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 :)

5 Feng Shui & Decluttering Hacks For Calling In Love

This article was originally written for and posted on mindbodygreen

 image //  from our book

image // from our book

You’re ready for love. You’ve got the dating profile and the first date outfit you feel unstoppable in. You’re confident, open, and excited to meet someone new. Yet the type of relationship you desire most eludes you.

As a professional declutterer, I’ve worked with dozens of clients who say they are looking for love but whose spaces not only do not attract love but often repel potential partners.

While your body language may be shouting "Yes!" to romance, chances are your home is yelling "No!" The good news? In just one day, you can shift the energy, layout, and appearance of your home to be optimized for love.

Below are five crucial decluttering and feng shui tips for calling in love:

1. Make emotional space for this person.

We had a client whose walls were full of framed photos of her and her family, her and her friends, and her and *gasp* her ex (see No. 5). While she said that she wanted a partner, everything about her space implied that opposite: Her full walls signified a life without room for someone new. Not only that, having her walls so full of memories energetically pulled her into the past. This is not to say you shouldn’t decorate your home as you prefer, but do make sure that there is room both physically and energetically for someone new to enter your life. Negative space is not an absence; it’s allowing space for things to unfold.

Try this: Designate space in your home to leave open.

This could be a dresser drawer, a couple of open picture frames, a hook next to the door for someone else’s jacket, a towel bar in the bathroom, or, ideally, all of the above. This signals to the universe and subconsciously to people who enter your space that you are ready for love.

2. Shift your layout to support love.

I can’t tell you how many clients we’ve worked with who say that finding love is a top priority, and yet their spaces are completely uninviting or unsupportive of a relationship. There might be only one comfy reading spot, just one good coffee mug, or a bed too small to comfortably sleep two people. The point is not to make some voodoo doll of exactly the person you’re calling in but to make your space, however subconsciously, feel welcoming to the person you choose to invite in. In terms of design, this means making room for another person to be comfortable and relaxed in your bedroom with you.

Try this: Make your bedroom work for two.

Above all, pull your bed out of the corner—the only side of the bed that should be against the wall is where you rest your head. This allows comfortable access to the bed on each side for each person. Ideally, you’ll have a second bedside table with a lamp and room for a water glass, contacts, and so on

 image //  via

image // via

3. Remove stuff from under your bed.

This problem seems to be a holdover from college days of tiny dorm rooms shared with strangers. Yet we see so many clients in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with boxes and bins under the bed! This space becomes a musty catchall for things that aren’t needed right now or aren’t a priority. Which is really bad feng shui. You’re literally spending the time you’re supposed to be relaxing and restoring floating just a few inches above dust bunnies and a bunch of to-do's. Ideally, under the bed will be totally empty, no exceptions, which allows for optimal energy circulation around the bed. If you are in a tiny studio or sharing an apartment in Brooklyn where your bed takes up about 60 percent of your room, it might be almost impossible to avoid storing things there.

Try this: Keep under your bed completely clear.

If you must store items under the bed, then do so in this order: clean bed linens, clean towels, clean out-of-season but beloved clothing. Storage should be well-made, closed bins that fit easily under the bed (i.e., if you have to pull everything out in order to find what you want or if the bins are forced up against the bottom of the bed frame, it’s no good). Do not store at any cost: mail, power cords, to-do’s, anything unkempt. Be certain to regularly clean under the bed and declutter any noncrucial items.

4. Get electronics out of the bedroom.

This is a good lifelong practice for everyone: single, partnered, child, adult. Bedrooms are the most aptly and literally named spaces in our homes. Bed. Room. They are meant exclusively for rest, rejuvenation, and intimacy. Electronics, on the other hand, are stimulating: They scatter our energy, steal our focus, and distract us from the pure. Ideally, the only items needing electricity in your room would be lamps and possibly an alarm clock or music source.

Try this: Remove ALL TVs, computers, gaming systems, cellphones, and other stimulating electronics from the bedroom.

Make sure that any remaining electronics are in good shape, dust-free, that their cords are comfortably tucked away, and that there are no overloaded power outlets.

