No Spend Year, February Reflections

I have made it through another month of my no spend year. February was a bit more difficult than January. It will be tough to write this because a lot of my thoughts from this month are pretty vulnerable. This is turning out to be more insightful than I expected. I’m struggling as I see my true heart being revealed.

The most eye-opening thing I learned this month is becoming cognizant of the number of times I was affected by Instagramers or YouTubers direct links to items they had. I realized that I am persuaded to buy clothes more than other types of items. I guess this isn’t too surprising given my closet is the area that I struggle to keep decluttered. What was surprising was how unaware I was by the effect “influencers” had on my purchases. Which I guess is the exact reason they are called “influencers”! I noticed this month how many times I wanted things that I saw others had. In the past, I might have easily clicked on links without giving much thought to it. To this day, I’m sitting with some wants that I don’t really need.

The other thing that really struck me this month was how much I have been turning to other things to fill some hole I have where I used to shop. I feel like I have less self control in other areas – like the food I am eating, and the amount of time I spend watching YouTube or Netflix. While it has been wonderful to have some extra time, it’s interesting that I am gravitating towards participating in “indulgent” things rather than doing something more productive. It has made me realize that when we seek to eliminate some bad habit from our lives, we should be cautious that another bad habit doesn’t creep in. This coming month, I hope to be more intentional with my extra time.

I have been more okay than I expected not purchasing home decor. I am continuing to work on purging our home, and with these items I don’t want to bring more things into our home that I will just have to purge again. I wish I had that same feeling about clothes! Ha!The other positive thing that I saw come out of this month is my awareness going up. As I mentioned, I didn’t realize how much I was affected by “influencers.” Also, just an awareness of what is happening internally. I’m sure this is just the beginning, but I’m starting to evaluate why I am shopping and why I want things.

I’m hopeful that in the month of March I am able to evaluate what I spend my time on, and what I allow into my life. I also want to continue the process of examining why I like to shop. I’m hopeful that I will be able to make progress in these areas to become a better version of myself!

From Chaos to Order, Tips for Pantry Organization

Do you have a difficult time keeping your pantry organized? It’s challenging to keep a pantry neat, even for the most organized person. Items are always coming in and going out, which can make it difficult to have systems set in place that help keep it organized. Obviously everyone has different sizes of pantries, families, and budgets to support such a transformation. I have some tips that might help bring order to any chaotic pantry.

One of the easiest ways to keep things organized is to invest in some storage containers and bins. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You could use unused bins from around your home, or even use cardboard boxes to store items. Mason jars are an inexpensive way to store food, and makes your pantry look visually appealing. If you do have the budget for it, there are a variety of options and places to get storage bins and containers. I love Target or the Container Store, and I know Dollar Tree often has great storage solutions.

Bormioli Rocco Fido glass jars
Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars

By far, my favorite storage containers are the Bormioli Rocco Fido glass storage jars with airtight lids. I have used these jars for over 15 years to store my baking items, staple dry goods (like rice and pasta), and even some staple snack items (like nuts and dried fruits). I have continued to collect these jars over the years as our needs have expanded and changed. They are a bit of an investment up front, but I think it is so worth it! I also recently did a pantry makeover and bought some reasonably priced plastic containers to store all of our items that generally come in cardboard boxes, making the pantry look more uniform, and making it easy to find what we’re looking for.

Using bins to store like items is another way to keep things organized. This would be especially useful for items that are in one category but rotate so you’re not purchasing the exact same thing each week.

Use baskets like these to store like items
Riser used for canned goods

There are other great organization tools for the pantry. I like to use a riser for my canned goods – that way I can easily identify everything I have available. You could also use baskets or bins for canned goods, allowing you to pull out the basket to see what you have. In addition, there are can storage bins which allow the cans to “roll” out one at a time. I use this for my cans of sparkling water. You could also use it for cans of soup or vegetables if you keep a good stock of those on hand.

Plastic storage containers, and can organizers help keep things looking neat

I like to label everything. You certainly don’t need to do this, particularly with clear jars or bins in which you can see the contents. I personally just like the look of the jars and bins being labeled. I like to keep meals and snacks simple, so I tend to purchase the same things over and over. If there is some change, the labels are fairly easy to remove. If they are extra stubborn, I just use Goo Gone and it easily comes off. I have used a variety of different labels over the years. I have written with a Sharpie on a plain label or name tag label. I have printed out labels. Most recently, I am obsessed with my simplistic embossing label maker. I like the old school, mid-century look to it. You certainly could get a fancier label maker as well.

