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A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living

A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living

by Emily Ley
A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living

A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living

by Emily Ley


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Do you want to simplify the demands on your time, energy, and resources? Do you have complicated responsibilities, overwhelming to-do lists, and endless clutter leaving you feeling overwhelmed? What if you could clear the clutter once and for all? Bestselling author and entrepreneur Emily Ley can help you make space for what matters most.

In A Simplified Life, you'll find:

  • Emily's realistic strategies, achievable systems, and methods for permanently clearing the clutter, organizing your priorities, and living intentionally
  • 10 key focus areas—from your home and meal planning, to style and finances, parenting, faith life, and more
  • Tactical tools to help you with your family, increased work demands, and daily household routines
  • Gorgeous photography, a ribbon marker, and meaningful quote callouts

A Simplified Life is for:

  • Mothers wanting to create a more intentional lifestyle by reducing clutter
  • Anyone struggling with organizing schedules and keeping up with multiple to-do lists
  • Mother's Day, National Best Friend Day, birthdays, and holiday gifts

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718098308
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 11/21/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 409,184
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Emily Ley is the founder of Simplified®, a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women, and the creator of The Simplified Podcast. Emily has been featured in Forbes, Glamour, and Good Housekeeping. She has been recognized with numerous awards, including Best New Product at the National Stationery Show, as well as Small Business of the Year, Female Owned Business of the Year, and Entrepreneur of the Year by Studer Community Institute. Emily and her team collaborated with AT-A-GLANCE® to create gift and planning collections carried in Office Depot, Staples, Walmart, and Target. Emily is the author of national bestselling books Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy; A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living; When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple, and Good; and Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love. An author, entrepreneur, wife, and mother to three, Emily lives in Pensacola, Florida, with her husband, Bryan, and their son Brady and twins, Tyler and Caroline.

Read an Excerpt



Creating a Decluttered, Meaningful Home

Right now I'm imagining you curled up on your couch with a steaming cup of tea, makeup wiped off after a long day, looking for hope amid what may feel like a very nof-simplified life. Imagine me raising my own lukewarm cup of tea back at you, friend.

I get it.

Life is a lot sometimes. Well ... all the time.

But here's one thing I know: life doesn't have to be so complicated. It just doesn't. Yes, things will happen. Change and transition will always be hard. Toddlers will always throw fits, and traffic will always be terrible at rush hour. But the ordinary, everyday parts of life — the fantastic, mundane moments and rituals that fill our days — don't have to be so overwhelming.

Though you may feel the world is telling you this is just how life is, I believe it's possible to tone down the madness, rein in the circus, and infuse peace into the key parts of life. With a little intention and effort, your life — just as it is right now — can be simplified. We'll start with the hardest part first (Don't shut this book and run away! We'll do it together!) because it's one of the most powerful, immediate, and satisfying transformations you can make: simplifying your space.

We're starting here because it's foundational. Simplifying your space means giving your home potential to inspire and soothe. And it means setting yourself up for success so that every next step you take in your space is easier.

Before we get started, I need you to make me a promise — and it's a big one! Do not spend a single dollar on this process. That means from chapter 1 to chapter 10, I'd like you to keep a list of items that might be helpful in organizing, but I don't want you to buy a single thing. Why? Because you never know what you might find along the way, and as we go, we'll be working on fostering contentment for what we already have. By the end of the book, you may find those organizational aids unnecessary.


The work you do in and for your home-cultivating a space full of order and love-1 s called homemaking, a word that has fallen out of fashion. Forget the 1950s images of Mrs. Cleaver in an apron, waiting at the front door to take her husband's coat and spreading a four-course dinner on the table. Homemaking is actually defined as "the creation and management of a home, especially as a pleasant place in which to live."

I absolutely love the bold simplicity of that definition. I believe it's what we all desire for our homes: that our spaces are thoughtfully crafted, orderly, and well managed and that they foster life, love, and memories. If that's what we all want, why can't we just snap our fingers and make it happen?

Simplicity, in all areas of life, has one giant enemy: clutter. In this age of consumerism, we own far more physical objects than we actually need. Each item in our home takes our attention away from the item next to it, regardless of its use or value.

Imagine walking inside your house, ready for a quiet evening, and visualize what you might see. Perhaps you see a bookshelf overflowing with magazines and knickknacks. Maybe days of unopened mail are stacked on your counter. You may see dishes in the sink, spare keys (to what?) hanging on the rack, and kitchen gadgets strewn across the counter. Immediately, before you've even set down your purse, your space has overwhelmed you. Every item requested your attention, reminded you of something you need to do, and distracted you from what really matters: relaxing and resting after a long day.

What if we approached our homes not just as the houses we live in but as places of true respite-shelters from the outside world, sacred backdrops for cherished family memories, and places that have the power to inspire, excite, and connect? What if we took the power back from our stuff?

You may be thinking, I don't have time to do this. It's too big of a job. I just need to move into a bigger and better space.

I'd argue that simplifying can accomplish the same goal: having more space for the things that matter to you. No matter what space you're in, you have the power to make your space provide the rest and connection you deserve.

