Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: KonMari (page 2 of 3)

What I Learned From One Year of Minimalism

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I didn’t quite make my monetary goal for the year, but I learned an incredible amount that was far more valuable. Here, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned by trying to reduce “stuff” and obligations this year.

#1 – Marie Kondo can help you get organized

If you really want to reduce clutter and get your life organized, the KonMari method, which Marie Kondo outlines in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, is, by far, the best method to use.

Her method is simple.

  1. Discard “stuff” by considering things by category (clothing, books, papers, etc), NOT by room. Ask yourself if each item sparks joy. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. You’re left with a household of things you truly love. I was surprised by how many things I used to have that I rather disliked.
  2. Organize completely. Don’t buy anything fancy, just organize using the storage room you have and maybe a couple of shoeboxes.

I have yet to make it to the “organize completely” phase, but I have been floored by how well the “discard” phase works. Of all of the methods I tried this year, I found Marie Kondo’s to be the most useful. Her book is a quick read and I highly recommend it.

#2 – Clean 10 minutes a day

Set a timer and see how much you can clean in just 10 minutes. Do it every day. This is the only way I can keep my house reasonably clean and it’s really painless. I can get a lot done in 10 minutes and when that timer goes off, I’m done. No guilt for anything left out, I can get that tomorrow because I know I’ll have another 10-minute opportunity then. Some days I get so much done that I’m motivated to continue – not because I have to – but because I want to. This habit gives me a fresh start to every day and it’s really easy.

#3 – Wait 30 days before you buy something

I’m not talking about cereal or deodorant. Go ahead and buy those when you need them. However, for items that you’ll use over and over again (that will persist long after you purchase them) give yourself a chance to think twice about them. The 30-day rule lets you consider other options or do some research. It also shows you how much you want an item. If you can’t stop thinking about it for 30 days, then it’ll probably be something you enjoy for a long time, so buy it.

#4 – Increase automatic savings when you get a promotion

If you get a 3% raise and you’re already sending 8% of your paycheck to your 401(k), increase the amount you save to 9-11% right away when you get a raise. You’ll still feel like you got a raise (unless you’re very disciplined and save the entire thing – kudos to you), but you’ll also painlessly increase your savings, which could mean an extra six figures or more when you retire.

#5 – Experience gifts are awesome

It turns out that wine, chocolate, trips, and my personal favorite, massages, have become my favorite things to give and receive. Experience gifts are consumable; things that people use up, so they don’t stay around the house. They make the best presents because they build memories instead of a stockpile of “stuff”. The Minimalist Mom has a great list of 90 clutter-free gifts for any occasion.

#6 – Don’t throw away anything that doesn’t belong to you

Even kids notice when something is missing. If anyone catches you in the act of discarding something that’s not yours, the hit to his or her trust is massive. It’s not worth it and eventually #7 happens.

#7 – Your family will start de-owning stuff on their own

I think my husband jumped on board shortly after I’d cleared off my side of the dresser for the first time since we bought it. It looked like the border between Haiti & the Dominican Republic.

Haiti & The Dominican Republic

Our dresser looked like this…only in our case the bare side was the best. Photo Credit: National Geographic

Our closet also became easier to use. Eventually I noticed that he’d gone through his massive T-shirt collection and had thrown a bunch away. He didn’t tell me he did it, but he did. Finally, we sat down and considered the family DVD collection together.

When you first start to de-own, it can be really hard to do it alone, knowing that the dent you’re making is only a fraction of the total family “stuff”. We’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ve noticed my family jumping on board, slowly but surely. Nathan has even mentioned (with a hint of gratitude that he may never admit to) how much cleaner certain rooms are now.

#8 – Time is your most precious resource

Seriously. Assuming you have basic necessities covered, nothing else matters (well, except your health). My new goal is focused on carving out more time for the things that matter (including health) because time debt is no longer something I’m willing to live with.

#9 – Shopping for groceries online is the best lifehack ever

I save 1-1.5 hours each week by shopping for groceries online and then picking them up at the store. I also save loads of money because I can easily see my total and kick things out of my cart. There are just so many very cool ways that shopping for groceries online makes my life easier. The link above to my online grocery-shopping manifesto is worth checking out if you’d like to try it. I lay out all the pros and cons.

