Archive for the Minimalism Category

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

What is most important in life?  What is the path to happiness?  When you live a simple life, these are very important questions to answer because you are removing the excess to get to the bare essentials, giving you time to focus on what is most important.

Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

I do have to chuckle that a cynic like me is offering advice on how to be happy, but the truth is happiness hasn’t always came easy for me.  I’ve been in some dark places, felt that depression pushing in on me, but in the end emerged on the other side. This does give me some practical experience in beating back the dark and embracing what truly makes me happy to wake up in the morning.

For me, this really comes down to what makes me happy and doing more of it, plus figuring out what I don’t like doing and doing less of that.  Happiness is something you work towards, it’s an active process.  The hardest part for me and many others is figuring out what really makes you happy.

What Things Make You Happy?

To understand what it will take to thrive, to be truly happy and find direction in your own life, you need to examine your current life to find out what things really turn us on.  We need to identify the things that bring joy to our lives.

happiness worksheets for free

Using the worksheet above, print it out and take it with you during a normal day of life.  Every 30 minutes or so think about what you’re doing, think about everything you’ve done, every little thing.  Reflect on what you’ve done and mark down if you enjoyed it or not.

What Is True Happiness To You?

happiness

If you’re at work, don’t just think about whether you like your job or not, but think about every little task;  you may not love your job, but you may like talking with clients, building the perfect spreadsheet, or working with others to find a solution.  Conversely, you may hate filling out reports, providing customer support, or stocking shelves.

In your personal life think about the things that make you feel energized or fall flat for you.  Do you love spending time with your friends or family at the park, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book?  Do you hate running errands, cleaning the house, or having a weekly dinner with that gossipy friend from long ago?

In each of these good and bad things, don’t just write down the good and the bad, but think about WHY they fall into the category.  Think critically about if it’s the actual activity or a factor around it that’s coloring the emotion.  In some cases it’s the situation or conditions that make something less or more pleasant.

It is in that why that we will find common threads which lead us to happiness.

How Do You Find True Happiness In Life?

finding true happiness

Happiness isn’t something that finds us, we need to go into the darkest corner of our self and drag it out kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to sit here and spew a bunch of woo woo new age mysticism at you or recite wise phrases from people long ago.  Here’s the rub, being happy isn’t easy.  In this world bad things happen, things aren’t fair and things won’t go our way.  What that leaves us with is a choice!

We must choose how we are going to react and conduct ourselves going forward despite all that.  It is in this choice that we find liberation, contentment, empowerment and of course, happiness.

The state of the world is what it is, we can either bemoan the negatives, or we can CHOOSE to adopt the most positive attitude despite it.  It is in that choice that will determine our happiness in this thing we call life.

Bring Happiness Into Your Life

HappinessHave you ever notice there are some people who are perpetually happy or optimistic?  It’s not because their life is so great, it’s because they have taken a stance to be more positive.

Many people have trained their brains to default to this way of thinking, so to us it seems to come “naturally” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A perfect example is I’ve had crappy jobs that were fun because I had awesome coworkers; I’ve also had great jobs that were terrible because the people I worked with.   Now our natural instinct would be to say one job was great, the other was terrible.

However, after some reflection we can determine that what really makes us happy is having great coworkers.  We could take that even further to say, we thrive off of having positive people around us in all aspects of life.

Go through a few days, just jotting down your likes and dislikes, keeping notes and taking time to reflect on each of the things you write down.  Once you’ve done that, look for those common threads, look for trends, look for deeper truths.

Finding Your Happy Place

finding your happy place

With these written down, think about what they mean to you.  Think about why they made their way on to the paper.  It can be a good time to just sit back and consider these things.  Think about ways you can do more of what makes you happy and what ways can you minimize what makes you unhappy.

The trick to finding you happy place is finding the deeper truths and building a strategy to benefit from that understanding.

Developing A Strategy To Find Happiness

Here is a concrete example from my own life: Continuing the job example, the deeper truth was that to be happy I needed to have positive people in my life.  That’s when I figured out the strategy!

I realized one day that if I could find a job with people I like working with and a position that was constantly presenting challenges that require creative solutions, I was very happy.  Conversely I found if I didn’t connect well with my coworkers and my position was very repetitive, I couldn’t stand it.

Putting It Into Practice

That was when I started developing questions to ask in an interview to help me determine if that job met those two criteria.  If they did, I’d continue interviewing, and if they didn’t, I’d politely bow out.

Happiness Without Sadness?

happiness without sadeness

Here is the tough truth, the answer is no, but it’s not without it’s purpose.  To live in a blissful existence might sound nice, but we would quickly become numb to the joy it brings.  Life requires a counter balance, we could point to yin and yang, good vs. evil, light vs. dark.  Whatever your metaphor is, humans are funny things, if we don’t see the counter point to happiness, we won’t enjoy it.

Can I Be Happy If I’m Depressed?

Totally.  We often think of depression as a total absence of happiness, but the truth is that it isn’t all dark, there are moments of light.  In depression the most effective strategy I’ve found is to not say “I want be happy”, it’s about saying “I’m going to be just a little bit better than yesterday”.  In those dark places we have one choice, to adopt an attitude to work towards small wins every day.

