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A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Hi Friends!

Kyle here to share with you some very exciting news!  It's been 6-months in the making, and now New Minimalism can officially say,  WE HAVE A BOOK DEAL!!!!

That's right, we're writing a BOOK!

It's been a dream of ours to put all these thoughts and ideas down onto something more tangible than the blog, and we are BEYOND ecstatic to make this dream a reality.

Most of our client-free time this summer devoted to writing, which explain fewer posts of client work on Instagram.  

 But you will be seeing more Instagram posts of Cary and I doing exciting things, like  this !

But you will be seeing more Instagram posts of Cary and I doing exciting things, like this!

The book will be a full color photo book, detailing the New Minimalism philosophy and process.  We are publishing with the amazing talent at Sasquatch Books, located in Seattle, WA.  

The book is planning to hit stands in January of 2018 (yes, 2018, that's not a typo).  So while it's a more than a year away, we still wanted to share this super exciting news with you, our nearest and dearest supporters!

xo forever and ever,

Kyle (& Cary)

 

The Power of Paint

Kyle, the other half of New Minimalism is here to welcome you to the Chill Zen Room.  Take off your shoes, kick back and stay awhile.  This is now clearly a room to relax and unwind, but it hasn't always been this way...

When Cary and Cam moved into their apartment, they knew that the small room connecting the kitchen to the living room had great potential.  Cam dubbed it The Chill Zen Room early on, but in practice, it was serving more as a glorified hallway.  Cary asked me what we could do to  define the room from the rest of the home, to make it a stopping point, rather than a thoroughfare.  After some thought, I determined it just needed a little extra pizzazz and some key furniture replaced.  Enter, painting project! 

Changing the paint color is a tried and true strategy to completely transform a space.  If executed correctly, it has a relatively low investment for a high reward. 

Above are before and after shots of the Chill Zen Room, as viewed from the kitchen doorway.  Looking through the space and into the living room beyond, you can see how the room integrates with the rest of the apartment.   By choosing a high-contrast color, you can't help but stop and linger in the room for a bit. 

Notice in the after photo, we chose two different paint finishes in the same color.  We painted the walls a flat finish and the trim a glossy finish to emphasis the difference in depth.

The dark, earthy color creates the perfect backdrop to display Cam's incredible photography. You can view more of Cam's work at his online gallery: Steep Ravine.  The brown leather and wood tones of the furniture strengthen the ode to mother nature.

 We all agreed it was time to replace the overstuffed, circa '94 cream armchair that had followed Cam from apartment to apartment.  After a few weeks of searching, we scored this super high-quality leather loveseat on Craigslist for less than $200!   We anchored the reading corner with the wool rug, and intentionally placed it on an angle for a causal air.

Remember when starting a painting project on your own: it is all about PREPARATION.  Have patience, as this takes some time.  But once you prepare well, then painting is a breeze.  (Tip: for the most eco-friendly waste, opt for old newspaper rather than plastic drop-cloths).

So go forth, readers, and embark on those bite-sized design projects that make a huge difference in your space.  

Even if you don't choose a completely dramatic color, paint has a freeing power, symbolic with a fresh start.  And we could all use a little refresh, now and then.

 

Let Go of "Just In Case"

To date, Kyle and I have spent thousands of hours working with clients guiding and helping them declutter their homes.  We've probably spent even more time still speaking with each other and friends and acquaintances and colleagues about minimalism.

And do you want to know the single pain point which comes up the most?  

Just. In. Case.

Often it shows up to in response to me suggesting that someone might prefer to donate an item they've never used / don't particularly like / wish they'd never purchased to begin with.  

(Think: a third box of 2,000 staples in a paperless office, a dress with tags on purchased 2 sizes too small, a stack of old and unread magazines which just might hold an article or photo that might be referred to if they end up deciding to learn to sew after all.)

With an incredulous stare, I get back the questions: "But what if I need it someday?" or "Shouldn't I keep it, you know, just in case?" 

I'm not going to argue that you will 100% guaranteed never need any of these items again.  

That would be pointless.  I'm not a fortune teller and I cannot know the intricacies of your life moving forward.  But I am going to encourage you to let go these "just in case" items anyway.  

