One-Page Guide to Decluttering

A teacher friend of mine recently asked me to talk to her high school Life Skills class about decluttering for a class period as part of their unit on Organizing. I put together this handout for her students and figured I’d post it here in case any of you might find it helpful.

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So, if you’re in the middle of or about to start your own process of paring down to just the essentials, click the image above for your free downloadable printable cheat sheet!

How My Shopping Habits Are Shifting | Why I Don’t Shop at Thrift Stores & Yard Sales

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My Sunburst Foldover Clutch (which I use all the time) is from Queen City Revolt on Etsy

I was raised a thrifter. Growing up, almost all of my clothing and many of my other possessions came from yard sales, Goodwill, and local consignment shops. I would estimate that I never personally spent more than $15-$20 on a particular item of clothing before I graduated from high school. My buyer mentality for the first two decades (plus) of my life was: brand-new things generally cost too much, and “the cheaper, the better” even for secondhand purchases.

Once I began working full-time and became responsible for my own finances, I gradually started allowing myself to “splurge” on new items. I realized how luxurious it is to bring something home with packaging and tags intact that has never been touched, utilized, or sweated in by another human. I also realized how much easier it is to shop for and actually find the things I wanted in the chain stores — eliminating the “hunt” for treasures on a yard sale table and the repulsive picking-through of not-so-sweet-smelling piles in a Goodwill bin. I fell deeply in love with the scent of “new.” 🙂 Still, I believed that the lowest price was always the right price for me, and I continued to pay as little as possible for the things I bought, both new and used.

Then my husband, Caleb, entered my life, and he challenged me on my “lowest price” mentality. When we shopped together, he always encouraged me to select the make or brand that would work well and last a long time, instead of the cheapest option. For us, this was one of the first situations we encountered where both of us had to adjust our mindsets in order to bring about marital compromise. However, now, almost 5 years into our relationship, I admit I’ve been largely swayed over to his side.

As a general rule, though there are certainly exceptions, we are prone to purchase high-end things like appliances, kitchen gadgets, tools, furniture, electronics, and clothing. I have learned that his idea that it’s better to pay $30 for stainless steel measuring cups that will last forever than to spend $4-$5 on plastic ones and replace them every couple years really is full of wisdom. Not only will that save us money in the long run, but it keeps all that plastic out of the landfill! On the flip side, he has learned that for things that get stained and dirty quickly and can’t ever really be restored to perfectly clean and sanitary condition, it makes sense to buy cheap ones and recycle them without guilt instead of hanging onto them.

Since I’ve begun my personal journey of minimalism, or essentialism, as I prefer to think of it, I’ve been evaluating my shopping habits more critically than ever before. It started with clothing, but is now taking root in other departments. One of the realizations I’ve made recently is: I have a hard time resisting a “good deal.” In other words, thrift stores and yard sales and the clearance sections at Target (to name a few) are danger zones for me! I tend to, without much thought, scoop things up that I think are cute and useful and interesting, just because they’re so cheap. And then I get home, don’t have an actual use for them or place to put them, and end up selling them at my next yard sale. Read, waste of time, waste of money, waste of energy.

Therefore, my simplistic + temporary solution is to steer clear of such places, at least until I’ve matured in my ability to (1) shop off my list instead of the displays and (2) shop with my heart instead of my eyes.

Now, I know there are people out there (including many of my readers) who have MASTERED the art of thrift-shopping treasure-finding. This post is a classic example of that. Also, my friend Claudia is a serious professional in that department. And I can’t tell you how much respect I have for you people! I want to be like you. I want to be able to score the things I consider essential and the things that spark joy for me for a fraction of the price. I want to contribute to the work of ministries and missions around the world instead of feeding the corporate machine. But for the time being, I’m not well-equipped to walk into the consignment shop, purchase that one awesome thing, and walk away. My shopping cart is too much of a magnet for all the other mediocre but cheap (!) items calling my name from the racks and shelves.

(My other problem is a lack of patience and diligence. I’m not a good hunter. But that’s a topic of its own.)

The second aspect of the transition I’m in stems from a desire to be more conscious of where products come from, how they are made, and how companies treat their employees. My understanding of things like small business, fair trade, ethical material sourcing, and care for the environment is growing by the day, and influencing my decisions on where to shop. I’ve been making baby steps in this direction for years, but recently my motivation has been skyrocketing. I hope to expound on this a bit more in a future post.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an unhealthy Target addiction. At the rate I’m going, there may come a day when I don’t set foot inside a Target store for months. And that would truly be progress. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me!