#10 – Minimalism ruins the fun of shopping

I can’t just make an impulse purchase anymore. For example, if I’m shopping for clothes, I can’t just buy the first shirt I like. No, now there’s a little voice inside my head asking annoying questions like, “Is this well-made?” “Is this versatile?” “Does it look amazing on me?” It’s a great voice, but sometimes I wish I hadn’t swallowed the red pill and changed my life forever.

#11 – It is impossible to get kids to get rid of stuff

Many will tell you they’ve succeeded in getting their kids to give away their toys. I’ll believe it when I figure out a way that works with my kids.

#12 – One extracurricular activity per week per family member is more than enough

This rule helps us all minimize the craziness that comes with too many obligations. It keeps us (the parents) from turning into a shuttle service and it helps us all prioritize what activities we really want to be involved in. I’ve also found that constricting activities to weekdays is helpful. That leaves our weekends freed up to explore and go on Family Adventure Days. Alison has soccer, Maddie is in gymnastics, and I stay late at work one night a week for yoga. Perhaps this only works because our kids are so young, but the rule works for us right now.

#13 – Minimalism is a journey

At first, I naively thought I could organize my entire life and then sit back and reap the rewards. Then the junk mail showed up and our kids had birthdays and received a bunch of presents. Freeing yourself from your stuff only works as well as your system for ensuring new stuff doesn’t catch you offhand. Figure out how you’ll defend yourself before you get started and you’ll have an easier time sticking to your wonderful new excess-free world.

One Year of Minimalism

I find it funny that my list naturally came out to an “unlucky” 13 items because I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon this project for the last year. It’s changed how I think about the world and how I make decisions daily. I am, without a doubt, living a life closer to my dream life. I am excited to continue it with a new goal and I’m glad that you’ve been reading.

Share this post if you know someone who could benefit from it!

New Year, New Goal: Happy Anniversary to my Minimalist Project!

One year ago this week, I set out to achieve a goal:

By September 22, 2015, I will “earn” $25K by reducing spending, getting rid of things we don’t need, or earning a little extra doing something I love.

That date was last Tuesday, so how did I do against that goal?!

I earned $10,330.51!!

Do I feel bad about missing the larger $25K goal? Absolutely not. This has been one of the best, most enlightening projects I’ve ever done! I also realized halfway through that tying this journey to a dollar amount was a pretty terrible idea.

#1 Lesson Learned

Why? Because it’s not the money that matters, the real reason to embrace having less “stuff” is that it leads directly to having more time.

Time to spend with the people you love

Time to travel

Time to learn a new hobby

Time to try a new recipe

Time to relax

Time to read

Time to learn

Time to be you.

Time is the only thing that matters and this year I’ve given myself a lot more time.

How I Saved $10,000

I also ended up saving a substantial amount of money that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Who wouldn’t want an extra $10,000? That’s huge! Where did that come from?

  • $1288.67: We refinanced into a lower cost mortgage in March and since then have saved over $1000.
  • $4219.77: This is the amount we’ve saved simply by not buying extra stuff we don’t need for the house (furniture, knick knacks, etc). It’s amazing to see this amount consolidated into one number. That’s a lot of money that I’m happy I still have.
  • $1410: We paid off our car with our tax return and have been saving the extra funds.
  • $3412.07: This is miscellaneous savings. Extra funds from coming in under budget on groceries, bills, and other budget categories. We saved most of the money from raises we were lucky enough to get this year, I sold a few things, and saved all of the interest earned on various accounts.

If I’d had more motivation to make money, I also would have tried harder to sell some of the items we de-owned. I have a huge pile downstairs of the things I’ve earmarked through the KonMari Method. The only reason this stuff is still around is – quite frankly – because I’m being a bit lazy. However, I like to think of my laziness simply as prioritizing time spent with the kids in the evening over making progress on this goal. It will be donated or sold by the end of the year.

Stuff We're Getting Rid Of

Stuff We’re Getting Rid Of This Year

New Goal

I loved this project so much that, for the next year, I’ve decided to continue it, but with a slightly different goal:

Over the next year (by Sept 30, 2016), I will finish organizing using the KonMari Method and then concentrate on finding at least two hours a day to work toward long-term goals such as starting my own business and writing a book.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and joined me in the past year! Especially my husband, Nathan, our two daughters and my friend, Jossie, who have all gone above and beyond in their support this year.

