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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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.