How To Shop Like A Minimalist

I’ve been working on being more intentional with my purchases and practicing a minimal lifestyle. Our consumer culture encourages us to buy new things all the time, and it takes a real mental shift to resist the constant pressure to buy, buy, buy! Here are some of the techniques I’ve been using to filter out the noise and only invest in things that actually serve me:

Shop With a Specific List

Since it’s far too easy to want to shop impulsively, or snatch up an item because it’s on major sale, I have been carrying an index card, when I go out, with the items I actually need on it. If it’s not on the list, I don’t buy it.

Shop With Intention

Decide what your criteria is before you buy and do your research. Maybe you want to invest in things that are ethically and sustainably made. Perhaps you want to buy locally from independent shops. Maybe you just want to invest in very well-made, high quality items that will last a long time. Whatever feels good to you, clarify what it is you want to spend your money on before you take your wallet out. (It may help to jot this down.)

Shop like a minimalist with these simple tips.

Get Creative and Resourceful

Before you bring something new into your home, make sure you don’t already own something that can serve a similar function. Need something to store your paperclips? Before you run out to the Container Store check if you have a small bin, bowl, or basket that can get the job done.

If you need something for a specific event or function, consider borrowing or renting the item instead of bringing more clutter into your home for a single event. We go on an annual camping trip to Yosemite, and we just borrow the basics we need from our friends who are frequent campers. Likewise, I just attended a rare black-tie event, and I decided to borrow a dress from a friend instead of buying a new one that would just clutter up my closet.

Use Cash

Paying with cash helps ensure that you stay on track with your budget, especially if you take out only as much as you truly want to spend. Cash also keeps you connected to your finances in a more tangible way than credit cards, which can often seem like magic money.

Have you tried any of these tips in your own life? I find that the more intentional and thoughtful I am with my shopping, the more money, time, and energy I save for other pursuits. Have you also found this to be true?

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography

The Power of Planning

Ever feel like you have lost control over your schedule or like life is just an endless list of to-dos, errands, and obligations? It’s far too easy for the important stuff to get lost in the shuffle. As a working mama of two young girls I have found that the best way to get my life back on track and feeling more balanced, is by carefully designing and planning how I spend my time each month.  Here are a few strategies that have been working for me:

Schedule the Important Stuff First

Start by writing down all of the things you value and wish you had time for. My list included dates with my husband, dinners with girlfriends, family movie night, yoga and spin classes, and time to be creative. Next, map out a clear weekly or monthly plan and honor these values by scheduling them into your calendar. Make sure to include blocks of time to rest and recharge, especially if you are introverted by nature. My days are packed from the moment I wake up, but I make sure I have a little time to read and relax each night once my girls are in bed.

Set a Clear Time Limit for Social Media and Emailing

Emailing and social media can be addictive if you let them. Try batching your screen time in set chunks per day. Also try picking a regular time to detox from all things digital. In our home there are no phones or computers allowed at meals, and we do our best to unplug by 9 p.m. at the latest. I also remove our phones and computers from the bedroom, so there’s no temptation to stay plugged in and distracted!

Book Your Priorities as Repeat Events

It takes time and mental energy to set up plans each week. Instead of winging it, schedule your priorities as regular standing dates. Instead of looking for workout classes each week, pick a class you like (i.e Tuesday yoga with Kyle at 7 p.m.) and schedule it as a standing weekly appointment. My husband and I went months without a date night out until we joined a babysitting collective and signed up for childcare every other Saturday evening. Likewise, I was craving more quality time with my girls, so now we have a standing family movie night every Friday. When you plan and schedule ahead of time, then all you have to do is show up and honor your calendar. This little life hack has changed my life.

Planning can relieve stress and help you with healthy habits. Here's how!

 

Let go of Perfection

A sweet mama at my daughter’s school once told me that she feels like you either have your house in order or your cooking, but not both. As someone who excels at cleaning and organizing, but struggles to cook and plan meals, this came as a great relief. So I can pick up a pizza and not be a bad mom? Awesome! Now, instead of beating myself up for not being more proficient in the kitchen, I simply plan to pick up takeout a few nights a week or order pre-prepared meals. Conversely, if you don’t excel in the cleaning department, let yourself live with some dust bunnies on the floor or invest in a housecleaning service a few times a month. Embrace the concept of good enough and give yourself permission not to be perfect.

Thoughtfully planning how you want to spend your time will take commitment on your part but is well worth the time and energy. I invite you to think of three things that you would love more of in your life and take time to plan them, and map them out on your calendar. Once you’ve done the planning, it’s all as good as done!

