Time to Simplify

Simplify - EmilyMarko.com

The morning after I dropped my daughter off at college, I woke up and completely de-cluttered and organized my bedroom. I spent a good hour constructing a divider system out of an old shoe box so I could fit pens, nail files, chap sticks, etc. in a container. Then I tackled my jewelry for another 3+ hours, sorting into Fix, Keep or Sell piles. I searched for how to’s on creating a sliding knot so I could fix a necklace my son made me. I cleaned and organized my jewelry to keep or sell. I did not talk. I did not think. I just focused on the simple task of putting my room in order and finishing a few tasks I meant to do – one day.

I didn’t stop there though. I tackled the back yard and garage before the weekend was over. It wasn’t a planned thing, my body sort of went on this auto pilot cleaning spree. I definitely had a long to-do list with higher priorities. But some how I knew I HAD to simplify as many ways as possible and as quickly as possible. As much as that weekend was a physical space, it was also very much about my head space.

The week leading up to my daughter’s move-in day was chaotic, trying to balance my workload, her list of to-do’s and the elephant in the room – my little girl was now a young adult leaving to begin her own life. How was I going to deal with that?! Ha! Well I just ignored the elephant! I knew it was not a wise decision, but I was concerned I couldn’t just cry this out quickly and be done with it. It was too overwhelming and big – sort of like the mess piling up in my garage was.

So it all hit me after the big day. Somehow though, by reducing the “stuff” in my home I also reduced the uncomfortable feelings I had about my daughters departure to college and how this would transform our household. Not only was my physical space simplified, but my mind was quieted that weekend.

I mentioned my big purge weekend to Kelley of Fern&Edge and she confirmed the power of a clear and simplified space. And she got me thinking about what was next on my Simplify List. I have been struggling with sticking to my work schedule. I actually find myself using my laptop at my dining room table most days. Maybe because my office is looking more and more like a storage unit these days? With the transition from summer to school and missing his sister, my son’s behavior has been less than ideal. He has slept in my daughter’s vacant room most nights – because he misses her or maybe because it is quite possible a Lego bomb exploded in his room, seriously.

So it is time to simplify some more physical space and head space.

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What is on your Simplify List?

Have you found a connection between your physical and mental space?

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Throw Out the Bucket

Over the summer I had a strategic session with the very talented artist, Jill Lena Ford. Jill also happens to be a part of my Awesome Family – she is my little sister. When I say “little” it isn’t by much since we are only 13 months apart – Irish Twins!

Something always seems to happen when we put our heads together – it must be the (Irish) twin synergy. This session for Jill was just as clarifying for me. It did take ALL summer to reach the clarity, but I got there. The Idea Seeds needed some time.

Just last week Jill showed me one of her new paintings that formed after our session and its amazing how her vision mimics mine – or is it visa versa.

What was so clarifying? My Bucket.
You know the one you are supposed to fill with the right mix so you can have a balanced, meaningful and stress free life. This is what MY bucket looked like.

My Bucket Before - EmilyMarko.com

So how did this happen?!

I was drowning in the daily maintenance of life – we all do it…right? (please say you do this too!)
Whether it is the physical maintenance of keeping the garage clean and free from the piles – For Donation, No Use For This But Refuse to Part With It, Will Get to This Next Weekend, etc. Or the maintenance of taking time to reset your mind and body through exercise, meditation or even a 5-minute Me Time break. And don’t forget about all those relationships to maintain – husband, children, family, friends, community, etc.

My bucket was being filled with important things, but I had so many that I couldn’t see them and was drowning – not to mention taking everything (and everyone?) down with me.

So I threw out my bucket.

After - EmilyMarko.com

Now I stand in the middle of my life with the contents all around me – organized rather neatly, but with room to move.

MAINTAIN
It may not sound very glamorous or fun, but I realized that everything which is part of our lives requires maintenance – it is essential to surviving, but more importantly to thriving. Hmmm…there definitely wasn’t any room in my bucket for thriving. Or it was hidden at the bottom somewhere. Now I know what needs maintained in my daily life, but I also am able to see out further in the distance.

EXPAND
For me thriving wasn’t choosing more things to go in my bucket, it was about taking a look at the things in my bucket and finding ways to expand what was there. As I maintain, ideas form for easier, better ways to do things and are put into practice. I feel life expanding. It starts small but grows quickly – an app to track expenses easier, an inquiry to partner on a project instead of doing work I don’t like, an overdue chat with a friend, etc.

