Things I Love: My Life Simplifiers

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Lately, I’ve been pretty thankful for a few things in my life that make my life simpler and help me enjoy life more. They range from nail polishes to washing machines but every one of them has made my life go smoother and taken less time out of my day in the long run. Let me share these (semi) life-changing things with you. And no, no one is paying me to say any of this.

Porter & Charles Combi 9-6

This is one of my most prized possessions these days. Yes, it’s my washing machine. But it’s also my dryer. Most North Americans don’t know this type of product exists, but it’s somewhat common in Europe where space is much more limited. My mother-in-law was forced to buy one when she had to replace her old stackable set because she was too short to reach the buttons on the new stackables and that’s all she had room for. It took her a little getting used to, but she suggested I try it out in my new place because I only have a small closet for my laundry space.

Guys, it’s the greatest! Most people ask me how long a cycle takes and how much it can hold. I certainly do more loads than I used to because the barrel is smaller, but I’m also surprised at how much this little guy can fit. For us, it’s perfect. I’m in the stage of life where it’s easiest for me to do a load of laundry every day. I don’t have that many clothes anyway, so it works well. The longest a load has taken for me (very large, 90ºC water, full dry) has been 6 hours. Yes, that sounds long but when you put it in at the beginning of the day (or in the middle of the night) and when you return it’s all finished with no risk of forgetting to switch the load into the dryer, it’s really not that bad. The fastest wash setting is 12 minutes, meant to do one or two items that you’d need to wear again that day perhaps. There have been times when I have had a ton of laundry to do after coming home from trips or just procrastinating with my loads. It really wasn’t that hard to get through all our laundry in one day + night. It’s quite flexible.

I even do my cloth diapers in it and it’s fantastic. I do a cold rinse with the 12 minute wash setting (because it’s faster than the actual rinse setting), then flick it on to the saved setting that washes them in 90ºC water and rinses 3x. Done! Love.

For people with small living spaces, smaller families or the habit of doing laundry regularly, it’s an excellent option.

GelMoment DIY manicure set

Last year I was introduced to GelMoment by my mom. It’s a DIY gel nail polish system that is free of the top 5 toxins usually found in nail polishes and gel polishes. And get this: it lasts for at least 2 weeks! Women, rejoice!

I have been a nail biter all of my life. The only thing that gets me to actually stop is a nice layer of nail polish. But regular nail polishes that chip or wear off in a couple days is no real defense. No one really wants to do their nails every other day to keep it fresh, and few can afford regular manicures. Lately drug stores have been selling gel polishes for pretty cheap, but you’re still exposing yourselves to wicked chemicals. Have you smelled those polishes before?

But with Gel Moment, I can give myself a glorious manicure that will last me 2 weeks and have no concern for my pregnancy or kids in the room. The stuff doesn’t even smell! It’s magic. If you live in the Montreal area, I’m having a nail party in a few weeks so message me and I’ll send you the details.

Simplified Planner

I bought one of these right before I had Jack. This thing helped me stay sane during that first year. I loved the way the pages were laid out and BEAUTIFUL. It has a space to write out your meal plan, fill in your daily schedule etc. I always keep my daily schedule in my phone calendar, but I wrote out what was happening with my little guy in that section. It helped me keep track of his patterns in those early months. I also kept track of things I was thankful for each day. It was super helpful. Did I mention BEAUTIFUL?

Even though they’re pricey, it was worth it for me to buy another one to help me stay on top of all my tasks this next baby (did I mention I’m pregnant again? I should blog more). I was so pleased to find out that Chapters/Indigo carries Emily Ley products online, which ends up being much cheaper than buying directly from her website for us Canadians. Woo! I also love Chapters.

Nespresso machine + milk frother

Probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received, was last year for my birthday. Willy splurged (big time!) on this set for me. Our latte machine that we were gifted for our wedding had been broken for over a year by this point. As I finished opening it and, mouth still agape, he explained, “With this, I can see you chasing after a toddler and bouncing a baby on your hip and still being able to get a latte in your day.” I LOVE THAT GUY.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the calibre of espresso the machine produces. Much better quality than a Keurig or Tassimo, that’s for sure. It’s certainly not as precise and haut game as an espresso pulled by a $10, 000 latte machine from your local third wave coffee joint, but it’s quite good. Also, it works at the push of a button (or 2 if you want steamed milk as well).

Scentsy scents filling my home.

This one doesn’t make my life simpler, but it does make my life more enjoyable. In the dead of winter when there was no way we were leaving our house during the day, my mood was lifted high with the smell of Spring Symphony floating through my kitchen. When you spend so much time in your home, you have to do things to help make it enjoyable and lovely. For me, this is one of those things. I didn’t use it during my first trimester because I was so sensitive to smells, but now that I’ve got it back on and it’s a dream. I’ve been using it long enough that I have some standard scents I use: Ambrosia, Pink Haze, Spring Symphony, Summer Holiday, Very Peary Pumpkin in the Fall, and Eskimo Kiss in the Winter.

What are yours?

