100 Essentials Spring Giveaway Winner

Thank you very much to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway! I’m truly honored by your enthusiasm for my new book.

I used Random.org to select the winner, and the lucky reader is Cheryl, who on April 17, 2017 at 2:53 pm told us about her most versatile, hardworking item:

My Instant Pot – 7 cookers in one – love it!
Thanks for the chance to win!

Congratulations, Cheryl!

Honestly, though, I think all of your Comments turned out to be more valuable and interesting than the giveaway itself! A reporter recently asked me, “Who inspires you?” and the answer was easy: my readers.

I love, love, love our discussions on the practical aspects of minimalism. You continually provide such fascinating ideas, experiences, and food for thought. In case I don’t say it often enough, I’m deeply grateful for our little community of kindred souls.

You inspired 100 Essentials. This book is a pretty intimate look at my stuff—and being somewhat shy, was sometimes difficult to write. (What if everyone thinks I have ugly furniture, or terrible taste in clothes?) But for each item, I imagined I was writing a little letter to you, to share my favorite things with a friend. So thank you for being my inspiration, and sharing your favorite things with me!

100 Essentials – Spring Giveaway!

Ah, spring is in the air! My garden is full of tulips and daffodils, and the magnolia and cherry trees are in full bloom. After a long, cold, wet winter, it’s wonderful to see the world in color again.

It’s time to open the windows, let in the fresh air, and let go of the clutter.

To help you lighten up your home this spring, I’m giving away a Kindle copy of my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a Comment below. If you’d like, tell us about one of your most versatile, hardworking possessions. (It could be a fabulous dress, an indispensable cooking utensil, your favorite handbag, gadget, etc.) I show you all of mine in 100 Essentials, so would love to hear about yours!

I’ll keep the giveaway open until the end of Thursday, April 20, and use the number generator at Random.org to choose the winner. Please be sure to use a legitimate email address, so that I can contact you if you win.

Please note that this giveaway is for a Kindle (digital) copy. (If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can read it with one of Amazon’s free reading apps.) If you win, you’ll need a US Amazon account to claim your copy.

Happy spring, and best of luck to everyone who enters!

100 Essentials: Turkish Bath Towel

{This series is based on my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home. In it, you’ll find the full list of my personal possessions, with detailed explanations and 100 color photos—including my 35-item kitchen, 35-item wardrobe, and more. I hope this series will start some interesting discussions on what you can’t live without!}

Shall we talk about towels? They may seem a trivial item, but they often commandeer a good chunk of our storage space. They’re big, fluffy, and seem to multiply of their own accord. I remember, in my pre-minimalist days, struggling to extract (and return) bath sheets to a jam-packed linen closet. And if they weren’t folded just so, the entire stack would look a mess.

As I minimized, I tackled this issue from two directions: downsizing our number of towels, and downsizing the towels themselves.

And guess what I discovered in the process? Towels don’t have to be big and fluffy to get you dry.

It’s a common assumption that the towels par excellence are the lofty, luxurious, spa-like variety. I once subscribed to that view, too, and devoted far too much closet space to housing them. And then I discovered the pestemal.

Pestemals are flat woven towels of a special Turkish cotton. They’re soft, lightweight, and absorbent, but best of all, take up about a quarter of the space of a traditional plush towel. (In other words, a stack of four Turkish towels is roughly equivalent to one “fluffy” towel.) They also dry more quickly, both by air and machine. Truly, they’re the stuff of dreams for those in tiny houses, boats, RVs, and micro apartments.

I’m so enamored with Turkish towels that our family uses them exclusively. Each of us has one in a different color/pattern (my daughter was particularly excited to pick out her lilac one). Yes, one towel per person is living on the edge—but as your minimalist guide, I had to see if it could be done. I’m happy to say that yes, it can, and so far we’ve never been inconvenienced by a lack of bath towels. They go straight from the dryer to the towel rack, so no storage necessary.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, we also keep two towels for guests, as we usually have friends and family for weeklong stays every 2-3 months.)

