Transformation Tuesday: The Minimalist Game!

After doing a major household purge and KonMari-ing my things over two years ago, I didn't think that I had too much left to let go of.

Think again! While I am much more conscientious about what I bring into my home, there were still little things I held on to without realizing it.

I decided it would be fun to play the minimalism game to kick off the new year. You can follow the adventures of purging on my Instagram and play along!

The quick run-down on how to play:

  1. Get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second, and so on
  2. Anything can go! (this is helpful when you are purging over ten items a day and need to clear out paper/receipts)
  3. Whoever keeps it up the longest, wins

While I don't feel like I have big, bulky items taking up space, the small things really add up:

  • Baking accessories - frosting tips that were duplicates (or triplicates!), extra pans that I don't use (and I have a fabulous neighbor I can always borrow one from)
  • Tools - so many duplicates and random items that still need to be sorted (need to go through a bin with my partner in case he wants to keep any items)
  • Fridge - right after the holidays, it was great to feel like there's a fresh start and really think about using up what I have (and doing a clean sweep of expired stuff)
  • Office supplies - again, so much excess!
 
 

This challenge has also helped me get rid of a couple items I let linger in the garage, namely some shelving and a water filter that I was recycling for a client. I felt accountable to getting as much out same-day as I could so I made a point to schedule time to recycle the wire shelves at the transfer station and make my way to Whole Foods for their filter recycling program.

These were nagging tasks that were taunting me because they were staring at me every time I used the car! I'm also thinking more about my gut reaction toward things I'm keeping - do I really love it? How useful is it? If I need it again, can I borrow from a friend?

253 items have exited the house so far! If I keep this up through the 31st, the house will be 496 things lighter - WOW! 

Are you playing the Mins Game this year or have you played before? How long did you last? Let me know in the comments!

Meet the Minimalist: Heather Fisher

A couple months ago, I was chatting with my friend Heather over coffee. We were talking about how my business was going and she shared some very touching words with me about how much the work we had done together in her home had such an impact for her. With Heather, it never felt like work - we were problem-solving the space and customizing it for her, from how she moves through the space to how to best organize so she can enjoy her hobbies, work on projects, you name it.

I wanted to hear more from her because she has been on an incredible journey of downsizing her stuff over time. I think this relates to so many people out there and illustrates how this is an ongoing process, it’s not just “one and done” with a space.

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When did you begin simplifying?

I attempted right before grad school but things sort of spiraled out of control during that time. I had less and less time to take care of everything.

You came over to borrow something and I had mentioned the KonMari book. We started talking about how simplifying can look different for everyone. You were really enthusiastic about it and offered to help me.

I related organizing work to the body trust movement - what works for one person isn’t necessarily a fix for someone else. I think there’s been several areas of my life that I had these long-held beliefs that I should fit into a box that other people seem to fit into. Food, career, school - when I started looking at the body trust movement, I realized that it’s totally individual. What works for one body doesn’t work for another and this translates to so many other domains in life.

 

What was the first domain you explored in the body trust movement?

Emotional. There’s this sense of shame about certain things you are doing that don’t match what you see on TV and you don’t ask for help, you hide things from the people around you.

My anxiety and stress levels were increasing and it had control over me. I wasn’t having people over because I felt bad about my home. That was what really helped me allow you to help me - there was no judgment and you really wanted to help find the best vision for my home. It wasn’t something you just said to get buy-in. You were gracious when I wasn’t ready to get rid of things. It was really helpful, especially as a therapist, the respect you gave me of talking through something on whether to keep or toss something.


What were the key domains you were able to focus on through the simplifying process?

My kitchen! I love cooking and it is really a form of self-care for me, making good and healthy foods. Attacking the kitchen first was great. You helped me get to the places I couldn’t reach and pull everything out to review and assess.

This allowed me to start cooking again and it’s something I really enjoy and love doing.


Has paring down the physical stuff helped in other areas of your home?

Now when I come home from work, I don’t see 15 things that I have to take care of. It feels easier and the on-going projects I have are more manageable. Having assigned homes for things has made a huge difference.

 

Do you still struggle with household clutter?

