Subconscious Minimalism

Coffee and flowers shot
Maintaining a minimalistic lifestyle even when you're not paying attention.

There's a misnomer that to be a minimalist, you have to constantly be giving things away or minimalizing your life. That this - owning as little as possible - is all you think about.

Come on. There comes a point when you've downsized every part of your life to perfection. And when that happens, all you have to do is maintain it.

I can hear you say, "But what if that consumeristic lifestyle creeps back in? What if I start buying and not purging? What if I stop becoming a minimalist?"

Okay, for that to happen - especially if you've strategically and knowingly changed your habits at work and home - you'd have to become someone else. As in, your old self. 

And in case you haven't noticed, we're constantly evolving. We humans adapt and change, but we also know what's important and remember what we like, or want to keep in our lives. 

We may fall victim to a shopping whim occasionally, but when we've discovered it's as pleasurable not to buy as it is to buy, it's going to be very tough falling back into old routines.

If minimalism is important to you, you can still love to shop. But buying everything you want isn't a part of the shopping plan anymore. Instead, you pick and choose - and you choose with great care - an item, whether it's clothing or a dish, that you're bringing back into your home.

If you're like me and have slowly transformed your life to one of minimalistic joy, where things have become less important than the people around you, it's going to be difficult to fall off the consumeristic wagon.

Once you see how much happier and freer you are as a minimalist, going out to buy an outfit, or a pair of shoes (or in my case, one more mug to my vintage mug collection) isn't going to revert me back to my old ways of consumerism.

I'm not suddenly going to forget about how much I love having less in my home! No way. It just won't happen.

So put your mind to rest.

Here's how you can maintain minimalism - and not stress about reverting back to consumerism - even when you're not paying attention.

One-in-One-Out Rule: By far and away, this is the best rule I've picked up through my minimalism journey. If I have something that wears out, like a pair of shoes, then there's zero guilt in replacing it. I've not increased the number of items in my closet but merely replaced it. And that way my love for shoes (because yes, I do have a serious love for shoes) stays at a level that is manageable for me. 

Here's another example. I have a huge love for vintage mugs as well, so when I find them (thrifting is how I find all of them or at a lucky garage sale) I make sure that if I buy a mug, it needs to replace one I have, or it's replacing one that broke (which happens). 

Rarely, I will add one to my collection without giving one away. It's unusual though. I don't have any more room to add to my collection, and I know I can't possibly use all the mugs I already have. I want to use all the mugs, but realistically, it's not possible. So, that keeps me in line as well. If I use the one-in-one-out rule, there's really no way to go back to my old ways of living.

Less is More Aesthetic: Once I've become accustomed to owning less and loving the way it looks, I get a huge boost of serotonin when I see what I've created. I am so happy to walk into my closet and see everything tidy, lined up, and all used on the regular. None of my clothing isn't worn. None of my shoes aren't worn. Every belt, every sweater, and every tank top in my closet is loved and appreciated.

The bonus of owning less is a clean and neat home. When my home is clean, I'm happy. When I'm happy, my family is happy. Owning less, once I know what I truly love and want to be around, is a pleasurable experience. Why would I walk away from that?

Now that I live in calm, beautiful, and intentional spaces, I don't want to go back to any other way of living. (There may be moments of temporary chaos, things may pile up, and stress and circumstances may change, but it's not hard to get back to the routine of a clean aesthetic when the stress is gone, and my circumstances are back to normal.) 

I've come to love the minimalistic aesthetic and that's the only way I want it.

Read about Minimalism: One way to keep minimalism in my life, even now that I'm done getting rid of everything in my home that doesn't belong there, is to read about it. (And in my case, write about it.) There are many websites devoted to minimalism. All you have to do is a quick Google search and see that there is far more data out there than we can possibly read on the subject.

I read books, signed up for a couple newsletters, read other articles and blog posts, and make it a part of my daily reading. Reading about what I want - by seeing and studying what other people do - helps me in my daily quest to maintain minimalism.

