Peak Stuff

Earlier this year, Ikea’s Chief Sustainability Officer made headlines for suggesting that the West has hit “peak stuff”—in other words, many of us in developed nations have all the consumer goods we need and are losing our appetite for more.

Well, hallelujah! I hope he’s right. How amazing would it be for society as a whole to realize we have enough—make that more than enough—and are better served by dialing down the consumption and pursuing other paths to happiness?

In fact, I think hitting peak stuff in our own lives is what motivates many of us on our minimalist journeys. One day we look in our cabinets, or in our closets, or around our homes, and suddenly feel somewhere from disenchanted to disgusted with the excess.

Marketing demographics say that, as a woman in the 35-50 age range, I should be in my prime consumer years (particularly given my status as a homeowner and mother). Advertisers and economists expect that I should be lining my nest with creature comforts for myself and my family, the more the better.

But personally, I hit peak stuff in my mid-twenties. I remember the moment clearly: I had just hauled home my third (yes, third) shabby-chic chandelier from a local antique store, and was standing in my apartment wondering where to put it. My lease forbade me from hanging it, and the other two I owned already adorned each side of our fireplace. Not to mention that in my young-and-out-on-my-own zeal, I’d already filled most of the space with furniture and other decorative items.

At that moment, my now-husband wandered into the room and asked, “What are you going to do with that thing?”

Exasperated, I sighed—this purchase I’d expected to bring me joy had done anything but—and responded, “Take it back to the store, I guess.”

Peak stuff.

I returned the chandelier. But what happened next was really amazing. Removing that one item was like pulling the plug on a giant sink of stuff. It opened my eyes to the excess in my closet, my kitchen, my desk—really, every part of my life—and from that moment on, I’ve found great happiness and freedom in letting it all drain away.

Here are some signs you may have reached peak stuff:

  • You feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of items in your home.
  • You have items still in the packaging or with tags on.
  • You’ve run out of places to put things.
  • You’re renting a storage unit to deal with the overflow.
  • New acquisitions bring you no joy.

You may hit peak stuff in a certain category before you realize its larger implications (like me and my peak chandeliers). Say, for example, you love buying new shoes; and sure, three, four, or even half a dozen pairs may bring you more happiness than one. But at some point—maybe when you’re staring at a collection of twenty or more—you realize that each extra pair isn’t adding more value to your life. It may, in fact, be doing the opposite: taking up space, getting in the way, or emptying your wallet.

And that’s when it’s time to go for it: sell, consign, or give away a few pairs. See how it makes you feel. You may look around your home with new eyes, suddenly realizing that the cause of your stress or fatigue may be too much stuff. Taking those first baby steps to reverse the flow (from accumulation to de-cumulation) may very well be the turning point to a more mindful, serene, and uncluttered way of life.

It’s an extraordinary feeling when the balance in your life shifts from acquiring things to releasing them, and I’m wondering if others have experienced similar a-ha moments. Please share: when did you hit peak stuff? (Or peak shoes, peak bags, peak books, peak pans, etc.)? I’d love to hear your stories in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider joining my email list or reading my book, The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify.}

Giveaways and More

What a fun and busy book launch week! Thanks for all your sweet words and congratulations on my previous post; it’s been such a pleasure sharing this experience with you.

I’d just like to do a quick roundup of The Joy of Less giveaways that are going on. They’re all ending in the next day or two, so surf on over for a chance to win!

In other news, my little book has its very own YouTube video:

 

And I’d also like to announce the publication of The Joy of Less in Dutch and Polish:

    

It’s so exciting to see all the different international covers. That Dutch one is a beauty, isn’t it? Love the single pearl on a plate. And the Polish cover is so simple and serene. I’ve started an International Bookshelf over on my book page, and will add the foreign language editions as they’re published.

I have a little press to share as well—a quote in the May issue of House Beautiful:

hbjol

How wonderful to see decluttering presented as a means to a beautiful home! I truly believe that our lives flow more smoothly and gracefully in an uncluttered home, and that a serene space leads to a serene mind.

And for those who can read Dutch, here’s an interview I did with Libelle magazine.