Here’s to another great year!

Marie Kondo’s Missing Miscellaneous Categories

Miscellaneous

A few weeks ago, I wrote about discarding items from Marie Kondo’s Miscellaneous Category. This category, which Kondo describes in her popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has taken me quite a long time. Not because it’s as difficult as finding and sorting all of the paper around the house, but because there are a lot of hidden “Miscellaneous” categories that you need to discover on your own.

Everyone’s Miscellanea is Different

In her book, Kondo lists the following sub-categories with which you should start:

  1. CDs, DVDs
  2. Skin care products
  3. Make-up
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc)
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely electric)
  7. Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc)
  8. Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc)
  9. Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc)
  10. Others (spare change, figurines, etc)

I’ve found a few extra categories that should also be considered.

Marie Kondo’s Missing Miscellaneous Categories

After I’d finished Kondo’s categories, I walked around the house and visited every drawer, looking for items that I hadn’t yet considered. Do these “spark joy”? Are these part of a whole new category I need to consider? Here are my additional categories.

  1. Holiday decorations
  2. Wrapping paper & ribbons
  3. Kids’ toys
  4. Wall furnishings (framed photos and paintings)
  5. Furniture
  6. Pet supplies
  7. Linens/blankets
  8. Towels
  9. Magnets (yes, we have a ton of magnets)
  10. Craft supplies
  11. Sports/Hobby equipment (each sport and hobby needs to be considered separately)
  12. Outgrown baby/children’s supplies
  13. Games/Cards

These are my missing miscellaneous categories. What are yours?

My Decluttering Kid Stuff Experiment

There is one major decluttering category I haven’t touched yet and it’s taking over our lives and causing the kind of stress that you only feel after stepping on another lego in bare feet. Following Marie Kondo and Joshua Becker’s advice, I haven’t touched (most) of the kids’ things (or Nathan’s actually, but he’s de-owned a few spaces on his own). I can’t even get the kids to help me sort through my things. Is there a pack rat gene? Because I’m pretty sure these kids have inherited one. My daughters are 5 and 2. Here’s how a typical conversation about de-owning goes in our house.

Me: “Girls, do you want to help me decide what we should give away in x room or category?”

Kids: “No, I want to keep ALL our/my stuff!”

Me: “But we aren’t using some of this stuff like, x!”

Kids: [Grabs the item and starts using it.] “We love x. Mom, don’t take away our stuff!”

Me: “Wouldn’t you like to give this to your cousin, Holly?”

Kids: “No!”

Me: “But it’s a baby toy.”

Kids: “Well, we’re babies [fake crying].”

Me: “But there are plenty of kids who don’t have as many things as we do. Don’t you want to help them?”

Kids: “No”

Me: [Disappointed look]

Kids: [Tears]

Now, to be fair, they are really good kids and in every other way would jump to the aid of anyone else in need. I just can’t figure out how to get them to give up their excess things! What do they think is going to happen? That I’ll take away all of the toys?

Finally Decluttering Kid Stuff

Maybe my kids are simply too young to understand what I’m trying to do, but I’m at my wits’ end. Their toys exploding in every corner of the house is causing all of us stress and I know it’s unhealthy for them. I decided to finally take matters into my own hands and try a decluttering kid stuff experiment.

The Experiment

This weekend, I grabbed all of the toys in our living room (which included a corner filled with them, a bookshelf, miscellaneous toys just lying places, and a toybox filled to the brim) and I took them all out. The whole room was practically covered in toys. Then, I started to place toys I knew the girls loved into shoeboxes (a KonMari organization trick) and watched carefully while they began to play with toys they hadn’t seen in months.

We did this for hours. I’d organize another set of toys and they’d move swiftly from one item to the next. Then I bagged up the toys they didn’t touch and set them aside.

De-Owning the Forgotten Toys

I plan to hold onto the bag of unused toys for a while to see if anyone misses them. I doubt they will. The toys in there are things I’ve rarely seen them touch, even when they were new. Getting rid of these is likely the right decision. I’ve also got a completely organized toybox and the kids have actually been putting toys away in their designated spots!

