21 New Years Resolutions for Minimalists

Happy New Year!

dreams

At a time when most of us are plotting the course to become a Totally New Me, I’d like to remind you all that you are doing great already. You’re enough, just as you are, and you don’t need to lose 50 pounds or get a boyfriend or achieve a certain level of income to be loved or worthy or enough. That said, New Years Resolutions don’t have to be about absolute life changes. You might find that if you focus on small lifestyle focus areas, you’ll reap large-scale rewards. I’ve put together a list of minimalist resolutions to help you simplify your life and focus on what matters most to you.

A look back

Take a moment to reflect on the year behind you. I can say for certain that when I was approaching 2018, I could not have predicted anything that was about to change for me. In 2018, I realized I was living half a life in an abusive marriage, so I left. In 2018, I lost my stepdad. In 2018, I cut contact with loved ones who damaged my mental health. In 2018, I socialized and made new friends and developed two healthy and loving romantic relationships. In 2018, I discovered a new favorite restaurant. In 2018, I accepted a book deal and wrote a book. It was a BIG. YEAR.

Related: MarketWatch – What to do when your best year at work is your worst year at home

Self reflection and goal setting

To help you reflect on your year in review and find the areas you want to work on for the next year, I recommend finding a few minutes to focus and reflect. This guide can help you out with guided questions and printable sheets to brainstorm.

First, reflect:

  • Did you achieve your resolutions and goals in 2018?
  • Do you have unfinished 2018 projects? Why?
  • Did you take time in 2018 to make a plan for your goals? Did you give yourself the time and resources needed to accomplish your goals?

Then, prepare:

  • Set clear, definable goals with measurable progress and success
  • Think about how you’ll react if you don’t achieve your goals
  • Decide how you’ll motivate yourself to reach your goals

Decide on the areas you want to improve, and then focus your goals on those key areas. The smallest consistent actions can create big improvements.

On to the resolutions

Depending on your areas of focus, here are some resolutions you may be able to adjust to your needs for 2019!

Career

  • Get in early. Resolve to arrive at your desk 15 minutes early this year. Having a few minutes to slowly get your mind into work-mode will leave you feeling more productive and less rushed. This doesn’t mean spend an extra 15 minutes working! Spend this time to close your eyes, set an intention for your work day, and get ready to work.
  • Update your resume. The simple act of updating your resume and polishing your personal brand can help remind you of your skills and make you feel more confident. You don’t even have to look for a new job if you don’t want to – just looking at your credentials and experience on paper is a great reminder of how you’re doing in your career.
  • Learn more. Resolve to read a book or take a webinar or workshop related to your career on a regular basis this year. Check out resources like Lynda, which may be available for free through your local library. Lynda has courses about almost everything.

Physical Health

  • Go to bed. You need more sleep than you are getting, if you’re like most Americans. More rest means better health, regardless of how much you’re hitting the gym. Working out while your body is exhausted can set you up for injury and burnout, so prioritize getting your ZZZs. Try to keep a consistent bedtime and wake time to teach your body your new habits and rhythms.
  • Stretch daily. Rather than commit to a year-long weight loss goal that so few people achieve without a heap of negative self-talk, choose a simpler resolution. Wake five minutes earlier so that you can stretch before you start your morning routine, and perhaps you’ll see that just a small amount of movement can help naturally inspire more.
  • Hydrate. Resolve to drink enough water on a daily basis – this will have a huge and lasting impact on your health. You’ll have healthier digestion when your body is properly hydrated, and you’ll also notice healthier skin.

Mental Health

  • Go to therapy. If your medical insurance covers therapy, find a therapist! Even if you don’t feel like you need one. It can be extremely helpful to have someone to talk to who isn’t knee deep in your personal life. They’re a neutral third party and can help you find other areas of your life to work on.
  • Try mindfulness. Many apps are available to help guide a quick meditation during your day, or you could try keeping a daily journal to jot down some affirmations, intentions, and gratitude.
  • Add plants. Houseplants are one way to improve your mood and mental health. While they’re obviously no replacement for therapy or medication, being around plants and natural microbes found in soil can help boost the immune system as well as inspire joy and decrease symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Social Life

  • Say no. Minimalism is about what to exclude from your life moreso than it’s about what to include, including your schedule. Learn to say no to some social plans so that you can say yes to the ones you really want to attend, without burning yourself out or overscheduling.
  • Try a new place. If you’re a homebody who wants to try going out more, set yourself an easy goal like trying one new place or route per month.This could be going to a new cafe to read a book, visiting a different branch of your local library system, or even taking a different route on an afternoon walk. Just try something different.
  • Give compliments. I used to be pretty quiet in public places, always staying in the shadows while my sister rained rainbow sparkles of joy on everyone she crossed paths with. “Love your earrings!” “That dress looks great,” “Your hair is awesome,” etc. etc. etc. After I went on medication for depression and anxiety, I was less scared of being seen as weird in public by engaging with people I didn’t know. Now I love to tell a server that I love their eyeliner, or give props to a coworker for a job well done in our weekly meeting. Resolve to say something nice every day. It will change your whole outlook on life.

