Make Home a Haven Using Personal Filters

Photo by Wouter de Bruijn
Did I tell you about the issue I used to have with m&m’s? The whole bag of candy would be empty in only two days, and I would wonder who ate all my m&m’s until I realized that I ate them all every single time.

I don’t know how those little candy-coated chocolate morsels used to be such a weak spot for me.

I had to stop buying them. That was the easiest solution for me. I only had to make one decision at the store to not buy them so that I could avoid the fifty decisions to not eat them whenever I walked in the kitchen.

That’s how you create a personal filter: a habit or decision made to protect your heart, attitude, and well being. You can create filters for your home and family members too.

Do you want to avoid the commercialism at Christmas? Don’t go to the mall and watch less TV.

Want your kids to be content with the toys they have? Stop taking them to browse the aisles of Target each week.

Do you feel frustrated about your crowded schedule? Learn how to say no, which pleasantly sounds like, “I’d like to, but I can’t…”

Create your own policies to sound more official.

I think we too often forget that we can make choices about what we let into our lives. One thing I am careful about is the source where I get my news. I don’t watch much television because I don’t feel very good afterwards. Most news is more for entertainment. I am so conscious that this world is not the way God designed it to be that I don’t need to be reminded of it in my home every night.

When someone talks about making home a haven, a haven is a place of safety and refuge. It means more than decorating it with throw pillows, comfy blankets, and snacks. The significance is creating a shelter, a safe place.

It means I can have compassion for a hurting world without letting it all into my home.

Another way that I am watchful to filter is spending time online late at night. My judgement is clouded and I tend to be more emotional, so I try not to do online shopping late at night. One time I was going from one site to the next. I wanted to find something that  I “needed” so I could buy it and it could make me feel better, but then I realized, “Wait, what need am I trying to meet here?” I closed the computer and jumped into bed.

I filter out caffeine, because even though I love the short-term effects, it makes me irritable later.

With Christmas coming, I’ve been getting so many catalogs in the mail, and I spent some time this morning canceling them and getting them off of my desk. Before you want something, you see it. It doesn’t occur to me to buy something unless I see it in the catalog first. Where your eyes gaze, your heart follows.

If we want to live in a peaceful home, we have to use some filters.

What do you filter for yourself and for your home?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Absolutely! I find that the times when I feel out of control are the times when I’m not being purposeful in my decisions. It is easy to get swept away and let others (eg advertisers or impulsion) make your decisions for you. Being purposeful is hard work, but it makes every aspect of your life better in the long run.

  2. I think filters are absolutely necessary, especially when you have kids – you need to filter for yourself AND them, which can get tiring! That’s why I try to avoid buying sweets to bring home; instead, I try to do a special treat like going out for ice cream – we have our treat, there aren’t any leftovers, and I don’t have to keep saying “no” to my son (or myself!).
    Jennifer´s last post…White Cheddar Souffle Omelette

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed this today!

  4. Yes, yes.

    I agree with Jennie (above) that being purposeful is more work but also more worthwhile. We have so many filters in place in our home–like restricting our tv viewing, access to news, and really all we allow in our hearts and minds.

    At the same time we have to make the choice to follow through when, like you mention in your late-night example, a temptation comes in to veer off-course. And that’s where it can get tricky!

    Thanks, Rachel–

    steadymom´s last post…4 Favorite Parenting Books

  5. AMEN! I find it’s much easier to filter things the first time, and not have to keep making the decision over & over.

    One filter I learned about today is a website that times your use of a certain site (i.e. Facebook). You put in the amount of time you want to spend on that site, and it shuts down after your time’s up. Love it! It’s
    Melissa @ Breath of Life´s last post…Thanksgiving – Day 4

  6. LOVE this post!

  7. Last week I deleted my Facebook account. Best. Decision. Ever.

    Everyone thinks I’m crazy – “Why so drastic? Why not just get on it less?” But I know myself, and I knew I had to walk away from it altogether. In addition to being a huge procrastination tool, it caused too many icky feelings in me: insecurity (are my updates witty enough? do my photos display me/my husband/my son in the absolute best way?) envy (people love to post photos of their new toys) loneliness (sometimes the illusion of relationship is worse than not having a relationship at all!) I could go on and on.

    I do miss seeing photos and updates from some close friends and family, but now I’m just have to work a bit harder to connect with them – planning times to get together or having long email/phone conversations.

    It’s not the right choice for everyone. But it works for me and definitely protects my “heart, attitude, and well being.” Thanks for this post, Rachel!

  8. Such a simple concept but one that’s so worthy of attention. Filters, love ‘em and need ‘em. My filter is that I refuse to answer the phone after 10:00, and during meal times. My family and friends know our schedule and respect our wishes not to talk during these times.

  9. I also don’t watch the news, read any newspapers and try to keep away from news-related items on the internet. I have a few close friends that have agreed to tell me if anything major is happening (I didn’t know about the big oil spill for a week, until they told me, lol…ooops!) so that I can be aware, but otherwise…no thanks.

    Another way I filter is that I have a TiVo. I watch a lot of TV, but never live, it’s always things recorded on the TiVo. That way, I can always fast forward through all the commercials. I haven’t seen a commercial in…years, I would think. I have my son trained to do the same thing. Even before he was old enough to use the remote, I’d hear a call from the living room, “Mom, commericials!” so I could run out and fast-forward them. :)

    I’m sure there are other ways I filter, as well, but I can’t think of them right now. Great post!

  10. I am finding it more and more important to filter out media and the mainstream culture. I know I grew up with it and could name every pop culture icon since the early eighties. But honestly, I don’t want my children to be absorbed by it like I was. Even if it does feel nostalgic for me.
    Shannon´s last post…My Simple Sprouting Routine- Grow Food In Your Kitchen

  11. Great post. Our filters are limits on TV, limits on junk food, no fast food – unless it is an emergency, no Barbie, and I try to avoid magazines as well. We need to filter the things we say “yes” to more.

    I can relate to previous posters too: I walked away from facebook in April and never went back!

