No Spend Year, November Reflections

Wow. It’s December and I only have one more month to go in my no spend year! It’s been such an interesting and informative challenge for me. I know moving forward into 2020 I will need a plan to be intentional with my spending habits. I wanted to share how things went in the month of November. I have mostly continued to glide along this month, as I did in October. I just have a couple things to share.

First, all year long I have noticed that my creativity has skyrocketed! I’m not totally sure if this is due to the no spend year and the extra time that afforded me or due to taking some scary steps, like working on my website and starting a YouTube channel. I have been learning so many new skills over the past several months. However, my creativity in regards to styling my home has caused me to purchase a couple of larger items (small decor like tchotchkes and wall art were included in this no spend year, but larger pieces like furniture were not). I ended up sprucing up one of our rooms – purchasing a coffee table (cheap + second hand at Salvation Army) and an area rug. Have you ever read that children’s book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”? The idea is that one thing seems to lead to another. I found that amazing vintage coffee table, but it looked off with our wood floors, hence the rug! In any case, I’m wondering if my spending habits have just shifted away from clothing and home decor to other things.

The next story I wanted to share is about a visit to one of those large last chance Goodwill stores. As a poor college student, my daughter loves shopping at this place. If you’re not familiar with it, you pay by the pound. Everything is stored in huge plastic rolling bins. It can be a sport to wade through all of it, but many times you can find gems. Whenever my daughter is home, we like to go together for fun. I mostly find it an interesting place to people watch, but I have found some unique and cool clothing pieces there in the past. On this occasion, we purchased 9 items, and the total came to $8.88! I wasn’t going to get anything, but I did find an Ann Taylor blouse and a pair of Levis shorts, both in great condition. I plan to sell the blouse in my Poshmark closet. I haven’t decided about the shorts because I do like them! AND they fit me! AND they were only $1! UGH… the justifying! So, if I keep the shorts, once again this month I technically failed. However, I still feel like I’ve learned so much this year and have grown from this experience.

Here are some of the things I am thinking about doing moving into the new year.

Buying things used – thrifting for clothing and home decor. Purchasing vintage home decor when I can.

➤I would like to support small businesses, rarely if ever purchasing clothes and home decor from places like Target. I want my clothing and items in my home to be more curated.

➤Speaking of Target, I would like to stop shopping for entertainment. I will go into Target with a list.

➤I want to be more intentional with my wardrobe. I hope to have some time within the next two weeks to assess my clothes again, and see if there is anything else I can get rid of.

I have actually enjoyed the freedom of not making decisions. I go shopping for other needed items for our family, and I don’t even have to think about making a decision on items I see and like. I’m learning to appreciate the item in the store without having to purchase it and take it home. I’m excited to read back through all my blog posts this year to compile all I’ve taken away from this year in my next No Spend Year Reflections post in January! 

My Definition of Minimalism

Minimalism has become a fairly popular trend over the last several years. The word typically evokes an image of white walls, sparse furniture, and house plants. Many people have written blog posts and articles regarding this topic of minimalism. Their response is based on their experience and preconceived ideas about what minimalism is, or the definition of a minimalist.  It saddens me that “minimalism” has become more of a recent movement that has changed the meaning of true minimalism. It’s not a one size fits all, as a lot of those who claim to be minimalist make it appear.

A friend recently posted on Facebook an interesting article about minimalism. The main idea was that people who are creative and artistic tend to be disorganized and messy, but that was a positive thing because it’s the messy environment which boosts their creativity. I recognize that everyone is different, but for me external “clutter,” “stuff,” “chaos,” whatever you want to call it stresses me out and distracts me. I know I’m not a minimalist by most standards, but I do strive to only live with what I truly need, use, and love. On the other hand, I would not classify myself as messy, but I do think I am a creative – and flourishing in my creative skills! 

The problem that I see, as a professional organizer, is that people don’t have logical, efficient systems in place to keep their things.

Another point that was made in this article was that messiness was an effective organizing tool. While this might be true for a very small amount of people, typically piles are not an efficient way to organize things. Searching through piles, and finding the correct pile where the item you are looking for is located can be time-consuming. The problem that I see, as a professional organizer, is that people don’t have logical, efficient systems in place to keep their things. I think if disorganized, messy people are honest, they would agree that a chaotic organizational system is not effective.

