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!

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!

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.

Figuring Out My Version of the Minimalist Lifestyle

IMG_7153I think minimalism is part of the “way I’m wired”…for as long as I can remember, I’ve gotten a rush out of the process of eliminating clutter and excess in my life. However, it’s a part of me that continually needs shaping and fine-tuning, and I’m still learning everyday how to better use, prioritize, and organize the “stuff” in my life and what that looks like in relation to spending habits, time management, and priorities.

I’ve heard good things about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and though I haven’t read it yet, I know that the idea of getting rid of things we no longer use has been trending like crazy and “minimalism” is all the rage right now. That makes it fun, because there’s this camaraderie in all evaluating our consumerist/materialistic tendencies together.

I absolutely love having yard sales, taking things to consignment shops, selling things on Facebook, and, most recently, I’ve even bought into the Instagram sale thing. For me, ending up with a handful of cash helps me justify both letting go of things that I loved or that I paid too much for, and spending more money on the higher-quality things that I really want.

My husband has taught me a lot about the value in saving for what I really want or the better brand of something I need instead of settling for the cheap version just because it’s cheap. In the two short years of our marriage, my attitude towards spending and saving money has changed completely. I no longer feel guilty every time I choose the item that I believe is the best, rather than the one with the lowest price tag. And now that I shop this way (for the most part), I have much less to get rid of, since I less often end up dissatisfied with my cheap purchases.

But as I said, it’s a process. Doing a capsule wardrobe has taught me a lot about this concept when it comes to my clothing, and I’m realizing that I’ve subconsciously begun to think about other things (kitchen gadgets, home decor, etc.) with the same mindset.

Also, I’m only 23 years old. I am still figuring out my style and tastes — not only in fashion, but in interior design, food, and my life/goals in general. Sometimes when I start to feel panicky about everything being so unsettled and constantly changing, I have to remind myself of that. A lot of the people I admire, both online and in real life, hadn’t figured out or established the things I admire about them at my age, either. 🙂

Before I ramble on too much further, here are some links I recommend for further reading on minimalism.

What are some sources that have motivated you to live with less? I’d love to hear some good book/podcast/blog recommendations. Let’s get the conversation started!

The Time Management Plan | Market Day

IMG_7005Anyone remember my [quite idealistic] time management plan from one of my very first posts here at The Realization of Good? Here’s an update on how that’s working out for me so far: I’m LOVING it! 🙂 Sure, I don’t get all the things done every day (and I didn’t expect to, at first). But I am certainly making baby steps in the right direction and am getting closer and closer to my goal of being at the point where I actually am getting all those tasks completed each week.

Today was my market day! There’s a great farmer’s market grocery store near the retail job I work on Tuesdays, so I head there once I close the store. I don’t know why I didn’t form the habit of getting groceries on the same day each week long ago. It makes meal planning and kitchen organization so much easier!

My shopping list is about 75% produce these days. And that works out great, because hanging out in those lush, color-filled fruit and vegetable aisles is not an unpleasant experience whatsoever. I’m not one of those people who lives for summer (I love snow, and winter is full of so much cozy), but I do love all the wonderful earth-food that’s in season right now. More of those delicious + nutritious smoothies, coming right up! 🙂

Fun Facebook Feeds

Recently I shared some of my current favorite blogs. Today I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite Facebook pages + feeds.

