Simplified Lifestyle

One Small Habit: BYOJ (Bring Your Own Jar)

New Minimalism doesn't end after you walk out your front door, that's simply the starting point.

Decluttering your home and donating items is the first step in cultivating a mindful, gentle way of being on this earth.  Many of the habits we practice at home, we also do our best to bring with us into the rest of our lives.  Today's small habit is a perfect example of this.  

One small habit that Kyle and I both deeply value is BYOJ: bring your own jar.  

In this habit, one essentially never leaves home without some kind of container with them.  Kyle and I both alternate between simply using our water bottles (which we also always have on us) or a mason jar.  This jar serves as a personal, always-available reusable receptacle for any food or drink item you may purchase when out and about.  

So far, we've used our jars for: smoothies, acai bowls, coffee (like Phillz Mint Mojito above!), tea, water, avocados, oatmeal, salad bar items, and freshly-foraged berries, just to name a few.

It's unimportant exactly what brand or style you use -- to each their own preference.  What does matter is that the jar is durable (it will be bouncing around in your backpack/bag/bike panniers after all), and that it has a good sealing lid (my purse still smells like cardamom on warm days from a slightly leaky jar of chai latte this past spring).

New habits undoubtedly require a little effort in their originating stages.  But their elegance and beauty comes from the effortlessness of habitualized behaviors -- when it stops being work and starts being second nature.

It takes a little bit of moxie to offer up your jar at restaurants, coffee shops, on planes or at grocery stores.  Do it anyways.  Not only is it a good deed done for our earth (avoiding the constant stream of disposables), it's also more pleasant to eat and drink out of a lovely glass or aluminum container and far easier to travel with than a paper or plastic version.

Each person, each time they use a jar in public, they strengthen the ecological awareness of their community.  When you BYOJ, you not only ensure that far fewer products end up in our landfills (or recycling or compost, which still require resources to process) but you also can't help but start up a conversation or set a small example for your fellow consumers.  You are one more person moving the spectrum, ever-so-slightly, towards environmental compassion and responsibility.  And that small act means a lot.

When Breath Becomes Air

My husband, nature, quiet time -- three of my favorite things.

My husband, nature, quiet time -- three of my favorite things.

"You have to figure out what's most important to you."

I (Cary) just finished reading the extraordinary memoir "When Breath Becomes Air" by the late Dr. Paul Kalanithi.  Kalanithi passed away last April from lung cancer, within a year of the birth of his daughter and his own graduation from neurosurgical residency.  During the brief period between his diagnosis and death Kalanithi wrote this book, with excruciating awareness and sublime honesty, about what it is that makes a life worth living.  

The quote above comes from Kalanithi's oncologist, referred to in the book as "Emma."  Kalanithi asks Emma often about statistics and projections for his illness; he seeks out solid footing in numbers and timelines.  Emma understands that what Kalanithi really wants to know is this: how ought he navigate his new life on this foreshortened timeline?  Her simple, sage advice:

"You have to figure out what's most important to you."  

I was drawn to this book months ago but put it down midway due to a period of loss in my own life.  When I picked it up again, hungry to put words to my own experience, I was drawn in particular to the grace with which Kalanithi grieved the chasm between how he'd imagined his life would be and how it was actually unfolding.  

For me, the bargaining stage of grief was the most illuminating.  In this stage, what it is that one holds most dear becomes crystal clear.  For the first time in my life, I knew with total certainty what I would trade, what I would give up, all of the things that I would, without a thought, toss out the window if it meant that I could have what I lost back.

And at that point, the idea of "stuff' and what we believe we "need" reveals itself in a pure way.  Stuff isn't bad; it brings us comfort and joy, beauty and ease.  But stuff is worth precious little, if anything at all, when we are stripped naked in front of life's big events. 

Minimalism, like grief, is a powerful tool for uncovering what matters most.

"When Breath Becomes Air" is written by a doctor and a philosopher.  Yet more than any book I've ever read about simplification or decluttering or design, Kalanithi's words get at the heart of what Kyle and I aim to do through New Minimalism.  

On the surface, we help people declutter and design their spaces.  What we really do is guide overwhelmed, fatigued folks through a process of peeling back layers (of stuff, commitments, habits, beliefs) until they have clarity around what matters most to them.  

