More, More, More!

More!

It’s not quite the word you’d expect to see on a blog about simplifying.

But I think that it’s a core concept of what I’m trying to do here. I started to simplify when I noticed a lack of space, a lack of time, a lack of joy both in my possessions and in my lifestyle.

I needed more.

Do we always need more?

Of course not. It’s extremely important to know what to seek more of and what to avoid.

Seeking more quality, rewarding relationships is great, but seeking more acquaintances or “contacts” isn’t always best. Although if you love to network, then that’s perfect.

Adding more kitchen appliances for the sake of having a world-class kitchen isn’t productive, but adding more because you are pursuing your passion for cooking is a good start.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: more for the sake of more is what gets us into trouble. Intentionally choosing more (usually not physical, but sometimes it can be) is the sweet spot.

More vs. minimal

It’s time that we stop thinking of more and minimal as mutually exclusive.

Seeking more in a meaningful, intentional way is a recipe for an abundant life. The aim of minimalism and simple living is to get more of the good stuff: the stuff that isn’t necessarily stuff at all.

minimalism means more

It’s a simple opportunity cost: less of one thing means more of another, and vice versa.

So what do you want more of?

Quick practice: making a More List

Here’s a quick way to get your mind moving in the right direction. Grab a piece of paper and jot down ten things you want more of.

There are no bad ideas or wrong answers here – you might want more free time or more exercise, but it’s also okay too see things like more shoes or more ice cream. Just make sure that your list is an honest portrayal of what you want more of.

Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.

Swedish proverb

Next, consider each item. Why do you want more of each one? I always find that being honest with myself about my motive helps put things into perspective. You might cross off a few here if you realize your motives don’t match your current values.

Finally, break the list down even further.

What do you need less of in order to get more of each item? The obvious answer for most physical things or experiences is money. Is it worth it?

You’ll also see things that cost space, time, or energy. I’m not saying that spending these things is a bad idea, just be sure weigh the costs and benefits and work out what’s best for you.

Redefining minimalism

I’ve been thinking about this idea – of minimalism being about more – lately, and I was happy to hear that others who share my sentiment.

Brooke McAlary interviewed James Wallman on her Slow Home Podcast, and they discussed this issue of minimalism’s “branding problem” among other things. Minimalism is so commonly perceived in the negative light of denial and subtracting things from our lives that it can be unappealing and exhausting.

It doesn’t have to be!

So here’s my challenge to you: find what you want more of and start working towards it. Think about that process of having less of something in order to get more of what you want.

That’s how you define your minimalism.

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Closet Tour: Activewear

I’ve written about my bags, my jewelry and my dresses in the past, but now it’s time to dive in to my approach to activewear.

First, before we begin: there were no pink running spandex when I was in high school, or anything colorful or patterned. So that’s the great tragedy of this post.

Moving on.

minimalist activewear

How I use activewear

I’m going to be candid: I don’t work out every day, but when I do…it’s not that intense. I tend towards cardio and yoga, so my approach might not work for you if you’re constantly doing high-intensity exercise.

That being said, I still think it’s easy to keep things fairly simple.

I re-wear stuff, depending on the level of activity. Especially since I don’t go to a gym where I’m close to a lot of other people. Is that gross? Well, it works for me!

I like to imagine that I’ll just rinse stuff out in the shower when I’m done exercising and hang it in the bathroom for the next day’s use, but I usually don’t get to that step. But I figure that would be a nice solution for someone who exercises frequently and wants to keep laundry to a minimum.

I also have quite a few things that have several purposes, although it doesn’t always serve my best interests: I use my shorts and t-shirts as loungewear and sometimes PJs. Though there’s a big problem with that – when I put on the shorts, I relate that to curling up in bed with some tea instead of hitting the pavement for a run.

Someday I’ll have more of a defined line between my activewear and loungewear, but for now here’s what I have.

A minimalist’s activewear

I keep a lot more shirts on hand than any other things since those are often the sweatiest. I also love leggings because they got me through years of fall and winter runs in Indiana, and still are great for chilly days (hah) here in Los Angeles.

