Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Month: November 2015

Four Sane Ways to Celebrate Black Friday

Utah HikingBy “celebrate Black Friday”, I mean ignore it. Here are a few great ways to spend your time off that won’t overwhelm you with useless stuff or bleed your wallet dry.

Opt Outside

I am a huge fan of REI’s #OptOutside campaign. Not only do I believe in having less stuff, I believe in the amazing power of getting outside. Kudos to REI for closing its doors on Black Friday and urging people to spend time outdoors! Hiking is an awesome fall sport. If you’re lucky enough to have snow already, find a place that rents snowshoes or go sledding. Go for a walk or a run. Go to the zoo. I may not do an all-day hike, but I’ll probably take my daughters to the playground on Friday. I love, love, love #optoutside. Thanks, REI.


My family’s Christmas cookie recipe takes three leisurely days to make and I have three days off after Thanksgiving. The kids and I are super-excited about baking cookies this year – an activity that has become a welcome tradition (despite all of the hard work involved).

Baking Cookies

Make a Donation

Help someone else by clearing out some room in your home! I’m finally going to take a huge trunk-full of the items I set aside this year to Goodwill. Yelp and The Washington Post have a great list of places to donate in DC. Apartment Therapy has a list for the entire country.

And don’t forget about donating blood or getting ORGANized (by pledging to donate organs at Both take very little time and could save a life.

Family Fun Day

Too cold to get outside? Make Friday a cozy indoor family fun day. Make some popcorn, watch a movie, play a board game, or do a Power Hour together and get some nagging tasks done! We spend so much time running around. Why not stop and pledge to enjoy one whole day without obligations?

What will you do this weekend?

How to Digitize, then Purge Handwritten Notes

The latest research shows that taking handwritten notes (versus typing notes on a laptop) helps us learn better and retain knowledge longer. However, what do you do with all those handwritten notes, which pile up over the years?

Marie Kondo, in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, encourages you to integrate the learnings into your life, then throw the notes away.

Kondo says, “It’s paradoxical, but I believe that precisely because we hang onto such materials, we fail to put what we learn into practice.”

She’s right, however, knowledge in our daily lives comes at you quickly – faster than you can process it – and sometimes it’s nice to have that external memory to refer to.

How to Digitize & Organize Your Notes

Today, it’s easier than ever to digitize your notes. Digitizing allows you to free up space in your home and access the notes from anywhere at anytime.

The easiest way to digitize your notes is with your smartphone. Take a picture of each page and upload them to the app of your choice.

Purge Handwritten Notes

Google Drive “Getting Things Done” Folder

I use Google Drive to organize my notes. I take plenty of notes by hand while I read on the bus. Until now, I kept them all in a folder and only had access to them when I was at home. Now, I have a folder in Google Drive called Book Notes and under that, I have a folder for each book I’ve read that includes my handwritten notes, plus any extra materials that I’ve found to be useful in connection with the book. For instance, I recently found my Getting Things Done notes, plus a copy of the workflow and weekly review instructions; all of them hidden away in a folder I never checked. Now, I can look at these any time on my laptop or phone. I’ve already shared the workflow with one of my co-workers who happened to ask how I keep my inbox at zero all the time.

Everyone has their favorite place to store documents. Lots of people swear by Evernote, which allows you to upload handwritten notes right in the Evernote app and easily organize them with a plethora of other documents.

I also use Trello quite a bit, which allows you to upload photos into cards that can be moved around between lists (To Do, Books to Read, etc). I use Trello for my master to do list.

Purge Handwritten Notes with Trello

Disney To Do List, Neatly Captured in Trello

Purge Handwritten Notes

Once you’ve uploaded the notes, you’ll never need the physical copies again. Recycle them and reclaim some space.

Be Picky

Digitizing can take a long time if you are uploading, for instance, a whole semester’s worth of notes. Look for the main pages that explain the important points from a class or book and just upload those. You’ll never want to sift through a whole notebook’s worth of notes again – who has the time?

Digital clutter is still clutter, so as you’re uploading your notes, be picky about what you keep. If you haven’t used the notes in years and can’t think of a reason to pull them out again, get rid of them. Marie Kondo would be proud.

What are your favorite apps for organizing your digital notes?

Great Minimalist Blogs (Plus Three Books & A Group)

Over the past year, as I’m researching topics or getting advice from friends, I’ve found a few good minimalist blogs that I thought I’d pass along.

Becoming Minimalist

If you need a dose of inspiration to pursue a life with less stuff, try Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist. He’s been living a life of rational minimalism for years in Arizona with his family. His posts are usually not very tactical, but are always motivational. Start with this blog if you need to be convinced of the merits of minimalism or if you need an infusion of inspiration to move forward on your own journey. Becker has also written the best book I’ve found yet on embracing minimalism with kids, Clutterfree with Kids and his book Simplify, which I’ve never read is constantly hitting the non-fiction best-sellers list on Amazon.

Zen Habits

This is not strictly a blog about minimalism; it’s a blog about changing your everyday habits for the better. In his blog, Zen Habits, Leo Babauta writes about topics ranging from how to get out of a funk to how to lose weight and keep it off. He’s developed a menagerie of habits that make life sweeter, and he discusses in detail how to make good habits and how to break bad ones. This is currently one of my favorite blogs because Babauta outlines concrete steps to help readers form better habits. I’m currently using his advice on leveling up to gain healthier eating habits and lose weight.

Minimalist Mom

I subscribed to The Minimalist Mom last year when Rachel Jonat was not writing much due to the birth of her third child. Then she moved from the Isle of Man to Vancouver and suddenly her posts have become regular and fairly relevant. She usually writes about something specific, like getting a smaller fridge or a new second-hand clothing website that she’s found. If you’re a parent, this is a great place to get ongoing ideas for life with your kids.

Marie Kondo

I haven’t been following any ongoing dialogue from Kondo, but her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is by far the best way to reduce stuff and get organized. I love, love, love her book and the KonMari Method. The book is a somewhat quirky and indispensible must-read for anyone trying to create a life with less.

Find Other Minimalists in DC or Your City

I also follow The Minimalists and, while I don’t usually find their blog entries useful (they focus more on their tours, books, and upcoming documentary), one thing they’ve done well is to establish minimalist groups in major cities across the country. There’s one in DC. To join, like the Washington, DC facebook page and you’ll be invited to meet-ups about once a month. You’re also treated to random articles found by the club members. I’ve enjoyed lurking on the site for a while and someday hope to join a group meeting.

Which blogs inspire you?

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