It's not boring, or taxing, either. It's like drinking eight glasses of water or exercising. I've made it a part of my life because I know it's good for me and because of that, my life is simple, gratifying, and at the level of minimalism that works for me.

I just read Joshua Becker's short Kindle book called Simplify. I've read all of his books and I highly recommend them, but this one is short and sweet, and a great one to have on hand if you struggle to stay on track.

When you make minimalism a part of your everyday life, and you do this for months and eventually years, even if you have to make purchases - even if you want to make purchases - this won't upend your work of living with less.

You can get right back in the saddle, dig your minimalism spurs in, and keep moving forward.

Swedish Death Cleaning │Margareta Magnusson

 A few months ago, I read a fantastic book about Swedish Death Cleaning, colloquially called "Dostadning" in Swedish.

I'd heard of this concept years ago but hadn't realized it is essentially minimalism. The Swedish figured out that minimalistic living is the way to live and for good reason.

Swedish Death Cleaning is kind of what it sounds like: it's about cleaning and death. 

Only, it's all good. It's really a way to truly live before death arrives. Here's a definition: Swedish death cleaning is a method of organizing and decluttering your home before you die to lessen the burden of your loved ones after you've passed. Usually older people or those battling a terminal illness partake in Swedish death cleaning.

Since beginning my minimalism quest, I've read many books on minimalism. This one is that, but it deals directly with doing minimalism as a way to alleviate the future pain that you or your family won't have to endure. This book is called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, written by Margareta Magnusson.

I love this woman's books for many reasons. But one of the best reasons is this: her books are small. They're succinct, to the point, hilarious, and practical. Her pages aren't filled with repeated points, or unnecessary diatribes. Her chapters are organized, and simple, and she gives practical examples and advice.

The bonus? She has a wicked sense of humor.

Unlike other minimalism books, even if the goal is to prevent your family from having to deal with your stuff, this one comes right out and says it from the start. Make your life minimal before death has the chance to take you and leave the miserable task of cleaning up after you.

The point of Swedish minimalism cleaning is specifically so you won't have to deal with your trash when you're dying... nor will your family. It's a way to free yourself (and your family) from a lifetime of clutter and stuff that no one needs or will need.

Magnusson is probably in her 90s, but we're not positive. She doesn't specify that and I think that's awesome. 

If you're 21, read her book.

If you're 91, read her book. 

The Art of Aging Exuberantly book
Then, go on to read her other book, The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly. I read this one a few weeks ago. Just as witty and funny as the Swedish Death Cleaning book, this one is filled with more tidbits of minimalism and cleaning, as she opens up about how to live a happy and free life through aging. I loved reading through her experiences. This woman knows how to live.

Though she lives in a different country than the country I grew up in, I see the differences and take them with a grain of salt. But that grain also allows me to see how she lived through her eyes; what she loved; and what she learned through her work, children, husband, and travels.

We may be different but we're more alike than different. And I love seeing those differences.

Regardless of who we are as unique and beautiful individuals, I think we can agree that Swedish Death Cleaning has logic and reason at its core, with a simple, minimalistic, and free life as a result.

Who can argue with a wonderful life like that? I encourage you to read her books. They're funny and full of sagacious advice on living minimally with love and authenticity at the center of it all.


Save or Give Away? │ Three Tips on Minimalism Living

Learning to Save What Needs Saving and Giving Away What Doesn't

When my youngest son graduated high school just a few weeks ago, I knew it was time to find the graduation decor I had specifically set aside knowing this occasion would arrive again.

My oldest son graduated college a couple years ago. 

When I set out to buy the exorbitant-costing supplies and decor for the party, as a penny-pinching individual, I knew I would save some of it for my next son's party. Not all of it, of course. Some of it got destroyed and used, as it should have. 

But for the pieces that I salvaged, and pieces I knew could also act perennially for my next son, why would I rebuy what I already had?

