Posts Tagged Minimalism

How To Stop Shopping – 5 Strategies That Make All The Difference

How To Stop Shopping – 5 Strategies That Make All The Difference

how to stop shoppingHumans are funny things, we may want to stop shopping, but when it actually comes to making it happen, we find ourselves back in the store or shopping online. The reasons are complicated, you may be shopping to deal with stress – a little retail therapy – you might find yourself among friends who shop socially, it could be a great deal or sale, or any number of other reasons.

We have lots of reasons, but whatever yours happens to be, it led you here; searching for how to stop shopping. Let that sink in, if you find yourself here, it’s a problem and we need to fix it. The good news is, I have been where you are and escaped that cycle, even going on to not buying a single thing for an entire year!

How To Stop Shopping So Much

how to stop shopping so much

Before I get into my strategies to help you stop shopping, let’s take a minute to focus on what the outcomes of shopping too much or even a shopping addiction could mean. This helped me a lot when I started my minimalism journey. Think about made you want to figure out how to stop shopping so much. What was that feeling or driver?

Next, I’m going to ask you to do something you don’t want to do. I want you to sit here for a moment and let the dread, the uncomfortableness, the emotions consume you. Notice how it makes you feel, the thoughts that spiral from it. I want you to feel the dread, the anxiety, the shame, and stress that comes from shopping too much.

The reason for this? Sometimes the best way to change a behavior is to think about what it would be like to have a healthy relationship with shopping. But if it was that simple, you’d just do that. Instead, I find sometimes it can be more effective to run from something, rather than towards something. There is something in our DNA rooted in our flight or fight response that makes this true. Unchecked it can be a destructive force, used as a tool, it can propel us forward.

How To Take Control Of Your Shopping Habit

how to take control of your shopping

When you feel the temptation to buy more stuff, I want to you remind yourself of that feeling. When you’re feeling tempted while out with friends, when you feel stressed, when you start to justify a purchase, I want you to let that feeling overcome you as a reminder of what you’re moving away from. This will start to make saying no to buying something a relief rather than a challenge.

Now to the strategies that help me break away from the consumer cycle and stop shopping needlessly.

Say “next time”

say next time

This was a really big hack for me when I was trying to stop shopping. I set a rule that if I saw something that I wanted to buy that wasn’t on my shopping list I wrote at home, I’d tell myself “next time I’m in this store, if I still want it, I’ll buy it then”.

This stemmed the flow of impulse buys majorly. It works so well because you’re not even telling yourself “No” just “not right now.” The funny thing is often when I saw the item again, I often found myself wondering why I wanted it in the first place.

You can do this with online shopping too. If you’re trying to stop shopping on Amazon, they have a “save for later” button. I do this for every purchase I make online now as a habit unless I am replacing something that was broken/worn out.

Remove The Triggers That Lead You To Shopping

remove the triggers

Think about what are the thoughts, situations, and triggers that lead to shopping? It could be that we shop because we find ourselves at the mall with friends. What if instead, we proposed going to the park on a nice day. What if instead of spending $20 on a new top, we went to a wine bar and got a bottle with the same friends.

Do you shop when you’re stressed or bored? What could be an alternative response?
The point is that when we shop too much, it’s way easier to stop the circumstance that proceeds us being at the store than to not buy when we are already at the store. Identifying the steps that lead us to shop makes us aware and thus more intentional. Recognizing the triggers is half the battle.

Ask Why To Stop Shopping So Much

ask why you want to buy something

When you’re considering buying something, take a second and ask yourself the five whys? This technique is from the engineering geniuses at Toyota, but can work wonders in everyday life too. When you want to buy something, ask yourself “why do I want to buy this?”

In your mind I want you to answer this question, then consider the answer. Take the answer and ask yourself, why is that the answer? Then keep on repeating. What you’re doing is digging deeper to the root cause of why you’re buying this item. When you get to the end and you feel you can’t break down the answer anymore (could be 3 “whys” or 7 “whys”) then think about that final answer. Does that final answer make sense with the purchase you’re about to make?

