Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

by Tsh Oxenreider

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Create a life with less mess—and more meaning.
Simplicity isn’t about what you give up. It’s about what you gain. When you remove the things that don’t matter to you, you are free to focus on only the things that are meaningful to you.
Imagine your home, your time, your finances, and your belongings all filling you with positive energy and helping you achieve your dreams. It can happen, and Organized Simplicity can show you how. Inside you’ll find:
*A simple, ten-day plan for organizing every room in your home, step-by-step
*Ideas for creating a family purpose statement to help you identify what to keep and what to remove from your life
*Templates for a home management notebook to help you effectively and efficiently take care of daily, weekly and monthly tasks
*Recipes for non-toxic household cleaners and natural toiletry items including toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo
Start living a more organized, intentional life today, and discover how a peaceful environment can bring a new peace of mind.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440313608
Publisher: F+W Media
Publication date: 10/25/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 167,288
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Tsh Oxenreider is the creator of the popular blog and is the founder of She is passionate about simplifying life and eliminating clutter so that the truly meaningful things in life can breathe. Tsh

Read an Excerpt



Our Modern-Day Slave Master

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like."


What does it look like for a modern-day family to live simply while still participating in afterschool sports, errand running, and getting enough sleep to not go insane? Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values. It's about enjoying the things you love and care about and not about stressing over the things that don't matter. It's fulfilling; it brings peace; it drips with contentment. Living simply is about being who you were made to be.

That's what this book is about. I want to park at the nitty-gritty of life — t he intersection between good intentions and reality. I want to help you find that peaceful place, where your pocketbook, your home, and your weekly routine reflect your family's convictions and values.

Responsible home managers must be intentional with their decisions — we need to take time to evaluate our priorities and then take the steps necessary to make our family life reflect the simple life we crave. It won't happen for us — mature adults proactively make decisions and form habits to shape their home lives into the lifestyles they desire. We can't blame a hectic schedule, too many bills to pay, or too many messes to clean for keeping us from our goals because we can do something about those. You want a simpler life at home for your family — a home that is clean and organized and fits your life's purpose. I want to give you some tools to help you do this.

Admitting that I'm not a certified organizer or a simplicity guru is probably not the best way to begin a book about simple living. But I need to lay that out on the table between me and you, the reader, before we begin this journey together. I don't have a database full of clients, and I don't have my own TV show. I'm a young mom running a busy house-hold. Maybe you can relate. Simple living is something I've learned to value through my life experience. It's been a long journey to get here, and it's a journey you can take as well. In fact, I'm still walking the path.

My husband and I have made simplicity one of our lives' highest priorities. We currently live outside of the United States in a 1,400-square-foot apartment (boasting only one closet) with our five-year-old daughter, our two-year-old son, and another little one on the way. We continually evaluate all of our belongings to make sure they still offer value to our lives. We are selective with the new purchases we bring in our home in order to make the most of our space. We hardly watch any television, and we spend lots of time together because both my husband and I work from home. These intentional decisions allow us to live a life that feels right in a way that corresponds with our highest values. We're able to live on a rather meager salary while still enjoying family outings, the occasional vacation, and even quality coffee. But our lifestyle didn't happen overnight. My life's journey has helped shape my philosophy about simple living.

Craving Intentionality

I grew up in a very normal American environment, ripe in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, in the 1980s, with my parents and my brother, who is five years my junior. Both my parents worked outside the home, and I spent my afterschool hours watching TV, playing with neighborhood kids, and going to ballet class. I attended public school and was a good student. My family was well rooted, and we lived in the same house for sixteen of my first eighteen years of life. My childhood was happy. You could say we were a typical family living an average upper-middle-class life.

At age eighteen, I moved out and cut the apron strings. My life up to that point seemed complete, but I had a nagging sense of being a bit unprepared for real life — the nuts and bolts that actually make life work.

While I was single and in my mid-twenties, I traveled internationally and saw the way many other cultures lived. I was inspired by what I experienced, but I still didn't know what I was made for. I knew I wanted to run a home that was full of kids, a husband, and love. But I felt like I didn't know how to manage a home, a most basic life skill. My problem was, I didn't quite know what that house full of love and family should look like. I enjoyed my childhood, so it wasn't as if I wanted a 180 for my own kids. But I wanted more ... intentionality in my life. More conviction. More certainty about the why behind the decisions I made as a home manager. I didn't want life to happen to me; I wanted to happen to life.

Moving Abroad

My husband and I married with the intention of one day moving overseas. We didn't know any specifics, but we knew that if our plan were to become a reality, we'd have to not bury our roots too deeply, too soon. So from the beginning of our marriage, we made it a priority not to collect too much stuff. This would make moving abroad easier.