  12. Great post! I have been doing a lot of this lately.

    At home, I have been canceling every catalog immediately that finds its way into my mail and adding an extra sentence of “and please remove my name and email from your database as well”. They ask you once to change your mind, but once you stay strong, they happily let you leave their lists.

    I have also canceled a store credit card that I have had for years – I never used it unless they send me a coupon that I can only use with my card, then I go to the store and find a reason to “save” using the coupon – but usually spend $20-$50 more than I would have if they hadnt tricked me into going there first.

    Thanks for the commitment to personal filters!

  13. Rachel,

    What an outstanding article. It completely dovetails with this week’s topic in the course I am running– and you made this point so brilliantly, I am right this very moment hopping on to the forums for the class and sharing it.

    Thank you!!

    :) Lisa

  14. I love how you’ve articulated this concept! Recognition of my weaknesses also began with a big bag of M&Ms… That’s why I began limiting junk food in the house, being more selective about my tv viewing, and throwing catalogs straight into the recycling. It really is all about filling your environment with only desireable things.

    • What is it about m&m’s?! It’s not like I have a munching problem. I can walk away from a slice of cake, frosting doesn’t interest me at all, but m&m’s are killer.

      • hehe – I think with m&m’s it is the small size and the texture. I feel like they last longer than a regular chocolate bar…and the crunch with chocolaty centre just makes it! OR maybe it is all psychological!

      • For years, I was a sucker for Hershey Kisses, because they always made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Then dark chocolate came out, and I realized I didn’t actually care all that much for Kisses – it was all sentimental. Maybe that’s part of what hooks you with M&Ms?

        I think Ruth H has a good point too, though – I love the crunch and color of M&Ms, and have learned not to bring them home except maybe once a year for a holiday.

        Thanks so much for the post. My church has been teaching the same principle for years, but when I read the way you said it, it’s like a light went on!

  15. What a timely post, especially with the holidays coming. All you have is all you need….(unless, of course, you see it in a magazine, online, or in the mall). I’ve been slowly but surely filtering the stress out of the every day, including the news. I’m so tempted to cancel cable completely, although I truly enjoy some of the shows….

    As far as Christmas, I’m not thinking about it until Dec. 1st. All magazines and catalogues that come in before that get tossed. Period.

    Also, no more facebook for me either. It’s definitely the best filter I’ve made thus far.

    Thanks Rachel, great topic, especially before the busiest season of the year!
    Sharon´s last post…November Challenge- Gratitude

    • What a neat rule for Christmas, to not consider it until Dec. 1.

      I enjoy starting Christmas a little too soon for most people, but I appreciate how waiting would work well.

    • I canceled our cable sometime in September and haven’t regretted it. I’m no longer tempted to waste time on brain-dead tv. I get news from NPR. I save around $65/month (in San Francisco). And if my husband and I want to watch a particular show together in the evening, we use hulu – for free!

      Another added bonus: I didn’t have to watch even one negative campaign ad.
      vegeater´s last post…Eat it Up- Garlic

    • I canceled cable two years ago because it was a poor financial decision. We only watch about three shows, and they were all available online.

  16. I have filters for my home and family, too. I think it’s so important because filters help to keep control.
    I have a sweets filter like you (though lately sweets have crept back into our kitchen…), I don’t display or keep ugly presents just to avoid feeling guilty and the most important filter in our home: Family and friends are only allowed to give one gift to each child at christmas or birthdays.

    With 2 “sets” of grandparents, 1 set of great-grandparents and 1 set of aunt and uncle that is more than enough! Count in godfather and godmother and other friends, and our home will quickly resemble a toy shop.

    Oh, and I just remember another filter: no colourful plastic toys that need batteries. I can’t stand those flashy and noisy things!

    Great post! I found your blog through some link to your e-book which I bought, read and love! Of course I’m a follower now.
    texttussi @ Pins & Pens´s last post…3 great bag tutorials you dont want to miss

    • Thanks for your compliments about Simple Blogging!

    • I like how you limit the families gift giving to your kids. We do the same. I wanted to add that some close friends of ours, who we used to buy gifts at Christmas for…decided that we would stop doing it (some years back) and now we have a family outing in the holiday time instead…making memories instead of clutter!

      • Ruth, I love the idea of spending time instead of buying gifts! I would love to do that, too, but for most people gift giving simply is very important. My brothers and I decided a long time ago to not exchange gifts on christmas. Some people think that’s heartless but I’m fine with it . Christmas is not about buying stuff!
        texttussi @ Pins & Pens´s last post…Recipe- Homemade bread

  17. hmmm, for us, no cable, and no kids programming (even the “educational” ones come with merchandise attached). We still find that we watch too much tv for our liking, so now I’m limiting my own viewing to 2 hours a week, some of which I catch on HULU which takes less time because the commercials are few, and much shorter.

    Our latest “sacrifice” – no fast food. None. Ever. Even for the kids. We’ve managed for a month, but almost fell off the wagon recently. We didn’t eat lunch until two o’clock the other afternoon because I hadn’t prepared well for our errand day. We must have driven past 50 places to eat. It would have been so easy! But my very goal-oriented 5 and 8 year old split a banana and were as determined as I was to make it home to eat. And it was worth it. It was interesting to realize that being a little hungry wasn’t going to kill any of us, and that keeping our family promise, that filter, small though it is, was more far more important than instant gratification. No regrets.
    the cottage child´s last post…Today is the day

  18. This is a great post! I really try to place filters in my life.
    I too cancel any catalogs that come my way. I’d rather support local businesses. Another filter for me is entertainment: movies, music, tv. The bad stuff stays in my brain/psyche too long.

    Very cool to see other “filters” in the comments.
    anne´s last post…Weekend Update – Fall is Fun part II

  19. What a great post, and so well-needed right now with The Holidays approaching. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to print it out and tape it over my desk. Love it.

