I’ve been a loyal follower of Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits for some time now. I’ve always coveted the idea of living a zen minimalist existence… but I have 3 children, 2 dogs, 2 cats and a husband who are NOT minimalists. We have a lot of stuff… unnecessary stuff. In my single life, I’d attack the idea of such an existence with vim and vigor which… is actually sort of contrary to the whole movement. That said, I do try to simplify our existence (go ahead and laugh, it sounds funny to me too) and implement the principles of zen minimalism in super-slow baby steps every day in our lives. But I think we turned a corner this morning…
As I lounged on the couch reading the Best of Zen Habits 2009, unbeknownst to me, the old soul was peaking over my shoulder and expressed interest in the concept of a clutter free home. Now if you know us at all, you know that truly MOST of my clutter comes from my everything-collecting daughter who stashes every imaginable piece of anything (true) into every drawer and onto every inch of empty counter space she can find. Why just today I emptied nearly 100 feathers picked from our down couch from one of our kitchen drawers. In another drawer I found candy kiss foils wrapped in tissues along with a couple of toilet paper rolls. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up.
So, when she said she’d like to start with Mr. Babauta’s decluttering counters advice, I jumped on it and we spent a good part of the day putting things away… the end product: a noticeably clear and very zen counter! Yeah! That got me thinking that I would like to keep the momentum going and apply the decluttering minimalist rules to the rest of our lives… again in baby steps. Instead of sharing straight up what I’m thankful for today, I’m going to intermingle what I hope to be thankful for in the coming months. Not resolutions so much as intentions for minimizing, simplifying and getting back to what’s most important… my loved ones!
 Say less and listen more to my children… and my husband too. Sadly, I think I’ve been raising my voice too much — with my children not my hubby — and I desperately want to stop that. I don’t want to be that person or that mother. Listening more will hopefully give me more empathy for their feelings instead of being so focused on mine… which is usually frustration b/c I spend all day cleaning up all their unnecessary stuff.
 Buy less and get rid of more of that unnecessary stuff to clear our home and minds of clutter so we can focus on what’s really important… each other! I spend way too much time tidying up a myriad of toys that are pulled out but never really played with. We could have a lot more fun getting right to the things we like to do without going through or cleaning up the rest of the mess.
 Sell and/or freecycle our unnecessary stuff so that others may put it to good use. One day recently, I was preparing a new casserole dish… under dinner-time duress as usual. I asked the Sarge to shred some cheese for the recipe and he agreed but could not find the cheese grater. Finally, I explained that I knew we had a few graters in a box in the barn. To which he lamented, “you mean we haven’t shredded cheese in the 9 years since we bought this house?” We’ve got a ton of stuff in the house and barn that we haven’t used since we got married/moved in 9 1/2 years ago. That’s actually pretty funny! And a huge waste of space! I mean, someone could use those graters!
 Clear the dockets! Stop saying yes to all the busy work and leave more time for the important stuff. My calendar fills up with a lot of unnecessary appointments that leave me with no time to do what is most important… be with and work with my children doing things they like and focusing on the areas where they need help. By doing so I could minimize my guilt over all the things I don’t get to and eliminate my frustration over all the things I do but don’t want to.
 Clear my mind… of negative thoughts that is. I’m tired of the critical chatter in my head. I’m burning the old tapes and rewriting them to be more positive, more me. I’ve gotten caught up in the complaining mode so many people I know have fallen into. I’m leaving that mode behind. I dislike it in others and despise it in myself.
I know… Easy to say. Not so easy to do. But I have a whole year to implement change slowly and I’ve grown really comfortable with baby steps. My boys — blessed with an extra 21st chromosome — have taught me well to be patient with my progress and to go slowly. I have learned through them to work toward my goals and accept that things come in their own time.
It’s true… [my] children are the best teachers!