Progress Report Check-In — What’s Going Well & What Needs Some Work

We’ve almost wrapped up the first quarter of the year so I thought it was time to press pause, reflect, and give a general progress report on how I’ve been doing with my goals, habits, and priorities in terms of minimizing. I’ve been sharing weekly “wins” — small successes throughout the week — in my weekend newsletter so if you want to see small glimpses of simple improvements, you can subscribe to get those HERE. Sometimes, even the decision to get rid of one thing, or successfully walking away from one purchase, or permanently resetting a single shelf can feel like a major accomplishment. But, it’s those small improvements and shifts forward that are responsible for resetting my mind and how I think about things, and motivate me. It hasn’t all been perfect… I’ve had areas I’m really proud of and others that need way more work. So, today, let’s talk about it.

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Things I’ve Been Doing Well…

If you’re on a similar path, some of these may be applicable or relatable to you, and some may not. In my efforts to minimize, it’s increasingly more evident that intentionality extends far beyond simply getting rid of stuff. It’s about root causes and acknowledging that it’s not just my personal capacity for physical stuff, but my capacity to manage everything from my home to my schedule to my money and tons of areas in between. It’s all related, I’m thriving on fewer options these days, and my state of general overwhelm has decreased substantially over the past few months. Here’s some areas where I feel my intentions have started paying off.

1. Strategizing with Groceries

I actually recently wrote an entire post on my grocery and meal planning strategy HERE. While it was originally intended to be a bulleted mention in this post, I had so much to say, it evolved into a post all on its own. This has been a significant improvement in pretty much every way, from monetary savings to pantry capacity to the brain (and physical power) put into crafting meals.

2. Cutting Back On Shopping

Since my overarching theme has been to operate with intention, not only have I been able to better keep myself in check with shopping and bringing more things into the house, but I’ve saved a lot of money in this area, in particular. I recognize that no matter how diligent I am in getting things out of the house, if I keep bringing stuff in at the same rate, it isn’t going to solve anything. I love shopping so it isn’t easy. But, I’ve been successful at reframing how I view purchases. Here’s a few ways I’ve been able to improve my shopping habits…

  • Instead of giving into to any/everything I think is “so cute” or “would be perfect for XYZ outfit”, I’ve asked myself if it’s a need and if I already have something that would work for that purpose. Ex: Even though those shoes would go perfectly with that dress, I know I already have shoes that can go with that dress (even if they aren’t as exciting). I don’t need shoes to go with that specific dress. Pep talks work. And, if it’s something I really want, in a few instances, I’ve walked away and only if I am still thinking about it days later have I gone back for it. Less impulse, more intention.
  • Deleting retailer emails. I don’t have great willpower and sales do crazy things to my mind. While some people are strong enough to just unsubscribe to emails altogether, I don’t want to miss a really special deal (just in case) or delete a potential coupon (I always search my email before making a purchase to see if I have any recent promos) when I am ready to make a purchase on my own terms. So, I’ve been doing really great when emails from brands come through that unless I already have something in mind that I need before I see the email, I just delete without opening so I won’t be enticed to go further.
  • Recognizing I don’t want to store another thing. After making strides in decluttering and still being overwhelmed by the thought of what remains in storage, I have less desire to buy things for “just in case” and hypothetical situations in the future. If I can’t use it/display it right then, chances are, I don’t need it.
  • Minimizing browsing/window shopping trips (they inevitably turn into actual shopping trips). I already don’t go to stores to browse often, but if I do — especially somewhere like Target — chances are, I will find things I “need” in that moment. (That aren’t actual needs). Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Remembering our current spending priorities. Nothing like some major projects with expensive price tags to remind you that money doesn’t grow on trees, haha. Every time I consider a larger purchase, I put it in terms of something(s) we opted to not do with the pool. It’s effective when I can compare costs and it brings me back to needs vs. wants and intentions and priorities.

3. Resisting Sales

This could have been lumped in with the above but it’s an effort all on its own so I thought it deserved it’s own call-out. Like I said, I don’t have much willpower and I can justify/talk myself in to just about anything. Add some deals on top of it and it almost feels wrong to not take advantage of the “savings”, haha. But, deleting emails, reminding myself of priorities, and taking occasional inventory of categories within our home (and recognizing there’s nothing we need), has helped me make major strides when it comes to resisting sales. But, it’s also earned a second spot in the bottom part of today’s post ;).