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  1. IHeart OrganizingA fun “mom blog” relating to all things decorating and organizing. I love her homemade cleaner recipes!
  2. Still Mothers – This page has some uplifting content for parents who have lost babies and have no living children.
  3. A Miracle Unfolding – Gardner Quadruplets – This is a couple who, after eight years of infertility, conceived through IVF two sets of identical twins. The girls were born right after Christmas and their parents do a great job of updating their half-million fan base with a ton of cute pictures.
  4. Native American Nutritionals – I haven’t actually purchased anything from this company as of yet, but they share some great information on and recipes using things like essential oils.
  5. Nameberry – I love keeping tabs on what people are naming their babies these days. Lots of name history and fun facts here, too!
  6. Story of This Life – I just love Esther’s sense of humor, and her memes…they make my day, over and over.
  7. Gentle Delivery Childbirth Services – Midwife Kelsey Martin, CPM – Kelsey shares tons of excellent articles relating to pregnancy, labor, and delivery, making her page a rich resource for all things childbirth-related.
  8. Apartment Therapy – Ahhh, Apartment Therapy — one of the very best things in all of the internet, in my opinion. Follow them for easy access to a ton of great interior design inspiration + housekeeping & living tips.
  9. The Thrifty, Frugal Mom – I’ve learned so much from Lydia about couponing, budgeting, and living frugally in general.
  10. Bonus for you locals: Things To Do Lancaster PA – Links to good eats, events, and more! We love to come here for date night ideas. 🙂

And by the way, have you liked The Realization of Good on Facebook yet? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest around here. 🙂

I’d love to hear from you…what are some of your favorite Facebook pages?

Using Stylebook to Get the Most Out of a Capsule Wardrobe

IMG_1148If you’ve been following along with my capsule wardrobe posts, you probably remember me mentioning the Stylebook app. (If you’ve just arrived, you can catch up here.) Today I want to show you why I love it so much!

Stylebook is like a virtual closet. I upload pictures of all my clothing, along with information for each piece such as the brand, size, and price. I keep track of what I wear every day on the built-in calendar, and the app calculates statistics including my 25 most-worn and least-worn items as well as cost-per-wear and best and worst value!

Check it out…

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Some other great features include:

  • Size Tracker – a place to record all my measurements — this is super handy for shopping online, which I prefer over shopping in store because I’m not a big fan of shopping. I can compare my measurements to the size charts at a glance without having to remeasure every time! Also, I tend to forget which sizes work for me in which brands. You can record custom data here in addition to the built-in measurements.
  • Inspiration – a place to organize screen grabs I want to keep for future reference, selfies from the days my look turns out great and I want to remember a particular combination, and favorite Pinterest pins.

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The app provides a great visual for planning what to wear, what to purchase, and what to pack. (Speaking of packing, you can create packing lists for upcoming trips and dream destinations, as well!) And, throwing together outfits on the “Looks” page is not only a great boredom buster on road trips and such, but is an easy exercise in creativity with mixing + matching different pieces.

By the way, the upload feature includes auto and manual editing tools that enable easy erasing of the photo’s background, giving that crisp clean white look you see below. Total Polyvore style! (Here is a great resource for getting professional-looking images.)

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So, how has using this app helped me figure out the capsule wardrobe thing? Well, it tells me exactly what I wear the most, when I wear it, and for what occasions. I’ve been able to figure out which pieces are worth splurging on because they get worn so often, and which pieces, much as I love them, just don’t fit my lifestyle. I’ve also gotten a better handle on what colors and styles I gravitate towards, are the most versatile, and make me feel good about what I’m wearing. And that’s what capsule wardrobes are all about — finding a small amount of pieces that you love and are worth their cost + real estate in your closet!

I think it’s safe to say that Stylebook is my very top favorite app on my phone right now. I like to tell people it’s like a game — it really is just that fun! If you decide to give it a try, I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. And if you need any tips once you get started, feel free to give me a holler…

Capsule Wardrobe Debut | Summer 2015

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Here are my 37 pieces for Summer 2015! Yay for July 1 and the first day of a new season in my capsule wardrobe calendar. I confess, I wasn’t as strict as I have been in the past about waiting until today to start wearing some of my summer pieces. I was just way too excited about some of the clothing that’s been arriving in packages on my door step in the past week or so!

This time around, I’m only posting links to the items that I purchased recently or are still available for purchase. Maybe next time I’ll be a bit more ambitious and provide links to lookalikes or similar items, for the rest!

