for going with the super simple or overly involved dishes within the theme.
Make a Wish
For summer planning, I created a worksheet that I printed on colored paper for the kids called the Summer Wish List. It contains boxes in which they can list things like: people I want to see, day trips I’d like to take, books I want to read, new foods I want to try. Not only is it fun to see what they come up with, but they get to be involved in figuring out how to make it all happen.
What strategies do you use to keep it simple? Tell us about them in the comments.