 

3 Reasons to Let Go of "Just In Case" Objects.

1. Consider the costs of keeping the item.  Anytime a particular topic or idea shows up across all spectrums of lifestyles and situations, it signals to me that something very human is going on.  And the truth is that biologically speaking, humans have evolved to be more motivated to avoid pain than to seek joy.  Meaning that as a species we're naturally going to give more weight to fear of having to potentially re-acquire something than the pleasure of an uncluttered space.  

What our lizard brain is not considering, however, is the hidden pain of keeping so much stuff around.  We don't consider what a burden it is to maintain and upkeep these items.  We don't consider all of the physical and mental space they take up.  We forget about the hard, crappy decisions we have to make (like spending a gorgeous weekend cleaning up the garage or not moving to a new space because there isn't enough storage) in service of these items that we don't even use.

2. Experience the under-acknowledged joy of knowing what you don't have.  Imagine I ask you to find an old, semi-functioning raincoat you've kept just in case...  You would maybe look in your regular closet.  Then the coat closet.  Then perhaps with your stored winter gear.  Then perhaps check your camping bin.  Or maybe it's with your costumes under the bed?  Or is it possible that you leant it to a friend awhile back?  Or maybe it is in the coat closet in the way, way back?  20 minutes later you're sweaty, frustrated and still don't know where the raincoat is.  

If instead you make a habit of releasing excess items, you'll know right away what you have and where it is -- and you'll also know right away when you don't have something.  Rather than wasting time searching, you can jump right into reacquiring, borrowing, substituting, or making do without.  It is liberating.

3. Leave room for yourself to grow.  Whenever we hold onto items "just in case," we're locking our future selves into a certain way of being.  One of the most beautiful things about being human is that we are constantly evolving as people.  Our habits, priorities, and hobbies shift and vary as we continue through life.  When you hold onto old items "just in case" you're committing to staying in place, to having those same exact interests or to living in the same space.  When you let go of those items you are giving yourself permission to be flexible and flowing, to grow and change.

So what do you think?  Could you donate some of the things you've been holding onto "just in case?" Do you have any strategies that have worked for you in the past?  

 

Ending the Cycle of Busy

 Image // via  Steep Ravine

Image // via Steep Ravine

One of our stated principles at New Minimalism is to break the cycle of busyness.  

Busyness has become among the most pervasive and relentless dis-eases of our modern culture because it gives to us a few things we value so desperately: the sensation of accomplishment and the appearance of importance.  

But what this constant, frantic, frenetic busyness actually represents is a profound lack of clarity.

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

Why, as Declutterers and Designers, do Kyle and I care so much about how people spend their time? Why do we worry about busyness when we ought to be worried about stuff?

Because busyness and clutter are inextricably tied to one another -- they both are the root cause and result of each other.  

1) Clutter is the result of busyness.  

Clutter is deferred decisions -- things we put off for the future because we don't have time to deal with them now.  Clutter is physical manifestation of all the things we need to do.  

2) And clutter is the cause of busyness.  

Having too much stuff for your space requires constant maintenance, which takes time.  Whether that maintenance is direct (managing things, searching for items, storing and maintaining them, purchasing new objects) or indirect (distracting yourself with other forms of busyness instead of dealing with them), it fills our time.

The whole point of having a clutter-free life is that the time + energy you save not managing and dealing with stuff is time + energy you can spend actually living life.  

You know, doing things like:

  • being in nature,
  • snuggling with the people/pets/blankets you love,
  • taking photos,
  • meditating,
  • learning languages,
  • building machines, 
  • writing books,
  • composing songs,
  • knitting hats,
  • eating oysters,
  • laughing with your favorite people,
  • being an activist for your most important causes,
  • hanging with your kids,
  • volunteering in your neighborhood, or
  • making the world a better place by just being pleasantly not-busy while wandering about.  

So how to end the cycle of busyness and all the nasty-ass clutter that comes with it?  

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

It's hard time 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 know immediately, at your core, if this shirt or work commitment or relationship makes you feel that way.

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

2. Say no to relationships / events / objects / experiences that do not support you in living your most desired life.  

Clarity turns the process of decluttering -- which otherwise can 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.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, a positive spiral.  When I know how I want to feel, I can easily identify which things help me feel that way.  Which allows me to experience those feelings more frequently, with greater depth, and with greater clarity.  Which makes it that much easier to determine if something is in fact aligned with those desires.

