17 Practical Holiday Gift Ideas

Can you believe it’s gift-giving season already! With Thanksgiving days away, the holidays are officially on most people’s minds. To make everyone’s life a tad easier (including my own), I created another gift guide. But this year I’m focusing even more on practical holiday gift ideas. Shopping for everyone on your list isn’t easy, nor is giving people ideas for yourself. These gifts are carefully curated with minimalism and practicality in mind. Keep reading for plenty of ideas to get the gift-giving job done!

17 Practical Holiday Gift Ideas. A holiday gift guide focused on minimalism, mindfulness, and practicality.

For the Home/Office:

1. Custom T-shirt Quilt

Is your partner or child downsizing but still can’t stand to part with their collection of college, band or concert tees? Send the shirts off to be repurposed into a useful custom quilt carefully crafted by designers, cutters, and sewers earning a fair and living wage in the United States.

My friends, Dani and Roman have two of these quilts and they are so soft and fun! Mike and I are having one made from all the brewery t-shirts we’ve collected over the years.

Starting at $74.99 for a 4′ X 4′ quilt from Project Repat.

2. Zafu Meditation Cushion

Meditation doesn’t require any tools or props, but for the serious practitioner, a zafu certainly helps. I have one of these cushions, as well as a zabuton pillow. They pair beautifully if your gift-buying budget is a bit higher, but I have given zafus as gifts by themselves. A very thoughtful gift for the person in your life trying to live more mindfully and peacefully.

“Zafu meditation cushions provide height under your pelvis for healthy posture. Ours are filled with organic buckwheat hulls that form to your contours. They are also covered with sturdy, beautiful, long-lasting upholstery-grade fabrics and include a convenient handle. Each one is handmade in the USA.”

$49.95 from Hugger Mugger

3. A Year of Gratitude elegant box set

“You can live a life of abundance, independent of any material things, if your heart is always filled with a spirit of gratitude. This elegant box set contains all you need for a head start on such a gracious way of living. Not only does it contain 52 thank you cards—one for each week in the year—but it also has tips for writing meaningful thank you notes, and a guided journal for you to record your experiences. Maybe over this year you will reconnect with someone from your past, or brighten the day of someone who feels taken for granted. With gratitude in your heart, such exchanges can be seen for what they truly are—small miracles.”

$30.00 from Uncommon Goods

4. Random Acts of Kindness Kits (original, teen and family versions)

“Change the world in four easy steps with these intentional act of kindness kits. With the 26 cards in each, you’ll find yourself picking up someone else’s tab at a restaurant, writing a letter to someone who inspired you, picking up the trash on your street, giving genuine compliments and so much more! The coolest thing about Boom Boom! cards is that you can create a chain reaction of covert kindness that could theoretically travel around the world!”

$10.00 – $15.00 from Uncommon Goods

For the Book Lover:

5. Questions For Life: Two Year Guided Daily Journal For Intentional Living

This is the journal I created and use personally every single day.

With The Questions For Life two-year guided journal you can reflect, express gratitude, capture your happiest moment, and answer a self-discovery question in only minutes a day. Get in the habit of slowing down and reflecting on each day while getting to know yourself better. Soon you’ll be enjoying the simpler things in everyday life, living more intentionally, and feeling happier! See firsthand that although every day may not be good, there is good in every day.

Click here to learn more and read a review.

$18.99 from Amazon

6. The Gifts of Imperfection

I had the privilege of hearing Brené Brown speak this year and she is so inspiring! This book is on my personal Christmas list.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging, shares ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living—a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.”

$8.59 from Amazon

For the Fashionable

7. Real Now watch

The Real Now Watch is our only piece that tells the time and functions as a mindfulness tool that reminds you to be here now. Made from recycled eco-friendly materials.”

$33.33 from Etsy

8. Craft Beer & Yoga tee

Love yoga AND craft beer? I know I do.

“Yoga at craft breweries has been popping up all over. Go in style with this craft beer-themed yoga shirt!”

$20.00 from Hopcloth

9. Elephant Lounger Pants

I love these pants so much, I had to include them again, but in a different style.

“You and Elephants both need some downtime. With a drawstring waist, back and side pockets, and a relaxed leg, these unisex pants are built for relaxation.”

$24.00 from Elephant Pants and a portion of their proceeds are donated to help save elephants!

For the Minimalist (or person who has everything)

10. World Vision Charitable Gift

Help children and families in need in your gift recipient’s honor. So many options to choose from including bed nets, goats, solar lanterns, shelter, clothing, water wells and so much more. Give a gift. Change a life.

Options starting as low as $16.00 through World Vision

11. Personal organization Voucher

Okay so maybe this one’s for the budding minimalist. We all know someone with too much stuff who doesn’t need anything except for some help getting organized. Why not give them the gift of your time and services. Help a parent, sibling, or close friend clean out some closets or rooms. Give them the gift of your time, presence, and peace of mind. It costs you nothing and goes a very long way.

12. Presence is the Perfect Present

Instead of a gift, give of yourself and your time. Make plans and share some quality time with a loved one. I guarantee you it will be more appreciated and better remembered than a sweater or a gift card.

13. Consumables

You can never go wrong with good wine, craft beer, or coffee (assuming the gift recipient drinks wine, beer and/or coffee.) Consumables, especially high-quality ones, are practical gifts that people don’t often splurge on for themselves.

14. Meal Delivery Service

Home-cooked meals make awesome gifts, but are difficult to coordinate. Instead, why not give a Blue Apron or Hello Fresh meal delivery service gift card? Mike and I have tried both and really enjoyed them! The recipients (think busy couples and families in your life) can redeem it on their schedule and choose the menu they want. All the ingredients are delivered fresh to their door with the recipes enclosed. Ensure your friends and family are eating well… at least for a few days.

Gift card options start at $60.00.

15. A Groupon or Living Social deal for a spa service

Facials, massages and the like are wonderful indulgences we can’t all afford. Check out Groupon and Living Social for deeply discounted deals in your loved ones area and buy them a service they wouldn’t buy themselves.

16. A baby or pet-sitting voucher

Who doesn’t love a night out knowing the kids are alright? Offer to spend some quality time with the kids (or pets) so your loved one/s can get some time away knowing their little ones are in excellent hands.

