21-Day Decluttering Challenge

21-day decluttering challenge

As a practicing minimalist you wouldn’t think that I’d need a decluttering challenge, but I do. I accumulate stuff just like Every. One. Else.

So let’s debunk a fallacy right now: Decluttering is not something you do once. It’s something you do again and again each year.  Because…

…people give you things you don’t always use.

…and you buy things you think you’ll need but then never end up using.

…and your life changes, including your interests and needs and the size of your waistline.

All of these things make decluttering an ongoing pursuit, and I’m overdue for a pass through my possessions.

My primary motivation for decluttering is always the same: To create space for new things to grow in my life.

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I’d love you to join me. What new things would you like to create space for? A new relationship? A new hobby? A new business? A new healthy way of living?

Let’s not make the common mistake of trying to cram this new thing into our current life and space. Our clutter, unfinished projects, unsightly junk, and neglected objects are weighing us down—stealing precious energy from something new we’re trying to grow.

So let’s create some breathing room, K?

Join me on a 21-day decluttering challenge:

  1. Every day, for 21 days, find 10 objects to get rid of.
  2. These objects can be physical or digital (though I recommend that you stick to physical as much as possible because they offer a better psychological bang for your buck.).
  3. Get rid of them. (This step is obvious but for real–how many times have you created a donate pile and then let it sit in your closet, car or entryway for months?)

Easy, right? I’ll be sharing what I’m getting rid of, plus a couple things that I’ve found to be helpful with decluttering along the way, so follow my progress, and share your own, on Instagram.

Ready? Go.

The happy side effects of getting rid of labels in your home

get rid of labels for a clean, minimal home style

When I asked for amber pump bottles for Christmas, I’m sure my family thought I was being weird (as per usual). It’s just that I’d see this picture on Pinterest and was immediately reminded about a little mission I’d been toying around with.

The mission is to go label-less.

Going label-less was first introduced to me by this pin from Apartment Therapy.

Living the Label-less Life:

The headline, Living the Label-less Life, was compelling, but it was the image that truly captivated me. This clean, simple kitchen made me physically sigh a breath of relief.

Yes, I thought. I want that.

Reducing labels in our lives is one part aesthetic (nerd-talk for making things look pretty), and one part resistance to our over-saturated advertisement culture.

Regarding the latter, we now spend more than eight hours per day exposed to media and twenty hours weekly online, and that whole time is filled with ads.

To see what I mean, try this exercise with yourself: for the rest of the day pay careful attention to how many ads you see. You can spot them on sidebars and sprinkled all over social media. Some of them are overt, and others are careful product placements within the content itself.

It’s a lot, right? And it doesn’t include other ads we’re exposed to, including the billboards, mailers, catalogs, and packaging labels filling our lives.

These ads aren’t inherently bad–I’ve discovered a lot of great new products and services from them. But they are coming at us like water from a fire hose. And the clean, minimal kitchen pictured above reminded me that sometimes you just need a break, right?

When you remove labels from your life and home, you:

  • Invite visual calm, which in turn invites emotional and mental calm. I’m not sure we all fully comprehend the toll these ads take on us until we experience peace when they’re gone…
  • You get a break from being hounded constantly by marketing messages screaming to you from every surface that “you deserve this” and “your life will be complete with this revolutionary, life-changing product.”
  • Create an atmosphere for others that feels peaceful
  • Have spaces and clothing that look put-together and tidy (even if you haven’t cleaned in ages)
  • Opt-out of the pressure to buy and display the “right” brands. Peer pressure is so a thing left better for your past teenage-self.

To start going label-less, here are three easy-to-tackle labels to remove:

  • Common personal care products that are out in the open (like your shampoo and conditioner bottles)
  • Kids’ products, like car seats, strollers, bouncy chairs and toys
  • Pantry staples (I so long for a pantry that looks like this…)**
  • **BONUS: removing labels from your food is easiest when you start shopping bulk, and a happy side-effect of bulk food that you end up eating more healthy, clean, whole foods

So what do you think? Would you try it? If yes, here’s a request: remove a label or two from your home, snap a photo of it, and then share it on Instagram. Tag me @stephaniehillberry so that I can see your label-less idea (and maybe adopt it myself).

> Related: a month of mini fresh starts

> Join me on Instagram

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What’s a capsule wardrobe?

capsule wardrobe Cladwell

capsule wardrobe Cladwell

I started wearing a capsule wardrobe in early 2015, and one of the most common questions I get about it is, “What’s a capsule wardrobe?” Because my answer (“It’s how a guy dresses all the time”) is insufficient for some, I thought I’d let someone else describe it. Welcome Cladwell.

Cladwell—started by three gents named Blake, Tim and Chris–is a new fashion service specializing in capsule wardrobes. These wardrobes, as they describe them, are built on a small number of quality pieces meant to be worn seasonally (or longer, depending on your preference). By intentionally restricting the number of garments, you simplify your wardrobe. But by rotating your capsules 3-4 times per year, you keep from getting bored.