There are still areas that I haven’t gotten to yet. I also struggle with empty, flat surfaces. When I get home and am in a hurry, it’s so ingrained in me to drop things on a surface before I run off. I have to intentionally go through each week and put things back. It’s definitely a form of self-care to make this time because I know that otherwise, it will stress me out when I have even less time to take care of it and it gets back into a vicious cycle that repeats itself.

 
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What have been some of the biggest changes as a result paring down and reviewing all your things?

Being able to get a dog! I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that with the clutter I had before.

In grad school, I had ridiculously elevated stress and cortisol levels. My doctor suggested getting an animal to help with this. The last couple quarters of school were so crazy and this seemed like something I just couldn’t do … and I didn’t want to add on to my current stress load.

I started looking at foster sites, but I would look over my computer screen and notice all the clutter, even unsafe stuff that could fall on a dog. Once we started clearing things, I was able to take the next step of actually meeting dogs.

I met Jules who was an older dog at a shelter, rescued from a hoarder’s house, ironically. The shelter staff hadn’t seen him connect with an owner like this before. At the home inspection, I felt really comfortable because we had decluttered so much and I knew my home would pass.

My stress finally leveled out and having him as a companion was so wonderful. I had someone to come home to, to sit by my side when I studied.


What do you want others to know about the process/experience of simplifying?

In your work and in my work as a therapist, we are facilitating the change, and our mentality and techniques make all the difference.

With you coming into my home, which is very personal and vulnerable to someone, and feeling shameful about my space, you were not judgmental, you were gracious, you challenged things needed to be challenged and backed off when I wasn’t ready to go there.

You came to my house and offered the “how” - I didn’t have to think about that. We identified the kitchen as the most powerful place. Once we did one area, I saw that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, things moved faster than expected, and it was a lot easier to move on to another area.


What do you feel confident about doing on your own now?

I had done a lot of purging using the KonMari method but then needed help going through the things that I thought I wanted but didn’t really have a home for. Now there’s an assigned place for these things to go. Once I clear off a surface, I know where to put things and don’t have to reorganize a whole system of things.

I just remind myself when I put dishes in the sink and am getting ready to walk away that it only takes a minute to do - and I’ll be a lot happier about having done them.


What advice do you have for someone who wants to start minimizing/paring down?

You have to make space for things you want in your life - time to tidy up your room, make healthy food during the week, go for a walk and not feel guilty you aren’t doing something else. This is key for designing the life you want.

It all boils down to a worthiness issue. This is especially true of people working in service-based jobs. We are quick and eager to make and hold space for other people, but we are pretty reluctant and resistant to doing this for ourselves. It feels almost selfish to do so. This is the shift - I’m worthy to do this important work for myself.

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It truly was an honor to interview Heather and hear her perspective on how a kitchen clean-out could bring about so much positive change. I’ve seen Heather get excited about tidying (!) since we first began working together. She took all my tips to heart and was able to identify so much on her own as she began to clear other spaces over time.

If you want to get more insight into Heather’s work, check out this interview with her and follow along with her 365 grateful posts on Instagram. A few years ago, she realized  she had been waiting for big things happen while all these “small moments” were going unrecognized. Seeing another friend’s posts about the little things in the everyday, happening all around us was a good reminder to be intentional, taking time to photograph it and be grateful.

 

Meet the Minimalist: Sarah Kirsch

A few months ago, I was obsessively watching YouTube videos and Pinteresting pixie cuts in my research for the perfect cut. I stumbled across Sarah Kirsch’s Instagram, better known as Sarah Chambray.

I immediately was drawn to her aesthetic and her beautiful feed of pictures highlighting her love of capsule wardrobes, beauty and fashion, and all things chambray.

I wanted to learn more about how the fashion blogger started simplifying her wardrobe so I reached out and she graciously agreed to meet up!

It was so fun to sit down with her chat about capsule closets, KonMari inspiration, and how she wants to approach designing her own line.

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How did you first get into capsule wardrobes?

Someone mentioned it and I looked it up. One of the first bloggers I found who covered capsule wardrobes was Unfancy. I liked their blog for the explanation and it seemed like a really cool idea.

In fashion school, we were designing practice clothing lines and that idea, from a design standpoint, was really intriguing to simplify things down to one or two styles of an item. Instead of a focusing on fashion cycles four times a year, what if it was was only once a year? Things that can be layered, winter items can also transfer to summer.