Why Everyone Should Have A Therapist

why you should see a therapist for good mental health

Yes, even you!  Even happy people!   A therapist is an ally to you in this journey we call life.  It can be hard to sit down on that couch and share things, but it’s one good way to make real progress.

Working with a therapist gives you space to talk out loud how you want to address challenges you face in your life and the steps you’re going to take to make every day better than the last.  Taking this time is simply allowing you to carve out a concentrated time to focus on you and a therapist helps you uncover truths, deal with the hard stuff and make a strategy to move forward.

The trick with therapy is that you need to show up ready to dig into things you’ve already done your best to sort out.  Take time before hand to think about the possible things you’d like to discuss and then put them in order of priority.  Take a few minutes to reflect on your top items, this will set the stage for a successful session.

It’s Your Life, Be Happy

be happy

In the end, being happy is something we need to work towards.  In this post I’ve given you some tips about how to dig into into things and find those deeper truths.

The most happy people will have most accurately identified what is most true for themselves and acted upon it.  It’s not that we will ever be able to eliminate all things that we don’t like doing, but that our lives are so rich with what we love, that those unpleasant task are just a small part of what is a great life.

Your Turn!

  • What questions help you find what makes you happy?
  • Was there something that surprised you in doing this?

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food With A Minimalist Diet

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food With A Minimalist Diet

What does my minimalist diet look like? After minimizing my belongings, my relationships, and my schedule, I took a look at my diet. Minimizing my diet has been one of the biggest money savers that minimalism has brought me and the health benefits have been huge too. Here are tips on how to simplify your diet:

what is a minimalist diet

What Is A Minimalist Diet?

For each person it’s going to be different depending on your preferences, goals and requirements. A minimalist diet is a simplified approach to cooking meals where you balance nutritional needs, ease of preparing, and optimizing your ingredients to have as few as possible while still being able to cooking a variety of meals that you love. You approach it in a way that’s right for you, but you are making sure to be intentional in how your meals fit into your life.

Here are some of the main consideration I took when I wanted to simplify my diet and how I prepared my meals:

1. Learn Staple Meals

Learning how to cook a few simple meals is not only a beneficial life skill, it can drastically reduce your grocery budget. One major shift in my journey was when I was able to leave my job because I no longer had so many expenses, what that meant was I could cook all my meals from scratch each meal.

simple staple meals

I have a few simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I alternate between, which makes it easy to know what to eat when that time rolls around. I know that I love all of these meals, so when I go grocery shopping, I make sure to pick up ingredients for each one.

2. A Minimalist Diet Meal Plan For You

everyday meals for simple meal planning

I tend to get really into a meal, and eat it constantly. By eating the same foods over and over, you’re saving money by not needing new spices, exotic ingredients, or a vast array of groceries. I like to always have staples on hand to create any of the following: smoothies, breakfast muesli, vegan sandwiches, sweet potato and chickpea curry, burritos, and my famous nourish bowls.

Nourish bowls happen when I throw the following into a bowl: some type of grain, some type of protein (usually beans, as they are so high in fiber and minerals!), loads of veggies, avocado, and hummus. This can also be a really simple way to use up leftovers.

When you start out look at your favorite dishes and write out the ingredients that it takes to make them. After you have a list of your favorite dishes, see what ingredients overlap. By choosing the dishes that share common ingredients we can optimize your go to recipes so that you can make the most amount of dishes with the fewest amount of ingredients.

common foods for a simple diet

 

3. Keto Diet For Minimalist Weight Loss

keto low carb dinner

Over the past year I’ve started the ketogenic diet into my daily habit to help with weight loss. Initially I started keto because I wanted to improve my energy levels by reducing my carb intake, primarily by eating only foods that were low glycemic foods.

This is because I’ve noticed that my body seems to have big energy swings around my meals and keto boosted my energy, lets me loose weight, simplifies my diet and just works really well for me.

At first I was just going to go low carb, but after reading up on keto I decided to go all the way with the diet because it closely matched my own diet. I didn’t eat a lot of pasta, I have never been a big sweets person, I don’t drink, and I already had a lot of healthy fats in my diet as it was.

How is the Keto diet a minimalist diet?

At it’s core it’s inherently a “restrictive diet” meaning it limits what you can eat by a good bit. But I’d actually argue another point that is more important for minimalist.

Because the ketogenic diet functions of ketones it’s actually a more efficient way to provide nutrients to your body. In ketosis your energy stems from beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and fats yield 9 kcal per gram of fat, and approximately 4 kcal per gram for carbohydrates.

When you get your body optimized for fats you’re staking the deck in your favor. Practically speaking I get satiated much faster and longer. A tablespoon of butter in my coffee has replaced what once was an 800 calorie breakfast. I used to struggle to stay awake at work, now I go full tilt all day and then I go back after work some days to work on passion projects.

