Simple Living: Minimalist Wardrobe

I’ve mentally written at least a dozen posts since the last time I actually sat down to write.   But 2 things stopped me: 1) I needed a break from writing in general.   School took a lot out of me (a lot more than I expected) and I needed to not be in front of my computer for a while.  2) I needed to spend some time reconnecting with people and catching up on things I hadn’t had a chance to do in a while.  But, rejoice!, because I am now fully rested and reconnected and excited to share with you my latest minimal conquest…my wardrobe!

A lot of discussion has been had about building the “perfect capsule wardrobe”.   For those of you who may not know a capsule wardrobe is the basic essentials that you need to have in your closet.  The rest of your clothes would be things that you change out seasonally but your capsule wardrobe is the high-quality, classic stuff you wear all year around.  I did some reading on building a capsule wardrobe (and if you’d like to too I recommend this, this, and this!)  Then I came home last night and attempted to tackle my closet aaaaand…I definitely don’t have a capsule wardrobe.  And at this point, I’m not planning on having one.

“But, Becca!” I imagine you saying in a shocked and slightly aggrieved tone, “Don’t you love having less?  Why would you have so many clothes?”

Well, gentle reader, it’s true I do love having less.  I love it a lot.  In fact, this whole minimal idea took root in my head because I walked into my closet 3 years ago and thought “this is not the closet of a faithful person”.  I felt I had too many items I wasn’t wearing that were in excellent condition and that could help someone else look good, get a job, feel good about themselves, or stay warm.  Since then I have instituted lots of changes to keep my closet in check.  I cannot even count the number of times I’ve cleaned out my closet.  (Seriously, it’s a high number and I’m bad at math).  I have a hanger rule; no new hangers allowed.  If I run out of hangers I have to get rid of something I already own (this rule has been helpful but not often necessary).  In fact, I so regularly clean out my closest that my friends ask “what is left in there?”  A lot.  Let me tell you.  A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF.  In fact, currently there are 75 things hanging in my closet.  Which is more than double the 33-37 rule of most capsule wardrobes.

At first, I was pretty concerned about how many articles of clothing I still have in my closet (especially considering that does not include the stuff I have boxed away in tubs for other seasons) but I’m feeling pretty confident about my clean out now.  Let me explain how I got there.

First I took everything out of my closet and put it in piles in the living room based on the frequency of wear and also how much I love it.  I have a couple of dresses that I love but I don’t wear more than 4 times a year.  Still, I’m keeping them…at least for now.   I also had a lot of stuff that would look super cute, if only I would wear them.  But I don’t  and I’ve had them long enough to know that I won’t so they don’t get to stay.  This meant saying good-bye to all kinds of things- pants, dress tops, skirts- all things that were only good in theory.   I also got rid of anything that was worn beyond repair or faded beyond respectability.  Also anything that doesn’t fit, which can be tricky to gauge sometimes.  I am not a fan of keeping lots of clothes that are too small for you especially if they are several sizes too small and you’ve had them for more than 2 years.  Mostly I try to think about who could wear this if I donate it.  I have lots of work clothes that I have bought over the years thinking it would help me to dress more professionally.  It never works because that just isn’t my style and it isn’t required of my job.  But if I donate those clothes that gives someone else a chance to maybe look good on a job interview or look more professional in their own line of work.  And that makes me way happier than having that outfit in my closet gathering dust.

Weather in Texas makes my wardrobe choices a little tricker in some regards.  It can be 80 degrees in the morning and 30 degrees by mid-afternoon, so Texas winter requires layers.  But it never gets super cold in my part of the state so it’s not like I need heavy jackets or sweaters.  The core of my wardrobe consists of jeans and tank tops and cardigans for layering.  I can throw a tank top under a dress or sweater to make it a little thicker and I can pull a cardigan over a dress or shirt in order to do the same thing to it.

I put away anything that was the wrong length, texture, color, or thickness for winter.  I have one tubby full of stuff for spring/summer and one small one for fall.  In a month it will be too warm for sweaters so those will get packed away and I’ll pull out more t-shirts and dresses.  It’s a pretty straight-forward system and one that is pretty exciting since every few months I get to feel like I’m shopping all over again in my own closet as I bring back out pieces I love and have packed away waiting for the right season.

So how do you tackle your own wardrobe?