According Cladwell, in 1930 the average woman had 36 items in her closet. Today she has 120. This increase is primarily due to one factor: The recent availability of really cheap clothes in the US. And while this cheap clothing boon has been exciting for many, there are some unfortunate side-effects to the trend, including clutter, child labor, pollution, and a TON of clothing waste.

I was personally attracted to the idea of a capsule wardrobe because I wanted to simplify my morning routine. I was tired of standing in front of my closet every morning trying to decide what to wear. I also recognized that I wore certain things over and over, and left the rest (more than half my closet) untouched. So I reduced my clothes down to about 35 items and never looked back.

Based on my experience, I agree with Cladwell’s listed benefits for keeping a capsule wardrobe: It reduces excess consumerism, keeps clothing out of landfills, helps you avoid trends and settle into a personal style, and simplifies your routine.

Because this isn’t a fashion blog per se, I won’t go into more details about my wardrobe now. But if you’re interested in starting a capsule, here are some excellent places to start:

The capsule wardrobe trend is one the rise, and garnering more press and attention with each new week. Expect to keep hearing more about it here, including more discussion about why it’s connecting with people.

I use these unexpected things to spark joy

#beautility drawstring bag

Like a lot of people (and by a lot, I mean over 1 million), I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this past year. If you’ve read it, you know that her “spark joy” message really clicks with people, me included.

If you haven’t read her book, the spark joy message is basically this: When it comes to the things you own and the activities you do, listen to your heart. If they spark joy, keep them. If they don’t, get rid of them.

You can see the wisdom and simplicity in this advice.

I realized after reading the book that there was one area I really wanted to spark more joy in. This area is not what you think. It’s not clothes. It’s not shoes. It’s not furniture or artwork. It’s not even blogging or photography or any other hobby.

It’s everyday, utilitarian objects. 

Yes—you heard me correctly. I want my dustpan to spark joy. And my soap container. And maybe even my soap.

Basically I want my humble utilitarian tools to be beautiful. I’m searching for beauty + utility, or #beautility.

These drawstring bags fit the criteria. I could use any kind of bag, really, for storing and transporting stuff—even used plastic bags from Target (but blech). But these are far more beautiful. When I see them doing extremely ordinary things, like corralling my sliced sourdough bread in the freezer, I smile. Like Kondo said, they spark a tiny flame of joy, which can make a surprising impact on the quality of my day when added to other small sparks.

I made these particular bags myself, including the triangle stamp pattern, but you can find similar bags here.

Do you take a no-nonsense approach to your practical tools, or have you ever bought something because it was useful and attractive (even if the attractive version was more expensive)? What did you buy?

I have too many bowls, plus introducing the “dude litmus test”

decluttering dishes

I knew something was wrong immediately, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I stood with the kitchen cabinet doors open, willing my brain to identify the source of my unease.

Ah yes—the second shelf was bowing low in the center. And not just a little bit. It looked like it was about to snap. Alarmed at the prospect of smashing mugs and bowls, I immediately began taking everything off the shelf. Meanwhile, my husband walked into the kitchen and saw the chaos. “Now what?” he asked in a dreadful tone (he hates unexpected repair chores).

After some investigation, he discovered that a small brace holding the shelf in the center had busted. A custom part, of course. Muttering to himself, he started troubleshooting solutions.

“You know, part of the problem here,” he said, drill in hand, “is that we have too many dishes.”

It’s true. I counted. We have 17 mugs, 16 bowls, 14 dessert bowls, and tons of random extra things on those shelves. There are two of us. Even with guests, we never come close to using them all.

Even though I know better, I have a hard time letting go of certain things

Of course I’ve known about this glut of bowls for years, but I’ve been having a hard time parting with them. I think it’s fear that someday we’ll entertain more and I won’t have enough dishes to serve people. Like my friend who has a set of martini glasses that she bought for a cocktail party six years ago and hasn’t used since, I’m afraid I’ll need them again. It’s irrational.

Introducing the dude litmus test

This scenario illustrates something I’ve noticed when it comes to simplicity and minimalism: men and women are different. Not once has my husband ever kept something because he thought we might use it to entertain others. No bachelor in the world has 16 bowls.

This difference has led me make the conclusion that men are better natural minimalists (exceptions to this are gadget enthusiasts, tool hoarders, and “spavers”–aka people who buy stuff just because they’re getting a deal). Because of this, I’ve instituted a test for my lab experiments: I’m calling it the “dude litmus test.” Basically if a dude would do it, it qualifies as simple.

So back to the shelf burdened by an unnecessary quantity of dishes–when I apply this so-called dude litmus test, I determine that we can purge our bowls and mugs down to 8. It’s maybe technically more than a bachelor would need but at least I’ll have enough between dishwashing loads. I’m keeping the excess in basement storage for now with a reminder to donate it if we don’t use it between now and the new year.

Do you agree with my theory that men are better natural minimalists than women?