It’s easier to see in an example:

five-whys-to-shopping

So, when we look at the above, we see how we took buying a shirt and distilled it down to “I want to be loved and accepted.” This then lets us compare the action we are taking (buying a shirt) to the TRUE desired outcome (love and acceptance). We then can ask does that action result in the outcome, in this instance we most likely would say “no”.

the purpose of stuff

At that point we have also learned something about ourselves, we can then ask, “what could I do that would get me closer to my desired outcome”. This one-two punch will let you stop your buying habit and build a new one that’s positive.

Reframe The Cost Of Purchases

reframe the cost

One of the most impactful things for me was reframing the cost of items. Let’s say you make $20 an hour and the item you are considering is $160. Ask yourself, “is this item worth me working an entire day for?” This helped me greatly and really oriented me in the right direction. This is also really helpful when you are trying to get out of debt.

Add Pain To The Process

add pain to the process

You’ll read many tips about how to stop spending money on things, but at the root, many of these will fail. Why? Because buying isn’t a painful enough process. Remember how I coached you at the very beginning of this post to sit with the dread of your shopping habit? I wanted to steep shopping with a healthy dose of pain.

Whenever I want to change something about my life and it proves to be stubborn to overcome. I recognize my lack of progress and ask myself “how can I make this MORE painful?” It’s an odd notion, but it totally works.

One personal example was me kicking drinking sodas. Instead of saying I couldn’t drink sodas, I just said I couldn’t buy at the grocery store and keep them at home. If I wanted a soda, I had to get in the car, drive to the gas station 2 miles down the road and buy a single soda. Guess what, every time I wanted a soda, I instantly weighed in my mind if it was worth all that hassle.

So, whatever it is for you when it comes to learning how to stop shopping, ask yourself, “how can I add more pain to this?”

Your Turn!

  • What tricks have you used to stop shopping?

Why Is Simple Living So Hard? 5 Tips for Simplifying Your Life (From Someone Who’s Done It)

Why Is Simple Living So Hard? 5 Tips for Simplifying Your Life (From Someone Who’s Done It)

why is simple living so hardLast year, I did a no-spend challenge. For an entire year, I didn’t buy anything except food.

It doesn’t get much more “simple living” than living in a tiny house and spending nothing for a whole year, but even after I got into the groove of buying nothing, I still felt the pull of the busy world around me. So, throughout my no-buy year, I kept a list of all the items I wanted to buy when the year was over.

Ryan living simply in a tiny houseI live in a 150 square foot tiny house. I follow a minimalist lifestyle and own less than 1000 items to my name, but at the end of my no-spend year, there were 30 items on my wish list! However, as I went through my list and prioritized, I realized there was only ONE item I truly wanted. Despite my commitment to simple living, even I get tripped up by advertising traps and marketing. We live in a world where we’re constantly told that we need more things to feel happy.

It’s no wonder the simple life has so much appeal. Most people are stressed out, overloaded, and working themselves to the bone. If you look at the way American society has changed in the last 50 years or so, it becomes obvious. When I was growing up, I was told you go to school and get a degree. From there, you get a good job, do a good job, and build job security. You add money to your 401(k), buy a lovely little house with a picket fence. You’ll meet your future wife and create a family, living out the American dream lifestyle. Eventually, you retire fat and happy at age 65.

But in 2009, I graduated with my masters. I got a job and the company I was working for folded six months in. The rug was completely pulled out from under me. I realized the narrative I had been living wasn’t realistic, something had to change.

what's right for you, question to ask when you want to live a simple lifeNow, society is really good at pulling you back on the conventional path. For example, when I was looking for flexible employment I could do anywhere, I saw hundreds of options for jobs that would have tied me to a 9-5 corporate ball and chain. It was daunting to realize I had to create my dream job for myself. It would have been easier to follow society’s path.