Good intentions didn't keep life from happening. Even though our wedding registry was fairly Spartan, we still managed to need more storage space than our 1,000-square-foot apartment gave us. Our daughter, Tatum, was born just after our two-year anniversary, and with her came the toys typical of a firstborn child. It wasn't bad, mind you, but we knew it wasn't what we intended.

Our goal of moving abroad remained a priority, but we still accumulated almost $20,000 in debt (most of it being my student loans from college). My husband worked as many hours as possible while I stayed home with Tate so that our dream of living abroad could happen within the first decade of our marriage, not during our empty-nest years.

When we paid off all but the school loans, we were more or less ready to make the big move. But before we could leave, we had all of our belongings to contend with. It wasn't sane to trek 6,000 miles across the ocean with a full household, so a massive purge was in order. This purge took time, energy, and a few tears. We questioned every one of our possessions. I knew that we could buy bedding, furniture, and home décor in other countries, but it was still difficult to know what to part with and what was worth our precious luggage space.

I handed to the God of all good things my desire to create an ideal nest for my family, and we sold most of our stuff. The kitchen gadgets, the curtains, the artwork in my daughter's room — all were sold in a massive garage sale.

We packed everything we had decided to keep into fifteen boxes, which became our check-in luggage for a twenty-three-hour flight. These were all of our earthly possessions for a family of three (minus a few quilts and yearbooks, which we kept in storage in the States). And surprisingly, I was at peace about it. I brought with us a few cooking utensils (ones I wasn't sure I could find in our new country), my favorite books, some movies, and our best-fitting clothes. We left behind our rather new dishes, towels, and bedding, along with any books, movies, or clothes we no longer loved. I trusted that we could find decent replacements in our new home and that many of the things I thought were essential really weren't. I still kept the things that would be hard to replace (books in English, for example), and of course, I never parted with our family photos.

Letting Go

Before we moved abroad, I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me I would be fine not having my pewter fruit bowl, the flea-market coffee table I personally refurbished, or the buffet my husband crafted with his own two hands. I've never been a hoarder, but I love nesting. My home is my haven, and I've wanted to create my own since I was a little girl. The way some people love shoes, or perhaps a few of you drool over the latest gadgets, is the way I am about the ideal armchair for our master bedroom, or the perfect summer scent from a soy candle in the kitchen. I love nesting.

But I've come to realize that those things are just things, and that while they aren't inherently evil, they can actually erode my family's purpose in life — or at least water down the potency of our choices. They can multiply the surfaces I need to dust. They can dwindle my checking account. They can even cause stress. And they can keep my family from living life to the fullest because we've slowly allowed our stuff to own us. Our purpose in life is directly related to how we define simple living. So if our possessions chip away at our purpose, so, too, goes a simpler life, no matter how noble our intentions.

You may be thinking I'm extreme, and you just can't or don't want to live life the way I do. That's okay. We all have different goals and values. Your vision of a simple life will not be the same as mine. But I want to encourage you to carefully evaluate the things you allow into your home and life. Are they truly making you happy? According to the statistics, they probably are not.

The Inflated Floor Plan

National Public Radio reports that from 1950 to 2004, the average American home has doubled in size — what was once 983 square feet is now 2,349 square feet. That's a 1,366-square-foot addition — an entire second house.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average family in 1950 consisted of 3.67 members. In 2002, the average family size was 2.62 members. Today, smaller families "need" bigger homes, and the trend doesn't stop in America. Australia, New Zealand, and most of the Westernized world are all seeing the same trend. The average home size in Australia is 2,200 square feet; in New Zealand it's 1,900.

Do we really think we need almost 900 square feet per person in our homes today? That's what the numbers indicate if we do simple math. Today we live in homes that provide almost the same amount of room per person that an average 1950s-size house would have provided for an entire family (when the average family size was larger than it is today).

Overworked and Overbooked

It's not just floor plans that have inflated; the average workload has increased as well. By law, Australians receive four weeks of paid vacation; Europeans usually receive four to five weeks. There are no vacation laws in the United States to guarantee its citizens any time off of work. One in four working Americans don't receive any paid vacation at all. Those who do average only fifteen days annually. We are quickly becoming the most overworked culture in the history of the world.

Being overworked isn't reserved for working adults. After my first child was born, I noticed a sense of urgency had trickled into the veins of children. I watched with astonishment at how busy kids were becoming. Eight-year-olds were taxied across town for cello lessons, pottery class, and extracurricular Italian lessons, all in the name of well-roundedness. Fewer and fewer children ran around the neighborhood, and goofing around at the local pool was replaced with supervised play dates. I held my infant baby and wondered if the same fate was inevitable for me and for her.

