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Mental Shift: Focus on What You Don't Need Instead of What You Don't Have

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I am re-listening to Brene Brown's Power of Vulnerability lecture on Audible. (This is my third time listening to it because she is... amazing. I soak up her data and research like water in a sponge every time I hear it.) One of the first points she makes is about how we live in a society of scarcity. We can't get enough and we never have enough. So many of us can't stop worrying about not getting enough sleep or not getting enough done in the day and the list goes on. I imagine you're thinking about what you feel scarce about right now. Am I right?

This had me thinking. We really don't need more. We shouldn't feel these feelings of scarcity even though we do. In fact, I'd argue that it would help the majority of us if we felt less burdened by what we can't seem to get enough of and instead shifted our thinking to focus on what we can do without.

Have you ever decluttered a storage closet? It's like taking an eraser to the marks of chaos. It's not that the world sees these places (many are hidden by doors) but you know when they're neat and tidy. You know the feeling you get when everything has a place. If it's been a while since you've had this feeling (or maybe you've never felt this feeling) I encourage you to start trimming. Bit by bit you'll see what you really don't need.

Most of the time, we really don't need the new clothes, shoes, endless toys for the kids in our lives, [insert whatever it is that you buy here]. Now, you might be saying, Britnee it's easy for you to write about it rather than do it. You haven't seen my house. It's crazy! It'll never be where I want it. To that I say, it takes time and patience and practice. I'm still practicing it. That's another reason I started this blog! To chat about what works for me as I practice simple living.

If you're willing, then you can tackle it. 

Let's talk about some of the pitfalls - the things that deter us from this idea of having less and not needing it all. Once we identify those, we'll be more equipped to properly handle them and say BYEE to the excess. 

Pitfall #1: Shopping. Whether it's online or in-person, shopping is fun. For some people, it's so fun it's become an addiction. Bored? Go shopping. Happy? Go shopping. Reunited with family for an afternoon? Go shopping. This is a very real pitfall that's working against you. Good news is, it doesn't have to win! 

Pitfall #2: Significant other who may not see eye-to-eye with you on your simple vision. I've heard it more than once. Many people wish to do away with the excess but their significant others aren't on board. This can be a toughy. In those cases, I recommend taking it SLOW. Start a real conversation about why you want to trim and let them know why you want to do it. You might consider sharing a Pinterest or Houzz board of what you want your house to ultimately look like. Sharing examples can show someone with hesitation what exactly your end goal is. Show them that it doesn't have to be scary and the end-goal will be well worth it.

Pitfall #3: Feeling overwhelmed. I think we can all agree that this type of feeling is a natural response when we see a pile of anything staring back at us. My suggestion is to start small. You don't need to organize your entire garage this weekend. Think about cleaning out a few shelves first. The idea is for you to experience a few small wins to help motivate you to continue on to the big stuff. And once you have a few small wins under your belt, you won't want to stop because it really does feel good.

How cool would it be to simplify our homes and focus solely on streamlining them? Make them more peaceful. Make them more aligned with a feeling of calm instead of worrying about buying or accumulating whatever we thought we needed before. For me, that's living. 

If we're honest with ourselves, we know that there is so much that we really don't need. My challenge for you is to consider what you can do without this week when you're at the store debating that impulse buy. You went to Target for sunscreen and a card for your mom but you're debating whether or not to snag the mini-chalkboard easel, the blouse that screams spring and a few other non-essentials. 

If nothing else, have a little internal convo with yourself. You'll recognize your real needs if you know that 1) you're going to use those additional items and/or 2) you really won't and your impulse purchase is really just a whim to satisfy a fleeting craving.

RELATED POST: Decluttering: How to Organize Your House One Room at a Time & Keep Your Sanity

Decluttering: How to Organize Your House One Room at a Time and Keep Your Sanity

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I grew up in an organized, simple house. It was a typical 4 bed, 3 bath house in a Phoenix suburb. My dad skewed toward most minimalist habits when it came to accumulating things and my mom was constantly cleaning. (I attribute the joy I get now from cleaning to her!) Overall, they were tidy when it came to stuff. Neither liked dark, contrasting colors on the walls or prints that detracted from a room. They gravitated toward neutral tones and less instead of more. Of course, I didn't realize when I was little. It wasn't until I ventured over to other peoples' houses and saw the ratio difference. Even the outside of our house was streamlined. No weeds, a manicured lawn and the cars were always parked inside the garage. A wild concept for a large population of people with garages. Am I right?

This rubbed off on me throughout the years. I think a person's upbringing and environment has a lot to do with how they end up curating and grooming their own space - be it good or bad. Having said that, it doesn't determine how your space will be. Nope, you've got the freewill and power to do it all on your own regardless of what surrounded you as a kid. 

