15 Things I No Longer Purchase

If you are new around here, you may not know that I have been on a long, slow journey towards minimalism. I’m learning the balance of making my home cozy, but also not owning an abundance of stuff! I’ve been learning what areas in my home it makes sense to own less, and then there are other spaces where I’ll be honest I like to have a variety – like clothes and shoes! One thing that I have found helps with keeping a minimal home is not just what goes out through decluttering, but also what comes in. I wanted to share with you 15 things I no longer purchase now! Not purchasing these items has helped to keep the inflow of items down. With that said, some of these items are consumable as well. All of these items are things that I used to purchase.

{{ONE}} First is dryer sheets. I used to use dryer sheets, however now I use wool dryer balls. I purchased the dryer balls a couple years ago and I really love them! Not only are they more environmentally friendly than dryer sheets, I actually like them better for making my clothes smell better! I just use a few drops of essential oil on the balls prior to adding them to my laundry in the dryer. In addition, dryer sheets often have chemicals in them.

{{TWO}} Next is plastic straws. I have been drinking protein shakes for my breakfast for a very long time and I used to use throw away plastic straws. Several years ago I bought some reusable metal straws and I have never bought plastic straws since!

{{THREE}} The next item I no longer purchase is plastic water bottles. Well, I no longer consistently buy these! After the crazy winter storm here in Austin in 2021 I decided maybe we should have a package of bottled water on hand in case of an emergency! On a day to day basis our family uses a reusable water bottle. We have a reverse osmosis system in our home, so our water is purified and tastes great! I think it tastes better than bottled water.

{{FOUR}} I also no longer purchase cans of soda. It was quite a while ago that I began learning about the importance of eating whole foods and avoiding unnecessary processed sugar. This ages me, but I recall really starting to get into whole foods when I was pregnant with my second who is now 20 years old! I used to drink a soda every afternoon for the caffeine and I would often drink soda on the weekends with pizza or take out. I have stopped purchasing cans of soda to have on hand. We do purchase sparkling water, which is somewhat of a substitute for soda. We also occasionally have soda when we get fast food, but I no longer regularly purchase it.

{{FIVE}} The next item I no longer purchase is pre-cut food. Pre-cut food is so much more expensive than purchasing it not pre-cut. It was definitely something that was very convenient when my kids were younger and I was busier with their schedules. Now that they are older, I find I have more margin in my life to devote to cooking – something I love to do! Cutting up fruits and vegetables is very cathartic for me and something I actually enjoy.

{{SIX}} Next up is magazines. I used to love magazines many moons ago before Pinterest and Instagram were a thing. I used to love home and home decor magazines for inspiration and even had a 3 ring binder that I would keep all of my magazine clippings in for home decor inspiration. Now I am inspired by photos on Instagram and finding ideas and inspiration on Pinterest. My in-laws do purchase Consumer Reports for us as a Christmas gift, but recently my husband and father-in-law had a conversation about how all of this information is easily accessible online, so it is silly to receive paper copies of this magazine, so we will no longer receive those after this year.

{{SEVEN}} Another item I no longer purchase is special events or holiday dishware. I used to have different dishes that were for specific holidays, only getting used once a year. Now I have all white dishes and serveware and can use napkins and table decor to make any holiday or event feel special!

{{EIGHT}} Along those lines, I no longer purchase special event clothes. I have several dresses in my closet to choose from and I use what I have on hand to make work for any special event or holiday.

{{NINE}} Next up is sale items. I used to be a sucker for the sale section in any store – clothes, shoes, accessories, and home decor! I would definitely get drawn in by the price and the “great deal.” Oftentimes these items didn’t last long and I would soon have a pile of things to declutter. Now I have different shopping habits where I am more intentional with what I bring into my home. Since I am not bringing as much into my home, I can spend a little more on fewer items that are more meaningful to me or I absolutely love. Don’t get me wrong – I will purchase something that is on sale if it is something that I love and would make a good addition to my home, but I do not shop sales just because there is a sale now.

 {{TEN}} I also no longer purchase souvenirs. To be fair, I will if it is something that is really meaningful, but I don’t purchase them just for the sake of having an item to remember a trip. I always take a lot of photos to remember trips!

{{ELEVEN}} Next, I no longer consistently purchase nail, brow, or lash services. I actually never did get lash extensions, so maybe I should not have included that, but it is in that same category! I used to consistently get my eyebrows waxed, but when COVID happened and a lot of those places shut down for a while I learned I could live without that! I didn’t ever consistently get my nails done, but I would get them done a few times a year and I have stopped going to get my nails done as well ever since COVID.