One of the tenets of homesteading is to hold onto things you may need in the future. While I'm not an advocate of holding on to everything (because I'm a minimalist and because I don't live in a remote area and everything I could ever need for myself or any of the people in my house is within a five-minute drive) I understand the value of a dollar and holding onto things you may need in the future. Also, you can be a homesteader and a minimalist at the same time. (A great book by Bea Johnson called Zero Waste Home covers this idea of combining the homesteading experience alongside minimalism.)

A dollar more I spend on gradation decor means one fewer dollar to pay off the mortgage early. One dollar spent on things I will eventually throw away means I should keep what I didn't have to throw away and remain a good steward of my finances.

A dollar saved is a dollar earned.

But, as a minimalist, I had very carefully thought through the ramifications of holding onto the decor. It would take up space; I would not use it at all for the next two years, and ultimately, it sat living a useless life doing nothing. 

However, it was a good amount of money I didn't have to spend again for my son's high school graduation (win.) They were being reused and enjoyed (another win). And this time, I could throw away the items because they were sufficiently used (or give them to someone else who can use them - which I did!)

So, how do you know what to save and what not to save? For me, it all comes down to a few things.

Substantial Money Savings: The term "substantial" is subjective. A hundred dollars to one person may seem like pennies to another. For me, spending another 100 dollars on gradation decorations is substantial. I decided that holding onto those items - for two years - was worth it. And in the end, it absolutely was.

I knew what decor I had, it was easy to reassemble, and everything looked fantastic. The savings outweighed the desire to buy the items again so that's what I did. And no one noticed I was using the same decor. If saving an item means substantial savings, it's worth holding onto.

Replaceable Versus Irreplaceable: Could I have bought new graduation items? Sure. But I didn't want to because of the cost. I also originally purchased graduation decor that could be reused. Meaning, I didn't buy decor with the graduation year on it, but instead purchased items more along the lines of "Congratulations graduate." 

I saved what wasn't as easily replaceable. I made sure to find what could be reused and did just that. The graduate decor was irreplaceable to me because I couldn't guarantee I'd find what I wanted in two years. So, that helped my decision to keep the items. If it's going to be hard to find and you know you will need it again in the future, that's a reason to save the item in question.

Love Over Like: I'm of the mindset now, as I've progressed through my minimalism journey, that liking something isn't enough to keep it in my life (I would dare to venture this concept even with friends as I get older, but that's a different post to contend with). If I keep something, I have to love it with every part of me and if I do, it's worth keeping. Like isn't enough anymore. I loved the graduation decor and valued what I paid for it, so I kept it for another day.

I can apply this to my closet, my collections, the accessories in my home... everywhere. It's a waste of my time and life if I keep clothes I only like, but don't love. What's the fun in that? Outfits should be special, unique, and fun. If it's all blah or the whole "Well, I paid for this and I sorta liked it at the time," that is no reason to keep the article of clothing. 

A day not wearing something I love is a waste of an outfit. Truly. As a vintage clothing wearer and seller, I firmly believe this. If I miss one day to really love what I look like, and instead wear something I only kind of like, that's one less day to live passionately about what I love.

Our days are numbered. People should know what you love. They should see it in your life, around you, and hanging from your head like a crown. From your activities to clothing, your job, to how you love people, it should be so obvious that you live the life you love, not out of convenience, or laziness, but because you truly love it.

When you're going through a closet, or cleaning out a drawer, or wondering if you should keep the party decor, think about these three things: if it saves you money, is irreplaceable, and is something you love.

It's quite simple.

And that's what it's all about.

Softening the Schedule │ Letting Go of the Have-To to get to the Want-To

A calendar and pair of glasses
Living a minimalistic lifestyle isn't a difficult thing for most people, particularly for those who want a desperate change in their chaotic lives.

Once we look at our stuff (that we're not using) as an element holding us back from our highest potential, it's a revelatory process to begin to lessen, purge, minimize, and simplify our things. We see and feel the weight of "stuff" lifted off our shoulders.

