To give today’s post some basis, make sure you’ve first scanned through my first post of the year HERE where I talk about a shift in focus and what that means. I’m going to expand on that a bit today but that post is probably best to set the foundation and tone.
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Change isn’t just about starting or stopping physical action. Change — especially one that comes as the result of the internal need to veer from the path you’ve been on — calls for more examination and understanding first. Our emotions affect our actions which determine our habits. So, while I feel like I’ve wanted to change a lot of habits, I’ve found that I have to work backwards. To change a habit, I first needed to understand (or at least acknowledge) the thing/memory/belief/teaching/etc. that causes the emotion that leads to the action which ultimately becomes habit. I’ve uncovered multiple driving forces behind several of my routines and general way of living that I’ve had to face and question before moving forward and now, I’m ready to share some of those. I’m a work in progress but progress is the key word 😉
With zero research to back this up, I think this is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. You can say you’re going to do XYZ but unless you understand why or what you need to overcome to accomplish your ultimate goal, the motivation and true desire just aren’t there. The action isn’t the goal. The action is what will lead you to your goal(s). And as an FYI, anytime I reference “you”, I mean me. This is the pep-talk I’ve given myself as I continue to learn.
I’m totally unqualified to speak on the scientific aspects of of psychology but have enough lived experience to speak to my personal motivations, so that’s where all I’m saying is coming from. Also, this is my official caveat to, as always, take what I have to say with a grain of salt 😉 I may share more on what led me here, but today, I was most excited to share the habits I’ve identified that I’d like to change, what I’ve considered as the reason(s) for some of those (those emotional ties that I think many of you may be able to relate to), and some of my progress thus far.
And to keep things a little more succinct, we aren’t going to talk about all the things today. While I think when you reach a place you feel an innate need for change, there’s a lot of different aspects and areas at play (beyond the obvious) that work together and all require attention, that kind of post would take weeks to compile, haha. In keeping with the theme of minimizing and peace, today, we’re going to speak most specifically about home.
Sources: Vanity | Sconces (polished nickel) | Mirror (31 x 48″ brushed brass finish) | Faucet (polished nickel) | Marble Tray | Soap Dispenser | Soap Dispenser Labels | Silver Bamboo Picture Frame | Tub | Fluted Side Table (13″) | Frames Over Tub | Bottom Oak Tree Art Print Sketch | Top Tree Art Print Sketch | Stoneware Pot
My Goals to Minimize Within Our Home
To set the stage, I’m coming from a place of being an anxious person who felt overextended, in the middle of grief, and like I was constantly facing sensory overload. When I said in THIS post about craving less, I wanted to have less to see, manage, clean, tend to, think about… and the most obvious place to start was my home.
My home is my comfort and refuge but at some point, the anxiety of storing all the contents of my house started presenting itself more as just one more thing to take care of/deal with. I didn’t have the capacity for that. Mental capacity or literal, physical storage capacity. With so many things in this season of life beyond my control, it felt like I was losing control over some of the only things I’m actually capable of controlling. If I can’t have more time, more hands, or more space, maybe I just needed to see less, have less, and manage less within the walls of our house. Arriving at that conclusion was a journey but once I got there, it was so obvious. And just setting my mind on that felt like an achievement and relief in itself.
Here’s some of my goals, along with what I’m hoping they’ll help accomplish…
- Minimize the decor and furnishings we see in our home. Seeing less will help cut down on the visual noise and having less will save time and resources it takes to manage those things. I mentioned before that I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist. I love a cozy, curated home but more and more, I’m appreciating more moments of rest for the eyes and more space to feel less claustrophobic. My version of less may be different than yours, and that’s ok. Our visual stimulation levels may have different triggers and capacities and I’m working to find my own, personal sweet spot. (I think one of the reasons I adore our bathroom (see the reveal HERE) so much is that it’s minimal, sleek, and clean. There’s nothing that doesn’t serve a purpose and not having visual clutter makes it relaxing and a place I love to be.)
