Living a Good Life

How I've Made My Days Feel More Abundant (And You Can Too)

I love fall something fierce, but the transition into this season can be a tricky one. To create a more intentional (and hopefully more pleasurable) early fall, I've been rethinking the way I approach my days. If you've been following me for a while, you know I've written before about the benefits of mapping your time — and if you're feeling pressure from all angles of your schedule, I still encourage you to start there. But when you're ready to dive in and begin to make real changes to the way you spend your time each day, I have a new tool for you to try (and a simple free download to go along with it).

How I've made my days feel more abundant (and you can too)

The zero-based schedule

If you've heard of zero-based budgeting, you're already familiar with the concept. If not, the idea is pretty straightforward: each month, you give each dollar a job to do. So instead of having "extra" money in your budget once bills and other necessities are taken care of, you give those extra dollars a place to go, too — it could be into a travel fund, college savings account, a donation to charity, or whatever you choose. 

So keeping a zero-based schedule, simply put, means accounting for every hour of your day...ahead of time. The night before, you get out a fresh planner page (more on that in a moment) or turn to a new sheet in your bullet journal, and fill in the tasks you know you need to get done at certain times — like doing the school run, starting work, and making dinner. Once the must-dos are written down, it's time to play a little...

How to make a zero-based schedule and experience more abundant days
Remember that if you don’t prioritize
your life someone else will.
— Greg McKeown

Firm deadlines (like appointments or meetings) tend to make it onto our schedules simply because they shout the loudest: we know someone will be mad or disappointed in us if we drop the ball, so we do our very best to come through.

But what about those seemingly smaller to-dos we quietly want, just for ourselves? 

In a zero-based schedule, you have the opportunity to pencil in pockets of time for your passions and big goals. For me, that's meant learning to run, reading more good books, and writing. For you, it could be knitting, taking an evening class, and playing roller derby. You know what it's probably not? Scrolling social media, mindlessly snacking, and online shopping. 

If you'd like to give zero-based scheduling a try, I created a really simple Daily Planner PDF for you to download, print, and enjoy:

Download the Daily Planner PDF

On the left side is space to record a basic hourly plan for your day. On the right side are boxes to jot down any habits you're currently tracking (glasses of water, exercise, reading, etc.), gratitude, and notes for tomorrow. You absolutely do not need to use this every day (or at all!) but I've found it quite helpful for creating a more intentional day when I really need it.

photos: Gaelle Marcel

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

Slow the Season: A Month-long Free Course this December

Slow the Season is a FREE month-long course running during December. The course will include lessons delivered directly to your inbox three times each week, with inspiring podcasts, meditations, a mindful gifting planner, juicy journaling prompts, and more goodies (coloring pages, anyone?).

Fall Workshop Series :: Mindful Style Now Enrolling!

The Fall Workshop Series is officially open for enrollment! The first in the series is Mindful Style: a 3-week journey into the heart and soul of style, which will beginning in just a few short weeks on September 19! Mindful Style is about getting beyond the surface of style, down to the really good stuff: rich, soul-deep, meaningful style.