5. Release objects from exes.

Objects have energy; that’s why we can have such strong feelings about them. Items from our exes have a powerful vibration that is both negative and pulls us toward the past. Think about stumbling upon an object from a past relationship. Paying close attention, what emotions arise when you see, hold, or wear this item? The best-case scenario is that you feel nostalgia, melancholy, or the distant ache of a fond memory. The worst-case scenario is you spiral into regret, anger, recrimination, loneliness, or heartache. The most effective way to shift your energy—conscious and subconscious—to a positive, present state is to part with the negative items in your space.

Try this: Do a "cord-cutting visualization" alongside a thorough purge of items you associate with your ex-lovers.

The visualization will help to defuse much of the energetic power of these items, making it far more straightforward to bless and release things from your exes. This includes: belongings of your ex, gifts from them, and items you associate strongly with a memory or experience with them (e.g., the dress you wore on your first date, the tchotchke you purchased on a trip together). If there are things you truly do not want to part with, be conscious of clearing the energy associated with them and how you store or display them. Note: Past relationships that end well still require a type of energetic cutting to allow you to move forward. If you’ve had a relationship where you were hurt, betrayed, or brokenhearted, then all the more so.

How Your Busy Schedule Is Hurting You

This article was originally written for and posted on mindbodygreen. Click here to check out the original!

 image // Leandro Crespi

image // Leandro Crespi

In our culture, the answer of "I’m so busy" to the question of "How are you?" is respected, even revered. We admire people who cram as much as possible into their days—and this glorification of busy-ness can also contribute to an unhealthy obsession with "stuff."

While most of our at New Minimalism involves dealing with people’s physical possessions, we’ve learned that it's impossible to thoroughly declutter someone’s space without first getting them to slow down. And we don’t just mean pausing on emails or online shopping for the day but making a habit of clearing up space in their days.

Busyness happens when we stop saying no to things.

From where we're standing, busyness is one of the most pervasive and relentless diseases in modern culture. While it may give us a fleeting sense of accomplishment and importance, in the long run, frenetic busyness leads to a profound lack of clarity.

Busyness happens when we stop saying no to things: actual physical items as well as relationships and commitments. It arises when we lose track (or have never clearly uncovered) what is most important in our lives.

Why busyness and clutter are inextricably linked.

Clutter is the result of busyness because it's the result of deferred decisions. Mess accumulates when we put off dealing with objects because we simply don’t have the time or energy. Clutter, in that sense, is physical manifestation of all the things we need to do (aka busywork).

Likewise, clutter is the cause of busyness. Having so much stuff for your space requires constant maintenance. Whether that maintenance is direct (managing things, searching for items, storing and maintaining them, purchasing new objects, working hard to afford more stuff) or indirect (distracting yourself with other forms of busyness instead of dealing with them), it fills our time.

The whole point of decluttering is freeing up time and energy to spend doing the things you actually want to do.

that the time and energy you save not managing and dealing with stuff is time and energy you can spend actually living life. You know, taking photos, being in nature, laughing with your favorite people, and making the world a better place by just being pleasantly not-busy.

So how can you end the cycle of busyness and all the clutter that comes with it?

1. Build in negative space.

We’ve all become so accustomed to "accomplishing things" that even previously relaxing periods of time (the moments before bed, the first light of the morning) are now used to Get Stuff Done. Instead, practice intentionally building in space. Walk your dog without a podcast blaring in your ears. Drive the car without talking on the phone.

2. Automate basic tasks.

Making decisions requires lots of time and energy. One of the simplest ways to create space and remove unnecessary busyness in the day is to automate your life, or remove active decision-making. Some great places to start? Eat the same smoothie or omelet for breakfast every morning. Create a work uniform that you feel great in so dressing each morning becomes effortless.

3. Take the time to figure out what you love.

It's hard saying no to things when you don't know what you want to shout YES to. But when you know how you want to feel, you'll know immediately, at your core, if that shirt or work commitment or relationship is serving you. Marie Kondo uses the standard of "spark joy," which is a great place to begin. Even more powerful? Taking the time to choose those feelings you personally desire most.

4. Say no to things that do not support your best life.

Clarity turns the process of decluttering, which can otherwise feel like a painful parting with things you used to love and items you might need someday, into an empowering—dare I say enjoyable?—exercise in shedding the things that are not adding to the life you want to create. When you know how you want to feel, you can easily identify the things that help you feel that way. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that will allow you to live with more clarity.