For the Pups

17. Homemade dog treats

We have A LOT of dogs in our life and were spending a fortune buying gifts for all of them. This year, I’m making homemade dog treats for all my four-legged brothers, nieces, nephews, etc.

Here’s a link to Pinterest’s “homemade dog treats” search results. Save some money and control the ingredients yourself to ensure a healthy and delicious treat. I think I’m going to try making the peanut butter pumpkin ones first!


Need more ideas? Check out last year’s Mindful Holiday Gift Guide featuring sixteen great gifts under $50!


I hope these lists help you cross some items off your list! Wishing you a happy, mindful, and low-stress start to the holiday season!

Take A Minute & Read This Time Saving Advice

I read a piece of time saving advice a while ago that’s stayed with me. I don’t recall who said it or where I heard it, but I know it was one of those articles on advice from successful people. That advice is this: if a task crosses your path, and it would only take a minute to accomplish, then do it. Do NOT put it off.

A minute is longer than most people realize. If your life is anything like mine, there are loads of one minute tasks that cross your path every day.

Take email for example. I recently spent hours cleaning out my inbox. It seems I only just did this a few months ago, but there I was again drowning in email. That’s because every time I checked it, I flagged anything I thought I wanted to read, rather than just skim it and find out. All those emails piled up into an hours long, overwhelming project. Had I spent a minute opening and skimming a few emails every time I checked in, I could have saved myself hours.

What easy stuff do you ignore and then later waste time on?

Think about your daily life and:

  1. the papers you shuffle rather than file
  2. the emails you flag rather than read
  3. the laundry you let wrinkle rather than fold
  4. the sink full of dishes you pile rather than wash
  5. the objects you move rather than put away

It takes less than a minute to file some paper, wash a dish or two, fold some clothes, and put stuff away. These are easy tasks. And yet we have a tendency to ignore these simpler tasks creating harder, more time consuming, dreadful ones in the process.

Why!?

I don’t know why. But many of us are drowning in projects and chores as a result of this bad habit.

Isn’t our time more precious than that? Isn’t it something we should aim to protect and preserve?

Like I said, this advice has stayed with me. I’ve tried to apply it to my life wherever possible. I’ve maintained applying it to my email. And for once, I feel in control of it, rather than it in control of me. There’s a reason people say to spend a few minutes straightening up every day. Those who don’t usually find themselves sacrificing an entire weekend to do a month’s worth of cleaning. And life is way too short for that nonsense.

So consider this piece of time saving advice next time you’re faced with a task that would take less than a minute. Before you ignore it, just do it. You’d be amazed how much less hangs over your head when you apply this advice to your own life.

Find yourself with lots of time-consuming projects? Take this time saving advice and stop putting off tasks that would take less than a minute to complete.

 

Experimenting With Project 333: My Approach & What I Discovered

You may recall back in August I minimized all my clothing… again. I’ve said before that minimizing can be downright addictive. So naturally, I wanted to take it a step further. With a new season approaching, I decided it was perfect timing to do some experimenting with Project 333.

As I mentioned in my last post, Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. So you break your wardrobe down into four “seasons” and decide which 33 things you want to mix and match for that season.

I learned a lot experimenting with Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. Read how I approached the challenge and what I discovered.

Project 333 items include:

  • Clothing
  • Accessories (scarves, handbags)
  • Jewelry
  • Outerwear
  • Shoes

Project 333 items don’t include:

  • Undergarments, lounge wear, active wear, sleep wear (but if you plan on making a late night ice cream run in your lounge wear, then you have to count it.)
  • Your wedding ring or other jewelry you wear every single day

Experimenting with Project 333: My Approach

 

1. First I made sure all my laundry was done and picked up from the cleaners so I had everything to work with in front of me.

 

2. Next I pulled everything I considered a fall garment from my closet.

This was my base to work with. Obviously, it was far more than I needed for this challenge.

 

3. I began to narrow down my choices, starting with the most obvious.

There was no question that I needed jeans, my black and navy work pants, black blazer, etc. So I began assembling what would become the base of my Project 333 fall wardrobe.

 

4. From there, I added on, making sure that every garment would work with a few different options.

If I paired a colorful silk shell with a navy blazer, I’d see what else the shell would pair with. Once I paired it with a blue/green cardigan as well, I’d see what other top could go with the cardigan. With a project like this, there’s no room for a top that only pairs with one thing.

 

5. Once satisfied with work and casual clothing, I started on shoes & accessories.

First, came the shoes. I have great shoes in boxes, but have a bad habit of wearing the same few pairs over and over. You’d think that would be good for a challenge like this, but I decided that if I’m going to wear the same things for three months, I better step up my shoe game. So I assembled nine pairs of shoes, including two pairs of great fall boots, designer black booties, and a few other pairs I’d feel good about. A brand new pair of burgundy suede booties I picked up on sale (impulse buy) last year went straight into the yard sale pile. They didn’t work with a single thing I picked out. Therefore, they were pointless.

Next I selected one scarf, three handbags, and began assembling my jewelry. Despite getting rid of lots of jewelry, I still have more than I need. But I like it, and coordinating jewelry is something I get from my Mom. To say she loves jewelry would be an understatement. So I pulled a few necklaces that paired well and then some earrings. And this is where I identified my first need. I try to only wear sterling silver earrings because my ears are sensitive. I clearly needed more “everyday” sterling silver earrings.

I then took the jewelry I decided on and cleaned it with silver cleaner. Wow, what a difference! Again, this was an area where I found myself wearing the same few things over and over. But with strategically choosing a limited selection, I was excited to begin switching out my jewelry.

