Embracing Minimalism: How to get started

Over the last several months, I’ve been on the journey of embracing simplicity in my motherhood. I came across Allie Casazza and just knew she was on to something with this whole minimalism thing.

Now I have more time with my daughter and my husband, I was able to start a blog (*finally*) and live with less stress at home.

When I talk to friends and family about how simplifying has really changed my life, the most common reaction from them is “Oh, I wish I could do that, but I don’t even know how to get started.”

Want to know the secret to finally getting started living a life you love?

Wake up and do it.

I saw this great post on Instagram the other day: “I stopped wishing that I would one day become the woman I wanted to be. I simply just woke up and became her.”

You can do this, just decide that you’re going to do it and get started!

5 tips to win at minimalism

1. Don’t let fear of the process keep you from getting started

Yes, your basement is a dark and scary place full of memories, cobwebs, and things that go bump in the night. But it’s only going to get worse unless you do something to change it. Start somewhere in your house that isn’t full of sentimental items like the bathroom to gain some momentum, then move progressively from room to room. When you finally get to those places where all of your stuff that you just don’t what to do with, you’ll be an old pro and ready to take it on.

2. Donate! Don’t sell.

This is a hard one for a lot of people, especially budget hunters like me, but it seriously in the best interest of your success to just donate whatever it is you’re trying to sell. You need the items out of your life. You don’t need to worry about taking pictures, posting, meeting up with people, having sales fall through, shipping, and on and on. If you really can’t bear to just take a particular item to a donation center, set aside out of your house or in your car and give yourself a couple days to find a person or organization that can put it to good use. If you can’t find someone after a week, just get rid of it!

3. Triage

During an emergency situation, medical personnel have to triage victims based on the severity of injury, I want you to have the same mindset with your stuff. Keep. Donate. Trash. This is your triage mantra. When you’re decluttering, only allow yourself three piles: keep, donate, and trash.

Example: Triaging your closet

If you love something and it’s still in good shape (no rips, stains, obvious signs of wear), it goes to the keep pile or stayed on its hanger.

If you’re not sure and you start to go “Well I haven’t worn this in forever, but…”, or “This dress was so expensive, but it’s uncomfortable/itchy/doesn’t fit, it goes to the donate pile.

If it’s in terrible shape, trash.

4. Schedule decluttering time

We schedule things that are important to us, that we want or need to take up time in our lives. So just like we schedule appointments, meetings, and family gatherings, schedule decluttering time. Whether it’s 30 minutes every night or 3 hours once a week, get it in your calendar and stick to it! You can’t make progress if you don’t get started.

5. Be ruthless

This might be the most important. Be ruthless. Don’t let old memories, perceived obligations, or societal expectations paralyze you. You don’t need to keep something that was a gift. You don’t need to keep a family heirloom that you hate. You don’t need a reason to get rid of something! This is your life. This is your home. Everything in our lives takes up our time and our mental energy. Only keep the things that you need, bring you joy, and add value to your life.

Minimalism isn’t about only having the bare number of items you need to survive. Minimalism is about living life with less, so you can enjoy life more. My minimalism will look different than your minimalism, and that’s okay! I can’t wait for you to get started so you can discover this amazing lifestyle for yourself.

I love connecting with other women who are making minimalism a lifestyle. Check out this post on tips to declutter and organize your home from Jen and Wendy at My Bubbles and Bubbly — a lifestyle and local guide blog based in the Windy City. Their blog is full of amazing tips and definitely deserves your time.



How I finally slayed the laundry monster

Since I started down this path of simplifying our lives, I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how to get started with the decluttering process.

For a long time, I dreamt of clean counters, every object having a home, and actually being able to enjoy my evenings and weekends, but no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up running around like a crazy person, scrubbing bottles, cleaning up mess after mess, and fighting (and usually losing) to a never-ending mountain of laundry.

Laundry was a particular sore spot for me.

I’ve been known to go buy a shirt and pack of underwear at Target to avoid confronting the looming pile in the corner of our bedroom.

Every several days, once I mustered up the courage to slay the beast, the conversation between Evan and I went like this:

Me: Hey babe?

Evan: *mumbles* Hmm?

Me: I’m serious this time.

Evan: About what?

