Less is more

They say “Less is More” and now I believe it. I feel so much better without the clutter.  Let me elaborate.

There is less paper to put away each night.

Less toys to walk around or put away.

Less clothes to wash, laundry to fold, or stacks to put away.

Less dishes to wash.

Less food to store.

Less mail to open.

Less furniture [for my housecleaner] to clean.

Less crap to find storage space for in the garage.

Less books to store. And sheets. And towels. And toys. And everything else.

Less decisions about what to wear in the morning.

Less purchases to return.

Less commitments on the schedule.

Less TV shows on my watch list.

Less thoughts about all of the above.

And more thoughts on the things I really care about.  More time reading. More time writing. More time with my family.  More time on family outings or family vacations. More money for family vacations. More interest in the things I really want for my future.

More happiness overall!  Things are so much easier day-to-day, and in the end, that makes me smile and dwell on what really matters.

How to de-clutter your Facebook Newsfeed without de-friending anyone

About a month ago, Facebook got a lot of crap for performing psychological experiments on their users by messing with their news feeds and measuring the impact on their moods (as evidenced by subsequent status updates.  I don’t know about you, but this creeps me out.  It’s been pretty noticeable recently that there have been changes – either intentional by Facebook, or socially with how people are using the tool – that make it less desirable to check your feed.  After your last visit, what true benefits did you receive from reading your friends updates?  Or how many cat videos did you watch and share again?  (Or dog videos, those are really a lot funnier!)

So here are 3 tips for de-cluttering your Facebook Newsfeed:

  1. Unfollow any pages you may have liked:  Unless there is an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G food truck that you must know about every time they are at your office, you don’t need to know about every update for every TV show you ever watched (Veronica Mars is over), every restaurant in town (Oh, thanks for letting me know you close early on this random Monday night in January), or every morning selfie from your favorite celebrity (Thank. You. James Franco!)  Unfollow them and get your updates from their website (or even their Facebook page) when you really need to know.You can do this by hovering over any posts from these pages in your Feed, and selecting “Following” from the hover. This will “unfollow.”  You can also go to your profile page, visit each individual page you have liked, and click the “Following” button on each page.  This will take more time, but you can get it all done at once instead of waiting for their next post.
  2. Unfollow any “friends” that you do not talk to regularly, or that you do not have intentions to talk to: You don’t have to de-friend them!  You can still tell yourself that you’ll call them next time you’re in Chicago…  But you don’t need to know that they just washed their dog.  Or that they’re having a casual Friday night with the hubby watching Game of Thrones.  Of course, if you just met someone and are hoping to make more of it… by all means, use Facebook as a way to keep in touch… but not the ONLY way!You can do this by hovering over someone’s name on your Feed.  If you want to systematically go through all your friends, it will take more time.  Go to your profile, then your Friends tab.  From there you have to hover over every person’s name to see the “Following” button.  The Friends tab is sorted with friends that you interact with more at the top, so at some point you can pretty safely unfollow everyone from there down.  This could take awhile depending on how many friends you have. Facebook sure doesn’t make it easy for you!
  3. Unfollow any friends that only share cat videos, or crazy political stances, or pictures of their amazingly cute kids, or whatever it is that really messes with your mood: Yes, this may include your Aunt Clara.  Yes, this may include that funny guy that you used to work with 8 years ago that makes you feel insecure for not going out late on a Tuesday night.  But you know you need to do this.  So do it.  If you really need to get an update from Aunt Clara, ask her what she’s been up to when you see her at Thanksgiving. It will give you something to talk about!You can do this one little-by-little as you read your Feed.  With each post, see how it makes you feel.  Do you feel angry? Sad? Afraid? Distracted? If this is not what you intended with this check of Facebook, consider unfollowing that person.

That should take care of most of it.  What remains:

  • People you may know: It looks like it only appears once in your feed, so you can skim over it or ignore it.
  • Pages you may like: If you keep seeing the same ad, you can use the drop-down to “Hide all ads from …”  You may find yourself doing this a few times for different pages, but after awhile you will see less and less.
  • Your friend has liked this page: Same as above, you can select “Hide all ads from…” to avoid seeing these, but you have to select it for each individual page.

