Can You Be a Minimalist in a Large Space?

Image // Dwell. Design // Jessica Helgerson.

Hi friends, Cary here!

The question — can you live simply in a large home? — is something I've been mulling over since we moved into our first home two years ago.

Cam and I had lived, quite happily, in a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco for 6.5 years before our move to Boise. Our intention for purchasing a larger home was to have space to grow our own family –– babies both fur and human (see below) –– and for family and close friends to visit often and for as long as they’d like.

Truly, I love our home. I love our neighborhood: our kind and active neighbors, the dozens of miles of hiking trails right across the street and our fabulous public school down the block. I love our land: the fruit trees, the garden, the hillside and the bike path running past our backyard. But it was a really strange feeling going from an apartment with three closets (which felt down right luxurious at the time) to a home who seemed to invite us to have too much with a basement, a garage, a guest room, and nearly a dozen closets.

I'm not going to lie, I had a lot of anxiety about moving into a larger space.

I was worried that the clarity a smaller space enabled me to have would be lost and that I'd become the type of person who just fills up space in order to fill it. Backsliding into consumerism and mindlessly holding onto unwanted and unloved things seemed unavoidable.

And yet here we are, two years later, in a large and simple home.

How did this happen? By deciding before we moved, before we shopped, before we filled our space exactly how we wanted to feel in our home. It’s been our internal boundaries and clarity, rather than external forces, that have allowed us to create a home we love. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you stay the course of your version of minimalism.

 

5 Tips for Simple Living, No Matter the Size of Your House


 My side of the closet in our S.F. apartment.

My side of the closet in our S.F. apartment.

1. Don't add storage.

When you have plenty of closets and other built-in storage space, don't bring in additional dressers or cabinets, drawers or shelves. Allow the built in storage to be enough. We, for example, have the same coffee table that we used in SF (a glorious Japanese tansu that was handed down to me). In San Francisco we used the spacious drawers to hold board games and candles and things we used when entertaining friends. Here in Boise, we ignore the drawers all together. The drawers are not the easiest to open, nor is opening them conducive to the layout of the space. So we treat the tansu like a solid cube and enjoy it’s surfaces without utilizing it’s storage.

2) Remove storage where you don't need it.

For us, this looked like removing an entire wall of upper and lower cabinets from our garage. While the millions of drawers and shelves might have been “organized” and labeled to each hold one item – camping sporks in this drawer, headlamps and lanterns on this shelf - we didn’t want a complicated system and didn’t need nearly the amount of storage provided. Instead we have two large open shelving units that hold a bin with all our small camping gear on a shelf alongside our tents, camping chairs and sleeping bags. This makes packing and unpacking for car camping a breeze (Step 1: place bin in car; Step 2: camp; Step 3: remove bin from car and place back on shelf). This smaller, open storage also prevents us from hoarding unwanted and unneeded items out of sight.

 
 Our old pantry in our S.F. apartment.

Our old pantry in our S.F. apartment.

3) Redefine “full”.

We have a laundry room. Yes, a whole entire room dedicated to the act of laundry. It's a small space but it nonetheless has a couple of cabinets and drawers. One cabinet houses our large bag of dog food. Another holds the laundry detergent and white vinegar we use for cleaning. Thats it. Each cabinet could easily hold 10x what it has, but there isn't anything else that belongs in there, so we just let them be.

Adapting to a different version of "full."  When we work with clients we are constantly helping them adjust their mindset to what “full” looks and feels like. For many of us, after years of overflowing drawers and cabinets that jussssst baaaarely close, it can feel strange to acknowledge that full is actually much less than capacity — it’s an amount that allows for ease and optimal functionality. In a large house we’ve taken this a step further even. “Full” in a linen closet might just be a spare pillow and seasonal throw or two. The idea is not to be austere, but to let my internal compass rather than my external storage tell me what is the right amount.

 

4) Go slowly.

When we moved we had neither the finances nor the desire to rush to fill-up our home with stuff. For example, in a bright extra bedroom that we hoped one day would become a nursery, we placed just one comfortable chair. A single chair was really all we needed to take work calls or sip coffee in this room’s morning sunlight. Now that it is a nursery I’m so glad we didn’t rush to furnish the room unnecessarily

The same goes for walls. We'd spent six years slowly decorating the three small rooms of our old San Francisco apartment. Here in Boise, I wanted to be just as thoughtful about adding decor rather than trying to rush around and appear “done” without getting to know the space and how we hope to feel in it. Two years in, we’re continuing to slowly add layers and textures and colors to our home as it feels right. I know some people won't be able to stand the feeling of being "incomplete" but I suggest moving forward with decorating as intentionally and mindfully as you can.