Me: We’re becoming nudists. I’m just gonna go burn these okay?

Evan: *shaking his head* Sounds great, hon.

Bless that man for keeping up with that running joke for 4 years.

I digress.

So when I started down the path to minimalism, I started with my closet. Between getting pregnant, growing a human, birthing aforementioned human, and then becoming that human’s mother while also working full-time and being a wife, I had gained and lost about 100 pounds, which left my wardrobe a hot.freaking.mess.

Even though I had gotten back down (and then some!) below my pre-baby weight, my body was just so different. Styles and silhouettes that used to be flattering, felt frumpy. I found myself with this hodgepodge of a closet that had clothes from high school and college, my first job, pre-#momlife in all shapes and sizes.

So one night after Ava went to bed, I popped in my earbuds, grabbed a few trash bags and cloistered myself in our closet.

And over the course of an episode of Wine & Crime, I eviscerated my side of the closet.

Keep. Donate. Trash.

Three piles. And I was ruthless.

If I loved something and it was still in good shape (no rips, stains, obvious signs of wear), it went to the keep pile or stayed on its hanger.

If I vacillated, even for a moment, it went to the donate pile.

If it was in terrible shape, trash.

Let me just say, that it was a stroke of good luck that I had taken the trash bags in with me, because by the end of it all, I had made piles of clothing that literally reached my waist and I’m 5’8”. I wouldn’t have been able to get out of our closet if I hadn’t brought them in. I had to tunnel out so I could get downstairs for more!

When it was all said and done, about ~15 bags made their way to the local donation center, 3 went out to the trash, and I was left with a wardrobe of clothing that fit and that I was excited to wear!

This change, coupled with my new laundry rhythm (1 load started every morning and then put away before bed), has really allowed me to breathe. I rarely have issues deciding what to wear, and I don’t stress about getting the laundry done because it’s just something I’ve put on autopilot.

So what’s holding you back? Don’t be paralyzed by the enormity of the task — tackle one area at a time and you’ll make progress.

xo- Sarah

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Four easy steps to actually reach your goals

Making goals is easy. Reaching goals is hard. If you’re sick and tired of setting goals and just giving up a couple weeks in, this is the process for you!

It’s that time of year again. Four weeks ago everyone set goals, told everyone they know about the Keto-Paleo-Vegan-No Carb-Gluten-Free Diet that was going to totally change their life when they finally lose those 20 pounds that they’ve been trying to lose for the better part of a decade. People joined gyms, bought treadmills, started meal planning and said triumphantly, “This is my year!”

But now the gyms are back to the regulars with a couple new additions of people who are keeping the course, those meal prep containers that were an impulse buy from Amazon are sitting unused in the cabinet, and cheesy carbo-loaded pasta casseroles are back on the menu.

That was so totally me for YEARS (and still is sometimes!), but one day I had just had enough of just getting through life. I was walking to my car after work and all of a sudden for some reason I just stopped and said out loud “What the heck am I doing with my life?”

So I went home and started writing the things down I wanted to accomplish. I started with the broad strokes, then I got super granular. And the craziest thing started to happen: I started meeting my goals one step at a time. Not all at once, and not even every single one because life, but definitely making progress. 


1)  Start with the big picture

I’m a Google Drive gal, so I typically open a Google Doc and start typing my goals using broad sweeping terms like more and less. Use whatever system you like: pen and paper, a note-taking app, whatever works for you.

Big picture goals are things like:

  • Read more
  • Weigh less
  • Be more intentional in my life

2) Get specific

Be really specific about your goals, but also be realistic! If you’ve never run a day in your life, setting the goal to run a sub-3:00 hour marathon might be a bit unrealistic.

Let’s say your goal is to read more. More is a pretty ambiguous word, it means something different to everyone. If you’re a real bookworm, more might mean read 2 books a week instead of just one. If you’re more of a Netflix and popcorn gal, more might mean actually read a book this year.

Let’s say you’re somewhere in between, so a specific goal would be:

  • Read 12 books this year

3) Get granular

This is where it starts to feel like you’re being silly. But this is also a step beyond what most people do!

So, you’ve set your specific goal of reading 12 books a year, which in your head you’re thinking, “That’s an average of one a month! Perfect! Good.To.Go”

Exactly. One per month. That’s your sub-goal!

