simplify september

How To Choose The Essential Over The Urgent

Photo by  Alex Geerts  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash

It’s officially fall, and the holidays are rapidly approaching. I like to think that “Fallidays” Jenn is the best version of me. I fill my days with all the cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice and festive celebrations that my schedule will allow. I spend time with my people, and I savor every minute.

Starting today.  

Simplify September is over, and as I look back on it, I realize that I didn’t enjoy much of last month. In all of my efforts to help others simplify, I made my own life more complicated and got away from the original mission of what I set out to do.

The goal of Simplify September was to slow down, scale back and take a deep breath; but the components of the project—the daily prompts, the meal plans, the capsule wardrobe and the workbook—left me feeling frantic and depleted.

Yet, I don’t look at Simplify September as a failure. I look at it as a lesson in essentialism.

Too often, we trade the essential for the for the urgent.

Simplify September was filled with “urgent” things like social media posts and photos, not the essentials of encouraging others to be more intentional in the way they live their lives—and demonstrating that quality in my own life.

So how do you differentiate the urgent from the essential? We must know ourselves well.

For me, the best thing to come out of Simplify September was defining my core values. About halfway through the month, when that familiar lump in my throat and heaviness in my chest returned because I was trying to DO ALL THE THINGS, I paused and wrote down what was most important to me: Knowing Jesus, loving others well, living with intentionality and being confident in who God made me.

When you know what’s most important to you, you can start to eliminate the things that don’t fall into those categories and make time for the things that do. But eliminating the urgent and creating space for the essentials doesn’t happen JUST by knowing ourselves and our core values.

Making time for the essential over the urgent requires rest and reflection.

This weekend, I turned things off and tuned things out. I sat in silence—and with my thoughts--on solitary car rides, while washing dishes and folding the laundry. And when I had an extra hour between events yesterday, I chose to talk with a women I barely knew instead of catching up on emails, texts and messages. After a month characterized by posting and responding and consuming, taking time to rest and reflect was life-giving.

This week, I’ll hop back online. I’ll answer the emails, write the posts, share the photos; but I won’t get lost in them. In October, if something feels forced or uncomfortable or if I’m dreading doing it, I’ll take some time to evaluate whether that thing is really in line with my core values and thus, absolutely essential.

While September may not have been the month I envisioned it being, 2018 isn’t over yet. Let’s make our goal for the rest of this year a TRULY SIMPLE one: Know who we are and live by those values.

Simplify September: Week Four Meal Plan

Photo by  Randy Fath  on  Unsplash

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Hard to believe, but we’ve reached week four of Simplify September. Of all the things I’ve done for this month-long project, the meal plans have been the easiest. Sitting down and planning my family’s weekly menu is something I do every Sunday, so sharing it with all of you is just an outgrowth of something I’m already doing.

Here is this week’s dinner menu at the Prentice household:

Simplify September Week Four Meal Plan

Sunday- Slow cooker white chicken chili. Whole 30 approved, though I usually add some rice for my husband and children.

Monday- Skinnytaste Turkey Burgers with Zucchini. I eat it bunless on a bed of lettuce with a sprinkle of feta and some balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top. I’ll serve it with a baked potato and brussel sprouts or broccoli. (Short cut carrots for the oldest, picky tiny human.)

Tuesday- Tacos. Everyone knows this recipe…or at least I hope you do. I eat taco salad instead and occasionally (read: EVERY TIME) indulge in chips and salsa.

Wednesday- Paleo/Whole 30 Salisbury Steak Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes. I have never made this recipe, but it looks delicious and fairly simple. Count me in. I’ll throw in some green beans for veggies.

Thursday- Paleo Buffalo Chicken Casserole. Again, never made this one, but the recipe had me at Franks Red Hot Sauce. I’ll serve it with a salad. The boys probably won’t eat this one, so I will make them my lazy kid-friendly meal of bean burritos, fruit, carrots and cherry tomatoes.

Friday- Homemade pizza. I usually do one pizza with tomato sauce and one with pesto sauce; and I buy the frozen cauliflower pizza crust from Trader Joes for myself and top it with pesto, chicken, bacon and a smattering of shredded parmesan.

Saturday- Sausages (I either buy Applegate Farms or Aidells), sweet potato and/or regular fries (frozen, from Traders) and broccoli or salad. I will be gone most of Saturday. This is the laziest meal I could think of.

