Learning to Live Simply

Last week I wrote a little bit about Minimalism -- not the art or music type of minimalism, but the lifestyle. The general goal of a Minimalist is to rid their life of excess and clutter so that they can lead a less stressful, more meaningful life.

Dan has been embracing this concept for the past year by clearing out his closet, drawers, bathroom cabinets, car trunk/glove box/console, and even our kid's bedroom and toy boxes. I am envious of his results. My closet is packed like a thrift store while his closet looks like a New York city boutique. It takes me 20 minutes to decide what I want to wear because I have too many choices, a majority of which I don't even like and haven't worn in years. Dan on the other hand is ready in 2 minutes because he has just a few options, all of which he likes. He has learned to separate feelings and emotions from items and simply ask himself "Do I wear this? Do I use this? Do I need this?" If the answer is no, it's immediately placed in our Goodwill donation pile. I on the other hand attach memories and emotions to items making it really hard to part with them.

No we can't get rid of that 25 cent wind-up crab that has been buried at the bottom of the toy box for two years. We bought that for C in Cape Cod and he loved it!

No we can't get rid of ALL those boxes of my old graphic design projects from school and work. What if I want to look at those in ten years and reminisce? 

No I can't get rid of this t-shirt. I know I rarely wear it because I have 5 other ones that I like better, but this is a good cozy vintage one that maybe I'll wear if my other ones are dirty. Or maybe I'll sell it at the flea market. Or maybe I'll wear it when I am painting... 

So even though I was envious of Dan's clutter-free spaces, I wasn't doing much to better my situation....

...Until I read Living Simple, Free & Happy: How to Simplify, Declutter Your Home, and Reduce Stress, Debt and Waste, by Cristin Frank.

I met Cristin online a few months ago when she submitted a chair to my Chair Upcycle Thrift Challenge. I hopped over to her blog, Eve of Reduction, to learn a little bit more about her and was intrigued by her profile: Eve of Reduction is a sustainable lifestyle movement to reduce debt, waste, clutter and stress by being frugal, crafty and eco-friendly.

I exchanged a few emails with her and found out that she had written a book! She kindly shared a copy with me which I read immediately upon receiving. In addition to tips on decluttering your home, her book covers other areas of living simply like financial discipline, reducing the clutter in your schedule, buying used instead of new, repairing instead of replacing, teaching yourself to be handy, and DIY projects galore!

Let me share a few of my favorite excerpts:
More is more and less is less. In other words, the more you bring into your life, the more you have to maintain. If you are accumulating things, the initial purchase is just the beginning. In addition to any debt you took on to make the purchase, this new item you now own may need to be stored, dusted, watered, cleaned, oiled, tightened, filled, emptied, refilled, tuned, insured, renewed or any number of other time-consuming (and possibly expensive) maintenance chores...
Dan and I are pretty terrible at maintenance. In fact, for the most part, we'd say we hate it. Knowing this (and accepting this) about ourselves is one of the main reasons we continue living in a small 1200 sq. ft. bungalow with two adults and two (soon to be three) kids. The less space we have, the more strict we are about what things we purchase for ourselves, our home and our kids, and the less clutter and maintenance we take on.


This can get a little tricky for me though because my favorite hobby is buying secondhand, upcycling and reselling at the flea market. This means I bring a lot of things in to our home that need to be stored, fixed, painted, dusted, cleaned and maintained until they are ready to be transported and sold at the flea. When I started out a few years ago, I  filled our entire garage plus the unfinished half of our basement with SO. MUCH. STUFF. I thrifted and trash picked anything that had potential for resale, even things that were broken, in need of re-upholstering, or in desperate need of cleaning. For someone who hates maintenance, this was a terrible idea. Every time I looked in our garage or basement (for over a year!) I felt anxiety and stress about all that needed to be done to fix up this stuff I had accumulated.

This was just one half of our unfinished basement. The other half was filled with stuff and our entire garage was filled with big pieces of furniture!
Earlier this Spring I finally got rid of most of that STUFF thanks to some kind encouragement from Dan and his pretty firm request that he be able to park his car inside the garage. I kept just the pieces that were in good shape and could either be resold or used in our house, which probably only made up about 20% of all that STUFF!

Now when I am out thrifting or trash picking, I am very particular about what I buy. It has to be in good shape (very little to no maintenance required), it has to be small and take up little space, and it has to be my style -- something I'd put in our own house if it didn't re-sell. Sticking to these principles has brought sanity to my passion for buying secondhand, and eliminated clutter-causing-stress in our home.