Our Organized Toybox

Our Organized Toybox

No Apologies, But Be Slick About It

I’m still learning how to handle de-owning with kids. I know that if they found the bag and found out what I wanted to do with it, they’d be mad. That’s why the bag is well hidden and I’ll be taking it directly to a donation center when I’m satisfied they won’t miss them. Life’s too short for too much stuff and eventually I think my kids will agree.

Do you have a technique that gets your kids excited about giving away their things? How do you do it?

Discarding Komono: Marie Kondo’s Miscellaneous Category

I’ve found the KonMari Method of organization, invented and popularized by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, to be an easily-followed breath of fresh air in the organizing world. For one, she emphasizes that you must first discard the things that don’t “spark joy” (which helps you on the road to rational minimalism). Secondly, she describes a method of organization that doesn’t require you to buy a bunch of fancy storage units from the Container Store. I’ve been having (yes, I’ll admit it) fun going through each category and experiencing the real difference it’s making in our house. I’ve done clothes, books, and papers (part I and part 2) so far. Now it’s time for the “Miscellaneous” category which Kondo calls komono. It’s really a dozen mini-categories wrapped into one.

I am halfway through discarding komono.

Marie Kondo’s Miscellaneous Categories

They’re called “komono”, or random things you keep for no apparent reason. Here’s what Kondo specifically calls out:

  1. CDs, DVDs
  2. Skin care products
  3. Make-up
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc)
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely electric)
  7. Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc)
  8. Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc)
  9. Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc)
  10. Others (spare change, figurines, etc)

What Else?

As you can imagine, everyone’s komono categories are different. In addition to Marie Kondo’s official categories you’ve also got to be savvy and figure out what you haven’t discarded yet that’s not sentimental. Do you have a hobby that wasn’t covered? Or a sport? What about your furniture, does it spark joy? At the end of this list, in my opinion, you’ll still need to walk around the house and uncover a bunch of categories that haven’t been touched. Throughout this book, I get the feeling that Americans just have WAY more excess stuff than the Japanese, which is why I suspect that we’ll have WAY more komono categories.

What I’ve Done

Kondo doesn’t go into a lot of details on komono. So far, I’ve gone through numbers 1-6 and here’s what I did.

CDs, DVDs (“Joint De-owning”)

I sat down with my husband right after we did books and went through DVDs together, because DVDs seemed like a logical next step and many of our movies are shared. He looked at them first and if they didn’t spark joy for him, then I got to decide whether it stayed or went. This “joint de-owning” technique actually worked quite well and Nathan ended up continuing to de-own a large set of his own books after that. I was thrilled.

My CDs were a bit different. I’d already gotten rid of all of their packaging. Now, I just looked through them and got rid of the ones that truly didn’t spark joy. I also made a mental note to upgrade my music player so I could completely get rid of my CDs in the future.

Discarding CDs

Skin Care Products & Make-up

I did skin care products and make-up together with medicines because I felt they were basically all one category and I didn’t think I had very many left. Boy, was I wrong.

Products & Medicine

Products & Medicine

I not only kept the things that “sparked joy”, but also kept the items we were actively using and discarded items that had expired. I wrote the year on all of the sunscreen that I know we bought this year and threw away the rest. I have no idea how we accumulated so many half-used sunscreen bottles.

Accessories

What is this category? Didn’t we already de-own accessories when we worked through the clothing? I have no idea what Kondo meant by accessories in this context and so I just skipped this category.

Valuables

Passports, credit cards, and other things that are important fall into this category. I basically went through all of these during the paper purge because many of these are kept with my valuable paperwork.

All I had to do was go through my wallet and make sure I didn’t have any old cards. I suppose if you have an excessive amount of credit cards, you should cut some of them up at this point. I only have three: my VISA, my back-up VISA that I keep around mostly because it’s my oldest account, and my Target card. Purge the expired cards and sell the gift cards you know you’ll never use.

Electrical Equipment & Appliances

This category took longer than expected. First throw away broken appliances and appliances that don’t spark joy. Then, throw away any leftover boxes your appliances came in. Finally, go through your cords. If you don’t know what a cord belongs to, throw it out. It’s easier to go buy a cord you really need than to search for it in a heap of useless cords. Label the cords you use.

How Long Does This Take?

All of this took me an afternoon. I’m halfway through the list. My house is in much better shape. Now, if only I could get my kids to embrace KonMari too because the largest pile of uncharted “stuff” left is quickly becoming toys.

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