Posts Tagged Minimalist

How to Embrace the Basics of Hygge (Even in a Small Space)

How to Embrace the Basics of Hygge (Even in a Small Space)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about the concept of hygge. The basics of hygge are about adopting a warm and cozy décor.

But for many people this means buying a lot of extra items—candles, blankets, or decorative items like pillows. If you prefer a minimalist lifestyle, and especially if you live in a tiny home, adopting the basics of hygge seems tough at first (but once you get started, it’s pretty easy).

embrace the basics of hygge

I was lucky to go on a spur of the moment trip to Stockholm in 2018. It was an amazing experience that really let me see just how prevalent the concept of hygge is in Nordic cultures. I was hanging out in Copenhagen and had a few days to explore, after spending Christmas with my family in Germany. Since it was my first time there, I had no idea what to expect.

Hygge was everywhere! There were charming Christmas markets, beautiful twinkling lights, churches, coffee shops, quaint stores, and museums (that managed to be both light and cozy at the same time). I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I couldn’t wait to implement some of the ideas I learned about the basics of hygge into my own home.

So, here’s what I learned during my visit to Sweden about hygge. This will help you add more warmth and comfort to your life without buying items you don’t need.

The Basics of Hygge

the basics of hygge in a small cozy space

Hygge is pronounced “hu-guh” and means warm and cozy in Swedish. It doesn’t only refer to furniture, blankets, or candles. Hygge is more of a concept or a lifestyle and it’s a big deal in Nordic countries.

The concept is quite popular in cold climates because, obviously, when the weather’s chilly, you want to stay comfortable. When you live in a small space or have limited resources, you may wonder how to still invoke a relaxing, calming feeling in your home.

To me, it’s even more important to make a small space relaxing. In a larger space, you may find more flexibility, but it can also be more difficult make larger spaces have that cozy feel. You can add lots of options. The light of a TV or overhead fluorescents aren’t as harsh in a big room. Small living, on the other hand, is all about embracing the cozy.

This may seem like a winter-only concept, but the truth is, you can implement the basics of hygge all year round. Apply the principles to your living space and you’ll find your home is more relaxing, comforting, and feels happier. It’s about a shift in mindset.

What I Learned About Hygge in Sweden

what i learned about hygge in sweden

As I said before, during my time in Copenhagen I was lucky to have a few days to explore. I really fell in love with the atmosphere and the overall vibe. When I was there, the concept of hygge really stood out to me. You’ll see the word pop up a lot in comments and reviews of different spots. Most places I went in were around 80-85 degrees (much warmer than the 75-78 degrees considered normal here in the U.S.). They really amped up the heat there.

People in Sweden also wore a lot of hats and winter accessories. They’d dress in layers with jackets, scarves, gloves, and more. So, even when people were indoors, they’d often wear several layers. In addition to wearing plenty of layers, people in Sweden love to wear sweaters.

With the long winters, there’s a lot of nesting going on, especially since the winter is so long and cold. The people of Sweden take hygge seriously, making a really cozy place to spend a good chunk of their time throughout the year.

hygge winter in sweden

There are other ways they accommodate the long winters as well. Coming from a building background, I couldn’t help noticing, that despite the really cold climate Swedish windows are typically very large. Usually houses in colder climates feature smaller, more efficient windows. But in Sweden, since the winters are long, many people have huge windows in their home to let in as much natural light as possible.

While this isn’t as efficient for heat retention, they’ve made the decision to prioritize natural light exposure. It keeps the people there feeling mentally healthy and happy during the winter months, keeping away seasonal depression disorders. This is especially key since they don’t spend a lot of time outside for at least the good part of the year.

Now, what does light have to do with coziness? A lot! Following the basics of hygge means keeping your space really bright, utilizing a lot of natural light. The décor is often quite minimal, with plenty of openness and texture. Again, hygge’s more of a feeling than anything else.

warm cabin interior

I saw lots of natural materials—wool and cotton. Textiles used in interior design are often natural and highly textured as well. I saw a lot of big fluffy blankets and soft pillows. The colors are often lighter and soft as well. This all contributes to a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.