The best way I find to organize a pantry, particularly if it is really messy, is to remove everything from the pantry. You could take this opportunity to clean all the surfaces. It’s also a great time to evaluate what food has expired or is not being used. For the food that, for whatever reason you aren’t eating, you could take it to a food pantry or I like to ask friends if they would like anything as everyone’s tastes are different!

Once everything is cleaned out, you have a clean slate. Now you can categorize the items and decant anything that will go into storage containers. One thing to remember prior to going out and purchasing storage containers is to measure your space. You will wanted to make sure the containers fit on the shelf where you are planning to store them. The final step is just a game of jigsaw puzzle – trying to see where everything fits. Especially when my kids were younger, I liked to have their snack foods on their level, and have junk food items up on a higher shelf where they couldn’t reach. It’s funny, even though they are teenagers, the snacks are still on the lower level in my pantry and the junk food is still stored on the top shelf!

I hope this gave you some ideas or inspiration to get your pantry organized! Do you have any tips for keeping a pantry organized? Any questions I didn’t answer?

5 Excuses We Use to Hold Onto Things

Purging our homes of unneeded items can be a challenging task. Marie Kondo makes it look so easy to know what should stay and what should go, but the reality is it can be difficult to part with things we don’t find are useful or bring us joy. There are several excuses we use as to why we keep items. I will share with you a few and the truth about why it’s okay to let go.


One of the most common reasons we tend to keep things, in spite of not using it, is that we spent money on it. There are many areas in our homes where we keep things because we spent money on them – clothes, home decor, toys to name a few. We may even keep unused toiletries or cleaners that didn’t work out because we spent money on them. The truth is, holding onto these items that we are not using is not going to get our money back. It might even be wasting our money because if we gave the item away, it could get new life and be used again instead of sitting in the back of a closet or cabinet.


Another reason we keep things is because it was a gift. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. The truth is, when someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you which means you can do with it what you please. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or does not bring you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is a boundary issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on be given to someone else to be useful than to sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

Some people keep things because they might need it someday. This one is tricky, because certainly there are things we keep for the future – perhaps you just had a baby and you are keeping your pre-pregnancy weight clothes until you settle into your post baby weight. Maybe you are keeping clothes or toys to be passed onto younger siblings.The truth is, many times we hold onto things because we think we will use them in the future when these items will never get used again. Maybe there are those jeans you hold onto as incentive to lose weight, or a home decor piece that is really no longer your style but you might like it again. For these items the 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – works well. If you can replace the item for under $20 within 20 minutes of your home and you are considering parting with it, then it’s okay to let go.
Some people keep things because they might need it someday. This one is tricky, because certainly there are things we keep for the future – perhaps you just had a baby and you are keeping your pre-pregnancy weight clothes until you settle into your post baby weight. Maybe you are keeping clothes or toys to be passed onto younger siblings.The truth is, many times we hold onto things because we think we will use them in the future when these items will never get used again. Maybe there are those jeans you hold onto as incentive to lose weight, or a home decor piece that is really no longer your style but you might like it again. For these items the 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – works well. If you can replace the item for under $20 within 20 minutes of your home and you are considering parting with it, then it’s okay to let go.

Sentimental photo albums

Many times, we keep things because they are sentimental items. Obviously we don’t need to get rid of all sentimental items. It’s okay to hang onto items that have meaning and remind us of events or times that bring back positive thoughts. However, we need to evaluate how many things we hold onto. It’s good to give yourself limits on what you keep as far as sentimental items. Choose a box or two, and keep only what fits inside those boundaries. Some items, especially large ones can be kept digitally by photographing the item(s) prior to letting them go. Typically, the picture of the item will bring back the same memories as the item itself. Also, if you have sentimental items that cause negative feelings, I would recommend letting go of those items. There is no need to hold onto something that causes you pain.