So, please tell me, how do you most want to feel in your life?

Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.
— Mary Oliver, "October"

Want more?  

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (and our review of that book here)

The Desire to Accessorize

Kyle, the other half of New Minimalism here to talk about something very important: personal style.

The other week I found myself at the mall. 

I was there for a quick stop to get my phone upgrade.  Somehow, before I knew, it I was checking out at the register of Aldo with a handful of impulse accessory purchases! 

Did I black-out for a moment?  I run a business called New Minimalism!  How could this have happened?! 

Let’s take a step back to dissect:

I had an upcoming international trip that I was eagerly anticipating.  This trip included attending a music festival, and I was excited to express myself through my clothing in a hot climate for once, OMG. 

Finding myself at the mall, I was susceptible.  Suddenly my existing wardrobe seemed dull and unexciting in comparison to all the shiny, of-the-moment merchandise at the mall.  The window displays worked their magic on me and I was lured into Aldo.  I ended up purchasing a pair of sandals, a necklace, a pair of sunglasses and earrings, all made of so-so quality.

 Evidence of the impulse-buy on Instagram.  All minus the fanny pack, which has been a faithful companion for years now.

Evidence of the impulse-buy on Instagram.  All minus the fanny pack, which has been a faithful companion for years now.

There is an innate human desire to express oneself through personal style and adornment. 

The earliest examples of jewelry adornment in human history date back 7,000 years!  While jewelry was a form of currency or financial investment, it was worn primarily to convey “social status, wealth, and power.” 

And today, while clothing and accessories surely still relate to a desire to convey social status and wealth, I assume that most people, like me, simply enjoy expressing themselves creatively through their clothing.  This is not wrong.  Hey, we have to wear clothes so we might as well make the best of it, right? 

But with a personal pursuit towards minimalism and more simplified lifestyle, where do I draw the line?

The answer relates to our 11 Principles

#7 Move past the myth of choice. Excessive choices can leave us paralyzed or dissatisfied. You understand that creativity flourishes within constraint.

 

Can you have a capsule wardrobe that still expresses your personal style?  Of course!  Like any life-simplification effort, you have to first ask yourself some tough questions:

  • What do you value the most
  • Which items earn the high esteem of making it into your wardrobe
  • What clothing do you feel the best in? 

 

6 Steps for a quick, 1-hour wardrobe decluttering. 

1. Select your top 3 outfits: 

  1. your top outfit for work

  2. your top outfit for play.   

  3. your top outfit for maxin’ and relaxin’ at home

2. Pull out these 3 outfits, and arrange them on the bed/floor. 

3. Complete them with underwear, shoes, accessories and all.  Arrange little flat versions of yourself.  Heck, go crazy and use grapes for eyes and then let them hang out until your partner comes home and becomes sufficiently freaked out.  (Ok, sorry, I took it too far.)  

4. Back to the 3 outfits: consider these your “guiding light”, the epitome of your style.  In contrast, assess each individual item in your closet.  Does it stand up the “guiding light outfits”?  If there is any hesitation with the garment in question, the answer is DONATE!  Be firm with yourself, act like your own personal trainer. 

5. Keep a short list of any wardrobe “holes” you create and need to fill.  Like if, for example, you finally donate that black sweater that you’ve worn to death and everyone in your life is secretly hoping you get rid of anyway.  Write "black sweater" on your shopping list to keep you focused while you shop and keep your favorite outfits working for you.

6. At the end of your decluttering sweep, be sure to put all donations in a bag by the door so that you actually take them with you on your next trip out.  Schedule the donation drop in your calendar to really hold yourself accountable.

Before (left):  too many choices, earring pairs separated, chaos. After (right): individual accessories have room to shine and displayed with pride.

So, back to the mall. 

What was the result of my impulse purchases?  The necklace and sunglasses served their purpose on the vacay and have since been donated to the Goodwill, the earrings I kept, and the sandals, the bulkiest of all my belongings on my trip, followed me all throughout Croatia and Copenhagen, and returned to the States unworn!  Turns out that chunky, platform metallic sandals (yes), were somewhat impractical for stomping all around Europe.  I never even tried to wear them.  They were an inconvenient daily reminder that impulse buys are not worth the trouble Thankfully, Aldo accepted them as returns. 