One of the biggest parts of hygge is the lighting. Lighting is a HUGE deal in Sweden. I saw candles and twinkle lights nearly everywhere I went. Almost every home has a really great focal fireplace in the center of the room (as opposed to the United States, where we often see TVs as the centerpiece). If a family has a TV in Sweden, it’s often hidden or set off to the side.

Softened edges, plenty of texture, neutral colors, warm wood tones, and earthy colors all contribute to the feeling of hygge along with the natural light. You see a lot of plants—succulents and leafy plants—because when you’re spending so much time indoors, plants help recycle the air and improve the air quality of the space.

candle lighting in sweden

There’s a lot of thought put into the vibe of each room when applying the basics of hygge. People think of the atmosphere and feeling more than the look or style of the place. The feeling of hygge is achieved alone or with family and friends. It’s found in a public space or in your home. What it really means is cozy, charming, light, warm, and relaxing.

Most importantly, you can’t buy hygge. It’s not about adding more stuff to your space. It’s really about clean, cozy, comfort. For this reason, you often see natural materials used in hygge design, rather than plastics, bright colors, or cold, metallic surfaces.

Adding the Essentials of Hygge to Your Home

the essentials of hygge

No matter the size of your home or the current style, adding hygge elements and accessories will create the feeling you desire. Remember, hygge is about ensuring most items serve a functional purpose. So, for example, a fireplace may serve as warmth, a cooking hearth, and a light source. Blankets are used for snuggling up on the couch, sleeping in your bed, or folded as cushions on the floor.
If you want to add the basics of hygge to your home, here are a few ways to create a soft, cozy feel.

1. Add and Use More Blankets

add blankets for warmth and a cozy factor

Warm, cozy, fluffy blankets are perfect for cuddling up and reading a book in front of the fire. Look for blankets in natural materials and light colors. You’ll see a lot of cotton blankets (especially helpful in the warmer months we see here in the United States), down comforters, and big, chunky knitted afghans. Oftentimes, blankets are used as seating, for padding a bench, or draped across the end of a bed to use as needed.

2. Layer Up in Warm Clothing

layer up for warmth

Now, if you’re like me and live in a warmer part of the United States, you may not need all kinds of layers. That said, a soft sweatshirt is practical and helpful, especially in the spring and fall when the weather gets chilly in the evening. I’ll admit I’m partial to hoodies when a chill comes into the air. Scarves, sweaters, gloves, and hats are a big part of the hygge “look” but obviously it’s all about being practical. If the weather’s warm, there’s no need. A pair of comfortable slippers or a nice warm set of socks may be plenty.

3. Embrace Mood Lighting

mood lighting in a hygge space makes it feel calm

The basics of hygge include making the most of lighting. Hygge focuses on natural, warm light and following the rhythms of the sun. So, during the day, bright sunshine through a window is nice. In the evening, warm, soft lighting from candles and strands of soft twinkling lights help you wind down and meet the time of day. Changing switches to dimmer switches is an easy DIY project and can tone down the mood of a space to the perfect Hygge lighting feel. This style of lighting is certainly practical for any lifestyle, especially the tiny life. I prefer to use natural light whenever possible.

4. Warm Up with a Fireplace

cozy fireplace for warmth on a cold winter night

It seems like everyone in Sweden has a fireplace. It’s a great way to invoke the feeling of hygge. However, if you live in a small house, you may have a wood burning stove, a firepit outside, or use another heating method. You can still get the feeling of hygge using candles and soft, dimmed lighting in the evenings. This helps prepare you for sleep and creates a toned down, relaxing atmosphere.

5. Enjoy Warm Drinks

enjoy warm drinks

Most of us enjoy coffee all year round. I like to drink mine out on the porch in the morning before I start my day. This helps me destress, prepare for the morning, and gather my thoughts. If you’re not a fan of coffee (or prefer hot drinks later in the day), how about a cup of hot chocolate or tea? Cozying up with reading material, a soft blanket, and a warm beverage is the ultimate way to unwind and get the hygge feeling (no matter the time of year).