What To Do If You're a Minimalist Who Loves the Holidays

 image //  via

image // via

It's popular to poo-poo the holidays amongst many in the minimalist sphere.

There are the usual downer arguments about how the holidays are simply about buying stuff we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. 

There is the (totally valid) argument about how we are teaching our kids to equate love with stuff. There is connection between the holidays and the rampant consumerism that is destroying our planet.  

But who said that is how we have to celebrate? 

Here at New Minimalism, we have a happier take on the holidays. Now that Kyle and I are both many years into our minimalist lives, I have to say that the holidays feel less like something to rebel against and more like something to embrace. Our families and loved ones honor the simpler ways we like to celebrate, and -- in many scenarios –– have adopted a number of these rituals themselves. 

There are so many ways to celebrate the season and those you love that needn't involve credit card debt or mounds of unneeded plastic junk. There is music and sitting by the fire, there are meals to share, crafts to create, laughs to be had, and even the occasional lovely object to share.

Below are 5 of my favorite minimalist rituals for a light, joyful, and celebratory holiday season:  

 image // via

image // via

1) Light, light, everywhere.  

My favorite way to decorate for the holidays is just to use lights in fun or unexpected ways. We have a strand of globe lights that we hang over the mantle, fairie lights winding up the stems and leaves of our potted plants, and candles spread liberally throughout the house. With so much of our time at home spent with it dark outside, it makes this time feel cozy and special. Bonus? If you happen to be really busy around the holidays (like maybe you have a brand new baby at home) no one will notice that your “holiday decor” is still up as this fits for the whole dark winter season. 

Other elements that automatically make a space feel festive? Music (I’m a sucker for Holiday Jazz, The Nutcracker, and my pandora Bing Crosby/Frank Sinatra holiday radio station) and delicious smells (like simmering spices on the stove or naturally perfumed candles and incense like these).

2) Crafting.

I’m not crafty. Or I should say: I don’t craft regularly. I don't have a glue gun or spare pom-poms, let alone a craft drawer or cabinet. But every holiday I nonetheless love taking on some little craft project. This year, I decided to put together a tree decoration kit for my nieces and nephews (inspired by this post) as their holiday gift. In addition to sending these elements back home to Chicago, I bought extras and made lovely little strands of popcorn and cranberries for our tree. I also tried out making persimmon ornaments with moderate success (just baked them and ran a string through). Inspired by a group of girlfriends who I made ornaments and pinecone elves with back in the day, I realized that you don’t need to be crafty or have a ton of supplies to make something special. Certainly crafts take time and are a little frivolous, but that's a small part of what makes them so fun.  

 An oldie but a goodie...

An oldie but a goodie...

3) Holiday cards.  

I. Love. Holiday. Cards. I remember racing home from my elementary school bus stop in December to open my family's mailbox and see if we received any new cards that day. Each envelope we joyfully tore open offered a snapshot into the lives of our friends near and far. There were cards from our neighbors, cards from relatives that we only got to see on occasion, and cards from families whom we kids had never met, but we nonetheless felt connected as we equated these faces with our parents stories and watched their kids grow. We’d revisit the cards well into the new year, finding names we liked and plotted to name our own children, marveling at the sweet, the cheesy, and the adventurous photos on each card. (Some of these families obtained celebrity status within our family, we could refer to them in shorthand throughout the year and know exactly what one another meant. There was my dad's co-worker whose three absurdly gorgeous, cherubic kids we dubbed "the edible children" and my mom's high school friend whose genetically gifted three sons we referred to as "the handsome guys.")

All of this is to say that I long looked forward to sending out cards of my own someday. Yes, it costs money and uses paper and is not the most minimalist of hobbies. But it is a priority, the priority, for me each holiday season. I’d be really sad if I didn’t send a card out and I honor that about myself. This year I decided to procure frames for all of our past cards to act as something of family time capsule (anyone out there happen to have my cards from 2011 or 2013?!) AND to use as decor during the holidays. It's a personal, contained collection that adds a fun bit of meaningful kitsch to our bookshelf, for just these few weeks. 

 image //  via

image // via

4) Gift giving.