She also made the point that minimalism isn’t sustainable. I would argue the opposite – disorganization and mess isn’t sustainable – it has a toll on your mental health {{{I have another blog post here, detailing this information.}}} Once you are able to declutter enough to only have items you need, use, or love, it is VERY easy to maintain. You become intentional with what comes into your home. The other things that organically come into your home become easier to deal with since as a minimalist you have the space and mental bandwidth to assess all those things – kids artwork, free gifts with purchase, junk mail, and more! It’s also much easier to take care of your things – keeping them clean and organized.

The last point this article made was that messiness is “authentic.” I don’t totally disagree with this point. I have gone over to a good friend’s house on a moment’s notice and find it comforting to see the pile of laundry on her sofa or dirty dishes in the sink. But, guess what?? THIS CAN HAPPEN TO A MINIMALIST TOO! Most minimalists own clothes and dishes, both which need to be washed from time to time {{{GASP!}}} The difference might be that with less stuff, we have less to take care of, therefore there is less likely to be piles in our home. Having friends over at a moment’s notice is easy and not stressful for a minimalist.

So, what is “minimalism” to me? Minimalism to me is about living with only those things you use, need, or you find beautiful/inspirational. Some people find inspiration in books – therefore they may own more than someone who doesn’t. Other people may find inspiration from beautiful home decor, while someone else wants little or no decor. We are all different, living in different phases of life which requires different things, and that is why minimalism isn’t a one size fits all.  It’s also about living intentionally – deciding where you want to spend your time, money, and energy. It’s about being intentional with what you bring into your home. Everything we own has a cost – up front cost as well as time and energy to maintain, which takes away from being able to do other things. Excess stuff can distract us from fully enjoying (and perhaps being inspired by) the stuff that matters!

An Organized Holiday, 5 Tips to Prep for Thanksgiving

The holidays are such a wonderful time of year, where we get to celebrate and enjoy slower, intentional  time with family and/or friends. But, this time of year can also be very stressful and overwhelming. I wanted to share five tips to help you prepare for the holidays. Having an organized schedule and being prepared will help your holiday season go smoothly so you can enjoy the beautiful parts of this season. 

{{ONE}} Make a list of all that needs to get done, then allocate tasks leading up to the holiday. There is always so much extra to do around the holidays. Extra cleaning that needs to get done, extra cooking, and extra shopping. Plan ahead and allocate different extra tasks to different days. Maybe you want to get some deep cleaning done prior to guests coming into town. You could plan to do that a week or even two weeks out. Then, you will just need to do last minute cleaning before their arrival. If there is any shopping – food or gifts – that needs to get done, do it in advance. Having a plan to get things done ahead of time will prevent that feeling of “scrambling” to get things done.

{{TWO}} Prepare food in advance. In conjunction with allocating tasks ahead of time, plan to prepare some of the holiday food ahead of time. Are there any dishes you could make a week or two out and freeze? Is there any prep work you can do in advance to make preparing the dish easier closer to the holiday?

{{THREE}} Plan to make easy meals right before and after the holiday. You could make some meals ahead of time and freeze them to have leading up to the holidays. Alternatively, maybe this is a good time to check out meal plan services. Many of these companies that send you meal kits to your front door offer very simple meal options that might be worth investing in just for the holidays. Crockpot or Instant Pot meals are another great easy option as there are many all-in-one meals you can throw together very easily. 

{{FOUR}} Enlist help.I have ordered the pre-made Thanksgiving meals from our local organic grocery store for the last several years – taking the task of most of the food prep off my to-do list. Perhaps plan a potluck meal for Thanksgiving or other holiday get-togethers, taking some of the food prep off of your to-do list. Have your kids help with the cooking and cleaning. It might not be perfect, but the work gets done and it teaches your kids some of the elements of hospitality. If you don’t have kids, maybe some friends can come over on a Saturday morning to help you get your house clean or food prepped. More hands = work getting done faster, and I have always found it way more fun to cook and clean with friends! 

{{FIVE}} Lower your expectations. I am giving this advice as a “recovering perfectionist.” I know we all like things to be perfect at the holidays, but likely your guests won’t even notice the cobwebs in the corners of your house, or dusty baseboards. And if so, WHO CARES! The holidays are about gathering family. Most family members are much less critical of our housekeeping and cooking skills than we think. I know I would not want family members to be stressed out trying to make things perfect for my arrival!

I hope this gave you some ideas of how you can get your schedule organized prior to the holidays. Doing a little extra work in advance each day will take some of the stress off leading up to the holidays. Remember, even if everything doesn’t get done, the important part of the holidays is celebrating and spending time with family! Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post if you’d like to check it out!