What you should ask is what’s right for you…and also, what’s wrong for you? Simple living means different things to different people. Those definitions don’t work for everyone. Often, it’s easier to define what you don’t want. Most people hesitate to say exactly what they want, but they can quickly pinpoint EXACTLY what they don’t. “I don’t want to work for this jerk anymore,” or, “I don’t want to trip over clutter around my house,” or, “I don’t ever want to hear from a debt collector again.” Then, what you want is the opposite.

What You Need To Know BEFORE You Try Simple Living

what you need to know before you try simple living

Do you think you’re ready to rise to the challenge of simple living?

Before you try simple living, you must explore your reasons. People are often hoping to leave their old life behind but embracing a simpler life won’t magically erase your past. Simple living isn’t the ultimate solution to every problem in your life.

It’s important to unpack your baggage and deal with it. When people see others in tiny houses, they often say, “Look at that person, they look so happy! Tiny houses are the secret to happiness.”

Honestly, happiness doesn’t have anything to do with a smaller home. It’s because the person in the tiny house has decided, “these things are important to me” and “these other things aren’t.” When you see people living a simple life happily, it’s because they’ve gone through the pain of unpacking their emotional baggage.

simple living requires introspection

Simple living requires introspection. One affliction in America is the busyness culture. We are so afraid to slow down because we would be left alone with our thoughts and for most people, that is terrifying. So we put a screen in front of our face. We jam-pack our schedules. We keep our homes filled to the brim. We don’t allow ourselves to slow down and think. We can’t enjoy the experience because we’re too busy taking a selfie to show others how much “fun” we are having, so much so, we haven’t had a substantive conversation with the people we are with that would make a memory, but later that week we’d tell our therapist we don’t feel connected.

In my experience, the best investment I’ve made is time alone with myself. It was the most productive time I’ve spent, and it pays dividends every day.

One saying I follow is: people are happy because they’re happy people. It’s not because of the stuff we own, the house we live in, the place we travel to, or the job we do. We’re happy because we choose to be that way despite the bad things in life that inventibly come up.

The Pros and Cons of Simple Living Like A Pro

pros and cons of simple living

After my company folded, I did a lot of soul-searching. I realized I wanted a different, less-traditional job—basically, a job that I had to create for myself. Could I have taken the cube farm route? Sure! But I know I wouldn’t have been as happy or satisfied.

But building my simpler life didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow and steady process. If I had to take away one lesson from the experience, it would be:

it takes time to start to live simply

Simple living requires time to transition, but it’s so worth it!

There were plenty of bumps along the way too. Like, when I told my parents that I was going to take a simpler job, scale back, and blog full-time. I remember my mom was seriously worried (even though she’s incredibly supportive).

Then when I started to build my tiny house, I found that many people were curious and some of them critical. One day as I was working on my place a lady stopped at watched for a while. She started asking me all kinds of questions about my home. I’ll never forget her parting words, “Good luck finding a wife who will want to live in your tiny house.” I remember thinking maybe she was right. Perhaps I was making a mistake. Which brings me to the second point:

You need to question everything when you want to live a simple life

Simple living means people will question and critique your life.

But the truth is, those people are questioning you, because there are aspects of their own life they’re struggling with. That’s when I learned how self-centered people truly are. They may look at how you don’t need as much “stuff” or how you’ve chosen a less-traditional job, or a smaller home. You may hear, “I could never do that!” And the truth is, they probably couldn’t.

simple living isn't for everyone

Simple living isn’t for everyone.

I also discovered this as I started dating. I found out that there are pros and cons of living a simple life. Yes, people question your choices (and maybe even your sanity), but those who stay in your life are really worth keeping. I’ve found the women attracted to the simple life are really grounded. They aren’t hung up on superficial stuff, and they’re aligned with my worldview. Being open and honest about wanting to live simply, attracted women I wanted to date, and dissuaded those who wouldn’t have been a match anyway.

