How to be a Minimalist

We’ve talked about what minimalism is (to me) and why minimalism is something we should incorporate into our lives, but we haven’t talked much about HOW.  I’ve expressed my concerns that, by focusing on the decluttering process, proponents of minimalism contribute to the misconception that minimalism is only for the privileged, which is the reason it hasn’t been the focus of my blog, but I think it’s time to discuss some of the things I use to help me declutter.

Categories, not areas

One thing I have personally found very helpful in decluttering the excess from my life is to concentrate on categories, not areas in a home.  For example, I would concentrate on “clothes” rather than “closet” because there are also clothes in the drawers.  I would concentrate on “office supplies” instead of “desk area” because there are other areas that have office supplies.  This may not work for everyone, but I find makes it easy to see what I have across the entire category and get it all together.

90/90 rule

An idea that is often promoted by the Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, is that if there’s an item that hasn’t been used in the last 90 days, and won’t be used in the next 90 days, it should be minimized.  (Exceptions for seasonal items like winter clothing, etc., which will obviously be worn again when weather permits.)  It doesn’t have to be 90 days–set a time limit and stick to it!

Would I buy this again?

Out of all of the tips and tricks to minimize the excess, my very unminimalist husband finds this the most helpful.  Go “shopping” and contemplate whether that item would make it into the shopping cart today.

Imaginary moving

This is a test I find particularly helpful.  Pretend the moving vans are outside.  What is worth the effort to pack, load up in the van, and unpack?

I have minimized about 7 carloads worth of items from our small condo and I think about how much time, money and effort it would take to transport those carloads and carloads of items to the next place we move to had we not minimized.  7 carloads of stuff we don’t really care about that we probably would have just mindlessly moved.


If minimizing clothing is a struggle, turn all the hangers around.  As each item is worn, turn that hanger the opposite way.  In 3 months/6 months/1 year, consider donating what hasn’t been worn (With the exception of seasonal clothing that you know you will wear when that season comes back around).

No stress

Above all, remember: Minimizing and decluttering is to simplify and reduce stress in our lives.  If decluttering is stressing us out or giving us anxiety, something is wrong in the process.  We should try our best not to compare our houses to other people’s or whatever mental image of “minimalism” we have.

Stop accumulating

Most importantly, though, is to make a commitment to consume mindfully.  Implement a shopping moratorium.  Maybe a week or a month.  Maybe try a whole year. After that no spend period helps identify spending triggers, spend more mindfully going forward.  Ask for consumable gifts or simply the gift of presence.  The best way to declutter is to control the amount of clutter coming in going forward.  


Weekly Update: Week 25

I learned this week that there is a name for the “floodgate” effect I had mentioned I had noticed in myself last week.  I learned that this is a well-documented behavioral phenomenon known as the Diderot Effect.  It made me feel not only validated, but also very observant to have noticed this about myself.

I made a $10 eBay sale this week!  Excited to get this stuff out of my home!


We went out for Mexican food with friends on Friday and I rented a Redbox movie for us to watch.

I got back on Amazon and bought a part for my car.  I have no idea what it is, but my husband (and his mechanic friend) assure me that’s what has been causing my car to make the clicking/banging noise I have been complaining about and replacing it will solve this problem.  My husband replaced the part this weekend, so hopefully this will prove true as I drive it this week.  So far, so good.

More lightbulbs had to be replaced (it’s getting spooky now) and we made a grocery store trip, one our largest since Hurricane Irma.  We are at home all week other than Friday night out with friends.


Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $0

Running Total: $3,620

Regrets, or an Open Letter to Bert Kreischer

The Bertcast, a podcast hosted by comedian Bert Kreischer, is a comedy podcast and not a minimalism podcast, but they briefly skirted the subject on a recent episode without calling it by name.  On a typical episode, Bert and his guest(s) talk for hours, usually drinking and getting drunker and/or higher as the episode goes on.  It definitely makes my work day go faster.

Towards the end of the episode, an intoxicated Kreischer begins talking about fatherhood with his guests, both of whom are fathers to small children.  His own children are older (his oldest is 13) and he says that one of the regrets of his life was how much he worked when his children were little.  He wanted them to have a big house, and a pool and everything they wanted, he explained.  So he threw himself into his career, touring almost every week and spending a lot of time away from them and his wife.  The alternative, he said, was to put his career on the back burner, which would have led to significant regrets about what his comedy career “could have been.”  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, in his view.