Five years later, that infant girl has a toddler brother, and I don't see much around me changing. Frugality is trendier, but life's craziness hasn't slowed. Families have declared it more and more impossible to live on one income. Mamas who want to stay at home with their young kids can't crunch the numbers to make it happen, so they have succumbed to the 8-to-5 business day, dressing in suits and playing roles they don't really want. It is for their kids, so that Ethan and Ashley can attend all those extracurricular activities — but no one is really happy about the whole setup.

What's the Deal?

These inflated homes and out-of-control work expectations don't make us happy. According to a study done by Italy's Siena University in 2007, the average American paycheck has risen over the past thirty years (even when adjusted for inflation), but a drop in the quality of the workers' personal relationships offsets the emotional benefits of the increased salary. We have more money but fewer meaningful relationships, and less time to enjoy the ones we do have. We work, and work, and then work some more, yet have little more than "stuff" to show for it.

With more space to clutter, less time for relationships, and almost no freedom for a vacation from work, we are stressed. We're on a hamster wheel running to keep up with life. Instead of getting off the wheel, we're frantically searching for ways we can increase our endurance and keep up. We buy bigger cars to haul our things and buy fancier phones to keep track of our kids' calendars and family meal plans.

Instead of adjusting to the hamster wheel, how about we find a completely different way to live life?

Simple Living: The Latest Buzzword

Simple living is a buzzword in our postmodern culture, and concepts like frugality and going green are trendy. They offer smart moves toward a healthier planet and healthier families. But the basic problem beneath these trends is that they feel like they ask so much of us. These ideas ask us to move into a world that feels impossible for everyday families who still want to participate in Little League, and who don't really want to live off the grid.

Sell your cars and transport your family around on bikes. It's a great idea if you live in a metropolis with convenient public transportation, or in a tiny town with errands no more than a few miles away. But more than 50 percent of Americans live in the suburbs. I'm not sure too many of those folks are privy to abandoning their motor vehicles. Most of us don't need gas-guzzling SUVs, but it's probably not realistic to expect everyone to completely swear off fossil fuel consumption.

Abandon your big-box grocery store and eat only from your garden. It's a fun idea, and more families are catching on to the urban homesteading movement. But 80 percent of American households are two-income families and many people don't feel like they have the time required to make this option possible.

Wear clothing made from only organic material, woven in a freetrade factory. Indeed, we should all support businesses that take the extra step to ensure a better quality of life for the less fortunate, and that create quality, earth-friendly material. But until prices can be lowered, the average Jane can't spend the money it would cost to clothe her entire family in this garb. She still needs to pay the mortgage.

If we can't do all of these things, where does that leave us? It seems like we need to completely redefine simple living. Let's take some time to define what realistic simple living looks like for you. There's no need to forsake the suburbs for the farm.


Simple Living

Discover a Definition that Works for You

"The simplest things are often the truest."


At the end of World War II, architects began planning a new hybrid of city and country living that was not quite urban but not quite rural, and thus the name the suburbs. With the Industrial Revolution in the pages of history for nearly forty years, most families didn't need to live in cities near factories for work. These young families craved a quieter life with a patch of grass. But they wanted the convenience of city life that farms didn't provide — a place close enough to the city so they could drive their Studebaker in for food, household supplies, and clothes.

Settled just a few miles outside a metropolis, the suburbs provided an ultimate blend of serene living and convenience. And now, in the twenty-first century, suburbs make up a huge portion of the American landscape — more than 50 percent of us live in them. We can't imagine a city without it surrounded by myriad neighborhoods peppered with fences and flowerbeds, elementary schools and soccer fields.

Suburbs are a quintessential part of Westernized life. They provide square footage under a roof, a portion of land for gardens or trampolines, a decent school district (usually), and an easy place to park two cars. They're convenient, and they're where most of our available real estate is found.

It's easy, however, to shelter our families in these suburbs. When all of our friends also live in surrounding suburbs with the same layout as our own, it's hard to imagine having anything less than a fifth of an acre for a backyard, a 26-cubic-foot refrigerator, and a fully equipped laundry room with a washer and a dryer. We want these conveniences, and life is hard to imagine without them.

There's no reason to apologize for owning them, so long as we remember that these things are luxuries, not necessities. In 2005, more than three billion people (half the world's population) lived on less than $2 (U.S.) a day. Eighty percent of the world lives without running water or electricity. If you live in the United States, you're among the 6 percent of the world's wealthiest people. These numbers aren't meant to give you a guilt trip — they're simply a reality check. The items in our homes that we feel we absolutely "need" are downright extravagances within the global landscape.


