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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A month of mini fresh starts

[NOTE: keep scrolling to see the full list of mini fresh start articles below]

I think it was the cadre of sketchy leftovers in my fridge, plus the sticky dark slurry pooling beneath the vegetable crisper, that officially triggered the “oh man, I’ve really got to get myself back together,” sentiments that I’m feeling today.

In other words, it’s time for a fresh start. Or, in my case, it’s time for a month of mini fresh starts. Here’s a list of 30 things I’d like to try in the next 30 days to give this upcoming new year a simple living, fresh-start feeling.

Join me! Follow along on Instagram as I share more details about these simple living fresh start ideas, plus share your own experiences with January, dealing with long winter days, and how you’re keeping things simple as you start off a new year.

a month of mini fresh starts

1. Clean the fridge
2. Give your skin a break and go bare-faced
3. Try hot salad
4. Find a south-facing window and soak up the sunshine
5. Get outside
6. Take a 60-second clutter-busting pass through the room
7. Try a convertible garment
8. Update a corner in your home
9. Replace a disposable with something reuseable
10. Clean an overlooked space
11. Light a candle
12. Eat a fancy dinner at home
13. Get a plant
14. Drink a new hot drink
15. Bake a cake
16. Try/learn something new
17. Unsweeten something you normally sweeten
18. Remove a chemical from your beauty or cleaning routine
19. Replace a synthetic with something natural
20. Play a game
21. Give a gift for no reason
22. Write a note to someone
23. Power down your screens
24. Take a spending break
25. Go to bed early
26. Make bedtime luxurious
27. Leave something undone
28. Leave something empty
29. Have a “nowhere to go” day
30. Make something smell good

Read more mini fresh start articles:

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What are your screen time habits?

screen-time-self-assessment

You know those presidential fitness assessments you took as a kid? Well, this post is like that, only it’s not about fitness and you’ll be spared the humiliation of trying to touch your toes next to a bendy, double-jointed person (there’s always that one kid…).

Below is a different kind of assessment (no hoisting your body weight up to a bar required). It’s a list of common screen time behaviors that’ll help you gauge what your personal screen time habits are. Forewarning: this isn’t scientific, and many of the statements below ask you to make subjective value judgments. I’m confident you’ll be able to push through anyway, because you’re smart like that.

Here are the rules: Read the list and make a mental flag of all the statements that fit your habits. That’s it. Now GO.

Screen Time Self-Assessment

I’m on my phone checking updates before I even roll out of bed
Half or more of my work is done on a computer
I watch tv/media when I’m working out
I scroll through social media and texts when I’m waiting at stoplights
I pull out my phone when I’m standing in line at stores or waiting for appointments
I eat meals with my phone on the table
I always have my phone beside me
I attend meetings at work with my phone on the table
I browse the Internet during meetings
My media habits stay the same when I travel
I watch TV/videos to relax in the evenings
I watch TV/videos to help me fall asleep
I watch TV/videos when I’m getting ready in the morning
I have a TV/media screen in my kitchen
I watch TV/videos when I’m cooking/doing chores
I watch TV/videos when I’m eating
I scroll on my phone/tablet while watching TV
I read books on a screen
I get my news on a screen
Half or more of my shopping is done online
I play video games in my free time
I see a lot of movies at the theater
I refresh my social feeds to see what’s new

Done? See-that was easy.

Here’s how I answered the screen time questions

I’m on my phone checking updates before I even roll out of bed
Half or more of my work is done on a computer
I watch tv/media when I’m working out
I scroll through social media and texts when I’m waiting at stoplights
I pull out my phone when I’m standing in line at stores or waiting for appointments
I eat meals with my phone on the table
I always have my phone beside me
I attend meetings at work with my phone on the table
I browse the Internet during meetings
My media habits stay the same when I travel
I watch TV/videos to relax in the evenings
I watch TV/videos to help me fall asleep
I watch TV/videos when I’m getting ready in the morning
I have a TV/media screen in my kitchen
I watch TV/videos when I’m cooking/doing chores
I watch TV/videos when I’m eating
I scroll on my phone/tablet while watching TV
I read books on a screen
I get my news on a screen
Half or more of my shopping is done online
I play video games in my free time
I see a lot of movies at the theater
I refresh my social feeds to see what’s new

I consider myself to be pretty strict about screens, especially when and how I use my smartphone. But still—because I work full-time and also on this blog on the side, I spend 11-12 hours per weekday on a screen. That’s 84% of my day (excluding sleep) that I’m on a screen. I feel like that’s too much.

