I own two boxes of stuff I need to get rid of. They silently sit in my closet, which is why I forgot about them for a long time.
Recently though I felt that it was silly to be holding onto this stuff – that’s what I was doing by ignoring it. I didn’t want any of it, but the items were either too random to donate or they were meant to be sold, which requires some effort.
The more you declutter the harder it becomes to let go of stuff because the stuff you own has already survived several “Do I need this?” rounds of questioning.
It’s easy to get rid of things like a second beater or the plastic mascot you got somewhere for free.
It’s harder to get rid of things that are beautiful or perfectly useful, just not for you.
The story of the vintage lipstick cases
So I had two beautiful vintage lipstick cases that had been gifted to me. Throwing these away would have felt close to a crime!
But I never bothered to put my lip balm into them so they had been lying around neglected for years. If you think about it, that’s its own form of waste.
So when I found the lipstick cases in my box I asked myself: “Which of my friends could use this? Who does this remind me of?” et voilá, a friend came to mind immediately. The lipstick case would fit right into her bohemian style, so I decided to ask her if she wanted it.
She did! The best part was that the next time we met she told me that she used it to store her bobby pins in her purse. Brilliant! I am now doing the same and my lonely leftover lipstick case finally gets the wear it deserves.
The rules for declutter-gift-giving
I have gifted anything from belts to shoes to tea boxes, earrings, scarves, bras, beauty products, and more. It is great fun to be able to give your friend a surprise gift just because an item made you think of them.
When I have a new friend come over to my apartment (or even the friend of a friend) I like to offer them tea and a glimpse into my donation box. It’s so easy to get rid of things when you see someone else get excited about something you don’t care about anymore!
I’d suggest two “rules” for giving away your stuff, though:
1. Do not try to offload your guilty conscience onto your friends by dumping all your crap onto them.
Only offer them things that you genuinely think they might need.
The key word here is “offer” – ask your friend if they want to have the item vs. gifting it to them immediately – they might not want to have it, after all!
2. Make sure to tell your friends that you don’t mind them decluttering this item in the future.
I find that the worst things to declutter are gifts. They make you feel so guilty. That’s why I try to give without any strings attached. I never want anyone to keep something I gave them just because they feel guilty.
Being able to share things I no longer need and seeing my friends get value out of them is one of the best side effects of minimalism.
So the next time you find it hard to part ways with a perfectly good item in your home, ask yourself if one of your friends might like it.
My two boxes of stuff are still living in my home. I have decided to sell their contents at the next flea market I can find, so they’ll be gone in one fell swoop. The things that don’t sell will be brought to the refugee donation drop off or thrown away.
It feels good to have a plan to get the last bits of clutter out.
This post was written before I played the minimalism game.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve always imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” – Henry David Thoreau
Simplifying makes your life easier (surprise!).
Not just because you are suddenly able to find matching socks because you decluttered your closet.
Your life becomes easier because somehow, simplifying your stuff often leads to simplifying how you spend your time, too.
When you simplify your life with minimalism, you constantly ask yourself “Do I want this in my life? Do I really need this or am I just assuming that I do?”.
This doesn’t just change the amount of junk in your drawer, it also starts a process of change inside you.
All over sudden life might not seem so complicated after all.
For example, if your secret dream was to be a writer, you might realize that to be a writer you have to write. I know, shocking. But it’s not uncommon to think that in order to go after your dream you have to, say, get a degree in creative writing before you can do anything.
You might realize it can be much simpler.
The women I work with have a (creative) dream they are pursuing or procrastinating on.
All of them feel overwhelmed by the demands of their daily lives, whether they are mothers or professors or illustrators or a combination of ten things.
The point is, they have a lot on their plates.
So the prescription I sneak into our coaching is always to simplify their lives. Some of my women literally go through their homes and get rid of things, others make space on their calendars.
And things start to shift. They feel lighter and less exhausted. I still find this fascinating!
Here’s what one of my clients has to say about this process:
I cannot thank you enough for your insight, time, abilities to cut through the mire… I am feeling such lightness within, I can’t even describe it.
This morning, at my home desk, I have begun picking through the stacks of stuff, cleaning, getting rid… it feels amazing.
The cool thing is, we’re only at session three!
As for me, I have been on a “minimalist journey” for the last five years. I’ve thrown away hundreds of items and I still go through phases of purging. Granted, I enjoy sorting through my stuff, but the real reason why I am so drawn to the idea of owning less is that it helps me make space for the things that matter.
Not just the physical items, but the less tangible things like making time to meet with friends or read a good book.
Minimalism is not about the things you own, it’s about how you’d like to spend your time.
Life does feel simpler when you own fewer possessions.
