At other places, Simplify
When I want to Throw it All Out the Window
August 10, 2016 at 6:00 am 2
Simplifying doesn't buy peace. Ashley Hales ( If you’re anything like me you pendulum swing between extremes. One day, I’m browsing Pottery Barn and CB2 catalogs and am determined to save my pennies for all the sparkly things in the West Elm store or for *the* best pair of leather boots on sale at Nordstrom (because, people, when you snag a sale, then you can justify the crazy prices because, I mean: SALE! Right?). The next day I decide that the best plan of action is to just throw out all of our things (including all the plastic junky toys that my children are suddenly enamored with) and pare down to a capsule wardrobe. Burn ALL THE THINGS! Finally get a chore chart that we can stick with! Get a meal plan and a new calendar and a white board and a family motto! Donate all the clothes that we don’t wear! (Or even just really, put your own dishes in the dishwasher. That would be a good start.) I keep reaching for outward systems to fix my internal chaos. I read books and blogs about minimalism. And then I see the pretty house, the new throw pillows, the cute belt, and my eyes get wide-eyed for something I think I’m missing. I know that stuff won’t fix my own holes of neediness. I know that a new outfit, or pair of shoes, or decorating scheme, or bigger house only digs my own sense of unbelonging deeper. There is always never enough when we operate out of scarcity. Likewise, I know (somewhere theoretically) that defining myself by lack — by how much I save, or how much I don’t buy, or how wise and resourceful I am — does not satisfy either. One time I tried to do that Marie Kondo method. (The idea is that if something doesn’t spark joy when you hold it in your hands you toss it.) I donated 8 trash bags full of clothes, accessories, and shoes. And then I was left with a few things, not all of which sparked joy — because, I needed to actually wear clothes, man. // I'm over at The Mudroom writing about the elusive search for the simple life. Do you have a hard time letting go of stuff? Please tell me I'm not alone in my crazy swing from one extreme to the other. I'd love for you to go to The Mudroom to read the whole thing.
Scary Brave, Simplify
10,000 pounds
June 11, 2015 at 5:00 am 0
We've had a slew of moving quotes the last several weeks. Each man comes in with his pleated pants and shiny shoes and walks around our home; I open the pantry with the baby locks and spill out our secret messes, our stash of alcohol, our piles and piles of books. We count up the tricycles and kids' bikes and I wonder if we'll have to part with some of them. I go through each room, methodically telling him what we're leaving, what we're taking. 10,000 pounds. That's the estimate to move our family of 6. It seems like such a huge weight, although I'm told it's average for a family; but it makes me want to go ahead and chuck it all out the upstairs window, rent a convertible and drive, laughing, far away. Probably to Zion National Park, where I can hike and float down the river and finally exhale. The daily rhythms have stayed the same: school, snacks, rest for the littles, school pickup, snacks, homework, dinner, walk, bed. But my mind has become caught in a To Do list that messes with the magic of the moment, that keeps calling me back to purge and sell and wonder if I can really give up that trike that we gave to our 7-year-old when he turned 2, in our first house in Salt Lake City. 10,000 pounds Moving: Ashley Hales @ Circling the Story Those old snowsuits and snowshoes will soon be sitting in my trunk to donate; clothes we won't need in our temperate southern California lack-of-weather. Don't get me wrong: I can't wait to be able to walk along that sandy edge of land in the dead of