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Two Simple Entry Hacks That Will Change Your Life

A home’s entry area is generally the first area I tackle with clients because setting it up properly will make a major difference in your everyday life.

Generally, when things get strewn all over the entry area, it’s because they don’t have a clear or intuitive place to go. See below for the two most effective hacks I know for keeping entry clutter under control.

Hack One: The Inbox

Almost every client I’ve worked with has complained about those dreaded paper piles cluttering up their entry, and other household surfaces like the kitchen counter. Luckily, this is one of the simplest problems to solve! Make it easy on yourself by setting up one storage vessel to contain all mail, bills, and other active to-do items, so they don’t clutter up your home or get misplaced or lost. A wall-mounted pocket or large pretty basket stowed on your entry table will work wonders. Now all you have to do is practice reviewing it once a week so you can keep the paper clutter to a minimum.

Keep your entry organized and fashionably put together with these two tricks.

Hack Two: The Outbox

When I’m helping clients edit and organize their belongings, inevitably we will stumble upon things that don’t have a clear home – a library book that needs to be returned, a birthday present for a party next week, clothing that needs to be given back to a friend, food storage containers that need to go back to your sister, etc. I suggest setting up a large bin, or basket, to corral these transitional items, and storing it in a convenient location near your entry closet or front door. A sturdy tote will do the trick and can be easily tossed into your trunk when you are on the go. I call it the “Outbox” since it contains items that need to go out of your home. It will make a world of difference not to have all of those random items floating around your house!

Have you tried these simple solutions or something else that has made a big difference in maintaining a streamlined entry? I’d love to know what tricks you’ve got up your sleeve!

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Digital Organization Tips with The Cloud Life

Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the endless volumes of family photos, heirlooms, kid art, videos, and other memorabilia that take up prime real estate in most attics and garages? My solution is always to start by editing down to the most treasured essentials — but then what?

With the recent series of natural disasters across the country, I know I’m not alone in wondering the best way to safely and efficiently store our most precious photos and sentimentals items.

Lucky for all of us, Anna Morris and Brittany Messmer have founded The Cloud Life – a brilliant new service designed to help individuals and families digitize, archive, and protect their most important documents, photos, and heirlooms. They were struck by the idea for their company after a series of natural disasters hit California, and they realized that none of their most precious family photos were stored digitally. Anna and Brittany saw a real need to help people organize and preserve their most precious memories – documents, photos, videos, and art – to ensure these treasures could be enjoyed for generations to come, even in the event of a disaster or home loss.

The Cloud Life offers a full service concierge option and they’ve recently launched a DIY option (their app is available for all iPhone users and gives the option to upload and digitize on your own).

Anna and Brittany, were kind enough to chat with me and share some of their best tips on digital organizing and archiving. Great tips straight ahead!

For people who are totally overwhelmed by the volume of their heirlooms, art, mementos, etc. any tips to help edit? How do you approach the piles?

It is best to take one category at a time and divide it into manageable sub-categories. We’ve identified 6 main categories to help with that process: Documents, Photos, Artwork, Recordings, Family Heirlooms, and All Encompassing. For example, when dealing with photos decide ahead of time what sub-categories make the most sense for your family. Maybe it is by family members, by year, or by event. Make a notecard for each sub-category and spread those out on a large flat surface. As you start to organize, place each respective photo in the proper place. During this process, you can narrow down the photos (for example eliminate duplicate or blurry photos) and then begin the scanning process.

What’s the best way to organize your digital photos?

We recommend scanning and organizing all your photos and negatives by person, date, event, or season. Being consistent will make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Here's a guide for digitizing family heirlooms, photos, and other important items.

What items other than photos would you suggest digitizing? (i.e heirlooms, kid art, documents)

Scanning and digitizing favorite family heirlooms makes it easy to store and share. Items like grandma’s wedding dress, shoes, and veil can be photographed and uploaded so the whole family can enjoy the memories. If you have a favorite portrait of your child, or painting commissioned for your family, scan these one-of-a kind pieces of art and digitize them.  If you were to lose a piece of art, you can always re-print on the finest paper and still enjoy the artwork. Other items we suggest digitizing include children’s artwork, to eliminate the clutter, as well as memorable greeting cards, love letters, baby books, and all important documents.

Is it significant to scan important documents and store them digitally? Which documents specifically do you suggest scanning?

Make your life simpler and more efficient by having your most important documents at your fingertips (from anywhere in the world)!   