We can live with less and live happier with less.

But, once I learned how to let go of the things I owned weighing me down, I began to see other areas where minimizing would do me some serious good. And it all had to do with my schedule. When I settled an area of my life that had been a mess (like my closet, or house full of stuff) it became easier to spot the unnecessary excess in other parts of my life.

My phone was one such area. I got rid of apps, and social media, unsubscribed from all the emails I didn't want anymore. It was freeing and I'm sure there's a blog post coming about that. But there was another glaring aspect to my life that had yet to be touched by the tenets of minimalism and one that was frustrating me. 

And that was my schedule. I hated having to do and go to places that I didn't want to go, I even dreaded some of them. 

So... big question. Did I really have to go to all these places or was this me putting requirements into my life because I was supposed to? Was I living my life the way I wanted or because the media told me to live this way? 

Here's what I did to lessen my schedule to one that worked for me and took out all the unnecessary trips. 

Less Gym, More Home: I realize the gym is a big one for a lot of people. They want to go, need to go, and they should! But, going every day is unnecessary. Instead of going to the gym three times a week like I used to, I've minimized it to once a week. I go to a yoga class (but that's something I want to do and love) but as for weights, machines, and cardio, I've changed my routine to once a week and have relegated my workouts to my second gym at home.

While I don't have machines at home, I instead do resistance training and running from the comfort of my house. It's much easier for me to get a workout in when all I have to do is roll out of bed and get going. I have one fewer place to drive to and it lightens the psychological factor of "having" to drive to the gym as "one more thing to do." For you, it may mean twice a week instead of five, but whatever it is, taking out a day or two to work out at home can do wonders for your schedule.

Fewer Trips to the Grocery: Okay, I have two grown boys. Food is a life force in our home, and I'm not kidding. I found myself going to the grocery store every day for years, but at the same time, forgetting about the second freezer in the garage -- and the whole reason behind it. We got that second freezer because we need food. When deals crop up and to save money, we buy in bulk, and that freezer is there to help us with that process. So, why was I going to the store every day? 

Now, I keep an inventory of what's in that freezer and change my trips to no more than three days a week. I feel like a ball and chain has been unwrapped off my ankle. Sure, I may feel like I need to go to the grocery store for that loaf of bread or milk, but if it can wait another day, and I can find alternate food items - ones just sitting in the freezer waiting to be eaten - that's one less trip I "have" to take. I use what I have, save money, and use the freezer to free up my time to do more of what I want instead of what I have to do. (And my boys know where the grocery store is. If they need something, they can go get it!)

Eliminate the Extras: I'll be extra honest with you, with true vulnerability at its pinnacle. Okay. Here we go: For over 25 years, I would go to a tanning salon - just for the summer - to get that base tan. When you live in California, it's expected to have glowing skin (which is absurd), and when it goes from 65 degrees to 105 degrees within a few days, having pasty legs in the bright sun isn't a big joy for me. We all have a particular vanity we deal with. For some, it's getting their hair or nails done religiously, maybe it's Botox or facials. And there is nothing wrong with any of these things. For me, I was uncomfortable in my own skin. Literally. So a little extra melanin made me feel better.

But after so many years of this, and getting to the point of going and not wanting to go, dreading the visit, and having to do "one more thing" I stopped myself earlier this year and asked an important question: "Why am I still going?" 

I was going for myself, sure. But, I'm at the point in my life where I don't care anymore. I don't care if I have pasty legs; I don't care if I'm not the California girl everyone thinks I should be. I'm done trying to live up to a presupposed image and instead, doing what I want. I'm done with tanning. My white legs will just have to blind folks from now on and I'm okay with that. Tanning became an extra thing I "had" to do and I said goodbye to that! Eliminate the extras and free your life.

These are just a few areas in which I've simplified my life. I've replaced those hours of "have-tos" with hours of "want-tos." I'm with people I want to be with, going where I want to go, and ultimately, enjoying my days with fewer interruptions. 