The same is true with friends. I’ve found that as my life has become simpler, I’ve found more time to spend with the people who really matter to me. It helps you narrow your focus and figure out who is truly supportive and needed in your life.

relationships are important when you focus on what's important

Simple living helps you form closer relationships.

Today, my friends sometimes joke I don’t work at a real job. I just “run a blog.” But then they see me headed off to other countries. They look on when I get to spend a few weeks (or months) in Croatia, Australia, Stockholm, or the UK. They ask me how I take morning hikes on a Wednesday when they’re working their 9-5.

The truth is, because I’ve chosen a simple, less traditional path, I’ve been able to accomplish many big goals. I blog for a living. I write books. I spend time with those who mean a lot to me. My time is more valued, and my life feels more meaningful. Although I’m not a trust-fund kid, by any means, I don’t have debt, and I travel often.

to live simply you need to know what your goals are

Simple living helps you achieve a life you design and remove obstacles.

When it comes to simple living, if you want it, it’s achievable. There’s no secret sauce or trick to simple living. It’s about deciding on the goal that’s right for you, figuring out how to align it with your lifestyle, and then pursuing the goal single-mindedly.

You might think, “Being my own boss, living debt-free, eliminating clutter, cutting back stress—those all sound awesome! I want that!”

And indeed, simple living is possible in some form for everyone. But there are a lot of misconceptions about simple living out there. A lot of people get an idyllic notion stuck in their head that isn’t accurate or aligned to their needs.

farm cabin tiny house

I’ve met a lot of people who jump into living in a cabin in the woods, or they go out and buy a full-fledged hobby farm in the country. They haven’t found out what’s right for them. They’re subscribing to someone else’s definition of simple living, which is a dangerous mistake that will only leave you searching for answers.

When you jump into a new lifestyle out of nowhere, you’re basically saying, “I don’t like my life now. I’m going to live a new life.” But what happens is you end up importing all the problems your former life had: all its definitions, labels, and problems.

understand who you are at your core

Simple living doesn’t change who you are at your core.

So, you want to become a homesteader. You go out and buy land and a barn in a spot you’ve never been to. You fill the barn with animals you’ve never raised before. Then you wake up one morning, and your life is not simple at all. In fact, you’re stuck with a pretty big problem. You never leave the farm because you need to milk the goats, tend chickens, and put the cows out to pasture.

It’s all about finding the simple lifestyle that’s livable for you. For example, I would love to own a few cows and goats, but I also love to travel. I can’t commit to animals that need milking twice a day, every day, or they go off milk. I couldn’t even leave for a weekend trip, and it wouldn’t work with my life.

its not a magic bullet

Simple living doesn’t make your life perfect, but it helps you find more meaning.

In fact, sometimes simple living is really challenging—even difficult. But, it’s in that struggle we find the beauty and satisfaction of a simple life. Research has found that when things come easy for us, we don’t derive as much value out of it. Although a life free of stress sounds terrific at first, it’s struggle and adversity that bring us meaning. I’ve found this very accurate for myself. The things I’m most thankful for were the most difficult. Striving and strife make us value it more. Simple living isn’t easy, but it also brings us a great deal of meaning.

The Logistical Challenges of Simple Living

challenges of simple living

Aside from the philosophical pros and cons of simple living, there are a few logistical challenges as well. It’s important to understand these barriers and consider all aspects BEFORE you move toward a simple life.

the space that you live in might not be largeSpace: When people consider moving into tiny homes, they think they have to live in a tiny house of 200-300 square feet when it might not be right for them. The truth is, 200 feet isn’t going to work for some people, particularly if you have a family. You won’t feel happy with five people in a super tiny home. So, maybe instead, you sell your 4,000 square foot house and buy a 1,000 square foot house. Find something for half the mortgage and use the money to travel as a family.