Here are a few of the documents we recommended scanning:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate

Is there a practical option for preserving old VHS videos or DVD memories?

The Cloud Life offers services to convert old home videos on VHS or DVD to digital files you can enjoy from your phone and computer.

The Cloud Life stores your photos and important items for you through digital organization.

Thanks so much to Anna and Brittany for sharing these very helpful tips. I’m going to go clean out my basement now! // To learn more about The Cloud Life, visit www.thecloudlife.com. Be sure to check out The Cloud Life’s App in the iTunes App Store and receive your Free 7 Day Trial.

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How to Take Massive Action

Massive action is a concept I learned about when I was doing life coach training. Most of us (myself included!) get stuck in a pattern of taking passive action – we consume massive amounts of information and spend countless hours thinking about our goals, without actually taking action. Sound familiar?

The concept of taking massive action simply means that you commit to taking action until you get your desired results. This sounds deceptively simple, but do not underestimate how impactful it can be when put into practice.

Taking action toward a goal can be scary, but I'm here to show you that it's simple and well worth it.

When you take massive action you must anticipate that there will be setbacks and challenges ahead, and accept that overcoming them will be part of the process – not a reason to justify quitting. Most of us are willing to stumble or fall once, maybe twice, in pursuit of our goals. It takes real courage, determination, and commitment to be willing to fail as many times as it takes to reach our goals.

Is there an outcome you would love to accomplish this year? Here’s how you can use this impactful tool and start taking massive action in your own life:

Pick One Goal to Focus On

It doesn’t matter what the goal is. It can be a big, juicy goal like starting your own business, or something as small as wanting to learn a new skill. All that matters is that you pick one and commit to it.

Define Your Desired Results

Make sure you have a metric to gage when you have reached your goal. Make your goal specific, measurable, and achievable. If you want to make more money, set a concrete goal like earning six figures by the end of 2018.

Take Massive Action + Embrace Failure

When you take massive action you honor your commitment to yourself and your goal and keep going no matter what. When you fail, or something doesn’t work out, it’s not a problem, it’s just part of the process. You need to be willing to recalibrate, shift gears, and keep going. Try, fall down, fail, try again. This practice will help you build both resilience and confidence. The best part is massive action eliminates failure as an option – you’re either succeeding or your learning.

Have a goal in mind that would feel amazing to achieve? I invite you to commit to taking massive action towards that goal for 90 days, and see what happens. If you commit to this principle I promise it will change your entire life. I can’t wait to  hear about it!

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5 Simple Habits That Will Transform Your Life

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by clutter or disorganization, I have great news for you. I believe there are small habit shifts you can make right now that will immediately provide some relief and transform your physical surroundings.

One of my favorite books, The Compound Effect, states that small, consistent action is the key to achieving and maintaining momentum. In my mind, the only difference between me and a disorganized person is that we practice different habits. Creating and maintaining an organized space simply requires small, consistent actions over time.

Below, I’m sharing five simple habits you can start practicing to easily transform your space and improve your life. My suggested habit shifts don’t take a lot of time to complete, but will have a massive impact when practiced with commitment and consistency.

Adding these small habits into your daily routine will help you be more organized.

Make The Bed

I actually have an entire blog post dedicated to why you should make your bed each morning. This simple ritual will set the tone for your day, help you practice self care, and help make a messy room look instantly tidier.

Do The Dishes

My husband and I have a rule that we don’t go to bed unless the dishes are done. Immediately after dinner, while I make the lunches with the kids, he loads up the dishwasher. We also take a minute or two to wipe down the counter tops and dining room table. Generally this whole routine takes about 10-15 minutes and ensures we never have to wake up to an overflowing sink full of dirty dishes or a table covered in crumbs. I can’t pretend any of this is fun but waking up to a clean, tidy kitchen is totally worth it.

Deal With Your Mail

One of the biggest challenges I come across in my work is an overwhelming amount of paper clutter. Paper clutter occurs when you don’t have a consistent practice for processing the paper that enters your home. Try immediately removing and recycling your junk mail so you never have to sort it. You should also open and deal with your mail at a minimum once a week so you never face a massive build-up. Schedule a mail date with yourself so you can pay bills, respond to invitations and file any important documents that come in. A few minutes a day will save you hours of work later.

