4 tips for maximizing clothing storage when you don’t have closets

Happy Thursday! Did you take my challenge last week? I would love to hear all about it. I made a concerted effort to connect with my partner and really focus on him for a few moments at the beginning and end of each day. This week in particular has made a big difference on my mood and outlook throughout the day. Spending some time waking up together, instead of me slinking away to get dressed for a workout in the dark, has made me a happier person these last few days. Those moments are more important, in the grand scheme of life. I will never wish “If only I hadn’t spent so much time sharing my love with him…” so I call this challenge a win, in my books.

How did your challenge go? (If you’re just reading, last week I challenged readers to perform a small action each day for a week to improve their lives – such as drinking a glass of water upon waking, spending a minute to hug and kiss their partner or children when they get home, eating a serving of vegetables, etc. Go check it out!)

This week, I’m going to bring it back to your garden variety minimalism themes and talk about how to cope when you lack closet space. Many of us live in small spaces and lack storage space. I, personally, find this to be a blessing in disguise, because it means I have to be very particular about the clothes and items I keep around. They must really be things that I love if they make it to the prime real estate.

We don’t have closets in our master bedroom. There is a linen closet and a couple of storage cabinets on the landing outside our bedroom, which are being used for linens, the laundry hamper, workout equipment, unmatched socks, and craft supplies. The small spare room/office near our bedroom has one closet, but it’s housing my boyfriend’s nice button-down work shirts and some shoes. (Stay tuned for “How to live with a non-minimalist.”)

What can you do when you don’t have a lot of closet to work with?

1. Store clothes in a dresser

My first order of business when I moved in was to procure a dresser or two. Co-human had been using a downstairs spare bedroom to keep his clothes in a dresser and closet, but I prefer having clothes in the bedroom. I found a set of dressers at a local antique shop and purchased them for a great deal. One dresser is more horizontally oriented with three long drawers – these house partner’s underthings and socks, tee shirts, and backup tee shirts, respectively. The other dresser is taller with four short drawers. I have two: underthings and socks, and tee shirts/workout clothes/misc. The other two are for my partner’s workout shorts/towels and pants. (Side note: I have now written and read the word “dresser” so much that it no longer looks like it’s a real word).

Keeping clothes in a dresser, bureau, or chest of drawers is a great way to keep clothing contained without needing to hang them up. This works well for pants, sweaters, workout gear, tee shirts, socks, and underwear, but some things really need to be hung to maintain their shape and avoid wrinkles, such as dress shirts, slacks, dresses, or blouses.

2. Hang clothes on coat hooks

The more minimal you keep your wardrobe, the better for this example. If you only have a few “nice” items that you need to keep on hangers, you could hang them from coat hooks on the wall. This would be a great option if you only keep a few articles of clothing (think Project 333) and want to pre-make some outfits to wear.

Do not use this option if you have cats, dogs, ferrets, or other pets that might climb up your pant leg, pee on your hemline, or chew your sleeves.

3. Use a wardrobe

We bought two Ikea wardrobes to put in our bedroom for clothing storage. This solution made the most sense for our needs. They were about $100 each (plus gas and mileage to Pittsburgh and a burger lunch) and fairly easy to assemble. I put them both together. They have a shelf at the top, on which I keep folded pants, tank tops, leggings, and sweaters. They have one rod, which comfortably fits all of my clothing besides the things in the two dresser drawers. I still only have about 50 items in my wardrobe, but there are some things I recently culled from the pile and need to donate.

4. Be a nomad

You could always live out of a backpack and just have two pairs of pants, five shirts, and some socks and underwear. Hey, it’s an option.

How do you compensate for lack of clothing storage?

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.


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?

Minimize your budget with Gillian

Today’s post is a guest blog by Gillian at Drop that Debt!  I also wrote a post for her blog today, which you can read here.

Hey all! I’m Gillian and I blog about personal finance over at Drop that Debt. It seems that Caitlin and I both started blogging and reading each others blogs around the same time, and I’ve been hooked ever since! Her Not-so-Minimalist Bathroom post was so eerily similar to my own experiences I just had to read more. I graduated school with a college diploma and a university degree like most young people do these days– in loads of debt. After a bit over 6 years in school, I was over $60,000 in debt with no real job prospects immediately leaving school. I was lucky enough to get a job serving a month after leaving school, which is not in my field but it is enough to pay the bills and it will do for now.