living simply might actaully cost more moneyMoney: It sounds counter intuitive, but even a simple life costs money, there are times where simple living may even cost more than your old life depending on certain factors. If you want to live simply in a city, you still need to earn an income. You still need to understand your budget. On the surface a simpler life may seem cheaper, but you still need to look at your relationship with money. Why do you spend? How can you simplify your finances and still feel satisfied? Is spending X dollars a month in rent or on your mortgage getting you closer or moving you further away? What steps can you take to get your money under control?

understanding why you buy thingsWants: You need to get down to the underlying reason you want an item. After all, no one buys a $100 designer t-shirt because they NEED it. They buy it because they want to show they can afford it. Why? Because they want a girl to like them? Why? Because they really want love and companionship. Many people are addicted to (fleeting) happiness they think they can buy, which doesn’t actually satisfy their needs. We’ve all heard of retail therapy. It’s a hard habit to break.

cutting out toxic relationshipsRelationships: People run into the obstacle of relationships because they don’t know how to prioritize and say no. Simplifying your life doesn’t only mean tossing out belongings you don’t need and downsizing. It means finding ways to get more control over your schedule. You want to spend time with the people who mean the most to you, doing things your love, in a way that is on your own terms. When I simplified, I cut back to only the people who were important to me and who I wanted to invest time in. The others, I cut out.

figure out what you do and don't want to spend your time onTime: Simple living takes time. One of the biggest obstacles I faced when simplifying was realizing I had to go through the process of figuring out what I wanted. I had to get out of debt. I had to figure out how to become location-independent, own my own business, and deal with my own baggage. It took me years from the time I started my blog to quit my job. During that time, I was downsizing possessions, building my tiny house, and navigating my path. What seemed so simple ended up taking me 6 or 7 years to achieve. And guess what, I’m still working at it even today.

simple living means making choices that are hardSacrifice: When I started to simplify, my family announced they were going on a trip to Italy. Now, family time is extremely important to me. But I had set really aggressive financial goals to pay off my student loans. I decided between the goal of paying off my loans or going to Italy with my family. In the end, I didn’t go on the trip. I’ve faced many of these hard choices over the last 6 or 7 years. I had to recommit every single day.

you'll need to redefine who you are in some waysIdentity: Many of us define ourselves by our career. It’s how we earn money. It’s what people pay you to do. When you introduce yourself, you say something like, “I’m a banker.” Well, you might be a banker now, but it doesn’t mean you need to be a banker tomorrow. If living a simple life means finding a fulfilling career path, you may wrestle with your identity. What are other ways to earn money, and what’s holding you back?

When I started living in a tiny house, my rent went from $1,500 to zero. That allowed me to take risks and follow new pursuits. I could start a company. Most of my pals were like, “I can’t do that because I have a mortgage and bills. I must stay in this cubicle.”

5 Tips To Simplify Your Life (from Someone Who’s Done It)

tips for simple living

No matter where you are with simplifying your life, there are 5 practical tips I recommend that you can apply today. These tips really apply to any new situation or significant lifestyle change you’re considering. If you’re wondering how to destress your life and build a life you love, it starts here.

1
Ask What You Want More Of – Look at your current lifestyle and write a list of all the positive aspects that bring you joy. What do you want more of in your life? Maybe it’s time, family, travel, health, or something else. What makes you the happy and what would you like to expand on?
2
Ask What You Want Less Of – Now it’s time for the flip side. Sometimes it’s hard to nail down what we do want, but people are pretty clear what they don’t want. What are all the aspects you’d like to eliminate from your life? Write down anything that drags you down, makes you unhappy, drains your energy, or causes you stress. It may include debt, your dead-end job, too much clutter, toxic relationships, or something else entirely. What do you want less of in your life?
3
Define Your Ideal Day – This journaling exercise really helps you pinpoint how your perfect life looks. Imagine your ideal day (or even your ideal week); walk through each moment from the time you get up to the time you drift off to sleep. What is your morning like? What’s your routine? Do you work? What type of work? How would it look? Get as specific as possible—what clothes would you wear, what would you eat, what people would you spend time with?
4
Define Your Goals – Behind every single success is a goal. Goals give us a marker to move toward. When you pinpoint your targets, write them as clearly as possible. Set SMART goals and define the parameters. Any time you want to achieve something big (or small), a goal will guide your way.
5

Write Out the Steps – This will look a little different for everyone. There isn’t a clear point A to point B roadmap and sometimes it seems like such an overwhelming task that you don’t even know where to start. The question is, what do you need to do next? Do you need to break down your goals into smaller steps? Do you need to set a budget?

