We are each in different stages of life and simplifying looks different depending on life stages and lifestyles. Finding your own way is the best way, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. I offered to answer your simplicity questions from Instagram and Facebook. The most common question was about gifts. Many of you struggle to express your wishes to live with less to well meaning friends and family, or to know what to do with the gifts. I answer those questions with many others below.
This is a longer article, but you can scan to the categories you are most interested in if you are short on time.
Simplicity Questions and Answers
Do you wear out your clothes and possessions before replacing them, or how do you decide when it is time?
I don’t give much thought to replacing my items because I don’t give any attention to what the newer, better, shinier version might be anymore. When the time comes (like if I’m wearing through the sole of my shoe), I either replace it with the same thing or consider something different. There are times I’ll replace things before they are worn out and used up. If something in my life changes, and I think it’s the right time to replace or add something new, I will. It takes me a long time to get there though, sometimes a year or, especially if it’s a bigger purchase. That’s always a good reminder that most of my stuff related needs are not immediate.
I can part with everything besides my 200 cookbooks! Help, I’m a chef.
Why do you have to part with them? Less isn’t nothing. If those 200 cookbooks add value to your life, keep them. If you change your mind or your life, let them go.
Do you ever regret giving stuff away? I’m trying to downsize but sometimes I do have regrets.
I don’t regret anything I’ve given away. I don’t remember most of it either. If you really aren’t sure about something, box it up and hide it. See if you miss it. If you don’t, let it go. If you do, bring it back. Keep focused on the downsized lifestyle you are interested in. Living space is more fun and meaningful than storage space.
How can you be simple in terms of cosmetics?
Chances are, if you like cosmetics, you own much more than you actually wear (just like clothes). Consider a packing party for your cosmetics. Pack them all up as if you were moving. Only take things out when you use them. See what’s left in the box after 30 days, and let that stuff go.
What if you live with a hoarder who stacks stuff everywhere and won’t let you clean or donate or even move anything?
Hoarding is a disorder that may require more help than you can offer. You may need help from a professional. First determine if you think this is hoarding vs. packrat/collector.
This article from Psychology Today might help, especially this part, “It can be difficult to determine whether someone is a hoarder or just a pack rat, someone who just likes to hang on to things. The main determiner of whether a behavior is just a personal preference or a disorder usually has to do with whether or not, and how much, that behavior has begun to negatively impact daily functioning. Here are generally recognized symptoms of hoarding from the Mayo Clinic:
- Cluttered living spaces
- Inability to discard items
- Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines, or junk mail
- Moving items from one pile to another without discarding anything
- Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, including trash
- Difficulty managing daily activities, procrastinating and trouble making decisions
- Difficulty organizing items
- Excessive attachment to possessions and discomfort letting others touch or borrow possessions
- Limited or no social interactions”
What does a typical work day look like for you?
My work unfolds in cycles, I may be in a creation phase, or growth phase, or traveling (speaking/book tours) so it really varies. Right now I’m creating. My two big projects are:
1. Writing a new book about Project 333. This means I need extra time for writing, research, and thinking/procrastinating/walking. Writing a book involves just as much not writing as writing.
2. Simple Year 2019: We have many new contributors for year six of A Simple Year and will be opening early registration this fall. I’m in the planning phase now and it’s really exciting to see how much the program is changing. I can’t wait to share it with you!
With those two things being the main focus of my work now, a typical day looks like this:
- 6am – 9am Morning routine
- two 3-4 hour work blocks
One of those blocks is more creative work and the other is for email, social media, reading, admin, meetings. I tried to work on certain themes everyday but it feels too forced right now. I’m doing whatever I can to encourage creative flow. Usually I work alone at home, at the library or in coffee shops but sometimes meet friends for coffee and work.
Are you seeing an increase in women-run simplicity blogs?
I’m not sure if it’s an increase of the overall number, but I am seeing more growth and exposure for women-run simplicity blogs which I think is awesome. I celebrated some of them here.
Here are a few more:
How were you so clear about what you wanted your business to be at the very beginning?
I wasn’t! I didn’t know what my business would look like in the beginning. I had some ideas of what it could look like, but really wasn’t clear at all.
What are your thoughts on work-life-balance? How do you still stay “you”/lessen stress?
I don’t believe in work-life balance. Sometimes work takes over, sometimes life takes over. To stay “you” and lessen stress, create a daily practice or morning routine where you have space to come back to yourself on a consistent basis. If your work is a constant source of stress, consider something different. It took me a couple of years from considering a career switch to making the leap, but with a good exit strategy and a loose plan for creating a microbusiness, I made the leap in October 2011. I’ve never regretted that decision.
My question is about Project 333. I want to try it but I’m scared. Of what I’m not sure. How should I just do it … simple real steps. I don’t want to get rid of all of my clothes so can I still do it? Can I also do a 333 per season? Have you ever done that? 1 for spring summer and 1 for fall winter maybe. Thank you!
It’s normal to feel scared or uncertain, but not to worry! Please don’t get rid of any of your stuff. Just box up the excess and get it out of sight for three months. This is a three month challenge, so yes, you can do it seasonally. At first though, just focus on three months and nothing beyond that. For how to get started (with simple real steps), first read the rules here and then read these 10 tiny steps to take towards your tiny wardrobe. If you still want more step-by-step, day-by-day instruction, try the dress with less course.
What if I can’t get my clothes down to 33 items because I love everything I have?
Maybe you don’t need to. Project 333 isn’t for everyone, although I think most people can learn something from this minimalist fashion challenge. If you are curious about it, or thinking about trying it, remember that you don’t have to get rid of all the clothes you love. You are just hiding them for three months. At the end of the challenge, you may have more clarity on what you really love.