One of the guests chimed in, asking Bert how much would be enough.  How much money did he really need?

This is the question we try to ask ourselves as minimalists.  Each item we spend money on costs a little part of our lives.  Time spent working instead of doing things we would rather be doing like spending time with family.  Time and money spent cleaning, maintaining and storing all these things we’ve accumulated.  We have to define our priorities and use our resources in a way that aligns with these stated priorities.  If we don’t define our values and priorities, we can get stuck in the cycle of more.  There’s always a bigger house, newer car, newer gadget, etc.  It’s never enough unless and until we decide to be content with what we have.

That’s not to say there is no room for luxuries–that’s where priorities come in.  If a fancy private school is a priority, maybe live in a smaller home or drive a less expensive car.  Perhaps be a one-car family instead of a two-car family if that’s possible.

His children are what drew Joshua Becker into minimalism.  He simply realized how much time and energy he was spending on “stuff” as he spent the day cleaning the garage while his son played in the backyard, wanting his dad to join him.  The stuff was keeping him from what mattered: spending time with his family.

To paraphrase the Rolling Stones: there’s not necessarily room for everything we want, but if we prioritize, we’ll find there’s room for everything we need.

Weekly Update: Week 24


We have been pretty disciplined this week.  We have been concentrating on eating food we have in our house since Hurricane Irma.  The only grocery shopping we have done since my final stock-up before the storm was when my husband stopped and picked up some milk.  We were lucky that our power was not out long enough to ruin our food. What probably went a long way in saving our food was that we took large containers, filled them with water, and froze them, leaving the big containers of ice in the fridge and freezer for when the power went out.

By the weekend, the restlessness was starting to set in.  We had to get out of the house for awhile! We went out on Friday night to a restaurant we had already purchased a Groupon for–a Brazilian steakhouse where waitstaff walk around with large skewers of meat to offer to diners. After eating a large meal, we went to the mall–not to shop, but to walk around and help our digestion. We did not intend to purchase anything and we did not, but I have to admit I did get some enjoyment out of looking at things, even if I didn’t buy them.  We came home that night to a message from friends.  We made plans to meet up with them the next day and we spent most of Saturday hanging out with them.

We went to the local library’s book sale.  I did buy a book–an autographed copy of one of Arianna Huffington’s books for my autograph collection.  (It was embarrassingly inexpensive and the money goes to the library, which I patronize for free regularly.  I thought it was a win-win.)  Ironically, I noticed that many of the DVDs for sale at the library were the same movies I donated to the Goodwill months ago.  As I mentioned, many of those films are now available on streaming services, so I guess a lot of people finally felt better about letting go of them.

For those not in the know, this was the first Saturday of Oktoberfest.  We spent the afternoon at a local brewery’s Oktoberfest celebration.  It was really quite hot, so after a few hours, we decided to go get pizza at a local pizza place.

We also spent some money on future entertainment.  Planning our vacation in more detail, we purchased tickets to a local theme park for the “staycation” portion of our time off.  In addition, we bought a Groupon for a discounted Redbox gift card.  Conveniently, a movie I really want to see and don’t want to wait for it to get to Netflix to do so will be available on Redbox this week and I was planning to rent it anyway.

I could not resist the siren call of Amazon, though–I got an email offer for $15 promotional credit for Prime Now for purchasing $50 or more in Amazon gift cards.  I bought the gift card and spent it on consumable things on my wishlist I would have purchased eventually anyways: Essential oils for my diffuser–lemongrass and eucalyptus–plus kwan loong pain relief oil, which I swear by for my painful, recurring foot problems. (**Another totally free, un-coerced, un-sponsored product endorsement–if you have any kind of pain, I highly recommend this natural, topical oil.)

All of these are consumables.  Only one of the items I purchased from Amazon was nonconsumable–focusing on health, I will be purchasing a rehabilitative, medical device. (I won’t go into further personal details.)  I will be spending the $15 Prime Now credit on tea, body wash and face wash–also all consumables and all things I intended to buy soon.

I actually spent quite a lot of money this week, but (if I do say so myself) all of the purchases were made very mindfully, after much consideration, and fall into the categories of experiences, medical, or consumables.  I took advantage of “deals” for stuff I was going to spend money on anyways, rather than allowing a “deal” convince me to buy things I otherwise wouldn’t have.  I am actually quite proud of myself, since it is very clear to me how this money was spent in ways which are more in line with my needs and values.  None of this money was spent on “stuff” that will clutter up my house and I will decide in a year or two I hate.