 

5) When in doubt, add plants and lighting.

For architectural or feng shui reasons, there are a couple of spaces in our home that feel awkward or unpleasant when empty. I cannot tell you how many times I thought about how if I'd built this house I would have removed a bizarre nook here or an extra few feet there. But instead of turning my back on these off-putting areas, we embraced them by slowly filling each with lovely greenery and lighting (luckily for me, Cam has quite the green thumb). Plants and light sources give purpose and interest to these spaces without adding the weight or expense of furnishings.

Decor doesn't have to be all furniture and artwork. If you don't need another place to sit, don't just stick a loveseat somewhere. Instead, use greenery and task lighting to make a space feel alive without filling it up for the sake of filling it. 








New Minimalism Events

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We are super excited to announce these upcoming events!!!


Professional’s Workshop

Tues. 10/23, 7pm Pacific time

$95.00

Virtual! Anyone can join!

Kyle Quilici of New Minimalism and Shira Gill of Shira Gill Home will co-host a live, 1-hour workshop where we dig into the details of a creating your own successful decluttering and home organization business.  

WHO IT'S FOR

Professional organizers, home decorators and stylists, zero-waste educators, minimalists or those aspiring to be any of the above. 

SIGN UP HERE!

 


in-home Design Consultations

Brooklyn, NY


UPDATE: 1 spot LEFT on Fri 10/26

$195.00 for 1-hr consultation, plus PDF Design Recommendations

New Minimalism comes to Brooklyn! Kyle is booking design consultations for Brooklyn-based residents! The NM Design consultations have a focus on decluttering and utilize the simple updates that can make a huge impact on a space. Think: a change of a paint color, the replacement of a key piece of furniture, or investing in better lighting.

WHO IT'S FOR

The person who is overwhelmed by their stuff or uninspired with their space. These consults will prioritize your to-do list and jumpstart your motivation to revamp your space!

Email Kyle directly at kyle [at] newminimalism.com to secure your spot!

Moving In Together? These 6 Decluttering Tips Will Make It Painless

 Image: Studio Firma

Image: Studio Firma

This article first appeared on mindbodygreen

Deciding to move in together is an exciting step in any romantic relationship. But if I've learned one thing through my work as a professional declutterer, it's that when merging spaces, it's crucial to intentionally change the way you look at your home or apartment from a "me" to a "we" mentality. Here are six tips to help make your transition a little more seamless:

1. If one partner is moving into the other person's space, clear the slate first.

The person already living in the space should consider removing all personal items that adorn the home. Remove all the photos on the mantel, the mementos on the fridge, the family photos on the walls. Then, you can reassess those pieces with a more critical eye with your partner—does that wedding invite from seven years ago still need to be displayed on your fridge? In my studio apartment, I had hung one family portrait, and when my boyfriend KG moved in, he brought along his favorite family snapshot so that we could both have one cherished photo hanging on the tiny gallery wall.

2. Enact the "Bedside Equality Act."

Have you ever walked into a couple's bedroom to see that one side of the bed is pushed up against the wall? That position subtly says that one person gets priority access to all the luxuries: the bedside table, the lamp, the reading material, the mug of tea. Meanwhile, their bedmate is bereft on the far side of the bed, stuck between their lover and a wall!

Equal access to both sides of the bed instills fairness at a very basic level. No matter how small your bedroom is, I would argue that the most important thing is making it possible for both people to have walk-up access to their side of the bed, along with a light and bedside table.

If you have an extra-small room like ours, you can save space by wall-mounting a light and using the world's smallest bedside tables. What's even more freeing about this scenario: As the months pass, you have the flexibility to (gasp!) sleep on different sides of the bed.

3. Carve out solo spaces where possible.

In our apartment, we each have our own side of the closet and a small secretary desk for when we work from home. While this seems like no big deal, designating spaces (or even surfaces!) that are solely your own can help keep the peace, especially in smaller spaces.

4. Remember that teamwork makes the dream work.

Working on a fun project together can make a space feel like it belongs to both of you. Right when you move in, decide on a DIY so there's a design element in your home that you both had a part in creating. For us, it was as simple as printing a large image and attaching it to a piece of foam core to hang on the wall.