You Eat Less Food, Feel Really Full And For Longer:

I was super skeptical of this, but the standard DASH diet recommended by most doctors always left me hungry after cutting out 300 calories a day. After the first three weeks of keto I was eating till I felt stuffed and when I totaled my macros for the day I was astounded to see some days I was eating 1,000 of a deficit! Now as you get back to your healthy weight you’ll find you eat very close to your maintenance intake.

My Daily Keto Meal Plan:

  • Bullet Proof Coffee: Fresh coffee, 1 TB of grass feed butter, 1 TB of MCT oil
  • Breakfast: 3 free range organic eggs with 1 ounce of cheese
  • Lunch: 2 ounces of cheese and 2 ounces of salami or chorizo
  • Dinner: 4 cups of romaine lettuce, Cesar dressing, 1 ounce of cheese, bacon, MCT oil, 6 ounces of grilled chicken

I only really mix up my dinner, but I keep my other meals almost the same every day. For dinners I’ll have hamburgers without the bun and no sugar added ketchup, mustard pork chops, or buffalo wings with ranch. I have also found that keeping all my carbs at dinner helps me maintain energy levels throughout the day to an amazing degree.

food to eat on a keto diet

On average my Macros are 20 carbs per day, 120 grams of fat per day, and 140 grams of protein a day. Generally I’m eating closer to 10 carbs a day, but never more than 20 carbs. The results have been really incredible, I don’t get tired any more, I have the most insane energy levels for sustain periods, I’ve lots lots of weight and because ketosis suppresses your appetite, I don’t get hungry AT ALL even when I’m running a major calorie deficit.

4. Keep Snacks Simple

minimalist diet snacks

I used to be a big snacker – and I was a fan of processed junk food. After minimizing my diet, I’ve switched my snacking habits to do it less and less. Now, my keto snacks are jerky, cheese sticks and salads. During my normal eating I would snack on fresh or dried fruit, veggies with hummus, apples with peanut butter; I try to keep it as whole-food-focused as possible. Not only does this save me money, it is so much better for my overall health.

5. Try Themed Nights

theme dinners for the week

One of my favorite ways to keep my diet simple and minimal, but still exciting, is themed nights. I have a few themes that I like to work around, including tacos and docos (documentaries) night, or meatless Mondays. This is a really fun way to introduce simplified diets to children.

The best part about having a themed night meal plan is that it limits the scope of your shopping so you know it’s breakfast for dinner on Thursday and you don’t wander around the store looking for ideas, you can jump right to the things you need.

6. Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting for weight loss

I found that my body naturally fell into to this pattern of 8 hours eating and 16 hours fasting. For me and my schedule it works well. I eat lunch around noon and then dinner around 6:30pm, from there I may have a few pieces of cheese at 8pm if I’m feeling like I need more, but then I’m good for the rest of the night, skip breakfast and then don’t eat until lunch.

This 16 hour window is enough to firmly put yourself into autophagy (where your body weens out under performing cells and builds new cells). What’s interesting is that the amount of autophagy that occurs during a 16 hour fast, up to around 20 hours is very effective.

Longer fasting has been shown to only give an incremental effect, so I don’t see much need for it.

8. Vitamins And Supplements

vitamins

In general supplements and vitamins are largely ineffective be our body’s don’t absorb them very well. The big thing I’ve learned is there are many mitigating factors that help your body absorb them.

For example you need vitamin K2 to be available to facilitate the absorption of vitamin D, which then in turns let your body absorb calcium. Add to this that your body can only take so much in at a time, you sometimes need to space the dose out.

I only take vitamin B12 with Folate, fish oil pill for omega 6 fats, potassium, and magnesium. To this I’ll throw in a dusting of nutritional yeast (vitamin B) and some MCT oil here and there. I also will use Himalayan pink salt for general minerals.

The rest is pretty much a waste of money and I only keep these because there is some decent science behind it or my body responds well to them.

9. Which Cooking Oil Is Good For Health

  • Olive oil
  • Grass fed butter
  • Avocado oil
  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil

Oils was another one I had to learn about and luckily my go to oil, olive oil, was one of the better oils out there. I only keep three oils around for cooking: olive oil, butter and avocado oil. Many people like coconut oil, but recently it’s come under some scrutiny. Ghee is great I just haven’t gotten into it.

healthy oils for cooking

The big thing to understand is smoke points. When an oil hits its smoke point it can start to produce oxidants and other negative by products. The reason I use avocado oil is for high temperature cooking or grilling. Avocado oil has a smoke point of 520 degrees compared to olive oil which is 320 degrees.

10. Keep it Nutritious

wholesome foods for health

A simplified diet is a whole-foods focused, nutritious diet. I like to say I cook with ingredients, not foods. Ingredients are the most basic form, while foods have long list of a combinations of ingredients. Focus your meals around whole grains, beans and legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget that you can grow your own food to with these simple steps to setting up a garden with easy to grow vegetables.

I like to get my food as close to the source as possible – this means farmers markets for produce, bakeries for whole grain breads, and bulk stores for whole grain pasta, and dried beans. By constantly having the staples on hand, you’ll be able to make such a variety of meals.