- Declutter everything waiting on a permanent home. I have so many items that are sitting in piles, waiting on decisions — “where can this go now?”, “how will I use this one day?”, “what can I get to best store this?”, “should this be donated or sold?”, etc. Each pile represents a stack of daily reminders and a list of to-dos that I’ve failed. I’m on a decluttering mission that’s testing some of my deepest, most ingrained beliefs and it’s going to be a journey, but I’ve accepted truths and I’m willing to make some sacrifices to get there. Getting those piles resolved (not just shifted) once and for all will let me enjoy the spaces we’ve worked so hard to create, to their full extent. Also, reference back to #1 re: less noise; less to manage; less to think about.
- Declutter everything in storage. Even the stuff that’s in storage weighs on me and takes up space in my mind. In a lot of cases, I don’t even know what we have because I can’t see it and when I have something that does need to be stored, it’s hard to make room because of all the things monopolizing the storage space that should have gone long ago. If I don’t have the mental capacity to consider the things that are on display, I certainly don’t have the mental capacity to think about all those things that are hidden.
I was going to go into some financial things in this post, but I think I’ll save that for another day. For now, let’s work with these. Clean aesthetics, fewer things; less visual noise.
Habits I’ve Implemented, & Addressing Different Mindsets
Habit 1. Shopping. When I’m going through something, shopping is a therapy. Pretty things make me happy, deals make me feel accomplished, and the act of sourcing the perfect thing(s) is a distraction. And especially when I’m anxious, advance shopping (in preparation of a future date/season/event) makes me feel like I’m just getting things done early. Checking things off the list now so I don’t have to worry about them later. Because I know later, I’ll be thankful to have less on that ever growing to-do list, so I’m really just being responsible and kind to my future self, right? But, it’s a weird thing to find yourself in the middle of when you realize your “therapy” is partly to blame for the anxiety you’re trying to alleviate. Aside from the space issue, I often forget I’ve ordered something in advance and end up ordering a duplicate later anyway.
That doesn’t mean I can all the sudden be a different person. The fact that pretty things make me happy and I get way too excited about deals than a normal person should hasn’t changed. And, it doesn’t mean that I’m just going to quit shopping. But, realizing this cyclical tendency and habit has made me more aware and have a desire to be more intentional with my purchases. And if realizing that what I truly desire is less wasn’t enough, here’s a few practices I’ve put into play to curb my habit.
- I’m now asking if something is a need or a want. And if it’s a want, do I already have something similar, do I have space for it, and would it be financially responsible?
- Deleting retailer sale emails without a second thought. Instead of looking to try to grab something that’s a great deal, I know that at this moment, we don’t need any clothes. Eliza is stocked and can wear most everything from last year (plus advance pieces I bought a long time ago) and we haven’t even started to tackle decluttering our closet. If I pay a premium to purchase something later when we need it, so be it. I’m confident we’ll still save money once it’s more well practiced to buy intentional items when we need them, rather than impromptu purchases because they’re on sale. I love buying things for the best price but the ultimate goal isn’t to save the most money on all the things. It’s to make fewer, more intentional purchases (and hopefully I’ll still be able to shop sales at that time 😉 ).
Habit 2. Being Prepared for Any & Everything. I have acquired/held on to so much out of preparation. There are more things than I care to admit that are taking up valuable real estate in our home out of pure hypothetical-one-day reasoning. Small things (extra plasticware from takeout and the plastic nugget tongs from a Chick Fil A platter) to more substantial items (extra matching dining chairs for a possible one-day dinner party), or 9834759 old blankets (because, you know, you may need them for a picnic one day) are taking up serious space. If you have the willpower to keep it to the extra unused sauce packets in the fridge, that’s fine, but if this is your mindset to everything, it can lead to a serious clutter problem.
As a side note, I just read Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White — by pure coincidence, it was recommended via Amazon and I purchased it without even reading the synopsis. It was great and if nothing else, it felt really good to feel validated and seen. She had some great tips and put a lot of feelings into words that I related to, 100%. I have a feeling her personal experience with clutter was a little more extreme in her living areas, but her principles and practices are universal, regardless of your threshold.