  20. Great post Rachel! I kind of learned this concept when I did Weight Watchers – keep the temptations out of your house and you won’t have such a hard time resisting them. So true in life, too – why make it harder on yourself than it has to be? In law school we called it “precommitment” – i.e., the whole Constitution is a precommitment to principles we want to live by, because we know that in the moment it will be much harder for us to live by them, but then we will already have committed ourselves to them and will be bound by them. I often try to “precommit” to things, e.g., lay out my workout clothes the night before so I’ve already committed myself to the exercise I want to do in the morning when my will is weaker. It can be incredibly empowering to commit this way, you feel in control of yourself and your actions and your home. We decided when our oldest son was a baby that there was no TV for anyone under three. Period. And that is the rule and he’s known it all his life, and so even now when he is allowed limited amounts, he knows the TV is off when his younger brother is around. And our house is free of “background” tv or arguments over tv and it is a much more peaceful, happy place as a result.

    • Erin (Australia) says:

      I’m glad to hear I’m not the only Mum who is really strict with TV watching for little ones. We have actually banished our TV out of the house altogether, but before that, our toddler never watched any, and our house is a much calmer, more peacefl and creative place because of it. Thank you for sharing your experience & thoughts! x

  21. Thanks for this post! I love the idea of a conscious decision to avoid certain things in our homes. For me, I have had a lot of trouble falling asleep. They tell you not to be on the computer or watch television before bed because your eyes will adjust to the brightness and keep you awake. I have started turning off my TV and computer at a certain time. I also plug my cell phone in across the room. Then I curl up in bed with my Bible, journal, and a cup of chamomile tea. Much more relaxing than anything else I could be doing!
    Rachel´s last post…I Have a Voice- The Beauty of Voting

  22. all. the. time.
    renee @ FIMBY´s last post…Wonderful motivation to keep

    • Opps. thought your prompt asked IF we filter, not what. Um… lots and lots of things. Since I only go to the mall once a year or so (Damien does most all our shopping on-line) and only go the grocery store once a month (order food through a buying club, buy at the local produce stand, farm, and health food store) I rarely see things I “need” to buy. In fact, I’m at a loss to come up with something I need. New underwear?

      I filter news, I seriously filter the food that comes in the house. It’s the only way I can ensure I don’t cave around 8pm at night. That and having kids old enough to keep me accountable (smile). I filter noise, I filter obligations. I filter lots of stuff.

      • I filter noise too. It bothers me so much to go visit a home when the TV is turned up really loud.

        • Yes, we have a hard time in homes where the TV is on. We do not turn the TV on in the daytime ever. Adults watch a little at night, and about once a month or less we all watch a family movie on a projector or on the computer screen. The TV is in a cabinet that is ignored by the children. :) So they don’t ask.

  23. I was just explaining NEED vs WANT to my 3yo. Mama I need a trampoline. No you want an trampoline. You need food, clothing, a safe and loving place to live and that’s my job to provide those things. You will always get what you need, you won’t always get what you want. Of course mama also has to remind herself of the NEED vs. WANT in our lives.

    • I so envy that little girl! I never learned the difference between those two things and I spent my childhood bouncing between knowing without a doubt that I was going to DIE unless my parents bought me ______(insert random item) and making them feel horrible for saying no and denying my needs.

  24. My hubby can not LIVE without cookies, so I buy the flavors that I don’t really care for so they aren’t that tempting (like shortbread or something sans chocolate). Otherwise, I’ll devour them in two days.
    Leann´s last post…Half-Birthday Boy

    • My husband does that to protect his chips. He buys chips in the flavors I don’t like so I won’t eat them.

  25. Excellent perspective. And how much easier to make one choice (don’t buy whatever) than have to willpower the choice over and over – I should remember that :)

  26. True wisdom!! Yes, eliminating catalogs, magazines, and most television helps a great deal with my contentment quotient!

    I also read an amazing book that helped me so much with this principle several years ago. It is called Boundaries. ( It is truly life-changing! Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

    We have to imagine that each of our personal resources (time, money, energy, etc.) have a limited quantity. So when we say, “yes” to any expenditure of those resources, we are also saying “no” to something else that amount of that resource could have been used for. For example: If I commit to give a portion of my time doing some “good thing” for our church, I am taking that amount of time away from time I can spend with my family. There are times when that is what is best. But when I see clearly the choice I am making, I am more careful about those choices. Is what I am committing to truly the very best expenditure of that resource at that time?

    That’s a question worth taking my time to answer.
    I Live in an Antbed´s last post…Class Clown

  27. Oh, I have to keep all candy out of my house. Cheese also – my husband eats it in the middle of the night. Kind of a problem for me.

    Currently I’m obsessing about chocolate. I’d really, really like some. But I refuse to buy it. Did I mention I ate a bag of peanut butter cups last week? The whole bag. By myself. I did not, however, buy those mellowcream pumpkins this year. Thank goodness! That would have been a tooth disaster.

    The aisles of toys in Target! Oh, yes. I wish I didn’t shop there all the time, because my son SCREAMS every time I don’t take him to see Thomas, trucks, cars, etc. It’s making life seriously difficult right now. I wish I didn’t have to take him at all…
    sarah´s last post…More Impossible Daisies

  28. You are brillant. Did you know that? I am about to cancel my newspaper subscription. All those coupons and sales flyers sit around and make me feel guilty. I don’t have time for processing coupons. When I do look, I want things. The piles make me feel bad about myself. Shopping is a hassle with coupons and a 2 year old. Now if I could bring myself to delete the emails that send me shopping online, I could really make some changes. Baby steps!
    Lauri V.´s last post…Got java

  29. ***If we want to live in a peaceful home, we have to use some filters.***

    What a GREAT line. Wonderful message through the entire post and excellent, specific suggestions. Well done.

    • i love that, my home of late is peaceful, and i could’nt ask for a more relaxing situation. it used to be that i would come home and turn on the television, and fall alseep. so i started decided to not turn it on anymore, till the weekend, and it’s funny , i don’t even turn it on then. i have a stash of books that i love to read , and i am so calm, and relaxed . i love filters, it’s great.