If you ask yourself these questions about your ideal life, your vision will start to come together. You’ll match up your idea of a simple life with the reality of what works for you. Life doesn’t need to be complicated. Many people find the simpler their life gets, the more satisfying it becomes. Make time for the lifestyle that really matters to you.

Your Turn!

  • What does simple living mean to you?
  • What’s your biggest challenge when simplifying?

How to Find Products You Only Need to Buy Once in a Lifetime

Choosing products you buy once in a lifetime
Living a (close to) zero-waste lifestyle means only buying what’s really necessary, and when you do need to purchase, finding products you only need to buy once. There are times when I’ve found items I needed to buy or replace only to be disappointed when the new product breaks down. So, how do you find products you only need to buy once?

You see, everything’s built to last a finite amount of time. A rule of manufacturing is to never invent the perfect lightbulb. Back when lightbulbs were first made, they were practically indestructible. Lightbulb makers quickly realized their business wouldn’t last long if they made lightbulbs you only need to buy once. Thus, lightbulbs were made with filaments to burn out after a few years. Occasionally you’ll see one of these very old lightbulbs that keeps shining, but as we know, lightbulbs, like many other products, aren’t built to last a lifetime.

There are, however, certain items you only need to buy once. Either they’re guaranteed to last or they’re built with such high-quality workmanship, they keep working for years. Here are the rules you should use to find practical products you only need to buy once in a lifetime.

How to Find Quality Products You Only Need to Buy Once

find quality products
For the last year, I’ve tried to maintain a zero (or close to zero) waste lifestyle. The biggest step I’ve taken toward doing this is that I’ve largely stopped buying anything other than consumables (like food, toilet paper, and toiletries). Not only does this cut back on the amount of waste and trash I produce, but it’s also great for saving money.

When I do need to buy or replace an item due to wear and tear, this is how I go about finding quality products I only need to buy once (or at least won’t need to buy again for a very long time).

Research the Life of the Product

research product life

I’m a big proponent of researching before I ever spend money on an item. This was especially true as I built and outfitted my tiny house. Of course, there are certain cases when I haven’t had time for extensive research, but usually I follow a rule to check reviews and thoroughly compare options before I buy.

At the very least, I always read the reviews on any product I plan to purchase. I look for independent reviews and unbiased sources whenever possible (and I post my own product reviews for others). Of course, most manufacturers put glowing reviews of their own products on their website, so it’s usually not the best source for honest product comparisons or learning the pros and cons. Look for independent sources. For example, when looking into solar ovens, I tested several brands against each other and posted my solar oven reviews online as a helpful resource.

Solar Oven Review and Guide

I look for review forums that I trust. If I’m looking for tiny house supplies, like a power generator or solar panel gear, I go to other tiny house forums and websites. Someone with a large cabin or a residential home will offer a very different perspective on these types of items because chances are their needs are different from mine. As a blogger, I also think it’s very important to share my own experience to help others navigate issues like how to find the best tiny house plans.

When I’m buying a larger item like an appliance or electronic, I’ll also check Consumer Reports (when possible). Most of their product reviews are only accessible with a paid membership, but many public libraries carry issues of the printed reports. It may also be worth the cost to access a report before a major purchase.

consumer reports for product reviews

Reviews on Amazon and Google are also helpful for products, but because they aren’t as carefully regulated, be wary of bias and false reviews. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people give items a poor review for strange reasons like, “It didn’t fit on my counter” or “the color didn’t match my house.” Read with discretion, paying close attention to mentions about the life of the product, common problems, and customer support offered by the manufacturer.