{{TWELVE}} Another item I no longer purchase is purses. I used to have a variety of purses and in different sizes and colors, but a while back I noticed that I really don’t like to take the time to switch my purse over to a different one and decided to only keep one. I use that purse basically until it breaks and then buy a new one. I tend to purchase a high quality purse so that it will last longer. I do have a smaller purse that can be a fanny pack, cross body, or clutch that I will use when we go out, but on the daily I only use one purse.

{{THIRTEEN}} I also do not buy the newest version of phone! I actually have never been one to purchase the newest available phone or electronics. I use my phone until it dies!

{{FOURTEEN}} Something else I no longer purchase is seasonal decor. I do have some seasonal decor that I have had for many years – some pumpkins, Christmas decor, and Easter decor, but over the last few years I have looked for decor that could be used year round. For instance, I have some brass deer which are great for Christmas or winter time, but would really work year round. I also like purchasing items that are a great color scheme for different seasons, but you could still use them year round. In general, I do not purchase new decor each year for every season.

{{FIFTEEN}} Lastly, I do not purchase things I cannot afford. Again, this is something we have always done as a couple and as a family. We have chosen to live debt free with the exception of our mortgage. Everything else we want to purchase we save up for. We don’t have any credit card debt.

Well, I hope this inspired you to think about items you could potentially quit purchasing, or at least made you think about why you purchase what you purchase. I would love to hear what things you no longer purchase. Do you have some of the same items on your list? Or do you have different items?

This is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post if you would like to check that out!

Reducing Visual Clutter

Does your external environment cause you anxiety? Do you struggle to focus because of external clutter? Today I wanted to talk about visual clutter, the impact it has on us, and how to reduce it.

For many people, visual clutter is distracting. The reason is because our brain is constantly processing our environment. Visual clutter can have an impact on our mental and emotional health, resulting in us not being as efficient and productive as we could otherwise be.  Clutter has been linked to cortisol production, the stress hormone. Research from a 2009 study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has shown that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Interestingly, men did not have the same cortisol response with regard to clutter. This could potentially be because women tend to take on more of the household chores even if they are also working full time. Clutter is also linked to lack of self control, resulting in unhealthy eating habits. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, stress triggered by clutter may also trigger coping and avoidance strategies, like eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.

So what can we do to reduce visual clutter? I wanted to share some ideas for you to reduce visual clutter in your home today.

First, the obvious one: declutter your possessions. When you have less, it is easier to clean, store, and organize your items. This can be easier said than done, so I suggest doing this slowly over time. If we try to declutter all of our items at once, we can get overwhelmed and experience decision fatigue. Slowly but surely as you declutter your possessions, you will have less visual clutter.

The next one goes along with the first. Be intentional with what you keep and what you bring into your home. When you are intentional with what comes into your home, you have an idea of where the item will go and how you will use the item or what purpose the item will fulfill to you. Sometimes people get into the habit of purchasing anything they find beautiful without intentionally thinking about its purpose. This is when it gets difficult to find a place for everything we bring into our homes. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate items visually at the store, acknowledging that you like it and it is beautiful,  without having to take the item home with me.

Next, group like items together in bins or baskets. When smaller items are stored away in bins or baskets, there is less visual clutter.

Choose uniformity when organizing and storing items. Get uniform food storage containers, cleaning bottles, and storage bins. When you have uniform jars, bins, and bottles you eliminate bright colored packaging, making your space feel more calm.

Have a place for everything. If you have a home for each of the items you own, they are less likely to get left lying around your home. When things are put in their proper place, your home feels less chaotic and less cluttered.

Another principle you can implement to reduce visual clutter in your home is maybe one (or a few) is better than an abundance. Throw pillows are a good example here (although admittedly I likely own too many of these!!) Maybe having 2 on your sofa is better than having the entire sofa lined with pillows. Or perhaps it’s home decor. Maybe having a small vignette of 3 items grouped together is better than the entire piece of furniture being covered in home decor.

Lastly, storing items away in a cabinet or drawer instead of leaving it out can reduce visual clutter. For me, I like to have a spot in my cabinet to store things like our toaster, the blender, and other large appliances. In the bathroom, you can have space for your items such as make up, a hair brush, toothbrush, and facial products in your bathroom drawers or cabinets instead of housing them on top of the counter. This will immediately reduce visual clutter in these spaces.

I hope this gave you some practical ideas on how you can reduce visual clutter in your home today!

The YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

Six Decluttering Tips To Give You Momentum

Decluttering can be difficult and daunting. Sometimes it’s just getting started that is the hardest part! I wanted to share with you six tips to help you with the decluttering process. At the end of this blog post I will share with you a PDF printable document with a list of spaces in your home that you can declutter!

The first tip is to get rid of old things you are replacing immediately. If you are replacing an item, whether it’s a broken toaster, or a worn out set of dishes, immediately put the old items in the donation bin. You don’t even have to think about if you should or shouldn’t since you are replacing it with a new item. If you don’t get rid of it immediately, you may end up forgetting and having duplicates of the same type of item in your home.

The second tip is don’t second guess yourself – once it’s in the donation box, it stays there. It can be tempting to revisit the donation bin and second guess if you made the right decision. I would suggest if you have items that you are on the fence about to have a separate bin where you can store these items for a fixed amount of time (usually 6 months is a good amount of time), then move them to the donation bin once you realize that you didn’t miss the items. Usually there is a reason you initially put an item in the donation bin, so don’t second guess that gut instinct.

The third tip is don’t declutter other people’s stuff – you’re not responsible for it! Allow other people – whether that’s a spouse, children, or other family members living with you – to declutter their own items. It’s very important to allow people to make decisions about their own possessions. If you declutter someone else’s things, you risk having tension in the relationship and there is a good chance that they will bring more things into the space when you declutter their items without permission.

The fourth tip is to start with easy/non-sentimental items. It can be very time-consuming and therefore discouraging to start with decluttering sentimental items. When decluttering items that you don’t have a sentimental attachment to, or they are easier to replace, it makes the decluttering process go more quickly. Oftentimes with decluttering, you just need momentum to continue the process. Starting with something like decluttering kitchen items will make it easy and quick to make decisions giving you confidence moving forward.

The fifth tip is to set a timer. This makes it feel easier, like you’re not going to spend the entire day decluttering. Setting a timer allows your brain to know that you will only be working on this project for a finite amount of time. Sometimes decluttering projects can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to declutter everything in one space all at once. Decluttering a few items is better than none.

The sixth and final tip is to have fun! Don’t overcomplicate it! Can decluttering be fun?? A couple of months ago, I played the Minimalism Game to declutter my home. If you’re not familiar with this game, you spend one month focusing on decluttering. On day one you declutter one item, on day two two items, on day three three items, and so on and so forth through the whole month. You end up decluttering over 400 items! This was a fun way to get things decluttered from my home. You could also enlist your family members’ help for items that belong to the whole family – like movies or games. Maybe take a vote on each one, and the majority wins! Or perhaps you could have a contest with other family members to see who can fill a box or bag of items to declutter the fastest! There are many creative ways to declutter that are fun and make it not as stressful as it could otherwise be!

I hope these tips gave you some inspiration on how you can declutter in your home today! Use this free printable to give you ideas on different spaces in your home that may need to be decluttered.

Real Life Organizing | You Can Be Organized!

Sometimes while talking to clients or friends they either allude to or say outright that their space can’t be organized. Recently one of my friends hired me to help with her pantry. She came over to my house to see how I had organized my own pantry, hoping for inspiration or maybe to gain some trust that I could in fact get her pantry organized? She said that I seemed to be more of a methodical cook than her, and she wasn’t so sure her pantry could function like my pantry. She still reluctantly hired me as I encouraged her that I was up for the challenge! In the end she was surprised that she did in fact have distinct categories in her pantry! Several weeks after I was finished with her pantry, she let me know how much easier it was to order and put away groceries now that her pantry had a system. She was shocked and surprised that there was a sustainable organization system that worked for this space!

This is my pantry

I share this story because I think people often think that their space (or spaces) cannot be organized. I told my friend that is why she needed to hire me! I had a vision that she couldn’t even imagine. We all have gifts and talents, and my brain just processes things in light of order. Organizing projects can feel overwhelming at first. Even for me, sometimes I feel overwhelmed before starting a project, but I know you just have to take things one step at a time no matter how big or small the project is!

Here is my friend’s before pantry picture

The first step to getting any space organized is always to declutter. You don’t want to organize items that you no longer need, use, or love. 

The next step is to identify categories in the space. The best way to efficiently organize a space is by category. This is why I am a big fan of bins. This will help contain items for each category, making it quick and easy to put items away in the future.

After you have decluttered and identified your categories, you will need to measure your space and then go on a hunt for bins, boxes, baskets, or lazy susans that will fit the space and your style. This can be tricky at times. When we were looking for bins for my friend’s pantry, we were balancing a multitude of specifications. We were looking for bins of a certain size, style, and price point. You have to balance all of these specs and give weight to the importance of each. Just know that this can take time! You may have to scour the internet as well as stores in your local area. It’s not always a one stop trip! Don’t forget your labels too!