  30. Christine says:

    My latest filter is to put catalogues directly into the recycling bin. I’ve tried canceling them, but it is kind of impossible when they come from places you actually shop. They just come back again. I can always look on-line if I actually need something. But if I don’t need something, I don’t browse, even through the catalogues. They give me a distorted image of how my house should look and what my kids should own. I don’t need that.

  31. GREAT, simple insight!

    At work I canNOT say no to the candy drawer. Actually, no one can, so we decided to stop ordering it every week!

    And I so agree with the catalogues…yesterday I was drooling over the Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma holiday ones, wishing I had 8 dished that 1)matched and 2) weren’t chipped or cracked. But we do have plates to eat on, and as Luci Swindoll said, “Don’t wait until your china matches to invite company over!”
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Thankful on Paper- Week One

  32. A filter I cleaned up is my Google Reader. I had almost 100 blogs in it , mostly home decorating blogs that just made me covet decor stuff that will never come through my front door. The STUFF itself wasn’t cluttering my house, but it was certainly cluttering up my head and my time. So I canceled the whole list. There are only 10 blogs left in my Reader – crafting, cooking, homeschooling and this one. I cleared out everything except what I actually considered useful.

    I thought many times about canceling my Facebook account, but every time I did, another cousin would pop up who I literally hadn’t spoken to since we were teenagers (we’re in our late 30s). My solution has been to block EVERYONE in my homepage news feed (that little X on the right) except people I’m actually related to and about 10 close friends. So I didn’t unfriend anyone or cancel my account, but I don’t have to wade through hundreds of status reports every time I log on. I have 5 or 10 things to see from people I actually care about, and I’m done.

    • I’ve had to do that too. I only follow a short list on a regular basis, mostly for time, but also to clear out the blogs that were all about buying stuff and weren’t helping me.

  33. Excellent. Absolutely excellent. facebook…thanks for the comment that mentioned the website that times my use and shuts it off. I’m gonna try it. Thanks, Melissa!

  34. THANK YOU!! Very well said. Just the boost I needed today!

  35. leigh ann says:

    WOW! This really resonates with me today. I never comment because I subscribe through email and it makes me lazy, but this is just what I needed to read today. I had a small heart attack yesterday because a “solutions” catalog came in the mail yesterday and my 8 year old daughter asked to look at it because there were toys in it. It usually has storage solutions and home organizational ideas for kitchens, etc, so I didn’t think anything of it. Before I put it in the recycling bin I leafed through it and there were “female toys” in there!!! AARRGGHH! She probably didn’t even notice or care what they were but still….I called right away and canceled it from ever coming to my house again!! I’m still freaked out!! I also decided to cancel all blog reading that made me feel like I didn’t have anything stylish in my home or stlish to wear (not the blogs fault) and I have been much happier…oh, i love your blog nad when Doug posts because it’s refreshing to get a man’s perspective other than my husband’s!

  36. leigh ann says:

    Yikes…I need to proof read before I comment!!!

  37. Great post! How many times around this time of year do you hear people complaining about Christmas, yet when you say ‘you could just not do Christmas’ or ‘you don’t have to buy in to all of that’ you get in reply ‘oh, but you can’t avoid it, you know …’ I just want to explode ‘but YOU CAN!’ Same as parents complaining that they have to buy their kids an xbox/wii/tacky toy/whatever, because they say they don’t want to but ‘you know, everyone else is, kid is asking, I just have to …’

    I used to be a news junkie. Then I stopped watching TV. Then I stopped listening to the radio every morning. And then I stopped obsessively reading the newspapers online. I am more selective now and you know what? I am happy. I don’t wind myself up ranting about how rubbish modern ‘media’ is and how they are reporting on non-issues. Because really, if I was listening/watching it, wasn’t I just supporting it? Now I get my news from selected sources. So I don’t know who the latest soap-star going in to re-hab is, or who the latest politician to fall from grace is going to be. But in the long run that doesn’t really count for much, does it?
    Natalia´s last post…My new favourite word

    • Where do you get your news from? I’d love a website where I could get info on important issues without all the sensationalism. I usually check BBC world. Is there anything better? Would love to hear.

  38. Thank you for this- I needed to read it today!

    Some of the filters I implement are participating in activities because I wish to, not because someone else asks me to- church activities, home activities, community activities. This is not about ‘things’ but more about how I wish to spend my time. Now if only I could filter IN better self-discipline and time management, I’d be golden!

    • I’m really selective about which church activities to be involved in. I can only do two, max, so I choose not to do a lot of other ones that are nice.

  39. Rachel P. says:

    Filters are so important for your health in so many ways. In our home we limit ice cream to an occasional pint we actually have to get up and go get. No purchasing to keep until we want it otherwise we would have ice cream every night. My husband is a soda addict so that’s another one we keep out, as well as convenience foods. One episode of polishing off a bulk foods sized container of cheesy crackers in three days taught me that lesson. We also have a noise limit. We live in an extremely noisy neighborhood and we try to make home a haven of escape from that stress.

  40. Loved this post…. so true about the “feed the need” with browsing and catalogues… I trust you have a lovely haven of peace through the Christmas period :)
    angelvalerie´s last post…the comfort of old friends…

  41. Great post! I’ve never thought of the things I do as filters before but I guess that’s a good way to describe them.
    We both have tracfones so we are not beholden to a payment every month for minutes we don’t use. And it also means we don’t walk around texting or taking pictures with our phone. That’s what camera’s are for! I also don’t talk on the phone while I am in a store, a restaurant or most certainly not when I am with other people! It’s for emergencies or when I need to make long distance calls.
    We don’t have cable or satellite. This was out of our control but has turned out to be a great money saver and sanity/time saver. So my little ones don’t watch TV all day and don’t see the ad’s and hence, won’t be asking for what they didn’t see! And it gives my husband and I more time to be together as a family without those distractions.
    I don’t read the paper. Instead any news I hear is from our local Christian radio station and that’s all I need to know about. I figure that if it’s important enough, I’ll hear about it eventually!
    On my filter to-do list is dumping the catalogs as they come in this season, setting a time limit of FB after the kids are in bed (for myself!) and not buying foods that I don’t want to wear on my, uh, less favorable parts anymore. I am grateful for what I have but these things can really play games with your mind if you allow them in. There are a lot of other really good ideas in the comments and I really appreciate reading them! Keep up the good work everyone!

  42. Catherine says:

    “It doesn’t occur to me to buy something unless I see it in the catalog first. Where your eyes gaze, your heart follows.

    If we want to live in a peaceful home, we have to use some filters.”

    Here is where my chaos is at the moment. We have just had an insurance claim and I see SIMPLIFYING and my husband sees NEW STUFF. We are in a headlock, how can my filter and his “seeing it” coexist in a harmonious home?

    Terrific food for thought, thanks

    • This is a great idea for a compromise. Both of you can make a list. Yours is to convince him of how peaceful and easy to maintain it will be, and his is a list of what he wants. When you sit down together, maybe you’ll both see something worthy in each list. So you can have the simplifying, and he can have one or so of the nice things that will add to your life.

  43. I love to bake, but my goodness, if there is a pan of brownies sitting around in our house, they will be inhaled by me and my husband, and I’m not normally the one with the sweet tooth, so baking sweets is something I filter most of the time. Having said that, though, there aren’t a lot of other things I filter, though one of them I think I need to filter more is online time.
    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…To the woman in front of me at Costco

  44. I love personal filters! It’s kind of like the freedom we experience when we live under God’s law–it sound like it will be restrictive but it is actually very freeing.

    One such filter we have in our home is we stopped getting the local paper and we don’t watch the news. Living near our nations capital the news is rarely uplifting.
    Tracey´s last post…Christmas Starts Early This Year!

  45. “It means I can have compassion for a hurting world without letting it all into my home.”

    I think this is a really hard sentence for most Christians to say out loud, but it’s a sentence we should be saying more.

    This post is excellent. Thank you for sharing it with us! I’m posting the link on my personal Facebook page so my friends can read it, too.
    Jessica @ This Blessed Life´s last post…Ballard Knockoff- Mini Potted Boxwood Tree

    • That was a hard sentence to write because I was concerned about being misunderstood.

      I’m not trying to ignore the pain and suffering other people go through while I sit at home with my nice little life, but sometimes Doug and I will be talking about something sad and I reach the point where I just can’t think about it anymore.

      I want to welcome people into my home, and keep out the harmful junk, so people will feel refreshed when they are at my home..

    • vermontmommy says:

      I agree with that statement as well. The news and certain shows I have had to stop watching. I am very well aware of the ways of the world. I just don’t need them taking over my life and upsetting me. I try to do what I can in my life to make the world better. The news is entertainment these days. I find I become anxious and dwell on problems. I know my limits of what I can handle and my life has become better once I know what to say, “No” to. There are not many things we have control over but saying, “no” to the news or upsetting shows is an easy one for me.

  46. Denise C. says:

    Filters- YES!!! First, I too have a real weak spot for m & m’s. REAL WEAK. My daughter was the yellow peanut M for Halloween…hmmmm I wonder where she gets her love for them?! I too had to stop buying them. I’ve lost 40 pounds this year, doing a variety of things, limiting junk food in my house was another one. If we eat chips, they are Kettle Cooked. Cheetos, the baked kind only. I also got really sick of getting Pottery Barn’s catalog in the mail (not addressed to me, but the previous owners of my home). I have 2 kids (4 & 2). My house will never, ever be in tip top shape like their pages show. So no more PB catalog. Love the m & m picture. :)

  47. I really appreciated this post and the insightful comments that have followed. They articulated very well some unformed ideas in my head. I, too, have consciously filtered out things like television in our home, fast food and going shopping around the holidays, but I still have some (seemingly) hard decisions to make (facebook being the most glaring one). Creating filters before various influences enter our lives stops us from having to make decisions over and over, especially in moments where we are vulnerable.

    It always surprises me how I can get sucked into things I don’t even really enjoy simply because I failed to make a mindful, deliberate choice about it. That’s how I would end up wandering around a mall in December, feeling grumpy, overwhelmed and isolated. Choosing to not “Christmas shop” at all was such a simple way to save myself a lot of grief. Now, on to other choices …

  48. I love this post! We just bought a house and are trying to be very careful with finances during this big transition so for a few months now, I just throw out catalogs as soon as we get them so we won’t be tempted.

    I appreciate the perceptive point that one choice at the grocery store will save you those dozens of choices later…this is an important insight for all of us who struggle with self-control in regard to food!

  49. vermontmommy says:

    What a great post. I too cancel catalogs when I get them. This year I finally figured out to NOT let me kids thumb through any catalogs. It occurred to me that they did not know these items existed but once they did they needed it. My oldest is almost 11 and I am just now doing this.

    I have been in the process this week of unsubscribing to blogs and emails. I find I go to them and see things I “need.” That is so silly. I have two blogs I subscribe to now, yours and soulemama.

    I also won’t by the ice cream or the chips because I will eat them. I find that I eat the entire bag or pint and don’t eat a sensible lunch.

    I make my holiday list and am sticking to it buying everything that I can online. I find I save money and time and don’t impulse buy as much as I would in the store. Plus, my gifts are well thought out.

    I also let my Real Simple magazine expire. After reading your blog a while back I realized I was reading the magazine and thinking I needed XY and Z to make my life easier. Goodness!

    Great post!!!

    • I am so honored that you would keep reading Small Notebook!

      • vermontmommy says:

        Oh, Rachel, I don’t often reply but mostly it is because we are on the same page that I just feel like I would be repeating you. :) I like that your blog is simple, concise and short. I find it is parallel to my life at the moment. What you write about I am or am trying to do. You say it so well that if I was having a hard time putting it all together you do it for me. :)

        I like that you are not selling anything on here (although Kettle Chips should owe you a cut-lol). I know you mention here and there items but I don’t feel like I need to research everything you mention and feel like I need it.