I got smacked by the reality train pretty hard after graduation. I realized that no, it is not as easy to pay off student loans as I thought it would be and yes, it will take me years to pay off my loans, even if I put over $1,000 per month towards them. I had been overspending during school, coupled with not earning enough to pay my tuition and living expenses and I decided I needed to finally get real about my finances so that I could throw any and all extra money at my student loans. Over the past 6 months, I have learned a lot about personal finance, what works, and what doesn’t work so well. Here are some things you can do if you find yourself not knowing where to start with getting your finances in order:

Create a budget. This is hands down the most important thing that got me on track when I started. You need to figure out approximately how much income you earn each month. Once you figure out how much you are bringing in, you can figure out how much you can afford to spend in each area. I had a set amount for rent, car insurance, car payments, and student loan payments (minimum monthly payments the institutions require) and everything else was under my control. I started by deciding how much money I wanted to dedicate for repayment of my loans. I decided on about $1,000 / month as an ultimate goal; and it’s slowly been climbing to reach that number.

Pay off your highest interest loans first. Both of my loans have fairly small interest rates. One is about 4% and the other is 4.5%. However, if you have a big credit card debt (18% +) or something else with higher interest rates, pay that off first. Make the minimum payments (or a bit above) and throw the rest of your extra money at the highest interest loan first. Once you pay the first loan off, you can add that payment onto any other loans you have.

Don’t discount anything. Even “fixed” costs can be cut back. It can be tough but often people end up living far outside of their means. If your rent is taking too large of a chunk of your budget, you should find a new place as soon as you can that is cheaper. If your mortgage payment is too big, it’s time to seriously consider selling your house and buying one that is worth less. The same thing goes for cars. It kills me that some people are making car payments that are $600 or more per month! I didn’t have too many high fixed costs but I still cut back where I could. I got my cell phone bill down from $73/month to about $33/month. Every $40 counts and can be used towards loan repayment, savings, or somewhere else.

Think before you buy. There can be many temptations when you are cutting back on spending, especially if you aren’t used to being careful with your money. Cute clothes, new gadgets and the like can be hard to ignore. I don’t deprive myself of anything (within reason), I just make sure it’s really worth the chunk of my budget before I buy it. Many times I’ve tried on clothes, left, then decided I didn’t need them after thinking on it for a day. Occasionally, the item really was worth it and I would go back the next day and make a purchase. Taking that extra time away from the store and the immediate gratification of the purchase often gives you the clarity to see that you don’t really need the item.

Since making these changes, I have consistently brought in far more money than I have paid out. My student loan payments are always high, generally in the $700 range each month and with some work I plan on increasing that number in 2013. These methods are surefire ways to get your finances in order.

If you would like to write a guest post for Born Again Minimalist, or if you would like me to write a guest post on your blog, please contact me via the suggestion box link above, or email bornagainminimalist@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading!

Tis the season

It’s almost Thanksgiving.  Which, in today’s culture, means that it’s almost Black Friday Eve.  People will camp outside stores to make a mad dash for doorbuster sales and discounted prices to prepare for their holiday gift-giving traditions.

I posted a note on my Facebook and tagged my close family and friends, letting them know that they were exempt from giving me a gift this year.  Here’s what my note said:

Attention friends and family, with Black Friday approaching I wanted to let you know that you’re off the hook for me this year.  Consider yourself gift-exempt.  I would rather have a nice phone call with you to catch up (if you’re far away) or make plans to spend time together (if you’re close) than get a gift.

I know that the holiday season is a time of giving, and you may feel strongly about getting me a gift.  If you do feel compelled to give me something for the holidays, please remember that I’m vegan, I  buy organic as often as possible, and I don’t use commercial bath or beauty products with unpronounceable chemicals in them.  If you want to buy something for me, please buy something made in the USA or a Fair Trade Certified import that is not made of plastic. You could also make a charitable donation in my name to a worthy cause.

Or just ask me what I’m currently coveting, for example:

  • -A HankyBook: http://hankybook.com/ (I like the pink lotus pattern especially)
  • -White or sage green color cloth napkins (secondhand, seriously, shop at Goodwill, antique malls, and estate sales)
  • -Measuring spoons (again with the secondhand stuff from Goodwill, etc.)
  • -A nice (and smallish) bamboo cutting board, or bamboo cooking utensils
  • -Really, just ask and I will come up with something I would really appreciate as a gift! But you are not obligated.

