One Thing At A Time

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I randomly picked up a book recently called The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. Well, I guess it wasn’t random since I will read anything I can get my hands on when it comes to minimalism and simple living. More like spur of the moment. But reading it couldn’t of come at a better time.

The last few weeks have been rough, which is some of the reason I took a bit of time off from writing around here. While summer is fun it’s also draining – my kids think it’s acceptable to stay up until almost my bedtime, since it stays light here until after 10 pm. Afternoon rest time has been a struggle too and if you have kids you will understand me when I say no rest time and late bedtime is HARD. I was living on an average of six hours of sleep a night, on my feet all day with the kids and just struggling in every single area of my life. The laundry was an endless cycle, with piles of clothes all over the house. The dishes were never done. I was trying to break up fights and rock the baby and cook dinner and run errands and when I sat down for a minute I was just empty. I had no words or thoughts. Just tired and so weary. It was this endless cycle of striving and and wanting to do everything yet somehow not doing much of anything. And I wasn’t sure how to make it all stop.

Last week I was at the point where I could not take it one more day. Something had to change. I was trying to figure out what I could do to somehow balance the craziness of my family and home with time to myself and space to do things I love, like write here on this blog and read and create. That’s when I picked up The Power of Less. I’m only a few chapters in but already it is helping me refocus and be more intentional. The Power of Less is about eliminating the unnecessary so you can focus on what’s really important. It’s about cleaning up the clutter, rubbing the smudge prints off your sunglasses and paring things down to just the essential so you can live more clearly.

Leo Babauta compares simple living to a haiku, that short Hawaiian verse that is bound by 17 syllables and three lines. To convey the right emotion a poet must be selective and thoughtful with his words, choosing words that matter and express exactly what he wants to say. A haiku is beautiful because it has limitations. A simple life is beautiful because it has limitations. You don’t have to do everything all the time.

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“By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.”

This thought, while not necessary new or ground breaking, has been revolutionary for me. Limitations. Simple focus. One way the author puts this idea into practice is by focusing on one thing at a time.

Stop the multitasking.

Focus on one goal.

Change one habit at a time.

So this week I am trying to focus on the essential, figuring out what really isn’t working and making one change to simplify and streamline. I started with creating a solid evening routine. By the end of the day I am tired so I’ve been really bad about leaving the the toys all over the living room floor, dirty dinner dishes in the sink and so on, which of course makes waking up the next day a joy and delight.  I love waking up to a messy house and having to wash dishes to eat breakfast, said no one ever.  I’ve been forcing myself to put away the laundry on the bed, clean up the kitchen, set out my running clothes and go to bed early instead of staying up bleary eyed to watch Fallon when I can just see him the next day on Hulu.

It’s funny, but making one well planned, intentional habit has had a big impact on how my day goes and my attitude towards my kids and my work. It is not always easy to stick to the plan and sometimes I just don’t get anything done but the nights that I do, it’s incredibly rewarding!

The thing about this concept is that it applies to more than just my crazy life with littles. We all probably have an area of life that is frustrating or overwhelming. Work. Social obligations. Buying ethically. Choosing a non-profit to support. Turning a dream into a business or blog or whatever. I encourage you to take a few minutes or couple hours or a day and figure out one thing you can do consistently that will make what you are dealing with less overwhelming. Focus on one thing at a time and when you figure that out, move onto the next goal. It’s not rocket science, it’s not even a new concept really, it’s just a little trick we (meaning me!) easily forget.

How do you work on your goals and deal with overwhelming issues? What are your tips (or frustrations)?

Favorite Reads This Week

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Now that summer is here for real my mind is always outside.  From setting up sprinklers for my kids to cookouts to pool time to loving on my garden, I have hardly opened my laptop for the last week.  That’s a good thing, right?  So if things fall a little silent around here this summer, you know where I am!  On top of our outdoor shenanigans  I have all sorts of dreams and ideas I am working on for this blog….which I will share with you guys soon!  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite things that I’ve read recently:

Naming And Framing // The Art of Simple – sometimes all we need to do to solve a problem is just look at it differently.

Ethical & Adorable Swimwear // Purse & Clutch - if you are looking for fairly made swimwear this is a great place to start!

On July, Chuck Taylors, Silence & Seasons // Shana Niequist - love this so much!

Enjoy your week, guys!

