This year, my word is simplicity.

For the next 52 weeks, I’m going to simplify my life. I’ll shake out my heart, dust my soul and wash my spirit. I’ll scrub my dreams and polish my goals. The unnecessary and cumbersome items will have to go. The cherished and loved possessions will take a new place of prominence. I’m turning 40 in February. Our oldest daughter turns 16 in March. Paul and I celebrate 19 years of marriage in August. My life is shifting.

In our twenties, Paul and I armed ourselves with college degrees and filled our home with four daughters. In our thirties, we raised two of them to teenage-hood. The other two are following in the wake of their sisters. It’s time to transition, to deepen, to root down into what life will be without kids. The tired, exhausted, full and happy decade of the thirties is coming to a close — with all its triumphs and bitter disappointments.

I’m starting on the outer portions of life — the surroundings in which we live. Today, I chose to go through the little girls’ room. When I say “the little girls,” I speak of Dagne, 9, and Ingrid, 10. I’ve always pursued piercing honesty in this blog. You’re about to see it. (Mom, please don’t read this. You’ll be mortified.)IMG_20130105_125955Yeah, I’m really, really embarrassed. I’m even more ashamed to admit that I took this picture at 2 p.m. Dagne is still in her pajamas. I pulled out boxes and dumped them in the middle of the floor and started asking, “Do you like this? Do you use this? Is this too small? Don’t you think somebody else might enjoy this?” Thankfully, Auntie Anne came by to take her little nieces to pizza so Mommy could actually get something done. No more, “But I use this to …” and “I know these are ratty and torn but they’re my favorites!”IMG_20130105_165345I paid myself for cleaning their room in chocolate. I ruefully stuffed four Snickers in my mouth before I threw the rest of the candy into a box and placed it high up in the closet so I wouldn’t be tempted anymore.

As I cleaned, I pondered how it got this bad. The answers came. I ignored it. I procrastinated. I looked in, sighed, and thought, “I’ll face it tomorrow.” Most of all, I blamed. I thought, “Every morning these girls know they’re supposed to clean their rooms. They tell me their room is clean. Do they really think this is clean? Really? Have I raised them to be blind? Or liars?” But, as part of my effort toward simplicity, I swore off blaming. I told myself if I felt the urge to complain or blame, I would become silent and ask for the deeper answer of what was wrong (I don’t recommend this for everyone — for instance, if you’re the type to always “stuff it”, this is a bad idea. But I’m a yeller. So, silence is a good exercise).

In the silence, as I cleaned, I thought about my little girls. I found clues in their “set-ups” for play. This, for instance, is clear evidence of Ingrid’s work.IMG_20130105_171839She always has the scissors, the tape, and string for contraptions to make things do what she wants them to do. Paper clips come in handy as well. She likes taking things apart and putting them together. She loves to solve problems. We all tell her she’d make a great engineer. If it has a horse on it, it’s Dagne. Ingrid likes horses as well, but Dagne fixates, obsesses about horses. She’s getting good at drawing them. IMG_20130105_173920If my girls are messy, I have two choices: 1) let them be messy without judgment or 2) train them in habits of cleanliness. I’m going to take choice two. This means I must set clear expectations and be ready to enforce my expectations with calmness. No yelling or freaking out.

Have you ever noticed that focusing on one mess creates mess in other areas of your life? For instance, I found a plethora of hair accessories liberally sprinkled over the room. Guess what that means? IMG_20130105_181240A new mess to deal with later. As you clean up your life, it spills into other areas, causing you to face those as well. Perhaps … tomorrow. Here are bags to give away.IMG_20130105_181258And here is garbage picked up from the floor. IMG_20130105_181303To my defense as a housekeeper, we did just have Christmas. We hosted 11 people on Christmas, 15 the following Saturday, my sister came with her three kids and a friend on Sunday, we fed 19 that night, and we had 15 again for New Year’s.

When Dagne and Ingrid arrived home, they rushed downstairs after seeing their room to hug me and say, “Thank you, Mom, soooooo much!” It is nice to live in orderly and clean surroundings. I’m not much of a decorator but I’ve discovered neatness is the best decoration. IMG_20130105_191701Tonight, Greta came to kiss me goodnight and asked, “Mom, can you help me with my room?”