I do have some advice for anyone tempted to take the plunge: be patient with your pestemal. The first few times you use it, you probably won’t be impressed. My husband would joke about drying off with his “Turkish paper towel.” We couldn’t understand why our brand new pestemals were so inferior to the “used” ones in our Istanbul hotel. But that turned out to be the key—pestemals get better (that is, softer and more absorbent) with each trip through the washing machine. By the sixth wash or so, they were performing acceptably and have only improved since. If you’re initially disappointed, do give it at least a dozen launders before you throw in the towel. ;-)

So please, tell me about your towels! Does anyone else use pestemal, or something similar? I’d love to hear about your bath towel of choice, and learn about other textile marvels from around the world.

{If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love 100 Essentials. It contains all the super-versatile, high-performing items that have helped me streamline my life.}

100 Essentials: The Convertible Dress

{This series is based on my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home. In it, you’ll find the full list of my personal possessions, with detailed explanations and 100 color photos—including my 35-item kitchen, 35-item wardrobe, and more. I hope this series will start some interesting discussions on what you can’t live without!}

How many formal affairs do you attend each year? For me, the answer is one or two—fundraisers and the occasional marriage are all I need worry about.

Therefore, I don’t need a closet full of fancy clothes, and I’ve been determined for some time now to reduce my formalwear to One.

For many years, I relied on the classic little black dress. It served its purpose just fine, but you know what? Easy and minimalist as it was, I got bored. Part of the fun of a formal affair is dressing up, and the LBD just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

Lazy shopper that I am, I certainly had no intention to go out looking for something new. But one day, on the internet, something caught my eye: the convertible dress. One garment that can be worn 20+ ways? I was intrigued.

Basically, it consists of a stretchy bodice with two very long straps. With some strategic twisting, turning, and wrapping, you can make a variety of different dress styles: halter, strapless, sleeveless, one shoulder, off-the-shoulder, and many more. It’s like a modern version of a Grecian tunic. You can even fashion it into a more casual, daytime dress.

What’s more, the fabric is super-stretchy; it doesn’t need tailoring, and pretty much fits the same even if you gain or lose a few pounds.

It’s also basic enough to not require any special accessories. It works well with my black strappy heels, black clutch, and a piece of jewelry or two. (I remember, long ago, having special shoes and bags for particular pieces of formalwear—never again!)

I’ve only worn mine a few times so far, but I have to admit, it’s put the fun back into dressing up. I can devise something that fits the occasion and my mood, and it’s nice to not look exactly the same when attending annual events. If you wanted, you could even change your look over the course of an evening—useful, perhaps, if you’re hitting the town after that awards dinner, or if someone else shows up in the same dress (!).

It’s available in both short and long versions. And though I love the elegance of a floor-sweeping gown, knee-length is much more practical for my lifestyle. It would be wonderful if some designer came up with a convertible length as well… :)

The most difficult decision, then, was choosing a color. The minimalist in me said black, the girly-girly wanted fuchsia, the dreamer wanted blue. I ultimately opted for gray, a color I find versatile, seasonless, and sophisticated.

{And because some of you will want to know where I got it, here’s the link.}

I feel like I’ve broken all kinds of fashion (and minimalist) rules by abandoning the LBD—but sometimes you just have to live a little, right?

I’d love to know about your favorite formalwear; please tell me about your fanciest frocks (and why you chose them) in the Comments. And men, don’t be shy—what’s your clothing strategy for special occasions?

100 Essentials Book Giveaway!

I just wanted to let everyone know that Courtney Carver of bemorewithless.com is holding a 100 Essentials book giveaway!

Surf on over to her Instagram post for a chance to win one of three Kindle copies. She’ll be choosing the winners on Wednesday, March 8th.

Good luck!

