More than six months ago, I picked up Emily Ley’s book A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living. If you know me or have been a long-time reader, you know I don’t often buy books. I love to read and I LOVE books, but feel that too many just weigh a space down. For something to take up space on my shelf, it has to be my absolute favorite and/or a favorite I will reference often, like a book of poems.
Therefore, I err on the side of hitting the library before committing. I owe Marie Kondo a debt of gratitude for teaching me this when I read her book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up a few years ago, (which, yes, I do own and highly recommend.)
But Emily Ley’s book is a keeper, for sure, too. Just holding it in my hands at the bookstore made me feel calmer and hopeful that I could soon be back in control of everything that had been spiraling as of late last summer. And with it’s preppy, Kate Spade-esq navy, pink + green stripe cover, I was styling it on my shelves and coffee table long before I’d even cracked it’s spine.
Some of my favorite tips include:
- Simplifying breakfast
- Planning scheduled Friday Pizza Nights
- Having a uniform
None of these are particularly mind-blowing in and of themselves, but sometimes you’re so in your own way that having someone tell you to do something via a book is just what you need. I’ve always been a huge consumer of anything in the “self-help” genre and, in general, would describe myself as a very goal-oriented, focused, driven person. There is so much that interests me, among which is self-improvement, so I read a lot about creativity, productivity, being your own boss, manifesting positivity, and so on. A lot of the books that did make the cut when I semi-gutted my possessions after reading Marie Kondo’s book were the “get it together” and “organize your life” types of books, so it’s safe to say I’ve always aspired to make the chaos of my life, home and mind more tamed.
It was the chaos that ultimately drove me to the Self-Help section at Barnes and Noble last summer, on what I jokingly call my “mom vacation” where I sip a coffee, alone, browsing books in peace after I’ve handed the kids off to my husband after those particularly challenging day as the “stay at home parent.”
There were a LOT of tough days this summer, let me tell you!!! I think I need to develop a multi-part series to really dive deep into the year-long journey I’ve been on as far as redefining my values, moving towards my goals and dreams, and eliminating all the unnecessary “noise,” in my life, be it wasted time watching mindless TV, keeping in touch with friends I’m not particularly close with, or even completing workouts I don’t absolutely love. But I digress.
What I learned from Emily’s book is not so much what or how to organize, but rather, what I can gain by focusing more on what outcomes or feelings I want in my life. And what I gain is margin. What is margin, you’re wondering? It’s the free space of your life to feel like you can plop down on the floor and actually play with your kids, free from worry about all the other to dos you “should” be doing. And going out to dinner with your spouse because you have a standing date night every other week. And it’s also being able to spontaneously walk out the door for a long walk just because it will feel good to move and get some fresh air, without having to rush off to some commitment you’re not that excited about. Margin is the single biggest takeaway I gained from reading Emily’s book.
Really, a lot of this ties in to everything I’ve shared since reading that Oprah article last summer in addition to everything I’ve learned since starting my Bullet Journal practice last January.
Having two young kids at home used to mean toys strewn all over the house. Mealtimes were exhausting and stressful and the paper mess got out of control if I wasn’t vigilantly on top of it. Having to decide what to eat for breakfast myself often seemed like too much, to give you a sense of how starved I was some major self-care.
The past year has been a period of intense self-introspection and incredible shifts in redefining my values. And the result has been that I’m happier than I’ve ever felt, I’ve lost weight with minimal effort, I’ve appreciated and valued being at home with my kids more because the difficult moments are more tempered now, and I actually feel more fulfilled in my own dreams because I’ve managed to create space for me to actually devote time to them for a change. In a word = margin.
I can say with certainty that Emily Ley’s book, A Simplified Life, changed my life SO MUCH for the better in 2018 and has continued to do so in 2019. If I could gift just one thing to all my friends and family this year, it would be this book so I highly recommend.