winter; I can't wait to walk by the gazebo where my sister-in-law got engaged more than 20 years ago; I look forward to my kids swimming in the same waves and pools of our childhoods. But there's still the 10,000 pounds and the 10 days until we box up our 6 years and move "home," for another, different adventure. And on the other side? There's the settling in that takes another 365 days to feel comfortable, where you know your grocery stores, where you have a rhythm, and friends you can ask to watch your kids. But it's the 2-year-mark I love, the point where I get a bit of an itch, wondering if this is all there is, wondering if this mundane is the sum of life, and big dreams and all that we'd hoped for on this adventure. And then there is also the sweet digging down, where you unearth some of the hard topsoil and get to the good stuff. Where you can soak your fingernails into the dirt and see what is sprouting there -- what's always been sprouting there -- just beneath that surface that you found so unlovely, so impenetrable before you finally spent the time to just stay there and dig. So we're uprooting. It's terribly hard and wonderful and full of adventure. But I know there will always be life teeming under the surface of the new hard of starting afresh, a might river pulsing even in the glorious dark.    
My hips get me everywhere I need to go: an #OperationMinimalism post
February 26, 2015 at 5:00 am 2
Hey there #OperationMinimalism team! My goal in writing about minimalism is similar to my goals in editing -- to get to the essence of the thing. When I'm helping a writer discover her best thoughts by clarifying phrases, I'm helping chip away at what is already there -- to make the structure more beautiful, more useful and more pleasing. I want the same intentionality for my physical and emotional and spiritual spaces. Order, lack of frou frou, beautiful moments, meaning. I don't just want it because I saw it on Pinterest, I want the meaning that it communicates. I think the danger in our journey together is the pressure to find the perfect system; it's the "If I only had..." mentality applied to organization. Let me tell you a secret: it doesn't exist. What does exist is this: our hearts gravitate towards filling up our physical, mental and spiritual spaces with clutter.    #OperationMinimalism: Join forces to get at what really matters | Circiling the Story I've been working my way through Sarah Mae's 31 Days to Clean because I finally just needed to do something. I didn't need to come up with the perfect system, or merge them all together to make the perfect chore chart and incentives for my kids. Nope, I just needed to do something. Maybe you're the same -- paralyzed by choice and trying to do it all right,whether that "right" is parenting, or your job, or your exercise routine. We do not tend to pour out grace in streams (especially for ourselves), but in little trickles; we beat ourselves up when we fail and congratulate ourselves when we succeed. We make and keep mental ledgers. Here's a little breath for your day today, as you tackle those cluttered internal and external spaces:
Your performance does not define you. Your exercise routine (or lack thereof) does not define you. Your size, or your shape, or your grades do not define you. The way your toddler has a tantrum in the grocery store in the middle of the freezer section does not define you. Your spouse feeling disconnected from you does not define you. All of this stuff does not define you.
You're not getting a report card about your worth as a human being based on your performance.  So rest easy, friend. We can take the time and space to peel back layers -- to see where we yearn for more stuff, more mental clutter, to make us feel busy and important -- and that does not mean we're failures.