Now that I have given you my high-maintenance hippie Christmas list, I’m sure you’ll be very relieved to go read the first part again and remember that I am giving you gift-exempt status!

I love you all, and I wish you happy holidays 🙂

I thought this was a pretty appropriate note letting people know that, as we approach the Time of Shopping, they could leave me off their lists.  This is my one-person passive protest against consumerism.  Because really, Christmastime has become more about the gifts and the sales and the stuff than the love for a lot of people.  I just want the love.  I’ve always loved Christmas, and I remember spending days going through catalogs and circling the things I wanted.  I don’t even remember what I asked for or received most years.  These are the gifts I remember the most:

  • A music box with Disney’s Aladdin and Jasmine on the flying carpet, some time around age 5 or 6.  My dad wrote a very long note about how I was not to shake the box because it was fragile, and I thought it was a joke so I shook it anyway.  It was fine, but I did lose it at some point through the years and I bought one on ebay a couple years ago because I missed it and it reminds me of my dad.  It’s on my filing cabinet at work.
  • A “Boxcar Children” book from my aunt, when I was around 5 or 6.  I remember saying “Ew, I don’t like these books,” and my mom told me to be appreciative and give it a chance.  I quickly consumed ALL THE BOXCAR CHILDREN BOOKS.  I even “left a mystery” in the house when we moved out of it.  It was not a good mystery, it was some pokemon cards stuffed into a hole in a closet wall. I am mildly ashamed of this.
  • A stuffed animal seal, around age 11.  It was donated by someone because we were part of an adopt-a-family program.  I have donated gifts to families in need since then, always remembering and being thankful for those who gave me that seal.
  • A glass chess set from my brother, age 11.  It was gorgeous and wonderful.
  • A laptop computer from both my parents when I started college (age 17).  I saved the gift tag for years because it was the first “Love, Mom and Dad” gift I had seen since they divorced when I was seven.
  • This year my mom is paying for my hotel stay in Spain as my Christmas gift, because she is awesome.

I remember how those gifts made me feel.  All of these gifts were in tune with the things I loved and appreciated, like my favorite movie (Aladdin, at the time), a favorite hobby (reading), a game I had recently learned to love (chess), and something I needed for school (the computer).  This year, mom’s picking up my hotel tab and I have no additional expectations for more gifts, because that gift of having a place to stay on my vacation is plenty, even without a tangible item.  I’m minimizing tangible items, remember?

But putting parameters on gifts like this is a little inappropriate because it’s the thought that counts, right?  My counter-argument to this is that all I want is the thought. I want my family and friends to think about me this season, to call me on the phone and catch up, to go out to lunch, or to just spend some time with me.  My “parameters” for the gifts I would like are the same parameters I set when I’m shopping for myself — I do my best to buy local, sustainable, Fair Trade, and made in America products.  I do not always succeed, but I make an effort and I am always thinking about what my dollars mean.

(My iPhone is staring at me like I’m a hypocrite right now.  Are there any ethically made cell phones?)

All I ask is that, if someone is going to get me a gift (which they are in no way obligated to do), they get me something that resonates with my personal values and beliefs.

Are you taking any particular stands on this matter for the holidays?

A minimalist by any other name…

This is a request from the Suggestion Box. Feel free to suggest a topic you would like me to write about if you are interested in seeing something appear on the Born Again Minimalist blog!

What exactly is a minimalist, and how does minimalism differ from simple living, or any other term?  Basically, we’re all doing the same thing, right?  We all want to declutter our homes, break free of consumerism and debt, focus on quality over quantity, and make room for our lives.

I’d like to invite you to watch this video, which I find very amusing.

There are blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, and more, just lurking on the internet waiting to teach you how to be a minimalist.  The best part, however, is that you don’t need anyone else to tell you how to live simply, live minimally, live lagom, or live your life any way.  There are guides and advice, sure, but your simple life is how you make it.

Forgive me for citing Wikipedia, but here are some general definitions:

Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include reducing one’s possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics. Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.

Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in “quality time” for family and friends, work–life balance, personal taste, frugality, or reducing personal ecological footprint and stress. Simple living can also be a reaction to materialism and conspicuous consumption. Some cite socio-political goals aligned with the anti-consumerist or anti-war movements, including conservation, degrowth, social justice, ethnic diversity, tax resistance and sustainable development.