In the book, the author talked about living for the phase of life you’re in rather than the future and it made so much sense — so much of what I’ve held onto and haven’t been able to part with isn’t because it’s excess of daily life — it’s because of this feeling of “what if I need this some day?” Living for the hypothetical and unknown. When I think about things in those terms, I realize if I truly work towards living for the life we’re in, it would free me of the random 15 year old art supplies that I’ve held onto because one day my child may need pom poms/glitter/(insert any random supply that isn’t used) for a school project (10 years down the road).
Or all those extras and back-ups (and back ups to the back ups). You don’t need a variety of potato mashers, especially when you only use one on rare occasion. It won’t be the end of the world if you pare your collection down to one, and then something happens one day and you have to purchase a new one at that time.
The author even shared an anecdote that was so relatable and the core of what she was saying resonated so much. She purchased a shoe shine kit at a yard sale. She didn’t shine shoes but it was a good deal and she thought one day, maybe it would be fun to take old-timey-style photos of her kid with the shoe shine kit. Chances of her doing that were slim but if she got rid of this thing that was taking up space, chances of it happening went from slim to non-existent. It was about letting go of possibilities. But, the freedom and peace achieved through living without the clutter outweighs the hypothetical and situational future circumstances.
Just as I’m not going to stop shopping all together, I’m not going to stop keeping some things, just because I don’t use them every day (or, if I’m saving something for a very specific purpose), but I can free myself of a lot of things and a lot of mental weight, just by addressing some of those things I may never use. After all, most everything I have in storage hasn’t moved since they were first placed in storage.
Habit 3. Setting Things Aside for Future Plans. Similar to Number 2, I have so many things that I almost said “goodbye” to but then I justify keeping for what that thing(s) could be one day. “I don’t like the color/style of these vases but I could spray paint them all one day in a monochromatic finish!” is an actual plan I had for a shelf’s worth of ceramic in my basement. I concepted this plan about four years ago. They’re still down there. They still haven’t been painted. I have ugly animal figures that I devised the same plan for. I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I haven’t done it by now, I’m likely not going to do it and it’s more worth my sanity and space to move them along, than to hold onto them. The same can be said for future hobbies, sports, etc.
Habit 4. Assigning Sentiment to Everything. This is a hard one and like some of the above, this is a trait that I inherited and that’s been ingrained since I could first form thoughts. My mom saved so much from my childhood. From outfits to toys and books to uniforms. And bless her, I now have most of the boxes in my basement and I still don’t know what’s in them. And it goes beyond kids — the obligation of incorporating something from a family member who’s passed on (that you aren’t as thrilled to inherit). Or, maybe there’s a gift you received and loved at one point but it isn’t serving you as it once did. Or, something that’s broken but you can’t part with it because of the sentiment. Or, what an item represented when you purchased it for yourself. For me, I’ve realized that the guilt and pressure of keeping and maintaining a lot of items (even in storage boxes) just isn’t worth it. If I’m not enjoying them out in the open or I have them out in the open but only out of self-inflicted obligation, I’m giving myself permission to say goodbye.
This isn’t an absolute and there are varying degrees of tolerance and application of this attitude. I’m still sentimental and love the memories and stories special tokens can evoke. I plan to keep a lot and even have some in (more manageable) storage. But, things that aren’t meaningful enough to me personally — whether through memory or that are a part of my daily life — I’m learning to be ok with letting go.
Habit 5. Not Wanting to Be Wasteful. This goes back to Number 2. and forward to Number 6. I hate being wasteful. Even with dinner leftovers, I will pull together the most ridiculous plate of food that doesn’t go together (and be the martyr who eats it), just so it doesn’t go to waste. I also learned from my mom about getting “creative” — even with product packaging. It literally pains me to discard a substantial perfume box that could otherwise serve as (another) treasure box for Eliza. But, if the goal is to minimize, part of that is giving myself permission to part with things that aren’t serving me. If I’m already not using them, they still aren’t serving me, they’re just taking up space. I’ll go forward and try to be the best steward I can be.
Habit 6. Hanging Onto a Poor Purchase. I’ve made (and I’m sure will continue to make) my share of regrettable purchases. Or purchases that didn’t turn out how I thought they would or last as long as I thought — like clothes that I talked myself into that I never felt fully comfortable in, or that I purchased for a hypothetical event that never happened. Or something that I thought would look great on my table that I later decided “wasn’t me.” The guilt of getting rid of things that haven’t been properly used is tough. (Again, see Habit Two and Five). But, putting it in storage or leaving it in your closet isn’t going to change that fact. I’m really anxious to tackle this as I work to declutter but acknowledging is the first step, right?