Minimizing my diet has improved my health, relieved stress, and made me a happier person. There are so many benefits to eating more simply and healthfully, your wallet and your body will thank you.

Your Turn!

  • Would you consider simplifying your diet?

How To Become A Minimalist: 7 Simple Steps To Live Your Best Life

How To Become A Minimalist: 7 Simple Steps To Live Your Best Life

I’ve never met anyone who has decided to become a minimalist and decided to go back.  I went from a packed house, a garage full of stuff and a storage unit, to traveling the world out of a single backpack.  I went from being in debt to having more money in my bank account than ever before. Here’s what helped me make the transition.

How_To_Become_A_Minimalist

What Is Minimalism?

Minimalism is simply taking control over your life and distilling it down to it’s most important parts. By seeking a minimalist lifestyle we identify priorities in our lives and intentionally optimize everything around those things.  So in the end minimalism isn’t about clutter, how we dress, or how to get rid of stuff; It’s about us making room, mentally and physically, for what is most important to us.

1. Understand Why You Want to Change

Understanding why you want to take the journey to minimalism will not only help you stay motivated on your journey, it will help you to know what exactly minimalism means to you. When I decided I wanted to become minimalist, it was simply to make my daily life easier.

minimalist lifestyle

I was tired of rifling through clothes that I didn’t wear to get to the ones I do, I was tired of my kitchen drawers overflowing with utensils when I only needed about a quarter of what was in those drawers. I was exhausted from spending my days off trying to work my way through the constant pile of laundry in the washroom and picking up random things around the house. I was jealous of friends who were going on weekend getaways while I spend my days pulling weeds in a constant attempt to create a garden.

When you understand what you want minimalism to do for you, it’s so much easier to declutter. While I went through the decluttering process, which took me around 6 months all together, I would have moments where I would be holding something I never used and trying to justify why I’d need to keep it. Once I remembered the purpose of minimalism and why I was implementing it, I had such an easier time letting that thing go.

Learn about How to find your purpose and better understand why you want a change.

2. Get Rid Of Stuff And Be Clutter Free

make your home clutter free

The decluttering process is the easiest way to kick start your journey to minimalism. Doing this slowly and in a few sweeps seems to be the most efficient. I did about three or four sweeps of decluttering before I was completely satisfied with everything I got rid of, and everything I kept. When you go through the decluttering process at a reasonable pace (for example, don’t do it all in one day or even in one month), the transition will be a bit easier.

If you go from a full house to a mostly empty house overnight, it will be a much harder adjustment. It worked well for me to try to hit about 5 areas per week – and I chose small areas, like one desk drawer or just the sweaters in my closet. Many people like to declutter by the room, so if that works for you start there.  Though it takes longer to declutter slowly, it is much easier to maintain a minimalist lifestyle if the decluttering process is done slowly and carefully.

3. Clear Your Calendar To Manage Your Time More Effectively

time managment for a minimalist

By making your calendar a simpler and less cluttered space (I mean not scheduling so many appointments/dates), you will have so much less stress. I used to schedule meetups with friends back to back, and I would always be late to one because I didn’t want to leave the one I was at before. I was never able to truly live in the moment because I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do next and if I was going to be late. It stressed me out quite a bit, which is ridiculous to think about now, as I had complete control over my schedule.

The limits you have are the limits you create – even if you have a full time job, you are still in control of how you spend your time outside of work. If your work hours aren’t working for you, take that into consideration as well. Since I’ve become minimalist, I have worked less than I ever have in my life, but still have more money in my bank account, since I don’t spend like I used to.

4. Build A Capsule Wardrobe With Style

a simple wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is designing a wardrobe from the ground up so that every item in your closet can be mixed and matched to every other piece of clothing.  Many people have embraced a minimalist wardrobe even if they aren’t minimalist because this allows you to maximize the number of outfits you can create, while minimizing the items you own.

Typically people choose one or two main colors and then add in a few pieces that are complimentary colors.  Keeping styles classic allows you to avoid the yearly swings in fashion trends and let you have only the clothes that you love.  Accessories, scarves, jewelry and jackets let you mix up your looks so you don’t always look the same.

5. Boost Productivity With Minimalist Work Habits

We spend a lot of time at work, so it’s important not just to have a minimalist home, but also a minimalist office.  Taking control over all aspects of your life will lead to less stress, better time management, increased income, and a better work life balance.

minimalist work habits

The biggest increases in my income and contentment with my work all stemmed from being intentional in my life.  When I decided on the life I wanted I was able to leave my old corporate job and start my own business, making more money that I ever dreamed of.  Building good habits is much easier as a minimalist because we do one important thing that most people don’t do: we took the time to understand what’s important to use and made intentional changes to live a better life.  That puts us way ahead of most people and the rewards are seen in our personal lives and in our career.

6. Simplify Your Diet For Simple Meals

minimalist diet

A simple diet doesn’t mean a bland diet or having the same thing over and over again.  I first started by getting a handle on my kitchen clutter and figuring out what I really need in my kitchen.  Once I slimmed down the key essentials I found I enjoyed cooking more, I now look forward to coming home and preparing fresh dishes for all my meals.  Having a well stocked, but simplified pantry helped a lot towards this.