5. Talk, talk, and then talk some more.

After several discussions, KG and I came to understand what we both liked about our studio apartment, what we would change, and how we would implement these tweaks together. From these discussions, we prioritized what needed to happen: repaint accent walls, find a photo for the focal wall, find a desk solution, decide where to hang the surfboard, etc. Get these conversations out of the way early, so you're on the same page about the plan of action moving forward.

6. On move-in day, don't pressure your partner to declutter their stuff.

Set the example by leading your own decluttered lifestyle, and you may be surprised by how your partner responds. Giving them the space to pause, reflect, and come to decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of on their own is the only way that lasting change will happen.

Oh and here's one last fun idea: When all the hard decisions are made, celebrate with an emotionally cleansing bonfire (or metaphorical bonfire!) using those sentimental papers you're getting rid of as fodder. Best of luck in your pursuit of cohabitation bliss!

Decluttering Vs. Organizing

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While many aspects of the New Minimalism decluttering process developed over time and through practice, there is one condition that we knew from the very inception of New Minimalism: we are not home organizers.

In our process we first and foremost declutter, and we will tell you why this distinction matters.

A home organizer will take all your worldly possessions and perfectly organize, color-code, and alphabetize them. At New Minimalism, however, we have you question whether those items should even be there in the first place. A perfectly organized space does not automatically mean you lead an effortless, clutter-free life. In fact, the need for a complicated organizational system is usually indicative of too much stuff to begin with.

A beautiful, easy-to-maintain, organized home is simply one of many positive by-products of a thoughtfully curated and decluttered life.

When in pursuit of restoring order to your home, look not to the big-box home organizing stores and magazines for answers. Their solutions beckon with promises of order and free time. But in reality, most of those multicolored stacking plastic drawers are where your things go to die. Once you finally haul those drawers home and neatly tuck away all your doodads, those items are now out of sight, out of mind, and pretty much guaranteed to never be engaged with again. How sad!

Effortful and intricate organization systems are entirely against the greater point of having your things work for you. Complicated systems require time and money to obtain, effort to install, and constant energy to keep up.

Be wary of any system that requires a significant amount of your time to maintain. Do you really want to spend an hour of your precious Saturday afternoon maintaining your recipe archives or your tool shed? All for a system that is supposedly making things easier for you? We didn’t think so. And as such we always default to the simplest, easiest systems possible.

If you were looking for the can opener in Cary’s kitchen, it would be in the one drawer designated for kitchen tools. That’s it. No labeled slot the can opener must be returned to. It’s just in the drawer with the six or so other tools she uses all the time. Similarly, Kyle corrals her pajamas in a small basket in her closet. Sometimes the clothes are folded; sometimes they are floating free.

But what allows this version of contained chaos to work is the fact that there are few items in the basket to begin with.

This excerpt was taken from our book, New Minimalism - Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living

Returning to Simple

Early motherhood, for me, was a fog of overwhelming joy and stunning sleep deprivation.

That sleeplessness extended over half a year. For while my baby was a total joy, a ball of smiles and happiness all day, sleeping multiple hours at a time was, ummm, shall we say "not her strength."

This lack of sleep profoundly altered my life. Certainly in all of the predictable ways like drinking too much coffee, experiencing "heightened" emotional states (ask my husband about this...actually, don't), and craving every carbohydrate in the world. But being so soooo tired also dramatically reduced my willpower and focus to follow through on certain behaviors that had previously seemed effortless.

I knew in having a baby that things would change, some of my old standards would have to give... I was, however, surprised by how quickly older, more insidious habits came racing back.

I knew in having a baby that things would change, some of my old standards would have to give. The kitchen might not be totally tidy before bed each night. I would probably not do laundry until I was faced with the very last pair of underwear in my drawer. Maybe the dog wouldn't get his breakfast until mid-morning some days. 

I was, however, surprised by how quickly older, more insidious habits came racing back, e.g. online shopping.

To be clear: shopping online for the necessities of a newborn whose needs are urgent and continually evolving is something I can stand behind. If there was ever a time to stay in your jammies and let the stuff come to you, it's when you have a colicky infant in the middle of winter.

 My little ball of joy.

My little ball of joy.

But once I got back into the habit of shopping, my definition of necessity started to slide. The one type of pacifier that will let your baby sleep in several hour stretches? Necessary. But what about the couple of extra cloth diapers to help you eek another day out your laundry? Or baby wash clothes (bamboo! organic!)? Or that amazing teether that everyone swears by?