For me, my idea of decluttering became an even more important part of my life after I got married. My husband is AMAZING at organizing. He could do it all day if you let him and he's good. So good that I'm confident he could make a living doing it. I thought I was organized until I married him. I have him to thank for the true organization of our house. 

No matter you're upbringing or current status now, I'm here to share 4 simple ways to declutter and organize your house one room at a time without feeling overwhelmed and while keeping your sanity. End goal? Create a calmer, more enjoyable living space. Here's how:

1. Start with one room at a time. Tackle your house room by room so this way, you experience small wins each time a new space has been simplified. Any kind of win is a great thing! So start with one room and take inventory of what's inside of it. Especially when you're overwhelmed and burdened with the load in front of you. So, let's say you start with your living room. What's taking up the space? Do you have a couch and love-seat and chair and ottoman? What about on the walls? Do you see a plethora of frames hanging every which way? Take a visual inventory and notice every single thing that you can see by staring at your room. 

2. Begin sifting and sorting everything in sight that doesn't serve an actual purpose. For example, if your electronics work, then they serve a purpose. If they're broke then they don't. Shelves and entertainment centers can be really bad collection zones. Try tackling those first. So let's say you have an entertainment center full of what makes sense and then layered on it and in the drawers you find books, warranty manuals, old remotes with broken parts, movies, CDs, etc. In this example, an entertainment center might best serve you if it holds your television, electronics and supporting media such as DVDs (if you still buy those), a few magazines or accessories. What's left after that? Remove any loose paper, miscellaneous toys or items that were put there but don't belong or that are broken. Keep repeating this step until you have only what makes the most sense for that given area. (You're a smart one, you'll know what makes sense after you keep after it!)

3. Pair back on the decor. I know, this one may sound a little strange and can put some people on the defense but the point is to streamline your space and limiting the amount of stuff you have out will do just that. Promise. Once you've eliminated the stuff that doesn't belong, take another pass and be honest with yourself about the amount of decor you have in that space. Ask yourself, what can I remove that should not be here? Perhaps you have one too many candles or vases. Can you see the surface of the furniture? Pair back things like the amount of books you have. You'll be amazed and what this sort of trimming does to your space. Repeat steps 1-3 until you are satisfied with your new, calmer, simplified space. Then move to the next room. Again, go through your house one space at a time so you don't get too stressed with the stuff. Decluttering can be extremely overwhelming if you bite off more than you can chew. 

4. Find your own Feng Shui. I'm not saying you need to go out and study the actual way to achieve Feng Shui but I am saying that if you want to create a calmer, simplified living environment then ask yourself if you feel a sense of calm when you're sitting, sleeping, talking, walking in your space. Will others feel this sense of calm, too? It might be necessary to make adjustments to your decor such as removing a few more decorations or toning down the visual display of clutter if there is still too much. It might be that you've organized and purged as much as possible but the space can still seem too overwhelming. If that's the case, then take a look at what items are still out (meaning they aren't in drawers or closets). If you can put the items you want to keep out-of-sight, then I'm confident you'll see major improvements in your space.

Follow these simple steps and you'll be well on your way to creating a more organized and calmer living environment. Keep me posted!

RELATED POST: Top 4 Things Creating Clutter In Your House & Why You Should Get Rid of It

How and Why I Started Simplifying My Life

I've realized a few things while living in big cities working in somewhat glorified industries and living in a culture where being glued to a smartphone is standard. That one thing is that we don't take time to pause. I'm not sure my generation ever did pause. I reached my mid-twenties and was already burned out on the flood of information I got in the form of emails, tweets, Facebook posts, instant messages and texts in a single day. As things turned out, I have this flood of communication to thank for the fact that if I'm not on my iPhone I'm thinking about being on my phone for fear of missing out on some piece of content that may need my reply.

I'm already an anxious person. I worry, I think too much and I wonder about things beyond my reach and out of my control. So, taking myself away from technology is great but since I'm conditioned to always 'be on' I experience restlessness. So where does this leave me? To practice the art of leaving my phone a few feet away and reminding myself there's no rush. I'm slowly starting to do this in my professional and personal life and it's taking some time to get used to because I always want to please and I always want to be responsive. But those things are neither realistic nor healthy most of the time.

RELATED POST: Mental Shift: How to Move Past the Honeymoon Phase of Minimalism

The Beginning

I've created this space to document my journey as I look for ways to kick the endless pursuit of consumerism to the curb and make a path out of less instead of more. The way I see it, we've got nice stuff in front of us all the time- fine dining, clothes, fancy houses and the compelling notion that we need it all. That's made up pressure, people. We actually don't.

I'm on a journey to share what I find while living a more minimal life. I've always found joy in the essentials but now it's time I try for something more- or rather less- for myself and my family.