You have to start by taking everything out of your closet.  Yes, this is messy and it sorta sucks.  Sorry.  It is by far the hardest part so just suck it up and do it.  Pull each item out and put it in the appropriate pile: love it, like it, leave it.  Love it is for stuff you love wearing, you feel beautiful and confident in when you wear it, and you wear it at least once every other week.  Seriously.  You should love it that much.  Like it is for stuff that you wear with great frequency but it’s not necessarily a love it item.  For me this includes tank tops and cardigans because I use them with almost every outfit but I’m not obsessed with them or anything.

Leave it is for stuff you love but NEVER WEAR (probably because you love it in theory but it fits sorta weird or it’s super complicated/expensive to clean or it’s not quite the right size anymore….whatever.  Be realistic here.)  Leave it also needs to include things that you shouldn’t or can’t wear anymore.  Items that have holes that you can’t fix or are super faded and worn (you might be able to find other uses for them, like cleaning cloths!), or items that you bought but never wore or that you used to wear but don’t love as much anymore.  Those all go in leave it. Know what else goes in leave it pile?  Anything that you have multiples of needs to come out of your closet.  You do not need 6 jackets (sorry…you don’t).  You do not need 10 all black t-shirts (do your laundry more often and this won’t be an issue).  You do not need 20 pairs of jeans (seriously…that means for almost an entire month you could wear a different pair of pants each day).

The leave it pile can be tricky and I respect that, but if you’re serious about having a minimal closet you gotta be brutal about what you keep and what you donate, give away, and toss.  So for a little inspiration I give you-

Reasons to have a minimal wardrobe:

1) Easier to get ready in the morning.

I have just the items I need and love so I can’t make a bad choice.  Plus I know everything goes together because I was an intentional shopper (post on this soon to follow!).  

2) Less mental energy spent on decisions early in the morning.

I don’t have to expend any mental energy to look good heading out the door in the morning!

3) I’m not spending money on lots of clothes, so I have more money to spend on things I do love, like hanging out with friends or books.

And frankly, I’d rather have books than clothes.  I don’t know what your book equivalent is but you could be enjoying more of it!

4) I’m not having to clean or maintain an extensive wardrobe.
5) I’m not contributing to or being controlled by the consumerist idea of “I’d be happy if…”

Having that perfect dress won’t magically make your day better.  Sorry.  Our days are better because we have attitudes of contentedness and peace, which we do not get from constantly lusting after more things or trying to achieve some kind of crazy physical appearance standard. 

 

The Minimalist Move: Complete!

I haven’t written anything in a couple of weeks because between moving, papers, tests, and a small desire to have a social life I have been exhausted.  Finally hit a wall this weekend and got very, very sick.  I’ve started work on this post about 10 times and couldn’t finish because I was just. so. tired.  But I’m hoping for a rally soon.  Note:  you should drink more than caffeine-infused beverages and eat more than a piece of fruit when you are starting to feel poorly…it won’t end well, friend.

But, congratulate me, because I have officially moved!  I am in my new place and loving it.  It still doesn’t feel like home yet but it is a really relaxing and quiet place and for that I am immensely grateful.  The other day I was getting ready and it was so quiet that I realized I could hear each brush stroke as I put on mascara.  I’m just saying…that’s scary quiet.

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Yep…that’s all my jewelry. I kept quite a bit because it dresses up my fairly generic wardrobe for work. But it’s a lot less than I had before!

 

Turns out moving when you don’t have a lot of stuff is pretty easy.  I’m hoping no one is super surprised by this information.  I came home from school on the Friday before the move, went and picked up the keys to the new place, then went out to dinner before going home to finish packing.  Movers showed up right on time and everything I own was loaded in their waaaaay too big truck in hour.  It took them a little less than an hour and half to put it in the new place…which has stairs.  Poor guys!  I had forgotten to get water bottles for them and, of course, my cups were still packed.  I ended up finding some glass bottles for them to use.  Note to self:  pack water for movers or you will feel like a jerk.   The movers were awesome!  Just two guys and they moved FAST, for which I was very grateful.  They even gave me a half-hour for free since I offered to go online and write some sweet reviews for them.  So fast, efficient, careful, and online business savvy- a total win.