Plus, you look like you know what you’re doing fitness-wise when you wear them.

What I have:

  • 1 pair running shoes
  • 2 tank tops
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve
  • 5 sports bras
  • 3 leggings
  • 1 pair yoga pants
  • 4 soffe shorts

The shorts have puffy paint on them from high school (the oldest pair is eleven years old). My cross country coach called me “Floyd” because I liked pink so much, although at the time I had never heard a single Pink Floyd song. That’s why they all say Floyd.

The thing about workout clothes

Here’s something I love about this type of clothing – while the trendy stuff is really cute, at the end of the day it’s all about function. Does it provide your body the protection it needs while you are exercising?

I’m going to hazard a guess here and say that the average piece of activewear item that I own is seven years old. Some I got last year, and some (like those shorts and that yellow long sleeve shirt) are over ten years old.

Most are from when I was a cross country runner 8-12 years ago. Ugh, don’t remind me.

They still function like new! So when you are in the market for workout clothes, do some research and find quality items that will collect your sweat through thick and thin for the next decade.

The only thing I am sure to change out regularly are my running shoes – every year or two if I’m not running frequently, and every six months or so if I’m really on top of my running game.

What are your workout must-haves?

Why I Stopped Thrifting

Four our five years ago, while I was still in college, you could usually find me at Goodwill on the weekends. You could usually find me shopping the sale racks at super-cheap mall stores too.

It wasn’t that I was donating things or using the one-in/one-out strategy that keeps so many closets in check. In fact, I think it was my frequent thrifting that took my two closets from stuffed to overstuffed.

I still love thrift shops

Before I talk about the reasons why I no longer thrift, I need to clarify: I love buying secondhand. I think thrift stores are an amazing way to get things you need without contributing directly to the worlds of fast fashion and fast everything.

What I don’t love is thrifting for the sake of thrifting – it became a mindless habit for me and I didn’t really need the things I usually brought home with me.


Source: Know Your Meme

Blinded by the price

One of the big issues I now find with my thrifting was that I too often saw something that looked interesting and bought it based on price alone.

It doesn’t fit perfectly? Well it’s only five bucks. It has a stain or a tear? Well it’s half off and I could probably fix it or wash it out.

I ended up with a bunch of cheap clothing that looked and felt cheap. I would wear something once and realize I didn’t like it as much as I had initially thought. At that point it would fall to the depths of my closet and I wouldn’t see it until years later when I started my simplicity journey.

The mindless shopper

I was also a mindless shopper. I would go to Goodwill when I was bored or when I had extra time. I think I was even using thrifting as a way to cope with stress.

If I had a bad week, I’d go buy a blazer that was too big for me. If I had a good week, I’d buy a dress that maybe actually got worn more than once.

You get the picture – it was just as bad of a habit as going to the mall with a credit card and no real reason to be there. I’d buy fun things to put on my desk, my nightstand, my walls, and none of it was there intentionally. It was just there.

How I buy secondhand

Now I only go to Goodwill when I need to. On Halloween, my husband and I were able to get almost everything we needed for our costumes there (we went as Bojack and Princess Carolyn from a show called Bojack Horseman).

When I do go, I try to have a very specific intention. Am I there for workout gear? Then stay away from the dresses.

I’ve also found that buying online is helpful (eBay and Shop Goodwill are my favorites). Buying secondhand things online is a little risky since you can’t see exactly what you’re getting beforehand, but that adds just enough hesitation to the process. That way, if you really don’t need something, you have a little more time to think it through.

I wrote a post over two years ago about dressing like a million bucks (without spending a ton) that still holds true.

Speaking of clothing, I am planning a wardrobe overhaul this year. There are quite a few pieces that used to bring me joy that don’t anymore, and I’ve been researching some ethical clothing brands that I may integrate into my wardrobe along with quality used items. As always, it’ll be an intentional process with a simple outcome. So look out for posts in the coming months about that!

What shopping habits do you have (good or bad)?

Six Doors to a Simpler Life

Who doesn’t love a good origin story? It helps you see where someone’s values are and what motivates them.