It is SO easy to shop online. Case in point: "one-click" shopping. This is why, when I became a new minimalist, I gave it up almost entirely. If you don't have your defenses up, your blinders on, and your wits about you, you too might end up ordering an infant sized black robe, large bib necklace, and "I Dissent" pin in April. You know, just in case.

 But you get how I fell for this, right? image //  via . 

But you get how I fell for this, right? image // via

The other thing I've found about being a new parent is that I am constantly humbled. My body grew an entire human and I also sometimes leave my car keys in the refrigerator. So I honor what I'm coming through, grant myself some grace, acknowledge that I was doing the best I could. 

My little sister taught me a while back that instead of saying "I don't have time" try saying "It's not a priority." Because in reality we do have time for the very most important things. If, when you say, "it's not a priority" about something that statement feels bad and untrue? Well then it's time to make some adjustments.

For me, getting back to my simpler, slower, more mindful life is a priority. Both for me and to model for my daughter.

Travel Light: 18 Days Abroad with A purse and 1 Carry-on

Summer is HERE!  And for many of us, that means packing a bag to get the heck out of Dodge.  Since I recently did just that, I thought I'd share some things I learned along the way.

With my dear friends' wedding to be held on the southern coast of Spain this June, I decided to take advantage of the monstrously-long flight and prolong my European escapade into an 18-day, 3-country adventure.  I quickly determined I would spend 10 days prior to the wedding visiting two close friends who now live in Frankfurt and Paris. 

My goal was to pack super light, knowing that mobility between destinations was key. My color scheme was black, white and navy, and brown, all of which are interchangeable in my book. I only brought two everyday bottoms - navy silk trousers, and white culottes, as well as just two pairs of shoes (sandals and high quality leather loafers, yes even though I was going to a wedding).  I felt emboldened to bring less items knowing that I had the security blanket of staying with friends, and could rely on them to borrow something if necessary.

 All packed up and ready to go!

All packed up and ready to go!

In Frankfurt, my first stop, I had to take advantage of this safety net and borrow my friend's jean jacket once some abnormally chilly weather hit.  It was so cold, in fact, that I even layered my yoga crops under my silk trousers, which worked like a charm. This double-layering allowed my ankles to still be bare, so it looked like a "summer" outfit, accept that hiding underneath my loose silk trousers was another warm layer.

In Paris it was hot, and I pretty much lived in my thrifted, white, flowy culottes. All the tops I brought could be worn with the white culottes.  I walked around a lot, and I was worried at first that I didn't bring the right footwear, but it turned out that interchanging each day between the sandals and loafers (with socks) ensured I was blister-free. I also ended up purchasing a third pair of slip-on's in Paris (more on that, below).

Once I got to the wedding in Spain, it was beach vibes all day. I was either in my bathing suit, or dressed up for wedding events.  Here, I converged with several more friends and had virtually no need for accessories or lipstick - they kept me flush with options!

My Detailed Packing List

I've included retrospective notes in parenthesis in order to understand what I really ended up using and what ended up being extra (hey, it's important to look back and evaluate from time to time, right?).

Essentials

  • underwear x 6 (I use Lululemon quick-dry underwear that will air-dry overnight after washing)
  • no-show socks x 3 (I could have used 4 pairs, since I wore the pink loafers as often as I did.  I just washed the socks several times, and they typically dried overnight)
  • regular socks x 3 (thin wool, ankle length socks.  I only needed 1 pair; I used them as "slippers" around the house)
  • compression socks x 1 (for the flight, and they worked wonders!  Thanks, Lee From America for the tip)
  • pajamas x 1 (cotton shirt + cotton shorts)
  • bras x 4 (2 regular, and 2 athletic bras ... I could have gotten away with only 1 athletic bra)
  • shoes x 2 (open-toe sandals and pink loafers.  This number eventually turned into a 3, since I ended up purchasing slip-on loafers in Paris, the silver ones pictured below. I wanted something closed-toed, that was still breathable for the hot, Spanish weather and appeared more formal than the open-toed sandals)

Bottoms

  • long pair navy, loose silk pants x 1
  • cropped white culottes x 1
  • jumper x 1 (This I purchased at a vintage shop in Paris.  It is a teal jumper, pictured below, that could technically count as another pair of pants.  This was super comfortable to travel in, once in hotter weather.  When originally packing my bags, it felt risky not packing a pair of jeans, but I never missed them, not once!)