1. Missoni umbrella.  I guess the hurricane got me thinking about rain and umbrellas, and I saw this cheery Missoni one on Rue La La.

Missoni umbrella.png

It’s obvious that there is a “floodgate” effect.  When I allow myself to purchase a few things, it’s hard to shut off the “shopping” part of my brain.  While I was browsing Amazon, I made the mistake of clicking the “new items” banner I saw.  And all of a sudden I wanted everything…

2. Agate coasters.  The day before I saw these on Amazon, my husband and I were discussing the merits of replacing the chipped, decade-old Thirstystone coasters we use that I kept from college.  Then I saw these, and you know I am obsessed with crystals.

Agate coasters

3.  Agate bookends.  I have admired similar items when I have seen them in Homegoods and stores of that ilk.  They would match the coasters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Agate book

4.  Baggu drawstring bag.  If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know I love bags.  I have totes, shoulder bags, crossbody bags, clutches/wristlets, a satchel, and a briefcase. One of the few types of bags I do not own is a drawstring bag.  It strikes me as very classy, but casual in a way other bags aren’t.

Baggu drawstring

5. Owl kitchen mat.  I saw this and immediately thought about how cute it would look in our kitchen, which is currently without any kind of mat.

Kitchen mat

6.  “Little But Fierce” as a woman who has always been small for my age, this (adapted from the Shakespeare quote) is practically my life motto.

Little but fierce

7.  Sloth canvas tote.  Obviously, the last thing I need are new bags, but this is just too cute.

Sloth bag

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $273

Running Total: $3,620

Forced Minimalism: Hurricane Irma

I write this as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida.  The entire state seems to be in peril due to the sheer size of the storm.  We watch as it wobbles from east to west and try to calculate what that means for us, but it seems that most, if not all of Florida will feel some impact of the storm.

There is not much hurricane preparation we can do here in our apartment—we were sent a notice that plywood is not allowed, as our building has a brick façade.  We brought in patio furniture and our grill, stocked up on bottled water and shelf stable food, and got some emergency cash out of the ATM.

In addition, I bagged up items like electronics, my leather shoes and handbags, and my autograph collection—things that would be severely damaged if not completely ruined if they got wet.  This exercise gave me a glimpse into the items I truly value.  Obviously, not every item I own needs to be protected in this way and I only have a limited supply of time, energy and garbage bags.  I have to pick and choose what to protect. This experience has helped put things into perspective and helped me further minimize, even though I was pretty sure I had done a fairly thorough job over the the last 6 months or so.

One thing I’ve had a hard time letting go of is a pair of rain boots I bought in college. They just struck me as one of those things that is extremely useful when needed, but simply not needed that often.  In college, I regularly found myself wading across a flooded campus on my way to class, as an afternoon shower would often cause puddles of standing water. They certainly served their purpose for those few years.

Rain boots.jpeg

However, I still have them nearly 10 years later and my husband, upon seeing them said “Oh, I forgot you still had those.  I’ve never seen you wear them, but you get them out once a year or so and contemplate if you should keep them.”  After hearing that, I had to get rid of them for sure.  If my husband of nearly 4 years had never seen me wear them and I did not need them IN THE AFTERMATH OF A HURRICANE, clearly, they simply do not add value to my life anymore and someone would get much more use out of them if I were to donate them.

Weekly Update: Week 23


This week, I got my suits dry cleaned.  I also bought some fiber supplements, paid this month’s massage membership fee and filled up my gas tank in preparation for the storm. We are in the path of Hurricane Irma, so we bought bottled water, bread, etc.  We already had a good stock of protein bars and powder, nutrigrain bars and other snacks–my lunches most days as I move from one job to another without a lunch break–so there wasn’t much preparation needed.

Beginning to plan our L.A. vacation in greater detail, we purchased our tickets to see a show at The Comedy Store, one of the greatest comedy clubs in the world, and at Largo, another great comedy club, when we are in Los Angeles. If you’ve paid attention at all to this blog you will know I am a huge fan of comedy. In addition to attending the convention, a main purpose of this vacation is to visit these comedy clubs.