In our sessions, it's typical for our clients to hit roadblocks.  As the morning's coffee fades and they sit, surrounded by so much stuff which they've chosen to bring into their lives, clients often struggle with deciding what should stay and go.  They're adrift in a sea of reasons of why they "should" keep something, why it came into their lives to begin with, and how much they gave up in order to have these items.  

This is where considering the brevity of life is so valuable.  

Trying to sort through million potential futures in order to determine an item should stay ("I might need this some day if I...") is a herculean task.  However, armed with the awareness of the shortness of life, we are instantly called back to our cores, to the very center of what matters.  

Here our clients can step back and say, "Oh, this is what matters to me: how I spend my days; how I feel when I first open my eyes in the morning; how I respond to the cries of my child; how much mental and emotional space I feel in my own life so I can bolster those I love in their lives.  Which of my things help me do that?"    

Which is precisely when the extraneous stuff goes flying out the door.  Spare bathrobes, old shin guards, extra pots and pans, old paperwork, unfinished projects -- what are these objects other than things which are blocking the way or at least fouling up the path as we try to live a full and meaningful life?

The author, Dr. Paul Kalanithi.

The author, Dr. Paul Kalanithi.

There is no reason not to follow your heart.

It would be debilitating to live life with your own mortality in the forefront of your mind each day.  But don't we owe it to ourselves to think about the shortness of life more often?  To, on occasion, strip bare our lives and consider really, truly, deeply, just what matters to us?  And then to do everything in our power to live our lives honoring and investing in what we value?  With however much time we have?

As Steve Jobs said, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Sunset's Celebration Weekend: A Recap

It's Kyle, the design arm of New Minimalism, here to share a peek into Sunset Magazine's Celebration Weekend 2016!  

After holding Celebration Weekend for 18 years at their old Menlo Park HQ (read about how we helped them declutter in preparation from their move here), this was an inaugural event at Cornerstone Sonoma, where Sunset has relocated their official test gardens. 

It was so gratifying to have the opportunity to design a booth that would visually capture what we are all about.  After an initial concept was created, we borrowed everything from our own living rooms (and the living rooms of willing friends and family...thank you!) so that we didn't have to buy anything new.  Can you believe it?  The only thing we bought were the lemons and limes for our water cooler.  

Along with our official booth, we were asked to be one out of five (!) speakers presenting our ideas at the Home Stage.   We put our brains together to determine the best talking points for the Sunset crowd, and then we had our graphic designer, Elizabeth West design some beautiful handouts to accompany each point (watercolor background and redesigned logo by Flight Design).   

 

We spent hours writing and then practicing our speech, and were so excited (nervous) when it finally came time to present.  Our attentive audience really made the entire experience -- asking questions, engaging with our philosophies -- it was so rewarding!  The editor of the Home section, Joanna, even said that we were the Home Stage's most-talked about and well-attended presentation for the whole weekend...what an honor!

Pictured above, are Cary and her mom, who flew out from Chicago to attend!  

All in all, we had such a wonderful time at this event.  The hours of preparation and hard work was more than worth it.  We love Sunset and everything it stands for, and can't wait for more events like this in the future!  Check out Sunset Magazine's event page for future events.

Question Everything

A while back, I celebrated my 32nd birthday.  I'm not a big birthday person in terms of celebrations or big get togethers. I prefer my birthday be a time for reflection, for rest and re-filling my tank, and for thinking about my next year in a meaningful way.

Not the most flattering angle, but damn are we happy to be in the redwoods!

Not the most flattering angle, but damn are we happy to be in the redwoods!

As the first gift to myself, I planned a long weekend for Cam and myself up in Humboldt County.  We stayed in a small studio on a farm in the college town of Arcata, and then spent our days in one of my very favorite places on earth: Prairie Creek Redwoods.

This is one of the few places in the world containing miles and miles of virgin Coastal Redwoods. To stand next to a 2,000 year old 350 foot tall living thing is to be humbled and feel awe like you can't imagine.  I've also determined that Redwoods are my spirit animal, so it felt good to spend quality time with my tribe :)

The second big wish I had for my birthday was for Cam and I to sit down and look, in detail, at our personal finances. I joyfully dubbed this night "The 1st Annual Fortin Family Financial Summit."