Habit 7. Donating Instead of Selling. This is something else that was addressed in the book I mentioned above — Decluttering at the Speed of Life — and I was relieved she did because it gave me affirmation and permission to myself. I have so much that I came to terms with that I was ready to let go of in the past, that I thought “this is too nice to donate” or some version of making it better to part with something if I were compensated. The problem is, is that (especially in my state of constant overwhelm), I can’t make the time to do all one needs to do to sell all the things, I don’t have the patience (or again, mental capacity) to field all the questions, and deal with all the crap that comes with selling. If you have something specific or a few substantial things, that’s one thing but if you’re looking at a space filled with stuff that was only set there to “sell when I have time”, well, yikes. I actually donate most of the things I part with but more substantial items have always been more painful to give away. If I’m confident that something is “worth it” and will require minimal effort on my part (and quickly), I may attempt to sell but if it’s larger things that haven’t been in our main living spaces for years but (again, self-inflicted-obligation/regret/guilt), I’m learning that it’s most beneficial to donate it. Even if I remember the uncomfortable price I paid. I’m working on trying to quit attempting to assign a “worth it” value to declutter the pieces that have been sitting, untouched and unused, and instead, consider the space they give me back and the weight that’s released as the value.
Habit 8. Distancing from Outside Influence. I am notorious for having a gut feeling but looking for an outside opinion to sway me back into my comfort zone — to give me an excuse to not follow through. Or, share a decision I made, only to be met with reason to do the opposite (and cave). Example: I make the difficult (but practical) decision to get rid of a fuchsia velvet 48″ ottoman that I used in a former bedroom/closet in my early 20s. Outside influence “Oh no! You can’t get rid of that! It’s so unique — can’t you put it somewhere? You may want that one day for a future daughter!) This is a real life instance and at that time, I didn’t even have any kids, haha. Instead, I held onto it and today, years later, it’s still sitting in the basement, monopolizing 48″ of space. I still want to get rid of it. Not only did that specific instance influence my decision to keep something I had made peace with getting rid of, but that kind of justification and guilt stuck with me for lots of other things I should have gotten rid of.
My mom and I are so similar in a lot of ways but when it comes to our preferences and relationship with things, we’re actually really different. I just didn’t realize it for a long time. My mom has always been a collector. Buy one, collect them all. And then display forever. If she buys something new, she’s going to find a way to incorporate it. Keep adding to that shelf/table/vignette. I’m more likely to switch it out with something and stick the other thing in storage. She isn’t as overwhelmed by visual stimulation and isn’t anxious like I am. She remembers the thing that I bought months prior (and exactly where I put it) whereas I don’t and would just re-purchase by accident. Our preferences and capacities are very different and realizing that and actually separating myself from it has already paid off. Had I not admitted this to myself, I don’t think I would have been able to move forward with what feels right to me.
Habit 9. Press Pause On Seasonal Decorating. I love coming up with and sharing ideas for seasonal decorating. But, over the past few years, I’ve pulled back a bit. Some people are really into it and others don’t acknowledge it much except for a Christmas tree in December. In this current season (of life — not season of the year 😉 ), seasonal decorating means little more to me than adding more things to my to-do list, and adding more things to my already limited storage areas. Even if I weren’t making new purchases for the year, just cycling through things I already have seems the opposite of minimizing and feels counterproductive to my primary current goal. If it involves more stuff, right now, I don’t want to have anything to do with it, if I can avoid it.