Last but not least—I’m keeping the printables offer open for one more day! If you purchase the new edition of The Joy of Less by tomorrow (Friday April 29), fill out this form to receive a dozen decluttering tip sheets. There’s one for each room in the house, plus some quotes—a little visual inspiration for you and your family.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for all your support—and making my dream of seeing The Joy of Less in bookstores come true!

 

The Joy of Less Book Release Day!

Today, the new edition of The Joy of Less is being released into the world!

I originally wrote this book because so many of you asked me for a how-to guide on decluttering and minimalist living. I thought it’d be great if a few hundred people read it; never did I dream that you would tell your friends about it, and they would tell theirs, and it would grow to touch the lives of so many people.

And thanks to you—and all your pre-orders—The Joy of Less is now available in bookstores worldwide! Thanks to you, I got to experience a moment I’ll treasure forever: I took my daughter to our beloved Powell’s Books, where she spotted The Joy of Less on the New Arrivals shelf and shouted excitedly, “There’s mommy’s book! There’s mommy’s book!”

I’m still tearing up with happiness just thinking about it.

Left: My book on the New Releases shelf at Powell's Books in Portland. Center: Me and the book poster in Powell's window. Right: Close-up on the shelf.

Left: The Joy of Less on the New Releases shelf at Powell’s Books. Center: Me and the book poster in Powell’s window. Right: Close-up on the shelf. (!!!)

Anyway, wow…this is such a special day, I don’t even know what to write. So I will share with you the quote I used in the opening of this new edition:

Let go

like a child blows a dandelion.
In one breath,

an exquisite lightness
and immeasurable joy.

I chose the dandelion theme for three reasons:

First, it’s my daughter’s favorite flower. Our walk home from school these days—which should take about 15 minutes—is usually closer to an hour, as she has to pick and blow every dandelion we encounter along the way.

Second, I think it’s the perfect analogy for letting go—of our possessions, our expectations, our burdens, etc. I see the joy in my daughter’s face as she scatters those seeds to the wind, and it’s just how I feel when I’ve released stuff, or emotions, or commitments that have been weighing on me.

And third, I hope the message of minimalism spreads like those dandelion seeds on the cover—carrying a promise of freedom, lightness, and joy far and wide.

I believe we all have a “cosmic task,” or purpose in life, that not only fulfills us personally but furthers harmony in the world. Spreading the joy of less is mine—and perhaps it’s yours, too. If so, I’d love if you’d join me in this effort:

  1. Give or lend a copy of The Joy of Less to someone who could use it (or simply tell them about it).
  1. Write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or your favorite bookseller’s website. The more people hear that decluttering worked for others, the more likely they’ll be to give it a try!
  1. Spread the word on your social networks. I’ve put together a page with inspirational quotes and images you can share on Twitter and Pinterest with just a click.

A few of my wonderful friends in the blogging world are spreading the word too, by giving away copies of the new edition! Stop by their sites for a chance to win:

I think of this as our book, so let’s celebrate together as it makes its way through the world! Tweet or Instagram photos of it in your house or hometown or local bookstore (with hashtag #joyofless)—or send me a pic and I’ll share it here. I’m really curious to see where it turns up. And I’d love to see the international editions, too!

Again, I’m so grateful for all your support—both leading up to this moment and going forward. I’m keeping the printables offer open for a few more days—so if you buy the book this week, be sure to fill out the form to get your special thank-you! Hugs, kisses, and lots of love to you for sharing this day with me!

 

5 Days Left for Pre-Order Printables

I can’t believe the new edition of The Joy of Less will be published next week! (Where has this month gone?)

Today, I just want to post a little reminder that if you pre-order the book before next Tuesday (April 26), I’d like to give you a dozen decluttering printables to thank you for your support.

I had such fun making these! I’m a very visual person—a photograph of a beautifully-pared down closet, or a small collection of kitchen essentials, inspires me so much.

And I also love when information is summarized. There’s just so much to digest these days, that I find it very helpful to have bite-sized tips at the ready. When I’m standing in front of my wardrobe, I like to have my criteria (Does it fit? Does it flatter? Does it suit my lifestyle?) right in front of me.

