Since Tsh is in London this week for Literary London, we’re sharing a favorite post from The Art of Simple archives. Read on for playlists that are still worth a listen!

When I recently mentioned our penchant for morning music, several of you asked what we listen to. The answer to this changes frequently for several reasons, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite playlists we listen to at home.

But first, some music talk.

I’m deeply affected by my environment, with everything from the natural lighting (or lack thereof), to the whitespace (or lack thereof), to the smells, to the sounds. This is probably because I’m an HSP, but if I can control even one or two things about my surroundings, my stress levels stay much lower.

So, music. The right songs can create the just-right ambience for whatever’s happening at home, and I sometimes take this to a ridiculous level. Not only do we play different playlists on different mornings depending on the day of the week, but I feel like music has seasons. I hear a musician, and I can tell you its time of year.

Fleet Foxes? They’re winter.
Josh Garrels? He’s for the fall.
Jack Johnson? Summer—that one’s easy.
Ingrid Michaelson is spring, as is Norah Jones, though they’re different styles.


This isn’t meant to be a blanket statement, and there are exceptions per song, of course (Lord Huron walks the fine line between summer and fall, for example). Some musicians are hard to pin seasonally, especially if they’re peppier or from my past and serve to create more a mood of nostalgia.

Nonetheless, there you go. Music has seasons, and music has times of day. The reason for this is simple: music is moody.

Here’s a sampling of what we listen to around our house these days.

1. A seasonal, annual playlist

Near the start of each season, I like to create a new playlist—it’s based on my gut, not some formula. If I like it, if it sounds like the season to me, then in it goes. I just made a fall playlist, below:

Here’s a few of my summer and spring playlists as well.

2. Morning music

Weekdays call for different moods in our house—the kids go to a school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and homeschool on Monday and Friday. Every day they need to be up and at ‘em, but especially on those three days in the middle, when we have to pull up to the schoolhouse by 8:00ish. Here’s Day 1:

We start the early morning off with classical, just to wake up the kiddos gently. A few minutes in, the playlist switches to the peppier sort that gets everyone to finish breakfast, brush their teeth, and out the door.

On each school day, we end with one of our current favorites—Andrew Peterson’s Be Kind to Yourself.

the rolling stones

(Also, here’s Day 2 and Day 3.)

For our school days at home, we keep it classical much longer, to grease the mental wheels (this school year, it’s been movie soundtracks). Unless it’s distracting, the music stays on for the length of schoolwork time.

(Day 1 for school at home is above—here’s Day 2.)

3. Dinner music

If we have company over for dinner, we like the music to set a mood for good conversation without being a major distraction. If it’s just us, it depends on how the day went and what’s on the menu.

Sometimes we cheese it up and play music that pairs with our food (it really does make the tacos seem more festive and, well, thought-out). Most of the time, though, we keep the music lighthearted yet calm, to make family dinnertime the safe place it needs to be.

steve martin and edie brickell

Soft, family-friendly background music, like the playlist above, tames our souls and helps rev our conversation.

4. Bedtime music

We announce the transition to bedtime by coming in from our post-dinner walk and playing yet another playlist. Obviously, we stick to the calmer stuff here:

5. Cooking, cleaning, and hanging out

Music is a great motivator for the household liturgies of laundry folding, veggie chopping, and toilet scrubbing—our kids associate cleaning with dance music, and the chores finish faster when the likes of Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, and OK Go pipe through the speakers.

ok go

Blah work is much more fun with peppy music:

(Treat the kids to a few OK Go videos after chores.)

And of course, anything goes when we’re just hanging out at home. Sometimes a kid who’s had a good attitude gets to pick what’s on tap (which means if you see me listening to Beastie Boys on Spotify, that means my youngest son won the prestigious prize).

Spotify is crazy handy (as are other music curations sites), but they usually don’t pay artists as much as they should (especially the up-and-coming or indie types). I like to use the service as a sampler—if I find myself consistently loving an artist, I’ll hop over to iTunes or Amazon and purchase an album. Don’t forget this step. It matters.


I love finding new music, so leave a comment with an artist, song, or playlist you can’t get enough of these days.

(From top to bottom: photos of Sandra McCracken, Josh Garrels, The Rolling Stones, Edie Brickell & Steve Martin, OK Go, and Andrew Bird)