I’m curious: How’d your list compare to mine? Any thoughts on your habits based on your answers?

Related: Could you cancel your home Internet service?

Browse all posts in Media

Dude-approved minimalist hot lunch formula

minimalist hot lunch formula

minimalist hot lunch formula

Attention dudes of the world: here’s a simple minimalist hot lunch formula for eating hearty man food that also happens to be healthy. Women, this formula works for you, too. I’ve been using it to build my lunches for two years and get a ton of jealous stares and comments from envious coworkers. These meals will fill you up, keep you from carb crashes, and help you avoid 3PM vending machine snack binges. They’re also easy to make carb-free/Paleo if you’re into that kind of thing. Here’s what you do:

A minimalist hot lunch formula that passes the dude litmus test

Supplies: get 1 or 2 microwaveable containers, preferably with a lid if you’re taking it to work

Step 1: add a base of green. Choose the one you like best. If romaine or iceberg lettuce is your pick, you’re going to need your second container for everything else. If you like kale, spinach, or other greens that can stand up to a little heat, one container for everything is fine.

Step 2: add a layer of veggies (or start a new container with the veggies). Again, choose your favorites (or, if you’re not a veggie fan, choose the ones you don’t hate). My time-saving hack is to make a big batch of chopped veggie slaw, a pan of roasted veggies, or a stir-fry and then store it in the fridge for the week.

Step 3: add a layer of meat or leftovers. This is always repurposed from dinner, like quiche, casserole, stew, brats, grilled meat, baked potato. Meatloaf is killer. Pizza works, too. Basically whatever you have, just dump it on top. Tips: if you eat out for dinner a lot, order extra to bring home.

Optional Step 4: add a dressing/condiment. Mustard, soy sauce, vinegar/oil, pesto, hot wing sauce (my personal favorite), or whatever you like. Keep in mind that some condiments (ex. anything mayo-based) will need refrigeration if it’s at room temperature too long. Don’t poison yourself.

Optional Step 5: finally, for flavor or crunch, you could add some cheese or nuts. Totally up to you.

Then when lunch rolls around, heat your veggies and leftovers (and greens if they’re sturdy—refer to #1) and eat. Minimalist. Easy. Quick. Healthy. Done.

Related: Minimalist cooking as demonstrated by dudes

Browse all posts in Food.

Could you cancel your home Internet service?

canceling-home-internet

Twenty. That’s how many hours the average adult spends online every week. Twenty hours surfing YouTube, answering emails, googling obscure answers to random questions, and refreshing social media feeds. Based on my calculations about how much time I spend staring a screen weekly, I’d say that this little factoid hits pretty close to home.

In other words, I’m on the Internet a lot. (Something I’m trying to work on.) Apparently so are you.

Perhaps it’s because of this fact that when I encountered the following headline a year ago, it caught my attention. The headline read Killing home internet is the most productive thing I’ve ever done, and it was written by Joshua Fields Milburn of The Minimalists. One year later, I still think about it often.

In the article Joshua said that he felt like the Internet was stealing his time (yes—tell me more), and that he was discontent with the way he was using it (again, yes—go on). He claimed that he wanted to be more deliberate with his Internet use so he cancelled his home Internet service and hasn’t looked back.

What??? You can do that?

The Internet has crept it’s way into my life and taken over

I had mixed feelings about Joshua’s proposal to opt-out of Internet service at home. Since the late 1990’s the Internet has crept it’s way into more and more pockets of my life. (Literally, it’s now in my pocket.) When Joshua wrote about his discontentment with how the Internet was monopolizing his time, it resonated with me. I frequently feel like I’m not in control when it comes to the Internet—like it’s driving my behavior rather than the other way around. I love how accessible information is on it, but honestly it feels like the Internet consumes more of my life than I want it to. His example of cutting way down was provocative and enticing.

Another part of me (the part that still has Internet service at home a year later) feels like canceling my service is impractical. Firstly, I’m not the only one who uses Internet at home, and I know my husband well enough to know that he wouldn’t be on board going cold turkey. Secondly, I use the Internet at home for personal work (like this site) and don’t have the flexibility that Joshua has to hit up cafes and public wifi sites for Internet use. Thirdly, I’m just not ready to take a plunge like that (though I really admire him for doing it).