6. Move Away from Technology

embrace simplicity

While we may not think of hygge as synonymous with minimalism, they do have similar values. With hygge, you embrace cozy simplicity. This means putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and taking time for more mindful activities. Reading, listening to music, and even journaling will help you get into the spirit of hygge. As I said, I barely noticed TVs in Sweden, and they certainly weren’t the focal point of the room. Taking a break from your phone will give you a chance to relax, feel less stressed, and get refreshed.

7. Declutter Your Home

declutter your home

Here’s the deal, many people own stuff just to, well, own stuff. They forget the purpose of owning stuff is to serve a function and enhance your life. The essentials of hygge living, include decluttering and letting go of stuff that weighs you down. Hygge should help you feel safe, cozy, and happy, not weighed down and stressed out. This means cutting out the clutter and parsing down to what really matters. Buy quality items that are built to last.

8. Avoid Hard Edges

avoid hard edges in hygge

With soft fabrics and fluffy textures, hygge is all about softness and comfort. This means natural materials without sharp, hard edges and lines. Furniture and room décor should fit with this comfort-focused approach as well. Plants and lights, wood, stone, cotton, wool and other natural components are important to creating the feeling of soft, fluffy hygge.

9. Create a Space to Gather

create gathering spaces

I typically prefer to entertain or gather outside when I have visitors, but this doesn’t mean an outdoor gathering can’t still invoke the basics of hygge. When your friends are enjoying themselves around a campfire in the yard, wrapped in blankets, enjoying conversation, it still fits with the idea behind hygge. When you live in a small space, entertaining is often a challenge, so organize the room around your kitchen table, your stove, or fireplace (rather than the TV). This helps people connect without distraction and enjoy each other’s company.

10. Enjoy Comfort Food

enjoy comfort food

One of the biggest ways to enjoy hygge all year round, in any space, is to embrace comfort food. The concept of hygge is all about being warm and welcoming. Mealtime should fit with this same philosophy. Think of a delicious bowl of soup, golden cornbread, or a yummy pot pie. Even in the summer months, a delicious bowl of chili is everyone’s favorite and there’s nothing better than pasta on a cold winter day, right? Focus on foods that are warming, rich, filling, and delicious for the ultimate comfort.

If you’re looking to make your home a more relaxing place of retreat and rest, embracing the basics of hygge are a great way to do it. Even if you live in a very small space, it’s not about adding more stuff to your home, but selecting functional, natural items that will bring you comfort.

Your turn!

  • What are your favorite ways to make your space comfortable?
  • How do you relax and create a cozy feeling?

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?

Battle the Busy Schedule: How to Simplify Your Life

Battle the Busy Schedule: How to Simplify Your Life


You’re late to work again. You forgot your niece’s birthday. You double booked yourself. You forgot three items at the grocery store…You’re fighting the battle of the busy schedule.

Here’s the deal: there are literally hundreds of decent time management tools out there to help you reclaim your time, get organized, and take back your schedule. And you know what? Not one of them will work if you don’t address the root of your busy schedule problem.

In fact, the advice you hear about time management (write a to-do list, download a scheduling app, buy a planner, set priorities) is completely WRONG if you don’t have control over your time in the first place. I mean, the tools aren’t exactly bad. In fact, many of them are quite effective (and I’ll tell you which ones are really worth it). But before you buy a time management tool, you need to address the real issue here.

The Root of the Busy Schedule: Saying Yes When You Should Say No

saying no to a busy schedule
In a given day, we all know we have 24 hours. Over an 80 year lifetime, you get 700,800 hours. That sounds like a lot of time, right?

Subtract out the time you spend sleeping. Figuring most of us get 7-8 hours ideally per night. We’re left with 16 hours, of which many people spend half at their jobs. 8 hours for work, an hour to get ready (prepare your breakfast and lunch for example), and an hour for commuting leaves you with 6 remaining hours in the day. For many people, the number is even smaller. Let’s say, 5 hours.