That’s it! I’d love to hear if you have things that make your life much simpler, whether it’s a kitchen gadget you use regularly or an app on your phone. Leave a comment!

How’s that working for you?

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Not my actual house.

I’m not a very tidy person. My room was always a mess, but I almost always knew where things were. My mom would beg me to clean it and I would refuse every time, making it into a huge argument. Most times after I tidied, I could never find my things again. I haven’t really outgrown this, but I have learned a few things about it (I always have more things than places to put them, which is why everything is a mess; I’m lazy to tidy until things get so bad and then I’m so overwhelmed and feel unable to fix it… These two things are probably worth a few blogposts in themselves).

Having an 18 month old has been teaching me about how much stuff I have and how much it is always out. Since he can now climb up on chairs and access the dining table (which is a notorious “hot spot” of cluttered items waiting to be put away), suddenly it seems there are no safe places for our junk.
I’m finally realizing that my “system” of “crap everywhere” is starting to cause me more grief than the small time it could take to put it away. For a solid 29 years, I got away with leaving my junk all over. As Dr. Phil always asked, “How’s that working for you?” It worked. But now my papers, books, wallets, purses are being put at risk of being torn, eaten, pulled apart, or coloured on.
To be sure, we haven’t mastered this; we still have quite a ways to go. And despite these #toddlerdays being really difficult and trying, things are a lot easier when there’s nothing for him to get into. And that’s on me!

Slowness

I am still alive, I promise.

Amidst being a mom to 16 month old, working a few days a week, managing my household and having fun, I do think about blogging. Mostly, I think about what the heck to write about!

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve abandoned my goal of keeping this blog. I have thoughts that resemble, “What kind of goal-writer are you that you have no current goals and you don’t write!?” Then I remember that I always knew I would hit this stage.

sidetableWhen I see my chalk board list of my Bucket List goals (which has fallen down behind this coffee table, like a metaphor for my life), it’s very clear that these all can’t happen quickly. One of my goals is to have kids. After I had Jack, people said “yay! you can cross that off!” but Willy insists that there’s an S at the end of the word “kids” and we can’t cross it off until we’ve had #2. Sure, whatever! The point is that having kids is extremely life-altering and some would say dream-crushing! Willy and I joke about a Louis CK (comedian) bit where he talks about girls not becoming women until they’ve “had a couple of kids and their life is in the toilet. Or when you push people out of your lady parts and they step on your dreams. If you’re still standing after that, you are a woman!” ***

I laugh because sometimes it seems like it’s true. With young kids, it can feel like none of your dreams can ever happen, that your life is trying to change the dirty bum of a kid who is trying to run away to tear apart the house you just tidied and then throw a tantrum when you say no. Or the idea of just trying to get out of the house for a run seems so overwhelming that you eat a cinnamon bun instead to make yourself feel better. Goals can seem foolish and irresponsible. Maybe at some points of this life stage it is foolish to try to attempt anything but keeping your marriage from being flushed down the toilet by your toddler along with your AppleTV remote.

So when I think, “What am I even doing lately, besides neglecting everything I had worked for before kids?” I remind myself that Kids were part of the Bucket List.

Crushing cheerios underfoot for the bazillionth time is not what I had in mind when I wrote “Have kids” down on my list. But I have to be ok with the fact that I desired and chose (and enjoy!) goals that take over other aspects of my life and that are slow in their maturation process.

Life happens. Sometimes it’s the way we plan, more often it isn’t.

***[I don’t agree that having kids is the thing that makes a woman a woman! I was a woman long before I was married and had a child.]

Toil, worry or boredom

photo credit: Cannon Eye via photopin (license)

photo credit: Cannon Eye via photopin (license)

“Broadly speaking,” Churchill said, “human beings can be divided into three classes: those who are toiled to death, those who are worried to death, and those who are bored to death.”

 

Winston Churchill, a very busy man, was a big fan of hobbies. “To be really happy,” he said, “one ought to have at least two or three hobbies.” (Early to Rise)

 

Until I read that second quote from Churchill, I wondered if I had too many hobbies. As soon as I had that thought, I realized how great of a problem this was! It wasn’t that many years ago where I was searching for hobbies. I wanted to have something to do with my time, a way to meet new people, and to feel like I was using my down time in a way that was productive.

I had gone through this period in my life where I worked too much and obsessed about it and I had no outlet except TV. I was too tired to read and demotivated. I needed something to do that wasn’t work. I lived with an intensity that never ended and it was hard work!

I needed to learn how to play.

Now… I probably need to learn how to work again! I read, I write (or I used to),  I crochet, colour, sew (sort of), I bake, I play piano…

I’m really proud of myself for the progress I’ve made with crochet. It was something I had wanted to for ages and finally decided to get down to it. Now that more people in my life are having babies, and with these incoming refugees to Canada, I have all kinds of people to make things for! Of course you’ve seen me post about colouring as well. It’s been nice to have a few different creative outlets to choose from because I can go all out with one until I’m sick of it and then switch to the other!