The Importance of Organization

Why is organization important? I will hear people say things like: “I’m just a messy person,” “I thrive in the chaos of clutter!” or “I just don’t think I will keep things organized. I’m a disorganized person.” These are really just excuses to not deal with clutter. They don’t see the benefits of organization, or they think the cost to getting organized is greater than the benefit. I want to share with you how EVERYONE can get organized, and the importance of organization in your physical space.

One thing about organization that some people don’t address is how organization systems are not one size fits all. We are all very unique and thrive in different environments. Some people like to have everything put away and their environment to be visually clutter free. For someone else, this may cause them to not use those items – out of sight out of mind. Some people thrive in a visually cluttered environment. Their creativity is sparked by seeing all the things! This is why it’s important to find out what kind of environment you are striving to create when thinking about organizational systems.

Cass, from the Clutterbug, has come up with four different types of organizational systems, which I have found to be great classifications. Each one is represented with a bug. The first is the ladybug. This type of person likes things to be put away out of site, but their cabinets and drawers can get easily cluttered because they want to quickly shove things in drawers, baskets, or cabinets. They need a macro-organizing system – where things are quick and easy to put away. The next type is a cricket. They also like a clutter free environment, but they like things to be organized in detail, so micro-organization works best for them. The next type is a butterfly. They prefer everything be displayed. A butterfly also needs the fast macro-organizing solution, however they will want things to be visible. They often feel like they could never get things organized and feel messy, but the truth is they can have a place for everything fitting within the way they thrive. Lastly is the bee. These people are also visual people and want their things on display, however they want things to be organized in detail. Like the cricket, micro-organization works best for them. They are likely the type of people who are big into crafting or even have a home business with a lot of supplies that need to be organized in detail.

It’s important to recognize what type of organization works best for you, especially if you’re the type that likes things visible and macro-organized. This type of person typically feels like they are just not the organized type, so they give up. So, why is it important to be organized? I would propose, whatever type of person you are, it is beneficial to have some sort of organization system where everything has a place. Organization allows for us to be productive and efficient in our day to day responsibilities. We are not slowed down by clutter: finding someplace to put something, or worse – looking for something we can’t find! When there is order in our physical space, we are more efficient and productive.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, well-known Psychologist and professor, has a wonderful lecture about the importance of “cleaning your room.” I will insert a video of that lecture if you’re interested in checking it out. The premise of this talk is when there is something in your life you are struggling with, whether it’s mental health, a broken relationship, or just something you want to change about yourself, the best place to start is by changing the external: “clean your room.” You start with something concrete that you can control. He says so pointedly, “If you want to organize your psyche, start by organizing your room.” There is a connection between our mental and emotional health and our external environment. Cluttered environment often equals cluttered mind. Peterson says, “Is that their house [referring to someone who is a hoarder] or is that their being, their mind? The answer is there is no difference.” Starting externally, turning chaos into order, can put you on the path of bettering other areas of your life. Clean your room. It’s the easiest place to start.

So, whether you’re a ladybug, cricket, butterfly, or bee, you CAN get organized. Organization is important so we are efficient and effective in basic routines in life, freeing up the time and space we need to live a more full life. We are able to work on our health, to work on our relationships, or to work on something we have been wanting to change in our lives. The upfront work of organization can be challenging, but worth the end results.

No Spend Year, October Reflections

I would say the month of October was a win for my no spend year! I quit browsing through the Poshmark app, as I intended to do. Having that distraction cut from my life not only prevented me from breaking my rules, but also gave me more clarity. This month was for sure a month of a deeper understanding of the root cause of my spending habits. I have been waiting all year to have these kinds of revelations, and exactly what I was hoping for with this no spend year.

First, I will talk about the one thing I did purchase. I purchased a top for our annual family photos. I will assemble that with other clothing items I already own for the outfit. I will revisit the rules I set in place in case this is the first time you are stumbling upon my blog. I am allowed to purchase items for special occasions.

I purchased this velvet top from Poshmark to pair with other items in my wardrobe for our annual family photos.

The main thing that I have been evaluating this month is the idea that there are root issues in all of our lives which hold us back from living more fully. These issues can easily get covered up with distractions. For me, that distraction was shopping. For someone else it may be binging Netflix, eating too much or unhealthy foods, drug/alcohol use, and many more vices. It’s difficult to do the work of reflecting on what holds us back in our lives when we don’t leave space for that work. I think it is natural to want to distract ourselves from these issues and not deal with them. Reflecting on our lives and making necessary changes is difficult! 

