the revolutionary leaf turner

Last week, you shared a little on what you’d like to see this time around. We’re thrilled, and can’t wait to work on some of these ideas. This series is most definitely a two way street. You always help us grow and inspire us in ways and we’re constantly in awe. We’re thrilled to launch this little series again… The Lazy Gal’s Survival Guide: One Year Later.


It’s a look at simplifying our lives, and what it’s done for our family. We haven’t achieved perfection, because it doesn’t exist. We’re far from it. But we’re doing better. We’ve changed. We’re seeking a simple life. And that’s what matters.

If I could break simplifying your home down into two main points it would be:

1. Purge. 2. Organize.

I mean, come on guys! {I’m screaming at you through a cheerleading megahorn.} What are you waiting for! Suck it up, Buttercup! Get to it!

If only it were that simple. It’s about so much more than that.

Last week, we talked a little about a few things to consider before getting started. If you haven’t checked that one out yet, it’s a great starting point. Because with a vision, the process can grow.

On getting started: A lot of that has to do with letting go of perfect, and having a plan. Because simplifying your home isn’t so much about the end goal of having a manageable house, but the transformation that takes place in getting there. It’s a journey. It’s more than just ideal rooms and fresh spaces, even if our end goal is to have a clutter-free, beautiful dwelling place. If that’s what motivates us, then so be it. But to implement that change and keep it there…  It’s about a lifestyle. And in that, changing your viewpoint and perspective.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that when I started this series last year, I kind of had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was faced with staying in a home that we thought we’d sell, and it was the beginning of changing our perspective. So I thought I’d talk about cleaning chandelier crystals and making your garbage disposal fresh. I wasn’t sure where to start, but I knew I had to break the cycle. In a way, I did it to hold myself accountable, because deep down, our entire family craved a change.

In that process, Jamin told me I’d turned over a new leaf. This was a big deal for him to say, because I’d always been the sentimental-guilt-ridden-artist-borderline-we-might-need-that-later-hoarder of the family. A sore point in our marriage. I’d wanted to change in the past… it just always seemed so overwhelming.

So while it’s great to dive into projects and ideas and inspiration (And I promise that’s coming, too) today I want to talk a little about the philosophy behind it all. Because if we don’t take the time to reprogram ourselves for a lifestyle change, then it’s just another fizzled out, new years resolution.

You can starve yourself on a grumpy, self-inflicted diet that only ends on bingeing on chocolate cake (guilty!) or you can have a healthier lifestyle by choosing to eat better and exercise. And in the same way, you can clean out your closets and feel better with a small change until it clutters up again, or you can implement a personal revolution while making a choice to simplify your life.

Here’s a few things we noticed that worked for us, on turning a new leaf, and carrying it over into our lifestyle:



We craved a change.

We were full time stuff managers. Our stuff was everywhere. There’s no other way to describe the mountainous nightmare of the things that ruled our lives. Seven years in one home with three children, and I found that I could no longer blame it on “survival mode” or “the size of our home”. Most of the stress in my life was now coming from the one million disassembled Happy Meals on the floor that were the original coping mechanisms of early parenthood. It was time to change something.

Year after year of failed plan after failed plan… I came to a realization that you can’t organize junk. Especially when, because of said junk, your children don’t even know what they have. It had reached ridiculous proportions and I realized I wanted more for our children. If they don’t know what they have, what am I teaching them? It was time for a drastic change.



Seeing it differently.

The first step is admitting you have a problem… and I was waiting for some secret formula to help me out. Organizing for Dummies surely exists just for me, or so I thought. So my desire for change was on hold. I began to realize while gazing at all the things with which I had no idea what to do, that I was entitled. The embodiment of that entitlement… that need for acquiring more that drives our society… had tricked me. I’d bought into the lie. Hook line and sinker. Only I was responsible. There was no one to blame but me. I was focused on the wrong things, and it was time to acknowledge that. It was up to me, and we needed to make a change while our children are still impressionable.