Excerpted from "Organized Simplicity"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Tsh Oxenreider.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
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

Part 1: Living Simply in the Real World,
1: Stuff: Our Modern-Day Slave Master,
2: Simple Living: Discover a Definition that Works for You,
3: A Family Purpose Statement: Make Simple Living Personal,
4: Time Is a Tool: Use It Wisely; Enjoy It Thoroughly,
5: Money Is a Tool: Steward It Well,
6: A Gathering Place: Create a Home Management Notebook,
7: Savor the Little Things: Rewards of Simple Living,
8: A Home That Works: Create Your Family's Haven for a Simple Life,
Part 2: Ten Days to a Simpler, More Organized Home,
9: Day 1: A Fresh Start, a New Direction,
10: Days 2 & 3: The Living Room,
11: Days 4 & 5: The Kitchen,
12: Day 6: The Bathrooms,
13: Days 7 & 8: The Kids' Rooms,
14: Day 9: The Master Bedroom,
15: Day 10: Entryways and Coat Closet,
16: Simple Living: A Journey, Not a Destination,
A: Recipes,
B: Inventory Templates,
C: Home Management Notebook Templates,
D: Choices for a Simpler Life,
About the Author,
Books of Interest,

Customer Reviews

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Organized Simplicity 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
Christa Musa More than 1 year ago
Great book if you have been wanting to clean and declutter but have been feeling overwhelmed at the idea. Offers simple-to-follow guidelines to simplify your home, room by room. The author encourages you to choose a statemnt to live by and help you to get rid of things that aren't useful or tings you don't find beautiful. Includes recipes for homemade cleaning supplies an outlines how to manage yiur home more effectively.
TashK More than 1 year ago
In "Organized Simplicity," Tsh Oxenreider has done a great job laying out helpful hints for any homemaker to follow. I highly recommend this book for mothers or for those who simply want some good researched advice on organizing a home. This is my gift pick for new mothers or wives.
vossheat More than 1 year ago
As a professional organizer, I'm always looking for resources to help people without calling me as often (or ever). This is a great book to help you go from room to room and really declutter and simplify your life. My first question is always, "What is your dream for your life/this space?" If you need just a little guidance and aren't too overwhelmed with piles, this book can help you reach it.
m4e More than 1 year ago
Some of the things are hard to do, or admit to yourself, but if you do it, you will not regret it. A simple, organized life is a life better enjoyed! Read the book, but don't let the information go idle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, I still have not read all of it, because I am actually organizing as I go. I love the way Tsh has written this book. Very helpful, informative information without sounding condescending. There have even been a few suggestions that I didn't think I'd do, but I am now incorporating them and finding them REALLY helpful. I truly think this will help me get organized so that my time can be better spent with the things I really want to do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So far, I have found some very helpful tips in reading this book. I love her ideas. I have noticed that they is a lot of the same information on the website but she had already said that in the beginning of the book so it was not a surprise. I do recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty good in voicing ideas of how you can cut down the clutter. It makes you think about what is most important in your life and what the purpose of each room should be. It also provides recipes of chemical free cleaning and other great tips. Although each chapter tends to repeat itself in how to clean and what to in each room is generally the same. I also noticed quite a few typos, but in all a great source to declutter your home and live more simply.
Fyrebird More than 1 year ago
This book offers simple, effective tips to simplify life on your own terms. It recommends NOT buying more stuff to organize your stuff, it recommends scrutinizing what you do and have to see what you truly value, and, step by step, eliminating the rest that keeps you from enjoying the valued things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is well written. It really makes you think about your priorities.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed the collective wisdom in this book...we have planned our first garage sale in years because of it! Very pleasant, informative read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really got me thinking about what is important and what is just "stuff." We all know most if this information, but a well organized reminder is always nice.
emilierenee More than 1 year ago
I was excited to find this as a free nook book after having read several praising reviews in blogland. Unfortunately, Organized Simplicity did not live up to the expectations generated. It simply summarized widely known information on the subject that can be easily found elsewhere. The book failed to be either unique or engaging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the premise of this book. Boy do we need to sit back and look at our busy, crazy lifestyles and ask yourself about our priorities in life before life passes us by.
BarbWebb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every day I look around my home I think about how we need to be more organized, but many times, it's difficult to determine just where to start and what options will be the most effective. Organized Simplicity has this covered, providing a clear road-map to well, simplifying the organizing process!Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living is written by Tsh Oxenreider, creator of the popular blog It's clear that Tsh has "been there, done that" and understands the challenges we all face in simplifying our lives and homes. Her wisdom and guideance are inspiring and best of all, do-able!The book includes "Ten Days to a Simpler, More Organized Home" which may revolutionalize the way you look at your home and the "stuff" inside. I'm working on day 3 now and couldn't be happier with the results. The guide's checklists and simple steps are a breeze to follow but offer long-lasting results and dramatic differences in the organization, decluttering, and cleaning of each room. Overall, Organized Simplicity is a clever guide, chock full of fantastic advice, and easy to follow instruction that will help free you from clutter and organize your mind and home!
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A good book to keep around the house and for others interested in getting their place back in order!
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