As I reflected, I realized I used shopping as a way to find value and stay busy. It’s in my nature to make things beautiful. I love organizing, decorating, and putting together creative outfits. I feel safe in these areas – meaning I have confidence I can do them well. We all have a certain amount of time and energy in each day. I was using shopping, and organizing, and decorating, and putting together new outfits as a creative outlet. This was hindering me from growing my organizing business – which is scary and requires facing unknowns. I used these things as a distraction from dealing with the root issue of fear in my life: fear of rejection and fear of failure. I’m growing. I’m moving outside my comfort zone. I’m trying new things. I’m beginning to grasp that if this new thing or that new thing fails, or if I’m rejected, THAT’S OKAY. At least I put myself out there. At least I tried. 

Over the last month, I have been promoting my business more via word of mouth. Owning and saying “I’m a professional organizer,” instead of saying, “I’m a SAHM, but I kinda, sorta started a business.” I also updated my LinkedIn profile. I recently started a YouTube channel, where I will be sharing organizing tips. I’m beginning to lean into my giftings as a creative in a way that brings more purpose.

Here is my first YouTube video. My plan is to make one video per week. Would love for you to check it out!

One other thing that I thought about during this month is decision fatigue, which can waste our time or worse paralyze us from moving forward. I had some items that I needed to purchase at Target. Items in which I would have to make decisions. In the past, these decisions felt overwhelming or I felt like I was always making the wrong decision. This time, it didn’t feel that way. I instead felt confident in my decisions. I wondered if it was because when I used to shop at Target, prior to this no spend year, I would go in with a list but get sucked into the dollar spot, the home decor section, or the clothing section. I would see things I liked or wanted and I would have to make decisions about those items – on the spot! After walking through Target, I was completely done with making decisions, perhaps even before I got to the items that were actually on my list!

I’m still in the process of thinking through what I would like to do moving forward into 2020. I do think I’m going to be intentional about sticking to my list, especially in places like Target or Home Goods where it’s easy to get sucked into browsing. Share with me any ideas you have on dealing with consumerism in your life. What types of “rules” do you have in place for yourself? A budget? Certain number of clothing or home decor items purchased per month or per year? I do want to have a plan as we move into the new year!

10 Area To Declutter In Under 10 Minutes

Many people feel overwhelmed when thinking about decluttering their homes. They may have flashbacks to a “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” episode in which the participants are required to remove all the clothes from every closet and pile them into a central location. While this technique may work for some, or work if you have the up front time to devote to it, not all of us are prepared to allocate a whole day – or several – to decluttering. What I have always instructed my kids and sometimes clients, is the old saying: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Sometimes it makes sense to declutter a little at a time to prevent decision fatigue or simply becoming overwhelmed, which can often lead to giving up on it all together. I wanted to share TEN areas in your home that you can likely delclutter in under TEN minutes! Doing little bits of decluttering over time is more manageable and you will see results in the end.

{ONE} The pantry. I’m not talking about a complete overhaul where you take everything out, clean it out, and purchase uniform storage containers. All you’re going to do is a quick sweep of the pantry and find food that is expired and food that you know won’t get eaten. This shouldn’t take long at all!

{TWO} The refrigerator/freezer. While you’re in the kitchen, you can do the same thing in your fridge and freezer. Look for food items that have gone bad, are expired, or your family is no longer eating. You might be able to get the pantry AND fridge/freezer done in 10 minutes!

{THREE} The kitchen utensil drawer. We often have too many kitchen utensils cluttering our kitchen drawers. If you fear you will get rid of something you actually use, you could store items away in a garage or basement for an allotted amount of time (perhaps 6 months) and if you were able to go without them, after the time is up donate the items! Also, The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have what they call the 20/20 rule: if you can replace an item that you may want to get rid of within 20 minutes or less, and for $20 or less, you should go ahead and let go of it. Many of these kitchen utensils are easy and cheap to replace.

{FOUR} Cleaning products. We have all bought cleaning products that we thought would work well, but don’t. We then just leave them in the back of our kitchen or bathroom cabinet. If you are not using a cleaning product, I would suggest getting rid of it. If it falls into the category of hazardous waste, just be sure to dispose of it responsibly. Most cities have a drop off location for such items. Also, on this topic, if you are trying to simplify, cleaning products is a great way to start! While marketing might tell you that you need a separate product for each cleaning task, the truth is you can easily make your own multipurpose cleaner with simple products you probably already have on hand. There are many resources online to find ways to make your own cleaner. Or, if you don’t want to make your own, consider just using a pre-made multipurpose cleaner for everything!