Let's begin by exploring how you'd like your space to make you feel. By setting this goal, we give meaning to the journey we're about to embark on. I'll start:

I want my home to be a place of comfort and joy. I want my children to feel completely loved and accepted here-that they can be whoever God has called them to be. I want my front door to be a beacon for friends and neighbors, a place where they feel drawn and invited. I want my home to smell delicious and be lit in a way that makes guests and family want to curl up with a blanket to enjoy a treat and share stories. I want my space to be tidy, neat, and organized so our days run as smoothly as possible and our minds are free from distractions. I want my décor to reflect the history, tradition, and deeply connected life that happens inside it. More than anything, I want my home to be welcoming, inviting, and a place of warmth, both to my family and to others. Perhaps you'd like your home to feel like a safe and quiet escape from the bustling world. Or maybe you'd like your home to be a place filled with life and energy that inspires and excites family and visitors alike.


Every scrap of clutter in my house detracts from the home I dream of having. When I started to realize just how distracted I was by the number of physical items in our home, I decided a ruthless clean-out needed to happen. The end result was astonishing — truly the biggest, most transformative, and most impactful change I've ever made for our family. The simplicity I found when all the extra, duplicate, outgrown, unnecessary items were gone brought a calmness I'd never known. Though I'd tried to create that sense of peace with expensive organizers and fancy systems, nothing worked quite like the free exercise of unapologetically ridding my home of excess.

My lack of organizational tools wasn't the problem; my overabundance of stuff was. Imagine the lightness I felt when our home held only absolute necessities and cherished treasures. Picture how much easier cooking dinner became when, instead of rifling through a cluttered utensil drawer and overflowing cupboard, I had only my best spatula and favorite dishes to choose from. Imagine how easy it became to dress three small children every morning when the clothes in their drawers were neatly folded and fit perfectly (I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted digging through outgrown toddler clothes). Life suddenly became a lot easier. I breathed a little deeper and had fewer chores to do, less junk to pick up every day, and less visual distraction. I underestimated how much physical, mental, and emotional effort I was giving to maintaining all our stuff. But when the clutter was gone? Everything in me quieted in a noticeable way.

So here we go. Get ready for your ruthless clean-out.


This Is a marathon, not a sprint. Get comfortable with the fact that you may be able to tackle only one room a day — maybe even one a week depending on where you're starting from. Give yourself the time and grace to go little by little. Begin by making a list of every space in your home — all rooms, closets, bathrooms, storage spaces, pantry, and so forth. Start with the most overwhelming space, and work your way down the list. Tackling the hardest task first will give you the confidence (and immediate gratification) to keep going. I like to start in the master bedroom closet, not only because it's a pretty cut-and-dried process but also because it's a space I see and use multiple times a day.


I used my guest room as our designated "donate" space, but another room may work better for you. I recommend choosing a space, if possible, that's out of sight (i.e., behind a door you can close). In this space, you'll store all the items you're donating until you can arrange a pickup or drop them off yourself. Gather some trash bags and set them aside; you'll use those to corral everything for easy transport later.


Completely clear the space you're working on before you get started. For instance, if you're organizing a drawer, dump out the entire drawer. Consider each item carefully. If you want to feel the power of an enormous transformation and the strong sense of simplicity it will bring, you must get rid of anything you're iffy about. Do you love or absolutely need this item? Do you have multiples? (No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot wear forty T-shirts.) Have you used it in the last six months? Does it have deep sentimental value? Keep only items that are necessary, needed, or heirlooms. And here's a truth that's sometimes hard, especially as women, to accept: not every item that feels special needs to be kept. If that were the case, my home would be filled with stuffed animals, Sunday school projects, and dead weeds the kids have handed to me as flowers.

As you move through this process, it may feel weird to see certain drawers or spaces so bare. Do not give in to this feeling! You may feel tempted to pull a few things from the donate pile because of these empty spaces. Don't! After having so much stuff, you're going to feel as though something is missing, and that is okay. The open space is not a problem; it is precious. If it needs to be filled, then when you're done with this journey, fill it with something special and meaningful. Maybe your grandmother's wedding photo belongs in that empty space instead of the random vases that were there before. Embrace that feeling — the feeling that compels you to display what is precious.

We're not after minimalism; we're after simplicity, ease, and a clutterfree life. Minimalism is defined as "a style or technique characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity." The word extreme is the reason I haven't adopted a minimalist lifestyle. To me, extreme mean lots of rules to follow, and it seems not very real-1 ife- ish — at least not for my real life! I don't love the idea of sparsity either — it doesn't inspire or comfort or excite me. The goal of simplifying isn't to embrace bare or sparse or extreme; it's to eliminate distractions so you can focus on what really matters, treasure the possessions you do have, and live life a little easier.


Once you've completely decluttered a room In your home, decide what you'll do with the Items you've decided to keep. Always store similar Items together. Many times we store a spare screwdriver in a kitchen drawer (just in case) and a pack of batteries in the living room (just in case), but this is how clutter happens. Storing similar items together is an essential part of the decluttering process. When all our screwdrivers are kept together in a box in the garage, we know exactly where to go when we need one. And once you corral them, you may realize you have six flathead screwdrivers and it's time to get rid of a couple. Commit to this sorting process. You'll surprise yourself with what you find.