4) What can you do TODAY?

Taking it one step further, ask yourself, “What can I do TODAY to help me reach my goal?”

And then break it down. If in order to read one book each month you need to read for 15 minutes a day, then put a reminder in your phone, pencil it in your calendar, or add it to your daily to-do list.

Now, this was a simple goal. There are other goals that are much more complex like “become my own boss” that might require 30 subgoals and 200 daily goals or even more, but no matter what your goals are, this process WORKS.

What are your goals this year? Show me on Insta by tagging @simply.sarahmae on your post, or send me a DM!

xo- Sarah

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How waking up early saved my family

Ready to start living an intentional life? Stop just getting through and live life on purpose. Subscribe to Soul Intention  so you can stay in the know and get the tools you need to live your life with purpose. 

We all know that successful people get up super early, but they’re getting paid the big bucks when we’re just trying to keep 100 plates spinning while jumping through a flaming hoop and trying to keep the tiny humans alive.

I get it. Waking up early sucks.

Yeah I’ll say it, waking up early is literally the worst.

Seriously, though. The first few days are terrible, and then all of a sudden, this strange and wonderful thing happens: you start to get used to it. And then a few more days pass, and something really weird starts to happen: you start to actually like it.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of sleep princess. I like to be in bed between 10:30 and 11 and my ideal wake up time is 8:15. A blissful 9 hours each and every night.

But then I had a baby.

And then I went back to work.

I kept with my old routine, and soon I found that my mornings and evenings were frazzled, my house was a mess, and I just always felt like it was behind. Evan and I were constantly bickering about silly things, I was getting annoyed with Ava’s whining even though I knew she was just whining because she wanted to spend time with me.

One night sticks out in particular, I had just come home from work. Evan had been home for about an hour with Ava, and she was so excited to see me! I gave her a big hug and a kiss and then I set her in her pack ‘n play so I could make dinner, clean the kitchen, and try to get our lives together for the evening.

It wasn’t long before Ava started fussing, and I told her several times that I’d be there in a minute. But in my distracted state, I kept moving from one task to the next.

After awhile Evan came over with her and said in a firm, even voice, “Babe, your daughter wants you. You always come home and go straight into doing something. It’s go, go, go. She wants you. She won’t always want you. Dinner and dishes can wait. Play with her.”

I started to choke something out like, “But I just need to…” and then I broke down in tears. I grabbed my baby and kissed her hair while I cried.

I had started to say that I just needed to get dinner finished and then I would play. And then. And then. And then.

There was always something keeping me from being the mother that I wanted to be: dishes, laundry, dinner.

Something had to change. So I turned in my sleep princess crown, and committed to getting up between 5 and 5:30 am.

And honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever turn back.

By getting up early, I’m able to have at least 2 hours entirely to myself every morning. This is a time I use for my morning ritual (more on that later!): drinking coffee, meditation, journaling, reading my Bible and either working out or getting some pressing tasks done. I work out 3-4 days a week (welllll, most weeks :P), so the other days I use that time to do some writing, get a jump start on work, etc.

I’ve come to realize that by being flexible and making a tiny adjustment to my preferred schedule, I’m able to be more present for my own life, as well as for my daughter and husband.

I feel more grounded, centered, and ready for the day when I get up early. Even if the rest of my day goes downhill, it’s much easier to handle because I already knocked-out the most pressing tasks of the day.

But getting up early isn’t an all or nothing thing — it’s all or something.

Make your goal to be up just 10 minutes earlier. You can accomplish that by just not hitting snooze! After you get good at getting up 10 minutes earlier, start pushing yourself to wake up earlier and earlier. If you miss a day and sleep in, that’s okay! Show yourself some grace, and get back on it the next morning. I bet you’ll find that you missed it.

So while waking up earlier didn’t actually save my family, it did help lift me out of that motherhood survival-mode funk that had been hovering over our home.

Waking up early takes discipline and commitment. And just like most positive changes, it won’t come easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Are you an early riser by nature? Are you a night-owl thinking about testing the waters of all this early morning stuff? If you’re needing encouragement to make this change work for you, Subscribe and find me on Instagram @simply.sarahmae

xo — Sarah

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January 16, 2018 —

There’s been such an overwhelming response to this post, that I’ve decided to create #ReclaimYourDay — a 7-day early bird challenge group! We start Monday 1/22/18 — leave a comment or send me a note at soulintentionblog@gmail.com if you want to join us and I’ll send you the information!