One tip is to read the 3-star reviews. People selling the product are only going to give themselves 4- or 5-star reviews. Competitors might try to fake bad reviews with 1- or 2-star reviews. Three-star reviews are the sweet spot; no one is going to pay for a fake 3-star review, so you can usually get a good view on what the product is really like.

There are also sites like Buy Me Once and Buy This Once that offer full listings of products built to last. Many of these items either feature a lifetime guarantee or are so highly durable, they’re proven to last years, so you only need to buy once. Reddit’s sub r/buyitforlife is a great source to learn what will last and get advice.

Budget to Spend Extra

budget to spend extra on quality goods

Personally, I tend to live on the frugal side. However, I’m willing to spend extra if it’s an investment in quality. I’m a firm believer of avoiding a “pennywise and pound foolish” mentality. This is especially true if you’re seeking items you only need to buy once. As a general rule, if I use something every day, I give myself the permission to spend big if I find the perfect item.

For example, I ordinarily wouldn’t spend $20 on a pair of socks, but these Darn Tough Wool Socks feature multiple excellent reviews, promising they’re durable. Better yet, the company offers a lifetime unconditional warranty. So, if you stick to a uniform wardrobe like I do, then a few pairs of tough, long-lasting socks may be the last sock purchase you ever need to make. In that case, the price seems worth it.

darn tough socks

Of course, there are other times when the price isn’t justified. For example, buying certain brand name cast iron cookware is more expensive than a second-hand, generic, or cheaper brand cast iron skillet. Yet, the life of cast iron is proven across the board. So, in this case, paying extra for a fancy brand at a culinary supply store isn’t worth your investment.

For the most part, quality items require more workmanship, design, and high-quality materials. The reality is quality is often more expensive. If you research the product thoroughly before purchasing, you’ll get a good idea if the price tag is justified.

lodge cast iron skillet

The other area to look at is the planned use of the product. If you’d like to find a product you only need to buy once but plan to use every day, a high price is easier to defend. A pair of dress shoes that cost $100 that you wear once or twice a year means you’ll pay $10-25 per wear over the next few years. On the other hand, a quality pair of sneakers that cost $100 but you plan to wear every day may cost much less than $1 per wear over their lifetime.

Test the Return Policy

test return policy on products you buy

Does the product come with a lifetime guarantee? Does the store offer a “no hassle” return policy?

Don’t feel afraid to test the limits of warranties, guarantees, and return policies. Typically, when a guarantee is offered it’s because the manufacturer believes the product is built to last. The other reason is company owners know returns are a hassle, so they bet on the fact most people won’t take them up on the promise. They may also require complicated documentation in the hope customers will give up.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, keep receipts, (typically a scan or photograph is acceptable, but read the fine print) and send back warranty cards, especially on major purchases. If you’re already minimizing the number of items you buy, then chances are you won’t have many receipts and warranties to keep track of anyway. Certain credit card companies also offer purchase protection and extended warranties on major purchases.credit card

Many retail stores—like grocery stores—guarantee the quality of their products as well. This means when you find produce that goes bad too fast, or mold on a block of recently purchased cheese before the expiration date, return the item to the store for an exchange or refund. While consumables aren’t meant to last a lifetime, it’s still worth it to ensure you get what you pay for. Stores with great return policies include Nordstrom, Costco, and Eddie Bauer. Both Aldi and Trader Joe’s offer satisfaction guaranteed, easy returns.

