Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

8 Ways to Start Your Minimalist Journey Right Now

a guide for beginner minimalists

So you've decided to seek a simpler life of less.  But where do you start?   I get it.  It can be overwhelming.

Minimalism is about so much more than just decluttering.  It's not about the number of items you own.  It's about letting go of the hold that stuff has on our lives and finding joy and contentment without the cost, upkeep, and burden of too much. 

Minimalism is about finding your "enough".

And it is a journey.  It's not always easy and comfortable. Undoing decades of unhealthy attachments to stuff is sometimes going to take some work.   But friend, you don't need to do it all today.  Or this week.  Or this year.  Let it unfold in your life at a pace that is right for you and your family. 

Here are some easy places to start your minimalist journey today. (Like, now)

1. Declutter your cooking utensils.  You don't need two can openers.  In fact, you don't need two of most items. And while you're at it, get rid of that ancient, cracked, stained-the-colour-of-spaghetti-sauce wooden spoon. Getting over the keep-it-just-in-case attitude is a big step towards a minimalist life.  And that one tidy, uncluttered kitchen drawer will make you smile everyday and inspire you to get on with the rest of the kitchen. 

2. Rid your closet of five pieces of clothing that don't fit or don't suit you.  We've all bought stuff that we later regret.  And we think that because we spent a pretty penny on it we need to hold on to it.  But it isn't serving you at all by hanging unused in your closet.   Sell it or donate it and enjoy the simple beauty of having a closet only stocked with items you enjoy wearing. 

3. Get rid of one decorative item that doesn't make your heart sing.  Empty walls are always more satisfying than a piece of art that doesn't speak to your soul.   Knick knacks and decorative vases just fill space.  Keep them if they make you smile.  But if they are just visual clutter, something to fill the space, let them go.

4. Throw pillows.  Nobody needs throw pillows.  

5. Get rid of magazines and catalogues.  Most of them are designed to make you want more than you need. Besides, they are taking up space.

6. Give away 3 books you aren't going to read.  The ones you got as gifts and don't like, or the ones you have because you think you should read them, or the books you bought but could never quite get into.  It's okay to let them go.

7. Clear off your night stand.  This is the first thing you see each morning, don't let it be bogged down under a pile of books and crosswords and snack wrappers.  Turn it into a minimalist delight!

Give yourself a huge pat on the back! As you progress on your journey of less you will go deeper into these areas to purge and declutter.  But this was an amazing start.

I have one last step for you...

8.  Donate your box of recently decluttered items to a thrift store pronto.  Put it straight into the trunk of your car if you can.  Until it's out of your house, you haven't actually decluttered anything, you've just moved the clutter!!

Are you new to minimalism?  Which step is hardest for you? Let me know in the comments below. 

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The Daily Habit I'm Using to Inspire Productivity and Creative Energy

Productivity for momprenuers

Do you ever sit down at your desk to work on a project or create something amazing and all of a sudden your mind goes blank?  You check facebook a few times and watch some cat videos and try to work up the motivation to be the badass powerhouse creative that you know you can be but IT'S JUST NOT THERE?

I get it.  My hand is raised high.  As a momprenuer with a million things on the go, this is me to a tee. That is, until I added one simple, lovely little ritual into my day. 

So what is the one thing I've started doing that has inspired more productivity and more creativity into my precious few work hours?  

It's this:  The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk each day is write a poem. 
Yes, a poem.

It doesn't have to be artistic gold.  It definitely doesn't have to rhyme.  It doesn't even really have to make sense to anyone but you. 

Maybe it sounds crazy.  Stay with me here. 

Here's what writing a poem a day does for me:

  •  It opens my creative channels.  Much like stretching before a run, writing a quick poem before getting to work stretches out our creative muscles and gets us ready to create.
  • It warms me up to the beauty and nuance of words.  If your work involves words, poetry is a great way to wake our minds up to the cadence and and power of words. 
  • It creates routine and structure to surround my daily practice of creativity.  When we surround things in our life with  tradition we set it aside as valuable and sacred.  Like lighting candles over a special meal, or reading a bedtime book to a child.  Routines are signposts in our day that ease our body, spirit and mind into the next activity.
  • It forces me to let go off rigidity and expectations.  When you write a poem you can't be sure what will arise. You become open to new ideas and different ways of thinking about things.
  • It builds my skills as a poet.  Not that I'm particularly interested in being a poet.  This one is more of a bonus than a straight up benefit. 
  • It brings me presently into the moment. Poems are visceral. You can't write a poem while your mind is elsewhere. 

I know that some of you are thinking. 

"But I'm not a poet." 

First of all, of course you are.  Everyone is a poet.  Obvi. 

But more importantly, this isn't about the poetry.  This is about becoming present to the moment.  Bringing nothing from the hours before to your desk (or laptop or easel or whatever).  It's about teaching our brains to think outside of should, and must, and not good enough.  It's about setting yourself free to experiment and try new things.  