My kids are older, so I'm at a point in my life where this is feasible. Maybe you can't do that right now; maybe you have kids or parents to take care of. Maybe for you, it's simply saying "no" to extra things, which frees up a little time for yourself to read, or take a walk; something that brings you back to the real you. Just take it slowly, little by little, and eliminate the unnecessary until your calendar looks attractive.

While there will always be mandatory grocery visits, our health to maintain, and events we need to go to, there is a way to weasel out the extraneous activities; activities we once thought were so important.

Now that I've softened my schedule, every day is focused on doing what I need to feel fulfilled... and that doesn't include a tan bod.

What are you doing to soften your schedule? 

Minimalism Can Change Your Life

Today on No Sidebar, a minimalism website, an article of mine was published. It's called "Skeptical of Minimalism? Here's how it Can Change Your Life." 

A boat on a canal in venice

I go over five reasons why adding minimalism can seriously change aspects of your life. From your finances to your time, relationships, and peace. And having experienced all of these benefits of minimalism, I profess they are all true. Read the article to see what I'm talking about. 

If you've found this blog because you just read the article, then hurrah! Glad to have you here.

But as I was thinking through this topic again, I realized I needed to add one more; there are six reasons why minimalism can change your life, and the last one is all-encompassing.

Freedom. The sixth reason is freedom. I even mention it in the article, but I want to devote a few more paragraphs to it.

Adding minimalism to your life allows you to reprogram your whole day, and ultimately, your whole life. You literally create the day you want to live, and you do this on repeat. Reprogramming your day through minimalism includes the five things I listed in the article: money, time, peace, love, and relationships. But minimalism also gives you the freedom to restructure your entire day to include everything you want (and exclude what you don't want.)

I mean, who doesn't want freedom? 

When you've given up the extra jobs because you aren't happy with them, you now have a day filled with fewer hours in the office.  Or perhaps you've chosen to cut back from full-time to part-time work. Whatever it is, fewer hours doing what you don't like is a huge win. Even if you're making less money.

Working the job you love creates days that are more freedom-filled. 

Maybe you're only working one job now but it's a job you adore. The hours you once spent on other jobs are hours of freedom to do the things you value. It could be spending time with family, reading more, exercising, or even sleeping!

You may give up income to minimize your life, but if you choose to live the minimalist lifestyle, doesn't that mean you're purchasing less too? If you're buying less, and working fewer hours, it works out in your favor.

When I got rid of a couple part-time jobs that were draining me of my creative energy, my income dropped. But the time spent on the jobs I kept (that I loved) is far more productive today. Ultimately, I'm making more now because I'm focused on the work I want to do. And I'm far less stressed. 

Funny how that works.

Minimalism can change your life whether it's minimizing the clothes in your closet or taking out extraneous hours of work that pull you away from your true calling. When you love what you do - when you streamline your life - you have more freedom to live with your finances, time, relationships, peace, and love.

I've never been more productive in doing what I love to do since becoming a minimalist. My life has completely changed. I wake up overjoyed that I get to do what I love and know my schedule is my creation - and I'm doing it all exactly like I want.

When less is more, you've learned the secret of succeeding in everything you put your hand to. And that success correlates to freedom: freedom to travel, freedom to love what you want to love, freedom to live a more fulfilling life. 

The photo in this article is a picture I took seven years ago today! I was in Venice with one of my greatest friends on the trip of a lifetime. This was the vacation that started my quest for minimal living. When you live out of a very small suitcase for ten days, it's liberating. And I yearned to have that simplicity of living with a small wardrobe for my life at home. The rest is history.

Minimalism can change your life. All you have to want is freedom over anything else. And when you have freedom, the benefits of money, time, peace, love, and relationships all come in as bonus counterparts to support your new way of living.

Start small. Maybe work on your closet this month, and your garage next month. As you work your way to creating the intentional and minimal life you yearn for, those small changes add up to one giant life of freedom.