4. Decluttering

This is where it all started for me. Just opening drawers and cabinets and getting rid of the stuff. Sometimes, one thing at a time. Recognizing that I don’t have to set aside a chunk of time to declutter things as much as I do with an organization project, there’s been fewer zones that mount up on the to-do list. The more I do, the easier it gets and the more motivated I am to keep it up. It makes living in my house easier and more peaceful. Going through this work also helps Number 2 and 3 because I don’t want to undo my hard work — both with physical space and my mental capacity. I have a ways to go as I’ve definitely made the majority of notable improvements in the smaller-scale arena, but I’m looking forward to start tackling some of the “bears” (garage, basement…) soon. Between several truck-loads of items (and trash) we’ve parted with, some of the most notable areas thus far have been…

  • some basement progress
  • outdoor storage boxes
  • Dave’s closet
  • Eliza’s wardrobe
  • kitchen
  • office (and office closet)

office closet organization ideas

See the full office closet decluttering project HERE.

5. Maintaining Systems

When a space doesn’t hold excess and has already been decluttered, it’s easier to maintain the organization system that’s implemented instead of thinking it just needs to be reorganized constantly. It’s seldom now when I think I need another container since I’m not constantly adding to drawers, cabinets, and closets and more and more, things are becoming set in their assigned homes without competing for space. I also view containers as limits now and try not to let whatever I’m storing to stretch beyond it’s respective limit.

One in, one out has been working well and if it’s a space that really needs to be pared down, even one in, two out. It also reminds me before I make a purchase — “do I have one/two things I could/should part with?”

How to Organize Under the Kitchen Sink and Favorite Organizers

 12″ Turntable | Chrome Risers  | Clear Bins from Home Edit Cube | Clear Handled Bin w/Dividers | Narrow Bin w/Handle Cut Out | OXO Pop Canister | Amber Glass Spray Bottles (set of 2) | Bamboo Handle Scrub Brush (set of 2)  | Dye-free Scrub Daddy 

6. Touching Things Once

This one is two-fold.

  1. To keep things tidy and to keep clutter stacks from forming (once they start, they get more difficult to tackle), in most cases, I try to put things away immediately instead of using a bin or pile to handle later. Not only does it keep me from piling on top with things that don’t belong, but it also keeps a fresh slate to others in the house so they don’t see a stray pile as an invitation to also add to it.
  2. This approach may be contrary to other things you’ve heard elsewhere, but when I’m actively decluttering, I’ve pretty much eliminated the “maybe” pile. It either stays or goes and I determine which in the moment and immediately put it away/bag it to discard. If I put things in “maybe” piles, first of all, it’s just another cluttered place to maintain and more stuff that didn’t make it’s way out of the house, and secondly, more often than not, I’ll find a way to negotiate with myself about future hypotheticals and end up saving it. I have yet to regret something I’ve gotten rid of and once it’s gone, it’s no longer taking up space in my mind.

7. Habit Stacking

This is actually something I realized I already did but didn’t know it had a name or realize there was an actual science to it until I read Atomic Habits (which, by the way, I recommend reading 100%). I thrive on structure and routine and when my body gets used to routines, I operate on autopilot without putting much thought into it. Understanding what this is and using it to form new, positive habits has been beneficial in helping me accomplish small tasks that I wasn’t performing regularly, that I wanted to be more consistent with.

Here’s a few of my habits that are the result of long-established routines that have continued to be built upon —

Early morning — Wake up and read daily Bible reading. Next, start my Bible Recap podcast before heading downstairs to let the dogs out. (The early AM routine doesn’t take long so the 8ish minute podcast usually plays through the duration.) After letting the dogs out, I start coffee and refill my water cup. After starting the coffee, empty the dishwasher and put dishes away. Use the cups from the day before that are clean in the dishwasher to fix Dave’s drink and Eliza’s water. Then, I prep my coffee. Next, I let the dogs in before heading upstairs to wake Eliza. Each small task finish cues the next habit that makes up my routine.

I have a similar routine with built in habits after dinner and before bedtime, too.

When I had a goal of making my bed every morning (which rarely happened), I looked at the things I already did and paired it with something else. I decided that as soon as I finished my walk, I would then walk to the bed and get it made. Coupling those two things together has made for a near perfect success rate since I started.

It’s most helpful when you’re considering your schedule to be really specific with the things you do. Each task. Not just a general “get ready” or “clean up”.

Neutral Primary Bedroom Decor Ideas

Bed | Nightstand | Glass Lamp | Sherpa Bench | Quilt | Duvet Cover & Shams | Sheets (700 count) | Mohair Throw | Woven Wool Pillow Covers | Clove Striped Lumbar Pillow Cover

8. Fewer Seasonal Changes

This was something I was already doing by default when my mental capacity felt overloaded but I inevitably would feel guilty, thinking it was something I should be doing but was slacking on. Simply giving myself formal permission to not make big, efforted seasonal changes shifted my mindset. Moving towards using more year-round decor has helped in so many ways.

