January 19, 2015

Listen, this is one of the hardest things I've done. No joke! Shedding excess possessions became easy once I got going. The momentum helped me see the task through, and even though it's still a work in progress, I feel that I've had a giant weight lifted off my shoulders. Job well done, Lauren.

I would venture to say we - you and I - are big online shoppers. I really know very few people that don't shop online at all (though my husband falls into that category) and most people I know regularly buy clothes, things for their homes, even groceries online.

To keep it real, I never thought this was problematic. Honestly. The parade of boxes to our home each week was rationalized to myself as "well I buy a lot, but I return 90% of it." And that was true. Online sales are irresistible, but if I buy several things and only keep what I need, that's not bad. Or at least that's what I told myself.

Then, as I was letting go of lots of items out of my closet, I noticed a pattern.

Nearly 90% of what I was letting go of was bought online, and the majority of what I was keeping was bought in store.


It turns out, my rationalization was really a lie to myself. Turns out that 10% of items I kept after all those returns added up to boxes upon boxes of goods that were donated. I never needed them in the first place. Or, they didn't really fit that great but I kept them because they were a good deal. Maybe they were bought on impulse, and I was convinced they would be that ONE item that changes my style. Worse, maybe it should have been returned, but I was too lazy to take it back to the store.

Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

It was a punch in the gut, really. But one of the chapters in this book talks about not attaching guilt to items, including the ones that were mistakes. Because the object has served its purpose - it's taught you that even though it was a mistake, its given you awareness to make a better decision before purchasing the next time.

I knew I needed to "stop the leak" before I could really have both the closet and the life I want, and that leak was the box parade. With that knowledge, I decided to stop shopping online completely.

I started my shopping fast at Thanksgiving. I knew that Black Friday deals online tempted me in the past, and I felt a strong conviction to put a stop to that habit immediately. If I could resist the lure of the day of sales, I would be off to a great start. Besides, I knew everything I bought last year on that day ended up in the donation box.

It was a success! I spent the day with my family in Seattle and while I did purchase one great deal, I did so in person, and it was a jacket I've worn at least twice a week since the day I bought it. At 80% off, I got a jacket lined in shearling that's keeping me cozy this winter.

My next step was telling myself I would not give in to all of the "countdown to Christmas" sales. I allowed myself to purchase Christmas gifts online from two companies that are online only, for friends and family. That was it. No shopping for Lauren. And wouldn't you know - I had more funds to give thoughtful gifts that I knew they would love.

Now, I only buy something online when it's truly a need, and if it's a better deal online than it is in person. For example, I've been working on projects around our house and I can get a better price on things like paint rollers, hardware, and cleaning supplies online. Those are the only things I've allowed myself to buy.

This is not an easy habit to maintain. Honestly, I had no idea the amount of online shopping I was doing until I stopped. Suddenly, I have a lot more free time. Without realizing it, I was devoting a good bit of time to browsing the web, looking for the greatest deals.


Time - Part One. Shopping online is a great time waster. And if you're not careful, it is way too easy to get stuck in the trap of clicking from site to site, looking for the best deal. For one day, keep a log of how often you notice yourself opening a new tab to browse, or reading sale emails.

Fit. If you truly care about getting the best fit, it is impossible to do that online unless you are purchasing an item that you've already purchased before, in the same size. I've found that even in brands I am familiar with, I can find the garment that fits me better by trying it on in store so I can try on three sizes - the one I think I wear, one bigger, one smaller. Sometimes, the shirt I have my eye on looks better if I go up a size so that I can get a slouchy fit. Or, my normal size is too boxy and the size smaller plays up my shape better.

Expectation vs. Reality. This is a biggie. Companies make sure that garment looks irresistible online. They pin it behind the model so that it fits just so, shave her arm down in Photoshop to make the sleeves look more trim, and never let you zoom close enough to see the tiniest details. You expect to receive what you see, but the reality is often very different. Maybe the stitching is lopsided, or the fabric texture is not great. You can only judge this in person.