Generosity

  • Leave bigger tips. If you normally tip 20%, resolve to tip 25% at minimum in 2019. This is a great way to be generous and make a big impact with a small change to your current habits.
  • Support marginalized artists on Patreon. Find someone on Patreon who is marginalized in an area of life where you have privilege. Donate to them monthly for the entire year. (For example, if you’re a cisgender white person, donate to a transgender person of color).
  • Declutter for a cause. When you’re decluttering and minimizing in 2019, donate linens, business casual wear, formal dresses, unopened toiletries, non-perishable foods, etc. to local agencies, women’s shelters, and other charities that help people. Even stained or torn towels and linens can be donated to most animal shelters to be used as bedding or cleaning rags.

Finances

  • Minimize your budget. Go over your past few months of bank statements and see what you’re spending money on that you forgot about, don’t really use, or are not seeing a good return on. For me, this meant finally canceling my Beachbody Coach account. I kept it active long after I stopped selling workouts and shakes, because I got an occasional commission and felt like “passive income” was a good reason to keep it up. But I hated the clutter of my monthly budget, so I canceled it and freed up a whole segment of my budget that I no longer had to think about.
  • Go “No Spend.” Resolve to have a no-spend week or month a few times a year. During this time, use up items in your freezer and pantry, learn to do without online shopping for the period in question, and give homemade or pre-owned gifts to people if an occasion falls during your no-spend challenge.
  • Live on half. If at all possible, challenge yourself to live on half of what you make in order to achieve your savings or debt payoff goals as fast as possible. If you can’t live on half of what you make, challenge yourself to spend half as much as usual on something in your budget for a month.

Physical Environment

  • Donate once a month. Make a resolution to take (at least) one full box to the local donation center each month. This is a low-stress way to declutter and minimize all year long.
  • Try Project 333. This capsule wardrobe project challenges you to go three months with only 33 pieces of clothing and jewelry (undies and workout clothes excluded). This experiment can help inspire a closet makeover in your home and help reduce future spending on clothes, once you realize you don’t even wear most of what you have.
  • Commit to one area. Resolve to keep one small part of your home as minimal and simple as possible. Your minimalist save point. It could be a whole room, or it could be as simple as your desk or one nightstand in your bedroom. Just find one spot that you’ll keep to your minimalist standards on a daily basis all year. The joy of seeing it so nice will likely inspire a similar commitment to other areas of the home.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

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Book Review: The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

minimalist home

Photo from becomingminimalist.com 

Everybody has the aha! moment that starts their journey to minimalism. For me, it was a basement full of stuff at my mom’s house after my first divorce. For some, it’s knowing there’s a pizza cutter somewhere in the kitchen but being absolutely unable to find it in all the chaos. For Joshua Becker, it was when a neighbor mentioned that people don’t actually have to have so much stuff when Joshua was mid-garage-cleanout.

Joshua is the mind behind the Becoming Minimalist blog and the author of Clutterfree with Kids; Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life; The More of Less; and the freshly published as of December 18 The Minimalist Home. I received an advance copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. So here we go, my honest review of The Minimalist Home.

First, it’s similar to other minimalism and decluttering books. But everyone has their own spin on the approach. Where Marie Kondo suggests touching everything to check for joy, category by category, and Dana K. White outlines the way you can declutter whether you have five minutes or five hours, Joshua Becker has a blended approach. His decluttering method goes room by room and follows the same basic steps each time, but what I really found differentiating in his book was the checklist for each room that was based on questions to ask yourself that focus more on how the space feels vs. how it looks.