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The less you have the easier it is to care for and use. You also get more return on your investment because you get more use out of the item. 
YES! This is so true. Cristin uses tupperware as an example saying that "if you have a limited number of pieces it will be easy to put them away and easy to find matching lids and containers when you need them." After reading this, I IMMEDIATELY cleaned out our stupid, stupid tupperware cabinet that explodes every time I open the cabinet door. Check out these before and after results!!





I was on a decluttering high after that so I moved on to my jewelry. I put this milk glass jewelry display together a few years ago, and since then I've just kept adding more jewelry and thus more milk glass. More more more...


I removed all emotion and memories from these pieces of jewelry and just PURGED! If I hadn't worn it in the last 6 months, it was gone-zo! Look at this!!! Less, less, less!!


Now I don't need to waste time digging through a bowl of 60 earrings to find my favorite pairs. And I can see all my necklaces at a quick glance for faster decision making. I can feel the stress melting away!

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Some people believe that education is the single greatest way to get ahead in this world; others would argue experience is more important. I say it's both. We must always be reaching to learn new principles and skills, but it isn't until we put them into practice that the lesson is complete... When something breaks or becomes outdated, we find ourselves saying "Really, a new one only costs...". It's become so easy to replace our things... [But instead we should] salvage our stuff by cleaning and repairing it [ourselves]!... The more we learn to do things for ourselves, the more money we save, the better our homes look, and the more independent we become.
I mentioned that we're terrible at maintenance so it's probably no surprise that we're also terrible at using tools. We don't really venture outside scissors, hot glue, hammers and screwdrivers.

We were recently redecorating our living room and had a blank wall that would be perfect for a large map of the world. We hopped on the internet to buy a fancy one from Ikea for $129, but then remembered we had a not-so-fancy one rolled up in our closet that Dan had gotten free from work. We decided to save the money, use the map we already had, and try ourselves to upgrade it's look. This meant trying a few things we had never done before... like sawing wood at Home Depot!


If there was anyone watching us on a security camera, they probably gathered their co-workers around to watch us two brainiacs try to saw this soft, thin piece of wood! It took us about 10 minutes, and multiple saws to make two small cuts. Like we literally switched out the saws four times, cursing at each one saying how dull and terrible it was.

But, we did it! We sawed the wood, stained it a dark brown (my first time using wood stain!), hot glued it to our big free map and now it looks so fancy (...you already know...I'm in the fast lane...)! We are pretty darn proud of our accomplishment. And  you better believe we will OWN that saw next time we need to cut some wood!



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Thank you to Cristin Frank for sharing some new insights and tips on minimizing our clutter, learning new skills, and living simple! Check out her blog and book if you are interested in learning more.

I am on a roll! Next on my list is

1. Decluttering bathroom cabinets
2. CLEARING OUT my closet and drawers
3.  Learning to use my sewing machine! (this one has appeared on several to-do lists over the past few years. Could this possibly be it's final appearance!???)

21 comments:

  1. This is fantastic! I am RIGHT there with you on the Tupperwear! I think I own only 5 because my mom seriously has nearly 100 and it stresses me the eff out when I try to take something home from her house. Everything you mentioned it accurate...living in a smaller space has helped me contain my junk. This is totally inspiring! After the NOTO event, whatever doesn't sell is going to the Akron Flea and then back to where it came from (Goodwill).

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    1. What's so funny is that even after that major clearning of tupperware and getting it down to 11 pieces, we still ended up going back and getting rid of a few more! And by "we" I mean Dan!

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  2. Oh boy, do I need this now! I'm currently packing to move next week and I'm just overwhelmed at the amount of STUFF we have! I'm approaching that point where I just want to light a match, toss it and walk away. LOL I am not a hoarder but let's just say nobody will ever call me a minimalist. ;) Thrift/junk/antique shopping is probably my favorite hobby and although I do sell some of it, I need to sell lots, lots more--although that doesn't keep me from buying stuff that I intend to sell...someday... I've turned into a 'stuff manager' and it's stressing me out so much. I have a messy husband (who doesn't do very well at managing his own stuff) and 3 children (who tragically did not end up with any hereditary proclivities toward tidiness) so a great deal of my time and energy is spend moving, sorting, cleaning, etc etc all that STUFF, just like you quoted. I don't like how much mental and physical time and energy it takes me to do it all. I definitely, definitely need to reevaluate!

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    1. "ight a match, toss it and walk away" - YES! Totally been there. We get such an adrenaline rush from thrifting something, and then a few days later that rush is gone, and we're left with a huge pile of STUFF! Moving might be a good thing -- maybe this is when you can just donate a ton of stuff rather than packing it up. Although easier said than done, I know!