I went to a ministry retreat once and one of the speakers was talking about the negative self-talk we have as women. To root herself in her identity as a Christian, she needed to remind herself of the ways her body is capable of movement (rather than as an image). She said a phrase that has stuck with me: her "hips got her everywhere she needed to go." They were useful and they didn't need to be perfect to have a purpose. Where do you feel like you need to be perfect to be purposeful? I'm finding that the more I focus on the goal -- from my weight to my creativity -- it all dissipates into streams of self-loathing or self-denial; grace is dammed up and I become tight-fisted and operate out of scarcity. If I don't grab it, what will be left for me? The refrain continues: Me, me, me, me. Where can you start today? What are your metaphorical "hips" that you spend your time down-playing and yet obsess over? What can you let go of and realize the great gift even in it? How can your weaknesses be turned to strength? I'd love for you to comment below, or share over on our Facebook page, because #OperationMinimalism is about uprooting things together so new growth to happen.
At other places, Simplify
Feeling overwhelmed? How to do What’s Best Next
February 23, 2015 at 5:30 am 0
Hey #OperationMinimalism fans!!
I'll be getting back to our lovely open heart surgery about how we're so very connected to our stuff shortly. But for now, I'm guest-posting over at Creative Homekeeper today and you'll love how my little book review can help you not drown in overwhelm. 
I don't know about you, but I default to feeling overwhelmed when it comes to being productive around the home. I can't find my car keys; laundry is usually clean but not folded or put away; and who knows where my child's field trip permission form is five minutes before we head out the door? Sound familiar?
Don’t even get me started on how I can so easily spend my online time.
I've always thought if I could just get the best system then all my home-keeping woes would be solved. As long as I could follow a routine, or a check-list, or get the perfect day planner, then I’d be productive, satisfied and be living the life of meaning I’d envisioned.
But instead of more order and peace in my home, I've felt paralyzed by the sheer options when it comes to productivity. Additionally, as I've thought about my giftedness and weaknesses, about what my family needs from me, and how to accomplish goals, I've come to a startling realization.
What's Best Next
And it's NOT about the best system or plan or strategy that's going to finally make me all organized.
Do you want to know what one book taught me about how to get things done? I'm guest-posting over at Victoria's lovely space, The Creative Homekeeper, today. Please go and read the rest over there and show some comment love there, or here or on our Facebook page. 
3 Revealing Questions that will Finally Loosen the Power of Stuff
February 11, 2015 at 5:00 am 6
We've got a tribe growing for #OperationMinimalism. We're ready to tackle ALL THE THINGS! Maybe you're like me and just want to throw away the whole house because then you'd surely get this minimalism thing down. So I'm going to let you do it -- for 10 minutes. I like to call this the Spinjitzu Clean, because you whirl around like a tornado from Ninjago (yes, I have three boys. I am all about Ninjago.) Before you do your 10-minute Spinjitzu Clean, pick a goal. Is the goal to throw away stuff you don't need? Is the goal to clean and scrub? And pick a space. Start with the space that bugs you the most -- kids' rooms, kitchen, family room, bathrooms -- you choose. Put on the timer for 10 minutes, crank Taylor Swift, and...Spinjitzu!! #OperationMinimalism: Join forces to get at what really matters | Circiling the Story Okay, all done. Now you got a workout too, bonus! I hate to break it to you, but the real problem we can't break free from stuff isn't lack of time, or inefficient systems, or motivation -- though those all play a huge part. The real reason why we can't live a minimalist lifestyle -- or at least find ourselves struggling against it -- is because our heart hungers for things to fill it up. I'm not just talking about the stuff on your mantle. I'm talking about the Starbucks you feel like you deserve (or a glass of wine or chocolate or chips) when you've had a bad day. I'm talking about how we use food to placate our feelings. How we shop to not feel lonely. How we want more and more affirmation so we feel like we're okay. How we check our "likes" and retweets to feel influential. How we read more, work harder, workout more, eat better, and treat ourselves, to give ourselves a dopamine hit and to feel like we matter in the world.  Did you catch that? We use things to tell us that we matter. #OperationMinimalism | Circling the Story Let me tell you a story. I did the Whole 30 a year or so ago. It's a clean eating program that reduces inflammation, as  you take out common allergens and eat totally clean for a month. It was wonderful and horrible! I realized how very deep-seated my use of food was to make me feel okay. I didn't eat a whole cake when I had a bad day and I didn't obsessively weigh myself. It was just little things: glass of wine, chocolate muffin, coffee. Because when I gripped my Starbucks and walked around Target I seriously felt that I could make it through. I was depending on things to make it through the daily hard. Maybe you are, too.  Please, please know things aren't bad. They're provided for our good by a good God, I firmly believe. And moderation is key. But hear this: we're always tempted to make the thing the most important thing. To turn to things for meaning. So we're going to do some hard, shift-in-your-seat soul work here. Ready? Here's your HOMEWORK: I want you to grab a notebook and pen, or your "Notes" section on your iPhone and answer these questions. For real. You need to write things down. When you write things down, I promise, all this stuff comes out and it's different than just thinking through the answers. Take 5 minutes, maybe 10. 1. When the crap hits the fan, what do you turn to? What brings solace? 2. What do you feel like you have to have to be okay? Affirmation, little luxuries, alone time? What happens when you don't have it? 3. What does living a "life of meaning" look like for you? What are some practical, daily markers?


  Share your answers below in the comments or on our Facebook page. I'll start.   


Know someone else who needs to join our tribe? Share the love for #OperationMinimalism with others. I made you some pretty things to pin, tweet or share on Facebook below. #OperationMinimalism | Circling the Story Don't forget to check out our Pinterest board for inspiration. DM me and I'll add you to it!

Follow Ashley's board Operation Minimalism on Pinterest.

 [tweetthis]We use things to tell us we matter. Join me for #OperationMinimalism to take back meaning in the every day![/tweetthis]