I’m looking forward to talking more about some of these lovelies and how I wear them in future posts. Also, I plan to fill you in on a few key mistakes things I realized and acknowledged while wearing my spring capsule wardrobe, and how I used the Stylebook app, as mentioned previously, to learn them.

Tell me, what are you most looking forward to wearing this season?

My Beauty Routine

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I love when a single product serves multiple purposes. This All-In-One Healing Skin Cream is the best thing in my bathroom cabinet right now. This is my daily moisturizer + lip balm + cut & burn soother (including sunburn!) + itch & rash relief…that’s a lot of uses! What’s more, the ingredient list is super clean. This is a product I can feel really good about smearing all over myself + my (future) babies…what’s not to love? I rub a tiny bit (the consistency is Vaseline-like and doesn’t absorb like lotion, so you don’t want to overshoot) onto my face after cleansing morning and night.

I use essential oils as part of my face care regimen as well — more to come on that in a future post.

I don’t wear much makeup, and my look doesn’t change a lot from day to night or from everyday to special occasion…I keep it pretty natural all the time. But I have spent years experimenting with different products and finally am at the place where I really love every one of my go-to products. I got rid of everything else, and it’s pretty great having only these six things in my make-up bag! I love the minimalist feel to my morning routine + bathroom storage, not to mention how much time I save by knowing exactly which products to use + where to find them.

  1. Mary Kay® TimeWise® Matte-Wear® Liquid Foundation
  2. Mary Kay® Liquid Foundation Brush
  3. Maybelline Brow Pencil
  4. Mary Kay® Mineral Cheek Color Duo in Juicy Guava
  5. Maybelline Eye Shadow Quads
  6. Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant Mascara

Obviously I don’t exclusively buy organic/natural/clean makeup, although I have been gradually making that transition in many other areas of my life over the last year or so. Once I get to that step, I’m sure you’ll hear about it!

Speaking of clean ingredients, I discovered the (free!) Think Dirty app and am loving the easy access to ingredient knowledge I’ve found in it. If you have any interest or curiosity about what goes into the things you feed your skin/hair/etc. but don’t have hours to spend scouring the internet for reliable info/studies, definitely check it out!

I’ve been using a Mary Kay eye makeup remover for a couple years, but once my bottle is empty (it’s lasted forever!) I plan to try this alternative.

I am still in the process of finding and switching to a good clean-ingredient facial cleanser. I’m considering trying this one from Kiss My Face next. Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear about it if you have one you recommend!

The Real Reason Why I Believe in Making the Bed

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According to Psychology Today, in a Hunch.com survey of over 60,000 people, “71 percent of bed makers consider themselves happy; while 62 percent of non-bed-makers admit to being unhappy.”

There is a whole chorus of voices on the internet these days proclaiming the good in making your bed first thing, every morning. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? click here, here, and here for just a few examples.)

They say that people who make their beds every morning lead happier, more productive lives. The reasons are endless: making the bed daily is an exercise in good habit-forming, it keeps the bed cleaner and healthier, it can lead to better quality sleep, and it gives us a feeling of accomplishment.

I certainly can relate to and agree with U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McCraven’s statement that “if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

But the real reason I make bed-making a priority upon rising each morning is that a made bed creates a welcoming atmosphere, a haven of rest for my husband and me to come home to in the evening. Even after a crammed, hurried, stressful day, when the rest of our house is reminiscent of the aftermath of a hurricane, we have a visually appealing and restful place to retreat to at day’s end.

I can exhibit a good deal of OCD when it comes to keeping my home tidy, but there are days when exhaustion cries louder than perfectionism. When I’ve taken those 2-3 minutes in the morning, while fresh and energized, to prepare the bedroom for our return, I can close the door to the rest of the mess and relax in the simple, clean order of our little haven.

Do you make your bed every day? If so, it is merely out of habit, or do you have similar intention-filled motives for this menial task?