You can read my simple-living origin story here, but here’s a quick recap for new readers:

After I graduated college, I was drowning in 22 years worth of clutter. I was chronically stressed and depressed. I moved four times that year, and the final move nearly broke me. I remember carrying 50-gallon trashbags full of clothes that I never wore downstairs to the moving truck and holding back tears under the literal and figurative weight of it all.

So when I began my life in a new city, I started to get rid of anything I didn’t need (which was no small feat). It started with clothes and slowly expanded into my other possessions and other areas of my life. So basically, my origin story is based on stuff, and lots of it.

But that’s not the only entry point into minimalism, so if you’ve been struggling with the “stuff” part of it all, there might be another way to start simplifying. What’s most important is that you do what feels right!

Other fascinating origin stories

There are others who have shared their origin stories. Some are similar to mine and some are very, very different.

Courtney Carver started with her diet after a medical diagnosis, then proceeded to simplify the rest of her belongings and her lifestyle. Joshua Becker started with his stuff after spending more time than he wanted to cleaning out his garage. Joshua Fields Millburn wasn’t a minimalist until life-changing events sparked him to approach the emotional weight of the stuff around him. Ryan Nicodemus, alongside Joshua Fields Millburn, decided to switch his pursuit of the American Dream to the pursuit of an intentional, good life.

The six doors to a simpler life.

Photo credit: Andrew Beeston

The Six Doors to Simplifying

I’ll go into each in more depth below, but here are the six entry points into simplifying and minimalism that I’ve observed throughout the years:

  1. Clutter
  2. Money
  3. Diet
  4. Schedule
  5. Relationships
  6. Digital distractions

Let’s dive in!

Clutter

This one is the most evident, and is the most obvious place to start. You can identify this as a problem when you start running out of places to put stuff, find yourself cleaning too often, or spend an inordinate amount of time on finding the perfect storage solution.

Starting with clutter is a great way to get the ball rolling and you will soon see the effects of simplifying your stuff in your life. A clear space is a clear mind.

However, it’s not always a comfortable place for everyone to start based on emotional ties to stuff or time or health constraints.

Money

I think we’re all trying to simplify this with varying degrees of success. This category is hard. Unexpected things pop up that make this area of our lives difficult to control completely.

However, starting here will give you more time for other areas of your life (because time is money and money is time). It can be as drastic as you want – you can aim for early retirement like Mr. Money Mustache or you can just cut out most extraneous expenses and get debt-free a little sooner.

Diet

There’s a pattern here – most of these entry points deal heavily with emotion, and this one is no exception. Your food choices are highly personal and the are the most directly connected to your actual human life.

Food determines our energy levels, our immunity and our overall health. This is one area that you can actually add to instead of taking away from – start by adding in an extra serving of veggies or an apple snack to remind your body what these nutrients can do for you. This is the change that you can make right now, while the other changes will take a little more time.

Schedule

Even though this one seems so impossible, trust me: there’s always room. Simplifying anything in your life means that you have to learn to say “no” to things, and what better way to get practice in?

We’re bombarded by invitations, requests and meaningless to-do’s, so start small. What is one thing that you can say no to today? Saying no to things that don’t add value to your life means that you can say yes to more things like spending time with loved ones, going on walks and taking care of yourself.

Relationships

This one is difficult – are there relationships in your life that do not bring joy or value? Are you surrounding yourself with people who motivate you or are you surrounded by people who bring you down?

Breaking off romantic relationships and friendships is complicated, but sometimes both need to be done.But by saying “no” to certain relationships, your truly meaningful relationships will have the space they deserve to flourish.

Digital distractions

If you have an internet connection, you probably have this problem. Notifications, requests and updates are constantly pinging on our desktops and our phones. Even though it takes up little physical space, these distractions take up a massive amount of emotional and mental space.

This category includes social media, files like word documents and photographs, email, and our cloud-based calendars. Start by removing push notifications from your phone as much as possible, then explore each space individually after that.

How to find which one is right for you

Take a moment to think about where most of your stress lies.