January 18, 2018 —

Round 1 is full, but Round 2 will be starting in mid-March! Sign up here to save your spot for #ReclaimYourDay Round 2! 

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The secret to getting out of survival mode

Ready to start living an intentional life? Stop just getting through and live life on purpose. Subscribe to Soul Intention, so you can stay in the know and get the tools you need to live your life with purpose. 

The other day in Kroger, I was paralyzed in the mustard section. Spicy Brown? Dijon? Yellow? Name brand? Store brand? Oh yeah, we also need diapers. *Adds diapers to the list* What was I doing? Oh, right. Mustard.

I stared at rows and rows of the yellowish-brown condiment for nearly 7 minutes. I could not for the life of me, just pick one. So what happened? Did I just not sleep enough the night before — probably, but I think that I was a victim of decision fatigue, which is a fancy way of saying that my brain was exhausted from doing the heavy duty of making thousands of decisions every.single.day.

Pause. I know what you’re thinking. Sarah, there’s no way you made a thousand decisions in a day.  

Oh but I did. You definitely do too, every.single.day.  

According to recent research, you are going to make 35,000 “remotely conscious” decisions today.

By contrast, our adorable chitlins are only going to make about 3,000.

So while you might not have stared aimlessly at the mustard section of your local supermarket for an inordinate amount of time, I’m sure you’ve experienced the moment when you literally couldn’t make another decision even if you wanted to.

Enter: Rhythms.

A heartbeat. The thump of a bass drum. Despacito. They all have rhythm, so why not your life?

Rhythms are these beautiful things that we just do. We do them every day, so they just happen in the background of our lives. We don’t think about them. We don’t stress about them. And we all already have them.

I love how Allie Casazza puts it on her blog, rhythms have been part of the key to “escaping survival mode in motherhood.” By having to make fewer decisions about day-to-day things, I’m happier, lighter and able to put more focus on things that actually matter: my marriage, my baby, and my brain!

My Rhythms

Since Ava was born, I realized that my old way of doing laundry just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I couldn’t just set aside an entire day to do a MOUNTAIN of laundry anymore. So I established a rhythm.

Now, first thing every morning I get up, grab the basket and start a load. At some point during the day, but usually after dinner, I’ll fold it and take it upstairs where it will get sorted and put away in 3-5 minutes by morning. It’s a little thing saving me a meltdown, raised cortisol levels, a sassy attitude with my husband.

It took a couple weeks of reminding myself, but now it just happens. And for the first time in forever, I don’t stress about doing the laundry because it’s always done. There aren’t piles and piles of it everywhere taunting me.

Some other rhythms I have:

  • Getting up early and tackling the most pressing things on my to-do list first thing in the morning

This one has been a game changer for personally, because even if my entire day hits the fan later, it’s okay because I got the most important thing done before anyone else was out of bed. It totally changed my life and my marriage.

  • Wiping down the counters, rinsing the dishes, and placing them in the dishwasher after every meal
  • Doing a quick 10-minute pick-up every evening after Ava goes to bed

So, if you want to stop feeling like you’re just surviving motherhood and really starting thriving, establish some rhythms in your life.

Start by asking yourself: What are the things I HAVE to get done in a day in order to not be anxious/stressed/feel like I’m behind?

These aren’t the things that you want to get done, these are things that stress you out like crazy and you will not go to bed until it’s done.

Write them down.

Now write down how you would feel to walk in the door after a long day knowing that those things were taken care of.

Pretty great, right?

Set aside a few minutes today (I know you’re crazy busy, but trust me, you have 5 minutes to spare to do this) and write down a couple rhythms for your own life. Then commit to doing them for a week. Just one week!  Do whatever it takes to hold yourself accountable, even if you miss a day, that’s okay! Show yourself some grace and get back after it.

Tag me on Instagram @simply.sarahmae! I can’t wait to see all of the rhythms you guys establish to make your life more intentional, less stressful, and much much happier.

Peace, Love & Cookie Dough — Sarah

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