 

6. I counted it at all up and wrote everything down. 

With nine pairs of shoes and a variety of jewelry, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I didn’t make it down to 33. No, my final tally came to 64. This is my final list:

  • Clothes (34)
    • Two layering tanks
    • Two t-shirts
    • Two pairs of jeans
    • Three pairs of work pants
    • Formal dress (two weddings this season)
    • Two work dresses
    • Green dress
    • Black pencil skirt
    • Three blouses
    • Burgundy tunic
    • Two blazers
    • Gray cashmere sweater
    • Blue/green cardigan
    • Four shell tanks
    • Seven casual shirts
    • Casual knit cardigan
  • Shoes (8)
    • Two pairs of black boots; black heels; black booties; three pairs of black flats, black knit casual shoe
  • Accessories (4)
    • One scarf
    • Blue leather handbag
    • Black leather handbag
    • Floral Vera Bradley bag
  • Outerwear (4)
    • Rain boots
    • Red rain jacket
    • Lightweight jacket
    • Lightweight jacket
  • Jewelry (14)
    • Fake Tahitian pearl necklace & earrings
    • Fake Tiffany necklace
    • Fancy necklace
    • Peacock necklace
    • Tourmaline necklace
    • Tree necklace & earrings
    • Three pairs sterling silver earrings
    • Three pairs of stud earrings for second hole

 

7. I put everything that didn’t make the cut into one closet, and everything else into another. All I had to work with was in one place. Everything else was out of sight (and out of mind.)

 

Experimenting with Project 333: What I Discovered

 

1. First and foremost, I didn’t think I’d have everything I needed to pull off my first attempt at a capsule wardrobe. I discovered I had far more than I realized.

This was all I felt was still missing: one pair of brown or burgundy work pants, a casual fall shoe to wear with jeans, sterling silver earrings.

 

2. Shopping was a very different experience.

I headed out with my small list. Fall is my favorite season and I saw a lot of things I LOVED. But knowing I was already well over my 33 item limit, I restrained myself from buying lots of new clothes. I did find a pair of burgundy work pants and a matching work blouse I really liked. I also found a great casual long-sleeved shirt to wear with jeans. I stopped myself at those two shirts and didn’t even go in clothing stores after that. I was done. I found a great pair of knit Skechers so I picked those up. And then Macy’s had sterling silver earrings on clearance so I saved a fortune on those.

The Labor Day sales, outlet prices, and summer clearance was very tempting. But I stayed focused and didn’t give in to impulse buying.

 

3. I dress better now.

I don’t know about you, but I always tended to wear the same few things over and over despite having more than I needed. I wore the same jewelry, same outfits, same shoes, same black cardigan. It’s like I was unintentionally practicing Project 333 in a lazy way. But now I’m experimenting with Project 333 intentionally. So that means I’m taking advantage of my new limited wardrobe. I’m changing up my shoes and jewelry and switching out my purse. I didn’t include any leisure wear in my final list, so I’m actually wearing jeans to my Sunday evening meditation meetings instead of something closer to pajamas. And since I only included two t-shirts, I’m wearing nicer casual tops.

As for the black cardigan, I thought for sure it would make the final list. Nope. I actually threw it out. It was clearly time to step up my game and branch out. No more clothes that took the form of a safety blanket. That cardigan was one of those things. In fact, despite minimizing all my clothing only two weeks earlier, I got rid of ten more things after experimenting with Project 333.

 

4. I feel better about myself, have more time, and feel less stressed.

Dressing better has given me more confidence. Having a limited number of rotating outfits has freed up time, cut back on laundry, and eliminated outfit decision making stress.

 

5. I did slip up and also forgot some things.

Sitting in the allergist’s office I looked down at my feet and thought, “damn!” In a rush I slipped on my Nike slides that weren’t supposed to be worn out of the house. And today I’m wearing tan flats I didn’t realize I’d need to go with the outfit I’m wearing. I have a work event this Saturday and forgot to include the black clutch I’ll need. I also forgot to include a formal handbag for the two weddings I’m going to.

I’m keeping track of everything so I’m better prepared for next time.

 

6. I bet I can get closer to 33 next time.

I get to do this again for winter (December/January/February) and I have a feeling I will have learned enough from this experiment to get closer to 33 total items.

It’s only been a little over a week since I started dressing with a Project 333 capsule wardrobe, but I love it. I’ll be sure to write an update in late November with my findings after the full three months.


Have you tried Project 333? What was your experience? Are you inspired to try it? Do you think you could do it? I’d love to hear from you.

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Minimizing My Clothing: The Latest Installment

You know how they say less is more? Well when it comes to minimalism, you tend to want more of it. And more minimalism literally results in less stuff. So in this example, more is less! As my “stuff” began to accumulate again and become disorganized, I craved another purge so I decided to take on minimizing my clothing again. There are a lot of great times to minimize (after hitting a weight loss goal, when relationships end, at the end of the school year, before starting a new job) but the BEST time is whenever you have the time and energy to do it. And I had both. So I took on yet another installment of the great minimalism project and cut my already reduced wardrobe in half once more.

This is how I approached minimizing my clothing this time around.

As my “stuff” began to accumulate again and become disorganized, I craved another purge so I decided to take on minimizing my clothing again. There are a lot of great times to minimize (after hitting a weight loss goal, when relationships end, at the end of the school year, before starting a new job) but the BEST time is whenever you have the time and energy to do it. And I had both. So I took on yet another installment of the great minimalism project and cut my already reduced wardrobe in half once more.

1. Clothes that don’t fit

Kathy and I sorted and stored every piece of clothing I owned that didn’t fit me back in June, 2015. I wrote about that great purge in the post, Minimizing Clothing Using the KonMari Method.

Since I’ve lost weight, I decided to start with the closet in the basement where I stored everything that didn’t fit. I inspected every single article of clothing with my new found minimalist point of view and tried on a lot of it. Some items were happily rotated into my closet of wearable clothing and many were put back into the closet to await more weight loss. But almost half was sorted into one of three piles: trash, goodwill and consignment.

It seems I become more practical, realistic and cut throat with each pass at minimizing my clothing.

2. Bedroom Drawers

Next I removed the contents of every single drawer in my bedroom while sorting everything into one of the three piles: Yes. No. Maybe.

Contents of drawers - minimizing my clothing
Entire contents of dresser drawers stacked and sorted.

I was amazed by the size of the ‘no’ pile! After all, I had already minimized my clothing at least twice in recent years. But there I was easily casting aside more clothes I had either worn out from use, don’t like as much as I thought I did, or just plain decided I didn’t want or need anymore.

3. Sorting the Castaways

Next I sorted the ‘no’ pile into trash bags: Trash. Goodwill. Consignment.

Minimalist Pro Tip: It’s important to deal with what you decide to discard right away so that you don’t change your mind later.