Like everything with minimalism, it’s important to figure out what is right for you and optimize things to that end.  Some people have a extremely simple diet of rice and beans, others find a plant based diet or minimalist raw vegan diet to be right for them.  For me I start with my favorite dishes and determining a base set of ingredients that I always keep on hand.

7. Start Saving And Become Debt Free

saving money and getting debt free

One of the biggest perks of minimalism (and the one that draws a lot of people to minimalism) is the amount of money you are able to save with a minimalist lifestyle. By spending money on only necessities, you’ll end up accidentally saving loads of money. It wasn’t until I saw my bank account balance steadily increasing that I realized that I can really do anything I want.

I could look into potentially purchasing a house, buying my next car in cash, or traveling long term, the way I was going. When you start saving on accident and stop thinking about the material possessions that you want (because you know you don’t need them anymore!), you’ll be able to really focus on your passions, and even donate to charities that you are involved in.

Living a minimalist lifestyle can change your life so much for the better. I would love to hear how your minimalist journey is going and what you love about minimalism!

Your Turn!

  • Where are you on your minimalist journey?
  • What draws you to minimalism?

Decluttering Your Home, Room By Room

Decluttering your home can be a daunting task, it doesn’t matter if you’re a hoarder or someone who wants to live a simple life, having less clutter makes your life less stressful. The science is in and study after study has shown that a messy house leads to higher levels of cortisol, reduces your chances for promotions and puts a strain on family life or marriage. Who has time for that?

how to decluter your house room by room graphic

I thought I’d share some tips to make decluttering your home easier by breaking down some easy steps to decluttering your home by room.

Organizing Your Messy Kitchen

The kitchen is one of those places that seem to attract a lot of junk. It’s the place we have meals, spend time with family and holds a lot of kitchen gadgets that can pile up. All this means you have a lot of opportunities to clean and organize your kitchen to be clutter free.

Decluttering your kitchen the easy way

The easiest place to start is with expired food. Go through your pantry and fridge to find items that are past their expiration date. Toss them.

Next, go to your food storage containers, pull them all out and match each lid to each bottom. Inevitably you’ll find several pieces that don’t have matching parts. Get rid of anything that doesn’t have a match and then take a step back to evaluate what you do have, do you need all of them? I find that I usually only need a few large containers and then a few medium or small containers. When in doubt, keep the ones you like the best, if you don’t like one or it’s looking tired, toss it too!

Finally look at kitchen gadgets, pots, pans, and tools that you haven’t used in a long time. Take them all and put them in a box. If you need one of those items over the next few months, remove it from the box, use it, then find a place for it on your shelf. No cheating! Only take those items out if you’re using them. After a few months, you’ll have a box of things you don’t use, so donate them.

Make Your Living Room Clutter Free

The living room is another one of those places that just seem to get messy really fast. Kids playing with their toys added to the mix make it even harder. Start by getting rid of any old newspapers, magazine, etc. We tell ourselves that we are going to read them, but for the sake of your sanity, toss everything except for the latest issue.

how to declutter your living room

If you have kids, think about thinning out older toys that they don’t play with. Stem the flow by instituting a rule of one toy in, one toy out. Have your kids choose what stays and what goes, letting them make the choice lets them value both what they keep and what is new.

Finally, have a donation box that’s very public in your home and lead by example showing your kids what you’re donating and let them come to the process on their own. If you make it obvious that you’re donating things, they’ll start asking questions and then joining in, building a genuine habit of considering how they can help others.

Organizing Your Home Office Desk

how to declutter your home office and desk

Your office is a magnet for paper clutter. Where most people go wrong is not having a plan for papers to exit, they just bring paper in and it accumulates.
If you haven’t already, transition to paperless billing so you can stop the paper from coming into your office in the first place. Then understand what you need to keep and what you can toss. The IRS officially states that a scanned copy of a receipt is just as valid as a paper copy, so have a system to take any papers you do collect to be scanned and then shredded.

How Long To Keep Papers & Receipts?

3 months:

  • Receipts (non-deducted)
  • ATM deposits and withdrawals
  • Bank statements

3 years:

  • Checkbooks
  • Pay stubs
  • Mortgage statement
  • Car loan statements
  • Insurance records (expired)
  • Charitable contributions
  • All income documentation (business etc.)
  • Receipts used in deductions

7+ years

  • All tax filings and documents
  • W2’s and 1099’s
  • Canceled checks
  • Mileage records
  • Real-estate tax forms

Forever – paper form:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Passport
  • Auto titles
  • Marriage/divorce papers
  • Investment statements
  • Major purchases/home improvements for insurance
  • Wills Current insurance policies
  • Medical records
  • Retirement documents
  • Property titles and deeds
  • Contracts

Now that you know what needs to stay and what can go, set up a process to scan and file the documents you need to keep. Since you have as many of your things set up in paperless bills, this will be a lot less and most of the mail you’ll get is junk mail, which would be tossed right away.

