30-Day Clear Out Challenge

June 23, 2016

Today is the two year anniversary of our leaving Zurich. Coco and I had to fly ahead of J because I was so pregnant. That was crazy. But Coco was an amazing traveler and it was one of our easiest flights of all time. I guess she had had a lot of practice by that point!

I don't miss Zurich any less, even after two whole years. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about why life in Zurich was so great anyway. The obvious reasons are obvious: urban lifestyle with no car, abundant opportunity to be outside, accidental exercise every day and no need for a gym membership. Switzerland on the whole is insanely safe and peaceful

But it was more than that. Something I keep coming back to in my mind is that for four years in Zurich, I basically did not bite my nails at all. That is unprecedented in my life! Nothing was perfect, of course, but I felt relaxed in a way that I hadn't - and now don't. So what was different? For months and months and months I was looking to the obvious things as the reasons. Then, somewhere along the way I began to realize that simplicity was the thing I was really missing. When I read this article about the connection between depression, anxiety and clutter, it finally all made sense. It was a seemingly small thing, and something we completely overlooked in our hasty decision to leave, but our lives in Zurich were wonderfully simple.

Simple is not dull; it is not boring. It's the delicious absence of chaos and frenzy. Since returning to the States, it seems that everyone is overworked and stressed out. The basic energy and rhythm of life is frantic. The things that matter like free time and time outdoors and time with the ones you love are scarce, while cheap crap is in great abundance! I thought I missed limitless access to inexpensive things to buy while we were in Zurich. But, in reality, that stuff is the key to feeling burdened and unhappy. We want to feel free and happy!

Consumerism is real: When I really stop and think about it, the biggest difference is the consideration we put into purchases in Switzerland, and don't here in the States. I routinely go to Target for one thing, like toothbrushes or diapers, and walk out with so much more. A lot of it is just junk the kids want, or little gimmicky things that seem great at the time. But they're so cheap, so why not?! In Switzerland, that just did not happen. Everything was so expensive that we didn't buy things unless we needed them. Once we knew what we needed, we shopped around and made a careful decision before making a purchase. Impulse buying was not financially feasible and it turns out that was a great gift! It's easy to feel like we should buy things because we can without feeling it financially. That is a trap!

In an effort to live in the present, I'm trying to recreate the lifestyle we had in Zurich. So far we are doing a good job of it. Our work and schedules allow us to eat dinner together every night and have lots of time together as a family - and, just as importantly, as a couple. We live in a tiny house that urges us to live simply. BUT - we need to have a massive clear out this summer and get serious about being mindful when making purchases. Beyond purchases, we are surrounded by family who give us well-meaning bags of hand-me-down toys and clothing! Unfortunately, we've found ourselves inundated with stuff.

Yesterday, I left our messy house behind and went on a bike ride with J and the kids. We really enjoyed the gorgeous day together. Sailing along on my bike, I thought to myself, 'maybe I can just ignore the clutter and focus on enjoying summer instead?' but then we got home and dinner and bedtime weren't as smooth as they could have been. The mess just makes me crazy. So that is not going to work!

As a solution, I propose a 30-Day Clear Out Challenge! Would you like to join me? Sign up here and I will send you daily tasks to complete each week to transform your home and life in just 30 days. Getting rid of stuff is so liberating and it truly creates so much joy. By doing it together, it will be so much more fun and manageable than trying to tackle it all alone. Go on! Sign up and get ready. We will start in two weeks on July 7th. And tell all your friends! The more, the merrier. It's going to be so great. xo

Join the conversation!

  1. Our life never felt more simple than when we lived in CH too. But, often times I think maybe its the addition of a child that changed everything. We left when Eli was 8 months old and were still shell shocked by the infant phase.

    CH definitely makes purchasing more intentional. I am frugal by nature but I still miss that.

  2. They definitely add to the chaos! Since having Theo, I feel like we are underwater half the time. ACK!!!!

  3. I know exactly what you mean when you say the clutter "makes you crazy". We are heading to Europe tomorrow and I feel I need to have the house clean in order to pack (otherwise I'm bound to forget or overlook something). And I want our home clean and organized for when we come back otherwise I truly don't think I can enjoy myself. We won't be back till July 11 but I've signed up for the challenge!