Next is the fun part!! Or at least for me!! You will need to remove everything from the space, and I always like to give it a good clean while the space is empty. Then you can begin organizing things into categories. Label each box making it easy to find homes for each of the items.

Organizing a space is certainly not a one size fits all, and it can’t always be done as quickly as a Home Edit Netflix episode. Be realistic, and have your expectations set so that you are not disappointed in how long this process can take.

If it all feels too overwhelming and you can’t hire a professional organizer, enlist a friend to help! Oftentimes it helps just to have accountability even if they are just as clueless as you!

Here is what her pantry looked like after!
Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post

10 Habits of An Organized Person

I think most people would say they would like to be more organized, or they would like to be an organized person. Friends and family often ask me how I stay organized. They may even comment that I’m so lucky to just be naturally organized. People who seem naturally organized really just implement habits in their lives that lead to an organized life. Today I wanted to share with you 10 habits of people who are organized.

The first habit is that they have a place for everything. The number one advice I give to people who want to get organized is to have a place for everything. When everything has a place, over time you don’t even have to think about putting things away. Your brain makes neural pathways as you repetitively put the items away in the same location. Eventually you do it as second nature. Also, if something does not have a home, it just continues to float around your house and every time you use that item, you must think about where to put it down when you’re finished using it.

In addition to having a place for everything, organized people actually put things away in their place after they are done using it. I call this the “one touch rule.” When they are done with an item, they immediately put it back where it belongs. They don’t drop the towel on the bathroom floor, or kick off their shoes wherever they want to take them off. A great example – and a problem place for many people – is the mail creating paper clutter in that dreaded drop zone where everything seems to pile up in your house. Someone who is organized has a habit of immediately dealing with the mail. They make it a habit to get the mail when they have the time to go through and discard junk mail, pay bills, and file papers that come through the mail.

In order to be able to deal with things like mail, functional systems must be set up and used. An organized person has these systems, which they continue to tweek until it works well for them. They have a paper filing system, a place for shoes, hooks for backpacks and jackets, a location where dirty laundry goes (and family members know this as well), and any other organizing bins for everyday used items.

Along with functional systems, organized people have daily routines set up. Having routines will allow you to get things done almost without thinking about it. Not only general routines like exercise, daily Bible reading or meditation, and getting up and going to bed at approximately the same time each day; but also cleaning, decluttering, and organizing habits. We all have a fairly consistent inflow of things into our homes, whether it’s junk mail, kids artwork, or gifts. Having routines set up to deal with the inflow and the organic daily messes that are created, help to keep you organized.

Another habit of an organized person is that they are constantly decluttering. Like I just mentioned, we all have a constant inflow of items into our homes. No matter how minimalist someone appears to be, there is still a need to declutter items from the home.

To help make the decluttering process a bit easier, another habit of an organized person is that they are intentional about what comes into their homes. Some things we don’t have control over – mail sent to us or what our family members bring into our home is out of our control. However, an organized person closely evaluates their purchases to decide if the items will add value, particularly in the long run.

Along those same lines, organized people only own what they use and what they love and declutter the rest. The less stuff we have, the less stuff we have to organize. The less stuff we have to organize, the easier it is to be and stay organized.

Another habit of an organized person is that they keep lists. Keeping lists for different aspects of life help to keep things organized. If you get ideas or to dos out of your head and onto paper (or digitally if that is your thing), your head is clear and you won’t worry about forgetting anything. It’s great to keep separate lists for different aspects of life – a work to do list, a daily to do list, a long term to do list, and an ideas list to name a few.

Organized people create deadlines for themselves. Oftentimes we organically have deadlines – whether that’s for work, school, or things that must get done related to our children or our personal lives (like appointments, preparation for events, etc.) When an organized person doesn’t have a set deadline – like with home projects or cleaning, they make deadlines for themselves. Having a deadline helps motivate you to get tasks and projects done. Of course there is always room for grace when unexpected things come up!

Lastly, organized people don’t procrastinate. Oftentimes people put off decluttering, putting things away, or everyday tasks. People who are organized, deal with things immediately, and then tasks don’t pile up and get to the point where they are overwhelming. It’s easier to stay on top of things when we don’t procrastinate.

