Summer in the northern hemisphere is well under way! For many of us, it’s a time to slow down, enjoy the sunshine, and get together with friends and family. Many people spend quality time together in their homes or cottages on weekends or a weekly vacation. It’s a great way to catch up with loved ones from near and far. This spring, I had several opportunities to help people set up their permanent homes as well as vacation homes for guests. When working on this type of project, I guide people through a few different considerations as we set up the space. If you’re looking for a few ideas to simplify your guest preparations, read on!
A cozy place to sleep
This is, in my opinion, the first and most important thing to consider when hosting guests. If you’re in your permanent home, think about where your guests wouldn’t mind sleeping, and make sure you have enough sheets/blankets/pillows if they’re not bringing their own. Some people will crash anywhere, while others prefer a room of their own. Have a conversation with your guests before they head over, just to make sure they’ll be comfortable in the spots you offer. If you’re renting out an entire house, make sure there are mattress and pillow protectors. It’s not necessary to provide sheets and blankets in this case - most rentals I’ve been in don’t provide them, and guests are responsible for bringing their own.
Coffee, tea, and breakfast options
Personally, I like to wake up with a cup of coffee and breakfast, both at home and while traveling. It feels like a nice way to get ready for the day. If at home, I find it’s polite to offer a light breakfast option, and guests can choose to go out if they want. If renting out your summer home, a coffee maker with filters and tea kettle will do the trick for your guests to enjoy a morning brew. Other than that: a frying pan, toaster, spatula, wooden spoon, and small cooking pot should cover the bases for breakfast cooking supplies.
Setting up bathrooms
There actually isn’t too much preparation involved with setting up a bathroom for guests! Most of the time, travelers bring their own toiletry supplies such as toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc. If you’re hosting in your permanent home, you might need to provide towels, especially if guests are flying with just a carry-on. Otherwise, make sure the bathroom is clean, tidy, and stocked with plenty of toilet paper for the duration of their stay. Hooks for toiletry bags and towels are a great idea - they help keep the counters and surfaces uncluttered.
I offer these considerations to people who are renting out their homes. How many people can sleep in the house? If, for example your home can sleep 8, make sure there are enough plates, bowls, mugs, cups, and cutlery to accommodate everyone for a meal. For pots and pans - everything I mentioned above for breakfast plus a larger sauce pan, soup pot, and if you’re hosting in a coastal area - a lobster pot! Providing dish soap, a sponge, brush, paper towels, non toxic cleaner, and trash bags will help your guests keep the kitchen tidy without going overboard. Bonus points for offering a grill outside. A grilled meal tastes like summer, keeps the house cooler, and doesn’t mess up the kitchen so much!
The Living Room
Again, this mostly applies to people who are renting out their homes. Is there enough comfy seating for everyone who is staying over? A deck of cards and a few crowd-pleasing board games can be nice offerings for a family to bond over. The coffee table is where I like to suggest an easy to follow travel guide, such as a little binder of menus to local eateries, activities, and important phone numbers. Some people like to have a TV set up with a DVD player and a few movies for those rainy days.
As I always say, we aren’t striving for perfection! If your guests are staying with you in your home, remember they’re there to see you, and not critique your home. If they’re renting your summer home, they’ll be so happy to be on vacation that they won’t be sweating every single detail.
Are you getting together with family and friends this summer? What are your favorite activities to enjoy together?
In my last post, I talked about self-defining minimalism in relation to our stuff. Click here for part one of this series.
A few months ago, one of my clients asked me if I had heard about the “slow living” movement, and what my thoughts were. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about it, and pictured an off-the-grid homestead. Boy, was I wrong! It’s not about going back to primitive technology, but about taking a “less is more” approach to everyday life. I’ve come to realize that people are interested in these ideas because we have so many choices, our schedules are overstuffed with commitments and to-do’s, and many feel there’s little time for much else. There seems to be social pressure to constantly keep doing more: the busier the better, and you really can have and do it all (a myth!).
My curiosity lead me to Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Throughout the book, he talks about the power of choice, encourages the reader to evaluate and explore each opportunity that comes our way, eliminate excess, and understand the reality of trade-offs. Here are my takeaways, which are related to universal time management principles:
Get clear on how you want your day to day life to look.
The clearer you can be about what’s best for you, the better informed your decisions when new opportunities pop up. McKeown suggests “we are looking for our highest level of contribution: the right thing the right way at the right time (22).” We’re reminded of the trade-off: saying “yes” to something means saying “no” to something else. What are you good at? What inspires you? What makes you feel energized and happy?
Learn how to say "no."
This is hard for many of us, and likely how we wind up doing more than we’d like. Many times we say “yes” not because we want to, but out of a feeling of obligation, guilt, and fear of the consequence if we say “no.” McKeown suggests that we “learn to say no firmly, resolutely, yet gracefully,” and that “people respect and admire those with the courage of conviction to say no (136).” When we’re clear on what we’d like our lifestyle to look like, it’s easier to say no to opportunities that don’t quite line up. Also, practice helps build confidence - the more you do it, the easier it will be.