For more recipe inspiration, you can follow me on Pinterest. Thank you, again, for coming along on Simplify September. It’s been an honor and a joy to do dinner with you!

Simplify September: Week Two Meal Plan

Simplify September Week Two Meal Plan.jpg

We made it to week two of Simplify September. While I'm not that excited about the whole Capsule Wardrobe thing (follow me on Instagram for updates on that), I AM LOVING the opportunity to connect with so many of you as we learn to slow down and focus on what and who matters most to us. 

Sunday is my grocery shopping day. I usually go around 7 or 8 p.m. because the stores have cleared out by then, and I can put my earbuds in, listen to a podcast and power through my list. Here's what I'm cooking for dinner this week. I'm three days in to a very lazy Whole 30 (think one drink per week and the occasional half of a muffin), so most of these recipes are Whole 30 compliant! 

You can follow me on Pinterest for more recipe inspiration; and here's the link to the week one meal plan in case you missed it! 

Simplify September Week Two Dinner Menu

Sunday: Rotisserie Chicken with salad and sweet potatoes. Because Lazy Whole 30 and Lazy Sunday. 

Monday: Salmon with rosemary fingerling potatoes and green beans

Tuesday: LEFTOVERS! Both the chicken and the salmon come from Costco and, thus, are huge. The boys start Awanas on Tuesday night, and we have to be out the door by 5:30. Leftovers just make sense. 

Wednesday: Cilantro Lime Chicken Skillet. I'm putting this over cauliflower rice, which I am only mildly sure my children will eat. I'll also cook a plain chicken breast for the oldest tiny human, because, if you read the Week One Dinner Menu post, you know he is anything but adventurous when it comes to food.

Thursday: Pizza night! I have a friend coming into town this week. We're going out for a girl's night on Thursday, where I will surely enact Lazy Whole 30 status and have the aforementioned drink...or two. The boys get frozen pizzas. 

Friday: One Skillet Shrimp and Broccolini. I will not use the gelatin listed on this recipe. I'm positive the broccolini will turn out fine without it. This is the one weekly meal that my children will NOT eat. So, I'll "cook" them my "default meal" of bean burritos, short cut carrots and avocado. 

Saturday: Ground Turkey Brussel Sprouts Skillet. My children will eat the deconstructed version of this (plain turkey meat, peppers, avocado). 

Happy Sunday and Happy Eating! 


Simplify September: Week One Meal Plan

simplify september meal plan.jpg

Before I share the Simplify September meal plan(s), you need to know this: I am not a food blogger or an exceptional cook. I enjoy cooking, and I don't suck at it; but I am very, well, SIMPLE when it comes to meal planning and grocery shopping. The Simplify September meal plans are merely an extension of who I am and how I cook. I will LITERALLY be buying, cooking and eating all the things I'm sharing with you over the next 30 days. 

Most of the meals are dairy and gluten free...except the occasional pizza night...because that's how my family and I eat most of the time. The meals are also, mostly kid-friendly. My oldest child is a VERY PICKY EATER; and I hate modifying my meals for him. So, I try to cook meals that he will eat or that have at least a few elements that he will eat. 

I will post a new meal plan every Friday.

The meal plans only cover dinner.

If you're wondering what I eat for breakfast and lunch, here ya go...

Breakfast: I eat a smoothie, a Cashew Cookie Larabar or eggs with wilted spinach, avocado and bacon for breakfast every day of the week.

Lunch: I eat a salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dressing almost every day of the week. A lot of days I go out to lunch with a friend. Some days I skip lunch altogether. This is a bad habit that I am trying to break.  

Here's the Simplify September Week One Meal Plan

Sunday: White Bean Chicken Chili with crushed tortilla chips and salad. Recipe is the third one down on this link. 

Monday: Mexican Haystack Rice bowls. I don't eat the rice. Recipe here. 

Tuesday: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches (I eat the chicken on a bed of lettuce) with broccoli and baked potatoes. Recipe for sandwiches here. Favorite broccoli recipe here. 

Wednesday: Crock Pot Pork Chops, salad and bread. (I don't eat the bread, but my husband and children do.) The pork chops are my mom's recipe, and they are literally the easiest thing in the world.