Lastly, people often keep things because they have the space for it. I relate well to this one. I used to not purge things that were difficult to purge because I had the space for it, so why not just leave it. The truth is, physical clutter can cause mental clutter. If every time you open your cabinet and it is filled to the top, your brain has to process everything that is in there. With less stuff, it’s less the brain has to process. I am beginning to enjoy having empty cabinets! For me personally, I realize that one day (maybe sooner rather than later as number two of three children is headed off to college next fall), we will likely downsize and live in a smaller home. I like the idea of being able to slowly over time purge my items rather than being forced into it when we do choose to downsize. Even further down the road (or not since we never know!) when we leave this earth we will leave our things behind, and our family will have to make choices about what to do with those things. I don’t want my stuff to become a burden to my children or family members.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of reasons why people keep things. What are the reasons you keep things?

No Spend Year, January Reflections

So far, this no spend year has seemed fairly easy. Granted, we were skiing the first week of January. I have done “no spend January” before, and the month seemed to drag on! But this month flew by and I hardly noticed I was on a spending fast. I thought about how maybe it’s like long distance running, when your mind knows you’re about to run 12 miles, the first mile seems to fly by, but if you just run a mile it seems to drag on. Part of doing any fast is “mind over matter.” We’ll see how my worn down mind is doing by May!

The biggest take-away from month one is TIME. I seem to have so much more time now. I didn’t think I spent a lot of time shopping, but I find myself going out less in general. When I do need to go to Target for something, I’m quite focused. Where I used to grab a cart (and maybe a coffee!) and browse through the entire store, I now go in and get the items on my list and leave. The first couple of times I did that it felt very weird. I felt like I was fighting a magnetic pull to look. And the first time in Target, I did in fact browse a little. After that, I realized browsing would only make me want. With the extra time, I have been spending more focused time purging our home, and I’ve been reading a lot more!

The other thing I’ve noticed is how influenced I have been by social media ads and influencers. I saw an ad for a light athletic jacket that I wanted on my Instagram feed, which was very frustrating because I had been looking for a similar jacket for quite a while now to replace an athletic jacket I have had for a very long time. The previous Joy would have clicked on the link and purchased the jacket (embarrassingly, probably immediately), but since I knew I couldn’t purchase it I didn’t. Over the course of the month, I have thought about that jacket, and how my current jacket while old and outdated looking still does it’s job. I really don’t need a new athletic jacket. I wanted a new one. Also, there is a YouTuber I watch who frequently shares the products she has purchased and loves. She had bought this nail polish at Target that was high quality (doesn’t come off as easy) on sale. Guess where I headed the first time I went into Target? Yep, the nail polish isle. Technically I didn’t include beauty products in my no spend rules. I couldn’t find a sale color I liked, and ended up buying two colors that were not on sale. In hindsight I probably didn’t need either. Other times I’ve seen items on Instagram or Youtube and thought, I want that! There was a time when I would sometimes go out and purchase the item I saw someone else wearing/using/owning, but with the spending fast I had to deny myself. Often times, a few days later I think to myself: I really didn’t need that!

Lastly, I have found I get coffee and food out less than I had been. Apparently shopping is draining! I would often like to get a coffee at Starbucks while browsing around Target. (I’m starting to realize the genius of putting Starbucks inside of Targets! Great for Starbucks AND Target). Perhaps this last one had to do with my lack of time-management when shopping around. I didn’t realize I would be out so long and would get hungry or tired (afternoon coffee time!)
I’m looking forward to seeing all the ways my eyes are opened this year in this spending fast. I think it’s not surprising month one was easy, but I am confident my appetites will be tested in the months to come!

American Accumulation

One of the biggest obstacles in staying organized is the amount of items coming into our home. I’d like to think I am a relatively organized person, however I began to notice that really I had just become what I like to call an “organized pack rat.” Yes, I had boxes neatly labeled – but they were stacked high and I often did not open or look through any of those boxes.

A few years ago I discovered the idea of minimalism. Really, I have always been one to purge things. Once my youngest entered elementary school I began to find ways to purge things and organize the important things so they were on display and I could enjoy them daily. But, learning about this idea of owning less in order to live a more fulfilling life intrigued me. I began to read blog posts and watch YouTube videos from people who were pursuing minimalism and what that looked like for them. So, over the past three years I have been slowly decluttering my house.