Okay, cool, this sounds like me.  I’m living simply.  I have reduced my number of possessions, I plan to garden to increase self-sufficiency, I am pretty satisfied with my needs vs. wants.  I live simply for health and personal balance reasons, bordering on spiritual motivations.  I am striving to be anti-consumerist and anti-disposable-items.

Wikipedia also offers the following definition of minimalism:

Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts. Minimalism is any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.

At its root, minimalism refers to music, art, architecture, writing, etc. that seeks to eliminate the superfluous and focus on the important bits.  It makes sense that the term could be applied to a lifestyle with the same basic idea: get rid of the excess and focus on what matters.

Giving a shout-out to Living Lagom, lagom is a term that basically translates to “just the right amount.”

There are as many terms to describe minimalists as there are minimalists.  And there is no one-size-fits-all definition.

Certainly I am not living as small as I could be.  I have a cat, and a compost bin, and I want to garden one day and maybe even keep chickens — these are not pack-up-and-move-your-life things to include in one’s minimalist life, but my intent is not to be able to move my life at the drop of a hat (though the thought of such a life is exhilarating!).  I only hope to live simply, decrease my dependence on corporations and consumerist culture, and be happy and as self-sufficient as possible, with a small carbon footprint.  I can call myself whatever I want, and so can you!

Be simple. Be a minimalist. Live lagom. Seek enlightenment.  Whatever you’re doing, keep it up if it brings you joy.  Remember that minimalism is not a destination — it’s a journey.  And you get to decide how it unfolds!

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?

On quitting

The Minimalists’ first book of essays was free for Kindle recently and I downloaded it and read the whole thing over a weekend.  It’s a quick read.  Most of the essays contained within are available from their website but the book also features two unpublished ones, which are fantastic.

The stories of these two guys from Dayton, Ohio (not far from where I attended college), who turned their unhappy lives around by living minimally, are inspiring.  I’m routinely amazed by their stories and growth.  In Screw You, I Quit, Joshua Millburn details how he turned his back on the life that wasn’t making him happy, a life with a six-figure salary that wasn’t enough to cover his increasing debt, a life with the house and the car and the stuff that he bought to fill a void that never seemed satisfied.  Minimalism allowed him to quit his job and live his passion and mission.

This is the single most inspirational essay on minimalism I have ever read.  I encourage you to read it.  Right now, go do it.  Then come back.

Get some popcorn, now I’m going to tell you a story about me.

I’m not at a place in life where I feel comfortable quitting my job.  It’s not sucking my soul away, bit by bit.  I like my job, I like my boss, I like most of my coworkers most of the time.  It’s interesting.  But it’s not my passion, and I know that.  I don’t think I will be here forever.  It allows me to live comfortably and to pay off my student debt.  I have vague sideways dreams of downsizing my life even further and paying off the debt faster, but those are still just whispers of plans.

I did quit the life I had, though.  I quit the plans I had.  I turned my back on them, and I don’t regret it.

I have a Master’s of Education in Higher Education Administration.  I applied to at least 100 jobs over the course of a year in 2011, while I had a job as a nanny after I graduated.  At the end of 2011, I got a part-time administrative assistant job as a temp.  I was good at it.  Then I got a break.  I got a big-girl job.  I make the medium bucks now.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with my degree.  Mentors and former supervisors asked me, “Are you going to come back to higher ed?” And I told them, “I don’t know, maybe in the future, but I’m happy where I am now.”

To be honest, I don’t know if I would go back.  Working with students made me happy, and I enjoyed helping them grow and learn.  I felt like I was contributing to something greater than myself.  But I am no longer sure that education is my passion.  I’m not sure it ever was.  I quit that plan. 

I was married for almost three years.  I knew something wasn’t right very early, but I convinced myself that I wanted to succeed at marriage, that being happily married would bring my life meaning and happiness and satisfaction.  I was miserable when I was married.  I felt hopeless, and depressed, and angry — at myself, mostly.  One day, I quit.  A friend had offered me a spare room in his home and I took it.  One night, I packed up everything I used regularly and the things I couldn’t easily replace and put it all in my car and when I left for work and school that morning, I didn’t come back.

I was running.  I packed like I had one chance to get it right.  The things I took with me when I thought I might not get anything else were an interesting mix.  I took clothes and jewelry and shoes for work and for everyday wear.  I took all my school books and supplies.  I took three paintings I had done that used to hang in the apartment I shared with my husband.  I took all of the autographed 8×10 photos of Star Trek actors.  I took my paints and a pencil and a pad of canvas paper.

