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!

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!

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?

No Spend Year, August+September Reflections

Reflecting back, September was another tough month for me in regards to my no spend year. In my July reflections I talked about how I realized that clothes shopping in particular was a slippery slope for me. Even if some of the “exceptions” were in my rules. Back in July I allowed myself to purchase items for a trip, which was an exception in my rules. I also began using my Poshmark credit to purchase items through PM, using it as though it were like a gift card – which was okay in my rules.

Throughout August, things were good. I guess the PM credits were allowing me to feel like I could still get new items, but not spend money. But then, towards the end of August I started purchasing items on PM even if I was a few dollars away from being able to purchase the item (I guess hoping I would “make it up” through my future sales.) As I headed into September it got worse. A couple dollars off turned into, “it’s only $5 off,” then “it’s only $10 off.” Again, the slippery slope effect took hold and I was about to roll down the hill out of control! So, I have decided it’s best to no longer purchase things with my PM credit moving forward.

An outfit I purchase with my Poshmark credits

While I would consider this month a “fail” with regards to my no spend year, I did learn from the experiences. What ultimately ended up happening is, when I was going into the Poshmark app to manage my items, I would see items I liked. I would then “like” the item. (If you’re not familiar with the Poshmark app, it’s similar to social media where people follow you and you can follow people who have the same taste in clothing). One of the tricks to selling on PM is to offer deals to people who “liked” your items. I use this trick to get people to purchase my own items. Sometimes the deal is just too good to pass up! So, moving forward, I will no longer scroll through to see what’s out there. And I will no longer “like” items.

Another thing I noticed is how purchasing clothes is almost like a drug – not only with the slippery slope – but when I purchase an item, I’m excited for it to come in the mail. I’m excited to style it with other items in my closet. After I do that, and wear it out, it’s like the excitement is over. I realized it was similar to the effect of a drug, because I noticed I was more likely to scroll on days where I had a bad day, or I was stressed out. I need to learn healthier behaviors in dealing with stress and negativity in my life.

The other thing I noticed, or remembered from when I shopped prior to this no spend year, is it was sucking away my time. Perhaps not as much as shopping in stores, but it still was a time waster. With PM, you really do need to ask any questions before purchasing an item – like “does it fit true to size” or asking for specific measurements. Even just making the decision – making sure it fits with what I thought my needs were with regards to my closet. Then, just thinking about the items in general – when will it arrive, will it be what I thought it was going to be, how am I going to style it. Prior to being on PM in this no spend year, I remember the freedom of just NO NEW CLOTHES coming into my house.

A couple of good things came out of the experience I’ve had over the last month and a half. First of all, I’ve mentioned this previously, but I do feel like I’m really honing in on my style – what I gravitate towards and what I like to wear. I did a closet clean out over the summer, but I’m thinking I need to do another sweep through my closet. I’m still nowhere near having a capsule or minimalist wardrobe, but I do feel like I’m weeding out items more ruthlessly than I had in the past. And I am adding items that I feel like more truly reflect the direction my style is going.

I’m also really thinking about what I should do moving forward after this no spend year. I have another few months to decide what I would like to do after this year is over, and I’m certain it will not be allowing myself to go on a spending spree! I truly want to be more intentional with my clothing purchases. I’m not exactly sure what that will look like, so more to come on that for sure! I do like using PM as a resource to purchase clothing second hand. I highly encourage everyone to check it out! I have enjoyed being able to sell my own clothes on this platform. I have also had great luck with the items I have purchased.

Really quickly I wanted to touch on the home decor piece of this no spend year. If you’ve been following my journey, then you will know that this aspect has been MUCH easier than the clothes. I’ve come up with creative ways to rearrange items and use what I already have. This month I took over my son’s office since he moved to college, and I wanted a new piece of artwork for that space. I printed out a photo I took over the summer on our trip to Hawaii, and put it in a frame that I already had on hand. I have to admit, fall is the toughest time of year to not purchase home decor. I LOVE fall decor! But, I have restrained myself. The one thing I allow myself to purchase that may be considered home decor is candles, and I have to admit that I may have went a little overboard on purchasing fall candles this year! But, rest assured, they will all get used!

The last couple of months have been a bit bumpy, but I’m going to learn from the experiences I’ve had and move forward! Hoping that heading into the holiday season won’t be tricky/difficult! THREE MORE MONTHS TO GO!

My Minimalist Son

It’s so interesting to me how when you have multiple kids each one is so unique. They are all raised in the same home, and in our case with the same parents, yet they all have different temperaments and characteristics. Our oldest child, and youngest are collectors by nature. They are sentimental and like to hold onto things. But our middle child is completely opposite. He is a minimalist kind of by accident because of how he is innately. I admire him for not putting so much value on material things. I am somewhat the same way, but not to the extent he is. I joke about how moving him into college will be a completely different experience than it was to move our daughter into college. I envision him having one small suitcase to hold his clothes, his computer, and his fancy desk chair.

This is a snapshot of his closet. This is most of his clothes. He does have a dresser which holds shorts, socks, underwear, and a couple of sweatpants.

I believe his simple living has contributed to his success in life. Since he doesn’t have a lot of stuff, there’s not much to take care of. Also, it cuts down on decision making when getting dressed in the morning. He has two “uniforms” (with the exception of the scrubs which he is required to wear on specific days for an internship) – either the clothes he wears to the gym (dry fit shirt and shorts) or the clothes he wears to school (cotton t-shirt with cargo shorts). We do live in a temperate climate, so he can wear shorts year round. His mind isn’t constantly overwhelmed by external distraction because of the lack of clutter leaves space, and he can better focus on his school work.

This is a box of things he has been telling me for a while that he is ready to part with. The more I thought about it, I realized he probably won’t want these participation trophies as an adult.

We recently cleaned out his room. He has told me in the past that I could get rid of all of his childhood trophies – he told me they were just “participation trophies” so they didn’t mean much to him. We were able to pare down his already sparse room by eliminating the trophies, some sports jerseys from said activities, school t-shirts he doesn’t wear, and a pile of shirts that he had outgrown, and a few hats that he no longer wears. It was amazing to me that in spite of his room already being decluttered we found this much stuff to remove!

Anyone who is a parent knows how much you can learn from your kids. At times we forget and think we have so much to teach THEM – because we are older and wiser, but your kids have a lot to teach you too! Each one of my kids has challenged me in different ways to evaluate my life. With my minimalist child, he has caused me to evaluate what I really need in life to survive and feel fulfilled. He is an inspiration to me to simplify my life.

This is his dresser. I chose to add decor to his room, but he doesn’t mind if it’s there or not.
This is the other side of his room. It pretty much stays this clean all the time.


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?