  4. I also find the mess at home makes me cranky. One good side effect is that it has been great for getting us to just stay out all afternoon playing outside because I am so much happier.

    1. Also, I keep re-reading bits of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up hoping that somehow with 2 small kids I will find time to work through it. Ha.

    2. Oh my gosh, yes! Yes, yes, yes! I am laughing out loud. This is so good. ;) xx

  5. I totally agree with Kristen. Sometimes I read about your nostalgia for Swiss life, and that is similar to my nostalgia too, my nostalgia for only one child in Switzerland. Things were so much simpler then -- we had no car and used public transport to go everywhere, we walked and hiked and did day trips and hung out by the lake... Life with two has made everything so much more complex and difficult, for a whole enormous host of reasons. Getting on a train with stairs, for instance -- not possible. How do you do it? Leave your eldest on the platform while you bump the pram up, then go back to the platform to get your eldest while leaving the pram on the train... or get your eldest to go onto the train before you, so you can bump the pram up while he is already in there, but then he simply refuses and is in hysterics at the idea of being on the train without you and simply WILL NOT GET ON... etc. So I force it, he gets so distressed, then we are stuck on a train with a crazy distressed toddler and a screaming baby and and and... So then we take the car, where my youngest spent ten months screaming until he vomited, every single time... Yes, I have nostalgia for being able to take the train with just one, take him out and pop him on my lap or the chair next to me and gaze out the window, etc. I wonder how much of your nostagia is really for the place, and how much is simply for that phase of your life. (Apologies if I'm not being sensitive enough!)

    1. Oh my god!!! I'm so sorry that was such a nightmare for you. It sounds like actual helll! So - I've definitely thought of that!!! But, two things. Coco was actually a nightmare on public transport because she would neither stay in the buggy nor sit in a seat for a good year or so. I made every effort not to go anywhere I didn't have to go. I missed so many mommy meet ups etc because it wasn't worth her running up and down the tram or bus the entire time whilst I was told off by nasty old Swiss people. So, I don't have as much nostalgia as you for going out with one. "gaze out the window" is a phrase that never passed my lips when speaking of train or tram or bus travel with Coco! HAHA!
      As far as two, I nannied when Coco was a toddler, so several evenings a week, I was going around with THREE children. I had Coco in the pram and then a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old to look after as well. We met the children at their school where we took a tram to a train and then walked 1/2 kilometer to English lessons, during which I had to keep Coco and the 3-year-old entertained in a church hall. Then, after the lessons, we took a bus to a tram to a train (three part journey!), or a bus to a train depending on if we were fast enough to get that connection, and then walked 3/4 kilometer to their house. We would go to the forest, or park, or play at home, then I'd make and feed everyone dinner and bathe all three of them.
      I will say that the sheer amount of laundry and mess with two children vs one has completely bowled me over. But, after working in Montessori schools and doing excursions with dozens of children on Swiss buses and then nannying with my own child along, being out and about with loads of kids doesn't phase me! ;)
      I think it might have been so much nicer with Coco and Theo with him in the pram and her on foot or on the buggy board. She would have loved that sense of responsibility and really stepped up to it. Plus, I really miss in the car having eye contact and time to talk with the kids. I can look back in the rearview, but it's just not the same. I am happy that during our visit back in October, Theo and I were able to enjoy life out and about in Zurich with the buggy on the trams. I laughed and said to Joel that Theo should have been the one I had there because he's so sage and calm on the tram. Go figure! That was really lovely for sure. :)

    2. And thanks for leaving that comment!! It's important to be reminded how easy it is to romanticize places. We definitely did a lot of romanticizing the US while we were away, only to return and be massively disappointed! (Although, I do think things changed drastically while we were away, too politically and with regards to the economy. So double whammy, but you know what I mean.) I actually had a post planned about what's wrong with Zurich (not a question) but I worried it was too negative or might come off as too generalizing or judgmental. But, I'm going to finish it now! Thanks again!! xo


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