The Number One Way to Simplify Your Life

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Photo by Igor Starkov from Pexels

Is it touching everything you own and asking yourself if it sparks joy?

Is it decluttering one area at a time and putting things where they go right away so you never end up with a living, breathing, “Keep” pile?

Is it limiting yourself to only one hundred belongings that you can fit into a duffel bag at a moment’s notice?

No. Or yes.

The number one way to simplify your life is to do something that works for you personally.

Not everyone has the time to change their life with tidy magic. And not everyone can take on a slow, speed-of-life approach when they want to get it done right now.

Sometimes people simplify, declutter, downsize, or minimize due to the need to move quickly or just because they’ve finally had enough and need to change something in their lifestyle because it’s driving them bananas.

No matter your reason for applying minimalism to your life, the best way is whatever way works for you personally, because everyone’s preferences, speed, and ability levels are different.

If you don’t know where to start, start by researching the different methods available to you and just pick one to try out. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t, try a different method. This Ultimate Home Decluttering Guide breaks down the benefits of decluttering as well as several approaches to minimizing your belongings.

Benefits of decluttering include:

  • Improved concentration
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sleep
  • Finding things you thought you lost
  • Increased home safety

Some of the Ultimate Home Decluttering Guide’s tips include:

  • Establish a regular time to declutter daily and weekly
  • Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year
  • Have a friend or family member help you
  • Ask yourself, “Would I trade inner peace for this?”
  • Create a quarterly schedule to declutter large areas like the garage or attic
  • Try out to-do lists to organize your efforts
  • Learn to declutter your mail as it arrives daily
  • Return borrowed items to their owners
  • Throw away or recycle anything you don’t need
  • Try filling one trash bag per day with donations, recyclables, or trash as a short-term decluttering method
  • Declutter one item each day (throw away or give away)
  • Try the “four box” method and sort things into keep/not sure/throw away/give away boxes
  • Try the “cardboard box test” and pack items away in a cardboard box – if you don’t open it in a month, donate the whole thing
  • Declutter room by room
  • Look for easy things to discard, such as expired food or medicine (call a local pharmacy for tips on disposing of medicine)
  • Try creative organization methods like an over-the-door shelf or hanger, drawer organizers, tension rods, etc.
  • Start in one corner of a room and declutter one area at a time
  • Declutter hidden spaces like dresser drawers and closet bins too
  • Donate clothing that doesn’t fit well or isn’t comfortable (and therefore isn’t worn regularly!)
  • Maximize your storage space
  • Reduce the number of redundant kitchen tools you have
  • Deal with your stacks of paper
  • Donate unused comfort items like blankets if you have too many to reasonably use
  • Teach kids to clean up their toys as part of their bedtime routine
  • DON’T buy organizers before you see the final result of your decluttering and know exactly what you’re organizing
  • Break tasks down into manageable chunks and schedule your decluttering

The Ultimate Home Decluttering Guide also identifies several clutter personalities:

  • People who don’t recognize their clutter
  • People who clear then re-buy
  • The Superman (organizes without decluttering)

If you recognize yourself in these clutter personalities or you’re curious about trying some of the methods described, go check out and bookmark the Ultimate Home Decluttering Guide – it’s a very valuable resource for staying on task with a decluttering project.

 

 

Minimalist jewelry box

Is your jewelry box overstuffed?

Jewelry can be hard to minimize, because it really doesn’t take up all that much space and it often has sentimental memories attached or may cause you feelings of guilt when you consider relocating it from your life.  Wedding rings, inherited jewelry, gifts from current or past partners, gifts from family members… these are all sentimentally charged articles in our jewelry wardrobe and it can be very hard to shake the sentimental ties.

I have a ring my ex-husband bought for me.  I picked it out in the store and it was perfectly me.  And now it’s sitting in an Altoids tin because I love it but I cannot bring myself to even consider wearing it.

You may have items in jewelry boxes like I do, relics of your past that are beautiful but that you just aren’t wearing and can’t seem to discard.  Or you may have gifts from friends or relatives that just aren’t your style.  How much good are those pieces really doing you?

