Coffee & Clarity

Coffee & Clarity

As I sit at the kitchen table on a rainy, Thursday morning – watching Helena attempt to master the spoon from her high chair – I feel incredibly blessed to be here, sipping my coffee as I slowly wake up.


The reality of this blessing is not lost on me. I know that many of us are off to the mines before our loved ones come out from under covers. Or that a shared breakfast might consist of granola bars on the way to the car.

Our morning alarms are akin to the starting shot of a race. Every day there’s a mad dash to see how quickly you can take a shower/get dressed/do your hair/do your makeup/eat breakfast/feed your family/pack lunches/pack your bags/load up the car/try not so speed.

That’s how my mornings used to go anyway…

After doing some soul searching and re-prioritizing I sprung for a change this school year. I resigned from my full time position teaching art in order to take a part-time teaching job that would give me the flexibility to spend the mornings at home with my daughter.


This career change doesn’t mean I’m now swinging from a hammock eating bonbons every morning (although I have enjoyed toast & Nutella on the couch from time-to-time). In all reality I’m working through (somewhat self-imposed) expectations for both a working mom & stay-at-home mom. I’m finding that a few more hours in the morning doesn’t allow time to check off all house-hold tasks and take Helena to the library for example- so I’m learning to find a balance there.  (I know, veteran moms are like “pshht – I can do that”. Maybe I’ll get there one day…)

From the working-mom perspective I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not the art teacher any more and I don’t have to keep taking on all the responsibilities I did when I was getting paid to be the art teacher. There are plenty of capable teachers at our school, and I don’t have to volunteer for every creative endeavor that comes along.

So while a part time job isn’t quite as glamorous as I’d imagined, I feel so grateful for the peace that accompanies our mornings now. I’m doing my best to cherish the extra snuggles and the leisurely breakfasts because like all things in life, this is just a season.


I do not know what is in store for our family next year. My new position is not guaranteed, and I have not reached tenure in my school district. All this uncertainty is enough to snuff out my new-found sense of calm if I allow it.

Is this new, simpler life sustainable? What if we have more kids? How long can we survive on one-and-a-half incomes? What if I don’t get hired back? What if we have to sell the house? We can’t sell the house…

I often find myself struggling with these thoughts. So I preach right back;

There will always be bills – there will not always be babies. 


So I sip my coffee from a kitchen mug – not a travel mug, not a Starbucks cup – on this rainy, fall morning, and I do my very best to embrace this gift – this season of simplicity.





simple stuff

simple stuff

I felt a bit like a spy – craning ever so slightly over the row. I should have been singing about Jesus, but as we stood for the closing song I caught a glimpse into her purse – puckered open on the seat in front of me – and I couldn’t believe what I saw…

In the middle of this saintly purse there lay a Coach wallet & two smooth, black leather glasses cases.

Tucked in the two left pockets I saw the golden glimmer from the top of her iPhone, and three identical silver tubes of lipstick, lined up like bullets in a clip.

The only sign of life in this perfect purse was a slip of paper – haphazardly folded in the right hand pocket.

I quickly counted. Eight. Eight items in this woman’s bag. 

I thought of my own bag, slumped under my chair – likely with a stray bobby pin and Cheerio spilling out…

I feel like someone somewhere has said that how you keep your purse is a reflection of how you live your life/what kind of person you are. Or maybe it was how you keep your home… Either one is probably true.

I continued to mull this over through the closing prayer. I know, shame on me. But perhaps God was trying to get my attention through this pristine purse, causing me to reflect on my own life. God speaks to us at different times, and works in mysterious ways. 😉

With new-found resolve, I set aside some time after work the next day to assess my purse situation.


I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty…

…but I didn’t realize it was going to be this cringe-worthy. Continue reading only if you wish to see the airing of my dirty laundry. Literally.


I had no idea how much junk had accumulated deep in the bowels of my purse.

As I began to sort through all the contents of my bag, I quickly regretted my decision to document the “simplification of my stuff”. A lot of it was ridiculous. Some of it was downright embarrassing.

However, I pressed on. I felt like this was some kind of atonement for sneaking a peek into a stranger’s purse during church.