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My very sweet parents came over and, after helping my sister unpack her new house just a few weeks earlier, they were already in the unpacking groove.  My kitchen is pretty tiny but my mom was a kitchen wizard and somehow I even managed to have empty cabinets!   My dad, bless him, tried valiantly to unpack all my books.  But that didn’t work out so well for me…thanks OCD.  So instead he became the project manager and that dude hung pictures, fixed me a little pantry shelf-situation (oh that’s right, my tiny kitchen doesn’t have a pantry), and broke down all the boxes and lugged them downstairs to the garage.  They even took me to lunch and bought me some new house necessities.  It was absolutely wonderful having them to help and we got everything unpacked!  Seriously.  Everything.  I have one painting that needs to be hung, two vases that I don’t know what to do with, and my winter bedding needs to be space-bagged and put away.  That’s it.

My "pantry" courtesy of my awesome Dad!

My “pantry” courtesy of my awesome Dad!

Ah, the joys of minimal living.  

So now it’s just a matter of settling in to my new space which has been fun and challenging.  I don’t have a linen closet but I do have a trunk that I am using as a coffee table.  Now it also holds all my sheets and blankets…yeah for multi-tasking furniture!  And I didn’t want to buy any more drinking glasses so I’m using some vintage wine glasses as my everyday glasses, which just makes breakfast OJ so much more fancy.  There are a few purchases I do plan on making though.  I need a floor lamp for my living room, something to put my purse and the dog leash on when I come in the door, and furniture for my patio.  But for right now it is just really relaxing to have just what I need.  And everything I already have is something I love.

My favorite spot is definitely my desk.  It’s a deep red which makes me smile and my desk chair is the most comfortable chair of all time.  I have some of my favorite “Jesus-books” on top of the desk along with a framed print of Doctor Who sayings (thanks, Lisa!) to keep me company.   I’ve started eating breakfast at my desk just so I can enjoy the chair, the view, and the quiet before the day starts.

Stay tuned for more Simple Living posts soon!  I’ll be writing about cooking and shopping like a minimalist- two things I’m having to deal with right now.  Have a great Monday!

Simple Living Series: My Move Toward Minimalism

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the theory and ideas behind a minimalist mindset and it only seems fair to share how I’m putting that theory into practice in my own life.  I hope you have enjoyed the Simple Living Series because I have really enjoyed writing it!  I’m going to be brutally honest about my own move toward minimalism on this post so if you aren’t interested in what some crazy chick is doing in Katy, Tx (and honestly…why would you be??)  then move along.  We will resume regular programming tomorrow.  But I want to be open about my own situation for the sake of social media transparency.  I, by no means, have stuff figured out and I don’t want you to be fooled by blog posts into thinking that you are the only one you doesn’t have their stuff together…because I know that’s how I can feel sometimes when I’m online.  So anyway without any further ado:  the brutal truth about becoming a minimalist.

Truth #1:  It is messing with my head.

I am moving into a new home AND moving my office at the same time.  We are doing some office swapping at the church and literally everyone is waiting for me to move out of my office before they can move out of theirs.  So I’m THAT co-worker.  Awesome.  But my office has been the dumping ground for years and years of stuff which I am now responsible for no matter how it found its way here.  Which theoretically isn’t a huge deal.  Get a trash bag and let’s get it done.  But of course now I can’t do that because becoming a minimalist is messing with my head.  Every time I think about just throwing all these old books, VHS tapes, and other random assorted bits away I can see them piled up in landfills and I just can’t do it.  Isn’t there a way to recycle used books???  I’ve set up a cart in our Welcome Center with a sign “Free Books!!!!” and keep filling it with books hoping that they find a new home.  A lot of books have gone but there are plenty left.  And I am at a loss.  So office move 2014 is slow going.

Also, everything at home is now on the chopping block.  Example:  this morning I reached into my already severely culled jewelry box to get a pair of earrings and thought that at least 10 more things needed to go.  And they probably do.  And they probably will.  Because I just cannot abide keeping things that I don’t wear on a regular basis. So I guess what I’m saying is that if you want some free stuff you should probably come help me unpack this weekend because I will undoubtedly decide some of this stuff isn’t going to get to stay in the new place.