That’s why I made these tip sheets—to serve as reminders and encouragement as you go about your day. You don’t have to be in “decluttering mode;” you may simply be cooking dinner, and a quick glance at the Kitchen tips may inspire you to purge that duplicate peeler you come across. Or you might skim the Bathroom sheet while brushing your teeth, and decide to scale back your beauty products.

And guess what else? They’re gentle, ever-present reminders for your family members. Instead of nagging and pleading, let these printables communicate the joy of less for you—sometimes the idea is more readily embraced when it comes from a third party! And if you can’t get your spouse or partner to read the book, these summaries are a quick, easy, and subtle way to get the info across.

As I mentioned before, your pre-orders are a powerful show of support—they’ll help get The Joy of Less into bookstores, and its message out into the world. The least I can do to thank you is offer these printables—an extra special boost for your decluttering efforts, and a visual reminder of how beautiful our lives can be with less stuff. But please know that my gratitude goes far beyond this, and I treasure each and every one of you who’ve helped me in this effort.

If you’d like to pre-order the book, it’s available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, and your local independent bookstores. You can also pre-order from Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and The Book Depository (free delivery worldwide).

And after you order, don’t forget to fill out the little form below, so I can send you a link to the printables:

* required field

email address *

full name *

bookseller you ordered from *

order/receipt number *

.


Thanks again, and lots of love! xoxoxo

The Joy of Less Book Update

In less than two weeks, the new edition of The Joy of Less will be released! (Will it really be in bookstores? Fingers crossed, and lots of love to those who have pre-ordered to make it happen…)

Anyway, I’m so excited and wanted to share some of the latest news surrounding the book. I’m putting it all in one update post—so if you’re interested, it’s all here, and if not, you won’t be inundated with multiple posts on the subject. Sound good?

Okay, here we go:

*  The Joy of Less was in The New York Times Book Review on Sunday, March 27 (!!!). And not just online, but the real-life paper edition (see below). I think it’s probably every writer’s dream to be on the radar of the NYT, and I’m still pinching myself that they mentioned my ‘lil ole book.

 

* The Joy of Less has been chosen as one of Amazon’s Spring Reading Preview Books, and a Best Book of the Month for April! I’m truly honored, and so grateful to the Amazon editors for their support.

 

* The Joy of Less has been released in Brazil. You can now read all about the STREAMLINE method in Portuguese (how cool is that?). I’ve had a great time speaking to Brazilian reporters over the last month and, if you read Portuguese, you can check out this interview in HuffPost Brasil.

 

* The Joy of Less has been released in Spain, and is available throughout the world in the Spanish language. I was thrilled to be featured in the magazine Objetivo Bienestar (that’s my Spanish book cover on the right!):

 

* The Joy of Less will soon be released in the UK. Talking to the British press has made me nostalgic for my time in London, and I really enjoyed doing an interview with Psychologies magazine (you can read it in their May issue). Also, here’s something fun: my British publisher, Abrams & Chronicle, has chosen The Joy of Less for their April Reading Challenge and are giving away 3 copies (to UK/Europe residents) before the book is available in stores!

* And finally, a reminder that if you pre-order the book (from anywhere), don’t forget to fill out this form. I’m deeply grateful for your support, and would love to give you a thank-you bouquet of a dozen decluttering printables. I use them in my own home, and find such visual reminders to be so effective while STREAMLINE-ing.

That’s all for now—thank you for listening to my horn-tooting. I promise I’ll try not to do too much of it, but you’ve all been with me on this journey, and I want to share and celebrate these exciting things with you! I can only hope that the rest of the world embraces this book as you have, and discovers how wonderful a minimalist life can be. :)

The Joy of One: Bath and Beauty

For the latest installment in my Joy of One series, I’d like to talk about cosmetics, bath items, personal care products, and the like. Though disposable in nature, we often don’t dispose of them—opting to buy a new color or scent or formulation before we’ve used up our old ones. Oftentimes we get them for free from cosmetic counters and hotels (those tiny toiletries are super-cute and hard to resist). They accumulate in our drawers and cabinets, and on our countertops and shelves, and can lead to a real clutter problem. So even though we may not consider them “possessions,” they’re certainly worth discussion.