Here's the recipe: Mix 1 cup flour, 1 TBL garlic salt and 1 tsp ground mustard together in a ziplock bag. Coat pork chops and cook on skillet for 3 minutes on each side til lightly browned. Put pork chops in crock pot & cover with 2-3 cans of chicken and rice soup. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. 

Thursday: Salmon Bisque. The recipe is here. I don't add in the flour, and I use coconut milk instead of cream.

Friday: Hamburgers, sweet potato fries, salad. My husband makes the burgers using the sous vide method. I buy frozen sweet potato fries from Trader Joes. I eat my hamburger on a bed of lettuce. 

Saturday: Spaghetti and meatballs with zoodles instead of noodles, salad. I buy the frozen zoodles from Trader Joes, the frozen meatballs from Trader Joes and a can of spaghetti sauce from Trader Joes because SIMPLIFY SEPTEMBER. Admittedly, my family is not fully on board with the zoodles, and I often end up making them some actual pasta. Can't win em all, folks. 

**NOTE** My youngest child will eat the salmon bisque, but my oldest won't touch it. My default meal for my oldest, when he won't eat what I'm making, is a bean burrito with carrots and cherry tomatoes. (Those are the only two vegetables he eats. And yes, I know tomatoes aren't vegetables.)

**ANOTHER NOTE** Neither of my children eat salad. So, I give them the elements of the salad that they will eat: carrots, peppers, avocado, cherry tomatoes. 

I truly hope these meal plans help Simplify September for you. If you have a recipe you'd like to share with me, send me an email! I'm always looking for inspiration! And, if you want to see more of my favorite recipes, you can follow me on Pinterest


Simplify September: Calendar and Details

Photo by  Steinar Engeland  on  Unsplash

In less than 24 hours, it will be September 1st. Because I am a planner--and I think many of you are too--I'm posting the details of the Simplify September project TODAY! That way, you can hit the ground running tomorrow morning! 

The whole point of Simplify September is to make our lives less complicated. Things tend to get busier and busier during the last few months of the year. Simplify September is a way to slow down, scale back, clean up and figure out what's really important to you. That way, when the holiday season hits (believe it or not, it's just around the corner), you'll know who, what and how to prioritize in order to spend as much time as possible with the people who mean the most to you. 

There are five elements to the Simplify September project: 

1.) The 30-day Simplify September calendar (posted below)

2.) The Simplify September Meal Plans. Week One here. Week Two here

3.) The Simplify September capsule wardrobe

4.) The Simplify September reading plan (more info below)

5.) The Simplify September workbook (more info below)


You can do some of them. You can do most of them. You can do none of them and simply follow along and see what other people are doing. Pretty much everything in the Simplify September project can actually be done during any month of the year. 

 The Simplify September 30-day calendar is at the bottom of this post. 

Each week on the calendar, we take on a different area of life. In week one, we clear the physical clutter. In week two, we calm the mental chaos. In week three, we simplify our schedules; and in week four, we work on our relationships. Some of the items on the calendar repeat themselves. That's because they are REALLY THAT IMPORTANT. If you find one suggestion extra helpful, try incorporating it into your daily, weekly or monthly routine. 

On Sundays, we meal prep and reflect.

Every Sunday, I will post a new meal plan--with recipes. The meal plans will be updated weekly. Week one is here. Week two is here

I will also take time to reflect on the previous and upcoming week; and I encourage you to do the same. I've created a workbook for each week that includes questions to help you with those reflections. 

If you want the Simplify September workbook and weekly encouragement from me in your inbox, sign up for the Simplify September email list below. 

You can find information about the Simplify September capsule wardrobe here. This includes links to most of the items I'm wearing next month. 

And finally, the Simplify September reading plan is so simple that it doesn't need it's own post: Simply read one chapter from the book of Proverbs every day for the next 30 days. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so you'll have to read two chapters one day this month. That's it.

One more thing before you go...

In addition to my Tuesday Truth (Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m. PST on Instagram Live), I'll be doing some bonus Instagram Lives throughout the month. I'd love to have some of you join me on those Instagram Lives to talk about the Simplify September project and what you're learning through it. Send me an email and we can try to set up a time for a LIVE CHAT!  I'll also be using the #simplifyseptember hashtag when I post something related to the project on Instagram. Feel free to tag your Simplify September posts with the same hashtag! 

