simple pleasures

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

The cusp of August is a good time to hit the pause button. To help us find more time to sink into simple summer pleasures — like reading good books, eating popsicles on the porch, and collecting seashells — I've collected 50 favorite ideas for making life a little easier, and a whole lot sweeter. The tips are divided into four sections: Simple Travel, Simple Food, Simple Home, and Simple Lifestyle, so you can scroll right to what you need most in this moment. Enjoy! xo Laura

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Travel

1. No matter how long the trip, challenge yourself to pack only one bag. If you want more specific guidance, I love Tsh's post on what she packed for a week in Tuscany.

2. Travel with just two pairs of shoes if possible: one pair of sandals, and one pair of comfy sneakers.

3. Keep makeup and jewelry super low-key. For example: for a summer trip I pack this tinted moisturizer with SPF, mascara, lip balm, and one necklace. That's it.

4. Load some audiobooks onto your phone or tablet for kids to listen to on the plane or on long car rides. (Obviously, this is great for grownups, too.)

5. When possible, opt for a rental house or apartment (or even a house swap) instead of a hotel. You can use the laundry, make breakfast at "home", and generally feel more like a local.

6. Plan one "main event" per day, maximum. And leave plenty of wide open space, too. This is even more true when traveling with kids.

7. If you will be traveling internationally, download a few helpful apps before you go, like Google Translate (language translation) and Converter+ (currency converter).

8. Get inspired by reading fiction set in the location you are visiting.

9. If you have kids, consider bringing along a foldable scooter — especially if you're going somewhere with lots of walking!

10. If you need help unplugging, think about bringing a separate camera. If you're using your phone's built-in camera, you're a lot more likely to start scrolling social media after you snap that picture.

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Food

11. Make no-cook dinners a regular thing. Think juicy heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Or this summery salad that's been on our summer table at least once a week.

12. Bring a pizza and drinks to the park on a Friday after work and eat while the kids play in the golden summer evening light.

13. Make a big batch of cold brew and keep it in the fridge. If you're feeling fancy, make a homemade vanilla simple syrup to stir in.

14. Pretend your oven doesn't exist. Cook on the grill instead.

15. Stash a few picnic essentials (reusable plates, cheese knife, bottle opener, blanket) inside your cooler, and stash the cooler somewhere easy to grab on the go.

16. Get to know the farmers at your local farmer's market or farm stand. Play favorites. Be a regular. They'll give you the best stuff.

17. Make big project cooking (e.g., making jam or homemade tomato sauce) easier and more fun by inviting friends over for a big-batch cooking party. Everyone has fun, and everyone comes away with good food to stash away in the pantry. It's a win-win!

18. Pick a signature summer drink to serve to guests, and stick with it. It can be as simple as Arnold Palmers or a nice selection of La Croix sparkling water.

19. Use cotton bandanas as napkins: they're cheap, colorful, and washable.

20. Use mason jars for iced water, cut flowers, and candles. I'm partial to these blue jars.

21. When anyone asks, "do we have any dessert?" watermelon & popsicles are always the right answer. 

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Home

22. Go barefoot. A shoes-off indoors policy feels summery, to be sure, but it also keeps your floors cleaner.

23. Roll up the rugs. (See above.)

24. Try line-drying your laundry outdoors. The sun on a hot day can dry them in less time (and for less $$) than your dryer, and actually helps get white clothes whiter.

25. Get all the decor you need from the farmer's market and the beach: a vase of fresh flowers, a scattering of seashells, a bowl of perfectly ripe peaches.

26. Have a swap party with friends to trade clothes, toys, or books.

27. Make cleanup easy with strategically placed baskets. Keys, phones, flip flops, library books, Lego bricks — all of those little things strewn about right now could just as easily be dumped into pretty baskets.

28. Hang hooks for sandy towels outside the house.

29. Stash board games and decks of cards in a prominent spot — they're more likely to get used if they're not hidden away.