{FIVE} Sheets and/or towels. For some reason, it is easy to accumulate extra sheets and towels. It can be easy to quickly go through your linen closets and assess how many you need. When I purchase new sheets or towels, I immediately discard the old ones. Many animal shelters are in need of old sheets and towels, where you can donate them. I have two sets of sheets for each of our beds (one for on the bed, one for in the cabinet or in the wash), and two towels per person (one for use, one for in the cabinet or in the wash). This has worked really well for us for many years!

{SIX} Medicine cabinet. It can be difficult to remember to go through the medicine cabinet periodically to make sure we are discarding expired or unused medicine. I like to go through ours about every 6 months. This is also a task that doesn’t take long.

{SEVEN} Make-up drawer. Another place that can easily accumulate over time is our make-up products. Do you ever get sample make-up items then after testing just let them sit in the drawer? It’s good to go through and assess what products you are using regularly. It’s an easy place to declutter.

{EIGHT} Pens/pencils. I like to go through our pens and pencils periodically. This is another area that can quickly accumulate. Sometimes I wonder where all the pens came from! They multiply! You may not have time to test each one to determine if they work, but you can at least pare down the ones you know you don’t use. And next time, if you try to use a pen and it doesn’t work, throw it away immediately!

{NINE} Coats/jackets. Typically we don’t own too many jackets, so it’s an easy category to declutter. It’s a great idea to quickly assess at the beginning of a new season what jackets can go!

{TEN} Board games. Are we the only family that loves NEW board games?? It is a weakness of mine to buy new board games. Now that our kids are teenagers/young adults, it is one of the main forms of entertainment we enjoy together as a family. While purging this area of your home, include your spouse and kids! You could even make a game of decluttering the board games. Have them all out in a visible area one night during dinner and vote on which ones should stay, and which could go!

I hope this inspired you, knowing you can begin small when contemplating the process of decluttering. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Take a little “bite” every day, and before you know it “the elephant” will be gone!

Anxiety and Clutter

This blog post isn’t easy for me to write. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, but I am so passionate about the topic of mental health and the effects clutter has on our mental health that I wanted to share my own story.

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life – or at least as long as I can remember. Even as a young child I remember being worried or nervous about all sorts of things. I learned in my late teens that controlling my environment eased some of my anxiety. I guess it was at this young age that my love for organization and order germinated. I learned that the less I had to take care of, the less chaos there was in my life. Less chaos equals less stress and anxiety.

As I grew up and older, slowly over time more and more responsibilities and things piled on me. First it was getting married, and learning to manage not only my things, but my husband’s things as well. Then our daughter came along, and two more children after that. The responsibilities and the THINGS kept multiplying. I suppose it was a mercy that I only added to our chaos a little at a time, however it was like that analogy of a frog in a cool pot of water that began to get hot and boil over time – so that it wasn’t noticeable. 

When our youngest son was a toddler I started struggling with severe anxiety symptoms. My doctor labeled me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed Xanax, which I could take when the symptoms were unmanageable. I was able to cope like this for several years, until my anxiety reached a point where it was affecting my everyday life. The journey that ensued is a whole other story, but ultimately I ended up seeing a holistic doctor and discovering that I had multiple food sensitivities, exasperating my anxiety. I was thankful to have answers, and with diet and supplements I have been able to manage for over 8 years now.

Several years ago, I began to learn about minimalism. I read blog posts and books, I watched YouTube videos, and listened to podcasts about the subject. I was so intrigued. I’ve always liked the idea of living with less. I remember when our kids were very young, I told my husband that I would happily sell everything and move across the world if the opportunity arises. That opportunity never came along, but I have always had this thought that we could live with less. Unfortunately, my husband and two of my kids like to keep things – as part of a collection, or hobby items, because we might need it one day, or simply because there is sentimental value to the items. I am learning to just be an example by minimizing my own things, hoping they will see the benefits.

The more I learned about minimalism, the more I learned of the benefits to mental health. I don’t know if I would have avoided the struggles I had with anxiety by becoming a family of minimalists, but I’m confident that having less to manage would have relieved some of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing.

There are times when I feel frustrated or disappointed that I didn’t learn about minimalism and how to implement it into the lives of our busy family of five earlier, but I recognize it is all part of my journey. It’s never too late to make changes in your life. We could get caught up on focusing on everything we missed from not making changes sooner, or we can make those changes and allow the new ethos to guide us moving forward – continuing to become a better version of who we are. Even though two of my kids are now young adults, I can still talk to them about the principles of minimalism, even if I didn’t teach them through my actions while they were growing up.

I hope my candor has in some way inspired you to evaluate your life. Are your things and the responsibilities that come along with those things causing extra anxiety in your life?