What about you? What’s been influencing where, why, and how you shop lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The KonMari Method | Books

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I mentioned in an Instagram post over the weekend that I’ve finally begun reading Marie Kondo’s sensational book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up! I really did not expect this book to be life-changing for me, since I’m already an obsessively tidy person. I figured there wouldn’t be much in the book that I wasn’t already putting into practice. Honestly, I planned on being bored with it, but since it’s a subject I’m passionate about and everyone else seems to be raving about this book (it’s a New York Times bestseller), it warranted a read anyway.

I was wrong. Marie’s method is changing even my already-super-tidy life. (Which, apparently, isn’t as super-tidy as I thought.)


My bookshelf was designated as the guinea pig project for the KonMari method. (She advises starting with clothes, but, as you know, my clothing collection has pretty much already been picked through to the max. I’m now inspired to change my storage methods a bit, but that’s a topic for another day.)

A couple months ago, I completely reorganized the bookshelf in order to accommodate every book in the house. This was no easy task. My goals were to have every volume fit, and for the overall aesthetic to be appealing. I spent probably a couple hours arranging and stacking and rearranging until I had it looking “just so.” It is with deep regret that I write, I failed to photograph my work of art yesterday before I destroyed it. So annoyed at myself–ha.

Anyway, because it was so perfectly organized, I just could not bring myself to take everything off and put it on the floor, like the book instructs. However, I did hold each volume in my hands as I asked myself the thematic question, “Does this spark joy?” I took quite literally Marie’s advice to discard the books I’ll never re-read, the ones I never read in the first place, the ones I was only keeping for their sentimental value, and the ones who I felt only brought me a moderate amount of joy.

I had so much fun realizing which books make up my “Hall of Fame,” another of Marie’s brilliant tips. (A few of my all-time favorites are featured here and here.)

Confession: I kept a few of the ones I have yet to read. Caleb and I enjoy reading aloud to each other in bed at night until one of us falls asleep. So a small pile is being relegated to the nightstand queue for that activity. I figure if we start them and don’t love them, I can get rid of them then.

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The “nightstand queue” — books we’re either in the middle of or want to read next.

I am getting rid of most of my collection of children’s books, as well. Which is sad, because they really haven’t even gotten used yet for their intended purpose. But I realized that the only ones worth keeping for my children are the ones that are my absolute favorite children’s stories. The rest can be borrowed from the library. Books take up so much space, and they are such a pain to move! (Caleb and I moved five times before we celebrated our first anniversary, and will likely be moving at least 1-2 more times in the next couple years–so, key factor there.)

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I didn’t take an exact count, but I would estimate that I started the project with over 200 volumes, and I am now down to 58, plus 30 picture books. (That 58 includes a couple Bibles, a handful of hymn books, and chapter books for older children.) I imagine there’s a good chance I’ll pare those numbers down a bit further still in the coming weeks.

So now, not only do I have a couple hundred books to move out of here, but there’s not much point in keeping the bookshelf for one shelf’s worth of books, either. I’m already rearranging my entire office in my head. It’s such a great feeling!

If you’re intrigued by or interested in this concept of whittling down your belongings to the bare necessities + most beloved treasures, stay tuned. There’s more where this came from. I’m so excited!

Capsule Wardrobe Update | Summer 2015

Time for a capsule wardrobe update! We’re almost halfway through August already, and that equals halfway through the summer season as far as my capsule wardrobe is concerned. I’ve already started thinking about my fall wardrobe and have been pinning looks I love for inspiration.

I have mixed feelings about my summer wardrobe. In some ways it feels as though I really messed up this time around. But on the other hand, I think that might be a result of the fact that I am getting closer and closer to a “perfect” (for me) collection of apparel. While some of the pieces I chose for summer were definite mistakes, the pieces that remain feel more “me” than my typical wardrobe ever has. I may just be becoming more “choosy” and really, that means I’m nearer my goal of owning a truly “essentialist” wardrobe. So, I’m chalking this season up as a victory rather than a mishap. 😉

One of the main reasons I’m skeptical of the initial success of the wardrobe of summer ’15 is that I’ve ended up making quite a few purchases mid-season. (I started talking about that back here already.) But, since “no shopping between seasons” is NOT one of my rules for my capsule wardrobe, that’s okay! And the mid-season purchases I have made have ALL been HUGE wins. I have been wearing my new dresses (pictured below) constantly the last few weekends. (You can check out the additions on my Summer Capsule Wardrobe Pinterest board.)