When I went through my clean-out, I found no fewer than eleven nail files. Oddly, I thought I didn't even own a nail file. I also found three tubes of toothpaste and promptly removed that item from my next few grocery lists. You'll also find that by sticking to this method, junk drawers become obsolete. We now have a basic pen-and-paper drawer in our kitchen. It's no longer home to light bulbs, screwdrivers, nail files, spare keys, batteries, and other random items because those items have specific storage places and purposes.

As you declutter room by room, you will come across special heirlooms. Retire these must-keep items in a box or two designated as keepsake boxes. I keep these boxes in my master closet. My husband and I each have two boxes (one for photographs, one for mementos), and together we also have three additional boxes (one for each of our children) that include photos, mementos, and art projects from their childhoods. As new items are added, sometimes some items end up being transitioned out. We'll eventually give these boxes to the kids to share with their own children. But unless keepsakes are used as décor, which many are in our home, they are stored only in these specific boxes.

The remainder of your items should, for the most part, be stored as out of sight as possible. The toll visual clutter takes on our minds is profound. Not only does clutter vie for our attention, it makes up the general atmosphere of our spaces — l eaving us feeling uninspired or overwhelmed. I challenge you to embrace the idea that open spaces and semi-bare countertops are breathing room for your home and your mind. Additionally, this space is room for love, tradition, and creativity to fill your home. While the urge to fill a space may be strong in the beginning, you will become more comfortable, even empowered, as you refuse to give in to it.

At this point you may find yourself tempted to invest in the fanciest shoe rack for your twelve pairs of tennis shoes or the hard-to-f ind clear acrylic risers for your six bottles of hair product. If you find yourself dreaming of a fancy organizational tool, chances are you still have too much stuff. Just a few pairs of tennis shoes are more than enough. Select your two or three favorite hair care products (the ones you actually use) and get rid of the rest. Once you've decluttered your possessions and own just what you need, a few boxes and bins strategically placed here and there will provide more than enough organization for your home.

Avoid the pitfalls of overorganization. Pinterest features millions of perfectly organized pantries with tiny, perfectly labeled containers, all in neat little rows, stacked just right. Let's be honest; that wouldn't last five minutes in my house. Don't set yourself up to fail. Sort and store in ways that work for you, your family, and your lifestyle — not because it'll look nice on Instagram. Put hooks near the front door, and place the go-fo purses, backpacks, and briefcases there — it'll make the morning rush a lot easier. Ditch those tiny, adorably labeled bins in your child's room, and commit to one big toy box to make cleanup easier and less of a meticulous headache.

It's important that we pause here and acknowledge that you will get derailed during this process. Kids will fight. The doorbell will ring. An important work project will come up. Even if you tackle this process in tenminute increments, you are making progress. Little by little, keep going, and all your efforts will amount to big change.

Once you've made your way room by room and have all your possessions neatly organized and all your items ready to donate, place them in trash bags (be sure to carefully wrap breakable items). Many organizations, such as the Salvation Army, will come to your home to pick up donations, or you can deliver the items yourself.

At this point, don't let yourself get stressed about maintaining the neatness. You've decluttered so many physical possessions, it's going to be so much easier to keep it all tidy. Here is one quick tip: try not to set anything down where it doesn't belong. If you open the mail in the kitchen, set the bill down on your desk where you will tend to it later, not on the counter where you'll have to spend time figuring out what it is and putting it where it belongs later. A little effort here goes a long way.

Pat yourself on the back when you get to this point. The hardest part is over! You've done it! And I bet you feel like you can breathe. In fact, I'd even be willing to say you feel like a new woman. That's what simplifying can do for us. Clearing clutter unlocks the power our homes have to be places of refuge, rest, and relaxation. And since your home is the place where the next nine chapters will all take place, the foundation for your simplified life has become solid, strong, and streamlined.


Excerpted from "A Simplified Life"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Emily Ley.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, ix,
1. SIMPLIFIED SPACE Creating a Decluttered, Meaningful Home, 1,
2. SIMPLIFIED STYLE Establishing a Simple Wardrobe and Beauty Routine, 27,
3. SIMPLIFIED MEALS Taking the Stress Out of Meal Planning, 45,
4. SIMPLIFIED SCHEDULE Maintaining a Calendar with Margin, 65,
5. SIMPLIFIED FINANCES Getting a Handle on Money, 81,
6. SIMPLIFIED HOSPITALITY Serving and Loving Others Well, 99,
7. SIMPLIFIED TECHNOLOGY Creating Healthy Tech Boundaries and Corralling Gadgets, 117,
8. SIMPLIFIED SELF Taking Care of Yourself First and Foremost, 135,
9. SIMPLIFIED MOTHERHOOD Discovering Grace in a Deeply Important Role, 157,
10. SIMPLIFIED FAITH Connecting Daily with What Matters, 181,
Epilogue, 199,
Acknowledgments, 203,

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