Here’s an example from the chapter on kitchens and dining areas:

  • Is my kitchen easy to maintain and keep clean? Does it promote safety?
  • Is this a space I enjoy cooking in?
  • Are the tools I use most frequently easy to access?
  • Have I removed visual clutter from counters and surfaces?
  • Does my kitchen promote healthy eating habits?
  • Does this space encourage optimistic attitudes in the morning?
  • Does my dining room offer freedom to move about, rather than being cramped and cumbersome?
  • Does my dining area offer opportunity for meals together as a family – a place where we can recap the day?
  • Does my dining area encourage me to show hospitality to others?

Some of these questions are predictable and common sense (clean counters and surfaces, tools easy to access, etc.), but I was opened up to a new way of thinking about clutter when the questions became “is this a space I enjoy?” and “does the space promote optimistic attitudes?” and “does my dining area encourage hospitality?”

Suddenly the kitchen is no longer just another room to pass through on my way into the house after a long day, but the place I start a productive day with a healthy breakfast and the place that my partner and I feed each other and our friends. We actually enjoy hosting friends for dinner, and we’ve benefited from organizing our kitchen and the rest of our home in a way that makes the entire place feel more hospitable and welcoming.

Also throughout the book, Joshua includes stories from his readers and followers about the real-life ways minimalism has given them freedom. Freedom is a big theme of the book, whether it’s the freedom to travel, freedom of income when you stop spending so much on random stuff, freedom to whip up an impromptu scone because you know exactly where all the baking equipment is in your well organized kitchen. The combination of real life experience helps drive home the points that Joshua makes, because you can clearly see the tangible and intangible benefits of simplifying your space.

The chapter that made the biggest impact on me was about the home office. Having a simple and pleasant work space makes all the difference, whether you work from home or just need a place to pay the bills. I moved in with a partner about three months ago, and the whole house feels optimized… except the office. My desk has become a repository of stuff I haven’t dealt with yet. But I am an author and I work from home part-time for my day job, so I kind of NEED TO DEAL WITH IT. Joshua’s questions (“Does this space encourage me to focus on my work?” “Does this space invite me to enjoy the work I do?” “Is this space easy to maintain?”) forced me to acknowledge that I want to create a safe haven for my work so that I can feel better and more excited about sitting down to be creative. Thanks, Joshua.

After a room by room guide to minimizing, the book also includes a Minimalism Maintenance Guide, with tips on staying minimalist once you’ve pared down to a new baseline of simple living. This is often one of the hardest parts of minimalism, especially when you live with someone and must contend with other people’s possessions too.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Minimalist Home. It’s an easy read and very skimmable if you already know the basics and just need a refresher, but reading it closely will provide more context and a better feel for the why behind simplifying and de-owning possessions. The book is full of shareable bite-sized wisdom you can tweet or write down for later, such as “Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you have to fill it with stuff,” and it comes from a wonderfully approachable perspective. Anybody can start minimizing and creating their own minimalist home!

Keep up on where you can buy The Minimalist Home on Joshua Becker’s website. Many sellers are already out of stock!

 

 

 

Book Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life

It’s been a while since I did a post on decluttering and minimalism, and I am so excited to give a rave review of Dana K. White’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life. I downloaded it using the Hoopla app (which lets you use your library card to borrow six titles per month for FREE) and listened on my commute.

I’ve been through some stuff lately, y’all. I am moving for the second time in seven months. When I packed up and moved out of my ex-husband’s house, I realized that I was barely taking up space in that house. I’d pack my items up in each room and look at what was left behind, bewildered that it looked essentially the same. I had been trying to take up space for four years and though I’d hung art on the walls and organized the Pyrex containers the way I liked them, it never really felt like home.

With this move, I was determined to take up space and make my apartment a true home for myself filled with joy. I made a reading nook corner that I never used, I found the perfect chair at the Habitat for Humanity Store that I never sat in, and I used an air mattress as a couch because screw giant furniture. And I was happy there. Until I decided to move again ahead of schedule as part of Operation De-Stress.

Turns out, I still had stuff I didn’t use, need, or even want. Like the two sets of towels I received as wedding gifts that are still in their packaging. We got married over two years ago. Plus, some of the cute towels I bought when I moved in aren’t all that absorbent despite the fact that they match my bathroom theme. They’re in the donate box now. LuLaRoe clothing that I held onto for their resale value are just in the donate box. The white linen skirt I wore at my wedding, which I had planned to use in some piece of inspired transformative artwork, is in the donate box.

Because, hold up, this book has changed my life.

First of all, Dana K. White is the author of the blog A Slob Comes Clean, which started as an anonymous “practice blog” where she could confess her dirty house secrets. But then it turned out that a ton of other people related to her clutter woes and she ended up building a huge following and brand and I’ve consumed her books Decluttering at the Speed of Life and How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.