4. The closets

I already had a half empty closet so going through that was a cinch. I was ruthless. Things I wasn’t sure of the last go around that I still hadn’t worn were easily cast into a new ‘no’ pile. I hung the few things that remained into my other closet. I was left with an entirely empty closet! So I moved on to my handbags and scarves and decided to move those into the empty closet.

Next I took on my shoes. I walk in Philadelphia A LOT. So I have A LOT of worn out shoes. I don’t know why I continued to wear these shoes. Comfort? Laziness? Frugalism? But I considered how grateful I am to be able to buy new shoes. And so at least a dozen pairs of shoes went directly into a trash bag.

Lastly I tackled the clothes hanging in the closet, which had already been significantly pared down over the years. Everything was sorted with a ruthless eye and hand. Anything low quality or remotely shabby went into the trash. A lot more went into goodwill.

My goal has become quality over quantity and assembling a mature yet practical wardrobe.

Minimalist Pro Tip: Aim for quality over quantity.

This is now the entire contents of that closet:

closet after minimizing my clothing
Look at all that space! (I tried parting with my yellow Doc Martens, but still couldn’t.)

5. Prepping for Project 333

To sum it up, Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. So you break your wardrobe down into four “seasons” and decide which 33 things you want to mix and match for that season. The 33 items is supposed to include clothing, accessories, jewelry (not your wedding ring), outerwear AND shoes. You box up everything else. After three months, you then decide on the next 33 things.

I’m not ready for Project 333 yet, but the seed is planted. And since summer is essentially over in two weeks, I grouped any clothing I deemed exclusively summer and tucked it in the back of the closet.

6. Sorting back into drawers

This was the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate how I was using my two dressers. In doing so, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be cool if I freed up enough space to move all the hair, makeup, and body crap from the top of my dresser into some of the smaller drawers I had used for socks, bras, etc. Time to find out. So I put everything away and lo and behold, there was enough room! No more clutter on top of my dresser was a total surprise bonus.

minimizing my clothing - drawers
No more crap on top of the dresser!

7. Assessing the maybes

Last I tackled the maybe pile. By this point I saw just what and how much I was keeping. I tried on two pairs of maybe jeans that fit great so I put those away. Everything else went into the trash or goodwill.

Minimalist Pro Tip: Definitely wait until the end of a minimizing project to reassess your maybes.

8. Next steps

Mainly as an experiment, I am going to take a stab at putting together a proper Project 333 fall wardrobe over Labor Day weekend. I’m curious if I feel I have everything I need to pull it off. I’d like to see what I need for a proper capsule wardrobe according to the “experts” and/or if I feel limiting my wardrobe to 33 items is even realistic.

Stay tuned for more on that!


Once again I am energized by the high and cleanliness that a good minimizing yields. I’m enjoying picking out my clothes and accessories the night before work. I’m enjoying keeping everything neat and tidy. It’s so much easier to do when there’s no clutter anywhere and everything has its place.

What about you? Feeling inspired to take on a minimizing project of your own? Have any pro tips to share?

Minimizing Priorities & Prioritizing Properly

My to-do list is long and I have many competing priorities at the moment. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed again. There is a tensity in my body. This uncomfortable sensation is a warning and a reminder that I need to focus, re-evaluate, and most of all, start minimizing priorities. Because everything can’t be a priority. Right?

Right.

What Are Our Priorities?

When we have many priorities, it’s safe to say that we don’t have priorities at all. We have a list of things competing for our attention that we should be doing. In fact, the word priority was only ever used singularly until the 20th century. I have lots of things I consider important to me. There are also lots of tasks I’d love to cross off my to-do list. But I need to own up to the fact that they are not all imperative at this moment, and that I am not focusing on what actually is most critical.

According to The Minimalists, our priorities are how we spend our time.

“Your priorities are what you do each day, the small tasks that move forward the second and minute hands on the clock: these circadian endeavors are your musts. Everything else is simply a should.”

Every day I tell myself I “must” work on my integrative and life coaching certification coursework. Yet every day for the past several days it has been nothing more than a lingering “should” gnawing at me. I allow other things to become higher priorities. At the start of 2017 I committed to the goal of finishing the first draft of my novel by the end of the year. I considered it one of my top priorities. But if actions speak louder than words, which they do, I am nothing more than an aspiring novel writer considering I haven’t spent more than ten hours on it yet so far this year. Clearly, I haven’t made my novel a priority.

My Real Priorities (according to how I spend my time):

If our priorities are determined by how we spend our time like The Minimalists say, then my real priorities have been: my day job, walking, my garden, meal planning and cooking, cleaning out my email inbox, going to yoga classes, spending time on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, cleaning, reading, writing blog posts, sleeping and socializing.

Nowhere in that list is my novel or my coursework. So until I am willing to MAKE them priorities, my claim is a lie. I can only make those things a priority by setting the time aside and minimizing the less important false priorities that I have allowed to distract me and steal my time away.

Does This Belong?

So clearly I need to refocus and become the master of my own time. I need to do as Bruce Lee says and hack away at the inessentials.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” – Bruce Lee

Patrick Rhone poses a question in his book, Enough. That is: Is this where this belongs? Clearly I am spending my time on things that don’t belong: cleaning out my email inbox and falling down the rabbit hole of social media are the two most glaring. As for the cleaning, I have been enjoying spring cleaning. But clearly I have chosen a bad time to wash my windows, blinds and curtains for the first time in nearly six years. They’ve waited this long, I think they can wait a tad bit longer. Therefore, clean windows does not belong in my list of top priorities.

My top priority is hands down my health and weight loss efforts. Thankfully, this is actually demonstrated in the time I spend walking, going to yoga classes, and meal planning and cooking (yay me!). Those things stay. Social media as a distraction and pacifier has to go. It adds value to my life when I use it intentionally, but otherwise it is nothing but a thief of my time.

Unfortunately my day job also has to stay (unless someone wants to support me? I didn’t think so.) As for the other things, I just need to prioritize and ask myself what belongs where. Gardening can’t be done in the dark or in the rain, allowing time for other things. I can say no to more social engagements. I can get up earlier. And I can commit to staying up an hour later or forfeiting that last half hour of the day unwinding in front of the television. Television doesn’t belong in my list of priorities. Sleeping does belong, but perhaps not as much.