Ask Around Before You Buy

ask around before buying

Another way to find products you only need to buy once is to ask around! Talk to your friends and see what they’ve found reliable and trustworthy. Check with product experts and repair people to find out what products will really stand the test of time. See if someone will let you test, borrow, or check out the product so you can see it in use.

worn red wing bootsIt’s amazing how experience changes your impression of a product. Many of us feel gung ho about a purchase at first, but then once we’ve tried it for a while, we may change our perspective. I like to check with friends who’ve used a product for a long time before I go out and purchase it for myself. Everyone loves a new set of pots and pans, a great kitchen knife, or new power tools. The real question is, how do they feel about those same products 3, 5, even 10 years down the road?

Again, this type of information sharing is so important, especially in the tiny house world. When you have a minimal amount of space and are living a minimalist lifestyle, each purchase should be deliberate and long-lasting. This is, again, one of the main reasons why I like to share reviews as much as possible with my readers. I also like to do follow up reviews, like my three year review on the Luggable Loo composting toilet.

When you ask someone you trust for their opinion, you know you’re getting the full, unbiased picture of how the product will work. I’ve found maintenance and repair guys often offer a lot of insight on products like power tools, small machines, and appliances because they’re the ones who get called in when something goes wrong. So, listen to the advice of friends and those with experience!

Seek Quality Materials and Simple Designs

quality-materials

Call it the Occam’s razor theory of finding items you only need to buy once: the simplest choice is often the best. Typically, products that last will feature simple, straightforward design and are made from the highest quality materials. Truth be told, a simple design is loaded with nuances and details you have to get perfect.

When it comes to design, the reason simple products are the best is well…simple. When there are a lot of bells and whistles, there’s more pieces to break. There are more areas where something will go wrong. Unnecessary complexity leads to bigger complications and concerns. Think of all the different “cutting-edge” technology and gadgets that flopped after consumers got their hands on them. When something breaks on a complicated machine, it’s often the “extras” that cause a problem.

surefire flashlight

While it’s tempting to seek the latest and greatest product with the most modern conveniences and digitization, at the end of the day, simplicity and function win out. Think about what you really want the product to do, then seek a trusted brand with quality materials and manufacturing.

For example, Stanley Thermos has been around for hundreds of years. The simple, insulated design works time and time again, even as new versions of water bottles, coffee mugs, and thermos-type containers come out on the market every day. It seems the more complex the designs, the more likely imitation brands are to leak, spill, or lose heat. Many reviewers report they’re still using Stanley thermoses for 25, even 40 years (that said, there are reports the quality declined in recent years). Stanley also offers a lifetime warranty.

mason jars

Another example is DeWALT tools. The simple designs and quality materials have been used for decades and they’ve become a household name and standard. They also offer a lifetime warranty and have stood strongly behind their products.

I’m a big fan of using mason jars for storage as well. They work much better than plastic products, seal tighter, and are usable again and again. When you’re looking for a solution to a household problem, the tried and true answer is often the best. Look at what your parents or grandparents did. While modern conveniences and technological advances have improved many areas of life, there are also places where it’s unnecessarily complicated life too.

Ryan’s Top Ten Lifetime Products (for Everyone)

top ten lifetime products

I’m not a proponent of going out to buy items you don’t need simply because they’re recommended. Use what you have on hand first and wait until you’re ready to replace it. Once you are ready to buy a new item, here are my top ten items you only need to buy once (or will at least last for years).

1. Cast Iron Skillet

lodge cast iron skillet

2. Mason Jars (for storage, cooking, drinking)

mason jar

3. Vitamix 5200 Blender

vitamix blender

4. Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle thermos

stanley thermos

5. Chef Knife

chef knife

6. KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

kitchenaid-mixer

7. Pendleton Wool Blanket

pendleton blanket

8. Yeti Cooler

yeti cooler

9. SureFire LED Flashlights

surefire flashlight

10. Le Creuset Dutch Oven

lecreuset-dutch-oven

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas of how to buy smart, so you only need to buy once or twice in the future. Choose high quality items, read reviews, and do your research before you spend your hard-earned money on products that won’t last.

Your turn!

  • What quality products have you found that are built to last?
  • What stores and retailers offer superior warranties and customer care?

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?

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?