  • My mind and time — it doesn’t consume my head and I don’t have to schedule days to revamp (except Christmas!)
  • My clutter — I’m not making season-specific purchases and instead, can focus on decluttering the items that seem to never be used, aren’t loved, or aren’t needed
  • My purchases — it gives more life and longevity to what I purchase with intention, things I truly love, and my most special pieces

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — this doesn’t mean you’ll never see something that’s season-specific or new — but it’s less about turning the home from one season to the next, and more about creating a home that transcends seasons, with maybe a few small seasonal nods incorporated (that aren’t a bear to store later 😉 .

Gray and White Kitchen Makeover Reveal

Charcoal Window Pane Pillow | Belgian Linen Pillows (green & natural) | Sofa | Pendant Lights | Backsplash Tile | Cabinet Knobs (champagne bronze 1 5/16″) | Dutch Oven (7.25 qt) | Dutch Oven Gold Knob (large) |  Counter-Depth Refrigerator

9. Visual Decluttering

This has been huge. When I first approached the “seeing less”, I thought the main benefit would be an overall more peaceful feeling. But, living with fewer things out has made our home easier to keep clean. Not just because we can more easily see things that are out of place or that there are fewer things to be out of place, but when a space feels more minimal, I’m more incentivized to keep it that way. Stacks of things or setting things aside that don’t belong (see Number 6) are much more visible and it’s easier to spot the specific thing(s) that are throwing things off/causing chaos.

The area I’m most proud of having recently improved where I *feel* the most positive effects is the kitchen (specifically the countertops). A few newer posts to reference:

The few visual clutter improvements involved clearing countertops more and coming up with solutions that could be hidden away behind cabinets and inside drawers. It took decluttering the stuff you can’t see to be able to declutter the stuff you can see. If you missed the SAP where I talked about these, here are a few things I was able to get off our countertops…

Paper towels — this paper towel holder with adhesive mount has worked brilliantly and perfectly since I did the 10-second install as soon as it arrived! It comes in several finishes (and also has mounting hardware if you prefer it to be screwed in) HERE.

Kitchen Organizers to Get Items Off the Counter

Adhesive Mount Paper Towel Holder

Knives — Our knives came in a big wooden block, we use them several times a day. It never occurred to me until we needed a solution for other knives that I didn’t have to keep them in the block they came with. I also didn’t think we would have the drawer space (we found it after decluttering drawers) or that keeping them in a drawer would be as convenient (it is). This drawer has become one of our favorites. I used a combination of one of the 7-slot and one of the 14-slot in-drawer knife blocks and secured them in place with a matching bamboo drawer divider. The Wusthof brand is a little pricier than competitors, but the quality is top notch and to us, 100% worth it.

Kitchen Drawer Organizers -- Smart and Customizable

Knife Blocks | Expandable Drawer Divider

You can see some of these improvements in this quick video…


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Even getting our kitchen soap situation on the same page made the kitchen feel less chaotic.

Kitchen Vanity Tray for Soap

Footed Marble Tray (similar) | Plant Pot | Soap Dispenser Set | Soap Dispenser Labels | Faucet

10. Maxing Out the Weekly Trash Can

If we have space in the trash can on trash day, I’ve gotten to where I’ll challenge myself to make the most of the service and try to fill the remainder of the can. Sometimes, it’s with broken things that should be discarded. Sometimes, it’s using trash day as the opportunity to make sure I do all my kitchen restocks (water, canned soda, coffee, napkins, etc.) If I can get our bulk items dwindled down in the garage/pantry/basement, it declutters that area, improves function in the kitchen, and also provides packaging that can go into the trash.

The more things that can fit in the trash, a service we already pay for, the fewer the trips to the dump. It also forces me to do a little decluttering on weeks where my efforts/progress have been light otherwise.

Work in Progress…

I could have labeled this “struggles” or even in some cases, “failures”, but “work in progress” is kinder, and actually, it’s more honest. While I’m proud of advancements and improvements that have been made in seeking simplicity and living more intentionally, there’s plenty of areas that I have a hard time with. Here are some areas in which I’m working to make further improvements and seem like a constant battle and debate within myself…

1. Planning Ahead & Being Prepared 

This is less of a fear based practice on preparedness for the future and more of a justification to make purchases during sales. I know that “resisting sales” was mentioned in things I’ve been doing well, but it also earns its own spot here. Even if I acknowledge we may not have a current need, it’s difficult to resist rare sales and deep discounts, and I can pretty easily talk myself into a purchase if it’s “for later”. Eventually, this could lead to forgetting what I have and more stored clutter. Overcoming the “when I AM ready to purchase it, it probably won’t be on sale and I’ll have to pay a premium” kind of mindset is hard. If this was only true sometimes and not a common practice, that would be one thing. But, for me, it’s kind of a gateway “drug” and is more of a habit. Especially while we’re in our active-decluttering stage, I need to get a little better with this.