When you consider your jewelry, think about the following:

  • Do you wear it? If not, why not?  Memories? They will still be with you, even without that ring or bracelet.  Take a picture of it if you want to remember it specifically.  Not your style? Then why does it deserve a space in your home?
  • Will you wear it? Maybe you have a set you wear for job interviews or during the winter holidays.  While you could probably get by with a basic pair of earrings and simple necklace for any occasion, sometimes you can justify holding onto an item if you will wear it soon.
  • Is it worth something? If you’re holding onto it because it’s worth some money, sell it.  If it only holds sentimental value, examine that and see if you can move past it and declutter it if you’re not wearing it.
  • Is it beautiful? This one is tricky with jewelry.  With other things in your minimalist life, you can justify keeping something that is not necessarily practical, like pictures and paintings, souvenirs from travels, and other such items because they are beautiful and make you happy to look at.  However, jewelry is not to look at, it is to wear.  If you aren’t wearing it, it is taking up valuable space that could be better occupied by pieces you are wearing.  If you’re keeping an heirloom ring that you personally think is the ugliest ring in the world, it’s not doing you any good.  Only keep pieces that you wear regularly, which should be ones you think are beautiful.

Anatomy of a minimalist jewelry box:

My jewelry box is not a box, really.  I had a jewelry box, but I didn’t like how cluttered it was.  I looked into necklace racks and earring holders and was appalled at how much they cost.  I’ve always tried to be frugal, even if I spent the last twenty years accumulating stuff.  I fixed my accessory needs with a trip to a DIY store and a dollar store, where I bought a small plank of wood, some brass hooks, and a $1 grease splatter guard.

Bam. Eat your heart out, jewelry rack companies.

The above necklace rack used to be so full I had to double up on some of the hooks.  And that’s a lot of earrings!  I don’t even wear most of them, but that splatter guard makes me feel so clever every time I see it, so I have kept it full of earrings.  I set out to purge some jewelry I wasn’t wearing, and below are the results:

I’m now down to sixteen pairs of earrings and eleven necklaces from about twenty.

Reasons for purging earrings include:

  1. I don’t wear them anymore (4)
  2. I have never worn them (3)
  3. My ex-husband bought them for me (1)
  4. They make my ears itch (1)
  5. I have another pair similar to them (1)
  6. They are broken (1 — that one hurt, I loved that pair… sigh)

Reasons for purging necklaces include:

  1. I don’t wear it (5)
  2. It pulls my hair (1)
  3. My ex-husband bought it for me (4)

I am keeping a couple articles of jewelry that I have never worn in hopes that my reduced inventory means I’ll put them into a rotation more often.  Being honest with myself, I really only wear a few pairs of the earrings I’ve kept and I have a small rotation of necklaces that I frequently use to accessorize.  I’ll re-evaluate in a few months.  I think jewelry may always be my soft spot!

What items do you have trouble purging?

My not-so-minimalist bathroom

Hi, I’m Caitlin, and I am a recovered Just-In-Case-A-Holic.

I took the opportunity to remove everything from my bathroom while I was cleaning it, so I could take an honest look at what I had.  My findings astounded me.

I am ashamed.

How about those four brand-new deodorants? The two packs of makeup remover cloths when I hardly wear any makeup? Four bars of soap that came with me when I moved out of my ex-husband’s apartment.  Two brand new bottles of body wash for my boyfriend, two for me, plus one for each of us that was in the shower? Five tubes of toothpaste?

This has to stop.

I quickly began to sort, based on what I would keep, what I would transfer to someone else or to the donate box, and what I could toss.  Tossing was easy — old cosmetics and a hairbrush.  The transfer/donate pile got the his & hers body washes, lotion, one of those bottles of baby oil, and some other odds and ends (like my two extra pairs of tweezers).

The stuff I kept got sorted further still — would its home be the shower, the medicine cabinet, under the sink in the vanity, or in the “bathroom” bin on my bedroom shelf?  Shower and medicine cabinet stuff got put away, and here’s the rest of what made the cut:

Much better. I also left out the kitty litter scoop and toilet bowl brush. Those are givens. Plus, I didn’t want them on my bed.