        I enjoy craft projects and home improvements but often I read a site and feel compelled to do the same in my home. That is wonderful but it is also overwhelming. I have a great house and I really don’t need to be adding any more to do projects outside of basic upkeep. I like that I don’t leave your blog thinking about what I am not doing. You make me feel good.

        We live in North Texas too and this is a very different place than where I grew up. While I am so ever grateful to offer my children things I did not have (or even know existed). I am also very concerned that they will grow up and expect too much. I think for a time my hubby and I were so excited to share what we did not have that we gave our kids too much. Now we are trying to cut back. While they have not even noticed the cutting back friends have. I do worry that where we live could influence them in a negative way. Funny how that works. Careful what you wish for.

        We live such a wonderful life and we need to be grateful for all that we have and not focus on what we don’t have. I say that but it is hard. I just had a friend die on Friday. 40, two young children, died just like that… Let me tell you it has shaken me up. It puts life in perspective.

  50. I am so glad to read all the facebook comments. I never set up an account because there was a lot of pressure at work to friend your coworkers and I didn’t want to deal with that. Everyday I hear another Facebook horror story (someone losing a job because of a post, someone who didn’t know they had been dumped until their significant other changed their status, etc.) However,the rest of my family and most friends are on so I have considered joining. But I think mostly it would be a collasal waste of time for me.

    As for my filters, I do like to know what is going on in the world, but I limit myself to the first 15-20 minutes of the local news so I get the highlights. I will take the time to further research and explore issues important to me when they arise.

    From the book _The End of Overeating_, I learned to say I don’t eat cake (or pie or cookies or whatever) and that keeps me away from the temptations at the office. If you have a clear cut rule like that then you don’t have to spend five minutes arguing with yourself over whether you should indulge.

  51. Erin (Australia) says:

    It’s reassuring, from the amount of positive feedback and comments in agreeance, that others are on the same wavelength when it comes to restricting what one goes in, so that what comes out will be more purposeful, positive, beautiful, whole etc.
    Garbage in = garbage out.
    I am currently reading through Proverbs, and this article has hit the spot. Thank you! x

  52. Love this post! I’ve decided that there are many things I’d like to filter for my kids -pop, junkfood, time on computer, etc. But I know that I have to first filter them for myself. This post inspired me to take the first step….
    Shannon´s last post…Free Photo Canvas-Just Pay Shipping

  53. Jaclyn Reynolds says:

    Wonderful post and a great reminder that we are still the authors of our life.

    I’ve thought of canceling my facebook account or at least letting go of everyone from high school and my hometown.

    I have a great support group for Aspergers on facebook so for connecting, it has been amazing. But that connection has been educational and more quality friendships than just catching up with people I once knew but have nothing in common with anymore.

  54. I think this is one of my favourite posts here! It’s so easy to make things easier on ourselves, and the opposite is also true. Wonderful advice.

  55. Have any of you read psychology professor Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice? He writes that having so much to choose from in life is making Americans unhappier – they are overwhelmed and paralyzed by all the options and unable to make decisions. Bravo Rachel for suggesting the perfect solution to this problem: personal filters!
    Laura´s last post…Sad news

  56. The idea of filters is a wonderfully new take on a concept and practice I have always thought of as “limiting myself”, which is a bit too negative and reactive for who I want to be. I like the positive proactive nature of filters and will think about it this way now. Thank you!

  57. Yes, I agree! And it really helps to limit power struggles with the kids, too, if things we don’t want them to have just aren’t in front of them. I don’t take my kids to stores often (I limit errands myself too–don’t want to buy too much stuff, and if I go into a store I will see something and think I need it!), don’t keep food in the house I don’t want them to have, and we don’t have a tv. I also get very anxious when presented with all the bad things happening in the world, so I have a heavy filter for news.
    Kelly´s last post…A Bedtime Meditation

  58. Love, love, love this! Thank you for this timely and perfect reminder. I linked up to this article on my blog today.
    Courtney´s last post…My Article- and Another

  59. Thanks for such a great post! This fall, I totally synchronized my shopping list so that Hubs does the grocery/supply shopping once a month. There is a smaller grocery store nearby should I run out of anything, but being pregnant and having two tots made getting in and out of the store too much work. Plus, my three-year-old must stop in the toy section where he creates a huge birthday wish list.

    A few months ago I canceled tons of catalogs. If I need something, I can find it online.

    As a Mom, we are a filter for what goes comes inside our home. Such a great post! You’ve got me thinking.
    on the eastern journey´s last post…Happy Halloween 2010

  60. I have not had cable or phone since the end of September due to thinking I was going to be moving at that point, well due to a health emergency with one of the grandkids it still hasn’t happened. The result is I really have not missed either very much, the phone once in a while, I’ll call you, ooops no phone I use email or just use my friendly neighbors. TV was much less of a problem in as much as I never listen to the news, way to depressing, the only shows I used to watch were mostly reruns of CSI, House etc. and guess what for the cost of one month of cable I can buy the whole season from Amazon. Having submitted my “new address” to magazines and lots of other interested people, I have not had mags. either, my daughter is the happy recipient that is until the subscription runs out. End result a very peaceful life, I’m not sure this is my forever life, but at the moment it is working for me and I can’t ask for much more. Oh by the way I have decided to give gifts from the World Vision catalogue this Christmas and have already mentioned it to the grandkids, it didn’t go down very well, lots of work to do there.

  61. Such an “easy” answer to a complicated problem. Thanks for the reminder – I am always trying to make my home a haven.