PrintSo when I find myself getting caught up in the next big thing and the idea of more… playing the comparison game or insert-whatever-struggle-here I find myself distracted by… When I feel the world pushing me to think I need more…. I focus on what I have to be thankful for, instead. We’re all on different paths, and the idea of comparison is beyond silly… it’s a dangerous trap.

Take the time to be thankful and acknowledge the blessings in your life. Make a list. In this world of striving and yearning, it’s a lost art. It’s our main weapon to combat an excessive lifestyle. And all of our lists are overwhelmingly wonderful.

So the biggest game changer was that we were finally ready. Does ready equal the concept of perfection? No. It was more than just cleaning out our closets. It was about craving something different.

Basic RGB

You’re not alone.

There’s a shift of the pendulum from what we had with our childhoods-society in the ‘booming’ decades before us. I think that a lot of our generation is beginning to feel it. We’ve redefined the ‘American dream’ (whatever that’s supposed to be) within our own lives. It’s about so much more than the new year and cleaning out your home a little.

We want to run far, far away from the Joneses. Because in this world, it will never be enough. I want to be a revolution in my own life, with our own family. A life of excess brings less. A life of less is more. So it’s simple, really. Less is the new more. The simple life.

It seems so hopelessly unattainable, but by our own doings. No one is holding us back, telling us we can’t have simplicity. Oh, the complicated irony of it all.


I hope that helps in thinking about turning over that leaf. About making a fresh, real start. I think that the most shocking thing that you’ll find, that if you’re serious about this change, you’ll see it filter over into other areas of your life, beyond your home. And I welcome the change. It’s a fluid revolution that can’t be boxed in. It shouldn’t ever be.

So this year, beyond the empty resolutions that are bound to lose their luster and fizzle… I’ll be a revolutionary leaf turner. Who’s with me?

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Responses to the revolutionary leaf turner

  1. Sara says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I just blogged about trying to simplify
    but I’m having a heck of a time making that.first.move. You always seem to inspire me to make the first move.

  2. Lynn Driver says:

    This is so true and long overdue, for all of us!

  3. Natalie says:

    Couldn’t agree more! And you worded it with such poise…well done!

    I have discovered and and it has forever changed my life. I still struggle daily, but with anything worthwhile…BABY STEPS!!

    Love your blog and your sweet family.

  4. Jessica says:

    Amen, amen, amen! My brain has been reflecting so many of these ideas lately. More than just a “new year” organization process, I’ve been trying to embrace a new outlook, or plan. Lifestyle change. I love our little bungalow home. I love what it represents. But even I have to create a lifestyle that fully embraces what bungalow living means. (And stop apologizing to people that my home is small when I’m entertaining). If an item doesn’t serve a purpose in our lifestyle, I’m not just tucking it away: I’m getting rid of it. I’m living into the Bungalow Lifestyle that I value.

  5. Tania says:

    This is so true. I lately have been purging and giving away so much…it has been wonderful! Now the things in our home are things I truly love and that function well for us. Next up is to tackle my closet since it’s always full yet I never have “anything to wear”…boo.

    • I’m still whittling away at that one, Tania! ;} You’re not alone. I think it’s hard too because things come back in style. I have gotten rid of a few things that I do regret. I purge and then I purge some more and then again. It’s a process, that closet! ;}

      • Michelle (aka mybelle101) says:

        About 18 months ago I started Project 333 (3 months, living with only 33 items of clothing). At first it was an experiment, but what I found was amazing…by focusing on being selective with what I chose to keep in my closet (the rest was safely tucked in our guest closet for after the experiment), it was easy to get dressed every day, everything “went” with at least 3 other things, and most surprising: people kept commenting on how cute/put together/awesome my outfits were. Whaaa?? Needless to say, I haven’t given it up yet. I keep refining what I have, and I no longer count accessories (scarves, jewelry, belts) in my 33 items, but I’ve kept the heart of the project, and found my own style in the meantime. Amazing!