Plan Ahead

One of the most impactful things you can do for yourself is map out your day the night before. Take a few minutes to jot down all of your most important tasks and schedule them. I also like to think about any errands I need to run, or groceries I need to pick up before dinner. I write everything down on a little index card the night before and throw it in my purse because I’m an old lady. You can also organize your day on your Google calendar, mobile phone, or whatever works for you! It always helps to think about how you can make life as easy as possible for your future self. When I do this, I get inspired to select my outfit, pack lunches ahead of time, and even plan what I will eat for breakfast and fill my water bottle. Give it a try – Your future self will thank you.

Put Away Your Clothing

Do you have laundry strewn all over your home? Please do yourself a favor and put it away before it gets worse.  It only takes a few minutes each day to toss dirty clothing in your hamper and hang or fold any items that are clean enough to wear again. Likewise, when you return from a trip you should take the time to put dirty clothing right in the hamper and put away any items that are clean. Practice the mantra “put it away, right away” and watch your space transform.

I promise that practicing these daily habits will actually change your life. Start by picking just one and try to practice it every day for a month.  Cultivate consistency so you can see yourself taking action and caring for yourself and your space in a new way. One small habit shift can actually trigger a cascade of other positives in your life. Have you seen this, too?

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Spending Freeze Challenge: Key Takeaways

With the month coming to a close, I wanted to give a final update and share my key takeaways and highlights from my first spending freeze experiment:

I’m A Rule Breaker

It turns out I don’t like to be restricted! I tried to stick to my rules and guidelines for the freeze but did find myself crafting a few creative loopholes. For example, I ended up selling a lot of my clothes and then using the credit to buy a new pair of jeans I had been eyeing. I also discovered a few gift cards and credits that I redeemed. The good news is the few things I did purchase felt like thoughtful investments instead of mindless splurges so I have no regrets (even though my husband tells me I’m a cheater).

I Spend A Lot of Money on Food

Since I chose to limit my spending freeze to physical objects, I became quickly aware of how much I spend (constantly) on food, snacks, and eating out. I consider enjoying a great meal with family or friends one of life’s greatest pleasures, but would like to reduce my frivolous spending on things like iced tea, smoothies, and on-the-go snacks.

I Saved A Lot of Time and Energy

You know when you have a bunch of boxes sitting by the front door waiting to be opened or returned? It takes a lot of mental energy to hunt for things, order, return and manage stuff. I didn’t have any of that all month and found that I had much more time and energy for other more worthwhile pursuits.

I learned so much about myself and spending habits from doing a spending freeze.

I Love Window Shopping

It turns out I actually love window shopping. I am often sourcing styling and organizing products for clients and do enjoy looking at beautiful things and gathering inspiration without bringing anything home for myself. Have you ever tried just browsing but not buying? So empowering!

I Was Inspired to Get Creative

Throughout the month, when I got bored or restless, I challenged myself to get creative and work with what I already owned. I played with layering my wardrobe and experimented with new color combinations like wearing all navy or all white. I also found myself trying out jewelry and other accessories that I generally didn’t touch. In the end, I feel like I dressed better and more intentionally all month. A win-win!

For those who joined along, I’d love to hear how it went for you and what you learned about yourself and your spending habits. Please share in the comments below!

Also, if you’re interested in exploring the idea of a spending freeze check out these excellent resources for inspiration:

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy //Not Buying It //Decoding the New Consumer Mind //  My Year of No Shopping // 30 Day Spending Detox // The Year of Less

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Shira Gill x New Minimalism

Friends! I’m so excited to announce my latest collaboration with fellow decluttering pros, New Minimalism. I will be partnering with them on a fun live workshop for professionals where we spill all of our best tips of the trade and talk about business, entrepreneurship, minimalism and more.

Shira Gill and New Minimalism will host an online workshop in March. Sign up today so you can ask your organization questions. The best part is we are hosting this event virtually, so you can attend live from anywhere in the world. The workshop will be tailored to address participants’ specific questions, so whether you want to learn more about decluttering, home organization, or starting or growing your own business, there will be plenty of great content for everyone.

The workshop will be held live on Tuesday, March 27th at 7pm.

Click here for more details and to grab your spot!

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Things I Really Wanted But Didn’t Buy

Friends! I made it through week one of my spending freeze. The biggest impact so far has been the increasing awareness of just how often I feel compelled to buy things I don’t truly need. As part of my work with clients, I am often sourcing products from my favorite stores, so temptation is everywhere. As planned, I’ve been jotting down all of the things I really want to buy. When I see something I want, I notice the urge, write down the item that I want, and (get this!) walk away. Apparently, saving money can be just that simple. Below I’m sharing all of the things I saw, and wanted, but did not buy this month.