  62. I live alone, and I find that I just cannot allow snacks in the apartment. If they are here, I eat’em.

  63. I filter (and need to get better at this) foul music. As soon as I hear a filthy word or euphemism, or something that makes God sad on any given radio station, I know it’s time to switch to another channel.
    Lord, help me with this! Ultimately, having discipline in life is about giving glory back to you.
    Amen and amen.
    Christine´s last post…Tennessee bliss

  64. Like others, I never really thought what I was doing was making a personal filter on purpose… but that is exactly what it is.
    We don’t buy candy, processed snacks, sodas, and other processed box dinners for our house. They’re really not that great, but they’re just too easy to pass up. So if I just don’t buy them, they’re not an option. I personally will not watch ANY CSI, Law & Order, Dateline Mystery etc. Too many nights having a full blown out nightmare (nightmares aren’t just for kids!), and as a result being dead tired b/c I wasn’t resting well at night. And limiting our time in front of the TV.
    Things we need to work on: stop watching TV that doesn’t support our own beliefs and morals, planning ahead better and cutting out fast food on trips, and saying NO to “Tupperware parties” just because it’s an event that my friend is throwing

    All of these things became so much more important to me after I had a child.

    Great post!

  65. Finally. This is a great post. Help STOP the madness that seeps into our homes and our lives by adopting personal filters. I’ve been doing this bit by bit and am finding the quality of my life increasing exponentially. If you don’t want to die by poisoning, stop eating the poison.

  66. Such common sense. That’s why I read your site. I’m not going to get some hyped up method to add more and more to life to ensure we are getting the most out of it. We need filters to keep our lives simple so we can make the most of the most important parts of life. If we are stressed by the TV, junk food, the internet….whatever, we can make the decision to just say “no” or stay away from those things. Life is much more than stuff. Thanks for a great post.

  67. Thank you for the post! I definitely needed to hear this! I’ve been sharing it like crazy!
    Juleen Kenney´s last post…PayBoxme

  68. In our home, my husband and I are intentional about not spending time alone with the opposite sex. It means that I don’t ride in a car alone with a male (who isn’t family) and he doesn’t either. We don’t struggle with this at all, but we want to be very careful to protect our marriage… always… so we put up filters.
    Great post, thank you!

  69. Yet again, a blog post I wish I had written! You have a great way of expressing some excellent (and wise) ideas. Thank you. I occasionally link your posts to my fb page- hope you don’t mind? We can all benefit from your kind of commonsense wisdom :)

  70. What a fabulously inspiring and refreshing blog you have! I am in the middle of reading Simple Blogging (my very first foray into e-books) and decided to check out your blog. I’m subscribing straight-away! And I can’t wait to dig through your old posts. What great mind freedom material!

    I love the idea of filters…and also the suggestion to make your policies sound more professional. Such hopeful and empowering ideas. I’ll have to mentally look through the things I want to accomplish or get out of my life and see what filters apply.

  71. Rachel, I just love you. Every time I visit here, I am refreshed and inspired. Thank you for speaking truth and being a beacon of reason in a frenzy of flakiness (which I contribute to more often than not!).
    Minnesotamom´s last post…Markus- 9 months

  72. I do not shop in supermarkets!! too much junk.. too many messy ads to read and too expensive! I shop at a small family market for the best produce in town at the best prices. all local when possible. I usually go thru costco once a week and only buy my regular basics..and fill in at trader joes. the ONLY items I will get at the supermarket are : Best Foods mayo if on sale and I am out and fresh turkey breast half as the others do not have this.. or Brownie mix if on sale for $1 or less. I also do NOT bake..UNLESS I need to take “dessert” and a fruit plate won’t do. They I do something very creative with the sale box of brownie/cake mix. I do nt buy flour, pasta, juice or salad dressing. stopped that long ago. I love where I DO shop so it is not a chore.

  73. I’ve just discovered your blog and have to say “Thank you!” Both this article and the one on purposeful (or time-filling) spending are spot on. These are the only ones I’ve read so far, but I so appreciate your style of writing and your wisdom. Thank you for sharing!

  74. This is the exact right post, in the exact right words for the next couple of months! Thanks for your thoughts!
    Susan being Snippy´s last post…Posting from Winnipeg

  75. Great post, and great comments. I’ve been filtering a LOT of stuff out, and I’m working on more. Cutting down on a lot of time-sucking internet stuff; cable is getting cut out in about 2-3 weeks (not that I watched THAT much TV, but sometimes I got sucked in when I was doing other things…).

    Also have cut back in recent years in regards to Christmas. I’m even going to cut back a few more Christmas things this year, and/or spread some things out to make them more manageable.

  76. EXCELLENT post and such a great reminder this time of year.

    I feel about Oreos the way you do about M&Ms. I bought some for a Thanksgiving craft (they were on sale…bad idea to buy them so early) and they’re almost gone. Solution: stop buying the dumb things!!!

    • Jessica J. says:

      Yep, Oreos are (*were*) my weakness as well…no more! I’ve been oreo-free for about 6 months…you can do it!

  77. Mika (Poland) says:

    Rachel, it’s absolutely great post, and what a perfect timing!!! I have been thinking about these things for a week! Nowadays I spend most of my time at home, because of the health problems and , of course, computer , tv and newspapers take most of my time. I started thinking how to change it, because I simply have no time for reading books, what I have always loved. Your post and all the comments are so useful for me! For sure I will use, luckily I don’t have a Facebook account.
    As for Christmas, I would like to share with one idea. Last year all my family met at my house. Because they really helped me a lot with my troubles, I wanted to thank them somehow. So I decided to write a letter to each person, telling them, how important they are for me, how much I am grateful for their help and how much I love them. They said it was absolutely the best Christmas gift they had ever got and everybody was really moved. It’s always easier to write than speak, especially when you have something important to say…
    Thank you once again.

  78. I like this! Especially that last line, where our eyes gaze our heart follows.

  79. I never realized that I’ve set out filters for our home until reading this article–thank you! I truly agree with you on making our home a safe haven. it should really be a place of comfort and a place where everyone in the family looks forward to coming home to.

    some filters i have in placed at home:
    no softdrinks and articifial juices – i’ve never liked them so it is very rare that we buy them. i sometimes let the husband buy a bottle of coke (maybe once or twice a year) but that’s it, to let him have a taste once in a while coz he still likes them.

    shopping catalogues – i throw them right away once I have a very quick scan to avoid temptations

    emails about sales online – i delete them even if I haven’t even read them.

    clutter – i de-clutter at least once every two weeks because i don’t like things piling up–especially the useless stuff.

    have a great week!
    ibyang :)
    ibyang´s last post…Three Cafes in Three Days

  80. We use filters in the very literal sense for our TV and Computer.
    For our TV we filter out any programmes above PG.
    For our computer we select the sites our children go to. (Our children aged 5,8 and 9 use the computer sometimes)

    We are just starting to understand that the filters may not be so good on the school computers, because of the ads that seem to be allowed on the sites the children visit. We’ll be following up on that, because I think there are things that children just don’t need to be seeing at such a young age.