Interestingly, when I broach this topic with family and friends, some find One Shampoo or One Lipstick or One Nail Polish ridiculous, and others find it ridiculously easy. I’m really looking forward to your Comments on this, as I expect they’ll reflect a wide range of experiences and opinions.

For my part, there was a time when I would have laughed at the notion of limiting my bath and beauty products to one of each. Variety is the spice of life, right? But then I started to travel, and in the interest of packing lightly, did precisely that on my trips. And you know what? Instead of feeling deprived, I actually liked not having to make decisions every morning on which products to use. I liked having a single cleanser or a signature lipstick that I never had to think about. It seemed to make my life a little easier, my mind a little clearer, and my mornings (and evenings) a little smoother.

So I narrowed down my everyday products to the following: one soap, one shampoo, one face cleanser, one toothpaste, and one moisturizer with sunscreen. For cosmetics, I have one mineral powder, one concealer, one lipstick, one blush, and one eyeshadow (the latter two for more formal and professional occasions).

I found streamlining my beauty supplies helpful from the start, but it was after my daughter was born that I experienced the true Joy of One in this area. The ability to fly through my morning routine when I had an infant who needed to be fed, then a toddler tearing through the house, and now a preschooler to get ready for school, has been invaluable. (And when you’re using your One Lipstick, there’s no chance of your little one commandeering another to decorate herself or the walls!)

It seems trivial, but those hundreds of little decisions we make every day—like what moisturizer or makeup to use—can add up to some serious decision fatigue. Conversely, the less energy we expend on trivial matters, the more we have for important ones.

Sure, sometimes I need a change or want to try something new—but I usually wait until I use up my old one. If I’m truly unhappy with it, or it’s nearing the end of its shelf life, I’ll dispose of it. In fact, the limited shelf life of many beauty products provides ample opportunity for turnover. Liquids and creams—especially those worn on or around the eyes—have a lifespan of three to six months, while powdered foundation, concealer, blush, and lipstick generally last for a year. So don’t fret too much about getting bored with your selection; in a matter of months, you can replace your current One with a new One anyway.

Truth be told, many of you will surpass me on this and achieve the Joy of None. I absolutely love and admire and celebrate anyone who can go shampoo- or makeup-free. I wish I could do it. I want to do it. I will do it someday. But I’m not there yet. (My nails have been bare for years; that’s a step in the right direction, huh?) So the Joy of One is a nice compromise—my personal “enough” between many and none. For me, at this time, it’s lagom.

And you may find it lagom, too. If you’re intrigued by the Joy of One concept, but find One Coat or One Shoe or One Pan too extreme, this could be a wonderful place to test the waters. For each beauty product, choose your favorite and clear your shelves of the rest. Give it a week, or a month, or longer and see what it’s like to have One. When you experience the extra space it brings to your counters, your schedule, and your mind—and the ease with which it was achieved—you may be inspired to experiment with One in other parts of your life!

I’d love to know what you think of this challenge: easy, hard, something you already do? Are you one of those amazing Joy of None people? Do tell!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider joining my email list or reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide. Pre-order the new edition before April 26, and receive a thank-you bouquet of one dozen decluttering printables!}

A Bouquet of Decluttering Inspiration

As you may know, the new edition of my book, The Joy of Less, will be released on April 26 (three weeks from today!). I originally self-published it, and I’m just over the moon that Chronicle Books is helping me reach a larger audience. I know I’m going to cry the first time I see it in an actual bookstore…

In the last few months, I’ve learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes publishing world. And one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is the importance of pre-orders—that is, the number of copies ordered before the release date. Apparently, bookstores use this pre-order information to decide whether or not to stock the book on their shelves.

Say what? To put my naivete into perspective, I didn’t even announce my first edition until three weeks after I published it. Ha! Maybe that’s why I never ended up in any bookstores.

So…I’m trying to do things right this time. I think the time is ripe for minimalism to go mainstream, and I want to make the most of this opportunity to get our “less is more” message out into the world.