But before you’re done, I encourage you to take a step back for a minute.  Think about what your intentions are when you check Facebook.  Maybe there is a better place to get the updates you want!

  • Checking in with Friends & Family – try Instagram or Pat. Personally, I like Instagram so much more for getting regular updates from family. It requires a picture, which I love, and there are no sharing of annoying articles or videos.  And less of your annoying relatives are on it. Bonus!
  • Checking in with previous coworkers – LinkedIn is much more appropriate.
  • Celebrity news – BuzzFeed Entertainment, TMZ, Entertainment Weekly, and all the others are so much more thorough, if this is your thing.
  • Cat videos! – BuzzFeed or even just Vimeo and YouTube – subscribe to channels there and create your own feeds
  • Express your own opinion – Twitter may get you followers that are really interested in what you have to say
  • Random conversations – Again, Twitter works, but also, there are plenty of Forum sites that allow you to dig deep on your favorite topics with people who are just as interested as you are

So consider your objective in using Social sites.  If these tools are not meeting your objective, ditch them and find new ones.  You wouldn’t keep an old refrigerator if it didn’t keep your food cold.  Especially if it kept bombarding you with cat videos!   If your tools are sufficient with just a telephone and good old face-time, then consider eliminating Facebook altogether.  As I was going through the exercise above, I was quite impressed with the number of friends that have deleted their accounts.  I feel that many of us may follow suit soon.  If you’re not ready to cut the cord completely, consider trying to avoid logging in for 99 days.

Good luck, friends, and remember, you are in charge of your destiny! Don’t let a random company of 20-somethings determine how you spend your time or how your mood should change.

Don’t leave behind all that stuff!

I went to an estate sale yesterday. It was super interesting stuff! An old Remington typewriter desk, two sewing tables, a whole kitchen of vintage appliances in great condition, a beautiful piano and a couple extra instruments, old furniture – also in great condition, and a room full of art supplies and books.

I was so tempted to buy… Yet not at all interested! This was a huge mentality change for me as compared to a few years ago, or even a few months ago! Previously I would have thought of getting some art supplies, in case I wanted to try it out. Or some instruments in case I wanted to try them. I found an old journal with this old ladies notes from when she was starting a home – cut outs from magazines in the 50s, with notes like, “this is an ideal layout for a kitchen,” “some bedroom options,” and “happy children playing!” I think I have done the same thing myself, in various places, over the last 15-20 years, coming of age. I wanted to take it home as a symbol of connection to this perfect stranger. Plus, it was so quaint and old fashioned. But also in that room were boxes of old cards. Boxes of travel brochures and maps. Boxes of unused art supplies. Cases of books not opened in years. And that was what allowed me to walk out of there empty handed.

Growing up I always heard this Bible verse:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21

And of course I understood what it meant and what it was teaching. But only now have I really understood the implications. These people having an estate sale were leaving treasures on earth for moth and rust to destroy, and “thieves” to steal, for $1 here, and $10 there. All that trouble to box up those maps and travel brochures, but now they will likely be thrown away after being picked through by dirty hands.

I don’t want that! I want to only trouble myself with maintaining the items that I truly need to live day to day. If I no longer need it, away it will go! I won’t keep the family heirlooms if they are no use to me. A few of them are useful! But the rest, maybe someone else will get use out of them and I won’t need an expensive piece of furniture to keep them from breaking or getting dusty.

I came home from the estate sale and told Shaun. He said, “so basically you don’t want to leave behind all that stuff?” But that’s exactly it! I want to leave behind happy memories, touched hearts, and enriched souls. How will I do that if I’m always cleaning up the clutter? How will I do that when I’m always shopping for more, better things? I won’t, so let’s find a way to avoid those things, shall we?