But, it’s not completely black and white. Like I’ve already mentioned (and like you already know), I love creating spaces I love but to get to the root of the too-much-stuff feeling, I have to set boundaries. I’m sure that looks different for each person, but for me, right now that means no seasonal overhauls, no new season-specific decor, and no new pillows. Pillows get their own call-out because they continue to be one of my biggest storage challenges and management issues. I do cycle through pillows and re-purpose them regularly and move them from room to room. Over the past couple of years, I’ve actually identified my favorites and intentionally or not, they tend to stay pretty well put. Right now, I don’t have the energy to play the game of switching out, mixing and matching inserts, etc. (at least, not all at once). (I adore THESE 24″ linen pillows and have them in several colors. They are pricey in multiples but I literally use them as my anchor pillows pretty much everywhere now and have for years. I think I’ve had the greens ones in place for the past 18+ months in the living room. I don’t regret any of those and they have been timeless, through the seasons.) The pillows that are good for a moment and then inevitably get put away forever are the ones that need to go.
I like using more subtle nods to the season and for the next bit, I want to stay more closely aligned to just that. I love using some of my pieces that transcend seasons and are fit for year-round. This will be a big area where I have to get brutally honest with myself when I get to that part of the purge.
That said, no judgement and please don’t come at me if I’m not as strict on this as someone else may be — I still love pretty things and I’m still me. I just want to be more intentional with what I bring in, what I take out, and not succumb to the pressure of re-decorating because of seasonal change.
Habit 10. Instead of Adding Storage to Contain More Things, Have Less to Contain. I’ve always prided myself in organizing for what I have. I’ve actually preached about it repeatedly — and why I don’t think you should aim to make your practical spaces look picture-perfect, because that’s not real life. And, I have come up with more than a few organization solutions over the years (see my full organization gallery HERE) that I’m really proud of. And while I still believe that, I think at some point I started ignoring the fact that some of my designated areas/compartments/bins no longer accommodated some of the items/categories they were containing so I started having to expand to multiple containers to hold the same items. Or, scout out new spots to contain collections of items that were growing. I’ve now come full circle and for me, I now believe I don’t need more storage to contain the things that haven’t found a home, I just need fewer things to contain. I think this shift in mindset alone will help me make decluttering decisions. Again, as someone who loves to be prepared — with extras and for unknown future possibilities — I tend to collect way more than I need of things in general over time.
If this all sounded like a bunch of rambling, well, welcome to my head (and maybe you can understand why I feel so overwhelmed, haha). But, it’s all related. I’m excited now that I’ve uncovered root causes, my specific whys, and given myself permission to do what I need to do to celebrate and live the result of change, it feels good. And every small change or decision that moves me more toward my focus makes me feel a little calmer and like weight has been lifted.
But seriously, I know that all that was wordy so basically, to sum it all up, I want to be more intentional (with purchases — not just from a cost aspect, but from a “does this bring value to my home/me and does it align with my goals” aspect). I want simple, clear management systems with a home that’s easy to maintain. I don’t want to focus on storage or living for a hypothetical one day. I don’t want to wallow in the discomfort of purchases that weren’t the best or guilt of moving on from things that I no longer love.
The last random thing I’ll mention is that my situation is different than most. What I share here is a balance of organic life, accompanied by additional ideas. While it’s our home and what I share is what we’re authentically using/seeing/loving/experiencing, I can justify more leeway for progressing spaces at a faster pace. I always have reasoning behind them but without KN, documenting ideas and my hits and misses and home progress, I probably wouldn’t be as inclined to do as much as I do within our home. But, it’s a gray area. And I’m fortunate it is. I love it and the things I love, I continue to use year after year — it’s another thing I’ve prided myself in. Not just changing something for change, but for some reason. But whether it’s personal, business, or a combination of the two, I have to better manage my limits for both.
I want to be a good steward of our resources and put more intention behind all decisions but that doesn’t mean if I decide to replace something I’m not going to do it. If I do it, I’ll try to do it well, with my own personal reasons assigned to the decision — I’ll just make sure to not add to the storage clutter and force myself into a quick and permanent solution for the former.
This approach isn’t for everyone and neither are the actions or realignment of habits that accompany them, but for me, it’s what my innermost being has been craving. If you aren’t the least bit bothered by stuff and it’s hard to get you overwhelmed, you may not be able to relate to this post at all. I wish I could be more like you, but I’m not. And I hope that some of you who scanned through this, knowing there’s someone else who feels just like you.
I’ve been sharing small weekly wins in my newsletter the past few weeks and plan to continue doing that. If you aren’t already, you can subscribe to emails at the bottom of the post.