My favorite gift to give and receive? Books. Bookstores are my happy place; well-read, thoughtful bookstore clerks hold a place of uniquely high respect in my life. Since my family and my in-laws are all avid readers, I love getting expert advice from the clerks at my favorite local bookstores (shoutout to Books Inc. on Chestnut in San Francisco and Rediscovered Books in Boise). I get to share a few pieces of information--like my dad’s sense of humor, a classic novel he loves, and his adoration of Bruce Springsteen--and then get the perfect recommendation (Barbarian Days, in case you were wondering).

*Shameless plug: our book is available for pre-order if you've got a loved one who is interested in simplifying their lives. The book won't ship until 1/2/18, but we have a downloadable/printable certificate you can present at your gift exchange!*

Other great gifts to give and receive: things that people really need and are of high quality. For example a killer pair of SmartWool socks for a family member who recently moved to a four season climate or a hand-me-down maternity jacket for when nothing else will zip late in pregnancy. You know, just as hypothetical examples.

5) And non-gift giving.

My very favorite gift-giving tradition arose three years ago and actually didn't include the exchanging of stuff at all. My little sister and brother-in-law's wedding weekend in the fall of 2014 was so full of meaning, tradition, family, and love that it sparked an idea: why is it that we only celebrate one another, only toast to how deeply loved and appreciated our family members are at times like weddings? And so we each randomly selected the name of another family member and at a lovely holiday dinner a few weeks later, we offered up toasts and speeches in each others' honor. It was beautiful. It was sweet. It brought tears and intense snorting laughter. It accomplished all of the things we try to say with gifts: I see you, I’ve been paying attention to you, admiring you, noticing all of the ways you are special, because you are beloved by me, and even if I usually just tease you or ask you to help with family errands, I am so so so glad you are here. What could possibly be better than that? 

What are your favorite minimalist ways to celebrate the holidays?

Recent Press: A Round-Up

Over the past few months, we are thrilled to have been featured in some of our favorite publications. Below we've provided a round-up of all links for easy access.

Thred-Up - The largest online vintage and consignment retailer asked us some interview questions and published the conversation to their blog.  You can find the article here. Bonus - if you'd like to know more about Thred-up and their super interesting process, it has been captured in an article by Fast Company.

 

Well + Weird - We sat down with Holly Lowery of the Well + Weird podcast to talk about decluttering and how one's space has an impact on well being.  Basically, everything is connected :)  You can link to the podcast on the the Well + Weird website, or access the podcast directly from iTunes.  Note: our conversation starts 12 minutes into the recording.

 

mindbodygreen - Is a fascinating website that takes an integrated and holistic approach to wellness.  They attest, "there are no 'right' ways to have a wellness journey; just dive in and start exploring." And we couldn't agree more!  We've been contributing writers to mindbodygreen since May.  You can access our articles by searching for Cary Fortin's author page.  And a new article is coming out later this month!

We hope you enjoy!

 

 

New Minimalism Workshop at Zendesk

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Keeping it "Beautifully Simple"

At the end of September, we presented a workshop to the lovely team at Zendesk, headquartered right here in San Francisco. Their mission–to keep it beautifully simple–inspires us, their Scandinavian aesthetics delight us, and their employees always ask the most thoughtful questions. In short: it was fabulous.

We wanted to share with you, our faithful blog readers, the 5 core New Minimalism principles from our workshop. Before and after illustrate these points, but because some of the images are confidential (you'll have to wait for our book to see those!), we've included only the public photos.   

We hope you enjoy!

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1. DRASTICALLY INCREASE YOUR STANDARDS

In a time when material goods are abundant, we have to increase our standards for what comes into our lives.  It requires stepping outside of certain habitual cycles, like that of gift-giving and impulse shopping.  You can still show your love for the ones around you and still feel stylish even if you replace those habits with a new behavior. 

Action:  The next time you are tempted to buy something you don't really need, take a picture and let it sit for 48 hours.  You will likely find that the impulse of see > want > buy fades away.

2. MOVE PAST THE MYTH OF CHOICE

We have been programmed to think that more is better -- that having a litany of choices creates a sense of freedom and bolsters creativity.  When in reality, an abundance of choice can lead us to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed.  Barry Schwartz describes this in his book, The Paradox of Choice

Action:  Take the time to automate one decision in your life for an entire week.  We love the example of a work uniform.  Try wearing the same version of an outfit to work all week long - maybe it's black pants and a button down.  Or a simple dress.  Whatever it is, decide at the start of the week and do not stray and experience the freedom that comes from not having to make that decision every morning before work.