Your Turn

If, like me, you’ve been finding yourself  overwhelmed lately, think of your priorities. Then be honest with yourself about how you really spend your time. THOSE are your actual priorities.

They all don’t belong, do they?

Go ahead and hack away at the inessentials. I will be doing the same. It’s time to start minimizing priorities and prioritizing properly.

Minimizing Priorities

 

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8 Healthy Habits For Living A Minimalist Lifestyle

Getting rid of stuff isn’t something I have to do, it’s something I get to do. I enthusiastically practice healthy habits for living a minimalist lifestyle. Lucky for me, we’re gearing up for a yard sale! I welcome this opportunity to once again sort through our possessions and make decisions whether to keep, sell, toss, re-purpose, or donate them.

Minimalist living is like healthy living. There’s no end game or point at which you can declare you’re finished. Living a more minimalist lifestyle requires near constant effort. Without practicing the right habits, you will find your home cluttered again, just like how weight creeps up on us if we slack off on working out and eating healthy.

Since I started minimizing my possessions at the start of 2015, I have identified what I find are the most helpful habits for keeping things minimal. So without further ado, these are my healthy habits for living a minimalist lifestyle.

Healthy Habits

1. Just Say “No, thank you.”

Just because something is offered to you does not mean you have to accept it. Whomever said that’s rude is wrong, in my opinion. What I think is rude is passing on your possessions to someone else so that you don’t have the guilt or burden of getting rid of them yourself. If someone offers you their old furniture, collectibles, whatever, you have every right to say, “No, thank you.” Family members recently received two very nice vacuums from a casino. They offered us one, to which we said, “No, thank you.” We already have one quality vacuum and live in a ranch. Who needs two vacuums?

2. Be Realistic

You may have every serving piece imaginable for a Victorian high tea, but how often do you have such an event? We often imagine how we may use things one day, but I stand by the golden rule that if you don’t use something at least once a year, you can do without it. This rule helped me add two glass beverage pitchers to the yard sale pile. I had four. I could imagine having a lovely brunch where I’d use all four for water, bloody marys, orange juice, and cranberry juice. But realistically speaking, two is enough. And if I want to have that many beverages, I can serve from the juice bottles. This isn’t a bed and breakfast.

3. Pause & Imagine Potential Purchases In Your Day To Day Life

This is one of those rare moments where I encourage you to NOT live in the moment. Living in the moment when it comes to shopping leads to impulse buying and buyer’s remorse. Just last week I went to one of those designer bargain shops where I found a cute little hooded burgundy (my favorite color) shirt that had a beautiful sun and moon image and said “Live by the sun, love by the moon.” I tried it on and it fit and I decided to get it. At the last moment, though, I put it back. That’s because I imagined the shirt in my closet at home and me actually wearing it. Yes, the image and words were those I embrace, but the truth is, I rarely wear shirts that say things or have designs. It’s just not me or my style. So I put it back.

4. Don’t Buy Anything You Can’t Use Or Wear Today

Twice this past week I put incredible bargains back on the racks thanks to this rule. One was a designer dress that originally retailed for close to $200. I loved it and could imagine all the places I might wear it. There was just one problem. It fit, but not well. I figured for $40.00 it would be totally worth it. Although I’m certain I will lose weight, I’ve been down this road before and I need to be honest with myself. Clothes have literally gone out of style waiting for me to fit into them. I put the dress back and got one I can wear right now. My day will come. For now I’d just be out $40 and have yet another piece of clothing I can’t wear.

The other bargain was a two-piece pale yellow skirt suit on clearance that would be perfect for next spring. Well, at least I think it will. Who knows for sure. But I didn’t know what size to buy. I didn’t want to buy the size I am now, because hopefully it will be too big come spring. But I have no idea how much weight I might lose. Too many unknowns and what ifs…

If you can’t use or wear it today, don’t buy it. Things change and even plans with the best intentions don’t always pan out. Save your money.

5. Play The 30-Day Minimalism Game At Least Once A Year

#MinsGame was created by The Minimalists. I play every January. On the first of the month you get rid of one thing, on the second, two things, three things on the 3rd, etc. until you get rid of 31 things on the 31st. By the end of January you will have gotten rid of 496 things! No matter how many times I play and how hard it is by the end of the month, there’s always enough stuff to play again the following year. That’s because throughout the course of a year we obtain more stuff, our tastes change, things get worn out or stop fitting, get upgraded or replaced, or we realize we didn’t use that thing or wear that top we thought we would. This is why minimalism is ongoing.

6. Think Quality Over Quantity

I am slowly creating a capsule wardrobe of higher quality pieces I will wear more often, while weeding out low quality pieces I don’t wear often and  that don’t last long. I’ve done this with my accessories and make-up, too. The first time I played #MinsGame I tossed over twenty bottles of nail polish. Some were over ten years old and most of them cost only a dollar. I have learned over the years that quality nail polish is worth the price tag. I have two colors and a quality base and top coat and it’s all I need.

The same goes for shoes. I know people get great satisfaction from shoe collections, but if a pair hurts your feet or are tattered, you’re not going to wear them. So why keep them? Imagine a tidied closet of shoes and clothes of high quality that you feel great in. It can be yours.

7. Mark It Up

Everyone loves a bargain. But a lot of bargain shopping often results in disappointing purchases because we allowed ourselves to be wooed by the price tag. Ask yourself when shopping if you would buy the item at a higher price. If you wouldn’t buy it if it was more expensive, chances are you probably don’t like or need it enough to buy it now. A bargain isn’t a bargain when you’re spending money on something you don’t need or won’t use.

8. Remember, You Are Under No Obligation

You are under no obligation to keep anything that you buy, is gifted, or given to you. I repeat, YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION. Your space belongs to you and you are welcome to change your mind, have different tastes, and live your life and keep your home the way you want. Unfortunately people don’t often buy things for us they think we’d like – they buy things they like for us. Just remember, it’s your home so you get to decide what stays and what goes.


So that’s it! Those are my top healthy habits for living a minimalist lifestyle. They help me save money, space, time, and stress. I truly believe that a happier life is a simpler life. And managing our “stuff” is a big part of living more simply.