Truth #2:  Selling your stuff online takes work.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not that hard but it does take some effort and continual checking.  My kitchen table is covered with stuff I’m selling and a lot of it has found a new home.  Like…a lot.  Enough to cover some moving expenses which is awesome.  But I have to rather frequently check and make sure I haven’t missed any messages (had a dream the other night where all I did was continually check my messages…it’s getting intense).  And I have to go to the online sites and bump up any items that may have gotten overlooked.  Do not even get me started on the ridiculous admin people that run some of these sites.  Calm down lady, it’s not like you are curing cancer or anything.  And then I have to arrange meet-ups with people to actually sell the stuff.  I have 3 such meet-ups so far today.  First one at 10am last one at 8pm.  I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because hello…money.  But it is some effort.

Truth #3:  I’m pretty sure I’m upsetting some people.

I have amazing friends and family who have gifted me with many, many things over the years.  And I appreciate and love every one of those people.  But in my quest to live more simply, I cannot keep every gift I’ve ever been given and I do worry that I’m hurting some feelings.  I am doing my absolute best to make sure that that doesn’t happen and that when I do decide not to keep something that was gifted to me that I show it the proper respect.  Some things are incredibly special and those things need to go to someone else who can use and love them.  So I’m trying really hard to be thoughtful, honest, and considerate to everyone  but I know that I’ve still upset a few people unintentionally.  Also, some people feel like I’m judging their desire to hang on to things.  I don’t care what you hang on to!  But I’m not going to hang on to it for you so we gotta just be ok with disagreeing on this point.

Truth #4:  I am still absolutely loving it.

It is tricky and not a small amount of work but I cannot wait till I get in my new place with less stuff.  I am just so excited!  My room has been clutter free for the past week or so since stuff has been packed for the move and I have just loved seeing it that way every time I come home.  And knowing that my home will be like that every time I walk into it fills me with delight.  Having space and being surrounded by just the things that I find useful and beautiful is a real joy.  It is absolutely worth all the effort to me.  And I cannot wait to tell you all about my new place when I move in this weekend!

Happy Monday!  
I hope you have a wonderful day filled with people you love and space to do the things that give you life!

Simple Living Series: Buy only what you need

con·sum·er·ism

noun

1. the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers.

2. the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

It’s that second definition that hits me in the gut every time…because it is absolutely true.  Our society absolutely has a preoccupation with getting more stuff.  And there are lots of reasons for this preoccupation.  We think we need it.  We think we deserve it.  We think everyone else has it.  We think it will make us happy.  And despite the fact that 99% of the time none of these things are true we still persist in clinging to these flimsy reasons as an excuse to acquire more and more stuff.  Don’t believe me?  Check out these scary numbers.

Over $250– How much each individual plans to spend on Halloween this year

$350 Million– How much Americans spend on pet Halloween costumes.

$2 Billion– How much Americans spend on Halloween candy.

Frankly we are just lucky today is Halloween and not Christmas because you don’t want to see the scary numbers that come down for that holiday.  Do we really think we need to spend $2,000,000,000 on…candy?  Does this not seem crazy to you?

If you’ve been keeping up with the the Simple Living Series you know what happens to the majority of the stuff we buy (if not check it out here).  We trash it and it populates landfills for years and years.  We are always going to have trash and until some genius invents a way to reuse every single piece of our trash, we are going to have landfills.  On the previous post of this series we talked about some alternative approaches to dealing with the things that we accumulate.  But the truth is that we need to be concerned about the fact that we are constantly and actively accumulating all these things that will have to be dealt with later.  Instead of having to declutter every so often, we need to look at why we are accumulating useless possessions in the first place.

We need to unplug from the consumerism machine.

Make no mistake, it is a machine and we are totally plugged in.  Like…Neo plugged into the matrix plugged in.  Because the consumerism machine is creating a false life for us that really only exists in our heads and all the while it is draining the life from us. (I’m sorry if you haven’t seen The Matrix because you won’t understand how truly brilliant that analogy is.  Go watch it now…I’ll wait here.)  The consumerism machine has us convinced that it is feeding us, making our lives better, happier, and fuller, when in reality it is slowly killing us and stealing our joy.

Here’s how it works.  You are at home after a long day at work just watching some TV and a commercial break comes on.  3 minutes later you are back to watching your show and chances are good you can’t even remember the commercials you just watched.  But later in the week you recognize a song on the radio and can’t remember where you have heard it before until you realize it was an advertisement for a particular thing.  Now you’ve got the jingle stuck in your head.  That weekend you get bored, so you decide to go to the mall.  You don’t need anything specifically but you’ve been wanting a new pair of shoes and you’ll just walk around the mall.  You end up spending 4 hours at the mall trying on clothes and shoes and looking at other stuff.  You buy a thing here or there and walk out with 3 shopping bags of stuff.  Stuff you now have to find a place for in your home. 