Time - Part Two. Let's say you do cave and buy a few items. But one of them works, three of them don't. Now what do you do? Most companies allow you to send returns back directly, but often at your expense - via a $8 deduction from your credit for that SmartLabel. If you're like me, you usually head to the brick and mortar store instead, to return it in person. Y'all. I wish I could have back all of the hours I spent doing this. I now realize what a giant time suck this was in my life. I'm not proud to say I had weekly runs to make these returns and it kept me from choosing what I wanted to do by forcing me to do what I had to do to get my money back.

What about you? Have you ever tried to stop online shopping? Or do you feel like it's the smartest way for you to shop? Sound off - I want to hear your thoughts. When I discussed this with one friend, she said she shops exclusively online because she's able to see a cart total and get a better understanding of the investment she's making. But she also keeps the majority of what she buys. I'm interested to hear how the online shopping process works for you.

But, if you're in the same boat as me, I'll share tomorrow some of the ways I'm kicking the habit.


January 16, 2015

Thank you all for your kind responses to this week's posts and your encouragement - it's heartwarming to hear that we're all kind of feeling uneasy with how the blog world has progressed. I am relieved I am not alone, and I am thankful to have this forum to discuss how I am dealing with it and the changes I am making as a result. Please, continue sharing with me your stories, you have no idea what little tip might encourage others to do the same.

Hope that you all have a restful weekend. Here are a few great reads I found this week - did you find anything worth sharing?

What if you set limits for yourself again? Our world of excess can lead to overindulgence, but how can you combat that?

Several of you mentioned Unfancy as one of your favorites in comments this week. I love her, too! If you're looking to downsize your wardrobe, why not try a capsule?

If you're familiar with the minimalist blogging world, you might notice a ton of men. Women can be minimalists, too, from one of my favorites - Be More With Less.



January 15, 2015

When I started the process of decluttering our home, at first, I felt a little resistant. Our house stays relatively clean and picked up. It's not overflowing.

Yet, something still didn't feel right. Something deep in my gut told me I could do better. After reading through a few books on the subject, I decided to start with the place that should be the most relaxing part of our home - the bedroom.

In our little San Francisco apartment, storage is a big (small?) problem. We have one tiny closet in our bedroom, a small coat closet, and then a big closet in our dining room that has to store anything else we own from hiking gear to Christmas ornaments. The result is that when guests or visitors were coming, our bedroom became the dumping ground for things around the apartment that didn't have a proper home - my husband's workout equipment, the giant suitcase that is too big to fit under the bed and can't fit in the overflowing dining room closet, laundry. You get the idea. We tried in earnest to keep it picked up, but after letting it lay there a couple of days we started to ignore it and the end result is our room was not the calm oasis it should be.

Here's the process I used to start bringing order back, and hopefully, it will inspire you to do the same. I highly recommend you begin on a Friday evening so that you have plenty of time to devote to this over the weekend and it doesn't interrupt your weekday routine.


Take everything out. Yes. Everything. You name it, it needs to leave. Make another room your staging ground. I pulled down curtains, all the photos off the wall, cleared the tops of nightstands, removed decorative pillows, emptied all dresser drawers and closet, and moved any furniture out that wasn't absolutely needed. If you've got stuff stored under the bed, move that out, too.

When I was done, all that remained was our bed, two pillows, sheets, and two nightstands with lamps.

Step back. How does it feel to have a stark, empty room? When you go to bed Friday night with less, do you sleep better? Does it feel a little more peaceful and quiet? 

When you wake up Saturday morning, what do you notice? The way the light filters through the bare windows? The excitement of a fresh start?

I'm willing to bet this feeling is just the jumpstart you need to get and keep things in order, permanently. Who wouldn't want to wake up in this room every day? Sit in the empty space for a while and ask yourself what the long term vision is for your space. How do you want to feel when you walk in the room? Let your gut be your guide as we move to the next step.


Looking through the objects - don't touch your clothes, for now - you removed, what doesn't belong? 

Are you storing something under your bed that could really have a new, better home? One that makes more sense for what it's used for? 