Everything about Simplify September is supposed to make you feel more calm, more organized and more present for the people and things that matter. If something in this project makes you feel stressed out or frazzled or anxious or not good enough, DON'T DO IT! 

I'm so excited to calm the chaos in our minds, relationships, time and possessions with you! Let's Simplify September together! 

Simplify September Calendar

This calendar was designed by my friend  Amy at Amy's Art Table . 

This calendar was designed by my friend Amy at Amy's Art Table

Simplify September: Capsule Wardrobe

Photo by  Alexandra Gorn  on  Unsplash

It’s now October 2nd. The capsule wardrobe experiment is over, and I could not be happier. I have included a few updates that I made to the Simplify September capsule wardrobe below. Here are my final thoughts on capsule wardrobes in general:

  • If you like fashion or variety, a capsule wardrobe is probably not for you.

  • If you have a well-edited closet already, no matter how many pieces you have in it, a capsule wardrobe is not for you.

  • If you live in a place without discernible seasons (ex: the Central Coast of California, where it could be 85 degrees one day and 65 degrees the next), a capsule wardrobe is not for you.

  • A capsule wardrobe is meant to simplify the “getting ready” process. If, at any point, doing a capsule wardrobe feels stressful then A CAPSULE WARDROBE IS NOT FOR YOU.


Confession: Being a fashion blogger is top three on my list of dream jobs. You get free clothes, an excuse to take selfies and a rabid fan base that thinks you look good in just about anything. Count. Me. In. 

The problem with fashion blogging, is the materialistic world in which it exists. Having things and looking a certain way in those things have always been my achilles heel, and being a fashion blogger would only feed that beast. Ironically, I've come closer to my dream of fashion blogging in the last three and a half months of NOT buying clothes for an entire year. The beauty of posting outfit selfies while not buying clothes for a year is that it removes (most of) the materialistic aspect from the equation; and that's what I'm hoping the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe will do too. 

In case you missed it, my Simplify September project kicks off September 1st. It's a month-long project to go from chaos to calm the last few months of 2018 (or at least the month of September). Because I'm not shopping for a year, I created the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe (which I'm releasing today so you have time to create one of your own) with items I currently have in my closet. While I linked some similar items below (not affiliate links), the goal isn't to make you feel like you need to purchase something.

The goal of the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe is to show you--and myself--that WHAT WE HAVE IS ENOUGH. No article of clothing, pair of shoes, handbag, NOTHING can truly make us feel more confident in who we are. Sure, material possessions can give us a temporary high, but until we understand that who we are RIGHT NOW, THIS MOMENT, FLAWS AND ALL, is enough, we'll keep trying to fill a hole that simply can't be filled with the things of this world.  

Ok. Enough soapboxing. Here's how the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe works: 

1.) Pick 30 items, including shoes, handbags and accessories but excluding pajamas and workout clothes to wear for the month of September. (Sidenote: When I wear workout clothes, it's because I am headed to the gym. I shower and change almost immediately afterwards. If you are into the athleisure trend, then workout clothes will need to be included in your capsule wardrobe.)

2.) Wear those 30 items--and only those 30 items--during the month of September. 

3.) Post your outfits on Instagram using the hashtag #SSCapsuleWardrobe. 

Here's what my Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe looks like: 


Here are the principles I used to create it:

1.) Pick items in the same color families. 

2.) Choose items that will transition easily from day to night or work to play. 

3.) Decide what items you love and what you can live without for a month. For instance, I can use the same tote bag and minimal accessories for 30 days, but I need a variety of shoes. 

Other things I considered when creating a capsule wardrobe: 

1.) The weather 

2.) Upcoming activities and events 

Finally, here are some of my favorite items from my personal Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe: 

1.) Longchamp Tote Bag (mine is gray)

2,) Leith Tank Dress (color: tan)

3.) Billabong Sea the Sun Kimono

4.) Backless mules

5.) BB Dakota Faux Leather Jacket Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for a basic black top to wear on girl’s nights out. More versatile, and the weather didn’t end up being as cold as I thought it was going to be at night last month.

6.) Loft Boyfriend Jeans

7.) Distressed Black Jeans

8.) Striped cardigan

9.) Black bodysuit tank top

10.) Black maxi skirt - **Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for another pair of jeans.