Confession:  The absolute most dangerous place for me in my battle with consumerism is Target.  I go in for a legitimate reason- like toilet paper or dog food- and leave with a new shirt (it was on sale!), new shoes or pjs, and that new Threshold household thingy (their new line of Threshold stuff is the cutest, most adorable bane of my existence). 

We buy things we don’t need and didn’t know we wanted 10 minutes before we saw it because we are programmed to do it.  We are programmed to believe that buying things will make us happier and fix the problems that we have in our lives.  If only we had that kind of mascara, our eyes would look bigger and more beautiful and we would finally meet a great guy!  If only we had that new fishing gear then we would be catching all the fish!  For every need we have there is a device, outfit, piece of equipment, or general thingy that will fill that need!  One problem:  most of these needs are manufactured.  We don’t need 100 pairs of shoes.  We don’t need a bunch of different kinds of glasses for different kinds of drinks.  Our kids don’t need every educational toy in a toy store.  Need isn’t the correct word for any of this stuff.  The word is want.  We want it.  And living a simple lifestyle means realizing the difference between need and want.

Need:  things we must have for survival.  Food, water, shelter. I would say we also need love and loved ones that we can trust.  We need some sense of security and safety.  We need some kind of purpose for our lives and we need work that fulfills us.  We need to be in relationship to God.  In fact there are lots of Bible verses that deal with what we need because this struggle of want vs. need is not a new problem.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.
~Psalms 23

If God is our shepherd we won’t want for anything. This is not to say that everything will be easy and wonderful in the way that we would like it to be.  But we will be provided for in the way that we truly need.  Jesus taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread”.  Not give me a big Costco so that I can go buy stuff in bulk.  Instead, give me what I need to survive, and serve, just today.  We don’t need as much as the consumerism machine wants us to believe we do.  And recognizing that fact is the first step to freeing yourself from it.

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 

~William Morris

I love this quote because I think it speaks so directly to helping us determine whether or not we really need the things we accumulate in our homes.  And we have to be ruthless when deciding if our possible purchases fit these qualifications.  A thing may be useful but not useful enough for us to give it a place in our home.  A personal example of this is a stationary KitchenAid mixer.  These are beautiful pieces of kitchen equipment and many baking recipes do require a mixer.  But, even though I like to bake, I have learned from experience that I really only use a mixer about 4 or 5 times a month (with a few exceptions for holidays).  So a better tool for me is my small hand-held mixer that I can store easily in a cabinet or drawer.  Maybe you bake all the time and you would use this mixer every day or several times a week.  By all means buy yourself a beautiful mixer!  But just because something has the potential to be useful doesn’t mean it deserves a place in your home.  In the same way, you can think something is pretty or cute but if it is not so uniquely beautiful that it greatly inspires or motivates you then it doesn’t deserve any of the coveted space on your counters or walls.

Before you put another thing in your cart or click Submit Order on Amazon or Etsy (obviously talking to myself there) ask yourself 4 questions.

Is this thing useful?
Do I already have something that will fulfill the same function?
Is this thing uniquely beautiful? 
Will I use/enjoy this thing for many years?

It’s that easy.  4 questions with real, honest answers.  Don’t be controlled by the consumerism machine.  You have the power to unplug and determine what your true needs are for yourself.  Be discerning and ruthless as you determine what you will let in to your home! Instead buy only what you need.

Simple Living Series: What to do with the stuff

Hey it’s the fourth part of my series!  Huzzah for sticking to a series!

So having decided I want to live with less I am now forced to look at all of the things I own and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  Then I have to figure out what to do with the stuff I want to get rid of.  I’ll be super honest and admit that I mostly wanted to throw it away.  Because I have a big trash can and that would be super easy.  And when you make the decision to get rid of it you just want it gone!!!!  But then I did some googling and learned some stuff that changed my mind.

In the United States we throw away enough trash each year to cover the entire state of Texas…twice.