What’s your suggestion for family members who have little to no boundaries regarding my minimalist/simplified lifestyle? She buys all the things & then my husband and I are stuck with whatever is purchased for us (no matter how much I beg for quality time and/or experiences instead)?
The only person who can have boundaries around your lifestyle is you. You can ask others to honor them, but can’t expect them to. That said, you can still honor your boundaries. If having conversations about shifting the way you give gifts hasn’t worked, accept the gifts with love and gratitude and then pass them on. Depending on your relationship with the gift givers, you can kindly let them know that you appreciate the thought but won’t be keeping the gift, or don’t say anything.
If you are willing to give it one last shot, you could share this one less gift certificate with them.
How do you decide what to do with items that were gifts? Things you like, but don’t need.
I’m pretty lucky that most people in my life know what is going to happen to the gifts they give me unless they are consumable or something I will actually use. Journals and face masks are always a safe bet, but otherwise, I don’t hold on very long. I really do have everything I want and need. Most of us do. If you don’t want it, give it away.
Do you have any posts or videos about how to travel light from the female perspective? It seems that many minimalist packing videos I find show how guys might pack for a vacation. Personally, I think that it’s easier for a guy to pack than a female.
Yes, here and here.
How do you feel about packing cubes? I do not want to purchase more things, but I also want to be able to pack the same bag for 3 or 30 days.
I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about packing cubes, but I don’t use them. I’ve used a small carry on bag for 3 days or 30 days without them.
What’s one suggestion you would give new parents regarding living simply?
Sleep when you can. Eat healthy when you can. Love your baby all the time. Things will get easier. I guess that’s four suggestions. Congrats!
You took your time with your simplification journey. Would you recommend this? Would you recommend combining a couple of goals together eg decluttering plus clearing debt (as complementary) or do you think one at a time and building over time is a better approach?
I think it depends on what your situation is and how much time/energy/attention you have to change your life. It’s ok to be working on more than one thing at a time, but layering each change is helpful. Start with one and then add another when the first feels comfortable or manageable. I was recently reminded of how important that is during my 90-days of discipline. Even if you are used to making big changes, making them all at once is rarely sustainable.
I want to downsize but at the moment the purchase of a smaller home costs more than what we owe on our current home. Trying to make sense of the numbers. Also, should renting a house or apartment be considered?
Often when downsizing or moving, the only factor considered is money. Of course that’s important, but numbers are not the only thing to consider. Financial advisors may disagree, but the big question to ask is, “how do I want to live my life?”
When we were selling our home in 2013 to downsize to a small apartment, we got advice from many people we trusted. They suggested we wait to sell until the market bounced back. They said if we waited 10 years, we could make much more on the sale. We considered the feedback but remembered we knew what was best for us. Maybe we’d make more in ten years, and maybe we wouldn’t, but that wasn’t the issue. We were focused on how we wanted to live for the next 10 years. Did we want to take care of a big house? Did we want to replace the roof, the fence, the appliances, the carpet and all of the other stuff that would likely fall apart? Did we want to continue to invest our money, time, energy and other resources in a place we didn’t really want to live in anymore? Did we want to compromise the next 10 years just in case the market bounced back? Our answer was a hard pass.
In May of 2013, we moved from our 2000 square foot home to a 750 square foot apartment. We didn’t make a cent on the house sale, but we were finally all the way debt free. We didn’t owe anyone anything. We were free of other things too. Because we made the decision to rent for a while, we were free of the worry of things breaking down. We were free of maintaining a property too. For the first few months in our new space, Mark would wake up on a Saturday, look at me, smile and say, “Guess what I’m not doing this weekend? I’m not (and then he would insert one of the following) raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, or convincing the neighbor to split the cost of a new fence.”
Despite what others may say, no one knows if renting or buying is best for you but you. Consider both options and think not just about the financial side but the living side too.
What is the best way to support my fiancée who is struggling with feeling stressed?
It’s easy to think that if you make changes to lower stress, that will lower his stress and while that may be beneficial, we each need to find ways to address, manage, or reduce stress. Your ideas and recommendations may not be as helpful as the ones he discovers on his own. It depends on what he’s stressed about and how it’s affecting him and your relationship. Talking about it may help, but if you think it’s bigger than something you can handle, recommend that he gets professional help or talks to someone else.
How do you stay focused? And avoid getting overwhelmed by advertising and new ‘needs’?
It takes time. At first, I really had to really work at it, but I’ve found so many things I’m more interested in than acquiring new stuff that it just doesn’t have my attention anymore. My morning routine has been instrumental in helping me redirect my energy and figure out how I want to spend my resources.
What can I recommend to my daughters for paying off their student loans?
For any debt repayment and money management, I recommend following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.
How do you talk about simplicity without sounding too preachy/judgy.
How you talk about it and how people receive it are two different things. For instance if two people read one of my articles about simplifying, one may think it was helpful, and the other may think it’s preachy or judgy. That has very little to do with me.
When I feel defensive about someone telling me something and think they are judging me, I know that I’m judging me, and perhaps it’s time to make a change. It took me a really long time to get there.
What was the hardest thing for you to learn about simplicity?
Where can I find answers to more simplicity questions?
Thanks so much for your questions! I’m live on Instagram almost every Monday at 5pm Eastern (NYC time) to talk about different areas of simplicity and answer your questions. If you submitted a question that I didn’t get to here, I will answer on a future Instagram Live talk. Please join me.