Tops

  • black/white tank tops x 2
  • black bodysuit x 1
  • short sleeved t shirts x 2 (1 navy/white striped and 1 gray.  I traveled in this, and could have gotten away with only one, and just washed it right away after getting settled in Frankfurt)
  • thin brown cashmere crew neck sweater x 1
  • super thin black windbreaker x 1 (this was an important layer that wasn't the hippest look, but it kept me warm late in the night and easily stuffed into my purse)

Outdoor

  • cotton baseball hat x 1 (shade is a priority for this fair-skinned lass)
  • small paper parasol x 1 (sounds like a luxury, but again, shade is a priority.  I called this my "personal shade device", which proved to be v. important. I packed this instead of a broad-brimmed hat, which I also discovered packs much more easily than a hat)
  • patterned cotton beach blanket x 1 (thin enough to fold small, and thick enough to be used as a blanket on the plane, or as a shawl for cold nights)
  • small silk scarf x 1 (could be used as a head wrap or around my neck; it added lots of warmth when needed at night)
  • bathing suit x 1
  • cheetah print bathing suit cover up x 1
  • sunglasses

OTHER

  • casual green cotton dress, with short sleeves x 1 (this ended up being super convenient. It was great to throw on after a shower and wear around the house almost as a robe.  That, paired with the wooly socks and I could fall asleep standing up -- so cozy!)
  • yoga outfit (black, cropped leggings and cotton sleeveless shirt. Glad I had a dedicated yoga outfit because I went to 3 different yoga classes! Inside Yoga in Frankfurt is amazing, btw!)
  • dark green dress for wedding x 1 (I thought I might wear this once before the wedding but I refrained in order to keep it extra fresssh)
  • long black skirt & black crop top for rehearsal dinner x 1 (I wore these as separates after the rehearsal dinner when I wasn't as concerned about wrinkling, etc.)

Travel Tips

Invest in an amazing suitcase or bag! 

I used the Allpa 35L by Cotopaxi.  I was searching for something that was a backpack and a suitcase in one, and I found it here.  All the internal zippered compartments meant I didn't have to go overboard on  packing cubes.  I just used one cube for small loose items, and another cube for dirty laundry.  The backpack function made it  easy to go up and down stairs in the airport and subway stations (and the 6 flights up to the apartment I was staying in in Paris [enter sweat emoji] here). This bag is also super durable, even when I put extra stress on the zippers in order to bring home some edible souvenirs from Paris.  My one feedback is I wish it had little wheels and a small handle, because in the airport I didn't need to always carry the bag, and it would have been nice to roll it at times. Because it is a suitcase-shaped, I didn't feel super chic carrying a big, square backpack through the city streets, but I did zip past all my fellow travelers who were struggling with heavy suitcases up and down stairs.

seek out COSMETICS THAT serve double-duty

In the mornings, at home and while traveling, I use a high quality, non-toxic, all-in-one facial moisturizer, sunscreen and tinted makeup (Suntegrity).  Before bed (since I don't need sunscreen or makeup, obvs) I just used my body lotion on my face. I used my shampoo as my body wash and at times, also for laundry detergent (when I hand-washed items in the shower -- which actually works, btw!).

Mind the Little Luxuries 

On the flight I used my beach blanket as my sleeping blanket, I wore long compression socks for comfort and warmth and an eye mask to get proper sleep on the plane.  I also brought Yogi Berry Detox tea and my insulated Hydroflask thermos to have an unlimited supply of tea on the flight.  This way I stayed hydrated without having to buy water in plastic bottles.  I fasted on the plane to avoid the salty, processed foods and felt way better upon integrating into a different time zone.

Don't Forget Your reusable, Zero-Waste Arsenal

I packed a real metal fork from my kitchen and used it in the airport or whenever eating in transit.  I was constantly using the small canvas tote I tucked into my leather purse to carry additional groceries and such. I also brought a netted vegetable sack for produce, since I often buy produce when I'm traveling.  These little things all came in super handy and allowed me to say "no thank you" to plastics bags and single-use disposable items.  I even kindly asked the attendant at a small super market in Spain look in the back for an extra cardboard box when we made an impromptu stop at the grocery store.  The more I refuse plastic bags, the more easily it is becoming a non-negotiable for me, even in places where it might be considered "weird" to do so.