In case you couldn’t make sense of that pile, here it is – all laid out for your viewing pleasure.


As it turns out, I found it very therapeutic to sort through and organize what I had been carrying around with me (most of it needlessly) for the past several months. The last time I had a good purse cleaning was when I made my seasonal bag switch-over last spring, which basically meant I pulled out old napkins & receipts, dumped everything else into a different purse and called it good.

Let’s zoom in a little, shall we? Here, we have the personal hygiene/care category. There are a few items here that every lady likes to have on hand… especially a loose baggy of generic tylenol – with an extra bottle-full, just in case. I also like how I still have lanolin and soy lecithin supplements (the other baggie) back from the days of breast-feeding battles.


As we pan to the left, we enter the fashion accessory aisle. I spy hairbands, a bracelet, and two & 2 1/2 pairs of earrings. Also, a broken plastic hello kitty ring. Why…?


And then, there is the aforementioned laundry… That black silky rectangle is a slip.

I feel the need to explain:

A couple weeks ago while wearing this slip at work, the elastic band became unbearably tight after lunch. So I made a judgement call and ditched it. I stuffed it into my purse and it made it’s way down into the abyss to be forgotten until now.

There is also a peculiar stash of snacks…including a sugar packet. You never know when you’ll find yourself with a cup of coffee in the middle of a sugar desert.


Here’s a cringe worthy category: garbage. I don’t know how I managed to accumulate three separate garbage bags in my purse – but I have found you never know when you might need one to bag up your (toddler’s) wet clothes. 😉


At least I have enough pens to stock Office Depot. And a clothespin. I really have no idea…


I tried to do a quick count of all the items piled on the kitchen table, but I lost track somewhere in the 40’s and was too discouraged to start over. But I think you get the idea. I had a ridiculous amount of stuff in my bag.

After visually organizing everything into categories and subcategories, I began to throw away the garbage and return things to their rightful place in my home. Medicine to the cabinet, pens to the drawer, slips to the laundry basket, etc.

I was eventually left with a much smaller pile, which I continued to pare down even more with the following criteria:

– Do I use it everyday?

– Do I need to carry it with me?

And here is all the stuff that made the cut:


I kept all the obvious things – like my keys, wallet & phone. Most other things are debatable and could eventually be whittled down.

I recycled most of the school papers in my bag, but kept some important ones tucked in my planner.

Other finalists were my sketchbook/journal, sunglasses, emergency snack (very important), mints, lip gloss & a small personal care kit.

(One item pictured here – my coupon book gifted to me by a sweet friend- will probably find a new home in the my car’s glove box. I initially kept it in the mix because I always forget my coupons – but I think the car will do the trick)

The last step was the most satisfying. I made a conscious effort to find a place for everything I put back in my purse.


It still looks a bit crowded, I know – but you should have seen it before! (Oh wait, you did.)

I found a spot just for my phone and one pen!


Let’s not forget a place for mints and that very important emergency snack.


Most importantly I decided once and for all which pocket would hold my keys. No more wading through napkins and earrings to get the car started. Front and center, baby.


And that, my friends is the saga of the girl with the embarrassing amount of stuff in her purse, who saw the contents of an enviably simple purse – and decided to get her act together.

Some of you may be re-thinking our friendship right now. Totally don’t blame you.

Maybe some of you just got your Hoarders fix for the week & now you feel a lot better about yourself. I also don’t blame you for that.

But maybe some of you can relate. Maybe you feel a little encouraged that someone else who doesn’t have it all together is taking simple steps towards pulling it together – so maybe you can too. Maybe it’s your purse or your linen closet – or maybe it’s a relationship that needs to be laid all out on the kitchen table. Get rid of the trash. Make room for the good stuff.

Whatever it is – get after it. I can’t tell you how much lighter my step is (literally) now that I am not carrying junk around with me every day. I feel a peace of mind having simplified a small part of my life. I’m hoping it catches on, but in the meantime I have to be vigilant. I caught a stray hole puncher floating around in there the other day.

Tell me, what are your tried & true methods for keeping stuff at bay? Has anyone else had a recent conversion to simplification? Come on down to the water, my friends.