I hope this gave you some practical tips on how you can become a more organized person. It’s never too late to make changes in your habits!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

12 Days to an Organized Christmas

The holiday season is a busy time. We often have extra responsibilities during this season, which can cause stress and feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to share 12 things you can do, one each day, to prepare for the holidays and make your holiday season run a little more smoothly. As of today (December 13th), we are 12 days away from Christmas!

{{DAY 1}}

Create a holiday to-do list. Writing out everything that needs to be done – whether with a pen and paper, or in a list app on your phone – begins the process of getting everything organized. From decorating, baking, and purchasing gifts; to wrapping gifts, sending holiday cards, and planning for parties, it can all be very overwhelming. Start by listing all the tasks that need to get done.

{{DAY 2}}

Allocate tasks to each day leading up to the holiday. It can be daunting to look at that list you just made. But, as you begin to plug in tasks to different time slots on your calendar, you begin to feel less stressed as you make a concise plan to get tasks done.

{{DAY 3}}

Clean up and organize your family drop zone. Everyone has a “drop zone” in their home – you know, that place where your family members seem to organically DROP all of their things when they return home? It could be a kitchen desk, mudroom, or entryway. Get this area into shape so that it functions well. Add labeled baskets, a file sorter for kids school work, or a bin for mail. This area of our home can cause a lot of stress if it is chaotic, and our stress level is already high during the holidays.

{{DAY 4}}

Keep a list of inventory. It’s important to keep track of everything you have purchased and need to purchase. You can write this down on a notepad, or use an app on your phone. Keep track of the gifts you have and need to purchase and how much you have spent to stay on budget. Also keep track of what you need to purchase for baking, special meals, or items for parties. Be sure to assess what you already have – check what holiday paper and ribbon you have leftover from last year to determine what you need to purchase. See what you already have in your pantry or refrigerator/freezer to determine what items you need to get for baking and holiday parties.

TIME TO DECLUTTER!

{{DAY 5}}

Holiday decor. After you have decorated your house for the holiday season is a great time to assess what you did not use this year. The chances of you using something next year that you did not use this year is very slim. This is an easy declutter process as it happened naturally just from you decorating! Purge what is leftover!

{{DAY 6}}

Pantry and refrigerator/freezer. Right before the holidays is a great time to declutter unused or expired food from your pantry and refrigerator/freezer. At this time, you can assess what needs to be replenished. We always need special items which we don’t tend to buy throughout the year for the holiday season – especially baking items.

{{DAY 7}}

Kids toys! This is a great time to assess what toys are broken and can be thrown away and what toys your children aren’t playing with. Include your children in this process. Remind them of the boundaries in your home with regard to toys and that you need to make room for the new toys that will arrive on Christmas morning. Encourage them to be generous, as it is a season of giving, and have them choose toys that you all could take to a women’s shelter or children’s home to bless those less fortunate. Not only are you teaching them about boundaries and decluttering, you are also teaching them about how this season is about giving.

{{DAY 8}}

Coats and blankets. This is a great time of year (at least for those of us living in the northern hemisphere!) to gather coats and blankets that you are not using. Again, get your family involved to declutter their items as well and take your extra coats and blankets to a homeless shelter.

{{DAY 9}}

Last on the decluttering list is mugs. Mugs seem to be an item that many people accumulate. Many of us are regularly using mugs during this season to enjoy hot drinks. Choose your favorites, and donate the rest!

{{DAY 10}}

Prioritize what is important to your family this holiday season. There are a lot of opportunities to spend time together with family and friends. There are parties, extended family gatherings, traditions, and more. It’s okay to say “no” to things in this season. Do what works best for your family, and the life phase your family is in. Maybe there is a tradition that worked well and was fun when your kids were really young, but now as they are getting older it’s just annoying to them. Find something else that will be meaningful and memorable to do together!

{{DAY 11}} 

Prepare for guests arrival. This won’t pertain to everyone, but many of us have guests in town for the holidays. Inflate the blow up mattress, wash the guest room sheets and towels, prepare a basket full of necessities – like an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. for in case your guests forgot something. You could also include extra things like water bottles and snacks to make your guests comfortable. Another idea is to display a picture frame with the wifi network and password. Or go all out and provide slippers and/or a robe for your guests!

{{DAY 12}}

Leave margin for rest! As I mentioned before, the holiday season can be a very stressful time of year. Plan into your schedule time for rest – to get a manicure or massage, or maybe it’s just leaving room for the things that you do all year long to recharge – reading a book, journaling, or exercising. If you organize your schedule and have a plan, then it’s much easier to include time to relax!

I hope you are inspired to start making a plan for this holiday season! The 12 day countdown to Christmas is on!!

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!

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.

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?