PLANT THE SEED
I have started to let go of old ways or tasks that do not serve a purpose and improve what is already there. This allows for space – to reflect, to fill with a meaningful new thing or to leave it alone. Beyond the ability to refine what already exists are strands of ideas – not even tangible enough to create a verbal description. I have given myself enough space to allow those idea seeds some growth – maybe a new business idea or starting a new family tradition.

Idea Seed - EmilyMarko.com

I can give it some time to grow and before I know it those seeds will drift into an area I can expand on and then it may find itself in the normal maintenance of my life. And it will begin again, but everything is out in the open where I can see it, nurture it and know when its ready to move to the next level.

This new perspective and clarity is refreshing!

YOUR TURN
Is there something you can expand in your daily maintenance to make it easier, more efficient or maybe obsolete it?
How do you leave room to let those idea seeds grow?

What Fuels You

I finally finished up my year in review of 2013! Woo hoo!

This was the first time I used a formal template and it really helped me to capture all my thoughts. As I solidified my goals for 2014, I wanted to be sure I was creating goals that would align well with all aspects of my life AND really be meaningful to me. So I created a template, closely based on the Wellbeing categories, to keep me on track.

What Fuels You - emilymarko.com

Each goal I identified had to fall into one of the 6 categories and truly be something that would fuel me through out this year.  My plan is to keep the template posted in my office as a reminder of what to focus on so I remain content, full and balanced.

  • Career covers the details of what I do – type of work, clients, environment, etc.
  • Health is about how I keep my whole self healthy – physical, mental and spiritual. The Wellbeing category is Physical, but Health resonates with me more.
  • Community is all about how I interact with and support my communities – neighborhood, school district, city, state, country and organizations I belong to.
  • Financial is about the security of my finances, but also how I track and spend.
  • Social focuses on people I interact with on a regular basis.
  • Family is a huge focus for me so I separated it out from Social.

These categories seem to be working for me, but its flexible. I have a client who tweaked this to fit her situation.
Are there different categories you would use?

Menu Madness

Although I can help my clients plan and organize all aspects of their work and lives lickety-split, sometimes I get hung up on minor details in my life that leave me completely overwhelmed. My most recent dilemma was creating a meal for my family’s weekly dinners.

There are four of us – toddler, teenager, my husband and me. There are two of us with several food sensitivities, a pescatarian (vegetarian that eats seafood) and one that can’t make up what food she likes and dislikes. I love to cook and I have a rule that our meals must look like a rainbow – and Skittles don’t count. So the majority of our meals are homemade.

Needless to say I was spending hours and hours each week searching for meals that everyone in the household would eat – exhausting and frustrating. And I still had meals untouched and cranky faces.

So I finally did some brainstorming, had a family pow-wow and we created a menu template that has been working great for all of us. It is flexible enough that if I have time and feel like being creative I can, but if we just need food in our bellies I can throw something together quickly with easy guidelines.

Every Sunday we decide on our meals and write a shopping list based on those meals. Each family member has input into what they are feeling that week – no surprises and cleared plates.

Here is an example of one of my weekly menus.
Click here if you would like to download a blank template to use.

weekly menu example

Mondays – Italian Night
My Italian heritage has been a huge part of my cooking so Italian had to have its own day. Homemade raviolis for a more time consuming but tasty dinner or spaghetti and meatballs when we need it quick.

Tuesdays – Seafood Night
This was a must especially since everyone is now addicted to our new favorite recipe Citrus Shrimp Risotto in the crock pot.

Wednesdays – Soup Night
This is our busy evening – piano lessons and soccer practice. So we need something quick and easy. I have been making big batches and freezing the extra. When we have time there is some sort of sandwich that goes along with the soup.

Thursdays – Pizza Night
I make gluten free and regular dough – everyone gets a pie to top with whatever they want.

Fridays – Salad Night
This was my daughter’s request. She dances for her school’s drill team at every football game so she wanted something light but filling and quick. These are made Pittsburgh-style with fresh cut French fries or sweet potato fries on top. Yum.

Saturdays – International Night
None of us wanted to have tacos or sushi EVERY week, so we decided on a more flexible option. We never know what the weekend will bring so this makes the most sense.

Sundays – Grill Out Night
My husband has wanted to start a new tradition – weekly cook outs so this was at his request. Everyone chooses what they want and it all goes on the grill. It is working great right now, but once those Pittsburgh winters get here we may be changing this one up.