Not all of that is due to the new space on your shelves. A lot of it comes from the emotional and mental space you create that can now be filled with the things that matter to you – or just be left empty.
What do you want? A garden, time for good books and walks with your husband? To make movies and own six cats?
When you make room for minimalism you make room for those dreams, too.
I believe we can be productive without paying the common price of stress, overwhelm and mean self-talk.
When I first started my business I thought differently. I was convinced that discipline was the magic word, that if I could just be ‘more disciplined’ I would get everything done and move forward quickly.
I thought successful people rigorously scheduled their days and made use of every minute, dismissing any feelings of “I don’t want to do that” or “I’m tired”.
I thought to be effective I had to work like a perfect human robot.
And I tried to become a perfect productivity robot.
Only it left me feeling like I was never doing enough. A lot of good things disappeared from my life to make room for productivity.
I became a little bit of a workaholic and I suffered for it. Yes, I got things done, but it wasn’t worth the amount of time I put in. Most of all, it made me feel horrible and since the reason for my productivity hunt was to enable me to “build a life I love“, that was a particularly dire consequence.
After a while, I almost abandoned all of my goals, simply because I was exhausted. If living my dreams meant pushing myself every day I did not want them anymore.
What if we could marry ambition and kindness?
These days I still aim to be productive, but it feels much more human.
I schedule a lot of buffer time into my days and don’t set self-imposed deadlines (if I can resist it).
I have different projects and life areas that I want to “work on”, but I don’t beat myself up about using my time perfectly.
Instead, I check in with what needs to happen and what I feel like doing.
That’s my glamorous productivity system. And it works out quite well, actually.
Funny enough, I do get more done than productivity-robot-Iris. I’m doing more than I ever have before (not that that is the point) yet I feel more relaxed than I used to.
Each weekday I choose what makes sense to do. I work on it for as long as I feel energized or until something else needs to be done (like going to a class).
Sometimes there are external deadlines, of course, and I obviously have to sit down to work on things I don’t feel like working on. Still, this way of working makes me get stuff done on time feel good in the process.
When I notice myself getting tired I sit myself down to watch a movie, even if it’s in the middle of the day.
I have found that being proactive is way more effective in the long run: When I skip all self-care to work perfect eight-hour days I will start burning out sooner or later.
Giving myself some leeway during the day makes me happy and gives me energy. It also makes me feel like I am living my life and not just being a busy worker bee.
Do you believe that being productive looks like long hours and little time for fun? Is that really so? I mean, who gets to make the rules about how you do things in your life?
It’s you, actually. You can choose to do less, to focus or to adjust your pace.
It’s a practice, but one that has helped me a lot and my clients too.
If you are in your twenties or find yourself in some other form of confusion, you might be pondering the question of who you want to be.
It doesn’t have to be a drastic feeling of “I need to change EVERYTHING about my life”, it might just be realizing that your job bores you or you are tired of feeling stressed all the time.
I am currently in my twenties and I can assure you, it is a tumultuous time.
I have moved four times in the last five years, switched my major, dropped out of college to focus on my coaching business, flew to America to get my coach training and returned to my psychology degree while working with clients. I’ve had six different jobs; including self-employment, VA work and calling people to ask their opinion on a local election.
There are so many things I could do, so many jobs and interests to be explored, that sometimes I lose sight of the things I already know about myself.
Like the fact that I like being in deep conversation with people (coaching) or that I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
These are exciting times, but they make me and a lot of my peers fear that we might choose the wrong path – accidentally become the wrong person.
Because whether you become a nurse, sell pottery for a living or work for the government, those things will not define what you do but who you become.
So, no pressure. Today I accidentally came up with an exercise that might help you find more clarity about the future you envision for yourself.
Coachey Exercise: Write your future bio
Today I found myself waking up an hour early with a pull to get up and write. But instead of writing a blog post I felt like writing my future bio – the one that I would like to read in the future.
Now here’s what’s awesome about writing a future bio: You get to pretend that you are, say, a chef or a woodworker and see if that feels like you.
You get to write about several different life paths to see how you feel about them. So I could have written “Iris Barzen is a psychologist and researcher” or “Iris Barzen is a dance teacher and author”, just to see if that felt like a real possibility.
How to write your future bio
[YOUR NAME] is a _________, _______, and _______. (you can choose less)
In her work she __________________
She lives in ___________ with _________ where she _________.
Keep in mind that a bio is usually not more than 3-5 sentences. Keep it short and don’t think too much about getting it right.
So now, how do you feel about what you just wrote?
Reading through my future bio I felt calm and sort of assured. I can’t tell you if what I wrote is what I want to do exactly, but it feels like a direction.