Kat builds web experiences using UX, UI, and interactive design. She was a long-time project manager and is extra focused on getting shit done in all areas of her life!
She has left jobs to teach herself something new, make a career change, and follow her dreams. Obviously, she was the first person I turned to when I decided to transition to the world of self-employment. Kat not only had all kinds of great advice and wisdom to share with me, but she also is responsible for the design of my website and logo. She also has her own side gigs helping entrepreneurs launch their businesses and living the crafter-life.
While working closely together, we would share book recommendations and tips on organizing, what the best planners were on the market, how to use washi tape in said planner-ing … and I came to realize she was really getting into minimalism, and not just through decluttering physical stuff. Read on to hear what she has to say …
What sparked your interest in simplifying and decluttering?
I think I’ve always had a minimalist streak in my veins.
I grew up in a small space with a lot of people. With four kids and two adults in a two bedroom house, there just wasn’t a lot of space for too many things. There wasn’t a need, or really an option, to get more stuff.
As kids, we would get toys and presents but there wasn’t the level of getting new things that I see today. There seems to be a constant “now I need this, and this, and this” and always needing to replace something to get the next version or the trendier version of something.
My grandmothers were also immaculately clean, organized and probably “minimalists.” When we would go to one grandma’s house, she had a teeny box, smaller than a shoebox, that served as a “toy chest.” She collected animal figurines from Red Rose Tea (you can still buy it at the grocery store) and we would play with those.
They definitely influenced me. They lived through the depression and would reuse what they had (sour cream containers, yogurt containers), but wouldn’t hoard extra stuff. They would keep just enough things that were useful and important to them.
What's your philosophy on stuff?
First off, I don’t hate stuff. Stuff is needed and fun! But I think we’re inundated with messages about having whatever is the latest thing. So my philosophy is all about letting go of the stuff list and just feel good about what you choose to have around you - or choose not to have around you. It’s about choice. And you don’t need a lot of things around you to be content. To have a space you enjoy coming home to, so you can do the activities you enjoy, that’s what is important to me. And that means something different to everyone.
I think that people who live making more minimalist choices, tend to have an abundance mindset versus one of scarcity. When you practice an abundance mindset, you know that there is more than enough out in the world for everyone. You don’t need to take all the things you think you need right in this moment.
With a scarcity mindset, there’s never enough money/stuff/space so you take what you have and clamp down on it even if it doesn’t serve you. There’s a fear of letting go. I’ve been in both mindsets and there’s so much more joy following the abundance mindset. I’m able to be more intentional with the choices I make because my choices aren’t coming from fear. It’s not just about less stuff, it’s a way of thinking.
What most recently has triggered the decluttering bug for you?
Probably my reading list. I love reading about people who are challenging the way that they think about how they live. I loooooove Marie Kondo. She lit the fuse of the firecracker in my mind, that it’s not crazy to want to live this lifestyle. It’s about living intentionally, living how you want to feel. The most important part of her book is when she visualizes with a client about what they want to feel like when they come home. It’s more about the flow she wants to have and how she creates her space around how she wants to feel.
Were you surprised about any of the items you ended up purging?
Yes! It’s surprising how many things can get stuffed into little corners and drawers! Kondo talks about how things take up space and have energy. When you have cabinets, drawers, and desks that are overflowing, it doesn’t feel good. It’s tight. It’s stressed. And you’re constantly thinking about “where do I put this” or “I can’t put this away because it won’t fit” and it ends up going on the floor. It bothers me when there’s an accumulation of a lot of things.
Bruce Lee said that in order to live with flow, to have a mind like water: “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water.”
To me, this also means to become free of extraneous thoughts and extraneous things that weigh you down. When I have simplified my space, my mind is open to be free and creative.
Was there anything silly or odd that you ended up purging?
Decluttering my craft supplies is always a surprising exercise. Crafters have a special term for the things they collect to craft with. We call it our “stash.” When I laid out all my craft supplies, I had all these ribbons, embroidery hoops, buttons, fabric, glitter, glitter spray, glitter glue, a bedazzler. Why!? Ok, the bedazzler I kept, I don’t know if that’s weird.
At the same time, collecting for my stash brings me joy, so while I try not to overdo it, I don’t purposefully force myself to stop adding to my collection.
My favorite find during a decluttering session was my oversized Howard Dean for President t-shirt. I took a picture of it then said goodbye to it.
What's the difference today in choosing the abundance mindset?
The abundance mindset made a huge shift in my life - especially around work. In the past, I worked to work. I worked to support myself in school. I worked to support having my own place. And then I realized, what was I working for?
Then I thought that I would figure out what I would want to do with my life by thinking about it - like it would happen magically. All I needed was a great idea! That does not work.
Going outside your comfort zone, being intentional, trying a lot of things and taking risks - these are the ways to take you in new directions - especially if you feel stuck at your job. You get to make choices of where you want to spend your time.
Sometimes these acts lead you to letting go of a job that is holding you back from where your energy can take you. With an abundance mindset, that’s ok because there’s a sense that you know you can find another job. It will be hard, it will be risky, but it’s not the end to leave a “good” job because it doesn’t serve you. You’re able to make decisions from what you know is right instead of from fear.
I’m grateful to have embraced this mindset and make decisions for myself to leave a job or two that wasn’t quite right. It’s lead me to grow and do new things, and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
Yes! I’m so minimal because I recognize that I have the power to make choices over what I bring into my life. I make the choice. Being intentional, being selective, being able to let go. To me, these practices are minimalism.
Before reading Marie Kondo, and a few other authors who talk about similar ideas, I had never asked myself the question “what activities bring you joy?” until I was at least 30 years old.
I don’t know if it was just the era I grew up in, but the idea was, if you didn’t like something you would “learn to like it” by doing it over and over. And that continuing to work on something that you didn’t enjoy was “good discipline.” I learned a lot from those experiences, but I rarely got to the positive side - like, if I truly don’t enjoy something, why do I continue to do it?
I’ve learned that forcing yourself to do something that isn’t serving you or bringing you joy, is what slowly hurts your spirit and your energy.
You might find something that is really weird, obscure, and bizarre and the only way to nurture and explore it is to spend time with it, and not feeling obligated to doing things that drag you down.
What's your advice to someone who's feeling the overwhelm and wants to start simplifying?
Stop with the information overload! When starting something new, it can be overwhelming just to start that new thing (what books should I read, classes to take, equipment to buy). Stop!
My advice is just to start doing it. Do something in the smallest way, in the best way you know how. Don’t worry about mistakes. Break it down - what’s one thing I can do now to just try it out?
And when you start simplifying, there are no rules. You’re not trying to get down to a certain number of shoes or books or cups.
Simplifying is a practice about making choices to add positive energy and release negative energy from your life, wherever it resides (stuff, work, relationships, food, information). You’re practicing your power of choice. Does this (thing, job, whatever) really add to my life? Does it support and nourish me? You get to decide.
This was an incredible interview! I love Kat’s approach to minimalism and how she has given herself permission to try new things, keeping what brings purpose to her life and shedding away what doesn’t.
Here are her book recommendations that are great guidebooks to making choices - each one covers a different aspect of life:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (obvi)
Getting Things Done (This is huge, how you process things. The best takeaway is if it takes less than five minutes, just do it.)
The War of Art
Win Forever by Pete Carroll (seems like an odd choice in this list but it’s inspiring - he talks his unique philosophy and also about how he got fired from several jobs before coaching the Seahawks. It shows that anyone can keep going, even when others don’t believe in them.)