Later on, I heard an interview with The Minimalists on a podcast and then attended a Project 333 event in Portland. I had already been doing a semi-capsule wardrobe and then decided to commit to it. I took my wardrobe down to about 40 items. As soon as summer hit, I took out my box of summer clothes to see what I wanted to wear. I went through my summer stuff and realized I didn’t really love any of it! You just sort of collect things thinking “this will work.”
 

 

What has changed in your approach to dressing/shopping/reviewing your wardrobe?

I had bought things that were fun and trendy, but then I didn’t really like it or the way it fit. I really am better in finding joy in not purchasing. I like admiring an item, enjoying the feel of the fabric … and then putting it back. Definitely a KonMari thing.

I’m still shopping but in a more intentional way and truly able to find joy in admiring things rather than buying them.

 

How does this impact other parts of your life?

We have a second bedroom at home and it’s really easy to dump things there. I’ve been trying to be good at regularly going through stuff and pare down.

I have a separate sewing studio with all kinds of bins and when they fill up, it means it’s time to go through it.

 

How has the capsule wardrobe and KonMari movements influenced you as a fashion designer?

I want to design a collection and be more intentional about how I have set things up for my studio.

I grew up doing my back-to-school shopping in thrift stores. It’s so easy to buy cheap things. I would rescue clothes and love giving them new life. I realize I can’t rescue all the clothes!

I’ve always loved fashion and that shopping high from buying stuff. Working on Hawthorne, there are so many thrift shops available. I would drop in and get all these amazing things and would buy, not being very choosy about what I brought home. I’ve found that the KonMari method and minimalist philosophy helps guide shopping habits to keep them in check - don’t buy 20 things! It just isn’t necessary.

If I see something I really want, I will wait a day before going in to ask the price. I try to think about what it can go with that I already own, how versatile it is, if I have shoes that go with it. I was used to always saving that one shirt that only went with one pair of pants. For the most part, I’ve been good at purging and replenishing quickly. Nowadays, I’m just not replenishing right away.

 
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Who are some of the designers and brands that you like?

The new Gucci stuff that is heavily embroidered; it’s almost too much visually but it works somehow!

I see a lot of local people doing cool things. I really like MOORE, she has a strong, edgier street aesthetic, very different from what I wear day-to-day, but I have a piece mixed into my wardrobe that’s really fun.

I like to shop Brass. They do different sizing so you can see how it fits people differently and with different outfits; you see people who look like you!

I like Everlane, Madewell jeans (they just fit me so well!), One Imaginary Girl, and Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange are my regular go-to’s for thrifting.

 

What do you want to focus on aesthetic-wise with designing your own line?

I want to create stuff that can work for capsule wardrobes but for people who don’t want to wear tunics all the time.Think nice button up shirts with interesting collar details. Basics but with fun and interesting things on them. I love softer colors like baby blue and pink. I want to bring a fresher, different option. Clothes don’t have to be boxy and boring to be versatile.

Oh, and pockets on everything! Two dress styles, with long and short sleeves, button ups, knit hats. A few things where it’s simple enough to produce on my own or outsource if needed. I love classically shaped pieces with a touch of feminine whimsy.

 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to simplify their closet / wardrobe and explore slow fashion?

Start with shopping your own closet first, KonMari style, where you throw it all on the bed and look at each item individually. I looked at all my shirts and really only wear four of them! From there, you start to see holes form and you realize what’s missing and what you want to replenish. Start keeping your eye open for those items that will tie multiple outfits together.

Everlane is great choice for a mid-range price point and they are super transparent about their practices. Brass focuses on clothing for capsule wardrobes.

I love the Jamie + the Jones’ raw silk tops (which start around $170) but super beautiful. I’ll  save up for a really special garment that’s handmade, easy to care for.

Last fall, I experimented with wearing the same “uniform” of a white tee shirt and jeans with different sweaters. I accessorized with jewelry and scarves to change things up. No one realized I was wearing the same thing and I realized that no one really cares what you are wearing, which is crazy to think about!

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See what Sarah is up to and head over to her blog for the latest on fashion and beauty. I’m in love with her Instagram which features lots of pastels, hair and beauty inspiration.