The more bookstores that stock The Joy of Less, the more likely it’ll reach a casual browser—someone who may be vaguely uncomfortable with clutter or consumerism, but would never think to google “minimalism.” Many of us have experienced this kind of serendipitous moment, and it can truly be life-changing.

But my book will only be on the shelves if pre-orders are strong. So I’m taking a deep breath, because I’m not very good at asking…but would you consider helping me?

If you’re thinking of buying the book (for yourself, for a friend, as a gift for Mother’s Day or even next Christmas), I will shower you with virtual love and kisses if you’d order it before April 26. It’s available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, and your local independent bookstores. You can also pre-order from Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and The Book Depository (free delivery worldwide).

But I want to give you more than a big {e-hug} for your support. As a special thank you, I want to give you a little extra help with your decluttering—something to make the process even easier and more pleasant.

So many of you have told me that you’ve highlighted, and dog-eared, and written out passages from the book to use as you declutter. And you’ve also asked me for more visual inspiration—beautiful spaces and images to support your resolve as you STREAMLINE.

So I’ve designed and created an exclusive bundle of decluttering printables (“cheat sheets,” if you will), pictured above. I’ve distilled the advice in the book into bite-sized tips, and paired them with inspirational photos for each room in the house. You can hang them on the wall (or on the inside of a closet or kitchen cabinet door) while decluttering, to give you that little boost of minimalist joy when (and where) you need it most.

I made one for each area of the house—living room, bedroom, wardrobe, office, kitchen, bathroom, and storage spaces—and one addressing sentimental items (just like the chapters in the book). I also included a visual of the STREAMLINE method (which is particularly useful for introducing family members to the concept!). And finally, I combined some lovely photos with inspirational quotes (mine and others) that would even be suitable for gifting or framing.

There’s a dozen in all—think of it as a little bouquet of decluttering inspiration.

If you’re new to The Joy of Less, these tip sheets will help you get a jump start on clearing out the clutter before the book arrives. If you’ve already read the first edition, they neatly summarize the most effective ways to declutter each area of your life (with some lovely photos for motivation!).

To receive yours, simply pre-order the book before April 26 and then fill out this form. A link to the 12-page PDF file will then be delivered to your email address (you can print them all, just your favorites, or enjoy them digitally).

Everything’s starting to bloom here, and if I could, I would gather flowers from my garden for each of you to show my gratitude. I’d like to do the next best thing, and offer you this digital bouquet of printables. I hope they’ll bring a similar joy and beauty into your life, and inspire you along your minimalist path.

The Joy of One

I have long been enamored with the concept of One.

How lovely would it be to have One coat you could wear all year? One pair of shoes that worked with every outfit? One bag that filled all your needs? One pen, One pan, One sauce pot, One spatula, One lipstick of the perfect shade.

Ahhh…..for me, that’s minimalist heaven. It’s the culmination of all the decluttering I’ve been doing, and minsumerism I’ve been practicing, for the past decade.

One is restrained. One is elegant. One is beautiful.

I talk a lot about Limits in my book, The Joy of Less: like limiting our shirts or books or towels or plates to a certain number or certain space. Well, One is taking the concept of Limits to the extreme. It’s not for the faint of heart, and requires some willingness to live on the edge—after all, you might be in a bit of a bind if you leave your One coat behind in a restaurant or misplace your One pen.

So if you’re not living out of a backpack, why go to such extremes? Why own just One of an item, when you have plenty of room for two, or three, or ten?

For the same reasons you might train for a marathon or go on a meditation retreat. When we voluntarily undertake a difficult challenge—especially one that pushes the bounds of our abilities or comfort levels—it’s a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and discovery. It’s an opportunity to build our self-discipline and bolster our confidence. Plus, it’s fun! (Why else do it, right?)

The challenge of One rewards us with a new sense of mindfulness with respect to our possessions. It teaches us to evaluate our needs and wants, and makes us keenly aware of the value and versatility of the things we own.

It also brings us joy and satisfaction when we realize how little we really need. No longer are we dependent on variety for happiness, backups for security, or stuff for our sense of worth. We learn to trust in our decision-making and our ability to deal with situations as they arise. We distance ourselves from consumerism and exercise our creativity and ingenuity.