3 ideas for downsizing your Internet use

Fortunately there are some additional suggestions that Joshua mentioned in his article that I could implement, and they have the potential to make a significant impact on my life. For instance, per his ideas, I can:

  1. check email once per day (Okay, maybe twice is more reasonable. I do work in an office and my coworkers are crazy email fiends.)
  2. designate Internet goof-off time, and then keep the rest Internet-free
  3. keep a running list of things to check/research online and then do it all at once

Each of these suggestions invites the kind of discipline I’m looking for when it comes to my Internet use. By setting firmer boundaries around how much time and how I use the Internet, I feel like I’ll be gaining back some of the control that I’ve lost. Ultimately I’m looking for less complexity, less screen time, and habits that look more like 1996 than 2016.

What about you? Could you cancel your home Internet service?

Related: Do you spend as much time looking at screens as I do?

Related: browse all posts in Media

[video] What a hard week reminded me about minimalism

I had a quick message on my heart to share about minimalism after having a rough week of seeing people I love go through some really tough things.

In the video I mention the other reason I practice minimalism and zero waste: Because life is painful and I’m looking for moments that make the pain worth it.

Thanks for watching! –Steph

My experiences with a capsule wardrobe

My husband was completely unimpressed when I started a capsule wardrobe. Not only does he not care at all about fashion (except his distaste for electric neon leggings and pajama-wearing in public), but he already has a minimalist wardrobe. Jeans, t-shirts, cargo shorts and sweaters—this is his wardrobe all year, each garment worn until it frays to bits.

Many guys are like him, which is why I explain capsule wardrobes as “how a dude dresses all the time” to people who don’t know what they are.

After adopting a minimalist approach to my clothing, I realized what he’s known all along: It’s better to have less.

Here’s my experience with a capsule wardrobe (which eventually evolved into a minimalist wardrobe)

Creating my first capsule was energizing. Like most people starting out, I focused less on finding quality garments and more on downsizing my wardrobe. I whittled my wardrobe down to about 35 items, including shoes (but excluding undergarments, pjs and exercise clothes), stored a smaller portion of things I wasn’t ready to get rid of yet, and donated the rest.

I’ll confess that I went through a short-lived but awkward phase of feeling like I didn’t have anything to wear. Temporarily this actually made me more indecisive about what to wear, and added more time to my morning routine. And definitely I had a few moments of regret, feeling like I’d over-purged.

Fortunately this awkwardness resolved itself fairly quickly as I settled into a smaller wardrobe. And after six months I found myself reducing even more. I got rid of almost all of the things I’d set aside for storage, plus more. My entire wardrobe now consists of less than 50 things for the whole year, and each season I find myself purging just a little more.

Needless to say, I’ve saved money on clothing, though like a lot of capsule wardrobe wearers, I’ve spend more on a few things (ex. this shirt) than I normally would have otherwise. But this list is small.

Also, a minimal wardrobe has completely resolved the “what should I wear today?” morning deliberations, saving me time getting ready. I now dress as fast as my husband does.

If you’re a guy reading this you may be like, “Duh. I don’t get what the big deal is.” But you’d be surprised how much time and energy women will invest in fashion. Shopping, looking at styles, talking to each other about clothes, trying things on, planning outfits—there’s a reason fashion is a 3 trillion dollar global industry. Stepping out of the stream is liberating, which is why I think capsule wardrobes are gaining popularity (ex. here’s a chart of searches for “capsule wardrobe” in the past year).

Interested in trying a capsule for yourself? Here’s how to start one:

  • If you’re easily pulled into fashion trends, start by unsubscribing from retailer emails, fashion newsletters/magazines, and avoid stores
  • If you want to start by decluttering your closet, read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
  • If you’re influenced by social issues and inequality, read Overdressed.
  • If you are interested in discovering your own uniform, read this and this.
  • If you want someone to plan a capsule for you, try Cladwell.
  • If you want to plan a capsule yourself, download Unfancy’s capsule planner.

I’m curious: Would you like me to share some tips for influencing your significant other to start downsizing their wardrobe?

Minimalist cooking as demonstrated by dudes

I’m pretty sure it was the homemade Snicker-like candy bars that first caught my attention. I read through the ingredients and thought, “I could do this.” And then I did, and they were wonderful. My Halloween candy got a serious upgrade.

The recipe came from the Minimalist Baker. Per her “minimalist” moniker, author Dana creates recipes using only a handful of ingredients. And they’re natural ingredients, which is a bonus because as a rule I like to eat things I can recognize. (Cheetos, obviously, being an exception. I think that neon orange faux-cheese dust must come from a benevolent junk food pixie.)