The moral of the story:  know that there is an entire industry dedicated to making you feel like you need more things. 

Marketing teams are paid buckets-o-money to do just that.  So you must enter the consumer world with your armor on, shielding you from the power of savvy marketers (and avoid it all together whenever possible).  And like most things in life, there is a middle path.  You can be a stylish minimalist, just as long as you clarify and prioritize what your version of style is.

Drastically Increase Your Standards

The average American home has 300,000 items inside it.  Three hundred thousand things.  

How many of those things do we use in an average day?  Month?  Year?

How many of those things do we love?  How many "spark joy"?  How many support us in becoming our best and fullest selves?

My guess: very, very few.  

Clutter builds up when we stop making decisions about our stuff.  

Rather than choose which wrapping paper we like most, we buy all 13 rolls in a jumbo package. Rather than donate clothing that no longer fits, we hang it back up "in case I need it." Rather than recycle back issues of a magazine, we stick it on the shelf to read "later."

It's those items -- the ones that we don't use or love or need -- which slowly fill our closets and drawers, our garages and attics.  

Those are the items that make it hard to see the painting on the wall that you do love, hard to find your one snuggliest pair of ski socks, hard to clear off the table to share a meal with the people you love.

When we work with our clients, the first thing we do is touch each and every item to decide what stays and what goes.  

The end result is a simple, easy to maintain, spacious and inspiring home.  

But make no mistake, it's real work to make a decade's worth of decisions about your wardrobe (or kitchen or living space) in one morning.   

And unfortunately, things don't stop trying to enter our homes after these purges.  Birthdays, holidays, malls, sales, heirloom items -- these occasions for clutter to re-enter your home will continue to occur.

The easiest way to ensure that you're not sorting another 300,000 items in 10 years?  

Nip the clutter in the bud by having extremely high standards for what you allow into your home.

 

3 ways to be radically more selective about what you allow into your space:

1) Say "Thank you, no."  

Gifts, hand-me-downs, goodie bags and freebies are among the most pernicious items that continually attempt to enter our homes.  Acknowledge the kindness of whoever is attempting to give you that corporate logo-filled mug or give your child a plastic bag full of small plastic things.  Then warmly say "Thank you, but I actually don't need any ____ today!" and continue on with your clutter-free day.

2) Shop mindfully.  

Stores are designed to make us pick up last minute items.  Brilliant folks with PhD's have spent decades learning about how to appeal to our senses and override our natural decision making process so that we leave the store with a dozen extra items never knew we "needed" until right now.  

Be prepared: have a list, know exactly what you are looking for, and create a budget for non-necessary items.

3) Always remember your big goals, hopes and dreams.  

When you are faced with having a new item brought into your space, determine right away if the object supports the greater lifestyle that you are creating for yourself.  If it's a no, immediately into the donation bin it goes!

 

New Minimalism's 11 Principles

 Make-up free, slightly sweaty shot of Kyle (L) + me (R) in my living room.  Photo:  Ryan .  Triptych:  Cam .

Make-up free, slightly sweaty shot of Kyle (L) + me (R) in my living room.  Photo: Ryan.  Triptych: Cam.

What defines the New Minimalism lifestyle?

It’s not a number of things, nor a living situation.  It’s not about how often you practice yoga or how infrequently you need to empty your waste bin (though those things are often correlated).

It’s a mind set.  A way of being.  

New Minimalism believes that our external space reflects our internal state and vice versa. 

We choose to surround ourselves with things that inspire and delight us, to err on the side of donating, to choose lightness, freedom, focus, and experience over stuff.

So who are our followers?

Some live in tiny studios, others are preparing three bedroom homes for a second child. 

Some quit their day jobs and rent out their homes to travel the world .  Others find new energy to recommit to their current work, to dive deeper into their lives. 

And while each person is unique, they all honor the same principles. 