For me, it was wrapping paper. For my husband, it was his workout equipment. We don't wrap gifts or lift weights in our bedroom, why would we keep those objects there? We pulled them aside to try and find a better place to store them.

Are you finding things you had no idea you had? Things you don't even need that could immediately go?

I found three old cell phones (flip phone, really?) and various cables that were stored in a clear "electrics" container under our bed. Along with the boxes for Kindles, iPads, and multiple generations of iPhones. You don't need those. I didn't need those. They definitely don't belong under the bed. Donate or trash accordingly.

Are there decorative objects that no longer spark joy for you?

Everything looks different once it's out of its usual place. Objects tend to fade in the background once they've become stagnant. But moving them outside of their designated spot allows you to see them more clearly.

Does the print you have hanging on the wall calm you, or do you actually not really like it? Does it truly inspire you, or is it just a space filler? If you can't make a decision now, consider storing it elsewhere until you either miss it so much you hang it back up, or find that you don't miss it at all and can now donate it.

It's very important to place your hand on every single object, and ask yourself these questions. It takes longer, but the end result is so worth it. Keep pressing on!

By now, you've had a busy day. It takes a long, long time to go through things and the more you have, the more you will need to sort. Don't lose hope if it's taking you longer. See the project through and take as long as you need.


Give your room a good cleaning. You'll be surprised that a task that once seemed monumental, like wiping down the baseboards or vacuuming wall to wall including under the bed, is now pretty easy with fewer objects blocking your way.

This step is absolutely crucial - you will notice a difference in how the air in your room feels, and the task of caring for your home is deeply satisfying when done correctly.


Put everything back that you've sorted and determined is a keep. Leave your clothes out of the room for now - we're just focusing on furnishings, decorative items, and things you use daily in the bedroom. These might include:

A treasured photo in a frame you like to keep on your nightstand

Jewelry dish that you place your daily wear items in.

That artwork that you love waking up and seeing.

One book you're currently reading.

Things you might not put back:

The chair that you never sit in but becomes a dumping ground for dirty clothes.

Things you're storing under your bed that can be stored elsewhere.

Space filling decorative objects that have no sentimental value.

Extra pillow that you have to toss aside every single night that you don't even like that much.

You get the idea. 

Give everything a good dusting and wipe down before you put it back in your clean room.

Take a look around - how does the room feel now? Does it have the end result you envisioned when you started? Is something missing?

If you feel something is missing or feel the sudden urge to purchase something to fill an empty wall or space, I encourage you to sit with that feeling for a week. Many times, the answer is that nothing new is needed, your gut is just resisting change and telling you that it is. After a week, you will have a clearer understanding of whether it's a need versus a want.


Maintain. Maintain. Maintain.

With a clean slate, objects that don't belong will become more apparent. Clutter will be more noticeable. Once you see it, take steps to immediately put it back in its right place.

Make your bed every day. The habit of bed making is a turning point - start doing it and see if you don't feel a little bit less stressed and more accomplished as you start the day. And if you don't know the feeling of sinking into a crisp, well-made bed at the end of a long day, you're in for a treat.

Stop the flow of items into the room. For now, stop purchasing new clothes or accessories until we've had a chance to sort through the ones you already own - you know, the ones still in the other room. We'll get to that.

Do you think you're up for the challenge? I would love to hear if you have a great tip that you've used to maintain order in this room. I know it's easy to allow items to creep in because I fight that battle in my own home. How are you taking control?


If You Don't Know Where To Begin...

January 14, 2015

If the process of simplifying your entire home seems overwhelming, might I recommend a simple place to start?

The bedroom.

Bedrooms are a place to relax, recharge, and should be a calming oasis in your home. It's no secret I'm a lover of neutrals, but if you're crazy about color, try using only soothing tones in your room and see what a difference it makes.

My friends jokingly call my house the 50 Shades of Grey House, for good reason. I love grey because if you pick the right tone, it can feel warm and rich, not cold and steely.

But all of these rooms require serious downsizing of accessories and using just a few items to create maximum impact.

Less to dust and maintain? Sign me up.