I'll admit, I'm a bit nervous about this whole experiment. September weather where I live can be anywhere from high 80's to low 60's, so figuring out what items to include in my personal capsule wardrobe was a bit of a stretch. Still, I'm committed to showing you guys--and proving to myself--that I can get by on less and still feel confident in who I am!

Comment below if you're joining the Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe challenge, and let me know one item you're planning to wear! 

***8/21/18 UPDATE***

Some of you asked about the rest of the items in my capsule wardrobe. Here they are: 

11.) Graphic tee (You can design your own here!!!!)- Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for a more versatile blue button down shirt.

12.) Black v-neck t-shirt

13.) White v-neck t-shirt

14.) Tan Peep Toe Booties (similar here

15.) Cole Haan Sandals (similar here

16.) Black Peep Toe Booties (similar here) - Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for my favorite green jumper. I wear it all the time and should have included it in my capsule wardrobe initially. 30 days without wearing it would have been a BIG MISTAKE.

17.) Gray tank top

18.) Denim jacket

19.) Statement belt

20.) Cropped dark wash skinny jeans 

21.) Striped bell sleeve shirt (similar here)

22.) Gold Statement Earrings (similar here

23.) Basic gold stud earrings (similar here

24.) Lightweight black blazer (similar here

25.) Denim shorts

26.) Off white cardigan

27.) Gray circle cardigan sweater (similar here

28.) Off white tank- Update 10/2/18- I swapped this for a pair of statement earrings. Turns out, I DO like wearing a variety of accessories.

29.) Knit pullover sweater (similar here

30.) Floral shell tank top (similar here

Simplify September: How to Live Like It's Summer All Year Long

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It's only the second day of school, and I can already feel the chaos that comes along with the last few months of the year creeping in. I can smell the pumpkin spice and see my calendar filling up with field trips and meetings and holiday parties. My mind is racing with questions like whether I filled out that form or when I should sign up to volunteer and what to make for dinner, or the bake sale, or the hundredth day of school celebration.  I can see it on other people's faces too; and I hear it in their voices when we talk about going "back to school" and stepping into "a busier season." 

Oh summer, where art thou????

In summer, whether in reality or perception, things seem to slow down. We stay up later. We go on vacation. We linger over dinner al fresco. Then we reach the end of August; and whether you have school age kids or not--but especially if you do have children--something shifts. Something in us becomes busier, more schedule oriented and, honestly, more stressed out as we approach the end of the calendar year. 

But what if it didn't have to be this way? What if the start of school simply meant a different schedule, not necessarily a more hectic one? What if the dawn of fall and the end of the calendar year meant having a few more months to do the things we love and more reasons to spend time with our loved ones? 

At the start of summer, I set three goals:

1.) Slow down

2.) Spend time with people I love

3.) Love others well

I loved how those three things centered my focus and my days these past three months, so much so that I intend to keep them as guidelines for my life for the rest of the year. And I've devised a plan to keep myself accountable those goals and help all of you live a less chaotic life for the remainder of 2018...or at least the month of September. 

I'm calling it the "Simplify September" project (#simplifySeptember for those of you who want to follow along on Instagram). Starting September 1st, I'll be doing the following:

  • Posting weekly challenges that help you simplify your time, possessions, relationships and mind
  • Sharing a calendar of 30 things (one for each day) that you can do to live more intentionally
  • Creating a This is Thirty Four Facebook Group where you can go to find encouragement and chat with others about how you're focusing on calm over chaos in September and for the rest of 2018

If you're like me, however, you hear about a challenge like Simplify September, and you want to GET STARTED RIGHT NOW. Good news! You can...on Monday! 

Part of Simplify September will be creating a capsule wardrobe for the month. If there's one thing my Year Without Clothes has taught me, it's that when we simplify our wardrobes--and the amount of time we spend thinking about our wardrobes--it frees us up to do SO MANY OTHER THINGS. Since capsule wardrobes actually take a bit of pre-planning, I'm created a post for Monday, August 20th that explains what pieces I'm putting in my Simplify September Capsule Wardrobe, why I chose them and where you can find those items if you want to create a similar capsule wardrobe. 

I hope you'll join me in the Simplify September Project--not because I want more blog traffic or Instagram followers or Facebook friends, but because I truly believe that life is too short to be lived in a constant state of chaos. Let's take back our time, stress less about things that don't matter and create more space for the things that do. Let's Simplify September together.