Furthermore, One eliminates decision fatigue and frees up our mental energy for more worthwhile pursuits. Why waste time and attention on choice for the sake of choice—when one variation of an item has no greater benefit than another?

In fact, you may already be practicing One without realizing it. For example: if you have eight pairs of jeans, but always wear your favorite; if you have a jar of wooden spoons, but always reach for the same one; if you carry the same bag every day despite the stash in your closet. Why not stow the extras away for awhile and see if you miss them? If not, you can eventually declutter them, create some space, and streamline your daily routine.

Finally, One is a sigh of relief in a society of excess. I’m tired of being sold the idea of having sweaters in every conceivable color and enough footwear for an army. I don’t want to have saucepans in every size or purses to match every outfit. I worry that fast fashion and rampant consumerism are harming the environment and peoples’ lives for the sake of profit.

One is a way of stepping off the work-and-spend treadmill, reducing our carbon footprint, and minimizing the impact of our consumption. The fewer things you own, the more deliberately you select them and more carefully you treat them. I want to set this example for my daughter, so she doesn’t grow up thinking that more is better or that stuff is the measure of success.

Therefore, I’m going to make this the year of One, and see how I can get by with a single item of certain things (my recent cross-country move gave me a great head start on this).

Now, don’t get nervous—I’m certainly not advocating everyone do this! It’s just something that intrigues me, and I thought I’d share my experience with you. As a writer on minimalist living, it’s my job to push the bounds and report my findings; I hope you’ll find the series thought-provoking, or at the least, a little entertaining.

I look forward to your comments and questions as I tackle such challenges as wearing One pair of shoes and One coat for the next year (posts coming soon…). And I welcome your suggestions for other possessions I can pare down to One!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Stealth Decluttering

In the past, I used to engage in big, glorious acts of decluttering—the type in which an entire closet is emptied and the contents scattered across the room, each item awaiting its fate. Sometimes I’d put on music, pour a glass of wine, and dance around my castoffs.

Ah, those were the days… If I tried that now, a pint-sized scavenger would be dragging whatever she could grab to far-flung corners of our home. And I’m sure a good amount would be adopted as new (albeit unconventional) playthings.

So now I declutter in stealth mode.

Instead of extravagant purging sessions, I pare down our possessions quietly, piece by piece. I keep a donation box in the closet, and as I run across things that no longer pull their weight, I add them in—sometimes sneaking them across the house, if need be. To be honest, most of the castoffs belong to my daughter Plumblossom—outgrown clothing, toys, and baby accoutrements—hence the need for secrecy. If she catches sight of a familiar item (no matter how long it’s been forgotten), it may get stuck in our house for months to come.

Which got me thinking…stealth decluttering can be an effective technique if you’re facing resistance from full-grown members of your household.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I don’t advocate tossing your spouse’s high school yearbooks or prized bottle cap collection (tempting as it may be). Ditto for the knitting stash and dusty sports gear. Sentimental and hobby items are sticky wickets, and messing with them can get you into trouble.

But if your partner is the type that will become hopelessly attached to the duplicate stapler the moment he/she lays eyes on it, I think you’re justified in making some executive decisions.

The best candidates for stealth decluttering:

• Broken stuff. Nobody can fault you for tossing something that doesn’t work—especially if it hasn’t worked in a long time. If there’s no motivation or intention to fix it, let it go; obviously, it hasn’t been that essential to the workings of your household.

• Mundane stuff. These are the things that can be replaced easily and inexpensively in the remote chance that they’re missed. Many of these items have a tendency to multiply—pens, mugs, Tupperware, etc. Nobody is likely to notice if a few cups are missing, or if you pare down the stash of takeout chopsticks—except that it might be easier to close those drawers and cabinets.

• Children’s stuff. Give your kids the gift of space by eliminating the outgrown, the unloved, and the non-essential from their lives. Although I believe in encouraging children to give away their old stuff, you don’t need to run every castoff by them. It’s better for some things to disappear quietly. I stash questionable items in a “limbo” box for a few months, just in case they’re requested in the near future.

Your stuff. When it comes to your personal possessions, skip the PDD (public display of decluttering). Seeking validation from your partner may very well backfire (“You’re getting rid of that after paying so much for it?!”) and break your resolve.