3. FOCUS YOUR SPACE

Our homes have physical limits of square footage.  Are you asking too much of your space given your square footage?  If your space feel chaotic, asking too much of your space is commonly the culprit.  If your goal for your kitchen is to easily whip up a simple dinner for the family, but your cabinets are crowded with specialty baking dishes and fancy tools, your kitchen is not functioning the way you want it to. 

Action: for each room in your home, designate the #1 activity that takes place there.  Then assess, is that room optimized to support that designated activity? Additional activities can be added to the space as long as they do not detract from the stated #1 activity.

4. END THE CYCLE OF BUSY

The answer "I'm so busy", to the question "How are you?" is often revered in our culture.  We admire those who cram as much as possible into their days.  And we can't ignore how this over scheduling is reflected in our homes.  Slowing down is a big part of minimalism.  It requires hitting the pause button to take stock of what you want, and how you spend your time in support of your deepest wishes.  If you always say "yes" to invitations, you will likely end up burning out and not having the time to spend taking care of yourself. 

Action:  Pad your calendar with extra time between activities and commitments.  It will allow you to completely wrap up something once it is finished (ie unpacking that bag from your weekend trip), and will allow you to gracefully and thoughtfully enter into the next part of your day.

5. YOU HAVE STYLE - UNCOVER IT!

Our clients often have a hard time describing what type of style they have when it comes to their homes.  We are always surprised to hear this because after working together, and asking several questions, it is clear that they do have preferences and a sense of style.  It comes down to listening to your gut and understanding what makes your heart sing.  If you decorate your home with this heart-singing standard as your guiding light, you will never go wrong. 

Action: Gather up your 5 favorite decor items and place them side by side.  Look at all the items and examine what threads of continuity exist.  What items contrast in an interesting way?  If you live with a partner or roommates, make sure to include them in this activity, so that everyone feels represented in the home.  

WANT NEW MINIMALISM TO COME TO YOUR COMPANY?

We love bringing the message of simplicity, intention, minimalism and mindfulness to innovative groups and organizations. Email hello@newminimalism.com to learn more. 

Lessons From A summer Sublet

 All packed up and ready to sublet!

All packed up and ready to sublet!

Hello dearest readers,

Kyle here to share some lessons from subletting my studio apartment for the months of July and August. With a typically-light client load during the summer months, Cary and I usually embrace the time off and take longer trips during this time.  This summer, with an extended east coast trip, a few weddings and parents that live nearby in the North Bay, I decided to sublet my apartment.  I had romantic notions about rural living outside the city, and I wanted to test this theory; I wanted to fully feel what it would be like to not have access to my apartment in the city.  

Here's what I learned:

1. It's Possible to find a great TENANT if you post early enough, and you create some meaning behind your listing

I was lucky to find a great sublet because I posted in April when organized people are looking for summer sublets, versus the last-minute types who are looking in June for a July apartment.  I found a wonderful student from Santa Barbara who was going to be in San Francisco for a summer internship.  After sharing with her the philosophy behind the design of my apartment, she was even more excited to live in and subsequently take care of my things. I returned to a pristine apartment with a thank you note, explaining how my space inspired her to pursue a life of minimalism back in Santa Barbara!  How amazing is that?!

2. OWNING fewer belongings made it super easy to make my apartment renter-ready

I packed up all my clothes, accessories, toiletries, bike, and camping gear, and sensitive items like my passport.  It took one trip in my car to bring my things to my parents house. I left my books and notebooks because they contained no huge, life-debilitating secrets that could potentially be divulged.

3. It's a satisfying reminder that one can easily live out of a duffle bag

While being in different places meant that the foods normally eat and recipes I regularly make were placed on the backburner (punny!), I found it was so easy to live out of a duffle bag. The little things that made a huge difference in my feeling more centered no matter where in the country I was -

  • my trusty, reusable Hydro Flask water bottle (16oz. I find is more portable than the larger sizes)
  • bags of Yogi Kombucha Green Tea (sounds weird; it's so good)
  • a clean wash cloth for my face to use when staying at a friend's or camping
  • a nice toiletries set to keep my skincare regime classy