I have avoided lots of sales and discounts so I’ve made progress, but there’s one particular area I struggle with the most — see Number 2.

2. Eliza Clothes Purchases 

Outfitting her and adding adorable pieces to her wardrobe is still one of my favorite things. I especially like to do it at the end of the season/during sale periods because of the perceived savings and value but it sets me up for a cycle of constantly having more (way more) than she needs. She’s a slow grower so when I’m purchasing items during sales “for next year”, I overestimate her growth and she still wears the same size from the previous year. In my defense though, she is such a slow grower, she gets a lot of wear out of her clothes. In theory, this new mindfulness would eventually catch up as we shed smaller sizes from her closet, but because she hasn’t grown out of anything, her closet and “back stock” keeps accumulating more. Even if it is at a slower rate than I was going before. See Number 1.

A current cart that’s haunting me today is this — Lilly Pulitzer’s rare 30% off sitewide sale popped up, in front of my face, taunting me on Facebook. Eliza doesn’t need any more summer clothes, so I was considering guessing for some sizes for next year. They’re more pricey but they also aren’t ever 30% off like they are now, so they would be a good buy for what they are. IF she can fit in them next year. I walked away for now but this is what I have in a size up for her in my cart…

We’ll see… I’ve walked away from a few full carts this week without any Eliza purchases, so…

3. Fixating On Productivity

This one may be exclusive to me, but I get addicted to the cause. Whatever the “cause” may be, if I’m in, I’m in. Whatever I’m focused on at any given time often becomes all-consuming. And sometimes, I think that’s where I could be heading with my intentionality journey. I’ve caught myself prioritizing “productivity” — any kind of productivity — over actual priorities. I like to get things done, I like to make progress, and I like feeling accomplished, but the feeling of “I have to get XYZ done” (even for things that don’t really matter) is counterproductive to the entire path I’m on. I have to find a better balance of routine meets actual priorities and make sure I’m giving the things that are truly most important the bulk of my attention and effort.

The overall goal is to simplify my my life, not just things within it that don’t ultimately contribute to peace. I’d like to get to a place where it isn’t all or nothing and find some balance and moderation but I still have some consistency and dealing with learned habits first 😉

Are you on a similar path? How are you doing? Are you celebrating any wins? I’d love to hear all about them!

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  1. 4.16.23
    Cheri said:

    I have so enjoyed your honesty and your journey and you sharing it all with us. Keep it coming.

    • 4.17.23

      Thank you for being here, Cheri! I truly appreciate your positive feedback. xoxo

  2. 4.17.23
    Michele M. said:

    I am enjoying your strides – it motivates me to do more de-cluttering myself.
    Thank you for taking the time to share.
    Another thing I’m doing (esp with Target) is ordering what I NEED online and paying for it and picking it up. The impulse buying is DANGEROUS there! My last 3 years NYE year resolution was to just bring in less……and it’s working….now I just need to purge more. I just have no extra energy. Getting old isn’t easy, lol!

    • 4.17.23

      Thank you for your kind support, Michele! You are so right…Target impulse buying is so dangerous. I limit my visits there because of that! 😉

  3. 4.17.23
    Ali Blandina said:

    I have loved your blog and posts for a long time but I LOVE LOVE your new direction as I was/am going through the same struggles and your new posts resonate on a whole new level for me. Specifically, your last bullet on fixating on productivity over actual priorities- this is one of my biggest weaknesses. I love reading your progress and honesty about areas of improvement- it truly helps me reframe my mindset for the week!

    P.S. I also walked away from a full Lilly cart last night and it was extremely hard- but also very fulfilling when I looked back this morning and said, ‘Well now its as if I won a $XXX lottery ticket!’ Haha!

    • 4.17.23

      Ali, I so appreciate you taking the time to visit and for your kind support on my new direction. It’s feeling great and I think it is so important to celebrate any strides you make, no matter how small the step may be. YOU made a huge stride in walking away from that Lilly cart. I know it was tough, but is certainly a victory to celebrate. Yay, you!

  4. 4.17.23
    Mel Carter said:

    I have been on a similar journey for the last few years, and it is so liberating. My mind, my home, my life in general is becoming less focused on stuff, and I can “breathe” better. When I breathe better, I can better give the best of me. You are inspiring, and being willing to share a life perspective goal that goes against the consumeristic, short-term fulfillment norm is commendable.

    • 4.18.23

      Thank you, Mel, for taking the time to visit! I really appreciate your positive feedback and applaud you for taking this same journey. You are so right that it is liberating and it feels great!