We make healthy eating too complicated

Can we all just agree that eating meals made from scratch is best? We don’t need nutritionists to tell us this. When we recognize all of the ingredients in our meals, and they come from the earth, we’re on the right track with our diets. But even with this knowledge, healthy eating can get overcomplicated. Like fitness, we tend to make it harder than it needs to be. With good intentions, we create overly complex meal plans and shopping lists. We overstock our pantries with excessive variety (yes—I’m talking to you, cans of artichoke hearts and five types of pasta currently sitting on my shelf). And we accumulate more gadgets than we need. What are we to do?

There’s an easier way to eat healthy as demonstrated by this unexpected role model…

Enter the dude litmus test for cooking, whereby I’ll present a minimalist way to cooking as demonstrated by every bachelor you know. This way of cooking includes 5 ingredients or less prepared in 15 minutes or less. And don’t make me go to the store just to get started, ‘cuz that ain’t gonna happen.

The Minimalist Baker’s recipes usually pass this dude litmus test. As does PB&J (especially if the bread and jam are homemade and the peanut butter is natural). And beans and rice. And God’s greatest food: The sandwich.

Of course you’ll discover quickly that even with the dude litmus test, it’s still easy to overcomplicate things. (Ex. is salad dressing one ingredient, or is it the five I used to make the salad dressing?) Don’t make yourself overly concerned. Eat natural. Keep it simple. And stock up on horseradish mustard.

Let’s try a capsule wardrobe, only with food

So let’s try a new lab experiment. If minimalism works for things like clothing and personal care and overflowing garage gizmos, it’ll work for pantries, freezers, and crammed refrigerator condiment shelves, too. Let’s restrict ourselves to a short list of ingredients and gadgets (like a capsule wardrobe, only with food), and see what happens. Let’s cook like a dude, only perhaps a little healthier.

Personally I’m starting this experiment with two things:
1. An inventory and purge of my pantry
2. And research on simpler meal-planning and recipes (the More-with-Less Cookbook is on my hit-list)

Are you in?

This preposterous idea for workouts might make all the difference

“I have a preposterous scene for you to imagine. Pretend that you’re walking down a corridor and come upon a row of windows peeking into a small gym. Inside you can see people working out. They all look so earnest and focused, running on their machines and hauling around weights. And then you see something that can’t be right. It’s a girl wearing a dress and she’s doing pull-ups.

“My mind must be playing tricks on me,” you think, and so you look again.

No—you saw correctly. She’s working out in a dress. Who does that? you think.

Well, I do.

Let me explain this bizarre behavior, because it has to do with why I think people aren’t sticking with their fitness goals. Generally I think that we’re overcomplicating fitness, and one way we do this is by believing we have to wear special clothing to workout. I think this belief is the #1 reason we decide NOT to workout. Changing clothes is too much hassle.

Here’s my proposal: Don’t change your clothes to workout.

I can hear your “buts” in my mind as if you were sitting right next to me.
“But I sweat too much.”
“But what I’m wearing is too confining and uncomfortable.”
“But…the chaffing.

These buts are all valid. Workout clothes are designed to function for sweat, movement, and wicking. Obviously they’re the best choice for activity. But you CAN workout in regular clothes, and even regular shoes.

> I’ve seen people walk to work in business clothes and sneakers.

> I’ve seen people do yoga in jeans and a t-shirt.

> And I sometimes lift weights in a dress and (gasp!) heels.

These motions—walking, lifting weights, yoga–are all exercises you can do wearing what you have on right now (exception: heels/dress shoes and walking don’t mix well for long distances), as is rowing, biking, and using an elliptical machine.

If you’re worried about sweat…

If you’re worried about sweat, I have an idea: Break your activity into multiple short sessions that don’t get you too overheated. In Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, Joshua Fields-Millburn talks about how he does pull-ups every time he passes through his hallway. He can now do over a 100 of them! He claims he’s never been stronger or in better shape.

Lastly, if you’re worried about what people will think if they spot you working out in normal clothes, my advice is to play it off totally cool. If you don’t act awkward, you won’t feel awkward. I like to make eye contact, smile and say “Hey,” and then proceed to lift weights like normal. I’m sure people think it’s quirky to see me in regular clothes, but who cares? I concentrate on my routine, and enjoy the feeling of checking off my workout for the day.

Do I wear regular clothes as my normal routine? No. Most of the time I workout before I get to work (in shorts and a t-shirt) and change when I’m done. But on days like today, for instance, when I’m missing my morning session, I’ll hit the gym (and the walking trail) in my dress.

What do you think? If you’re having a hard time staying consistent, could you remove the obstacle of changing clothes? Would that help you follow through?