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  3. I have a sewing machine collecting dust, too! Would love to take lessons with you! Great post!

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    1. We've been talking about this for years!! Let's do it! Once baby is here and I have my head on straight with schedules, we are taking lessons! Seriously!!

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  4. You are singing my tune, lady. I just took a day off sans kiddos and purged their toys. Four boxes to donate and three bags of trash later, my kids know where all their toys belong. AND they play with everything because they can SEE it.

    And I tend to agree about the size of the home...I used to be obsessed (OBSESSED) with finding a bigger house. Slowly (by asking God a million times to rid me of the obsession) I've all but forgotten about a bigger house. It helps that I can clean our entire house in 45 minutes and that our payoff date is in sight ;)

    Finally, have you ever heard of the ebook The No Brainer Wardrobe by Haley Morning (thetinytwig.com)? She'll set you straight on that wardrobe!

    Off to check out Cristin!

    PS: I have four tupperware containers that get used daily. I've never not had one when I need it. I think this Cristin is on to something!! Loved today's post.

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    1. Oh Sara, how the toys can get out of control!! It's always the worst right after a birthday or the Holidays too when they get SO. MUCH. STUFF from relatives. Cristin put together a nice list in her book about alternatives for kids gifts -- I lover her suggestion of tickets to a movie, event or class!

      And the house! Are there times where I wish we had a little more room and a bigger yard? Yes! But that's usually one or two times a year (specifically in the colder months) when we have a large group of people at the house.

      Checking out that book RIGHT NOW! Thanks for the recommendation!

      And funny story about the tupperware... I narrowed it down to 11 pieces, then Dan came home that night and got rid of a few more!! I think you're right, about 4 or 5 is all you need!

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  5. Katie, Thank yo so much for the great review! I laughed out load when I saw "Let's stare at this forever." So true. An organized space brings a sense of tranquility that makes you want to endlessly admire it. I love the photos you shared - especially the map room. My son is obsessed with maps and globes.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your book Cristin! What I learned from you, mixed with my current state of nesting, means I am on a purging and decluttering path of destruction! Don't get in my way!!

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  6. Katie, this post made my day. Not to throw my amazing parents under the bus, but I grew up in a house where excess stuff was moved around, but never out of the house. I've worked hard to combat these habits in my own home, but the hardest thing is maintaining! I love the rush you get when you clear out a space, but as long as things keep coming in, I've got to keep reminding myself that things need to go out to free up room for the new stuff.

    Anyway, I loved this post so much, and it is super motivating to me as I'm in the middle of revamping my office and getting rid of things. I had convinced myself that I needed to keep all MY graphic design projects from college, but now you have me second guessing (in a good way)! Thanks again! Sharing + pinning!

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    1. Hi Michelle! Grat to hear from you :)

      I literally had 3 big boxes each filled with binders and folders full of my old graphic design work. It felt so so good to purge it down to 1 binder and 1 folder! Now I need to figure out a way to manage all the artwork my kids bring home from school!!

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  7. You are inspiring me to live simpler. It's such a hard first step to make especially when thrifting upon some incredible deals. I'm definitely in a purging phase now. I guess I should get back at it :).


    And each glimpse into your house makes me fall even more in love. It's beautiful. Glad you shared that it is small because with each glimpse I envisioned big. You are proof you don't need a huge house to have a stunning house. Love it all.

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  8. love love love the map and set-up - hello world! how much cuter can you and this be!

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    1. Thanks Kristina! Miss you and hope to see you soon!

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  9. love this post, katie!!! i have multiple rolled maps without rods or any hard structure on the ends and i've been meaning to do this for what seems like forever. this post might be just the boost i need to get my butt over to home depot and cut some wood! i also recently purged a lot of tupperware since we emptied our kitchen for our re-do, but looking at your stash i think i need to purge MORE now! and i might need to read that book, i wear less than half of the clothes i own i'm pretty sure. but it's SO HARD when i'm a bargain-hunting-hoarder who keeps things for memory's sake, too! :) - emily

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    1. So funny that you say that about the Tupperware! I got it down to 11 pieces and then Dan came home and was like "I don't even think we need all of this." And he got rid of a few more!!

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  10. Love this! Makes me want to declutter next weekend!

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  11. Hi Katie,
    Nice wall map :), simple and powerful, and always attracts attention.
    Me and my wife, we went a step further, and created a really huge wall map with massive rustic frame some time ago. Today we have a brand Zmaps, specialized in custom, really large wall maps with unique frames.
    You can find our shop and creations on Etsy as well, Zmaps shop

    Best, Blaz

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