The clear tote box is my “refill” box, with deodorants, soaps, contact lenses, and toothpaste.  I vow to not buy any more of those things until I use up what’s in this box.  Purple box has the overflow that I use semi-regularly but doesn’t fit in the bathroom, so it stays on my bedroom shelf — it has a hairdryer, flat iron, cotton balls, and various hair and makeup odds and ends in the zip bag.  Pink polka dot box has lady stuff in it.  The white-lid container is for kitty litter (the litter box is in the bathroom), and the small cup is a shaving kit I got as a gift for my boyfriend.

Here’s how the finished bathroom looks:

Daily things —  dental hygiene stuff, face stuff, hairbrush.

Shower stuff — his & hers body washes (to be replaced with a single bar of soap upon their demise), shampoo and conditioner, face wash, shaving cream.

In the vanity — refills, lady stuff, kitty litter stuff, extra toilet paper, and cleaning stuff.

One more step toward just enough. I would like to be rid of the excess soaps and toothpastes before I move again, so I’ll be sure to work my way through this stash before I go buying anything new.

I love how clean and light my bathroom is when I don’t have clutter all over it.  How do you keep your bathroom free of clutter and just-in-case items?

Paring down the kitchen

I recently acquired a new love in my kitchen, the TofuXpress.  If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or someone who enjoys tofu (but doesn’t enjoy pressing it between two plates and beneath a tower of heavy objects), go check it out. Right now. I’ll wait.

Just look at this beauty. I’m never going to wrap soybean curds in paper towels again!

Per my own minimalist rules… if it doesn’t get used regularly (once weekly), it is a candidate for expulsion.  Also, a popular minimalist policy is the one-in-one-out rule.  I got a new TofuXpress, so I had to rifle through my kitchen to find something to boot out in its place.

Or 42. That seems like a good trade.

I purged:

  • 2 carving knives (I’m an almost-vegan, and have only been using a couple knives regularly, and they will do!)
  • 7 large spoons
  • 4 forks
  • 9 small spoons (I kept four small spoons, four forks, and four butter knives — do the math if you dare – who needs 20 spoons?!)
  • 1 meat thermometer (which is very handy and lovely and not in any way unusable… but I no longer cook meat, so I have no more use for it!
  • 1 pastry cutter (I have lived here a month and did not know I had it)
  • 1 can strainer (a lovely invention, but I have a colander)
  • 4 cups and threaded lip-cover-things to the Magic Bullet blender (keeping the blender and two blender cups but these were superfluous)
  • 2 heart-shaped pancake molds that I used on Valentine’s Day and never again
  • 1 cutting board (I have another, why have two?)
  • 1 spatula (I have another one I like better)
  • 1 plastic spoon (haven’t used it yet, and I have others)
  • 1 cake pan (I am giving up my dream of being a confectionary goddess)
  • 1 plastic pitcher (I have one that goes with my iced tea maker)
  • 1 rice cooker/crock pot (It was a gift that I asked for so this one was sort of hard, but I have only used it once in three years!
  • Rice scoop (with cooker)
  • 1 brand new, in box Martha Stewart enamel fancy schmancy casserole dish (a gift, but in my defense, not one I asked for)
  • 2 potholders (I have another two and who really has more than two hands for hot stuff anyway?)
I still haven’t broken up my Pyrex set… here are the contents of my cabinet.  Maybe you can help suggest what’s the most necessary to keep.  I welcome any advice!

In all its glory. Help me get rid of some of that Pyrex!

I have a 9×13 baking dish, a smaller baking dish, three mixing bowls, a square baking dish, and two circular bowls I use for storing leftovers or packing for lunch.  As an added bonus, check out my nifty knife rack! I used 3M Command velcro strips (for picture hanging, if you listen to the packaging) and put up a magnetic knife rack beneath the cabinet.

What’s in your minimalist kitchen?

Boxes

I’ve been living in my flat for a week now, and six boxes remain unpacked.  I’ve rifled through them on occasion to look for something, but I have yet to put them all away.  A couple major reasons for slacking are that (1) I spent most of the week at my partner’s house, and (2) I still haven’t purchased 3M Command Hooks to hang some things, and I can’t put nails in the walls.

