Simple Things: The Best of Old and New

I like simple things and sometimes pine for simpler times. That said, the realist in me knows that even times past weren’t all that simple, but there will always be a part of me that likes to imagine they were. We could all use a little more simple these days.

Rapid wire

The “Rapid Wire” cashier system.

When I was a kid, I loved to sit with my grandfather as he told me of how he worked in a store back in the late 1920s and early 30s.There were no credit card machines, or even a cash register. There was a teller with a scratch pad & pencil, and a pulley system with a can on it. The teller would do the math, take the payment, put it in the can and then pull the cord to send the money to the cashier. The cashier would make change, write the receipt, and send it back to the teller. It all conjured up images in my seven year old head of the Rube Goldberg-style contraptions I used to see when I watched The Little Rascals. I loved those shows as a kid. And I loved to hear about and dream about the “old days.”

But over time I’ve learned that what I really love is a mix of old and new. I like to consider myself a forward-looking guy, and what I’ve come to appreciate over the years are hybrid solutions that blend the best of the eras. Taking something from the past and adding some modern touches doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need a complete overhaul or new invention. Anyone who remembers the huge battery packs you used to have to carry around with your “car phone” in the mid-1980s will echo the sentiment that sometimes you just need to start from scratch. But the subtle blend of old and new, that works, is what makes “classics.” And those are the simple things I love.

So, occasionally, I’m going to share some of my favorite things that, to me, blend old and new to form simple things. Sure, I love my Macbook Pro with retina display. And my iPhone. But sometimes a really nice old-school notebook with a nice new pen is a much better combination to gather my thoughts. So be on the lookout for upcoming posts that start with “Simple Things: ___________.”

In the mean time, what are some simple things you love that blend the best of old and new? Leave a comment below or tweet it to me @DanielHayes.

SLT073: Simplifying Simple Life Together

Okay, folks. We had intended this episode to be more of a “finality”. It was supposed to be more of a “farewell” episode and post. But the truth is, we’re having trouble with this because Simple Life Together is such a big part of our life. If it sounds like we’re waffling a bit, that’s because…well, we are!

So I guess you could say that we’re simplifying Simple Life Together. We should just jump right into the dirty work and break it all down for you…  Read More…


SLT072: How Do You Define Work Life Balance?

Vanessa was getting ready to throw away a magazine (because of course, she practices the “one in one out rule“) and the headline on the cover was: The Balanced Life! She told me that she paused for a moment and thought, “Do I have balance?” We hear so much about it, but how do we define work life balance?

What does it really mean? Can we really achieve a balanced life? And so we got to talking about balance for a while, and thought we’d explore that a little more…. (Read more…)


Simplifying Your Playroom: Why Taking Away My Children’s Toys Doesn’t Make Me The Grinch

This is a guest post from Cheryl and Jean-Francois Moreau of Revive.
In the fight against clutter there is an army that is hard to conquer. They’re big, noisy, relentless and…plastic. Yes, plastic. Parents can hardly remember a time when they could walk carefree through their living room without feeling like maneuvering through a minefield, calculating every step to avoid the painful *crunch* of a toy underfoot. But what are all of these toys and where did they come from? A more practical question still is how can we reduce them without causing a meltdown?

Toy Marketers Are Geniuses

Before we blame our kids for the explosion of toys in our homes we need to look to the causes, which include ourselves—the parents (who likely either purchased or accepted these toys in the first place); as well as well-meaning family and friends, a barrage of gift-centric holidays and society in general for pushing the message that more toys will make happier kids. Toys are marketed to fill a perceived need, the key word being perceived. How many of us, after your children appear bored, think that buying them a new toy will solve the problem? We stroll through the aisles looking at toys that claim to bring “hours of enjoyment” or “stimulate creativity in your child”, and shell out our hard-earned cash banking on the promises we read. Unfortunately, most of the time the toys will barely pique their interest, only to be banished to the toy-box—or “the pit” as I affectionately call it. We must acknowledge that we are part of the problem in order to stop the cycle of consumerism. This is not a guilt-trip. Marketers spend millions of dollars every year in order to get kids wanting more toys and convincing parents to buy them. But here’s the secret they’ll never tell you: your kids can live with less.

Learning How To Play

The problem with so many modern toys is that they have, in essence, removed their playability. True toys are ones that give a child a vessel for creativity, allowing them to create their own adventures and stories with the toy. I’m amazed by the potential for creativity in the most mundane of objects: a pair of chopsticks become drumsticks, magic wands, batons for twirling and more. And all of the noise I hear is no longer generic sounds created by a toy factory across the world; instead I hear the laughter and narrative of play coming from my own children. Choosing quality over quantity is important, here are some tips to help you to know what to look for in toys:

    • Choose Toys That Promote Activity. Balls that bounce, frisbees, jump ropes, a ball and glove all allow our kids to expend some of their (seemingly endless) energy.
    • You get what you pay for. Quality toys may cost more than what you are accustom to paying, but wouldn’t you rather have fewer, well made toys than dozens of mediocre ones?
    • Choose toys that allow for storytelling. Clothing and accessories for dress-up are a wonderful way for children to be creative and practice a narrative. Also invest in some people and animal figures and allow your kids to mix and match any ‘sets’ you may have. Puppets are another great way to tell a story.
    • Building toys promote creativity. Lego, K’Nex, Lincoln Logs, marble runs are some examples of interactive toys that encourage hours of play. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple pencil and piece of paper.
    • Check out vintage toys. I love vintage toys for many reasons: they remind me of a simpler time; they do not often have batteries, and I know they have stood the test of many years of play. Just be aware that vintage toys may have parts that are hazards for young children, especially if it has any broken or missing pieces.

Lastly, don’t get frustrated if your kids won’t magically play for hours in a cardboard box after you reduce their toy collection. Creativity, though innate in kids, is a skill they may need to work on if they haven’t been practicing it for awhile. The greatest way to get your kids invested in play is to play with them! Let your child dress you up and create a story, letting them take the lead. Another way to help them engage in play is to get them to set up a scene with their figures, then prompt them with questions like “where are they going?” or “who else is going to join this party?”. When you play with your children you will be amazed at the wonderful places you can go with them, all without leaving your home.


Cheryl and Jean-Francois Moreau recently launched their site “Revive” which focuses on simplifying various aspects of people’s lives including their spaces, minds, bodies, and relationships. You can find that at, and we’ll have links in the shownotes. They’re out of Ottawa, Canada, and you can follow them on Twitter @reviversca and check them out on Facebook, too!

Photo Credit Theen Moy 

SLT071: The Power of Habit

Never underestimate the power of habit. In mid-April of 2014, I decided that I needed to make some positive changes to my morning ritual. I’ve talked about my morning ritual a few times on the Simple Life Together podcast, and we discussed the power of habit, routines and rituals back in Episode 30 and also in one of our most popular episodes, The 7 Habits for Highly Effective Simplicity in Episode 55. But recently I read a book on habits (well, actually I listened to the audio version) by Charles Duhigg, titled The Power of Habit.

But let me back up just a bit and talk about my positive changes to how I spend my early morning. Following a visit to the doctor and the results of some medical testing, I decided that I need to get more active. Of course, my wife Vanessa had been encouraging me to do this for years…but you know how sometimes when the “advice” comes from a spouse or other close family member you occasionally ignore it? Well, yeah…that. Moving on…