Grateful

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This week I have been engrossed in the first book I chose to read from my Summer Reading ListFactory Girls.  It’s written by an American-born Chinese journalist who spends several years in China building relationships with the girls who work in the factories and learning about migrant work.  She spends most of her time in Dongguan, the mecca of Chinese manufacturing, but also shares her family’s rich but devastating history as they too were migrants – from communist China to America.   It’s eye-opening, y’all.  Also serious but intriguing and so good. The contrasts of culture and livelihood of these factory girls versus my own life know no bounds.  It reminds me all over again that we are seriously so lucky, so privileged, to live the life that we do.  To have the freedoms and opportunities that we have.  It has made me grateful over and over and over.

Yesterday, this post struck a chord with me and reiterated everything I have been thinking about and reading.  Here’s a bit but you really need to read the post in it’s entirety:

By the simple, uncontrollable nature of my birth, I have been given enviable gifts: shelter, clothing, food, clean water… shoes. These are simple necessities that many human beings around the world will go without. I grew up in a safe, middle-class neighborhood with public schools and parks and rec departments. I did nothing to earn this opportunity—it was granted to me solely by the lottery of my birth.

The Responsibility of Opportunity // Becoming Minimalist

I want to always be grateful for where I am, for what I have.  Grateful for a home, for health, for dirty dishes and piles of laundry.  Always grateful.

But if I keep that gratefulness to myself, it’s no good.  This privileged life I live, it needs to mean something.  All this excess is just greediness if I don’t share it with others.  That is my constant challenge: to not just be grateful but use the good things in my life to help others – to fill in the empty places and encourage and give life.

What do you think?  Do you struggle with being grateful or does it come easily?

Friday Feature: Fair Trade Etsy Shops

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I have a thing for Etsy.  It’s totally my jam.  Sometimes when I’m rocking my son to sleep I browse the Etsy app I installed on my phone…and before I know it the babe has drifted off to sleep forever ago and I’m still scrolling!  We all know Etsy is famous for handmade goods but it can also be a sweet place to discover handmade goods that are fairly sourced too!  It’s a win all the way around.  Here are just a few ethical and fair trade Etsy shops I have discovered:

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Left to Right:

Kei & Molly // A printing studio creating beautiful textiles and prints and providing jobs for refugee women in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Cocoa & Honey // Handcrafted artisan chocolate and treats made with fair trade ingredients (like the spiced rum and coconut bar above! Seriously, Yum.).

Quill & Fox // Gorgeous and whimsical paper goods hand-designed in the USA and printed on recycled paper.

Source of Life Africa // Handmade fair trade goods from Uganda.

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Maelu Designs // Beautiful handmade scarves and head wraps made from ethically sourced traditional Indian fabric.

The Holistic Health Co. // Fair trade, gentle and sustainable body care products.

Freedom Knits Co. // 100% of proceeds from this yarn and scarf shop goes to help those coming out of trafficking!

Mathilde And Co. // A small handmade business working with women’s cooperatives in South Africa.

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Heshima Kenya // Scarves made by refugee women in Kenya – 100% of proceeds are reinvested in the design collective in Africa.

Dek Doi // Children’s clothing ethically made in Thailand using beautiful traditional fabrics.

Siamese Dream Design // Fun and funky shoes handcrafted in Thailand under fair trade conditions.

A Fair Line // Handwoven textiles made by a fair trade collective in Guatemala.

So are you an Etsy lover, too?  Share your favorite shop  – fair trade or not!

 

 

Creating An Ethical Home

You guys, I’m so excited to introduce my friend Hannah to you today!  She’s the voice behind Lifestyle:Justice and her heart for social justice and ethical living is pretty amazing.  Hannah and her husband are committed to sourcing everything for their little apartment from fair and ethical sources – it’s a cute little collection of thrifted finds and fair trade goods and today we are getting a peek inside!  Here we go….

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I have to admit, when Jessica first asked me to share a little bit about my journey towards building an ethical home, I balked… my mind started thinking: but my home isn’t PERFECT, yet. It’s still in the in-between stages! I guess something inside of me kind of wanted to wait to share my home with the internet world until it had somehow become the fair trade version of Design Sponge and Young House Love and Anthropologie all rolled into one. It’s a Pinterest world out there, folks, and it’s hard to live against-the-grain and give up the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” through consumerism!