Develop a self-care routine
Sometimes we need to say no without saying yes to something else, so that we have unstructured time to just “be,” practice some self-care, and recharge. In the chapter titled “Sleep,” the author says, “the best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves…we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution (94).” I agree that sleep is important for recharging and feeling alert, and I think there are other parts to self-care that are important as well. Regular exercise, catching up with friends and family, fresh air, and time to craft or read are activities that make me feel recharged and ready to keep moving along. Scheduling a minimum of 30 minutes a day for a personal routine feels like a reasonable amount of time for most. It’s amazing how carving out just a little space and setting boundaries in this way creates a better sense of well-being!
Try to limit screen time
With 24/7 access to the internet, there’s constant noise and information overload at our fingertips, and it can be draining. The constant scrolling and staring at our screens can be numbing. I admit, it’s really hard to ignore my e-mail sometimes, and I worry that I’m going to miss an important call if my phone isn’t nearby. Studies have shown that more screen time = more stress. At our house, we put away screens for meal times and at least an hour before bed. This opens up time for great conversation, stretching, reading, crafting, time for friends and family, and more restful sleep. I’ve tried one screen-free day a week for the past month - it’s truly been life-changing, and has allowed me to be more present in my day-to-day life.
And as always, it’s not about striving for perfection - inevitably, circumstances pop up that need to be tended to. I think it’s important to recognize if a commitment feels like a burden, either see it through or pass it along to someone else, and learn from the experience. Sure, we have to do things we really don’t want to, like taxes, but the key is to find balance in our day to day lives.
Have you made any adjustments to your schedule lately? Do you feel more at ease from the change or stretched too thin? I’d love to hear from you!
Dunckley, Victoria L. “Screens and the Stress Response.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201211/screens-and-the-stress-response.
McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Virgin Books, 2014.
Recently, in the last decade or so, there has been quite a buzz around the concept of minimalism, and for good reason. For many of us, our homes and schedules might feel chaotic, overstuffed, and lacking space. We’re likely looking for some form of relief in this regard. As with many fads, there are great ideas and inspiration we might want to incorporate into our own lives, but we’re confronted with extreme all-or-nothing examples that might discourage us from making changes.
I could go on at length regarding this topic, so I’ve broken this post down into two parts. Today, I’ll be talking about what minimalism can mean for us in the physical sense - the stuff. In the next post, I’ll talk about what minimalism means for us regarding time and how we perceive and manage it. Minimalism comes up a lot when I’m working with clients, and I’d love to share with you some guiding principles I use to help them on their decluttering and organizing journeys:
It looks different for everyone.
In my opinion, this is the most important thing to keep in mind - think of how boring life would be if we all strived to be the same! Your home doesn’t have to be painted all white, with only one piece of art on the wall. You don’t need a black and white only wardrobe, with a certain number of items to adopt a minimalist approach and mindset. I would like to note that if that’s your style, and you feel like it really reflects you, then go for it! It’s best to just be yourself and honor your own style and preferences - in my opinion, that’s the sustainable approach for lasting habits and a lifestyle you feel good about long term.
Focus on what you have and what you do, rather than what you don’t have.
This is a fairly universal mindset approach among organizers I speak with, as well as the more well-known ones who have published books. It’s helpful to get clear on your natural habits, lifestyle, and preferences in order to inform your decisions on what you’d like easy access to while sorting through everything. Think about your current circumstances. Chances are, you already have everything you need to live a comfortable, healthy, happy lifestyle.
Release the uneccesary to free up space.
Once we’re clear on what we have and what we need to live our ideal lifestyle, we’re able to separate out the clutter. Releasing items that are no longer useful can be very easy for some, while others might be a bit more cautious. There is no “right” amount of items to be kept, and in order for lasting change, you have to do what works for you in this very moment. At the very least, I encourage creating zones within each room in your home for easy access to items you use on a regular basis. With time, and some more evaluation, someone who was hesitant to release clutter becomes ready. I like to compare this to peeling back the layers of an onion, and this sort of approach has worked for many people who consider themselves more sentimental.
Be as intentional as possible when bringing new items into your home.
There’s an ebb and flow when it comes to the stuff in our homes. Each year, there are birthdays, holidays, and special occasions, items that need repairing, and upgrading. It would be considered rude to refuse a gift up front, but we do have control over what we shop for. One useful habit I’ve passed along is keeping a list of things I actually need and then others I want. It may sound silly, but I put things like new sunglasses and a plant stand on my list. I wouldn’t consider these items crucial for everyday living, but they might improve my quality of life a little. Having a list before going into the store helps me stay on track and avoid impulse purchases, which is great for saving time and energy.
Whatever your situation, if you feel burdened by your stuff, I encourage you to continue on your decluttering journey until you reach a balance point. What minimalism means to me in the physical sense is living within a “sweet spot,” where you know what you have, and can reasonably manage it.
Want to pare down but don't know where to begin? I'd love to help! Feel free to reach out so we can problem solve together.