While we didn’t spend any money, we also requested tickets for a television taping for a late night show during our Los Angeles trip.  The tickets are free, but we won’t get confirmation until closer to the date whether we will actually be given tickets or not.

We also bought tickets to a local comedy show coming up in a few weeks. We get free tickets quite often, but we actually had to purchase our tickets to this one.  We didn’t eat out or really spend any other money this week.  I was really impressed as I sat down to write this.


1.  Pearl Necklace.  Pearls are a classy, conservative choice for accessorizing.  When I saw this beautiful necklace on sale on Rue La La, I was very tempted to purchase it.


Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $100

Running Total: $3,347

What I Have Gained From Minimalism

One thing that has been a constant in my minimalist journey is that I’ll make a huge change and wish I’d taken “before” pictures.  (I have had this frustrating experience so many times that, when we decided to revamp the living room last weekend, I finally remembered!) So here are some of the “after” pictures…

Minimalism can impact almost every area of our lives and the benefits can be innumerable. I’ve talked before about the benefits, but I am discovering new ones everyday. I have gotten rid of so much excess stuff in my life since starting my minimalist journey and the year of buying nothing–about 7 carloads worth!–that it’s easy to concentrate on what I’ve lost instead of what I’ve gained:

1.  A clean refrigerator: Removing all the magnets from the refrigerator (except for one with the local police department’s non emergency phone number) allows me to more easily clean the surface.  I got rid of all but a few that were most important to me, including:

Empty fridge

magnets from a trip to England as a teenager

England magnets.jpeg

and some that my college roommate, a talented artist, designed. Check out her portfolio. Browsing her website to plug it here, I learned that you can buy a shirt she designed from Shirt Woot.


In order to prominently display these, rather than having them be a few in a sea of dirty magnets on a dirty refrigerator, I had to get rid of at least 10 magnets, including a few I had convinced myself had sentimental significance: 1) a magnet personalized with my name from a school field trip to the zoo when I was in elementary school that was starting to yellow with age, 2) a magnet from a family trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains that said “I’d rather be hiking the Appalachian Trail.”  (Note: this was around the time Gov. Mark Sanford disappeared with his mistress and staffers claimed he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” As a close follower of politics, this struck me as amusing and I decided to buy it as a souvenir.)

2.  A clean coffee table:  Before, this coffee table had 2 coffee table books, a candy dish, 4 picture frames, a box of tissues and a candle on it.  Keeping the coffee table clear of everything (save a coaster or two occasionally) allows me to keep the surface polished easily and maintain the quality of the wood.  I donated everything that was previously on top of the table and keep a box of tissues in the storage section in the table.  It can be used as a surface to play board games (of which there are several stored in the storage sections of this coffee table) with friends.

Empty table

3. Art on the wall:  I was able to hang my photography on the wall. These are photos I took myself (one even won first place in a photography contest in high school!) that my Mom had framed and matted beautifully. They had been hidden away in a storage bin since I moved in–We had never bothered to hang them. They are now prominently displayed, as they should be.

Pics on wall

4.  Tablecloth from my Grandmother:  This small tablecloth with the Spanish dancers was brought back for me by my Grandmother as a souvenir from when she went to Spain.  It fits beautifully on an end table or night stand.  It was on my nightstand for a brief period, but after I moved, it was stored away with the other tablecloths (the ones for the dinner table) and I never bothered to put it anywhere.  This now has a proud spot in the living room on the end table.

Spanish tablecloth

5.  Handbags stored properly:  I have made room so that now my prized handbags can be properly stored and protected in dust bags. I did not have the room before minimizing to properly store these bags, and that could result in damage to the leather. Gotta keep them safe and protected.

My closet 3

6. A tranquil work space:  I showed a closeup of my desk and the crystals and statues I keep on it when I talked about my collections. Here’s a better view of my work area. While this may still seem cluttered to some, consider that before minimizing, I could not fit my computer on my desk; it was kept in the keyboard tray.  I had so many trinkets and things on the desktop that it could not even be used for its primary purpose: to house my computer. I really wish I had a “before” picture to go with this tranquil “after”:

My desk after.jpeg

Long story short: by minimizing the excess, I have room to display what is truly important to me without being distracted by anything extraneous. Everything that surrounds me has importance to me. For example, on that end table that is covered by the tabelcloth my Grandmother bought me from Spain, there is a frame with photos of our family, including our niece the day she was born. Next to that is the ceramic claddagh that topped the wedding cake at our minimalist wedding. Everything else that was on that end table–candles and other stuff I don’t even remember–has been removed to allow these important items a prominent spot in my home and in my life.