30. Stock up on favorite movie snacks to make at-home movie night feel extra special.

31. "Heart" favorite photos on your phone and set a reminder on your calendar to print favorited photos once a month.

32. Once you've printed your summer photos, put them somewhere you can enjoy them. It doesn't have to be frames: pile them in a shallow bowl, clip them to a clothesline, or stick them on the fridge.

33. Listen to great podcasts or audiobooks while you clean the house or fold laundry.

34. Prioritize which cleaning tasks make you feel like your house is clean. This is highly personal! For me, it's the bathroom sink, kitchen table, and floors: as long as those three zones are sparkling, I feel like I have a clean house.

35. Wash all the laundry in cold water.

36. Need new patio furniture, camping gear, or play equipment? Check Craigslist or a local buy nothing group first.

37. Set up a super-simple screen-free activity zone for kids stocked with supplies they can use without supervision. Think colored pencils, washable markers, paper, glue sticks, and collage materials for arts & crafts. Other favorites in our house are kinetic sand and homemade play dough.

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Lifestyle

38. Use a French market basket as your everyday bag — it holds all the things, and looks chic doing it.

39. Stock your bag with a few key tools of summer: sunscreen, snacks, water bottle, and a wide-brim hat.

40. Leave the car at home. Walk or bike to neighborhood errands instead.

41. Speaking of bikes, put a basket on your bike and a crate on the back, so you can tote home groceries or library books.

42. Plan each week, not each day. Kendra, aka, The Lazy Genius makes a good case for this in her summer routine podcast episode.

43. Make comfort your top priority when it comes to clothes. 

44. Take a trip to your local public library, for more than books. Free museum passes, audiobooks, a tool library, seed saver's exchange, board game rentals, knitting groups, community events ... you may be surprised to learn how much is offered!

45. Take advantage of the early sunrise to jump out of bed and do something just for you: a sunrise yoga class, a walk with a friend, or time to work on a soul-project, like that novel you've been dreaming up.

46. Plan intentional breaks during your workday to do something that feels deliciously summery to you, whether that means treating yourself to an iced coffee or kicking back to read a good book.

47. Take an evening neighborhood walk after dinner. It's a wonderful way to feel like your evening has a little breathing space.

48. Stay up late to watch the Perseid meteor shower.

49. Keep a simple gratitude journal. It doesn't even have to be on paper — I've been recording mine on Twitter!

50. Hang a hammock inside your house, just because you can.


Photos: rawpixel, Daiga Ellaby, Debby Hudson & Alex Radelich via Unsplash

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Seize the Joy in Your Life

Today I would like to talk a little about a topic that is very dear to my heart: making your day-to-day life a place of beauty and positivity. To back up a bit, not many people know this because I have not shared it publicly, but in my first year in college (many moons ago...) I suffered from a bout of depression. It was quite severe, and once I came out on the other side of it I really felt I was rebooting my entire life. I don't want this post to be all about that period, but rather about what I have learned since then. Because regardless of whether or not you have ever experienced depression, I think that many of us can relate to the feeling that you are simply trudging through life; getting by rather than thriving. 

Every moment of every day, we have a choice: we can choose to view our circumstances in a negative light, or we can choose joy, happiness, and beauty. I don't mean to say you should ignore the negative parts of your life, or simply pretend they don't exist ... not at all! It's just that sometimes it's tempting to think that the big things are the most important, when so often, I think it's the other way round.

Top: Treasures & Travels for Stocksy; bottom: Emoke Szabo for Stocksy

Top: Treasures & Travels for Stocksy; bottom: Emoke Szabo for Stocksy

I think of the film Amèlie, and how each of the characters indulges in his or her own quirky simple pleasure: squeezing the fruit at the market stall, cracking the top of crème brûlée, skipping stones, walking in the sunshine, and turning back to look at the faces of other people in the movie theater as they watch the film. That's the beauty of simple pleasures: they are all your own! You can be as quirky as you like, and honestly, who cares if anyone else gets why you love what you love.