To process your documents, have a good scanner that has a multi-page feed. Brother has a good one for about $50 or you can get a standalone document scanner for around $400. Have two boxes on your desk or in your office: one to scan and then one for scanned documents. Set a schedule to scan your documents once a week and once a month shred the documents in your done box.

Declutter Bathroom Countertops

The bathroom is pretty straightforward for men, little more complicated for women. My best advice is only to keep what you use every day and then allow for a few select things that are less frequently used items. Items you use every day should have a place in the shower, on your countertop or in the top drawers of your vanity. Things that you don’t use as often should be organized into a container and placed in the cabinet itself.

how to declutter your cabinets and counters in your bathroom

Makeup is one of those things that a lot of women collect because they like variety in their look, it’s expensive so it’s hard to toss and they’ll use it “someday”. The best advice I’ve seen is to only keep what you really love. If makeup doesn’t play well with your skin, the tone isn’t quite right, or you don’t find yourself reaching for it most days, toss it. If it hasn’t been used in the page 90 days and you don’t know for sure you’re going to use in the next 90 days, toss it.

Shampoo, conditioners, and soaps are something that seems to collect in the shower. Find options that work well for you and then toss everything else. For me I only keep one shampoo, one face wash and one body wash in the shower ever.

Hacks To Organize A Messy Bedroom

Your nightstand is the official junk drawer of the bedroom. It is a landing pad for a lot of things and they pile up fast. First go through and toss anything that isn’t needed, old or out of date. If you keep a book there, only keep one book that you’re reading and put the rest on a shelf, finally decide what is allowed to stay there and find new homes for the rest.

how to declutter your bedroom quickly

Most people who tend to toss clothes on the floor is a result of not having a proper place to put them or the placement of your hamper isn’t working for you. Get realistic about how you live your life and reinforce the habit. For me, I noticed that I didn’t put my clothes in the hamper because it was still full from when I folded laundry into it. It was full with clean laundry that I just pulled from.

That lead me to have two baskets for laundry and then later I built the habit to always unload the basket into my dresser every time I brought in my freshly cleaned laundry.

How To Downsize Your Wardrobe

This is hard for many people, but what few realize is that people only wear about 20% of their wardrobe. This was a big eye opener for me so I decided to only keep pieces of clothing that I really loved. If it didn’t fit me perfectly, if it hung kind of weird, if it was a pair of jeans that I used to fit in or something that didn’t match with anything else, I tossed it.

Decluttering your clothes and wardrobe simple with a capsule wardrobe

Building a capsule wardrobe is a great place to start for many people because you can have a lot of options for outfits while still keeping it pretty limited.
For me, I’ve gone as far as wearing a uniform. I have one type of shirt (in a single color) and one type of jeans and one type of shorts. I have all matching socks so I don’t have to pair them. This means I don’t ever have to think about, just grab what is on top and go.

How To Organize A Messy Garage

The garage is one of the hardest places because its such a dumping ground for so many things. In America, one in four people can’t park in their garage because it’s filled with so much stuff. The tough part about garages is that most of what is in there often falls into a few categories: things you have for something you intend to do, items from a deceased relative that has a lot of emotion wrapped up in it, items that represent something want to do more of (sports, exercise, etc) and things that don’t have a place.

How to clean up a messy garage with out a lot of hassle

All these things can be a challenge and you don’t just have to do the work to discard or organize them, you sometimes have to do the emotional work too. Add to that the sheer volume that a garage can hold and you have a lot of work ahead of you.

The temptation here is to organize it all, but that’s the exact wrong approach, you want to discard first, then you can organize. People often confuse organizing things into bins or boxes on a shelf as decluttering, but you haven’t actually fixed the problem, you only made the ugly truth look a little neater.

So get honest with yourself, start by tossing anything that is broken or doesn’t work, follow that with things you haven’t used in over a year or two. If we are honest about how likely we are actually going to use something, we can make real progress.

So those are some tips and tricks to declutter all the rooms in your house.

Your Turn!

  • What is the hardest room for you to declutter?
  • What tricks do you know of?

Decluttering your house room by room graphic

The Simple Office: How to Use a Minimalist Approach to Work

We spend a lot of time in our offices. In fact, the average person spends one-third of their life at work, which highlights the importance of a clean, organized space. Taking a minimalist approach to work and maintaining a simple office eliminates the clutter and chaos that can distract us from getting the job done. I’m a huge proponent of keeping a minimalist office and work life. I used to keep a tidy, simple office when I was in my corporate job and now that I’m self-employed, my office is even more minimal. Simply put keeping a minimalist home office helps me maintain a healthy work-life balance and it can help you too!

simple office clutter free

My minimalist approach to maintaining my workspace started with my first job. My boss insisted we keep a very tidy desk. I can still hear him now, “a professional keeps his desk clear of distractions! If your desk is a mess, so is your career!” The lesson on office simplicity stuck, and to this day I couldn’t agree more.

Over the years I’ve learned to cut out the office clutter, develop good work habits, stay organized and keep on top of tasks. Learning good habits in your work life has a profound effect: it reduces stress, allows you to get more accomplished, and helps you perform your job better.