You should read these books if you have a messy home that you feel like you can never get out from under. Right now. Find them.

Here are the things Dana has taught me:

  1. The Visibility Rule: Start your decluttering project in the most visible places in your home. Where do you enter your home (and where do guests enter)? Look at your home as if you are a visitor and start decluttering the most obvious spaces. Clear your “slob vision” by looking at your home through new eyes.
  2. Don’t Pull Everything Out: I used to postpone decluttering because I wanted to go in KonMari style and do whole categories at a time. But I have other stuff to do, and I don’t always have the time or energy or wherewithal to pile every piece of clothing I own on the bed, touch it, and ask if it brings me joy. Dana helped me understand that I can declutter effectively without this en masse approach.
  3. The Container Concept and One In One Out: This is something I actually had done before, in my earliest days on the blog. I had a small bookshelf and decided I’d only keep the books that fit. The bookshelf was my container. But this method died a quick and painful death when I moved in with my “collector” ex, who had shelves upon shelves upon totes upon totes of books, technology, toys, hobby equipment, and clothes. And he was a shover. I cannot stand shoving. If a drawer is too full to close and needs shoved, there is a problem. Dana’s book reminded me that if there’s shoving, it’s time to remove something until the container is actually containing things.
  4. Start with Trash and Easy Stuff: Dana’s decluttering steps are so simple and obvious, I feel ridiculous that I never did it her way before. When you’re in your most visible space, start by throwing away or recycling the trash. Then look for Easy Stuff, things that obviously don’t belong in this space. Then…
  5. Take It There Right Now: Get rid of your Easy Stuff by putting it in its proper place as soon as you pick it up. Also, as you’re decluttering, ask yourself “Where would I look for this first?” and take it there RIGHT NOW. (MIND BLOWING – No “Keep” Boxes allowed).
  6. Donate the “Almost Perfect:” This one hit me so hard. If there’s something you keep around but don’t tend to use because you don’t like one thing about it, it’s time to say goodbye. This is what helped me let go of a super cute dress that didn’t fit right in the bust, as well as the aforementioned not-super-absorbent-but-really-cute towels. But now all my towels fit on one shelf in the linen closet with no more shoving!

There’s plenty more, but I really seriously want you to read her book. Also, she has a podcast. I am gonna die of excitement.

When to sell vs. donate

You have decided to de-clutter your home – great! But as you begin to sort through your belongings to decide what stays and what goes, you may consider, “What do I do with this stuff now?”

As you de-clutter, you will be making four basic categories of stuff:

  1. Stuff to keep
  2. Stuff to sell
  3. Stuff to donate
  4. Stuff to toss (recycle if possible)

Keep and toss are pretty self-explanatory. Sell vs. donate can become a sticky situation.

You spent good money on that stuff, why would you just dump it without trying to recoup some of your investment back? That’s completely true for big ticket items such as electronics, specialty books, collectibles, fitness equipment, furniture, formal dresses and new clothing, kitchen appliances, tools, children’s toys and clothing, etc. These can be sold at yard sales, on websites such as Craigslist or Ebay, or at consignment shops. I come from a long line of yard sale mavens, both in the buying and selling departments. I love a bargain and I love getting rid of stuff while I make money doing it.

But here is a hard truth: Sometimes it is not worth the effort to have a yard sale or to price and list everything online. Sometimes it is better for your mental health to just let it go and donate it, whether that is on Freecycle, to a local shelter, or to an organization such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

My mother had a joint yard sale with a friend early in the summer. She told me to price up all of my stuff and she would take care of the yard sale itself. After going through the whole house and boxing and bagging stuff to purge and sell, my boyfriend and I made about $300 for very little effort – what a success! We wanted to do more yard sales. My mom agreed to house the leftover stuff at her house with the caveat that I had it out of the basement by September 1.

So we had a yard sale. And I think we made about $50 for two days of work. That second sale was not worth the time and effort that went into it. I loaded two more car loads of stuff to take to my mom’s house for the sales. We set up tables and tents. We carried a bookshelf outside to put all the books on for display (which helped on day 2 but only helped about two dollars worth).

We were going to have yet another sale, but I was officially over it and couldn’t bear to host yet another sale. So I packed up two car loads of boxes and bags and took it to Goodwill. On top of that, I still brought a car load of stuff home again! Some of the things I think we can sell on Ebay or Craigslist, but if I can’t move it within a month or so, it will also be donated.