If you’re stressed about being busy, then look into your schedule. If there’s too much buzz in your mind and on your phone, start with digital distractions. Always frustrated about the clutter on your desk? Start with stuff.

If you can’t think of it right away, observe yourself for a couple of days. When and where do your stress levels spike, and when are they the lowest?

They’re all connected

If you’re worried that you just have to choose one, fear not. Once you start simplifying and streamlining one part of your life, you’ll start to see how it can be applied to other areas.

I felt like it was no stretch to change my eating habits after my closet was manageable. I began to value my time more after those two changes, so I then switched my focus to my digital life – particularly cutting down on Facebook.

Whatever you choose, know that your path to simplifying is entirely your own. Read others’ stories and take what you feel is relevant to yourself from them. If you try to copy someone exactly, you’ll end up in an unsustainable, frustrating and ultimately, complicated lifestyle.

Where did you start simplifying, or where do you think you’ll focus next?

A Minimalist Apartment Tour

Happy Friday!

I want to kick off this glorious, autumn-in-LA morning with a tour of my home. We’ve lived in Los Angeles for ten months and have slowly added things back into our life based on our needs and our values.

We are a far cry from where we were in Indianapolis a year ago, drowning in stuff we didn’t need and didn’t love.

But first, I want to share my best tip for avoiding new purchases for your home.

How to not buy new home decor

I often catch myself saying things like “what if we got just one more chair…” but I know that’s not something that will truly bring me happiness. I’m guessing that you’ve said something like that too.

The other day, I actually considered getting a bar cart for a random corner of the apartment. Sure, it sounds cool, but it’s one more thing to wipe rabbit hair off of. And I doubt that prominently displaying our liquor will help with us in our efforts to trim back on the booze.

So what do I do when I’m sick of the way things are and want to add in a new piece? Hint: it’s not new throw pillows.

I rearrange the furniture.

When the room no longer feels “right” to me, I move things around. I have relocated our furniture no less than five times in ten months. This last switch actually has hit the right chord for me and made me never want to move out of this apartment. I love this space more than ever, all thanks to some heavy lifting.

So there you have it: to change the entire look and feel of a room without spending a dime, rearrange the furniture.

Our minimalist apartment tour

Remember how I said minimalism can be colorful? My minimalism is definitely not for the monochromatic crowd, so prepare yourself accordingly.

First, the main space where we eat, work and relax:

Apartment Tour - Living Room Apartment Tour - Table Apartment Tour - Desk

We’ve covered the whole space in giant rugs so that our rabbits can frolic freely, which I love because it brings so much color to the room.

Next, the bedroom and bathroom:

Apartment Tour - Bedroom Apartment Tour - Bathroom

Again, colorful and bright – I can’t get over how many windows are in this place. What sold me on our apartment in Indianapolis was that it had three windows, compared to most other places having only two. This apartment has five huge windows that keeps things so cheerful that I can’t help but smile.

And finally, our kitchen:

Apartment Tour - KitchenApartment Tour - SpicesI decided to bring all the spices and many dry ingredients out of (and off of) the cupboards because I want them to be easily accessible and I want to be aware of what I have on hand at all times.

Personal tidbits

To finish this post off, I want to share a couple spaces that make our apartment really ours. Especially since it’s basically an IKEA showroom.

As silly as they look, these odds and ends are meaningful to us:

Apartment Tour - Toys Apartment Tour - Nightstand

I just wanted to show that you can dedicate space in your home to collections of things that truly bring you joy. Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of meaningful collections – it’s about getting rid of meaningless excess.

And of course, I want to wrap this up by saying this: these photos were taken when our apartment was freshly cleaned. I cropped out the dirty laundry and kept the rabbits’ litterboxes out of sight. I tend to compare my reality with what I see on blogs, so just know this: six out of seven days a week, my apartment is not nearly this clean.

I love all the colors in my home. What part of your home do you love the most?

My Interview with Laura and Mark from Enjoy Life Slowly

Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Laura and Mark from Enjoy Life Slowly. They’re working on building up a great collection of interviews and wanted to hear from me about my blog and my journey into minimalism!