I've not written about money matters on the blog before, but my passion for minimalism has always been inextricably linked to personal finance.  My journey began in 2009 with desire for more meaningful work which led me to leave my corporate job and the associated corporate paycheck (aka: I was broke).  With far less cash on hand, I had to drastically increase my standards for every purchase, large or small.  This meant reevaluating habits I'd picked up in high-earning days as well as more under the radar habits I'd had my entire life. 

In other words, it was Through Minimalism that I learned to question everything.

Financially speaking, there are cultural assumptions that are made for us and ingrained into us from birth:

  • Work until you are 65.  
  • Upgrade your phone/computer/tv as soon as you have space on your credit card.  
  • Save 5% of your annual income. 
  • Buy as big a house as your mortgage lender says you can afford.  
  • Treat yourself to luxury goods and services -- you've worked so hard, you deserve it.  
  • Buy your kids the newest toys for each birthday and holiday, that's how you show love.  
  • Constantly revamp your wardrobe, you need to keep up with the newest trends.  

These messages are sent to us constantly via advertising, but they're also taught to us in school and pervade most new sources.  When we're constantly fed these opinions they gain the weight of fact; they seem unavoidable, inalterable.  

But as we all learn by living simple, gentle lives: it's not true. You get to choose your life and you get to decide how you spend your time and how you spend your money.  

This is a gratuitous photo of my handsome husband with a mushroom the size of his head.

This is a gratuitous photo of my handsome husband with a mushroom the size of his head.

Let's take Retirement Calculators as an example.  

These are meant to be completely unbiased, strictly mathematical tools to give you a clear picture of your retirement.  If you visit the websites of some of the most respected financial institutions in the US you'll find the impenetrable assumptions that total strangers have made for you.  

And while those above assumptions seem reasonable enough, there is something maleficent lurking below the surface.  When enough people begin to say something is impossible (saving 71% of your income, not producing any trash, retiring at 30) that begins to seem true.  And when things seem impossible, we begin to give away our power, believing we cannot control what we own or how we spend our time or money. 

This calculator, for example, maxes out at $60,000 saved annually, no matter your level of income.  It further won't let you spend less than 60% of your current income in retirement or retire earlier than 50 not matter what.

This calculator, for example, maxes out at $60,000 saved annually, no matter your level of income.  It further won't let you spend less than 60% of your current income in retirement or retire earlier than 50 not matter what.

The first thing Kyle and I do with our clients is get an understanding of how they most want to feel in their space and the highest values they would like their home to support. We cannot walk in and say "get rid of this plate" or "you must keep that painting" because we know that every person, family, and home is unique.  

After this introductory fact-finding, we assess each and every item with fresh eyes, determining whether it should stay or be donated based on how well it serves those highest values and desire.  

With expenses, as with stuff, the first step is to question everything.

That is the strategy that Cam and I are practicing in our finances now -- starting from a place of compassionate curiosity and questioning everything that we're spending money on.  Try starting from scratch without any of these limitations or beliefs.  Dream up your own ideal future and then reconstruct your finances with that vision in mind.

For me, the journey to personal finance devotee has been -- wait for it -- fun, joyful even. When I was making and spending a lot of money in my corporate days, I dedicated most of my waking hours to something I hated in order to buy things that meant very little to me. When I decided to leave the misery and the money of corporate work behind, for the first time I had a clean slate to determine exactly what a good budget for myself might be.

As I delved into minimalism, I was constantly asking myself: "Can I live without this?", "Does this really bring me joy?", and "Is this something that I actively am choosing for myself or just something that I've always done?" This line of questioning can be applied to anything: habits, relationships, stuff, spending, all of it.

Moral of the story: Question Everything.

Want to learn more?  Check out some of my favorite personal finance resources:

Friends in the news!

Lastly, a huge congratulations to Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist on his new book The More of Less.  We pre-ordered this book a while ago, knowing it would become a crucial part of our own micro-library.  We wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for both inspiration and compassion on their journey to becoming a minimalist! 

New Minimalism + Sunset Magazine

Hello dearest readers,

Kyle, here to share an exciting announcement with you!