Off-set your carbon footprint

Cruising around on a jet plane really takes a toll on one's environmental goals.  While I eat a mostly vegan diet, which offsets my environmental impact in a big way, I wanted to do something about this extravagant flight to Europe, so I decided to donate to The Story of Stuff, an organization dedicated to "people-powered campaigns that reduce waste and spur innovation, like [their] efforts to defend public water and prevent plastic pollution." Their very first movie titled, The Story of Stuff, was a major inspiration for creating New Minimalism back in 2013.

I hope that these detailed notes help you when you sit down to pack for your next trip. Traveling is a great way to try out a capsule wardrobe and realize that you don't need all that much to be comfortable!

Happy traveling this summer!

 

 

Why We Are Here

When your space is clear, your mind is clear.  

Living simply serves to illuminate inherent truth, the truth that we were put on this earth not to accumulate things but to love and be loved.  

You’re here. You are whole and perfect.

So consider the boxes checked; you’ve arrived! You get to be happy. Right now. The stage is set in the best possible way to empower you to live your best life.  

Beyond the personal benefits,  when you complete the New Minimalism decluttering process, you will be contributing to your community with the items you choose to donate to others.  When you donate you are being good to the earth, keeping things out of the landfill and signaling that fewer things need to be made in the first place.  

As you tread lightly, mindfully and generously, picture the ripple effect of your actions, radiating out from your your home, into your neighborhood, your city, eventually encompassing this little blue dot called Earth that we all share.

This excerpt, and more, can be found in our book, New Minimalism - Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living: www.newminimalism.com/the-book

The Equation is Out of Balance

 Photo by Kelly Ishikawa

Photo by Kelly Ishikawa

When was the last time you brought a new possession into your home? Maybe it was an article of clothing, a piece of decor, or something small like a new mug or a set of pens. Today, possibly. Maybe yesterday. Almost certainly this week.

For the typical American, a new item enters the home almost daily. An Amazon package arriving at your doorstep with a new book or a quick dash into a store for a pair of shoes has shockingly turned into a part of everyday life for a lot of people. Add to this the half-dozen life events when we are showered with gifts, and is it any surprise that the average American household contains three hundred thousand items?

Now recall the last time you let go of an item because you simply didn’t enjoy it or need it anymore. When was the last time you released several bags or boxes of items all at once without replacing them with something new? For many people, it’s likely been years or even decades. Or perhaps you’ve never completed a big purge in your entire life. Our culture’s big clutter problem is not only due to new stuff constantly crossing the threshold of our homes but also the great infrequency with which things leave our homes. If you’re good at math, it’s pretty simple: the equation is out of balance.

 Photo by Kelly Ishikawa

Photo by Kelly Ishikawa

Hit the Reset Button

A popular decluttering strategy we’ve seen some of our clients test out before calling us in is the “one a day” method of donating one item daily. Despite diligently sticking to their plan, these clients become frustrated when they find that this daily practice has barely made a dent in their space. Other clients practice the “one in, one out” rule, meaning that anytime new things enter their home, they have to get rid of an equal number of items. They, too, end up feeling as though they are running in place, always dealing with their items but never making any noticeable progress. This is because both of these theories are excellent, but only for maintaining an already decluttered home.

In order to get to that place of pure maintenance, you first have to hit the reset button and complete one huge, sweeping clear-out. You have to deal with the backlog of items that have accumulated in order to get to a point where you are simply maintaining a clutter-free space. This big reset is not a type of self-flagellation or asceticism or the cause of deep suffering. It is, in fact, the opposite. It’s a skimming of the fat, a removing of the excess so that what is needed and used and loved has the space and attention it deserves.

In life’s great ecosystem, envision yourself as a “leverage point.” This is a term coined by the environmental educator Donella Meadows for “places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.” As you tread lightly, mindfully, and generously, picture the ripple effect of your actions as they radiate out from your home, into your community, until eventually, they encompass this little blue dot called Earth that we all share.

This excerpt comes from our book, New Minimalism, Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living.

6 Ways to Stay Simple and Sane With a Newborn

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The first thing people ask when they find out that I've just had a baby is "How is trying to be a minimalist with a newborn?" 

Some people are undoubtedly waiting for me to admit how much harder it is to be a minimalist once you have a family (which it is and it isn't), craving a little hit of schadenfreude imagining me weeping under a pile of blinking, talking plastic toys. Others are genuinely hoping for any advice or tips I might have to help them deal with their clutter. 

Since my daughter is still so very new and I am so very new at being a parent, I won't even pretend to have it figured out (the first thing I learned as a parent is just how little I know about parenting:). But I can share what is working for our family right now as we attempt to stay simple and sane with a newborn.