You may still be in the same tiny apartment, in the same unsatisfying job, but when you begin to infuse your day with small moments of beauty, joy, and pleasure ... well, these things allow you to immediately change your life for the better. You can be working towards your bigger life goals (a topic I will delve into more deeply next week) but in the meantime, you can begin savoring the thousands of simple pleasures that have been surrounding you this whole time, ripe for your taking, if you just seize the moment and notice them.

So savor your first sips of coffee in the morning, light a candle, put on music that lifts your heart, inhale the scent of lilacs on a spring day, notice the light filtering through the window, the beautiful mess of toys on the carpet (a marker of these fleeting days with little ones underfoot), step outdoors on your lunch break to watch the clouds, choose to turn away from the screens and draw in your sketchbook or write in the evening instead, savor the crisp feeling of fresh sheets on your bare skin as you slip into bed at night.

And don't forget to include your own personal, quirky, most-loved simple pleasures! For me, scents are very important. I love sniffing the pages of a fresh book, the scent of tomato vines in the sun, the scent of a baby's head, jasmine on a warm evening walk, salty sea air, strong earl grey tea, and freshly roasted coffee. When I lived in San Francisco in the outer Sunset district, I took the street car home from school and then walked all the way down Taraval Street to the Georgia Lee apartments near the cold, windy beach. To help pass the time, I often turned my daily walk into an exercise in noticing scents: there was the whiff of exhaust along the busy road, and then the scent of fresh laundry being dried, steam buns and hot and sour soup, garbage cans, wet pavement, honeysuckle trailing over a fence, and finally, the faint scent of the sea.

I'm curious: what are your simple pleasures? Where do you find joie de vivre in your daily life?

xo, Laura

The Simple Pleasures of Winter

Since moving away from New England, I keep expecting winter to come. Any moment, I think. Any moment that chill in the air will turn a bit too frightful for a mere sweater, and we'll have to pull out the big down-filled coats and knit mittens and hats. Any moment that first magical snow will fall, bringing with it a hush that draws us a bit closer together. It's true that I am not a huge fan of winter. But I do miss that first snowfall, and the way our old neighborhood became quiet and sparkling beneath a blanket of white. Of course, the Bay Area has its own, more subtle take on winter, and I plan to take full advantage of all of my favorite cozy comforts while it lasts. Hot tea, homemade chocolate chip granola bars, warm sweaters, and glowing candlelight aplenty.

I love the Danish concept of hygge, which translates roughly to creating a warm, cozy atmosphere and enjoying time with family and friends, and that is what I hope to create in my own home. In fact, I find myself drawn to everything from the nordic region at this time of year - the Dala horse motif (seen on my favorite mug above), the Danish/Swedish tv show The Bridge, white floors, cozy sheepskins flung over chairs, Swedish mystery novels, the dramatic and unusual Dogme films (I especially love Italian for Beginners), Hanna Andersson, Ikea, Astrid Lindgern (I just read Pippi Longstocking for the first time with my son), saunas, and of course, the lovely Swedish coffee-and-cake break tradition known as fika.

It's funny, working from home you might think I work in my pajamas and take breaks whenever I want, but the truth is I often find myself working too hard, forgetting to give myself a break. If you work from home, perhaps you know what I mean? But part of the spirit of winter lies in slowing down and giving yourself a break, both literally and emotionally. Outside in New England, or in Scandinavia, nature couldn't be more clear: winter is when you rest. So yesterday I took an uncharacteristically long break to bake a batch of my son's favorite chocolate chip granola bars. The scent of the honey and oats wafting from the oven was deeply comforting - and when they came out of the oven, I stole away to my room with a wedge of granola bar, a mug of hot tea, and a stack of new magazines. The winter light was dim, and the rain was falling outside, so I lit a candle and enjoyed the sound of the raindrops. The sky feels so fresh after the rain, I've always loved that. 

I'd love to hear: What is your favorite season? How do you honor the changes in nature where you live, whether they are subtle or striking? What are you doing to care for yourself and your family this winter?