To be honest, I don’t even know what’s in some of them.  The decluttering fairy approves, because that means I’ll have an easier time pitching things in the boxes into my yardsale box.  A pitfall of my cleaning process is that I always wind up with one box of “junk” that I don’t get rid of but I don’t have anywhere to put it, so it just gets decluttered into a smaller and smaller box.  Minimalist Me thinks that if I can’t remember what’s in a box, the contents of the box have lost the privilege to stay in the box.  Goodbye, stuff! 

Also related to boxes, I purchased some collapsible canvas tote boxes to use for storage in my flat.  They will keep things together and provide a home for loose items, such as my “office” box for post-it notes, paper clips, etc., and an “internet” box housing my modem and wireless router. It keeps them out of the way and reduces the amount of cords I have to look at.  I’ve never been a fan of cords all over the place. I also plan to have a “cat” box, with my cat’s brush, flea medication, etc. so that all cat items are in the same place and easily retrieved. 

I am still hopeful about my goal of having all my possessions fit into my car by next summer. 

 

 

 

New closet, new rules

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As described in an earlier post, Cleaning out the closet, I pared down my wardrobe to 50-ish items before moving from my mother’s house to my own flat.  I am slightly ashamed to say that I did rescue one sweater from the purge pile, but I did add another shirt to the purge pile in its place.  I also have a plan to make sure I only possess the articles of clothing I actually wear.  I am going to share that strategy with you now!

I put my hangers in backwards.  Every article of clothing in my closet went in on a backwards hanger.  As I take out items to wear them, and they go back into the closet, the hanger gets reversed to the “normal” position.  At the end of a certain period of time, whatever is still on a backwards hanger gets donated or sold, because I’m clearly not wearing it, so someone else should get the chance.  Some of the things in this closet have the tags on, and they were purchased months ago. Yikes.

Tee shirts are in an under-bed storage bin, all facing down.  As I wear them, they can get put away facing up.  I rarely wear tee shirts so that should be an easy purge in a few months.

Typically, I sort by color, but I sorted my clothes by type this time.  Tank tops, short-sleeve blouses, pants/shorts, dresses, sweaters, dress clothes.  I think, for dresses, pants, shorts, tanks, and short-sleeves, I will re-evaluate in six months and take a look at what I wore and what I didn’t.  For sweaters, obviously I’ll need some colder weather before I evaluate that. Ideally I would like to own only one suit, but my mother (she should get her own tag) assures me that, in case one pair of dress pants rips, I should have a backup.  And a backup for my backup.

I’ll wait a few months and probably pare down the dress clothes too.

I would like to — ideally — end up with a color palette of “stuff that goes with black” or “stuff that goes with brown” and not have to deal with both… for now, I have blacks and browns and I love them both.  Baby steps.

Unpacking the kitchen

I moved to my new flat over the weekend – approximately 500 square feet.  I did the move in four Honda Fit trips and one truck trip.  Still more Stuff than I would like to have, but less than half of what I had to begin with – wow!  Allow me to take a small moment to pat myself on the back.

I went from packrat to minimalist (or minimalish) in a week.  I found a blog that inspired me — missminimalist.com — and decided once and for all that I was going to start over.  With less.  With enough.

However, toward the end of packing, I began just shoving everything into boxes and not being as careful about thinking it through.  I wound up moving some Stuff that I didn’t need but took anyway to determine its fate later.  I have a “yard sale” box already started in my flat that doesn’t even have everything unpacked yet!

First-tier purging was easy: I put all my books, clothes, shoes, craft supplies, etc. out, really looked at the pile, admitted that I wasn’t even using half of it, and tossed it into a “yard sale” or “donate” box.

Second-tier purging, as I unpack, has a lot to do with the space available in my flat. It also has a lot to do with the fact that I want to reduce clutter and knick-knacks and stuff on the prime real estate of my kitchen countertop.