4. After 2 months, I was ready to be back in THE CITY

During those two months I was mostly away, with the time in between trips spent at my parents' house.  It was wonderful to spend more time with my parents and enjoy the summer weather in the North Bay, as opposed to "Fogust" in San Francisco.  Although I ended up taking on more client sessions than I had planned - which reminded me of the disadvantages of commuting into the city.  While our client locations range all over the Bay Area, they are mostly in San Francisco.  And commuting to San Francisco from San Rafael did have an impact on me physically and mentally. After I returned to my apartment and hopped on my bicycle to get around the city, wow, was I out of "bike shape"!  While I hiked and stayed super active during the summer, I was not biking like I normally do and there was a notable difference.  After a week my body acclimated, but it was surprising nonetheless. 

Would I do it all over again next year?  Absolutely!  Summer is a wonderful time of year to be extra mobile and fly by the seat of your pants.  Would I do it for two full months?  I'll probably just stick to one :)

3 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Bag use

 Clean and healthy oceans = healthy and clean civilizations.

Clean and healthy oceans = healthy and clean civilizations.

Hi there!

Kyle your environmental advocate here to talk about plastic bags.  

Most of us are aware that plastic bags have a disproportionately negative environmental impact for the short-term convenience they provide.  

Why, exactly are plastic bags so bad?  

In short, they don't biodegrade. Instead they photograde, which means they break down into smaller and smaller bits of plastic. In general, plastic accounts for 90% (!) of debris in our ocean. Eventually, plastic will weasel its way into the food chain after marine life accidentally ingests it.  If we eat that marine life (sushi, anyone?), then we are putting those itty-bitty pieces of plastic into our bodies.  These plastic bits are toxic, and contain chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors and something to avoid at all costs.

To be clear, it's not that plastic is inherently bad.  On the contrary, the discovery of plastic was monumental. It provided a way to transport goods using less weight than something like glass. Additionally, its sanitary properties have resulted in unprecedented advancements in the medical field.  But we are simply misusing plastic in our day-to-day habits.  It should be treated like any resource - as precious and valuable.

To use plastic the "right" way means we should use it in high-quality, BPA-free forms; it should be washed and reused and eventually recycled at the end of its lifecycle.  In this way, plastic is treated more like a metal or glass.  The problem with plastic bags in particular is that they do not lend themselves to be easily washed, dried and re-used.  They are also extremely difficult to recycle (they clog the machines) and as a result very few recycle centers actually accept them at all (yes, if you've been putting your plastic bags in your recycling, it is likely that they end up straight to the landfill).

 

3 Ways to Decrease your Dependence on Plastic Bags

 

1. A canvas tote is your new best friend.  

Bring a small bag with you everywhere you go.  Keys? Wallet? Tote bag?  Make it a part of your checklist before you leave the house.  Find a bag that you actually like and feel good about carrying.  Pro tip - The thinner the bag material, the more easily it will fold to fit into your bag you carry on the daily.

 

2. Find high-quality alternatives.

Plastic bags come in most handy in the kitchen, especially for storing vegetables. Decrease your dependence on bags in the refrigerator by replacing with high-quality alternatives.  I invested in some these thick, modular canisters from the Container Store.  I use my cloth totes in the grocery store and transfer the veggies to the plastic bins at home, eliminating my need to use plastic bags to transport and/or store the vegetables.  To keep produce fresher, longer I use these "BluApple" balls to absorb ethylene gas that contributes to wilting.  They totally work!  And for kids lunches, remove the plastic "ziploc" bags from your kitchen all together so that you force yourself to shift your habits and use reusable tupperware instead.  The inconvenience from having to wash and reuse your tupperware is made up for with a happy heart.

 

3. Use paper over plastic.

Find yourself at the grocery bereft of a cloth tote bag?  Cough up the 10 cents and pay for a paper bag at checkout. While paper bags still have an environmental impact, at least they can be easily composted or recycled at the end of their usable life.  Pro tip - If you don't have a small tote to wrangle loose-leaf greens, hunt down a small paper bag (often available in the bulk-bin isle) and use that to bring spinach home.

Thankfully, many cities and states around the nation are passing laws to discourage plastic bag use.  San Francisco was the first city in the United States to do so (wahoo!).  I can reassure you that with a little planning and a small amount of effort at first, this habit shift is really easy to adapt to and quickly becomes second nature.  

 

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