New Minimalism has had the pleasure of working with Sunset Magazine in a variety of ways over the past year.  We realize that while we have Instagram'd these events, we never fully explained them to you, our faithful readers.  So here is a little background:

Last fall, we were hired by Sunset Magazine's Creative Director to declutter her home office and art space at her family's adorable bungalow in the East Bay.

A peek at our decluttering project with Sunset's Creative Director

A peek at our decluttering project with Sunset's Creative Director

Soon after, the team at Sunset was gearing up to relocate from their infamous, pastoral Menlo Park headquarters to a new, urban office in Oakland's vibrant Jack London Square.  Their offices in Menlo Park were spacious (think Mid-century modern California campus, surrounded by lush gardens, and towering Redwood trees); most of the employees had private offices with extensive built-in bookcases.  Naturally, over the 60 years that Sunset inhabited the space, items had, well, accumulated.  The future move to an open-concept, shared workspace in Oakland was daunting, to say the least.  

Enter New Minimalism!  During our 3 hour workshop with the editorial staff, we first visioned the future space together and then explained our 5 most-relevant philosophies as applied to Sunset's current situation.  The workshop went amazingly!  The Sunset team was so engaged, thoughtful and inquisitive (I mean, really, a bunch of first-class journalists are the best students anyone could ask for).

After the workshop, Sunset wrote a series of blog posts on the subject!  We were so honored that the content resonated and that Sunset was assimilating our ideas.  If you missed those posts, you can view them here:

Sunset's Great Clutter Challenge

10 Tips for Clutter Control

Overcoming Attachments

And finally, we were mentioned in the print, in the December 2015 issue!  Cary captured it perfectly on Instagram when she wrote,

"This little blurb represents a huge dream come true! Discovering Sunset was one of my favorite things about moving to San Francisco in 2008. It's been my favorite periodical, my ultimate guide, my top source for all dream images and phrases... To see our business mentioned on its pages is just magical."

THE BIG NEWS

Which leads me to the present day news that is oh, so exciting...

New Minimalism has been invited to speak at Sunset's annual Celebration Weekend on May 14th & 15th!  

Celebration Weekend is a HUGE event with hundreds of vendors, influential speakers and tastemakers.  The goal of the event is to essentially bring the magazine to life.  What's even more special is that this year marks the debut of Sunset's new Test Gardens in Sonoma, CA!  Historically, the event has been held at the Menlo Park campus.  And since relocating to Oakland, Sunset has opened their new Test Gardens and Test Kitchen in Sonoma.  It will be exciting and new for everyone!

Cary and I will be speaking at 12:15pm on Saturday and Sunday, at the Home Stage.  Our topic: 5 Tools to Create an Inspiring, Minimal Home.  You can view the entire Presentation Schedule here.  

If you live in the Bay Area, and would like to join, you can buy tickets here.  (Some of the tickets are already sold out, so don't delay!  Here is a link describing the different ticket packages.)

GIVEAWAY

And our final announcement - we want to share the love with you guys, and are giving away a complimentary pair of General Admission tickets for Saturday, May 14 to one lucky reader (General Admission tickets for Saturday are already sold out online).  

How to enter?  Simply comment below on this post, describing why you would like to attend!  We will announce the lucky winner on Friday, April 22.  GOOD LUCK ! ! !

So. Much. Stuff.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge framed by our street (and our moving truck).  I loved that this view welcomed us home each night.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge framed by our street (and our moving truck).  I loved that this view welcomed us home each night.

Big announcement: Cam and I moved!  

Not very far -- as the crow flies it's only about 12 miles north of our (now previous) apartment.  But it still feels like a big move; from San Francisco, with a population of 825,000, across the Golden Gate Bridge to a pastoral valley town of about 12,000.  

We made this move for a host of reasons, but the main motivation was to be closer to nature and to have more space now that we both work from home with frequent conference calls (I took more than one call from our bedroom closet last month). 

The little bungalow we found to rent fit all our needs: sunshine, outdoor space, LAUNDRY (I don't when I'll get used to how awesome this is), and a garden for our beloved plants and now, to grow vegetables!

I'll tell you more about this awesome space (with photos) soon, but for now I need to get something off my chest.  

There is never a time when we are more aware of the psychic burden and physical weight of our stuff than when we have to literally move it.  

Pack it.  Label it.  Stack it.  Lift it.  Carry it.  

Worry about it breaking.  (Secretly hope it all breaks.)  

Bring it up stairs.  Haul it down the hallway.  Unpack it.  Find a new home for it.

And I cannot tell you how many times in the past week I have said in total exasperation,

"We have so much stuff."

All our possessions in the world (bed and plants still to come).  At this point, I was almost hoping the moving truck would lose our address so we could start fresh.

All our possessions in the world (bed and plants still to come).  At this point, I was almost hoping the moving truck would lose our address so we could start fresh.

Wait a second, I thought you were a minimalist?  Aka: How did you and Cam get here, to this place of "so much?"  

My journey to minimalism uncoincidentally coincided with my move before this one (I say "I" because Cam's own venture into minimalism has it's own timeline).  Six years ago, almost to the day, Cam and I moved  into our first shared apartment together.  We were 26 and 25 respectively, just getting a sense of who we wanted to be in the world.  I didn't know it at the time, but I was entering a deep, challenging, amazing period of transformation in my life.

With the two of us moving in together as partners, finally roommate-free for the first time, we were able to define what "home" meant to us.  What values from our homes growing up we wanted to bring, what we wanted to adapt, what we wanted to invent together. 

Our almost empty apartment.  Seeing the space like this reminded me of the day in 2010 when we first saw it -- and immediately fell in love.

Our almost empty apartment.  Seeing the space like this reminded me of the day in 2010 when we first saw it -- and immediately fell in love.

 Bucking our maximalist lifestyle.

Through my mid-20s I hadn't really questioned my consumer-centric way of being.  I never got rid of anything that could potentially be used or worn.  I was dragging around clothing I'd had since junior high, for goodness sakes.  I admit, I was a maximalist, believing that more was obviously  better than less.

Yet now with two people's stuff combined into one home, we were forced to start making decisions lest we suffer bruised shins from running into one of our THREE dressers (yes, we had three dressers despite our new walk-in closet).  

Did we want to live in a stuffed-to-the-brim, filled space, or could we find a way to combine our stuff into one?  Was this stuff worth fighting over?  Worth cramming into a drawer?  With this opportunity for a blank slate, was this the way we wanted to have our first home feel?

From these original discussions (and arguments) two budding minimalists were born.

Over the subsequent 2,000 days from first moving in together, we have completely changed the way we act in our space.  I'd estimate that we've sold or donated 60-70% of our stuff from that time.  In my heart and mind, I'd embraced minimalism as the type of lifestyle that best serves me, my goals, my dreams.  

Cam on moving morning in front of our silly little light blue and blonde brick building.

Cam on moving morning in front of our silly little light blue and blonde brick building.

Enter current day: For the past several years I've operated under the assumption that our possessions were thoroughly minimized (heck, at one point I only owned 100 personal items!).  Our bathroom closet was almost humorously empty.  I had so much space in our pantry that I used it as another room, placing artful branches and family photos on the mostly sparse shelves.

And yet.  And yet...

When it came time to pack up a few weeks ago, I was blown away by how much stuff we had.  Totally floored.  

I think in moving, we were forced to take in the sum total of what we do still own.  And given my desire to be free from clutter and excess and unwanted items, it meant that every single thing I packed had to be evaluated and deemed worthy... or not.  

While it was certainly tiring (draining might be more accurate), it resulted in a big car's worth of donations and several items being given to friends (note: those whom specifically requested them:) and 5 additional bags of donations since we've gotten settled.

Lesson: We expand to fit our containers.  

Kyle and I have learned this a hundred times over with our clients, but at last I realized it happened to me as well. Essentially, it's the Parkinson's Law of space: as much space as we are given, we will fill.  

But the intentional minimalist can right-size or shrink into any chosen container (like a small backpack for a month or two carry-on bags for an entire wardrobe).  

Right-sizing into our new space.

Sneak peak of our new (rental) home: no new furniture, but fun, new feel.  Also a  fireplace !

Sneak peak of our new (rental) home: no new furniture, but fun, new feel.  Also a fireplace!

Not only did the act of moving encourage us to pare down, we've actually found that in our new, larger space we have way less storage.  (Bless the wise and practical folks of the 1930's who hadn't yet discovered walk-in closets.) 