    Ok, stepping off my soap box now ;)
    Meeks @ Juggling Motherhood´s last post…5 Great Finds- Gross Treats- Technology Tip- Pear Pillow &amp Apron Tutorial- Christmas Organisers

  81. This is a great post. We have been using personal filters for many years. It took us till our oldest son was about 11 before we even got cable tv, and that was the very basic (cheap) kind. We waited a long time to get our boys a video game system (theya re now 14 and 11). We never had soda/cookies/junk food in the house because we know it’s not good for us. We filter out the news because we just aren’t interested in watching it and I HATE reality TV so we don’t watch that either. We hardly ever go to fast food places although we will order pizza about three times a month. I never took my kids food shopping with me so they never bugged me for stuff. I rarely go to Target or stores like that; I just don’t have the time and I know I will overspend.

    I don’t know how we’ll make out during the holidays this year; I want to give more meaningful gifts and filter out the junk but it’s hard to get family to buy into that.

    As for FB, I started an account but only to keep up to date with a friend’s illness (who has since recovered). I rarely post anything, and I have no desire to reunite with old grade school or high school friends as I’m pretty sure I’d have nothing in common with them. Generally, I think FB and twitter, etc., are pretty stupid. But that’s just me. I do know it’s a time sucker for many people though.

    Lastly, I need to go through my blog reader and get rid of many of the blogs I read. I’m spending far too much time one them. I guess I’m just as bad as those addicted to FB.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know I do love your blog and this post hit the spot.

  82. I wondered what you meant by filters when I read the heading however I realise that I do have filters in place, quite a few in fact.

    We haven’t bought any newspapers for years, avoid TV and radio news, very rarely watch current affairs programs, avoid buying biscuits (cookies) or cheesecake (my m+ms), avoid overly commercialised radio programs, I don’t get any catalogues and don’t have any store cards.

    I realised last week that we are not spending as much of our weekly budget for the last while because we are avoiding certain shops, also because we have started to bake bread we are going to the grocery shop less often, thus avoiding temptation to buy things that we want as opposed to what we need.

    We also don’t answer the phone at mealtimes or late at night and I use facebook less often, perhaps twice a week.

    There are some great ideas here, it’s fun to read through the comments :)
    scribhneoir´s last post…Great New Book – Simple Blogging

  83. Great post. I linked back (see link below). :)

    I have been working on this but never heard the term “personal filter” before. I am definitely guilty of shopping on-line for entertainment. Even if I don’t click “buy” it’s still a colossal waste of time.
    MamaK´s last post…Read Me Linky-

  84. Having recently gone through a mental meltdown, we have insitituted quite a few filters in our lives. I don’t leave the house every day just to be ‘going’. We haven’t had TV in forever, I hardly watch the news, I don’t particulary like to shop, I only go to grocery store unattended (anxiety issues) If I need to go to walmart, hubby goes too. Haven’t been to the mall in months.
    Still need to work on where the money seems to be disappearing to…
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…What’s on your mind

  85. One thing I did want to mention is that friends (even nice Christian friends)are often a big source of kids becoming materialistic. We do not own a TV nor go to the toy aisle more than a time or two a month and our kids are fixated on what they don’t have because they see what their friends have. Cutting down on media is great- but our kids are their own people and sometimes their own sinful nature comes out whether we like it or not! :-)

  86. Great post.

  87. LOVE THIS POST!!! I love your sentences, “Before you want something, you see it. It doesn’t occur to me to buy something unless I see it in the catalog first. Where your eyes gaze, your heart follows.” Great stuff!!!

  88. I came here from the Frugal Hacks link. And I LOVED this post about personal filters. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. There are a select few friends and family that it helps me keep in tough with but all the old high school peers? very distant relatives? just wasted time for me. So I went through and “hid” all those that I do not actually care about keeping up with. Wee!! So freeing! Thanks for the inspiring words!


  89. Fabulous, well crafted post! My filters are fairly similar to many listed above. I have just basic ($12) cable and I rarely turn on the TV. Most of my visual entertainment is TV show DVDs from the library. I also filter by not watching news or horror / scary things. I get my daily news via NPR. I do not get many catalogs, and when I do I immediately bring them into work for the lunchroom. I try to avoid shopping for “entertainment.” Now I need to work on late night web surfing. Sleep would be SO much more healthful for me!
    Juice´s last post…Chloe Visits Fort McHenry

  90. I really liked this post. We moved recently and it gave me the opportunity to de-clutter not just our belongings but the things that can clutter our “heart, attitude, and well being”. I put some new filters in place and I am so clearly see the befits from it. I know too that it needs to be a regular routine –to look around and see what needs pruning– since those things we don’t want have a way of creeping back in. Thanks for the reminder. I am new here and finding your blog to be a breath of fresh air and very relevant to my life.

    • A bad idea to write when I am tired. Please excuse the typos! Of course I meant to say: I put some new filters in place and I can so clearly see the benefits from it.

      Off to bed!!
      MicheleQ´s last post…Color and Texture

  91. I totally agree with personal filters & have many in place, but I had to chuckle at all the folks who have eliminated FaceBook… because that’s how I found this post! I keep in touch with friends all over the world who are in 3rd world countries as “workers” and it is all through FaceBook, so when I have someone else posting who kind of gets under my skin (as in, complaining….) I just eliminate them. This was a great post & I intend to share it… on FaceBook. LOL!!!