 

1) Don't buy ahead of time.

Don't try to buy things now that you anticipate needing later. There are two reasons for this. One, your child might surprise you with the number of preferences and variety of needs they have from the get-go. For example, your daughter might not like the orthodontic approved, top of the line, European rubber pacifier you got her no matter what you try. This also applies to swaddles, swings, diaper brands, as well as material of onesies. You don't know if he or she will run hot or cold, if they'll be a spitter or not, if they'll have a million diaper blowouts or only poop once every few days. Its helpful to observe your baby and see where she naturally leans before investing time and money acquiring new baby gear.

Second, your own preferences and needs will evolve and perhaps surprise you as well.  I, for example, didn't realize that I would only like onesies with snaps as opposed to zippers. Zippers seemed so much easier. But then Lark was born in the heart of winter and snapping onesies allowed her top half to stay dressed and swaddled during cold middle of the night changes. Happy baby, happy parent.

2) Borrow.

Here's the thing about newborns and infants: besides for pooping or spitting up, they do very little to wear out their belongings. Blankets, toys, swings, or clothing can be passed on a dozen times before they fully wear out. Lark is wearing clothes that were purchased for my oldest nephew six years ago and are still going strong five cousins later. Don't have a big family to beg from? Don't worry! Most parents I know are happy to lend out or giveaway items that their kids are finished with. Let people know that you are looking and I promise what you need will appear.

3) For bigger ticket items, try to buy it used.

There are some larger items that you can reasonably anticipate needed and that are harder to temporarily borrow friends because of size or cost like: a car seat, stroller, crib, or carrier. Most of these items are readily available secondhand if you give yourself time to lo cate them. Even here in Boise, I was able to find most large items we needed on our local craigslist, nextdoor and letgo. If you're in a major US city like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, or New York, there is a good chance you can find every single thing you need right in your neighborhood!

4) Wait a few days...

It can be hard to know with a baby if they are entering a new phase with new needs or simply had a one-off experience. For example, if your baby had a terrible night of sleep and then slept like an angel in her daycare's rock'n'play, you will probably want to run out and buy one right now! But instead of immediately assuming that you need an object, give yourself and your kiddo a day or three to see if it was a one-time event, a super brief phase, or a longer lasting need.

5) ...But when you really, really need it, get it any way you can.

There is an urgency to having a new baby. They wake up SO hungry every couple of hours. They sleep in brief segments. Days turn into 8 or 10 or 15 cycles of eat, burp, change, sleep. If there is something that you realize you really need and you can't borrow or wait to find used, go get it. Be kind to yourself. Especially if it's related to a key basic need like eating or sleeping. For example, our daughter had terrible reflux early on and I learned at 6 weeks that a wedge pillow could fit under her co-sleeper and help her feel better, keep her food down, and get some sleep. I ordered that badboy on amazon about 10 seconds after a friend texted me about it. And to be completely honest, had Amazon offered a "within the hour" drone drop off in exchange for giving my social security number to Russian bots, I would have considered it. Desperate times:)

6) Pay it forward. 

When Lark was a few weeks old and I was debating ordering every type of swaddle in existence to find one that worked, a friend with a toddler brought over a couple for us to try out. She then almost off-handedly but earnestly said, "Before you buy anything, just text me. If we have it I'll bring it over." It was a small gesture but it saved me on numerous occasions. Not just from buying stuff we didn't need, but it also made me feel seen and supported and like there were people looking out for us. We in turn now have a number of friends with kiddos set to arrive at any moment with whom we've offered our grab bag of various pacifiers, an infant swing, birth-recovery icepacks and medications, and beginning-to-breastfeed herbs. But most importantly we've been sure to let them know that we're here if they need anything: swaddles, soups, or just to know someone close by has their back. Because as Zac Efron so wisely stated in High School Musical, we're all in this together.

We have a number of friends with kiddos exactly our daughters age and a few who are set to arrive at any moment. One friend said, and this was amazing, "before you buy anything, just text me and if we have it I'll bring it over." Something as small as that, and letting people know you really mean it, is amazing. We, in turn, have shared with friends our grab bag of various pacifiers, an infant swing, as well as birth-recovery and beginning-to-breastfeed herbs, medications, and various sundries.

3 Essential Goal-Setting Practices

Since the book launch in January, people have been asking --

"What was it like to write a book?! Did you always know you wanted to write one?  How did it all come together?" 

