Day 31, of 31 Days to Less Noise

Day 31 of 31 Days to Less Noise.

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I started this month with one goal: to reduce some of the noise in my life that was negatively affecting my day-to-day, in the hopes for more internal peace and less stress. And ultimately, to move me closer to God and to the people I love.

In my life, noise looked like clutter, unpreparedness, various forms of media, an overwhelming schedule, and unnecessary expectations as a mom.

So this month, I took intentional steps in these areas.

I…

-chose five small focus areas of my home to de-clutter

-chose to focus on simply playing with my kids and to give them my attention in the car instead of the “noise” in my head

-cut out some temptations of social media and TV, and found some new systems for email and for keeping up with the news (for those who suggested TheSkimm – thank you! I love it!)

-discovered some new ways to be better prepared for recurring events, such as healthy meal planning, social events and signing up for StitchFix for my clothing needs.

-chose to skip a couple of days when blogging got too noisy and I rested on Sundays

I not only felt God emerge in the new quiet, but I also took intentional steps to a better relationship with God by starting my day with him and by beginning a Bible study with a small group of friends.

The outcome?

I feel lighter. Maybe because the pressure of blogging for a month straight is over :) But I learned so much about myself and the way I operate on a daily basis and what fills my heart up and what clutters my mind. And I loved hearing from so many people who said “oh my gosh, I could have written that post. You read my mind about what’s going on in my life!”

And what I’ve found is that noise is a constant. For everyone. But it is our choice what to tune in and tune out. And when we choose carefully to tune in the things that matter most, we open ourselves up to experiencing the best of what’s around us, instead of succumbing to all of the noise with our hands over our ears. We invite opportunities to hear and see God more, and to appreciate the best sounds in our lives – those that come from our families, friends and ourselves.

Thanks for following along with me this month!

31 Days to Less Noise: Margin Time

In writing about reducing noise in my life for the last month, one of the core lessons that is emerging to me as I explore the different “noise”-makers I have is that I need to learn to let some things go sometimes.

I guess I’ve always said this, but it’s one thing to say it and another thing to really know it and do it.

Blogging for 31 straight days was difficult – so challenging that I missed a day or two. Because, well, life. Sometimes I’m too busy living to write about it.

And I’ve discovered that many times, cutting noise out of your life means taking intentional steps to streamline some processes, to remove overwhelming commitments or time-sucks like social media, or to clear clutter and finish unfinished projects.

But less noise also looks like more margin time. More quiet times, more open spaces to give yourself the gift of spontaneity, freedom, breathing room. Leaving space for nothing means leaving space for anything…anything that your heart needs to fill back up and your head needs to quiet down.

This month, I’ve learned some lessons that removing noise in my life also means removing pressure on myself.

I have a to-do list a mile long – don’t we all? – but the last few days, I’ve been getting done what I can and not stressing about what needs to be done. And that is SO unlike me.

I’m taking margin time and creating space in my daily schedule to breathe – reading, hot baths, phone calls to friends, clearing my mind when I’m with the kids and being fully present with them. Saying yes to a picnic dinner and movie, just because.  I have to say “no, we have to go to the doctor this morning” so often, that when I can say “yes, let’s go to the park!” on a free morning, it’s all the more exciting.

Maybe it’s because I have cut so much noise out this month, or maybe it’s part of cutting noise out… but learning to let things go and leave open time for nothing and anything has been so freeing.31DaysLessNoise

31 Days to Less Noise: Preparing for Events

When it comes to upcoming events, I find two areas to be the noisiest: food and gifts/cards. Also known as, what should I bring??

I think reducing this kind of noise means that I need to streamline some processes and figure out a system that works for events.

What seems to happen more often than not with the food side of things is that Evan and I ask each other the day before “what should we take?” Then we almost never have all of the ingredients for that particular dish, which leaves us scrambling on the day of to run to the grocery store and throw something together as we are simultaneously getting ourselves and the kids ready. And that makes no one happy.

My first goal is that when I mark an event down on the calendar that requires me to bring a dish, I want to note on that event what I’m going to bring. If I decide right then and there, then I can add the ingredients to my grocery list when I do my weekly shopping and, for many dishes, even prepare the day or night beforehand.

And my second goal is to keep it simple. Recipes that force me to chop and pre-cook and put together for an hour just don’t have a place in my life right now. I love to try new dishes, especially appetizers, but I’ve learned the hard way that it causes unnecessary stress on everyone when we’re trying to leave in 5 minutes and I’m still working my way through a new recipe. So for less noise, I’m keeping it simple.

And lastly: gifts and cards. It’s been driving me crazy lately that every time we have a wedding to attend, I line up babysitters, choose our outfits…and forget to look at the registry until two days before. Or one of my friends has a baby, and I realize that I don’t have a baby card. Which leads to stress shopping. (Stress shopping in this case is frantic, last-minute shopping with whining kids in tow, typically characterized by nothing left to purchase on the wedding registry.)

Today, I alleviated some of that noise in my life by bulk-purchasing cards. I ransacked the greeting card section, picking up baby cards, wedding cards, birthday cards, sympathy cards. And I placed them all in the appropriate sections of my card organizer. No more greeting card unpreparedness over here!

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As for wedding and shower gifts, I’m not sure of the best solution at this point… but we don’t have any weddings until next spring, so I have a few months to think about it :) I think one thing I will try is to go shopping the week I receive an invitation. And if I’m invited to both a shower and a wedding, I will do the shopping for both gifts at the same time.

I do have a go-to baby gift that I’ll share (and if you’re my friend, you better not steal my idea) When cute toddler towels go on sale, I’ll buy for all of the upcoming babies that I know about… and then when they’re born, I have the baby’s name personalized on the towel. I love that it’s both cute and useful – I buy the bigger sized towels so they can use them for years!

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How do you prepare for food and gifts for upcoming events? Or are you a stress shopper? :)

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