What are some of your habits for keeping things under control and living more minimally? I’d love to hear from you.

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Minimizing My Office: How I Recreated A Sanctuary

I’ve been feeling energized, yet claustrophobic, like a sports car with a full tank of gas sitting in traffic. Despite all my minimalism efforts over the past year and a half, I was once again drowning in email and the ever expanding piles in my home office: unread magazines, novel research, books, paperwork, mail. The room is my sanctuary and I use it for yoga, reading, meditation and work. But recently, I couldn’t do any of those things without shuffling piles from one area to another to make room. I could sense my energy getting trapped and my sanctuary was no longer a place of peace. Tasks took longer than necessary and I felt overwhelmed. Something had to be done. And so I spent an entire day minimizing my office.

I started with my e-mail. Digital clutter is just as suffocating as physical, those ever increasing notifications flashing like alarms. I’ve spent many hours over the past two years deleting, filing, and unsubscribing from email, but the battle never seems to end. So much to read… Between my e-mail and magazines (I only have two subscriptions) I could spend an entire month reading and still not finish. But I’ll let you in on a little secret I learned: you don’t have to read all your email.

Before you say, “Yeah, no kidding, I delete more than half my email without even opening it,” know that I’m not talking about those e-mails – the sales, suggestions and free shipping opportunities. (By the way, you may want to unsubscribe from those.) I’m talking about the ones you want to read, those that you identify with that you think may have some secret tip, amazing news, hold the key to your success, feature the perfect pair of spring pants, suggest you follow someone on Twitter who might be your virtual soul mate and if you delete any without reading them you may have missed out forevvvverrrrrrrr… NOOOOOOOO!!

Guess what? You’re not missing out on anything, except having a clean inbox.

This is what’s really in most of those emails: Efforts to get you to buy something or buy into something and/or the same recycled information said a different way. Even if it’s really good, it will show up again or you can find it elsewhere. Those Pinterest suggestions for your carefully curated boards will come around again. Those Twitter suggestions… same. It’s all an algorithm. And don’t forget, you can always find what you’re looking for on a website or with a quick Google search.

It was thanks to that realization that I was able to search my inbox for everything from a writing coach I like, select all, and hit delete. I had been saving everything she sent (and she e-mailed daily), convinced that those e-mails held the key to my success. Well, I checked her website and all the info. was there. I bookmarked it and moved on with my purging.

Cleaning out and filing my e-mail felt so damn good, I wanted MORE. So I decided to take another minimizing pass at my office. No plans for Saturday and a dreary forecast –  PERFECT! Sitting on the train daydreaming about the cleanse, I had an idea. “Does the top half of my desk come off?” I texted my husband. And he, accustomed to random questions without any explanation responded “yes.”

Oh man, this was gonna be good!

Minimizing my office. Before - notice the lack of work surface.
Before – notice the lack of work surface.

I woke up Saturday with an energy and excitement unique only to the satisfaction of a great purge. I worked for ten hours, filing, sorting, consolidating, and rearranging. See the printer? I used it so seldom that the ink dried out so when I did need it, it was useless. I put it in the yard sale pile. The desktop? Maddeningly slow. I transferred all my files to USB keys and it’s being wiped and recycled. The entire hutch? Just a place to stick stuff that really isn’t needed or should be put away.

I craved space.

Beside that floral chair is a closet I couldn’t get into without fighting with the chair so although it was mostly empty, I didn’t use it. Not efficient. The chair got moved to another window out of view and now I can get in and out easily.

By the time I was done, I achieved what I had been craving. My sanctuary was restored and I created space. It was a day extremely well spent.

Minimzing my office. After - plenty of room to spread out; no more clutter.
After – plenty of room to spread out; no more clutter.

Now no time is wasted when I enter the room to do anything. There are no piles to shuffle in order to sit down at my desk or in my reading chair, no clutter preoccupying me when I meditate, nothing to move to roll out my yoga mat. Just organized, minimized, efficient, useful space. I walk in, set my coffee down, open my laptop and get to work.

I share this with you because it is my hope you may be inspired to create space in your own life. That printer, the hutch, the piles… they had become fixtures that I simply accepted, allowing them to take up precious space. Is something broken or useless taking up space in your home? Wouldn’t it feel good to get rid of it? You may think it’s not hurting anything. The printer wasn’t hurting me. But it wasn’t helping me, either. It wasn’t until I decided to toss it that I realized I could do away with the entire top half of my desk. Let the domino effect take shape and allow yourself to be inspired.

You may just find yourself with a sanctuary of your own.

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Making Spaces, Taking Places

This past January I held the second annual #MinsGame minimizing event on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who played and had fun getting rid of unnecessary crap in order to free up space in their homes and lives. It was great to see all the excited energy in the event posts. There are now 500+ fewer “things” in my home and I’m thrilled!

I’ve been minimizing for exactly a year and it’s still interesting to see what I couldn’t get rid of then, but can now, or what I still can’t part with. This time around I struggled with my sketch pads. But through the struggle came an incredible realization, one which would have never occurred to me if I didn’t bother to part with things I don’t use.

Like most young creative people, I wanted to be some sort of artist. I settled on the drawing kind since it seemed most practical and didn’t require expensive tools or lessons, like painting or playing guitar. Every so often I’d find myself in an art store energized by my surroundings and buy various sketch pads, charcoal pencils, etc. But I can count on one hand the number of times since high school I’ve actually sketched.

And yet I’ve had so much trouble parting with them! I always wanted to be a sketcher. I envisioned myself sitting in a pretty park on a beautiful day sketching away some tree in the distance. I rationalized that some day I’d use them. To get rid of the pads seemed to symbolize getting rid of the desire and giving up on that idea of that person I still wanted to be, and just hadn’t gotten around to being.

But as I held the sketch books in my hand last month, I remembered something. Let me back up.

When I was a tween, I was quite literally obsessed with surfing. I won’t go into all the embarrassing details, but just trust me on this. OBSESSED. (It’s embarrassing because no twelve year old with no surfboard who lives in the armpit of New Jersey of all places should be obsessed with surfing.)