Y’all may not know this but Texas is freaking big.  This is a lot of trash.  250 million tons of it to be exact.  And that trash isn’t going to remove itself.  The waste industry is a $52 billion/year industry.

We throw away enough aluminum for the entire auto industry to build new cars for a year.

Not only that but the average American family also throws away about 6 trees worth of paper every year.  We dump most of the magazines printed in the U.S. each year (about 8 million tons) into landfills. If we recycled just half of them, we could save over 12 million cubic yards of landfill space.  Americans throw away enough used motor oil every year to fill 120 supertankers.

Ok I think you get my point.  We are throwing away a lot of stuff that could be recycled or reused.  And all that trash has an impact globally.  We generate 21.5 million tons of food waste each year. If we composted that food, it would reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road.  There are 5 known garbage patches floating in our oceans from trash that didn’t make it into landfills.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
        the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
    God created human beings;
        he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God’s nature.
        He created them male and female.
    God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

~ Genesis 1: 26-28

God gave us responsibility over the Earth and told us to be good stewards, to be responsible, for all the things in it.  God’s beautiful creation is ours to care for and marvel at.  And we’ve gotten really good at filling it with trash.

In light of all of that there was no way I could throw away my purge-stuff and feel good about it!  The idea isn’t just to get rid of stuff but to learn to live with less- to be a good steward of my resources.  So once again I turned to the Internet.  I got online and have been selling stuff on online yard sales in my area!  I just take a picture of the thing I’m looking to find a new home for, post it online with some info and a price and wait.  And I haven’t had to wait long.  So far I have sold: curtains, a bag of work clothes, a box of picture frames, a shadow box, and 2 glass pumpkins.  Next on the chopping block are scarves, purses, and shoes.  I’m not selling it for much but it only takes $30 to fill my gas tank so a few things at $5 goes a long way to putting extra dough in my pocket which is really just a bonus since I wanted to get rid of the stuff anyway!  This can be a hassle if you don’t have the time to photograph each thing, post about it, and respond to any questions or comments.  Plus you do you have to meet up with whoever you are selling the item to unless you ship it, which has its own set of hassles.  I’ve just started sticking the items for sell in my trunk so that I’m ready to meet up with any buyers any time of day without having to run home real quick.  So far it hasn’t been an issue.

One of the things I quickly discovered was that there were somethings I couldn’t donate or sell.  For instance, when I was 9 my grandfather got me a nutcracker for Christmas.  He passed away from cancer that year and it was the last gift he gave me.  For years afterward family members would give me nutcrackers until I had quite the collection.  And I loved them.  They remind me of my grandfather who has now been gone 20 years.  My grandmother who passed away in 2008 usually gave me a nutcracker and so they’ve become a cherished memory of her as well.  But living in small spaces meant not having a place to display my collection and over the years my beloved nutcrackers have taken up permanent residence in storage units, attics, and spare closets.  So when I started going through my things I had to make a decision on whether or not to keep the nutcrackers.  I don’t want to sell them; they are priceless to me.  And I don’t think donating them makes any sense either.  So I’ve been giving them away to loved ones and I have to say I feel really good about it.  I have kept back 4 out of the 28 that have a special meaning for me and I have found other people who can cherish and love my other nutcrackers and what they mean to me.  So if you have heirlooms or gifts that have sentimental value but that don’t meet your criteria for keeping them think about who else would love to receive them as a gift.

There are plenty of other ways to find new homes for your stuff.  You can donate nice clothes to women’s shelters or community closets.  There are some cool organizations who help people improve their lives and provide for themselves by giving them professional clothing to go on job interviews.  And if you have some old formal dresses you want to get rid of you can also donate to groups like Operation Prom to help a young man or woman who wouldn’t be able to afford dress clothes  go to prom.  Then your stuff can become something that gives hope and joy to someone else!  What a great way to fight against consumerism and make your stuff work for you again!  I’ve also checked out Freecycle but haven’t posted anything on there yet or found anyone looking for what I’m giving away so I can’t say for sure how that one works but I’ll let you know if that changes (if you’ve used it please let me know how it’s worked for you!).

So that’s the plan: sale, give, and donate.  My 3 ways of simplifying my stuff without contributing to the landfills and waste!  There’s a lot of joy in knowing that someone else is finding enjoyment from my things.  Do you have any other tips, tricks, or thoughts on how to find new homes for our stuff?  I’d love to hear about it!  Happy purging!