We recently clarified this list of principles and wanted to share it with you (because we are so grateful you're here and we have a feeling you might be/becoming one yourself), below:

New Minimalism's 11 Principles

  1. Be present.  You allow your current situation (home size, body size, income, location, etc.) to dictate your items.  You trust that you’ll continue to have what you need when you need it.
  2. Choose mastery.  You prefer to hone your skills rather than spread yourself too thin.  You know when to outsource.
  3. You have the power over your stuff.  While you respect your things, you are the one in control.  
  4. Embrace open space and blank walls.  Redefine your definition of “full”. 
  5. Our things are not our experiences/relationships.  A memory and an object are two separate things.  Letting go of one doesn’t mean you’ll lose the other.
  6. Allow one to stand for many.  You value quality over quantity.  You know, for example, that one beautiful photo can represent your love of travel. 
  7. Move past the myth of choice.  Excessive choices can leave us paralyzed or dissatisfied.  You understand that creativity flourishes within constraint.
  8. End the cycle of busy.  You take control of your to-do list.  
  9. Have extremely high standards.  Specifically about what is allowed past the threshold of your house.  No more “Oh, this is kinda neat!” or “I can always use another tank top.”  You are supremely selective, a connoisseur of your belongings.
  10. Exercise gratitude. You know that your basic needs are taken care of and you are eternally grateful for that.  
  11. Honor the planet.  You know that we live in a closed-loop system.  Our actions have a ripple effect in our communities and environment, and you use your powers for good. 

Are you a New Minimalist in the making?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might notice that you already live by several of these principles.  Or, if you’re just getting started, try adopting just one of the principles, perhaps the one that feels the most prickly and challenging to you.  

Even Kyle and I don't have all this down perfectly.  

But perfect isn't the point.  It's about continual movement in the direction that feels best.

The 11 Decluttering Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself

At the very core of it all, the reason we simplify our things is to increase the quality of our lives.  

As New Minimalists, we believe that less time spent organizing, cleaning, tending to and hunting down our things, the better.  Instead, we use those precious hours every week to practice our art, enjoy our hobbies, give and connect to our communities, savor relationships with those we love and those we've just met.

Then why is it so hard to get rid of the things that are clearly holding us back from living this life?

Most of our clients have attempted to declutter on their own before calling us in.  They're already clear on all the potential benefits to their lives by simplifying their homes and aware of the pain and distraction their clutter is currently causing.  They know they want kitchens with clean counters and have entire pinterest boards of minimalist closets.  But for some reason they can’t release the clutter that is holding them stagnant.

The missing piece of the puzzle is not a matter of willpower or desire -- it's actually far simpler than that.  

It's a matter of semantics.  

Specifically, they're are not asking the right questions to reflect the standards they aspire to.  

We hear clients still asking questions like: 

  • “Could I wear this?” 
  • “Might I need this at some point in the future?” 
  • “Did I spend money acquiring this?” 
  • “Did I get this as a gift or from a neat trip?”
  • “Does this item have value?”  

.... all of which lead to holding onto far more than you want, need, or could ever use.   What you really need to be asking the questions below:

11 questions to ask yourself when you are {really} ready for a New Minimalist life.

For items that are “useful”:

1.  Does this item provide a great benefit to my life on a frequent (daily/weekly) basis?  

2.  Is there anything I own that could do this job just as well but I like more/has more uses?

For personal momentos + sentimental items:

3.  Does this item symbolize or tell the story of my relationship with someone massively important to me OR a life-changing experience? 

4.  Does this item give me a profound feeling of love/joy/adventure when I see it?

For items of beauty or decoration:

5.  Is this item so beautiful that it speaks to me every time I lay my eyes on it? 

6.  Does it fill me with wonder and curiosity or settle and soothe my soul in ways beyond words?

For To-Dos and Projects:  

7.  Do I love this project and excitedly anticipate the time each day when I get to work on it? 

8.  Am I working on this project not because I feel I should or people expect me to or I’ve already put so much time into it, but because working on it makes my heart sing?

For Clothing and Accessories:

9.  Do I feel like a goddess/warrior/the most brilliant person in the room/the best version of me when I have it on? 

10.  Of all the clothing items in the world, would I repurchase this exact one today -- even if it cost 2x as much?

11.  Would I seek out a special tailor or seamstress to fix or tend to this item should something happen to it?

 

Just listen to the answers that come up for you.  

Some will be wholehearted yes's or simple no's.  There will be times when fear and guilt arise, trying to make you hold onto things that you "might need" or that you spent too much money on or that you should finish.  

And then with great love and desire for all the spaciousness and freedom that arises on the other side, choose to let it go.  Choose this new life.  Choose to have faith that life is not in the having but in the living.