When Andrew and I got married a year ago, we took stock of our collective possessions: One rickety, hand-me-down (and down… and down…) table. One ancient, college-days rug. An assortment of mismatched dishes and silverware. A couple of bookshelves (and way too many books), etc.  We laughed because we knew we were pretty much starting from scratch in filling our home with “grown-up” furniture and décor.

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Building an ethical home involves saying NO to a lot of instant gratification. I know that I could go to IKEA and furnish my entire living room with cute, cheap furniture and décor of unknown origins…. and that it would cost HALF of what just one beautiful, fair trade, handmade rug would cost me. But I choose to save up for that rug, because I want my home to someday be a beautifully curated space full of treasured possessions, not cheap throw-away goods.

Since we’ve gotten settled into our first little apartment, we are slowly and thoughtfully beginning the process of replacing some of the old, poor quality items in our home with better quality, ethically produced pieces or things we’ve made ourselves!

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

Thrift

If you’re like Andrew and I, you’re on a pretty strict budget. What are you going to do when you can’t purchase cheap furniture at IKEA OR afford really high-quality ethically made furniture? Thrift! One of the benefits of thrifting old furniture is that it’s quite often made better and will last longer than the mass-produced pieces that are churned out nowadays. Andrew and I found our couch ( a stoic, sturdy old antique with a gorgeous tufted back) for $85 in the back of a thrift store, covered in cat hair. We purchased some ethically made upholstery fabric from Company C (they have AMAZING Goodweave certified rugs, too!) and are currently saving up to have it upholstered at a local shop (we attempted it ourselves, at first, which turned out to be a bit beyond our skill range). I’m so excited to sit on the finished product, knowing that it’s a piece we’ll treasure for years to come! Most of the décor in our home is from thrift or vintage shops- we’ve amassed an eclectic little collection of old glassware, globes, books, records, maps, and more.

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Do Your Research

Just because Target isn’t a fair trade store doesn’t mean that you can’t shop ethically for a few select items there- and this goes for all “normal” stores! All of our glassware, measuring cups, casserole pans and storage containers are made in the USA by Anchor, a company that provides hundreds of jobs here in the states. We also love Lodge cast iron cookware, made in the USA and available at Target (or even your local hardware store!). Check labels. Use caution, though, and do research on the companies you find- sometimes “made in the USA” really means “all the parts of this product were manufactured unethically in factories and sweatshops and then assembled in the USA”. Similarly, if the price seems too-good-to-be true for a hand-embroidered cushion or woven basket, it just might be.

Make (or re-make)

Of course, this isn’t an option for every item in your home- but it’s often quite easy and cheap to throw together a DIY headboard or shelving unit. Our big project for this summer is going to be building a bigger, sturdier table to replace the one we currently have. My husband is a builder and a welder, so I’m lucky- however, there are tons of great resources and DIY tutorials out there to teach you how to make things for your home. I love Ana White’s DIY furniture site and the DIY section of the Apartment Therapy blog.
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Buy Ethically

This is my favorite part of furnishing my home… I just love items that are beautiful, useful, and contributing toward a better life for families around the world! Some places I love to shop are: Serrv, Greenheart Shop, Connected Goods, Imagine Goods and The Little Market. You’d be surprised at the wide variety of home goods that you can find when you search- check out my Pinterest boards for some of my best finds!

Be Thankful

The truth is, I don’t really need anything. I don’t need a dining room table. I don’t need a bed frame. People all around the world live without the things that I think are necessities. Having an attitude of thankfulness and looking at the items in my home as privileges helps me to cultivate a spirit of joy and contentedness!

You can find Hannah at Lifestyle:Justice where she blogs about fair and ethical living.  You can also find her on Instagram and Pinterest and of course, Facebook and Twitter!

Do you incorporate ethical purchases into your home?  What are some of your favorite finds?

Favorite This Week

Happy weekend, y’all!  Just popping in with a few favorites from this week….

Light Gives Heat is having a huge clearance on some of their jewelry.  We are talking just a few bucks for handcrafted, fairly-made jewelry!  If you need something pretty, now is the time to stock up!

4 Ways to Help Kids Engage With Poverty Issues // The Art of Simple

Recently, Christy from Beyond The Fried invited me to be part of her Fair Fashion Friday series!  You can find my guest post of fair summer essentials here.

And to go along with the coffee post earlier this week….this comic by Gemma Correll never gets old…

 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!