If you don’t have a hobby, you really need to find something that works for you. You don’t need to take up colouring or writing for it to “count.” Hikes, runs, woodworking, gardening, baking, cooking, the list is endless. Think about it. What would you like to do more of that isn’t work or housekeeping related?

Five simple reasons you need a hobby

  1. It helps you avoid burnout.
  2. It gives your brain a break and reduces your likelihood of depression and dementia! 
  3. It’s fun!
  4. It’s stress relief.
  5. You can meet new people.

“But I’m so busy, you don’t understand!” I maybe don’t understand but I also think you’re probably not totally right. You still need a hobby! Your seven kids can terrorize your husband instead for an hour while you go bird watching. Work 78 hours this week instead of 80 so you can finally start learning to breakdance. Just do something!

Let’s look at first Churchill quote again: “Broadly speaking, human beings can be divided into three classes: those who are toiled to death, those who are worried to death, and those who are bored to death.”

Which are you? Let’s be toilers of good things: faith, family, work, and meaningful leisure that fills our tank for more.

Gettin the groove back

I don't know who the artist is!

I don’t know who the artist is!

Life is starting to feel a lot more settled. I’ve been back to work (part-time) for a month and we’re starting to find the rhythm of me working. The feelings of being overwhelmed are gone, I’m adjusting to my “baby” boy walking and transitioning to being a toddler, and I feel like I actually have some time to myself again.

We love our new place. It feels gigantic and yet, it doesn’t take a million years to clean/tidy. Part of this, I think, has to do with how much I got rid of before we moved. I’ve been thinking a lot about housekeeping and the “zen” of tidying lately. I downloaded The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up because the entire internet is freaking out about it.  On Amazon.com it has over six thousand reviews and it’s still rated 4.5 stars. As I’ve been reading through it slowly, there are some things I’ve accidentally applied as we moved and as we had been feeling increasingly squished in the 800 square feet of our previous apartment.

Rather than obsessively colouring all the time, I started reading a bit again and I picked up my crochet. Though life is intense with a pre-toddler, a marriage to maintain, a house to not let fall into squalor, and friends to enjoy…. I’m finding a flow.

My new obsession

If you’ve been following me on Instagram or Facebook at all lately, you’ll know that I got into colouring this summer. I first saw an article about how it’s the new thing for adults (mostly women), and I immediately knew I’d love it. But I didn’t go out and get a book because I had just spent a bunch of money on sewing. I have this tendency to start projects and not really finish them — you may have noticed this as you’ve followed this blog.

Finally back in July, I was feeling pretty crappy and in need of a vacation from my life and I was staying at my in-laws. I was perusing a Chapters and I just went for it. It had been months since I was ogling these books.

I started colouring and I don’t think I stopped for weeks. Those few weeks I was at my in-laws it was basically all I did every waking moment. I would nap Jack, change him, feed him, and otherwise let my in-laws play with him any other time he was awake. Call it neglect, or self-care, or whatever, this mama got a holiday and it was BLISS.

Most of these colouring books claim they’re for stress, or zen, or mindfulness or whatever. There’s lots of articles claiming about the anti-stress benefits of colouring and why so many people are taking it up. I’ve heard of girls getting together to having colouring parties, and other people like me do it while watching TV or in church (It helps me focus!).

Why do I like it?

1. It keeps my hands busy

I enjoy doing two things at once- watching TV and colouring, listening to podcasts and crocheting, listening to music while cooking. Colouring is a great mix for TV and podcasts because I don’t need to focus so much on the craft, unlike crochet. I may have coloured with a friend while FaceTiming before….

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2. It helps me think

One of the surprising benefits for me was how much I ended up thinking and processing while I was colouring. If I sat quietly and focused on the colouring, I would think through hall kinds of different life problems etc.

3. It stimulates my creative side

I’m a creative type who likes pretty things and so this has been the perfect fit for me. It doesn’t require too much concentration (like crochet) and I have all kinds of control over it because it’s easy (unlike sewing. Or it has yet to become as easy as colouring). I was never great at doodling because things didn’t always come out pretty. But I can colour nicely!

4. It’s helping me learn to just be.

As I sit and colour, it’s challenging me because I’m not doing anything important. I’m not changing the world, raising a child OR worrying about not doing these things. I get to sit quitely, enjoy life and beauty, and just be. It’s really good for my soul.
Some of my favourite books are:
midnfulness
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It’s pocked sized so its easy to stick in your purse and do on the go. I only have a few more pages and I’ll be done this one!
stained glass 11325250_491167211043419_1419628379_n
This one is based on actual stained glass windows in churches and libraries. There is a legend at the back of the book to tell you where each is from. I usually look up the original on google images and copy the actual stained glass.

Try it out!

Chapters/Indigo have a great selection that you can check out online. And if you’re a dude that thinks it might be fun, don’t fret. There’s one on cities and a new one on Game of Thrones just announced. Or you can find some free printables online to test drive the idea. I prefer using markers but lots of people use pencil crayons (apparently this is a Canadian term? I guess it’s coloured pencils for my neighbours to the south).
Enjoy!
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