I would sit, quiet and contemplative, in my little room at my friend’s house, sketching and painting and feeling happy.  I painted more in that two-month separation than I had in years.

Yes, two months.  I went back.  We reconciled.  Until it happened again and I couldn’t convince myself to stay any longer.  I gave up my ideas about marital bliss being the key to happiness.  I finally broke my promises.  I left.  I quit. 

And in the months since, after the guilt and the anger and the feelings of failure mostly subsided, I have realized that it’s okay to quit.  It’s actually pretty fantastic to quit.  My life now, a simpler life, is so much happier, so much fuller, so much more, than it ever was when I was living my life for someone else.

Quitting taught me something very important: We must never, ever put our happiness in someone else’s hands.  We must find our passion, our happiness, our mission in life, and we must follow it.  To do anything less is to deny ourselves what we deserve and what the world deserves from us.

I haven’t yet nailed down my passion in life (though painting is a passion, I don’t think it’s the passion) but I agree that our mission in life must be to grow as a person and to contribute to others.  I hope that this blog is an inspiration to someone, anyone, who is trying to live a better life through simplifying.  If I inspire just one person, I will be living that mission of contribution.

Quitting my old life has allowed me to grow as a person.  I learn more about myself every day.  I strive to make real decisions to better myself.  I’m not perfect.  I have not yet made enough of a commitment to my own growth.  But the inspiration of others who have done this before me gives me strength as I continue this exciting journey.  The past year of my life has been tumultuous and full of change.  I anticipate more change in the future, but I will be much better equipped to handle it with my new outlook.

Maybe one day soon I will be able to leave my day job to welcome a life of passion, but for now I am content to pay down my student debt as a drone.  As long as I make time for passion.  I must make time for passion.

The clutter of broken promises

This post is inspired by a recent post on Miss Minimalist.

In her post, she describes a baby swing that she purchased because it promised to make her fussy baby nap.  Though she is a die-hard “minsumerist,” she wasted no time parting with her money to buy this swing, this promise of peace while her baby slept peacefully.  Except her baby did not sleep.  Uh-oh.

That swing made a promise to her and it fell short of that promise.

What about the promises we make to our stuff? Or the promises we make to ourselves when we buy the stuff that plagues us?

I have an easel.  Priced at $45 at an estate sale, I took it home for $20.  Oh, the things I was going to paint.  And I have yet to do so, after owning the easel for months.  It didn’t make any promises to me… it’s just an easel.  I guess it promised to hold whatever canvas I put upon it, and it will be able to keep that promise.  But I promised it I would use it and love it and paint upon it.  I promised it a place of honor in my new flat (which it has, even if I never use it). I promised myself I would paint more with this easel.  I have not painted anything in several months.

If you find yourself surrounded by the clutter of broken promises, evaluate them.  What is the promise?  Who made it?  Who broke it?  Can the promise be kept? If not, maybe it’s time to let go of the promise.

If you find yourself considering a new item, evaluate those promises too.
What is this item promising to do?  Can you have that need met elsewhere?  Are you, say, buying an easel, or a new pair of running shoes, when you haven’t been doing any painting or running? Those things won’t make you an artist or an athlete.  In this instance, I think it’s better to work with what you have for now to make sure whatever promises you or your potential stuff make can be kept.

Many promises begin with good intentions.  And it is okay to realize you can’t keep a promise.  But we must be better stewards of our stuff and our lives and our promises and try not to make those we cannot keep (both to people and to stuff)!  We must also beware the pretty promises that stuff makes when it wants to make its new home with us.

Have you made any unkept promises to your stuff?

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?

The bare necessities

I have a confession.

I am a Disney junkie.  My sister and I clean our rooms to Disney music.  The soundtrack to Tarzan gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.  I am physically incapable of remaining quiet during a viewing of a Disney movie.

It’s pretty bad.

While I was driving home from work listening to my Disney station on Pandora (don’t judge me), “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book played.  I have known this song my whole life but one stanza stood out to me as I drove and sang along:

And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true

The bare necessities of life will come to you

You got your minimalism in my Disney! No, you got your Disney in my minimalism!

I think this little snippet of a silly song from a children’s movie has some great observations that apply to daily life in 2012.  People covet and want and need to need new things.  But when we realize that our lives are no worse for not having the stuff in our lives, we stop needing to need, and we’re happy with what we have.

Have any song lyrics or images surprised you like this?