I held on to this idea that I was meant to be a surfer until… oh, let me see… last summer!

It wasn’t until last summer that I tried stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and admitted to myself that I enjoyed it significantly more than surfing! The idea came like a betrayal and confused me at first. No, I thought. I have to surf. I spent two decades wanting to do this! I can’t stop trying. So I went surfing and got my ass kicked and nearly drowned in waves too big for me and realized I was having absolutely no fun at all.

When I realized I didn’t have to surf, that I could sell my board, buy a paddle board and never look back, I literally laughed out loud. The thought of doing anything else in the water never once occurred to me because I refused to make space for any other option. I fixed my sights and focused all my energy solely on surfing, never considering anything else. If I hadn’t gone to the beach on International Surfing Day and found the waves totally flat, I’d most likely have not tried SUP for some time. But that particular day I was open to it because there was no other option except to paddle out and sit in the surf twiddling my thumbs.

A space was created and something better took surfing’s place.

I remembered this as I looked down at the sketch pads. Quite recently after seeing a really neat modern cross stitch design, I bought some supplies to try it out and loved the meditative act of cross stitching. It’s perfect for when I’m winding down at night and I’m too tired to read or write and worry that I’ll munch if my hands are free.

Below is a photo of my work in progress. I got rid of the sketch pads. I gave them to Kathy, who does sketch quite often. In their place is now a storage tote full of my cross stitching supplies. In this instance, I literally created space for something that better serves me.

There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother called “Unfinished” when Robin challenges Marshall and Lily to delete a number in their phones from their past. Marshall doesn’t want to delete some club promoter he knew from his college funk band days because he holds on to the fact that they’ll still play again some day. Lilly gets sad when faced with the idea of deleting the number from her karate dojo because she still hopes to learn karate. These are unfinished passions, just like sketching and surfing were to me.

But in the end they delete the numbers, just like I got rid of my sketch pads and surfboard.Because it’s okay to change and become interested by other things. It’s okay to give up on things that do not serve us.

Ask yourself, is there something taking up too much space in your home or life? Maybe something you are so focused on that you’ve blocked out any other possible options? Perhaps there’s something better that can take its place…

Delete What No Longer Serves You

I stumbled upon a former friend’s birthday in my calendar when scheduling some appointments and my stomach dropped. When I originally entered the occasion eight or so years ago, I scheduled it to be repeated annually. When prompted for how long, I selected “forever”, what I assumed the duration of our friendship would be.

I was wrong.

I deleted the series without hesitation, permanently removing any written reminder of her birthday. If I happen to remember it on my own, I will send her metta (loving-kindness) and go on with my day. But having a permanent reminder doesn’t serve me. Reminders of her sting like paper cuts – hardly visible, not at all critical nor long-lasting, but painful nevertheless. They add nothing positive to my life, so therefore have no reason to stay.

Holding on to painful memories that don’t serve us is masochistic. It welcomes unnecessary grief and stunts the healing and growing process. Time heals wounds, but only if we leave them alone. Looking at pictures, keeping note of birthdays or certain “would-be” anniversaries, and leaving numbers in your phone are all acts of scab-picking that reopen wounds. These acts create scars that remain visible and then serve as their own permanent reminders. What you end up with is trauma over the loss, and additional suffering over the way you handled the loss.

I have experienced a lot of devastating trauma around friendships throughout my life. During my release ritual, I dealt with my feelings of abandonment, resentments, and sense of inferiority. I let so many of those lingering traumas go, but although faded, I will always carry the scars of a major loss that occurred during adolescence. The reason why is simple — the event shaped who I am. I don’t lament that loss, however. I have accepted it.

The loss of this friend whose birthday I deleted from my calendar hasn’t had such a lasting impact on me. The friendship came at a time when I desperately needed one. I literally prayed for a friend and I felt that my prayers had been answered when she entered my life. The truth is, however, that we weren’t very good friends to one another, and in hindsight, it’s easy to see why our friendship didn’t survive its challenges and outside influences. What is weak is easily broken, and our friendship had weakened over its last couple of years until it simply faded away without a single parting word.

Although I struggled briefly with the lack of finality (I like closure), I acknowledged that was a need that would serve no one if pursued. Shortly after things were obviously over forever, I had a wonderful dream. In that dream, I visited her in her new home. As was often the case throughout our friendship, I struggled for her attention, having to compete with her child and cellphone as I struggled to make small talk. Finally, she looked up at me and said, “I love you, but not as much.” This news was wonderful and I replied in excitable agreement, “Oh my God, I feel the same way. I don’t love you as much anymore, either!”

I awoke from my dream smiling and feeling lighter. I had gotten my closure. Sometimes it’s that simple — you just don’t love as much as you once did. And sometimes people come into your life for a reason, and when that reason has run its course, it is time for them to go. I don’t regret this friendship because I fully understand the purpose it served and I have a lot of great memories. But I also understand why it ended, and this is why I do not grieve. My heart is not broken.

But just because I do not grieve, doesn’t mean I care to be reminded of the loss of this friendship and the lingering negative emotions that sometimes accompany thoughts of her. During the minimalism challenge earlier this year, I disposed of some of the physical items that reminded me of her. Then later when I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was able to hold a remaining item and ask myself truthfully: does this bring me joy? The answer was no, so I thanked the item for its time in my life, and placed it in the trash.

Although not a physical item, a reminder on a calendar can be clutter. Technology and social media rule our lives. Consider cleaning up your calendar, old saved e-mails, and who you’re following. If someone or things that someone often shares don’t serve you or make you feel anything but happy or educated, then they don’t serve you and can be deleted from your life.

Allowing these negative triggers to stay is an invitation to be hurt. I cannot tell you how many times I have searched for an e-mail using keywords and old hurtful or stressful e-mails have shown up in the results, sidetracking me and inflicting painful jabs. I have minimized my possessions and those things that do not bring me joy. It is time to take those habits online.

I may think of my friend on her birthday and I may not. At least I won’t be caught off guard by a reminder. This wound is nearly healed — I think I’ll keep leaving it alone.

 

 

Minimizing Clothing Using the KonMari Method

Earlier this year I started downsizing my possessions. I purged my home of 902 items over two months playing The Minimalists minimalist game. It was a great experience, which you can read about here. I thought I had rid my home of everything expendable. But considering I just sent over 100 articles of clothing off to charity this morning, I realize I was wrong. That is thanks to the KonMari method of minimizing.