        (The Project 333 was started by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less… the blog is )

  6. Kitty Hurdle says:

    It’s so fun that our family has been on a similar journey and I just recently started reading your blog. I so enjoy your family and your hard work! So grateful for a kindred spirit! :)

  7. Amanda says:

    Our family is on this same journey! We started last year after reading a book by Jen Hatmaker named “7 An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”. We’ve looked around and realized we have so much while others have so little yet we were still wanting more. We are learning to be happy and content with “our little house”. We are teaching our children to be happy with what we have and to give to others. It’s been and still is an amazing (and sometimes painful) journey. We are expecting child number three this year and we are looking forward to proving to others that we don’t have to have the “bigger house” and “bigger car” just because that’s what the Joneses do!!

  8. Heather says:

    Love this! Thank you for sharing with us in such a transparent way. I really like that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote–do y’all have a printable? Or is it one of the pages in your lovely books? Thanks!

  9. ANN W says:

    Several years ago we were on our way to Africa – to live in a mud hut – and love on those wonderful people – show them Jesus! And I felt total and utter peace. We sold just about everything we owned – except that which would fit a “mud hut” lifestyle. I saved nothing to put in storage – although my mother constantly told me she would store everything – I come from a long line of “I might need that someday” kind of family:) Well, long story short – the move didn’t happen. . . my husband got a different job, we got an apartment – and I was left wondering what now what? When it came time to buy a house – I was shocked at myself – I wanted the big, the beautiful, the fun to decorate! WHAT? I was willing to live in a mud hut – what was wrong with me? I had to do a ton of soul searching – and finally realized contentment right where I was at was wonderful! AND whose American Dream was I living? Mine or the guy next door? I wanted to live MY American Dream – My place on earth – My purpose – not one that someone told me!!! WOW peace, contentment, joy reigned! We ended up with 8 acres – which needs much love – and we live in a barn – YEAP – we live in a finished section of a barn about 500 sq feet – and LOVING EVERY MINUTE!!!! We have so little space – and I find even the few things we did keep – are just too much and over the top! We have come back to basics – family, love, game nights, puzzle nights, walks around the property, pruning trees, planting gardens! And loving those around us more fully because we are not cluttered with thoughts of self and desires! FREEDOM is what comes to mind. And yes it invades every aspect of life – our meals have become more simple, our desires, our dreams our life – it is beautiful! Yes it was scary to sell it all – what if I regretted it, what if I wanted it all back? I admit there are about 2 things I wish I hadn’t sold – and that is where I have come to the mantra – if you LOVE and I mean LOVE it – then keep it – if you kind of love, or kind of like, or if Aunt So-and-so gave it to you – so you should probably keep it, or I might need it some day – NOPE that is NOT LOVE! When you are surrounded with the things you really LOVE – it is amazing how it opens your heart up to love more deeply – connect more fully and live I pure FREEDOM!!!

    • Thank you for this, Ann. This is awesome. I love hearing stories like this. One of my ultimate goals and one of the reasons we didn’t sell our house a few years ago (and make another suburban move) is because we decided we wanted a barn. Not just a barn, but the ideal that it holds for us. I’m still waiting on my barn. And I will wait some more. ;}

      • ANN W says:

        Well, the wait and journey is worth it! Honestly, our land needs a TON OF LOVE! Most people go by and think – WOW and not in a good way:) But we have a vision for it – and it will probably take our lifetime for it come to pass – But I can honestly say as we are trimming our 100’s of trees (that currently look like bushes from the lack of care) and fighting back YEARS of weeds that have been left go or finding JUNK all over the place – I am smiling- I am so thankful for this land – and for our barn – and I am smiling all the time – because this is the simple, satisfied life!! Contentment surrounds me! Your “barn” will come at the perfect moment I just know it – it is so worth the short term “sacrifice” and honestly the journey your “barn dream” has lead you to – is beautiful! :)

  10. Kyla F says:

    Thank you for sharing these truths Ashley! I have been simplifying more and more. Through this process, I have realized that I am able to appreciate and enjoy the things that I do have even more because I can focus on them instead of my clutter :)

  11. Val says:

    Yes! I am right there with you Ashley! I have been on a simplifying journey since baby #4 came along. Since my oldest and youngest are 10 yrs apart, I have learned over the years how much/ little I need to survive. While all my friends/neighbors have moved off our street into new bigger houses when baby #2 came along, I have remained in my 2000 sq ft home, all 6 of us. And I love it!!! I have been asked numerous times,very innocently “so when are yall moving?” . I reply “I’m NOT! I’m learning to really live in my home more efficiently . It blows people minds!!!! I couldn’t be happier really. Less stuff to constantly organize means a much HAPPIER momma, which means more time to just be WITH my people!!! Thank you so much for this series, makes me happy to know I’m not alone in this.