What we got rid of in June

The minimalism continues!  In the month of June… We only took one trunk load of toys and household supplies to Goodwill: 2014-06-29 11.03.24 That included this nice, ivory Ikea rug that we bought when we lived in an apartment in San Francisco and needed a rug in our bedroom. (God, I loved all those hardwood floors!)  But it’s been 5 years since we’ve moved back down to San Jose and we still haven’t found a good place for it.  It lived in our Family Room for about 6 months until we purchased a rug more suitable for the size of the room.  The kids had fun rolling up like Bugs in a Rug before I loaded it in the trunk:   2014-06-07 08.18.54 2014-06-07 08.19.06 I also sold my first item on eBay!  I have a pile of items to try to sell, but I thought I’d try it out on this one first.  I purchased this postpartum corset from Amazon, but it was too small.  I purchased the next size, but then thought I would keep this in case I would fit into it someday!  Well, that never happened!  So I sold it for almost full price (to a man?) on eBay.  Nice doing business with you.

sold on ebay!

sold on ebay!

And most of the month I spent collecting papers from all over the house and dealing with them.  My hope is to go as paperless as possible!  Right now all our filing is in one 4-drawer filing cabinet, which includes our tax history, our manuals and warranties, craft paper and envelopes, and all the paperwork we deemed worth keeping over the last few years.  That’s pretty good already, if I do say so myself! The work I’ve done the last few weeks was to get the craft paper in there – which took some organization with file folders and tabs and the like – as well as the manuals and warranties.  We were holding onto some of those for products we haven’t had for years!  Having all these in the same place will really help to find them and to not go crazy when I find them in random places all over the house.  Previously I had tried organizing them in a fancy binder (Pinterest-inspired), but that was too much work and intimidated me everytime I had something new to add or old to remove.  Having them in a file folder is SUPER-easy.   These two tasks cleared out two shelves on our bookshelf, hiding the paperwork away from view. And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, our filing system.  The top two drawers include our important documents and in the back-right, the warranties and manuals. 2014-07-18 15.05.34 The bottom-left drawer contains craft paper and other paper supplies, like photo paper and envelopes.  The bottom-right drawer contains Tax Histories and Home Sales records.  Eventually those might go in a box in the attic if we need the space.  Basically we know we need to keep these records, but not necessarily out in the open with easy access. 2014-07-18 15.05.14 My dream is to get a Fujitsu Scan Snap and take all that paperwork in the top two drawers into our computer/online filing system.  But that will take some time and I want to move onto minimalism of bigger items in the house first! And part of the paper-minimalism has been to go through the kids’ artwork.  I wish I had a photo of the 10-inch high stack of artwork that I threw away!  They were beautiful compilations of torn stickers coming loose, three scribbles on a page, ripped jellyfish made out of paper plates, and other items I’m sure you have all over your kitchen counters any weeknight after school 🙂   I created two boxes that we will keep in the office closet – one for P and one for L – with a hanging folder for each year in school.  The art and any birthday cards and school photos will go into each folder.  And as it gets packed full, we’ll have to go through and remove some more. This way, each of them has a box of momentos from their childhood, BUT ONLY ONE BOX! 2014-07-18 15.06.00 “What about all those beautiful drawings your little Picasso’s are creating each and every day?” you ask… Well, there will be some gems that we will keep (in the ONE box).  There will be some that we will want to remember, but not necessarily keep – those will be scanned or photographed.  Maybe one day those will go in a book!  But I would say at least 50% go Bye-Bye, and that’s ok with me!  I won’t even remember in 20 years 🙂 Check out this beauty little P brought home last week.  He tells me it’s a soccer field full of soccer players (you know, World Cup fever), but for some reason it makes me thing of something else… 2014-07-18 15.08.09 And here is a baseball field: 2014-07-18 15.08.16 Some others saved so far… 2014-06-10 20.40.29 2014-06-10 20.39.51 2014-06-10 20.39.34 And next month… minimalism comes to the China Cabinet, Living Room, Kitchen, and more of the office.