For many of us, what’s great about our desk is that it’s uniquely ours. We often don’t share our desk with anyone else. A workstation is usually a small space, but it also is subjected to an influx of clutter, making our desk and workspace, the perfect spot to build good habits. We can discover organizational habits that work for us, without catering to the habits of other people we live or work with. In the small space of our desk, we can practice organizing without feeling overwhelmed by an entire house full of stuff. The real kicker I’ve found is the good habits you build at work spill over into your home life. Once you see the benefits of a simple office, your house might become more organized as well!

Question Everything

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is: question everything. The most dangerous words in business (and life) are, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” This mentality prevents us from growing, improving and changing; companies and employees that can’t change, improve and shift are the first to lose their jobs or go out of business.

question everything to make your work and office simple

When I took over a new position at my previous job, I was being trained on the various processes and paperwork. As we reviewed each step, I’d ask why it was important.  The person who was training me (and leaving the position) defended each step like her life depended on it. I documented each task as I took notes, questioning everything.

After training, I walked through the task list with my new boss. For about 25% of the items on my list, my boss said, “Oh I didn’t know that was still being done. We no longer need that step.” So, I eliminated it.  Next, I went to the people who received the reports and several said they didn’t really use them. So, I eliminated them. Then I asked what they needed in the reports and found half the metrics and fields weren’t used anymore or were never changed. So, I eliminated them.

When I finished, I discovered nearly half the work the previous person was doing wasn’t needed. I effectively cut the time required for the position in half. Later, I reduced the scope even further, all by asking questions, assuming nothing and doing a bit of digging.

Going Paperless

Paper is the number one way our desks become cluttered. Luckily more and more offices are going paperless, making workspace organization easier than ever. To tackle your paper pile, start by looking at the paper on your desk.  Ask yourself why each document is there in the first place. Remember to question everything!

going paperless for less messy desk

As you review your paper pile, you’ll find most documents fall into one of several categories. Sort them into each:

  • Paper that’s old and needs to be tossed
  • Paperwork that’s completed and needs to be filed
  • Papers waiting for action by others to complete
  • Paper waiting for you to complete

A funny thing about humans, especially when it comes to decluttering, is we often jump to the most difficult task, then convince ourselves it won’t work.  We talk ourselves out of the job before we even start. The first two tasks above are the easiest to deal with, so start there.

Schedule time on your calendar to sort the pile and throw out the stuff that needs to be tossed. Keep in mind, you need to shred some papers with confidential information. Easy. Done.

Next on our list is the paperwork that’s completed but needs to be filed or dealt with in some way. This step really comes down to having a good process to deal with paperwork right away (more on that coming up). Don’t let papers pile up if you know what to do.

Most home office printers can scan 50 sheets at a time and email them as a PDF document. If you don’t have a copier or printer with this capability, you can find one for around $40 that can scan 30 sheets at a time. If you do a lot of scanning convince your boss to buy a good desktop scanner for your office (my favorite scanner is Fujitsu ScanSnap i Series Duplex Desktop scanner).

A desktop scanner works fast and easily scans all your paper clutter. If you want to change a habit, replace it with a new behavior that’s fast and easy. If the new habit isn’t, it will never stick. With a desktop scanner, you won’t need to leave your desk or waste time waiting for the copier.

Sometimes you’ll have documents you don’t know if you should keep. This is where the decluttering process often falls apart. When something doesn’t fit the mold or the rule, it creates chaos.  Develop a way to deal with the questions now so you don’t fall later.

When I find papers I’m unsure about, I scan them into a separate folder. If the paperwork is important I’ll take the time to name the folder with descriptive keywords. I date the folder as well.   This way, if I ever need to find a document, I can easily go to the folder and find it quickly. Note: many scanners allow you to set up the date and file name to be automatically added to the document.

For the paperwork you’re waiting for follow up from someone else on, the process is simple. Question why the paper is there, then have a place to store it, and a process to follow up with it. When I’m faced with this issue, I often redesign the form to reduce it to a single page (front and back if needed). This greatly reduces the size of your paper piles.

The objective should always be to complete your work, but it’s important to consider how you can reduce the work needed (and the accompanying slew of paper). As they say, work smarter, not harder, which brings me to my next point…

Eliminate, Automate, Outsource

When you question everything, you’ll see huge gains in freeing up your desk and workload. Whenever you’re assessing work clutter remember:  first try to eliminate, then automate, then outsource.

eliminate tasks automate work and outsource jobs

The benefits of elimination are obvious. Eliminating the job should be our first step. If we can remove a task entirely from the equation, then we free up time, space and energy.

Automation is the second step of efficiency. Setting up automatic or streamlined processes will eliminate distractions. Automation shouldn’t be your first move, because setting up the process takes time. The task will still eat up part of your day, just not as much. If we had eliminated the job, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Automation may mean creating a macro in a spreadsheet; using a software function called autocomplete to type common phrases faster; setting up templates to copy and paste into common tasks, or creating forms that you use to make the work go faster.