    • Yes Val! Wow I can’t imagine doing it with six! That’s awesome. We are in a similar situation- 2300 sq foot home with five. And it’s actually been really good for us. People ask us all the time when we’re moving… And here we are. Still chugging along. I know people live in much smaller spaces, so it’s truly all relative, because I know our home would feel huge to some. And it feels good to just be content where we are right now. Does this mean we will stay here forever? It’s the same to me as school. But I do know that I don’t really feel pushed to do anything, and staying here still feels like the smart thing for us. So here we are. ;} I am with you!

      • Val N says:

        Yes, 6 people in our home.Which got me thinking about the fact that my oldest child is in 8th grade so I really only have 4 more years with 6 of us living here. From the looks of it, She will most likely be going away to college, maybe Auburn University, in your neck of the woods. My husband and daughter just got back from there. She was asked to attend their Softball camp by the new coaching staff, Coach Meyers. She loves it there. ( I do too) Beautiful part of the country I must say. !! Thanks for the reply Ashley!!

  12. Aubrey says:

    I love this! I have been working so hard at purging and organzing our home. But – my husband is more like you – the one who holds onto things for sentimentality, or “we might need that.” So my question is – how do I help him move past that? Beyond dragging him to the finish line by the collar of his shrt. Because somehow I feel like that would be missing the point – hahaha!

  13. Jaci T says:

    Hello! This is my first time writing although I’ve been following your blog for some time. Thank you thank you thank you:) This was just what I needed today. One of my 2014 resolutions is to begin a blog of my own, so that I can muse on certain things I feel strongly about and embrace my creative side which is just bursting with ideas and excitement about life and it’s possibilities. I’ve been stuck in the work-a-day world and have owned my own business now for going on 4 years and I just feel like something massive is missing. And I don’t really like the path I see my kids 10, 11, 13 on in terms of the life of excess and lack of appreciation for things. Makes me want to SCREAMMMMM!!!!
    Anyway, I so appreciate your inspiration and the time and effort you put into your site and I will continue to remain a big fan shouting at my computer YOU GO GIRL! when I read your posts:)


  14. Jessica says:

    I am! Brilliant post. Something I’ve been striving for for a while myself. I’m also a bit of a sentimental hoarder and I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed. Very well written. Thank you and best of luck .

  15. So often I find other bloggers are on the exact same page, thinking such similar thoughts as I am! You hit the nail on the head with this one! Very well said, very well said. :)

  16. Mallory says:

    Other than your homeschooling posts…this series was hands down my favorite. Honestly I was high fiveing you left and right up and down. My year last year was the complete opposite of the Joneses and oh did we learn a lot. I am so glad that you aren’t done with these series. It’s just too good. Keep it coming. I’m already starting to feel the itch again…you know the one…when it feels like stuff is grabbing a hold of you. I’m kicking it to the curb!!

  17. Wendy says:

    Love this and so want it in my life. We are the opposite of so many of you who have commented…we have a giant home with 3 people (me, hubby and almost 15 yr old daughter).

    When we built, my values were so different and now due to the housing market and some other factors (my parent’s live next door to us, among other things) we are “stuck” in this house. I’d love to live in a little cottage. I’d love to downsize and have land instead of a giant home, but I really do love so many things about this not-quite-McMansion. I designed it. I drew the floor plan out on graph paper and gave it to an architect (wish he’d given more input, but oh well). So my learning to be happy with what I have is kind of different, but it is still something I need to do.