100 Essentials: One Bowl Eating, Revisited

{This series is based on my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home. In it, you’ll find the full list of my personal possessions, with detailed explanations and 100 color photos—including my 35-item kitchen, 35-item wardrobe, and more. I hope this series will start some interesting discussions on what you can’t live without!}

Thank you for all your wonderful Comments on the Great Plate Debate! It’s so much fun to trade ideas and experiences as we eliminate the excess and pare down to the essentials. I was particularly glad to hear that Corelle has been a safe, durable, and versatile choice for so many of you.

In addition to a plate, a bowl makes my list of 100 Essentials. If circumstances allowed, I could make this my only piece of dishware (hmm, 99 Essentials?).

In fact, long, long ago, I wrote on this blog about my desire to eat all my meals from a single bowl. All of my go-to foods fit easily in this simple vessel, and I felt it would make for a more meditative, appreciative dining experience.

Seven years later, I feel the same way—yet still haven’t achieved that goal. What happened? Life got in the way.

We returned from our overseas sojourn, and settled down (somewhat) to have a child. Back among friends and family, we entertained more often. We had a daughter, who, as she grew into a toddler, did not like her constituent foods to be mixed together. It’s hard to keep the fish from touching the rice from touching the veggies when you’re eating out of a bowl. :)

As she’s grown, the co-mingling of food has become more acceptable. She loves a good noodle bowl, adores paella, and no longer insists that her pasta stand alone (yay!).

The notion of one bowl eating has returned to my consciousness. I’m slowly and subtly introducing more such dishes into our menu. I won’t be tossing the plates anytime soon, but am curious to see how much we can do with a bowl.

I’ve been exploring the internet for ideas and recipes, and am thrilled to see so many new cookbooks on one bowl eating:

Clean Bowls, Great Bowls, Whole Bowls, Nourish Bowls—so much potential deliciousness! I’m making my way through their reviews, to see which best suit my needs. In particular, I like cookbooks that focus on basic cooking techniques, and don’t require the use of food processors, blenders, and other specialty appliances.

And even though I don’t always eat vegan, I tend to cook vegan; we’re not big meat eaters, and the little one doesn’t like eggs, or anything creamy or cheesy. Now if some minimalist chef would write Unplugged One Bowl Mostly Vegan Meals, that would be awesome.

On that note, I sincerely believe that embracing minimalism can help us become healthier people. The more mindful we are about our possessions, the more mindful we become about the behaviors and routines surrounding those possessions—in this case, what we put into our bodies.

As for the bowl itself—I never buy sets, so my family’s current collection is a hodgepodge of glass and ceramic, just like our plates. After the Comments on my last post, however, I’m newly intrigued by bone china and bamboo, and intend to explore these options the next time we need a replacement.

So, have any of you adopted (or practiced) one bowl eating since we last discussed it? Please share your experiences, favorite recipes, or favorite bowl with us in the Comments!

100 Essentials: The Great Plate Debate

{This series is based on my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home. In it, you’ll find the full list of my personal possessions, with detailed explanations and 100 color photos—including my 35-item kitchen, 35-item wardrobe, and more. I hope this series will start some interesting discussions on what you can’t live without!}

Everyone’s list of Essentials will be different—the stuff in my 35-item kitchen certainly won’t be the same as yours. But I think almost all of us would include a plate (and if you wouldn’t, do tell!).

The big question is: what kind of plate?

Truth be told, I never gave much thought to plates before my daughter was born. If I needed one, I’d just pick something pretty. But somehow, becoming a mother put all kinds of new hazards on my radar.

Before she came along, we had stoneware plates. They were lovely to look at, but weighed a ton. They were hard to hold on to while washing (I chipped quite a few), and I didn’t look forward to transporting them when it came time to relocate.

But most of all, I started worrying about lead. Apparently, it’s not uncommon in ceramic dinnerware—particularly vintage pieces, and those with colored glazes or decorations. Dishware sold in the United States is supposed to conform to legal limits; but given the wide variety available, and the global nature of manufacturing, it was hard (for me) to believe that retailers were tracking the info on every dish. I wasn’t too keen on testing them with a home kit, so I started to look for alternatives.