If you haven’t picked up on the recurring theme, it is that minimizing has allowed me to more prominently display and better care for the things that are truly most important to me by getting rid of everything that is not.


Weekly Update: Week 22

I made an eBay sale! It’s been awhile since I’ve made a sale, but I recently added quite a few more things. It wasn’t a particularly expensive item, but I’m glad for the extra room in my closet and in my life.  I’ve been listing new things on eBay like crazy and I currently have 21 active listings.


After the two lightbulbs blew out previously, another lightbulb blew, this time in the bedroom. I couldn’t make this up. I know what you’re thinking, because it’s what I thought: “There has to be a reasonable explanation. At some point, all of those lightbulbs must have been replaced around the same time period, which would explain why they’re all blowing at the same time.” Nope. Those lightbulbs were all replaced at drastically different times in the past.  I was not the only one who experienced this phenomenon–a Facebook friend of mine had a similar occurrence:


All I can say is that Mercury is still in retrograde and many people believe this has an impact on life on Earth, particularly with anything electronic or mechanical. I’m not sure if I really believe this or not, but the “coincidences” keep stacking up.  In addition to the lightbulbs, my car started making a strange clacking noise in the dashboard this week.

We started the weekend by meeting up with an old friend of my husband’s, who is visiting from Oregon, and we had dinner with him and his son on Friday night. The friend was nice enough to treat us for dinner. On Saturday night, we tried out a new restaurant we had gotten a Groupon for.

We found out from some friends about a bulk store in our area.  I’m passionate about the environment and do what I can (bring reusable bags to the grocery store, bring my own travel mug to Starbucks, use glass water bottles, etc.) but I wasn’t sure what else I could do.  I have been reading some zero waste blogs with interest and several had mentioned bulk (packaging-free) stores, but assumed there was no bulk store located near us.  A bulk chain called Bulk Nation has a location near us.  Customers bring their own containers (or buy some there), have them weighed before shopping and then fill their containers with the products. At checkout, customers are charged by the weight (less the weight of the containers).  They have all kinds of products like trail mixes, loose leaf teas and coffee, rice, pasta, candy, oats, flour, honey, olive oil, and (my husband’s favorite) nut butter–which you grind fresh yourself in the store.  We will probably never be a zero waste household, but we do what we can.

Bulk nation.jpeg

Bulk store haul–we brought our own mason jars to fill

On Sunday, we finally took action about our rapidly deteriorating sofas, which had been bothering us for awhile. Last year, there was a class action lawsuit regarding the poor quality of this furniture. Unfortunately, we bought this Ashley Furniture sofa from Big Lots and not directly from an Ashley Furniture Homestore, so we were not included in the settlement. Members of this class received a “settlement” of a $25 gift card to use at Ashley Furniture Homestores, which would not have been useful to us in any event. We decided slipcovers would be the most economical solution to the problem of our peeling couches.

Before couch closeup.jpeg

And while we were at it, decided to revamp the living room with some pretty window treatments as we update the couch with slip covers.  For a few hundred dollars, we totally changed the look of our living room and extended the life of our sofa by years.

Before living room.jpeg


Living room after.jpeg



1. Leather desk pad.  I have eyed the Saddleback leather desk set before, but couldn’t justify the $300+ pricetag and don’t need all 3 sizes.  Desk pads served a purpose in the past–Also called “blotters,” back in the day when writing was done with quills or fountain pens that could leak ink through the page, these pads kept ink off the desk. They can still serve a practical purpose–a flat surface to write on without imprinting into the desk–but most people have little use for this.  I have legal pads to use as a writing surface if need be, but I don’t find myself handwriting enough that I would have to worry about my desk.  I suppose it would be useful for the small amount of hand writing I do, but to be honest, I mostly just think it would look cool.

Desk pad.png

2. Mulberry Bayswater.  I really like the Mulberry Bayswater for a super professional work tote. The $1,200 pricetag for a new one is well out of my price range, but an eBay find was closer to my comfort zone price wise.  This would still be the most expensive bag I own, by far. (My Satchel & Page briefcase currently holds that spot). You know as well as I do that I do not need any more handbags.

Mulberry Bayswater.png

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $665

Running Total: $3,247