GOODBYE, STUFF!

As an added bonus, you can claim charitable donations as a tax deduction, so don’t fear that your stuff investment will go completely to waste. You can recoup a little bit come tax season.

To recap:

You should SELL your items if…

  • They are typical “hot sellers” at yard sales or sale sites
  • They are in good working order or near mint condition
  • They are collectible items
  • They are in good shape and can be sold at a consignment store (this is a good option for clothing in new or nearly-new condition)
  • They feel worth the effort of your time and energy to sell (and possibly ship, if you are selling online)

You should DONATE your items if…

  • You don’t want to expend the time and energy to *maybe* make a sale
  • They are common household items with low demand at sales
  • You want a tax write off for your donation
  • You want to support a specific charity (for which your donation is relevant – think prom dress charities, etc.)
  • You just want the stuff gone NOW

What are your methods for determining whether you should sell or donate?

Spreading the word

I’d like to take today’s post to share some other blogs I have found since I began my minimalist journey.  I’m following 17 blogs, which seems like a lot, but many of them don’t post often, and they aren’t all about minimalism.  I am a woman of many interests.  I follow parenting blogs, vegan eating blogs, personal blogs of people I care about, and a healthy dose of minimalism blogs, including these:

Living Lagom – This blog is the first I started following when I began my Reader on WordPress!  She posts very insightful posts about living with just enough, and her tales of her non-minimalist sister help me to get through life with the non-minimalists in my life (which is everyone but me, basically!)

The Simple Year – This mother commits to buying nothing new for a full year, and talks about her trials and tribulations, and she throws in some really funny stories too.  One of my favorites is the one about mismatched socks.

Living Simply Free – The tales of a woman who, upon having an “empty nest,” revisited her home full of stuff with new eyes and began to live simply and simply live, enjoying her time with her children, grandchildren, and several creative projects in her 300 square foot home.

Recently on Living Simply Free, I read about the Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, in which I shall participate.  It’s a challenge to remove 100 things from your home by the end of the year.  I’m in!  I can’t decide if I will write about it as I go along or if I’ll just do a post in December with everything I purged.  We’ll see.

What are your favorite minimalist blogs?

No chihuahuas in my purse

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Big bags are a thing now.  Bags big enough for books and puppies and three spare changes of clothes and, if you’re like me, a ledger’s worth of receipts for everything from stamps to dinner to oil changes three months ago.

Before my minimalist reboot, I was using a Timbuk2 messenger bag as a purse.  I absolutely adore the bag.  It is a fantastic bag.  So many pockets, and I could carry practically anything.  Padded shoulder strap, Grid-it organizer, so much storage… a wonderful bag.  However, I have decided to experiment and try a tiny bag as a purse instead.  The more room I have in my purse, the more room I have available to accumulate Stuff.  (I had a rubber door stop in there when I cleaned it out for this experiment…).

During the packing of my room at my mother’s house, I found a little zipper bag and thought “Oh, I can do something with this.”  Normally that line of thinking is my downfall and leads to more and more Stuff (I can make a pillow from this shirt, I can make a lampshade from that skirt, I can make a quilt out of these fifty tee shirts I’ve had since high school).  But not this time!  This time, my accumulation of a Thing was for minimalism.  I wondered if I could do it.

I opened my (very large, very full of cards) wallet and took out the necessary items: debit card, driver’s license, grocery store loyalty card, cash, etc. and I put them together with a kitchen clip.  Into the tiny bag they went.  Also into the tiny bag went a pen and a tampon.  You never know when someone will need to borrow one.  I know that’s not minimalist thinking, but seriously those are handy.

I took a look at my keychain next and decided I did not need all seven of those keys at the ready at any given moment.  Two keys — one to my partner’s house, and one to my mother’s, were clipped onto a key clip inside the bag, so I had them if I needed them but they weren’t cluttering my main keychain.  My keychain now features my three apartment keys (two doors, one mailbox), my car key, and my key for the office at work.  I rarely need that one, it can probably go onto the ring inside the bag as well.  My keys were previously kept on a long lanyard, which I have now repurposed as the purse’s strap, and I’m using a keyring my partner gave me as my main key-collecting device.  So far, so good.  I’m excited to see if I accumulate less Stuff in a smaller purse.

Also, the Timbuk2 messenger bag will continue to be used, as an overnight packing bag or camera bag, or both.  Just maybe not as my daily carry-all.