And, hey, you might end up accidentally writing a pretty good collection of poems. 

The Result?

I've been using this strategy for a few weeks now and I am finding that the time I spend working at my desk is more focused and productive, I am more motivated, less distracted, and full of creative ideas.  As a momprenuer it can be hard to stay on task at home, but this habit sets apart my creative work time as a separate and committed part of my day.

How to implement this habit

First of all, can I suggest that you try it for a full week before you judge it?  Any new habit can feel awkward until you become accustomed to it and see the benefits. 

Secondly, I suggest you close all unnecessary tabs while you do this.  No cat videos while you're writing your poem. 

Finally, don't spend more that 5-10 minutes on this.  It's not a productivity hack if it's eating up your time.  

What do you think?  Will you give it a try?

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What Stores and Magazines Don't Want You to Know about Organizing and Simplicity

Simplicity and Organizing

The checkout lines are full of them this time of year: magazines telling us how to sort, store and simplify our stuff.  Stores fill their seasonal sections with baskets and bins and drawer organizers.  Everywhere we go, someone is trying to sell us on the next product to cut clutter and organize our lives.  But friends, it's a lie.

Here are the things magazines and stores won't tell you this time of year:

You can't organize clutter.  We've all done this: organized a junk drawer or cabinet with bins and hooks and labels only to find it a mess again a few weeks later.  This is because no matter how many labels and bins you use, you cannot organize clutter.  This brings me to point #2....

The answer isn't more baskets, its less stuff.  In fact, if you start decluttering and minimizing, you will get to a point in your journey of less that you start giving away baskets, bins, and totes! 

The magazines and stores want you on an endless cycle of buying and organizing. Corporations aren't in the contentment industry.  They don't spend millions of dollars on advertising so that you can have just enough and be content with what you have.  They want to sell you too much and then sell you an endless supply of storage solutions.  They want you discontent and believing you need the next new item to calm the chaos in your life.  In fact, they build you up all year for a big organizing spree in January.  It's an endless cycle of trends and must-haves only to appeal to your hearts' longing for simplicity and fresh starts in January when we are all at our most overwhelmed. 

Friend, the Point is this: Simplicity cannot be bought at a store.  Bins and totes and drawer organizers aren't bad things.  They can be useful. But this thinking that we can buy our way into contentment is what got us buried in too much stuff in the first place.  There is a famous Einstein quote that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. In other words, nothing changes if nothing changes.

What is the answer?  I believe that the answer is to break the hold that stuff has on us by radically reducing the amount that we own.  I believe that when we strip away the clutter we create room for people and life and serenity.   I believe that choosing contentment in the face of all the world wants to sell us is a brave and revolutionary act of self care.  Call it minimalism if you want.  But it isn't really about how much you own, it's about fighting back against our broken attachments that so easily allows stuff to own us

You were not made to spend your life organizing and reorganizing.  And life is far too precious to spend it cleaning, sorting and storing stuff we don't need.  Let's clear out the stuff to make room for authentic relationships and refreshing spaces. Let's stop believing the lie that peace and order is a card swipe away.  It isn't. 

Let's start a revolution of contentment and enough.  

What about you?  In what part of your life have you fallen into the cycle of organizing and reorganizing, again and again?  (We've all been there!) Let me know in the comment section below.

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5 Ways to Meditate If You Don't Like to Meditate

I learned to meditate in rehab.

Every Friday afternoon we would sit, 20 women, in various stages of post acute withdrawal, squirrely and distracted, in chairs crammed uncomfortably close around a boardroom table, with no air conditioning in mid-summer's heat. I hated it.  Until I loved it

Meditation can be a hard practice.  Especially silent meditation, sitting alone in stillness for sustained lengths of time is not everybody's cup of tea.

But the gifts of meditation are astounding.  Not only do we find a calmness and peace that we can carry through our days, science is showing that it improves memory, attention span, and decision making abilities as well as improving blood pressure, reducing stress, and contributing to mental health.

I assure you that you can grow to love meditation without having to ever having to sit criss-cross-applesauce on a floor pillow and saying "uummmm" (unless you want to).  Here are 5 ways to start a simple meditation practice.

1. Guided meditation.  You can find videos on youtube or download an app like Insight Timer.  Find a guide whose voice doesn't grate on you and whose directions feel natural to you.  Give it enough tries to find what styles you prefer.  I don't like meditations that tell me when to breathe, they stress me out.  But I love full body relaxation meditations right before bed, they help me to loosen up and sink right into my pillowtop.  Start with shorter meditations and work your way up.

2. Walking meditation.  How much of your time spent walking is spent in your head, thinking about the day behind you or events approaching?  Try instead to notice the world around you.  Use as many as your senses as you can.  What do you see? What can you hear?  Close by? In the distance?  Do you smell anything? What does the air feel like on your face? Or the ground under your feet?  Be aware of how your body feels, of what pace feels comfortable, and who and what you share your space with.