I have two kitchen drawers.  I have two cabinets under the sink (I plan on putting cleaning supplies there along with my garbage and recycling bins), two low cabinets (already beginning to fill with small appliances), and two very high cabinets I need a step-ladder to access if I want to reach higher than the first shelf (dishes and food in these two).  Aside from my fridge, which is housing my microwave on top and my tupperware and lunchbox inside (when am I ever going to fill it with food?), those cabinets and drawers are all my kitchen storage.

I started by prioritizing the things I would use most often — four plates, four bowls, four juice glasses, and four coffee mugs are on the lowest shelf.  Then Pyrex mixing bowls and baking dishes.  Another shelf of Pyrex.  On top, I have extra napkins and the saucers and small plates from my dish set.  I don’t need those all the time (or, ever, as the case may turn out).

After streamlining the dishes, I had to admit that I had excess Stuff in my kitchen.  I probably don’t need all that Pyrex, but I haven’t been able to break up the set, and I have actually used every piece of it, so it stays for now.

I’ve had to decide if I really need that bamboo lazy susan that doesn’t even turn smoothly and I’ve never used in my life.  Yard sale box.

Brand new 9×13 pan that I got in 2009 as a wedding gift.  Did I mention brand new?  Never used it.  I got four 9×13 baking pans as wedding gifts.  One I left with my ex-husband when I moved out, one I donated to my mother’s kitchen, and two I took with me — one metal, one glass (Love Pyrex. Love it).  I decided I could do whatever I needed to with the Pyrex one, and put the brand new pan in the yard sale box. It hurt a little.  Brand new.  I also put a brownie pan into the box.  Who needs a special pan just for brownies?  Apparently I used to (I actually did use it several times, but I can make brownies in the pan I kept, I don’t need this one too).

I have a cake pan and two muffin/cupcake pans that I’ve never used but I got at yard sales, because I like to cook and bake.  I really do!  But, to pull from Miss Minimalist, the cake pan, pie plate, muffin pans… those are more for my fantasy self that spends all weekend Betty-Crockering it up in the kitchen, not really for my reality self that would rather go one block down the street and buy a fantastic vegan cupcake rather than making two dozen that she would then consume.  Verdict on the baking pans: Undecided.  (Side note: I started my purge with three pie plates and pared down to the one that came with my Pyrex set).

I could go on and on about my adorably tiny kitchen with its built-in breakfast nook (and only one accessible outlet, under the table — who does that?) and high cabinets and cute little cup hooks, but I think I’ve rambled enough for one post!  Next up, getting my clothes to come out of the closet.

Giving it away

A big part of why I have accumulated Too Much Stuff is that I spent money on it, or someone else did, and I feel guilty throwing away something that I bought (or someone bought for me).  Many times I decide to start a new hobby, or home business, and then I get bored, or it’s too much work, or I otherwise stop.  I feel like a failure, and there’s all this Stuff everywhere that reminds me of my tired hobbies.  I promise myself I will pick up again, really make some earrings, really book some home parties to sell my products, really get back in the (metaphorical) studio to do some paintings, really buy a domain name to sell those paintings, really make that quilt, and so on and so forth.

This has to stop.

I am going to focus on one artistic hobby: Painting.

I will not buy any jewelry making kits. I will not buy a sewing machine. I will not buy tissue paper in every color of the rainbow. I will not buy any new painting supplies, until I legitimately need to replace something in my supplies.  When I buy new things, there will be a one in/one out rule — I will toss one item for every item that gets added to the collection.

Today, I am putting into the mail a box full of my in-home party demo items, to send to another consultant in the in-home party business I attempted and have thus far basically failed at.  All I ask is that she reimburse me for shipping.  She’s getting hundreds of dollars of product, product I bought… and I really don’t care! I just want it to be gone!  I don’t want to move it anymore!

Today, I gave away a box of craft items.  Tissue paper, glue sticks, markers, crayons, colored pencils, card stock, ribbon, pipe cleaners, cake decorating items, and more.  I gave the whole box (a very nice craft caddy box with compartments and lots of storage) to my boss’s sister with the caveat that I never wanted to see the stuff again.  She happily left with her new craft items to go home and organize them in her own craft area.