They had great questions and it felt a lot like just chatting with a couple of old friends. Some things we talked about:

  • How I got started with simplifying
  • My thoughts on teaching children to simplify – starting from the very beginning
  • The relationship between minimalism and practicing habits
  • The big differences between my life in the Midwest and here in California

I won’t go into too much depth here, but I wanted to share this since I had so much fun talking with these two. It’s also my first ever audio interview with someone (in case you wanted to know what I sound like).

Or use this link if the embedded one doesn’t work.

I also highly recommend the other interviews they’ve done! Check out their interviews page and you’ll be sure to see some of your favorite simple living bloggers.

A note of thanks

I’d like to take a moment to thank Laura and Mark for their kindness and reaching out to make this happen.

I’d also like to thank everyone who’s commented, followed and shared – being part of the simple living community has restored my hope in internet strangers (there are some amazing people on the web) and in the possibilities of a more simple, intentional life.

If you ever want to chat or swap a few emails for help with your blog or with your simplifying journey, please feel free to contact me – I love hearing from you all.

The Jewelry Box

What costs less than $5, looks cool for a season, and falls apart when you think you need it most? Trendy jewelry.

I’ve always liked the idea of accessorizing to really make an outfit pop, but I haven’t acted on that inclination in years. In high school, I had a dozen sweaters I circulated through and each sweater had a corresponding pair of earrings. And there were sequins – on both the sweaters and the earrings.

Looking back, I’m slightly mortified. I mean, we’re talking seventeen-year-old Emily. Seventeen and sequins everywhere.

I know some like their accessories, so in line with what I’ve said about trends, keep it if you love it and if it adds value.

But I challenge you to go to your jewelry box right now and see if there are pieces that you just have “in case.” My guess is that there are some.

Wedding Earrings

Earrings are my bling of choice, but even then I only have one or two pairs that I wear on a regular basis. These are my treasured wedding earrings that a dear friend made for me.

Thoughts on jewelry & simplicity

I’ve started to see jewelry, much like makeup, as less of the star of the show and more like a supporting character. I use it as a way to compliment what’s already there.

Earrings are my go-to piece, and most days I keep it super simple with just (fake) diamond studs. I don’t even wear earrings in my double piercing or my cartilage piercing anymore. Mostly because I forget.

I think we tend to use jewelry as more than just a complement to our clothing. We wear it as a sign of social status, as a way of self expression, and (my favorite) because “everyone is doing it”.

It has become a powerful social barometer to measure just how in touch we are with trends.

The good news is that no one will call you out if you’re wearing something understated, simple, or even not at all. What will grab attention is if you’re wearing something you clearly look uncomfortable in.

And when it comes to sentimental pieces (which is most of my collection), I wear them when I want to. They don’t even really have to match – for me, I love looking in the mirror and being reminded of the memory that each one stands for.

Those memories make me feel more beautiful than the jewelry alone does.

My jewelry box

Here’s what I’ve pared down to in the past few years:

Getting rid of your treasures

Years ago, I couldn’t fit all my jewels (mostly cheap plastic costume-y pieces) into a large jewelry box.

They would get tangled and broken and I still wouldn’t get rid of them. Even when they were beyond repair.

Jewelry is small, but it can add up. Allow yourself the luxury of opening up an uncluttered jewelry box filled with only the pieces you absolutely adore. You deserve it.

Here’s what I did:

  • Immediately toss broken, tangled or otherwise unusable pieces.
  • Toss uncomfortable earrings. They’re not worth it, and you know it.
  • Look at the pieces objectively. Are they even practical? Do they have real-world use?
  • Toss or donate pieces you haven’t worn in over a year. Don’t worry about what’s in style – just keep what you like and what you actually wear.
  • Sentimental items can be hard to part with, but they can really build up if we don’t watch it. If you wear it regularly, keep it. If you don’t, consider selling it (if it’s valuable), gifting it or donating it.

What’s most important to remember is that getting rid of the piece doesn’t mean the memories go with it. You don’t have to hold on to things – even small things like jewelry – to remind you of important people, places and events in your life.

What’s in your jewelry box?