A one month spending freeze challenge is difficult. Here's all the things I did not buy, but wanted to!

This Travel Bag // This Pepper Mill // These Bowls // This Hand Soap // This Book // This Basket

While I love all of these items to bits, I do not actually need any of them. I have hand soap and coffee table books, and handbags and baskets. I own a pepper mill that grinds pepper perfectly well. A friend of mine recently shared that she travels with a little list of things she needs and only allows herself to buy those specific items when she’s out shopping. I don’t have a nice matching set of mixing bowls so I’m keeping these gorgeous bowls on my list for a future investment.

What’s become very apparent is that even though I consider myself a minimalist, this spending freeze exercise has made me aware of how often I think about material things. I’m often on the hunt for the perfect thing, and I spend time buying things, styling things, contemplating things, organizing things, and inevitably returning things.  It takes a lot of mental energy.

My goal for the next few weeks of my experiment is to go on a real “thing vacation,” and take a break from contemplating things and from buying them. The hope is that I will have tons of mental energy freed up for other things that I care about.

Of course I’ll keep you posted, and I’d love to hear about your personal experiences trying out a spending freeze, or shifting your mindset about consumerism.

xx

A One-Month Spending Freeze Challenge

So, I was out of town for business and asked my colleague, Beth, founder of Bneato Bar, to meet for coffee. Beth replied that she would love to meet, but asked if we could take a walk instead of buying coffee or lunch, since she was on a one-year spending freeze. What? I had to know more.

Beth explained the basics to me and outlined some of the major benefits. In addition to saving gobs of money, a spending freeze can help you to clarify your core values, appreciate all that you already have, reduce your environmental footprint, and force you to get creative and resourceful. As we were talking, we were offered free ice cream from a neighborhood cafe that was switching out their flavors. Beth remarked that things like this happened to her all the time since starting her spending freeze. It seemed that her lack of spending had actually been making her life more abundant, creative, and interesting. I was instantly hooked.

One year seemed like too much for me to commit to – but one month felt like the perfect amount of time to give this experiment a go. Read on and join along for the adventure!

Find out the benefits of a doing a spending freeze challenge and how you can do one, too.

Clarify Your Motivation

As with any goal, it’s always helpful to clarify your WHY and make sure you like your reasons for doing something. My major motivations for trying a spending freeze were to reduce the amount of time and energy I spend on frivolous purchases, and to see how much money I can save just by being more mindful and creative.  What are yours?

Separate Needs from Wants

The first order of business is to jot down all of your basic and necessary expenses. This may include rent or mortgage, utilities, phone and Internet, food and household supplies, prescriptions, etc. Make a list that includes all of your NEEDS. Next, make a new list of your WANTS. This list could include yoga classes or a gym membership, movie tickets, meals out, or anything else that makes your life enjoyable and comfortable. Now that you have a clear picture of your wants versus your needs you get to thoughtfully decide how you want to approach your spending freeze.

Define Your Rules

You get to define the parameters of your spending freeze. Some people opt to skip all extraneous purchases including coffee, snacks, and meals out for months, or even a full year. Anyone who knows me knows that those parameters would make me feel very, very sad.  I decided that I will forgo buying any material objects that were not totally necessary, but that I could still invest money on food and experiences which enhance my life. Take some time to reflect on your values and decide what you want to invest in, and what you want to include in your spending freeze. Make sure your decision aligns with your core values and feels good. Write down your rules, and your timeframe, so you can stay on track. You’re in charge!

Plan Ahead + Get Creative

I’m doing my spending freeze in February. This month my plans include celebrating my husband’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, dinner with friends, and two children’s birthday parties.  By creating a clear plan and budget for each event, I hope to eliminate impulse buys and overspending. I also plan to get creative and resourceful this month. For example, instead of paying for a babysitter and splurging on a pricey meal out, I can invite our friends over and cook a simple meal at our house. Instead of buying a gift for my daughter’s friend’s birthday, we can give her a coupon for a movie night at our house. You get the picture.

Keep a Spending Journal

You know how people keep a food journal when they’re trying to be more mindful of what they eat? The same holds true for your finances. By writing down items you spend money on, you will become much more aware of your spending habits. You can also use a notebook to write down all the things you want while you’re doing your freeze. I think it would be interesting to revisit the list in a month and see if you still want any of those things, or if the desire has waned.

So, who’s in? Who wants to join me for a February spending freeze? Anyone who has already tried this and can share helpful tips, please do! I’ll be back to share my experience soon and would love to hear about yours!

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