Awesome. Two huge areas of my room, gone, donated, just poof! And I don’t care.  I learned from my mistakes — no more impulse purchases, no more “I’ll get around to it” projects… I tossed all my old high school and college tee shirts because I hadn’t made a quilt out of them yet and I didn’t trust myself to actually, truly get around to it.  Bye bye, stuff!

The limbo box

On January 1, 2012, I started the official process of moving into my mom and stepdad’s house to live with them while I “got back on my feet.”  It took me months to move out of my then-husband’s apartment, one box at a time, by myself, to my car, and one car load at a time to my mom’s.

I am tired of carrying boxes.

I have a lot of stuff that I don’t use, but that society insists I need.  This post is about some of those things that other people think I need.

I have been going through boxes and boxes that I brought from my previous apartment, and re-packing the things I think I will truly use, and leaving behind a really impressive “yard sale” pile.  If it doesn’t sell, I’m taking it all to Goodwill, because I am tired of looking at it.

My mother was observing the process when I found a small bulletin board and commented, “How many of these do I really need?” I have four. I mused on the subject, and decided to only take one small bulletin board with me to the new flat.  Then I announced I didn’t need it, and I would put all four into the yard sale pile.  My mother immediately defended the bulletin board. “You’re going to want that!” she insisted, “You can put it next to where you pay your bills!”

I had already decided that all bill-paying supplies and office supplies would be kept in a one-drawer end table next to my couch.

I put the bulletin board in a box.  She looked on disapprovingly.

When I found my iron, I announced that, since I hadn’t used it in years, I wasn’t going to take the iron or my ironing board either.  If she disapproved of my bulletin board discard, she was at arms about the iron.  “You need that! You are going to need that! When you don’t have one and you have to go spend $20 on a new iron you are going to wish you had kept that! Listen to your mother, I know best.” (She actually said that).

I continued to insist that I wasn’t going to use it, but she was very determined I should keep it.  I suggested a compromise: I would keep the things I thought I didn’t need and she thought I did in a box at her house, and if I did wind up needing them, I could come get them.  She agreed.  Bulletin board, iron, ironing board – all into “stuff limbo.”

 

Guilt and sentimental attachment

One of the hardest things about getting rid of stuff I don’t use or need is that a lot of times, that stuff I don’t use or need was a gift from someone I care about and I don’t want to insult anyone by getting rid of things they gave me.

I’ve been carrying around a gorgeous glass chess set that my brother got me for Christmas when I was 12 for twelve years and I haven’t played a game of chess in probably five.  I just carry it around with me and stick it in a corner.

That’s just one example.

I have an old laptop computer my parents bought me when I went to college in 2006. I have every flower my boyfriend has given me, dried and in a vase and gathering dust because how on earth do you dust such a fragile item? I have ornaments and collectibles and stuffed animals and all manner of stuff and things that just get moved and organized from box to box, dwelling to dwelling.

But no more, I say!

I am taking an honest and frank look at the things I have.  And it’s hard, because when I start going through my Rubik’s Cube collection, my sister shrieks, “You can’t get rid of that one, I got that for you!” When I mention getting rid of things, my boyfriend comments, “None of my gifts, right?” When I purge my closet, my mother asks “Are you getting rid of anything I bought for you?”

I know I am not going to be happy in my new place if I have to take stuff just for the sake of having stuff.  What am I going to do with it? I have 500 square feet to work with, and that doesn’t leave a lot of space for knick-knacks and decorative items.  A few, yes.  All, no way.  I cannot fit those things into my new place.  My priorities have changed.  I want to live more simply, and I want to live for myself.  I feel like I have the burden of caring for other people’s gifts — things that I didn’t need in the first place and do not need to be happy — for the sake of the gift-givers’ happiness.  What’s up with that?

Side note: I am allowing myself one box of sentimental “stuff” that I am willing to store in my new place. One box.  If it’s too full, I will have to make some cutbacks.  In the box so far is a stuffed animal I have had since I was a child, a box of souvenirs from my dad’s travels to other countries, a baby blanket from when I was born, and some other things that I can’t remember and so probably don’t matter.

The purge continues!