We made the switch to Corelle plates, which are made of a glass laminate. They’re lightweight and durable, meaning my daughter could start setting the table as a toddler. They also stack compactly, and are a dream to move (instead of painstakingly wrapping each plate, I’d simply pile them all together and wrap the lot). Plus, the plain white style is lead-free.

Great, right? We used them happily for years. But then I tripped across some reports of tempered glass shattering spontaneously, or if hit the wrong way. Sure, the possibility was remote, and I wasn’t particularly concerned for myself—but off went my mommy alarm bells.

So I passed that set along to an interested party, and bought a regular glass plate for my little one. Yes, it will break if dropped, but seems a little more predictable. I still have a few ceramic plates that my husband and I use—they’re plain white (so less likely to have lead), and we’re not in a high-risk group (like children and pregnant women) for lead poisoning. I received them as gifts, and rather like them, so continue to use and enjoy them.

Our current plates are a hodgepodge of styles, but I actually prefer that to a matching set.

I would love to hear your thoughts! What kind of plates do you use and why?

100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home

I have some exciting news to share with you today: I’ve published a new book!

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember a little series I used to do called “100 Possessions.” I’d select an item I owned, and explain why it deserves a place in my minimalist life.

They were some of my most popular posts, and many of you asked me to revive the series. So I started writing…but had so much fun, I couldn’t stop! Over the years, I’ve developed a sort of capsule household—a small collection of ultra-versatile items—and I wanted to show you everything. And thus, my new book was born:

100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:

I’m often asked what inspired me to become a minimalist. The answer: I fell in love with traveling lightly.

After over-packing on a few trips, and suffering the misery of lugging around a heavy suitcase, I vowed henceforth to travel with just a small carry-on. The experience was exhilarating! I felt like I could go anywhere, and do anything, when I wasn’t loaded down with stuff. And I thought, wow, if it feels this great to travel lightly, how wonderful would it be to live this way?

I began to edit the contents of my home with the same fervor as I had my suitcase. As I slowly ditched the extra “baggage,” I could feel the weight being lifted from my shoulders. I became a decluttering diva, peeling away the layers of excess, working my way down to the essentials. I reduced and reduced and reduced, for well over a decade.

And then it hit me: how much faster and easier would it be if I started with a clean slate and worked my way up? In other words, what if I looked at my whole life as a journey and simply packed my “suitcase?”

In my book, The Joy of Less, I waxed poetic on the wonders of a capsule wardrobe—a small collection of ultra-versatile clothing to suit all my needs. I also speculated on how lovely it would be to have a capsule office: all my supplies in a single, portable box so I could work anywhere.

Why stop there? What a joy would it be to cook with a capsule kitchen, with just the favorite pots, pans, and tools I always reach for (and without having to rustle through less useful things to find them)?

In fact, we can apply this capsule concept to the entirety of our possessions—a capsule household, if you will. That’s the premise of 100 Essentials.

Click here to read the full Introduction…

It includes 100 full-color photos of my 35-Item Kitchen, 35-Item Wardrobe, and more.

Ultimately, it’s a new twist on decluttering: eliminate the excess by choosing your essentials. When your stuff is in sync with your needs, you can move through your days more gracefully and efficiently.

Whether you’re relocating, retiring, or just starting out, 100 Essentials helps you travel more lightly through life. It’s also a great resource for those who are living in small spaces (or dreaming of it).

My hope is you’ll join in the fun, and use my list as a springboard in making your own. I think we can have a blast sharing and debating our respective choices here on the blog! In fact, I’d love to launch a new series (similar to Real Life Minimalists) in which you, my readers, share your 100 Essentials.

And lest it sound too extreme, don’t worry: I take a friendly, flexible approach that allows for some Extras. I want this to be accessible and enjoyable for anyone who wants to try it. :)

As always, I’m deeply grateful for your support, and hope you’ll join me on this little escapade through my minimalist home!

Please note: 100 Essentials is currently available only as an ebook, as it’s cost-prohibitive to print in full color. But you don’t need a Kindle device; simply download one of the free Kindle Reading apps to your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc.