I've been nudging my parents to let go of unnecessary objects my whole adult life. They usually don’t listen to me, but sometimes they do, like when I redid my Dad’s home office or lent a hand as they downsized from my childhood home to a condo in a retirement community. In this community, my Mom now serves as the Board President of their 200-unit building.
One reason we don’t pare down our stuff or address organizational obstacles is the belief that there’s a tangible “later” when these problems will be solved. Or we believe our problems are manageable, and assume they won’t become worse. We need clever encouragement to do the work.
For two and half weeks at the edge of Todos Santos, Mexico, I was immersed in yoga teacher training. In tents we slept listening to the ocean. All day we practiced postures and learned how to teach yoga. It was heavenly.
No matter how good I felt, our teacher would instruct us to “make it feel good,” when settling into poses.
It has always been my dream to be a speaker and a writer. It’s one of the reasons I started my business and live a frugal lifestyle. Material “stuff” in exchange for a dream- it’s a great deal. When I was accepted into the inaugural TEDxBartonSpringsWomen event, I had a moment of uncontainable excitement …
We think about ourselves a lot. Makes sense because, well, that’s who we are. We are immersed in our thoughts, our relationships, and our day-to-day activities. It’s all about us. And this is true of our possessions.
They say patience is a virtue. Perhaps it’s a skill to be mastered or an unexpected playground, often avoided. Either way, patience through the lens of delayed gratification is a seldom explored avenue to experience life’s pleasures. Instead, instant gratification is the currency du jour.
Gross things invade our stuff when we’re not looking. From creepy crawlies, to dust and mold, our possessions are not as protected as we imagine. The seldom touched tend to suffer the most. Areas that easily succumb to flooding are a close second.
The tricky thing about wallpaper is that regardless of it’s color and pattern, we see it but, over time, cease to notice it. The same way you can hear something but not truly listen to it. Wallpaper can blanket the walls but disappears the second we blink our eyes.
In Part 1, I recounted why I purchased a bike and the fear I overcame in the process. The how was tricky too. I wanted to buy a used bike, both for the cost savings and because, typically, reuse is better than purchasing new from a sustainability standpoint.
When I was a kid, my brother and sister and I rode around our street and parts of the neighborhood on our bikes. It was childhood fun, until it wasn’t. When riding down a large hill next to the nearby lake, I fell and crashed and my bike was destroyed. A wheel over here, a handle bar over there. I wasn’t injured; only a few scrapes.
The proliferation of listicles and tips and hacks make me question the prominence of the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like to waste time on areas of life that aren’t important. For some problems, a small bump in strategy is all that’s needed.
What I’ve wanted most in life is freedom. Freedom is so important to me because it is me. Freedom is the ability to be who I am, do what I want, and experience life through my values. I know that no matter what happens, the one thing I will always have is me.
Your home and all the items in it may represent the person you used to be, you think you should be, you wish to be, you want others to see, or all of the above. We allow this misidentification through our stuff or allow our stuff to meld with our identity.
The name of my company, Less Equals More, was the three-worded vehicle most apt to describe how less material items and unnecessary activities can help us get to whatever “more” we are looking to achieve: more time, more freedom, more meaning.
Your office, parent’s or friend’s home, your car(s), storage unit, a second home- these are the hiding places. You have many mechanisms of possession distribution which makes it easier to not quite identify all the stuff you have to your name.
The minimalist approach creates a thoughtful balance around what is worth care and concern. My method is meaningful minimalism: finding what provides you with meaning and forgetting about the rest, choosing just the stuff that supports your goals and priorities, and letting the space that remains highlight the few things of meaning.
I hate to be a downer. After all, I engage in a downsized, simplified, and organized life because of its positive and joyful benefits. Most strategies I employ to reduce my impact on the environment are things I like to do and have other benefits (like being healthier for me too).
It’s funny how little we exert control over what comes into our homes. From accepting all gifts (whether desired or not), hand-me-downs out of guilt, freebies that flood in, and unwanted mail, much of what we have wasn’t invited. It’s like our homes need their own bouncers just to manage the influx of stuff.
Personal evolution happens at a much faster pace than ecological evolution, as the not-so-fossil remains of our past hobbies, relationships, and career changes serve as evidence. The overabundance of stuff in our homes is a symptom of not addressing or recognizing the changes in our lives.
As someone who tends not to buy things, advertising and marketing are far from my mind’s eye most of time. But occasionally I’ll come across a clever marketing ethos that is just so good I can’t help but integrate it into my lifestyle.
Couples, whether new or long-time committed, have a bevy of things to disagree on, fight about, or be annoyed by. How much stuff they have, what the stuff is, and how it’s organized (or not), is a common topic of such discomforts.
The worst way to solve a problem is to not define it correctly, as we discussed in my previous post. The best way to rectify the problem with problems and solutions is to recall something you used in grade school called the scientific method.
You know that you have an organization problem in your home or office. But what you might not know is that you also have another problem: you haven’t articulated your true problem or, in your haste, you misdiagnose it.
Organizing and simplifying are not synonymous. They are certainly related and sometimes exist simultaneously. But there are notable differences between having an organized home and living a simple life.
I receive a handful of similar questions and assumptions when I disclose my profession to people I meet. Number one is whether I’ve worked with hoarders (the answer: I have not and I would not, except perhaps under the direction of a therapist specializing in this work). Number two is the assumption that the Container Store is my favorite place.
In the context of organizing and downsizing, the word label may provoke images of label makers or a method to categorize groups of items. But label has another meaning when we are trying to, yet resist, simplifying our lives.
My first post, written just over two years ago, was about moving. I had just sold my house, left my job of a dozen years, and launched Less Equals More. It was a time of transitions; too many to count.
During our first session, a client explained what brought her to need my services. For a time, she felt she needed everything in arms reach but recently realized that she was stock piling stuff that she didn’t need to store in her home.
In honor of my brother’s birthday this month, I reflected on the list of attributes I value in him and in our relationship. He is sincere and caring. He brings me to almost tearful, deep laughter. He always gives me a big hug (which involves him bending a bit given the ten inch difference).
Sometimes I worry that I’m sending the wrong message, and that people find these ideas about minimalism and organizing lacking room for fun, creativity, and life just happening. Or, perhaps, that these ideas are too strict and, therefore, restraining.
To downsize any area of your home, from hall closet to attic, thinking like a project manager will be an advantage. While project management may sound like the only thing more painful than organizing your home, these two pieces combined can really make your life simpler and streamlined … I promise!
I gave an introduction to zero waste in a post last year and would like to explore further how one can implement zero waste principles. To this end, I interviewed Erin, a former client, on the zero waste path.
Last year, I wrote about seeing plastic waste wash up on a beautiful island. The immediate visual impact of those two unlikely images coalescing was harsh, and the repercussions can be daunting and haunting.
We’ve all been in social situations where we’re suddenly struck by a moment of awkwardness, or strange silence. It feels like something has gone wrong or we’ve mistakenly turned into a dead end. Then, we look for an action as a solution, forgetting that doing nothing is also an action.
I’ve always been enamored with hotels. Even the mid-range ones seem special too me. I feel like a kid when I first enter one, even on a business trip. Taking a quick run and bounce on the bed, I immediately feel refreshed. There is something about a sparse space of which I am clearly fond.
One tool to exercise against the accumulation and retention of material items is the guidance of Buddhism. While a religion to some, it is also an insightful list of lessons for the human mind’s unhelpful tendencies.
There are multiple layers to the fight against “stuff.” We must look closely at all of them: unneeded memorabilia, too many clothes, the way we overcomplicate our lives, large houses that cement excess, and everyday throwaway items.
My job is to get rid off things. Some things to the recycling bin, some in the donations box, some to friends or family. It’s a thousand little good-byes. They are quite easy for me. It’s other peoples’ stuff.
When you help people downsize and organize, "before and after" photos seem to be the language. But I am resistant. Anyone can make a space look clean and clear. This can be done after a legitimate overhaul or by moving things out of the way for a photo shoot.
The theme of freedom is strongly present in my life, often as a driving force in my decision making. With July 4th, freedom and independence come in the form of patriotism. I'd like to reflect on the way the two are intertwined.
In my last post, My March Madness, Part 1, I recounted how I approached my most recent paring down of stuff, post-post move. It was a reminder that with changing day-to-day needs, our material goods should be re-evaluated.
Through my On Memories post, I tried to convey the nature of memories intertwining with the tangible; the way the past can feel like brick and cement. This type of letting go is something we all face, whether we are moving or simply paring down.
I recently completed the book, The Power of Habit, masterfully conceived by Charles Duhigg. It clearly outlines how habits rule our lives, and how to change them. I often consider how the transition to a minimalist lifestyle is simply a transition of habits; replacing one trigger with a new routine to achieve a similar resulting sensation.
My true love of minimalism fully unfolded in 2002 when I took a semester off from college to travel. There was a romantic fantasy around the idea of galavanting across Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe. I wanted to "be" a backpacker; my life thoughtfully and efficiently packaged and hung on my shoulders.
I spent 30 years washing my hair with shampoo and conditioner. First with products that contained chemicals, and then the organic variety. All came in plastic bottles. All seemed as necessary as wearing clothes and brushing my teeth.
i have a terrible sense of direction. its so bad that you'd wonder how i even manage day to day activities. its borderline embarrassing to ask friends how to get to locations I've been to so many times before, or have to admit I got lost on the way to a destination.