Tomorrow I'll share the process I used to simplify our room, but for today, let's just all bask in the serenity of these gorgeous rooms, ok?



January 13, 2015

I wasn't really sure how to approach this here, and why I basically left this space quiet for so long, but here goes. I am tired of writing a blog that mostly focused on acquisition of goods for myself, while encouraging others to do the same.

There. For the three of you that are left, that's how I'm feeling these days.

The dirty secret of the blog world is this: we consume, hoping you will consume, and when you do we make a fee for our efforts and it all gets very exciting.

It's a hamster wheel, and if you aren't vigilant about keeping your head above water, it can pretty much drown you. At what cost?

At some point in 2014 I had a big "what the actual hell, Lauren?" moment. I think it was on our honeymoon. For two weeks, I traveled with nothing more than a carry-on and a tote bag, with my husband by my side...it was all I needed. Traveling light is nothing new to me, but this time it really hit me. Did I really need more than I already owned? Did I really need everything I already owned? Did those things make me as happy as this gift of travel, of unconditional love, of fulfillment that I was experiencing?

Well, no.

That was the start of a shift of epic proportions, and I never saw it coming.

As a creative, I can appreciate the beauty in many, many things. And fashion? It's art. The perfect fabric, the way a blouse drapes just so, the careful stitch on a well-made garment. The loftiness of a dreamy cashmere, a delicate sheen of silk. It plays to all my creative senses and I really can't get enough. Borrowing a phrase from one of my (now) favorite books, the right garment totally sparks joy for me.

The dangerous pitfall is that falling in love means you want it, nothing can stop you from getting it and who cares if you really need it?

Say what?

By some happy coincidence I ended up reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. It came out in October, just as we got back from our honeymoon and I was ripe for change. The premise of the book is this - keep only what sparks joy.

Do extra cords, cables, manuals to printers and software discs bring you joy? Toss.

Does that sweater that you keep having to sew a button back on because it's cheaply made bring you joy? Toss.

Did you buy that shirt thinking you would wear it all the time and now it hangs in your closet because it was really, really expensive, causing you guilt every time you open the closet door? Donate.

I'm a fan of decluttering, but this book spoke to my heart. When I narrowed down my list of the five things I was most thankful for in my life, did an object land on that list? No.

Can you see where this is going by now?

Within about two weeks, I quickly donated two car loads of items to local charities that could use them more than me. They weren't bringing me joy, but boy I wish I could have snapped a picture of the faces on the staff where I donated. I would look at it any time I felt down.

I recycled and trashed about 20 bags of goods.

You might think by now I must have been a hoarder, and our place a disaster, but that's really not the case. Those who know me best wouldn't declare my home messy, or say that I had too many things. Our apartment wasn't sparse, but it wasn't bursting at the seams.

Besides the financial investment when you purchase an object, we forget about the "cost" of maintaining, storing, and moving them. There is an emotional cost, too. Fresh off Marie and eager to keep pushing forward, I read "Everything That Remains" by The Minimalists.

Minimalist? Hmm.

I experienced a little resistance in my gut when that word kept coming up. Did it mean I would have to live in a stark space, with none of my favorite photos or art? Did it mean I would have to get rid of 90% of my closet and only cycle between 10 items?

What I learned, is that minimalism looks different for everyone. But the basic philosophy is this - the best things in life aren't things, and clearing the excess out of your life allows you to focus on what matters most.

Lately, by not focusing on acquiring things, I find myself with all sorts of free time. I'm working out six days a week, trying new classes that previously I would be scared of, or not have time for. I'm reading every single day. And I'm feeling more creative - with time to document it.

And here I am, doing just that, in this space. I need to get this excitement and spark I feel recorded. When I'm having a moment where I want to take the easy route, this will be my inner voice.

I am no longer a resolution or list person, but this year I wanted to give myself a word to focus on. Mine is presence. Whatever I'm doing it, I want to be all there. I owe it to life. I want to notice the little things, feel it all. And I will always, always stop to smell the roses.

Pin It button on image hover