I had heard about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but didn’t read it. I was the Minimalist Master! I didn’t need any help. But then my good friend, Kathy started reading and raving about it.

“I did the whole minimalism thing. I’m good,” I said.

“This is different,” she said.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know by now that Kathy knows what she’s talking about. So I bought the book.

Different, indeed! Expanding on the minimalist game, I decided to tackle purging yet again asking the question at the center of the KonMari method from the book: does this bring me joy?

The question never occurred to me. Looking around my bedroom, I realized I was surrounded by things that didn’t bring me joy. How could I ever hope to be happy?

Earlier this year I started downsizing my possessions. I purged my home of 902 items over two months playing The Minimalists minimalist game. I thought I had rid my home of everything expendable. But considering I just sent over 100 articles of clothing off to charity this morning, I realize I was wrong. That is thanks to the KonMari method of minimizing.

Addressing Clothes that Don’t Fit

Following the KonMari method, you begin with clothing because it’s supposed to be easiest.

For me, getting dressed is incredibly frustrating. So much that there were times I canceled plans, rather than continue fighting with what to wear. Many mornings have been ruined and I’d wind up in tears, barraging myself with insults. Sounds sane and peaceful, right? This is because 75% of my clothes don’t fit me. Yes. I did the math. I refuse to accept my size the way it is right now (and has been for two years) so I only buy clothing that is absolutely necessary and instead choose to squeeze into things, and surround myself with clothes that simply do not fit no matter how much I suck in my belly. Is it any wonder I often don’t feel good about myself?

In a wonderful act of serendipitous timing, Kathy asked to spend the night since we had a work event early the next morning. We had been watching YouTube videos on vertical folding (you really want to start folding your clothes this way), so I asked if we could get some practice in while tackling my t-shirt/shirt drawer. We were probably more excited than most people should be to sort and fold clothes, but then again that is the magic of this method.

I explained to Kathy all about the clothes that don’t fit, a problem not mentioned in the book, so we had to improvise. “Put everything that sparks joy, but doesn’t fit, in a pile. We need to put them all away elsewhere,” she said.

“But won’t it be more motivating to see all the shirts that don’t fit?”  I asked.

“No, I don’t think so. You need to see all you really have and sit with that,” she said. Sitting with things has been a consistent message that pertains to more than just clothing.

We got to work. When we had finished, I looked at the mountain of shirts that didn’t fit, and then the tiny pile that did.

“That’s nothing!” I said, giving the tiny pile a shove. “I have no clothes now!” I shouted, frustrated.

“Sweetie, it’s all you had access to anyway.”

She was absolutely right.

Addressing the Emotions we Assign to our Clothes

Sorting and getting rid of clothes is an emotional process. I couldn’t have done it without Kathy. She asked the tough questions and reminded me to express gratitude. Holding every single shirt in my hands, I’d sigh at times and say, “I loved this shirt. But I don’t think it’s who I am anymore.”

“Then thank it for the good times you had in it and send it on its way.”

“Now this shirt! I had an amazing night in this shirt. I can’t possibly get rid of this,” I’d say.

“Does the memory exist without the shirt? Does getting rid of the shirt mean it didn’t happen?”

I confessed there were a lot more clothes already stored in my basement that didn’t fit. “Bring them up!” she said, excitedly. We were on a roll.

Most people’s hiking packs contain a tent, sleeping pad, pots, etc. Mine contains 50 plus pounds of clothing that is too small for me. I should strap it to my back and hike until they fit.

I took out each and every item. “You know I just did this in February, right?” I had gotten rid of so much stuff that was either out of style or didn’t suit me anymore during the minimalism challenge. But that’s why the KonMari method is so great – it takes minimalism and purging to a deeper level. Holding each article in my hands I asked if it sparked joy. So many pieces didn’t. I found that many simply represented someone I wanted to be. Not just a thin woman, but someone who wore flowing sun dresses on the beach. And again, this is why I suggest you have a dear friend’s help.

“Sweetie, you can lose weight, but your body will never be the shape required to wear that, just like I will never be able to wear maxi dresses.” (Kathy is quite short.)

Wordlessly, I’d toss her item after item to add to the goodwill bag.

Vertically Folding all that Remained

Finally came time for the fun part – vertical folding! No, I’m not crazy – folding can be fun (we discovered)! No more stacking shirts. Now everything is folded, finding the sweet spot where it stands on its edge on its own, so I can see everything, just like the spines of books on a bookshelf. It’s been so good for me to open a drawer that used to overwhelm me and now only find the options I have access to.

There was enough room to combine long and short sleeved shirts!

I tackled more drawers on my own since Kathy was over. My jeans drawer was crammed with over a dozen pairs. Guess how many I can currently wear? Three. I went through the remaining jeans and packed them away with the other clothes that bring me joy, but don’t fit. I then tackled my pants/shorts drawer. Once discarding and packing away what doesn’t fit, I realized I didn’t need two separate drawers. This is now my pants/jeans/shorts drawer containing three pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, and two pairs of pants that don’t require a hanger.

So much room! If only my waistline could say the same.

 

I’m trying! You can tell by this collection of workout clothes!

Final Thoughts on the KonMari Method

I am convinced. If you think you don’t have enough room, you really just have too much stuff. Ask yourself, really, does this (insert any object here) bring me joy?

For some people, parting with inherited items, collectibles or mementos will be the hardest part. For Kathy, it was her son’s baby things. For me, it was clothes. This isn’t just about getting rid of things or tidying. It is about shedding that which no longer serves you or holds you back or maybe even keeps you from accepting who you are.

“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now,” Kondo writes. “Letting go is even more important than adding.”

For the first time in my adult life, getting dressed is not an upsetting obstacle. Everything I see fits me and brings me joy. Today I wore a dress I haven’t worn in 15 months, patterned hose, heels and lipstick. I have been getting compliments all day long and I feel good about myself.

This is all part of the journey to a simpler, happier life and I am telling you, this step was magical. I highly recommend you pick up this incredibly appropriately named book, because it really is life-changing.

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