Everything we own is no longer tucked neatly into a cavernous closet.  Nope, now almost all our stuff is out in the open, fully exposed.  So for each item we keep, we have to either effortfully and thoughtfully give it a home in our sparse storage or decide that we're ready to let it go. 

To be honest, it's the perfect spot for an I-thought-I-was-a-minimalist to put her values to the test. I will be reporting on the final product. Wish us luck!

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.

Life (Goes On) Without Internet

Image //  via

Image // via

Hello dear readers, Kyle, the other half of NM here.  I’ve been living internet-free for 18 months now and it’s time for a check-in.  Yep, that’s a year and a half without internet at home!  It’s gone by quickly and I must say that the pros strongly outweigh the cons.  There have been moments of falter and frustration, but overall, I am quite happy with the decision and do not think I could go back.

Since beginning this experiment of technological abstinence, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was not terribly difficult.  Leading up to this point, I had started to become more conscientious of my “screen time” and knew that I was more productive and emotionally grounded with less of it.  Was I going to pick up that book I’ve been meaning to read when I had the ability to fall deep into a warm and fuzzy Freaks & Geeks marathon?  I think not.  But now, without entertainment at my fingertips, in my moments of free time I find that I clean, I read, or I write a blog post, like this one.  These are all activities I enjoy and contribute to my overall well-being but I did not always set aside the time to do. 

There are a few reasons I can identify that have made this internet-free pursuit feasible for me: 

1.    I have regular internet access outside of my home: 

For three days each week I work in an office with quick and reliable internet access.  During this time at the office, while I am busy with other work, I still find time to answer emails and basically be “in-touch”. For these three days I am hyper efficient with my online time, because I know that if I do not use it wisely, I will have to find another way to access internet.

Do you have access to internet in your weekly routine?  If so, maybe going internet-free is the right challenge for you.

2.  I use a smart phone: 

If I need to look-up an address or read an email, I can use my phone.  Yes, I guess technically I have access to the World Wide Web.  But it’s not like I’m going to stare at my itty bitty phone for hours on end.  I would say I max out at about 20 minutes of Instagram perusing.   

3.  I have a “third place”: 

If I need to write a lengthy email with hyperlinks sourcing furniture, etc., I will walk the 3.5 blocks to my gym where they have a café with wifi.  This has been my other saving grace.  I have a “third-place” where I can casually pop in and have a concentrated hour of work.  Also what is great about this strategy is that it has the effect of feeling like you are in a foreign country using an internet café.  For some reason it’s like the little timer at the bottom of the screen is counting down fast and so I better finish this task, STAT.  Also, it would be weird if I were just hanging out at the gym cruising Facebook, right?     

Image //  via

Image // via

My moment of falter: 

At one point last winter I noticed that my boyfriend Johnnie was becoming frustrated with the internet runaround.  He is a full-time freelancer and does not have the three-day-a-week internet access that I do.  Feeling guilty for making him internet-less, while concurrently insisting that we stay at my house most nights (geez I’m demanding), I thought, maybe we should have internet.  Still basking in the glory of not paying $80 per month, I approached my neighbor to see if she would be interested in sharing her internet connection.  Being that our building is comprised of all studio apartments, how stringent could her internet demands be? 

Well, apparently this is not a normal thing to ask your neighbor.  She played it off as if she were open to the idea of cutting her bill in half.  But when we parted ways I suppose that she conjured up all the ways in which this seemingly innocuous union could go awry.  Maybe I was planning to download massive amounts of illegal content?  Maybe I would stream action movies day and night, and not only would she hear the intermittent explosions through her wall, but she would also have a slower connection as a result? 

I’m not sure of the reason.  But I do know that after asking twice, and never receiving the log-in information, I decided that Johnnie actually didn’t need internet at my house.  He could find a way around it, right?  And we’ve made it work. 

Try the internet-free life, even for short spurts.

So while there are minor inconveniences of living internet-free, overall it has been Amazing with a capital A.  And I urge you to try it!  You don’t have to cancel your subscription immediately, but try turning off your modem for an entire week, or month.  Convince your partner/children/roommates that it will be a fun experiment and see how it goes.  You might find that it’s not so hard after all.  

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!