What we got rid of in May

May was our first venture into minimizing.   Here is what we eliminated… or passed on to better use! Sold our kitchen table on Craigslist for $220.  It’s been sitting in the corner of our living room for over a year, so I think the spending money for our weekend in Santa Cruz was put to much better use than this table lately!  A nice lady who is a nanny took this for her deck. Kitchen Table I sold this Anthropologie purse for $20 on a Facebook group for sales in my neighborhood.  It was originally over $80, but since I got it on sale for $40 and then used it for about a year, I think that was a pretty good return!  And now a nice lady in my neighborhood is loving it. Anthro Purse Carload #1 to goodwill freed up quite a bit of space in our garage and hall closets, as well as my closet and Shaun’s closet: Carload #1 While I was sick with bronchitis I went through our bookcase and found about 10 books to give to my mom, sisters, and a couple friends: Novels #2 Novels #1 I posted our no-longer-desired business books on my work “4sale” email alias and brought in about 6 books to the office for coworkers: Business Books   (The rest of the books will be donated to the library or taken to goodwill.  I need to find out if there are better places to take them.) And to round off the month, one last carload to Goodwill – this cleared up almost the full top shelf of the garage storage. As well as some old sheets, household supplies, and more clothing: Carload #2   For the month of June I’ll be taking care of the rest of the books, sending some clothes for online consignment sales, then tackling the kitchen!

Adventures in Minimalism

We recently took a family vacation to New Zealand. I had a lightbulb moment while we were there, of which there were three drivers for this epiphany:

We stayed at my sister and brother-in-law’s house, which is a 3-bedroom flat underneath another family’s home.  Maybe about 1000 sq ft of living space.  Not terribly small, but definitely smaller than any of the homes we have lived in recently.  They are able to do so because of their recent travels and not having accumulated a lot of possessions, but also it seems that they choose to live this way.  Their pantry has enough needs for the week.  Their freezer contains a few basic backups for unplanned meals.  Their baby has one basket of toys, not a full room of them.  It seemed amazingly simple, easy, and wonderful.

And a lot of New Zealand was this way.  Vacation homes we stayed in were basic and sufficient.  Hotels were non-descript inside and perfectly located outside. Shopping was straightforward and not overly done. Fashion was simple – what people comfortably needed for their activities that day.  There wasn’t a sense of judgement for what you were wearing or not wearing – it was almost as if it was of no concern to others.  As it should be, mind you, but this is not a familiar feeling to us capitalistic Americans.

Lastly, we traveled for 2 and a half weeks with two kids and just a few suitcases.  I would argue now we took WAY too much.  But we were able to make it work.  We took a few side trips and took even less – sometimes two small bags for the 4 of us. The kids were able to play with toys that fit into a small backpack – the rest of the time they made do with balls and sand toys that we purchased there, the baby toys, playgrounds, or things around us on our many adventures.  It really forced us to get out more and enjoy the world rather than stay in and get annoyed that they were getting into everything!

So as we have come back into our “real world” we are inspired to try to live with less ourselves.  We have been reading and become amazed at what “minimalists” are doing for their own lives and want a piece of that too!   In the future I’ll share a bit more about the resources we’ve encountered on this journey.

What have we done so far?

For Mother’s Day, S & P went through ALL the toys and gathered a pile to donate that allows us to only have two bookshelves and a toy box full of toys (rather than overflowing all over the house!)

I’ve pulled clothing from my closet on almost a daily basis!  My dresser of 10 drawers and 1 cupboard now has 3 empty drawers, and possibly one more on the way!  I wear what I love the most, rather than what I feel like I should wear because I haven’t worn it in awhile.  And I really feel this will continue to dwindle day by day as I find more unused or mediocre items.

Furniture – we have had a few pieces of furniture sitting around the house which we have not been able to find places for.  Although we love the pieces, if they are not getting used, they are just collecting dust and getting in the way. They are worth something, so we can sell them and use the money for activities that we would enjoy!   We are selling a kitchen table and a cabinet, and then eventually we will donate a leather chair and ottoman.

We are supposed to be receiving a piano from my parents soon, but we are taking another month to evaluate whether this is something we want to add to our home.   We like the idea of the items that inhabit our home reflecting our values and interests.  We definitely value reading and learning – so books take a prominent role.   We value health, working out, yoga, and sports, so that means we need to bring our workout equipment to a more prominent role in our home.  Family and friends are important – we feel we already emphasize space for socialization and quality time. So we will see if a piano is something that we want to add in order to emphasize the importance of Music in our day to day lives.  I believe it will.

But there is so much more that needs to be purged!  More clothes.  Cosmetics and cleaning supplies.  Dishes. Kitchen gear. Decorations.  Books. Paperwork. All the crap in the Garage.

This should be a fun journey over the next year!  It will be interesting to see how far we take it – whether it becomes simply a spring cleaning activity or a full lifestyle change.