Simple Living Series: Say Good-bye to Your Stuff

Ok so this is part three in my new Simple Living Series.  If you are new to the program check out the previous posts otherwise you are going to be one confused little kitten.  Enjoy!

So you’ve gotten to know your stuff.  You’ve looked around the house, under the bed, in the back of closets, and inside of all those little nooks  where our stuff just loves to hide.  You’ve decided which category your stuff fits in. You know whether or not it’s stuff you use, stuff you love, stuff you wish you used, or stuff you wish you loved.  This is where it starts to get really tricky.  This is where you start to say good-bye to your stuff.

As we talked about in the last post it is possible for things to be in more than one category at a time.  For instance: I use my bed every day and I love it 🙂  Ok but a better example might be a special coffee mug.  Theoretically you don’t need that fancy little mug but you use it every Saturday as a special treat.  So you love it and you use it- you’re good to go!

So let’s go category by category and figure out how we should decide what to keep and what we need to relocate (we’ll discuss how to go about this relocation more in depth in the next post).

Stuff You Use

This one is the easiest category because chances are good that if you put it in this category it can and should stay.  The trick here is to be ruthless in determining if it really belongs in this category or in the Stuff You Wish You Used category.  Ideally if you aren’t using something at least 4 days a week you want to consider whether or not you really need it.  That may be really hard to actually do and there a few necessary things that you may only use once or twice a week…although I can’t think of a single one now.  There are a couple of things to be aware of in this category though, even if you use the item every day.

1)  Do you need as many or as much of this particular thing in order to meet your needs?

2)  Could something else you already have be used in the place of a particular thing?

Yes you use a glass everyday but do you really need 12?  Chances are pretty good you don’t.  (I’m going to have to write a whole separate post in order tackle the kitchen…kitchen stuff is tricky.  Stay strong!)  Yes you exercise every day but unless you are regularly participating in various kinds of sporting events that require specific kinds of footwear you probably only need one pair of tennis shoes.  Seriously.  You don’t need 6 because they look good with the thousand pairs of athletic shorts you have…and you don’t need that many pairs of workout shorts either!  You have a washing machine!  Wash your clothes!  See where I am going with this?  You may use shampoo and conditioner every day or every other day but you don’t need 3 different kinds of shampoo so get rid of 2 of them.

The other trick here is identifying whether or not you have something that can do multiple jobs and eliminate some of your other belongings.  My favorite personal example of this is a bookshelf I am getting from my mom.  It was in her study but she recently re-decorated so it’s all mine now.  Anyway it’s not a tall bookshelf, it’s wide, so I am going to put some of my books in it AND I am going to put my tv on it.  Bookshelf + Entertainment Center= one less piece of furniture to have to move and clean.  This works for smaller things too.  Measuring cups make great soup ladles…no need to keep ladles around!  Glasses are great at cutting out circle shapes in dough…yeah for biscuits and no extra cookie cutter clutter in your kitchen drawers!  You get the idea.  Be creative.  Can something you already own do the job of something else?  Well then get rid of the redundant item and enjoy less clutter!

Stuff You Love

I have a white elephant statue that sits on my desk that I just love.  I don’t have a good reason to love it.  It has no function or use, I constantly have to dust it, and it takes up valuable workspace on my desk.  But when I’m working or writing at my desk I see it and it makes me smile.  I’m keeping it.  I love it.  But by far my most sincere love is dedicated to my books…and I have a lot of books.  Asking me to give them up would be like asking me to get rid of some of my best friends.  Forget it.  Not gonna happen.  I love them.  In my opinion you should keep things you love and that bring you joy.  But be careful and make sure that you really love them.  It’s easy to mistake something for a “stuff you love” item when it is really a “stuff you wish you loved” item.  Let me tell you if you aren’t using, looking at, or enjoying regularly you don’t really love it.  True love requires regular visitation.  So be careful and be ruthless.  Don’t let that “stuff you wish you loved” crap creep in here!