    I think we will work on purging, and simplifying, but will spend some money on some things to make this more of the cozy, cottagey-type home I want. (I’ll take suggestions! LOL) And I do have to take action! I can plan all day (as I said last time) but I’m going to have to DO stuff. Ugh. Well, with y’all in my corner, I’m sure I can do it.

    Thanks for your awesome post and blog!!

  18. karlee says:

    I’m with you! I’m tired of stuff. And tired of wanting more stuff. My son is only 7 months old and after experiencing our first Christmas with him I can see how the stuff could get out of control. I’m committing to want less and do more.

  19. Kellie says:

    I’m with you! I find myself craving simplicity and as a homeschooling mom of three…it feels like an impossible goal most days.

  20. Jen says:

    Hi, you have tremendous ideas and creativity I appreciate and admire. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. I’ve been thinking lately I wish I could pare back our life style and live as minimalists. We’re fortunate to be living the middle class 3 kid family dream in Canada. I’m not a big saver of stuff or things but still could do much more to purge or home. Toy clutter overwhelms me.
    Thanks for the excellent ideas and soul searching thoughts. Would you mind if you find a great organizing item (such as when you show the shot of the inside of a well organized drawer) where the tray or item comes from so we could purchase it if so needed? I shop mostly online and often find that is a road block for me is keeping the remaining things in a drawer looking tidy- because I can’t stow the remaining gazillion pencils in something that doesn’t exist at the local Walmart to buy.
    Looking forward to further reading in this series and purging one item at a time in my own home.

    • Definitely, Jen! And I usually try to, but if something particular comes to mind that I don’t cover, please let me know! ;}

    • Jen says:

      When I read the 08.21.2013 post about “purging:the dirty truth” the post had several pics of open drawers w/ clear & pink drawer organizers. Where were the clear organizers bought? Thanks

  21. rosem'ry bertel says:

    Oh, look, in my head I know you’re right, but….

    My achilles heel is fabric – I’ve got plastic bags and
    cardboard boxes full of everything from purple lame to zebra striped vinyl. From quarter of a metre to hugenesses. And I never throw anything
    out. I’m always going to.

    But then, needing to make a doona cover for a
    visiting grandson age five, I found just enough of
    the Marimekko fabric I’d used to make a doona
    cover when he was five!!! So now I’ll never
    throw anything out.

    Thankyou for your blog, it pleases me enormously.

    • HA! I totally understand where you’re coming from, Rosem’ry! The situation is different for everyone. I think it just depends on what you keep, how you sort it, and how “out of control” it is. ;} I have a problem with throwing out perfectly good fabric, too. It’s hard. ;}

  22. Loved this post. One of my readers linked me to it today after commenting on my post about less house more home. It’s so great to see other people embracing the idea off a simplified life.

  23. Heather says:

    I absolutely love what you said about running away from the Joneses! I just told my husband the other day that I have never cared so little about material possessions. Thank you for such a great post!

  24. Ann Marie says:

    I am SO with you. When you said “stuff manager”, you hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what I am. Toy clutter is the bane of my existence. I feel like we are in a never ending cycle of binge and purge. Just when I get the stuff organized and under control somebody has a birthday or the holidays roll around. I am definitely ready to be a leaf turner! :)

  25. Thistle says:

    You. are. brilliant.
    I’m not even kidding.
    quote for a lifetime “you can’t organize junk”

    love you and your heart. :)

  26. Michelle Reeves says:

    What a Great post, thank you for telling it like it is…

  27. Marlene says:

    I too, have a “tendency” to have too much stuff. Though we have had several garage sales and downsized a lot, there still is a long way to go. Excited about joining the path to simplicity. :-)

  28. Summer Hogan says:

    Every word you write I feel like I have thought or spoken. My word of the year is Organity :) Organize + simplify (or vice versus). Thank you for doing this. You and your family are an inspiration. My family is craving a change and we are ready. For me it is just finding blocks of time to work on it where I am not entirely exhausted! Thanks again from a faithful reader :)

  29. LOVE this! This past year I too started to simply my stuff! It just gets in the way of what life really is! Thanks for sharing! Life to the full! Melissa