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Photo credit to Alyssa Beiler

So, quick recap: I started with 37, but moved out a gaping total of 12 pieces. Two tees got moved to my “loungewear” drawer, and the other items were either gifted to one of my sisters or will be sold (some on my Instagram closet sale account). I made a total of 6 new purchases: two tops, a pair of shorts, and three dresses. I also moved pieces that I had been calling “accessories” (a wrap scarf and fringe vest) back into the capsule. So I now have a total of 33 pieces in my summer capsule wardrobe. I am thankful I have the freedom to step back, make adjustments, and emerge with Summer Capsule Wardrobe 2015, version 2.0. Here’s to the rest of this beautiful summer!

What wardrobe discoveries have you made so far this season? I’d love to hear about them, whether you’re working with a capsule or not!

Minimalism vs. Essentialism

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These two words, and the concepts they represent, have been squatting on some pretty prime real estate in my heart and brain, lately. I’m still plugging through back episodes of The Lively Show and being inspired towards things like simplicity, intention, efficiency, and authenticity, and I’m reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and I’m having conversations with friends and family about de-cluttering and eliminating excess. I’ve been working on perfecting my summer capsule wardrobe, and helping my husband with his, and going through other drawers and cabinets and storage containers around the house, getting rid of things that we don’t love. I have a capsule wardrobe collaboration coming up, and hopefully some more similar projects. Life in general continues to invoke deeper meaning, the longer I live.

I’ll definitely have to post a full-fledged book review of 7 once I’m finished with it, so I’ll save my ramblings on that for now. But that, along with the Essentials issue of Kinfolk Magazine I was reading while we were camping the other weekend, the conversation I had with my friend Jenny on the way home from the beach yesterday, and an article I read online last evening, have distracted my thinking for much of the day.

The aforementioned article was called The Problem With Minimalism. The title caught my eye as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, and since it was posted by a friend whose opinions I value and admire, I decided to check it out. (If you haven’t opened that link in a new tab by now, do it before you scroll down any further!) It’s a somewhat lengthy but easy-read discussion of the elitist persona that minimalism tends to incur, which put into words some of the struggle I’ve been wrestling with as I’ve been getting rid of things. Also, as one commenter on my Facebook post noted, it evaluates both sides of the spectrum without demoralizing either one.

The Kinfolk issue referenced “essentialism” as an alternative to minimalism. It’s maybe mostly a splitting of hairs terminologically, but the difference between the two is realizing, investing in, and hanging onto the things that are “essential” to each of our individual versions of “the good life” as opposed to trying to “make do” with as few things as possible (in some cases, even assigning a number to that goal, i.e. The 100 Things Project).

If the process of letting go of material possessions in order to create more time and energy for people, for the things we really love, and for the Creator and His Creation is something you’re intrigued by, that particular article and that particular magazine (Issue 16) are some of my most highly recommended reading. You can also click here for a few other resources I referenced a couple weeks ago.

What’s been inspiring you towards a higher quality of life lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Art of Discipline

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This statement is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Since I stumbled across it, I’ve started thinking about the choices I make, concerning what to do with a free minute, extra hour, or cherished day at home, in a whole new light.

I mentioned previously that I’m currently enjoying The Lively Show, a podcast by Jess Lively featuring interviews with various entrepreneurs, authors, and world-changers that aims to inspire people to “add intention to their everyday.” Hence the word intention has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think that intention and discipline, if not completely synonymous, go hand-in-hand.

One of the tangible things that’s resulted from this thought process so far is my time management plan, which has, though not perfected yet, vastly revolutionized my ability to budget hours and prioritize the tasks that I most want completed. I’m not following it to a “T” quite yet, but I’m definitely getting more accomplished in a week’s time. Having a visible schedule to look at eliminates the tendency for me to waste time + helps me avoid burn-out.

Asking myself whether I want something now or whether I want it most has also been an aid in empowering myself to make smart choices pertaining to diet, fitness, finances, relationships, and more. Reminding myself that…

  • while I may want to eat that cupcake now, what I want most is to feel energized and to have a flat stomach 🙂 …
  • though staying up to accomplish a semi-clean house is something I want badly, what I want even more is to get enough sleep to be able to perform well at work the next day…
  • while staying in bed a few extra minutes feels like the best thing in this moment, what I really want is to be able to come home to a made bed this evening…
  • though Netflix on the couch on a Sunday afternoon seems a viable choice, a bike ride would solicit more benefits + valuable results…

…really does dissipate the struggle.

A pretty life-changing little question, if you ask me. What do you think?