Through some of the minimalist blogs and YouTube videos I began to learn about more important reasons to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, like the impact our consumerism has on the earth and on the people who make the products we purchase. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix, “The True Cost,” which was very thought-provoking. This documentary revealed some of the poor working conditions people in third world countries are experiencing in order for people in America and Europe to have cheap clothing. Not to mention how these factories are polluting the communities of these individuals, which is impacting their health. The fashion industry is number two in the pollution of the world, only second to the oil industry. Our planet has natural limits and cannot continue to sustain the impact consumerism has on it. It’s not just the clothing factories that are polluting the earth, but the clothing itself once it is discarded. According to the documentary, only 10% of clothing donated to charities are actually sold to a customer. The other 90% ends up in a landfill or shipped to a third world country to be sold there. Again, most of that ends up in polluting their communities. Many of the low-cost, fast fashion items are made at a price.

Back to accumulation… recently, after cleaning out my closet AGAIN I began to think about why I seemed to still have SO much stuff in spite of decluttering. It can be easy to bring home a new shirt here, and a piece of home decor there; but over time it adds up. My closet was an example of this. A couple of years ago I reorganized our closet, decluttered it and bought the number of matching hangers we needed for the remaining articles of clothing. I proclaimed I would do the “one-in-one-out rule,” but somehow that went by the wayside. My accumulation could not keep up with my decluttering! So, believe me, I know this is easy to do! And this was just my closet. There are so many areas of our homes that we are accumulating and not decluttering. What complicates things more is when you have other people living in your home. Spouses and children also bring things into the home.

This is embarrassing, but I have a feeling I’m not the only American who struggles with accumulation. THIS is a pile of things I recently took to the Goodwill. It was a pile I had been accumulating for the last three months until I could take it in, but this is still A LOT.

I decided that it’s best to not get rid of my husband’s and kids’ things without their permission, but I could make a significant impact on our home by decluttering my own things. This impact would be even more significant if I slowed the inflow of stuff. In 2019, I am choosing to do a “no spend” year, in hopes that by focusing on not accumulating our home will STAY decluttered. Once we declutter and slow the inflow, then organization has the impact we were hoping for. Organization systems set in place work best when everything has a home. It can be difficult to stay on top of incorporating new items if they come in faster than we can find homes for them. Of course there will be ever-evolving needs in our homes as our children grow and our hobbies change, but if we are intentional about the day-to-day things we allow into our home, it can have a lasting effect on the organization of our homes.

Minimalism and Staying Clutter Free

I really want to be a minimalist. I read books and blogs about minimalism, and it sounds so simple and clean. But as I stand in my closet and stare at my collection of booties, I know that I will never be a true minimalist. The principle behind minimalism is a good thing, but just like anything else, I’ve learned there’s balance and it’s okay to own more than three pairs of shoes. Now I am striving to only own what is useful or brings joy.

There are two keys to becoming more of a minimalist: 1)purge, 2)slow the inflow.Purging is fairly easy for me. I admit that there are times when I think about an item that I got rid of and thought, bummer I could have used that. But, the truth is, most of the time after it leaves my house, I have completely forgotten about it. One thing that I do in order to not feel as overwhelmed about purging is to pick a room each week and try to get rid of 10 items from that room. Sometimes I don’t reach the 10 items, but with the influx of stuff from my kids and free-bees, it can be pretty easy in some rooms. I take that opportunity to straighten things up and reorganize the area. I don’t do this every single week as some weeks are busier than others, but if you keep working your way around the house it will stay mostly organized and clutter-free!

Slow the inflow is the thing I struggle with. I like to shop. BUT, I have done different things to restrain my purchases. First, I don’t go shopping unless I need something specific. Next, I really try to stick to buying what I went in to purchase. That can be tough, especially at places like Target… we go in for face soap and toilet paper and come out with framed art work and that lamp you just couldn’t resist! I also have chosen to focus on quality vs. quantity, and finding things that will remain classics for several years. I love fashion, so I always have things in my wardrobe that may only last for a couple of seasons. Something I have done in the past which helps is to fast from purchasing clothes, shoes, and home decor for a set period of time (like one month). I have done a one month fast, two month, and three month! For 2019, the entire year I plan to do a spending fast from clothes, shoes, and home decor. Choosing to fast from consumerism allows for time to step back and really examine your priorities. I have realized during my past spending fasts that the inflow is what is truly keeping me from having only the things I love in my home. How about you? Does minimalism intrigue you? Or scare you?! Do you have tips on how to stay organized and clutter free in your home?