These questions got me to thinking about the overall book-writing process, how it all fell into place, and how our audacious goal-setting definitely had something to do with it.

 A common scene in my living room over the course of writing the book.  Vital to my success: alone time!

A common scene in my living room over the course of writing the book.  Vital to my success: alone time!

In December of 2015, we were surprised to be contacted by Sasquatch Books. After reading our blog from a snippet of an article in Sunset Magazine, Sasquatch emailed to ask if we had ever considered writing a book. Writing a book had been a bold goal of ours from the very beginning of starting New Minimalism. So while we were thunderstruck and beyond excited to receive the email, at the same time we were 100% prepared with our answer: Why yes, we have considered writing a book.  

The Importance of Goal Setting

Which brings me to goal-setting. I was first introduced to goal-setting as a formal practice in my post-university days as a mere 22 year old.  I had freshly moved to Brooklyn, NY with the idea that I'd immerse myself in the yoga community and eventually become a yoga instructor.  I found work at a yoga clothing store and was I quickly swept into the the personal development program that my new workplace generously provided. 

At 22 I was ripe for self-development --  I devoured and subsequently had my mind blown by Eckhart Tolle's, A New Earth.  I sat in the front row at leadership workshops, I "discovered my strengths" from Strengths Finder (Connectedness, Ideation, Maximizer, Input).  And I was constantly honing my communication skills as a manager. 

Every quarter my workplace would have goal-setting meetings.  We filled out 1-year, 5-year and 10-year goals related to Personal, Career and Health categories.  While goal setting at first was new and challenging, it eventually began to feel contrived.  I noticed how all the goals posted on the wall at work started to look the same across different employees. I wonder if that's how I ended up writing as one of my goals, "I get married in Tahoe by 2015" (didn't happen, by the way)?

So when I eventually left that job to pursue a career in sustainable design, I paused the practice of super-structured goal setting.  I was burned out on the constant assessing, the continual striving. What I did learn during that period was a basic goal-setting practice that I continue to this day in various notebooks and journals.

More images from the writing of the book, including, our photographer Kelly Ishikawa, the photoshoot schedule, and my sidekick during that time, Dolly Walker.

goal-setting - the basics

While there are a variety of goal-setting strategies, there seem to be 3 practices that are common to all goal-setting techniques:

  1. Write it down: In the present tense, like it's already happened). This gets it out of your head and in to the world -- a scary step!  It also gets your subconscious to work making sh*t happen.
  2. Dream big: Don't let the man hold you down, and by the man I mean your own restrictive imagination.  Your goals are often stifled by past ideas of what success should or could look like for you.  If you had zero restrictions, how would you spend your time?  
  3. Look back: Every now and again review your old journals and notebooks to see your progress, your thought process, your past behavior patterns and recall the path that got you to where you are today.  

BAck to the Writing of our Book

I concretely recall the conversation I had with Cary about New Minimalism one day writing a book.  It was during one of our 6-hour stretches working on our computers, holed up in Cafe Jane on Fillmore (freelancers in SF, you know what I'm talking about). Hailing from a lineage of writers, it was a big dream of Cary's from the beginning and when we talked about it, I thought it was thrillingly ambitious and was fully on-board.

Despite this distinct memory, I wanted cold-hard evidence of this conversation. So I started to dig into my old journals and notebooks to find the original seed.  I was convinced that I had written something down.  After about 30 minutes of rifling through different notebooks I finally found it!  Back in July of 2013 I had a little note in my journal that read:

"Books? Ideas -- 'thoughts on sustainability and simplified living'". 

There it was, plain as day, written adjacent to my interview answers for the blog post introducing me to the readers of the New Minimalism. 

Wow, the goal was so succinct and simple and to me proves that writing something down can conjure up some voodoo magic to make it a reality.  But also important to note that a prerequisite to writing it down was the mere fact that between Cary and myself, we had the safe space to dream far and wide about what was even possible for us. Without such, we wouldn't have discussed this in the first place.  So don't discount with whom you share your goals.  We already hold our own sleves back enough, with life goals you want support and encouragement.

As winter comes to a close and spring draws nearer, reminding us that time continues to pass, what can you say so far about 2018?  When the year was fresh and new in January, what goals did you set?  What dreams did you dare to write down?  How are those goals going?

There is a new moon on March 17th, and it's a good day to set intentions.  Mark your calendars, set aside some alone time and make this is your official quarterly check-in :)