There have been several times in my professional career where I’ve reduced my workload by setting up automation to complete my job quicker or easier, or even cut out the task entirely. For example, about 10% of my emails were common, repeated questions. I set up an FAQ template I could insert into an email reply with two clicks. I was also emailed for approvals often. 80% of the requests were for purchases under $100– a tiny amount for the company.  I instructed staff to not email for approvals under $100, which cut out most of my inbox clutter.

Many people freak out over this concept because they fear they’re working themselves out of a job. I’ve found the opposite to be true: in most cases, I was freed up to take on new, interesting projects which look great on performance reviews, I can do a better job with less on my plate and focus on the task at hand. I’ve also found, most bosses are too busy to notice and micromanage inefficiencies.

Create Systems

Systems make the difference between meeting goals and missing them. Systems create order from chaos and reduce decision making. A system is an approach to a task. In business, we might call them SOPs (standard operating procedures), checklists, or workflows.

create systems for better work flow

Start with your largest daily task. Gains on these tasks will have a far-reaching impact.  Think about the steps required and write them down. How can you eliminate some of them? Next, examine the remaining steps. Can you automate them? Create templates, forms and technological solutions to do the work automatically. Finally, how can you outsource?  I outsource jobs as much as possible, by empowering others, training staff to find information on their own and setting up rules for my involvement in a process.

I looked at my top three tasks at my previous job. Each of the tasks consistently required the same steps So I created tracking sheets with the steps to use as my system.  At any given time, I knew exactly where I was on a project and what I had to do next. I never needed to think about it.

When I create systems, I like to use checklists, tracking sheets and bullet journals. I create workflows, using the project management software Trello. The trick is finding a system that works for you. There are many great techniques and tools out there. When systems fail, it’s often not because the tool doesn’t work, it simply doesn’t work for the individual using it. Find your simple work organizing tool. For me it’s Trello.

In this post, I go into how I use Trello to organize my life.

Get Better At Managing Time… And Defending It

Here’s the hard truth: if you’re bad at managing your time, you’re bad at life. It sounds harsh, but there it is. Much like choosing a tool for systems, you need to find a time management method or tool to fit your needs. It doesn’t matter what time management tool you use, as long as it’s effective. I like to use Google calendar because it’s accessible on my computer and my phone.

manage your time so it doesn't control you and your work

Schedule time for each of your tasks throughout the day. Include tasks like lunch, meetings, relaxation time and anything else you plan to do. [link: https://thetinylife.com/minimalism-single-tasking/] I’m a big proponent of doing one task at a time, [/link]. Don’t try to do it all at once. Studies on multi-tasking prove it’s a highly ineffective approach. It’s better to group similar tasks together and then focus on one at a time.

Many people forget to schedule blocks of time to include their commute, prepping for meetings, meals and organizing their space before starting the day. It’s very important to take time at the beginning of the day to clean, organize and tidy things your workspace. This is the hallmark of a school of thought called “LEAN.” The first step of the process is to “Sweep.” Here’s how I integrate lean into my life.

After learning how to better manage your time, you need to get even better at defending it. When you set a schedule, stick to it. There will be a lot of distractions that try to pull you off track. For me, it was email and not setting boundaries with my coworkers. Now while I’m working on a task I close my email and silence my phone. Many office phones have “DND” or do not disturb button. This prevents your phone from ringing and sends callers straight to voicemail. Unless you’re a doctor, the caller can likely wait. Trust me! People often fight me on this concept, but they eventually discover taking an hour to call someone back isn’t the end of the world.

I focus on one task at a time, complete the job, tidy up, then move on to the next item on my schedule. A few times a day I’ll open my email inbox. I deal with each email right then and there. Email and phone are major workflow disrupters–decide to control them and don’t allow them to control you.

The biggest challenge for me (and most people) is saying no and setting boundaries with coworkers. This is a big topic, but the truth is, you need to get comfortable with saying no. Most of us want to be helpful, friendly and agreeable. We say yes to activities we have no intention of doing or don’t have the capacity (mentally or time-wise) to do. This is where saying no so important.

Saying no to your coworkers is uncomfortable at first when they’ve procrastinated and need help. It’s tough when they’re interrupting your flow at work, but it will get easier. Saying no to your boss, on the other hand, is tricky. My advice is to turn the situation around and make it a little painful if they aren’t respecting your time.

Tell your boss “I’m working on this project for you.  If I switch to this new task, I’ll have to push back the delivery date. Which is more important?”  This approach shows your boss the consequences of adding last-minute tasks to your plate. It also forces them to decide between doing one task or another. Finally, it puts the responsibility on them for any negative outcomes. This approach takes practice, but it works wonders.

So that’s how I take a minimalist approach to my work life: whether it’s keeping a simple office in a corporate setting or managing time while working out of my minimalist home office. It boils down to being intentional with your approach to work, minimizing the clutter on your desk, not letting email rule your life, and setting up systems for success.

Your Turn!

  • What tricks have you learned to keep your office space simple?
  • What do you do to keep a work-life balance as a minimalist?