Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Category: Minimalist (page 1 of 8)

Birthday Time!

birthday presents

Remember when you were a kid and it was your birthday?

Did you wake up early to find a heaping pile of presents waiting for you next to your spot at the table?

Did it seem like an eternity before your parents woke up, cooked breakfast, got ready, and finally declared that it was time to open presents?

Do you remember each and every gift you ever got?

Did you always get what you wanted?

Did you cherish each item?

Did you play with them all year?
For a few days?
A few hours?
A minute?
Not at all?

Are your memories more about the anticipation, the excitement, and the fun of having and opening presents?

Do you remember the event more than what you got?

I do. There are very few presents that I actually remember receiving for my birthday. I remember the tricycle I got when I was three. I came around the corner to the kitchen and there it was.

I also remember the birthday before I moved to Rochester, MN for my first internship when I got a bunch of pots and pans, a strainer, and toilet paper (yes, toilet paper). I was thrilled!

But mostly I just remember getting presents, not having them. I remember the fun event; the experience.

My oldest daughter turns 6 years old today and she’s also got a pile of presents. She’ll be getting three sets of legos, a scooter, some clothes, and a few other random items from her loving extended family. Then she’ll have a party tomorrow and she’ll get more things. In five years, she probably won’t remember any of them.

What if next year I asked everyone to get her an experience gift? A ticket or photo or teaser of the experience could still be wrapped up, but instead of clogging our closets, the presents would clog her memory bank and photo albums.

Would she then remember our presents and not just the event?

5 Things I Learned from the Minimalism Documentary

On May 25th, a new friend, Nuria, invited me to watch the new Minimalism Documentary from The Minimalists and lead a Q&A session afterwards. The movie was sold out and FANTASTIC!

Kudos to Ryan Nicodemus & Joshua Fields Millburn, who put the movie together and have been tireless proponents of minimalism for several years. The film couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d been a bit lazy about minimizing and had put the KonMari method on hold. I needed an infusion of inspiration and I got it! Here are the top 5 things I learned at the screening.

5 Things I Learned from the Minimalism Documentary

#1 There is a whole community of minimalists out there!

This showing and many others across the country were SOLD OUT and, although it ended late on a Wednesday night, we had 40-50 people stay for the Q&A session afterwards. Everyone in that room had amazing questions and experiences that they shared freely. It felt refreshing and reaffirming to find myself among so many smart, like-minded people. I feel honored to be part of the minimalist community in DC!

#2 There is something called “Essentialism”

One of the questions asked after the film was, “What’s the difference between Minimalism and Essentialism?” I actually didn’t know the answer, but a woman in the front row did and explained it beautifully. Minimalism is the pursuit of less stuff, while essentialism is the practice of doing less with your time. With essentialism, you focus on doing only the most important things and free up your life to really make an impact. THAT is exactly what I need. I picked up the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown and am about 25% of the way through it. It’s amazing. Greg is the real deal. He’s been there, done that, and promises to set forth a disciplined approach for choosing what’s important and getting rid of the rest of your obligations.

Essentialism is minimalism for your time!

#3 Ryan & Joshua Weren’t Successful Immediately

There’s a really funny sequence in the film that shows Ryan and Joshua sitting by themselves at book signings or in sparsely-populated rooms with a few people skeptically asking questions. Over time, more and more people start to show up, The Minimalists get asked onto major television shows, and the crowds get bigger and bigger. However, it took a looooooong time for them to get to that point. That’s an important lesson for those of us just starting out on a journey. Keep going. Do what you love and think is right and don’t stop, no matter how tough it is in the beginning.

#4 We’re Relatively Silent

It dawned on me that with so many minimalists out there (and/or minimalist-sympathizers), we’re a relatively silent bunch. Yes, there are people like Ryan and Joshua and Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta, but for every outspoken minimalist, there are thousands more. They are doing every day things (going to work, coming home, living in normal neighborhoods, and have a lot of friends that don’t consider themselves minimalists). Becker often writes about rational minimalism. That’s what a lot of us are doing. We haven’t gotten rid of everything, but we are living with less and constantly trying to simplify our lives. I don’t share this blog with all of my friends, but I probably should. Those that know have been incredibly supportive (and even call me out on buying things occasionally, which is helpful!)

#5 Just do it.

I look at people like Ryan and Joshua and I think, wow, they’ve done a lot in the last few years (books, movie, tours, moved to Montana), how am I ever going to catch up? But then I sit back and remind myself that that’s not the point. I don’t need to catch up. At one point in time they decided to make a change in their lives and they never looked back. That’s what we all need to do too.

Go get started.


Minimalism Documentary: May 25th @ Gallery Place

If you haven’t seen the new Minimalism Documentary (Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things) from The Minimalists, there’s still a chance to see it in our area. It shows this Wednesday, May 25th @ 7:30pm @ Gallery Place Stadium 14. Book your tickets here! I’ll be hosting a Q&A session on minimalism after the show.

Are you on the fence? Check out the movie trailer below. If you live outside of DC, find a showing near you here.

Hope to see you there!

Saying No

Saying NoA few months ago I was promoted into a new job and I became the manager of the team on which I’d worked.

I won’t lie or sugarcoat this: the last few months have been rough. Instead of being an individual contributor on one team, I’m now expected to continue the duties I had (because our team didn’t grow in a way that allowed me to give up my responsibilities), be part of a leadership team, and acquire still more tasks related to that team. Two teams make it feel like I have two full-time jobs.

I haven’t been handling it well (or, at least, not the way I’d wanted). I used to love solving problems for people (even if it meant performing boring admin work), but now there’s so much on my plate that I need to force myself to block time to get the big career-moving stuff done. I’ve never been this overwhelmed in my life and it is imperative that I get better at saying no. I wrote this blog partially to brainstorm ways to do that better.

When to Say No

Seth Godin, Marketer Extraordinaire and writer of one of my favorite daily blogs, read my mind and published this insightful post about when to say No. Read it! I’ve printed it out and put it on my desk as a daily reminder not of what I should say no to, but what I MUST say no to.

How to Say No

That brings me to another tough problem. How, when you love to help people, can you politely say no? I’ve found the key is to keep it short and simple. Don’t try to explain yourself because that just gives the requester some room to try to change your mind. Here is my own list of ways to say no, which I’m happy to report I have been using a lot more lately.

  • Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I don’t have enough time to do this right now.
  • No thank you, I’m doing x instead and I loooove x. (This works well as a serious comment or a sarcastic one.)
  • I’m sorry, I know I won’t be able to focus on this and do a good job. I have to decline.
  • I can’t do this for you, but check with <insert someone’s name who can help>. (Don’t rely on this method too often or you’ll just overwhelm someone else.)
  • Why does this need to be done?
  • Here are the other things I’m working on, can you help me prioritize all these tasks? (This one is most appropriate when talking to your manager.)
  • <pause, as if you’re actually considering the task> No, I can’t.
  • No thank you, I can’t justify adding this to my plate right now.
  • Great idea! Why don’t you do that?
  • Come back later. (If you really want to help, but can’t at the moment.)

Are you saying no often enough? How are you saying it?

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?

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