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!