My opinion: when done right, stealth decluttering isn’t an act of duplicity, it’s an act of kindness. We’re keeping our households clear, pleasant, and spacious without burdening our loved ones with the task (especially those who may genuinely struggle with such decisions).

(I should note that I don’t need to employ this with my husband, as he’s as minimalist as I am–and he’s more than welcome to do some stealth decluttering of his own. ;-) )

So let’s come clean in the Comments—do you ever declutter on the QT?

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Decluttering Update: Hello eBay, My Old Friend

Hello eBay, my old friend
I’ve come to list with you again…

Sometimes you reach a point in life when you have things all figured out—you’ve accomplished that elusive goal, you’ve designed that perfect lifestyle, you’ve tweaked and fine-tuned your way into the ideal routine.

And then what happens? Well, things change, of course. One of the tenets of Zen Buddhism is that life is never static—and that the desire for it to be so is cause for great suffering. Better to accept that change is the rule, and embrace the twists and turns that occur along the way.

I had once decluttered my way to minimalist nirvana. I’d whittled down my belongings to the essential. I had fewer than one hundred possessions. I had no permanent address and I lived out of a suitcase. My eBay account, once a hotbed of activity, stood dormant for years.

And then I had a baby.

Now, don’t get me wrong; having a child has been the most amazing experience of my life. However, it’s thrown me into the midst of a whole new level of stuff-management.

When I was pregnant, I didn’t shop or nest like many moms-to-be. In fact, I hardly bought anything, confidant that my little one could get by with a handful of outfits and toys. I didn’t even acquire a crib or car seat until I was nearly full term. I haven’t become much of a shopper since her arrival, either, and generally scramble to fill needs as they arise (oh, there’s six inches of snow–my daughter needs boots and mittens!).

But, this being the first grandchild on both sides of the family, my relatives have more than made up for my lack. So the last two years have found me back in decluttering mode, as Plumblossom rapidly outgrows her clothes and baby paraphernalia.

While the bulk of her castoffs go to charity, I’ve listed some of her nicer dress clothes on eBay. It’s actually been less time-consuming than expected, primarily because of eBay’s shipping label service. After the auction, all I have to do is put the article of clothing in a small padded envelope, weigh it on our kitchen scale, print off the label (paid via Paypal), and drop it into the drive-through mailbox at the post office. It’s a far cry from my eBay heyday a decade ago, when I’d wait for checks in the mail, take them to the bank, make my own labels, and wait in line at the post office (!).

So I’m back in the trenches with y’all, and have integrated a new decluttering routine into my minimalist life. I have three bags in the guest room closet: one for clothes donations, one for books and toys donations, and one for eBay sales (unfortunately, none of our friends or family have had baby girls recently, leaving a lack of hand-me-down recipients). I like to keep Plumblossom’s closet and play area as clutter-free as possible, so anything that’s outgrown or no longer useful goes straight into the bags. Then every few months, I make my donations and list on eBay. And Plumblossom grows, and the cycle goes on…

(For those wondering why I’m not saving stuff for a future sibling, see my Huffington Post article.)

The point of this post? That when it comes to decluttering, sometimes there isn’t an end point—and that’s okay. Sometimes, no matter how perfectly you’ve pared down your possessions, life circumstances might throw some extra stuff your way. But as long as you keep your minimalist mindset, and deal with clutter as soon as it becomes clutter, you’ll continue on your merry minimalist path.

In fact, it’s good to hone those decluttering muscles once in a while. When it comes to my own stuff, having a child has made me even more minimalist (perhaps to compensate, both mentally and physically, for her things?). I’ve acquired practically nothing for myself since her birth, and finally let go of the box of “nice” office clothes I’d stored while overseas (and lamented in Storage is Not a Solution). I have a renewed enthusiasm for becoming as paperless as possible–more on that in a future post. Perhaps (to paraphrase Nietzsche) the clutter that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. ;-)

So has life ever thrown you a clutter curveball? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the Comments!

[Note: Am I blogging again? Sort of. I’ll try to post about once a month for now, and slowly ease my way back…]

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}