Stuff You Wish You Used and Stuff You Wish You Loved

In both of these categories it is time to get down to some serious purging.  Listen, you are not your stuff and holding on to the “right” stuff won’t make you feel, look, act, or “be” better.  Stop believing the lie.  The only people benefitting from this lie are the advertising and marketing people.  You are awesome! And you don’t need to worry about accumulating the “right” stuff to prove it.  So (in my best Frozen sing-song voice) let it go!  Let it go!  Don’t let it hold you back anymore!!!  If it’s been sitting in the back of your closet for 6 months- let it go.  If it has been collecting dust on a shelf- let it go.  If, when you found it, you realized you had forgotten about it- let it go.  Seriously, these are the categories where you will find all that stuff that has been causing you stress, debt, and work.  So just let it go.  And read the next installment of this series to find out how you can do that responsibly!

So I get it.  This is the hard part.  Actually deciding what to keep and what to get rid of can be really difficult.  Sometimes going through your closet can feel really personal.  But stick at it!  Don’t give up!  Remember why you are doing this!  You want to enjoy living with less!  You don’t want to spend your free time organizing, cleaning, and maintaining your clutter.  You don’t want to be a victim of consumerism anymore.  Don’t feel overwhelmed but go at it at your own pace.  As I’ve been going through my things for my upcoming move, I set aside certain days and certain rooms and know that my goal for that day is to tackle say the craft room. This weekend I am tackling my closet and my bathroom.  If you are somebody who wants to hit it all at once put aside a weekend and GO TO TOWN.  But most people need to make this more of a process and that is fine.  The point here is to make your life less stressful- so make tailor this part of it to what works for you.  Good luck!

Simple Living Series: Get to know your stuff

When I started packing all those things up to move last time I was amazed at how much stuff I had bought and then forgot about.  You know the stuff I mean; the back of the closet, still in the bag, hidden in the shame of an impulse buy stuff.  I found candle holders, picture frames, an antique jewelry box, a ridiculous amount of t-shirts (thank you, youth ministry), and some shoes that are super cute…and uncomfortable.  And to my eternal shame most of those things got boxed up and moved to the next location anyway.

Our cluttering stuff tends to break down into a few groups.

  1. Stuff We Use
  2. Stuff We Love
  3. Stuff We Wish We Used
  4. Stuff We Wish We Loved

Stuff We Use

This category is pretty self-explanatory.  It’s made up of the stuff you actually use every day or at least 4 times a week.  So things like my computer, my hairbrush (or most toiletries in general…although not all so don’t get crazy.), and my purse.  (Ok Jesus Juke moment:  I feel like I should say my Bible.)

Stuff We Love

This category is for stuff that we love!  That shirt that just makes you feel so confident.  That coffee maker that gets that blissful first cup to you sooner.  That awesome piece of art that makes you smile every time you look at it.  Basically anything that just makes you happy- it goes here.

Stuff We Wish We Used

This category is awkward because this is the category that gives us guilt.  This is the category for the unused exercise equipment, the unused cleaning gadgets, and the unused cookware.  This is the category of “I know I should but…”.  And everybody has got it.  We have the best intentions and we buy this stuff in a fervor of get-it-done attitude (I am looking at you yoga stuff).  But the next day the fervor passes and the stuff gets relegated to the back of a closet fueling our self-loathing when we stumble across it every so often.

Stuff We Wish We Loved

This category is for the stuff that we bought because we thought owning it would make us better or happier.  Like that cute top that somehow was going to help you change your entire wardrobe but you never wear it because it’s not comfortable.  Or those shoes that are just gorgeous but pinch your toes.  Or that china set that was just so elegant in the store but that you are afraid to use.  This is the stuff that you hoped would be the glass slipper that would whisk you off to a happily ever after but it doesn’t seem to fit just right.

2 things before we go any further.  Yes it is possible for an item to fit into more than one category simultaneously and no not every little thing will definitely fit into a category (so please don’t waste precious time trying to come up with stuff to mess with my system).  But most things, probably 95%, will fit into at least one of these categories.  Frequently we just haven’t thought about which category a particular item falls in.  And we can’t decide what to do with a thing before we know which category it calls home.

So your minimalist challenge for the day is this:  get to know your stuff!

Look at all the items in your home.  Walk around, look in the back of closets, under beds, in the garage.  And ask yourself these questions about the things you see:

  1. Do you use it?  How often?
  2. Do you love it? What makes it so awesome?
  3. What would your daily life be like if you didn’t have it?

That’s it!  So go introduce yourself to your stuff and try and figure out which category it fits into.

Don’t worry I’ll wait.  Take your time! 😉