3. Meditating on Music.  Choose a song that you find encouraging, put in your earbuds, and sit comfortably while you listen carefully to each word with your whole being.  One of my favourite songs for this is Control by Tenth Avenue North.

4. Washing your Dish.  After a meal, wash the dishes you just used by hand, in silence, focusing on the chore itself and your gratitude for the food, the body it nourishes, the implements you used to eat and cook.

5. Mindful Cooking.  Set aside time to cook alone, without distracting yourself with television or intrusive thoughts about the day.  Instead, notice the smell that bursts from the fresh pepper when you slice into it and the sound of the ingredients sizzling in a pan.  Express your gratitude for each item you pull from the fridge or pantry.  When your mind wanders, as it will, gently pull yourself back to your present task.

As a beginner, meditation can seem intimidating and awkward.  Been there, done that.  Just start slow and allow yourself grace, as your mind is bound to wander.  Gently keep bringing yourself back to the present moment and in time you will find it becoming easier, more natural, and a favourite part of your day.

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Simplicity as a Spiritual Practice

Minimalism and simplicity are hot topics right now.  Our culture is inundated with stuff, we are overspent, overstimulated, and overstuffed.  We long for tranquility .  But simplicity isn't new.  Infact, it's an ancient spiritual practice. 

And it's not about sparsely furnished lofts or white walls. It's not about counting my items to meet an arbitrary goal or having less than other minimalist friends.

It's about love and contentment and rejecting the well funded notion that the salve to our hearts cry lies behind the doors of the next big box store. It's about laying down our insatiably disordered affections and embracing a life that nourishes our souls.

Simplicity means quieting our appetites for new and more and bigger so that we can hear the quiet whispers of the remarkable creation around us and the God-Spirit within us. 

Friends, our hearts were meant to yearn for something more, and that something is not available at the local shopping center. We know this, but we so often live like we've forgotten it.

We have fallen for the lie that we can have safety and security and identity in our possessions. We can't.

We've been tricked into the lie that if we work hard enough and long enough we can wrest satisfaction from this world.  A satisfaction that is only found in communion with our maker.

By choosing a simple, minimalist life we reject the idea that the answer to our problems is always a credit card swipe away. We reject the lie that our God-crafted longing for beauty can be fulfilled in a store full of sparkly dishes and trinkets. We say enough is enough.

We stop trying to fill our souls with things that fill our cupboards.

Oh friends, this is the spiritual principle I know to be true:  That if I long for a deep and satisfying sense of "enough", the answer is not more, but less.

Like Henry David Thoreau can we say "I make myself rich by making my wants few."?

Because all we really need today is an experience with our creator.  All else in trinkets.

Will you join me in the spirituality of less?

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4 Ways to Reclaim Simplicity in your Life (When you've gotten off track)

Five years ago we gave away half of everything we owned.  We decluttered and simplified and streamlined.  Our house was cleaner, our lives ran smoother, our hearts were quieter.

And then all hell broke loose.  Life got hard.  Really hard.  And things like minimalism and simplicity went to the back burner. We were just trying to survive.

And now we are surrounded by too much.  Too many clothes.  Too many things.  Too many commitments, and bills and to-do's.

And you know what?  That's okay.

It's okay in your life too.

Stuff ebbs and flows as we journey through seasons of life.  Simplicity take different forms.  Minimalism was never about a number of belongings anyways, but an intentional choice to seek our hearts' contentment in the things that were made to nourish our souls instead of in stuff.

Here are the ways we are seeking to reclaim simplicity this year.

1) Decluttering, one room at a time.  I look around my house and wonder where it all came from.  How did we end up immersed in stuff? Again?  And it can be overwhelming.  So we will take it one room at a time, one shelf at a time, one drawer at a time.  Go slow.  Be patient with yourself.  It doesn't all have to happen today.

2) Building white space into our lives.  Just like white space in a photo or drawing gives impact and meaning to the subject of the art, white space in our lives gives more meaning to our scheduled time.  For our family this means having atleast one evening a week with no plans, no rushing around, no errands or activities, so that there is room for relaxation and reconnection.

3) Crafting a Budget with our priorities in mind.  When you are in survival mode, it is hard to stick to a budget.  Easy trumps frugal when each day is a struggle.  Now that our feet are finally on solid ground again we can begin buying with our goals in mind.  It's hard to really enjoy the calm and joy of a simpler life when you are drowning in the weight and chaos of debt.  We are digging our way out one day at a time.

4) Practicing mindfulness.  It doesn't matter how calm and simple our life is on the surface if our hearts and minds are in chaos.  A daily practice of prayer and meditation slows the hamster wheel and allows me to find some peace.

Simplicity was never about perfection.  And minimalism was never about bare shelves.  It's about embracing life where we are at and choosing contentment in the crazy messy joy of life.  So wherever you are today, no matter how many times you've tried, you can start to create peace in your life.

Start small.  Be patient with yourself.  And embrace imperfection.

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