So, what do you do in those five remaining hours each day? If you exercise, cook dinner, watch a movie, or spend the average 2-4 hours on your phone…well, you’re left with precious little time. Becoming more productive and laser focused, is the answer, right? After all, if you only have a few hours of free time during the day, you must manage it carefully.

For many of us, myself included, the better time management solution didn’t work until I shifted my mindset. If you’re seeking a simple, minimalist lifestyle, chances are you’re trying to minimize clutter including the clutter on your schedule.

simplified life without a busy scheduleWhen I started to live more simply, my schedule underwent a big transition. To take back my schedule and simplify my calendar, I had to change my mindset and weed out the timewasters. This was long before I started using time management tools. First it was about getting into the right headspace and social practices.

We think if we had better tools, we could manage every second of our days. In reality, the answer is a little more complex. Going out and buying the latest planner, spending hours setting up a bullet journal, downloading and learning Trello or Asana, won’t help boost your productivity if you don’t address the root cause of your busy schedule. In fact, all these tools may leave you feeling overwhelmed and inclined to throw in the towel on your busy schedule (in other words, setting you right back to square one).

If you want to reclaim your time, you need to start saying no.

Getting Past the Fear of Saying No

get your time back and have a simplified schedule
For many of us, the thought of saying no grips us with fear. We don’t want to sound rude. We don’t want to miss out. Maybe we feel an obligation to our boss, our spouse, our friends, or our kids. We have a difficult time turning down the request to stay longer at the office, coach Little League, or attend a birthday party.

But realize every time you say yes, you are saying no to something else. Every time commitment you set is subtracting time from another commitment or activity.

  • Say yes to staying late at the office? You’re saying no to family time.
  • Say yes to happy hour with friends? You’re saying no to the gym.
  • Commit to helping your buddy out? You’re saying no to your personal time.

At first, this thought is jarring. Most of us don’t like choosing between, say, happy hours with friends or cooking dinner at home. But each day, and every time we commit to adding an item on our busy schedule, we’re making an either/or choice, inevitably. If you’ve never thought of saying no as a chance to reclaim your time, it’s an eye-opening realization.

If you want to take back your schedule and reclaim your time, you need to start viewing your time as a precious resource. Instead of focusing on the items you’re saying yes to, think about what you’re choosing NOT to do instead. Is it worth the extra commitment?

When we distill down our choice, not only are we tackling our busy schedule, but we’re regaining control over our time. Look at our time as a resource, we can start to figure out how we’re going to fit the necessities in and eliminate the unnecessary items. It’s not about saying “no” to your boss, your friends, or your kids, but about saying yes, to simplifying your schedule and finding time for the activities that are really important to you.

Understanding the Reason Makes it Easy to Say No

set priorities in your schedule to avoid being busy

Go through your commitments and start to separate them out into the yeses, and the noes. When you’re saying yes, what’s the flip side? What are you declining in the process?

When you change your mindset, it also helps ease the stress of saying no. You’re no longer saying no because you don’t “want” to do a task. You’re saying yes to another task instead. In fact, one of the best ways to say no easily, is to offer up a reason. If you’ve explored the yes/no question about a task, your reason becomes evident.

“I can’t stay because I’m doing something with my family.”

“I won’t be able to meet you tonight, I have an appointment at my gym.”

“My schedule’s full this week, and I can’t commit to another activity right now.”

Having the reason and rationale behind the “no” makes saying it much simpler. No guilt. Remember, your time is a resource, if there’s not enough to go around, there’s simply not enough.

Never Waste Your Precious Time

don't waste time and free up your schedule
When we’re too busy and frazzled, we often cease making practical deliberate decisions about our time. If you’ve ever felt you’re running around, or find you’re forgetting the purpose of an errand, you’re probably not deliberately managing your time resource. In fact, the more we multitask and take on too much, the higher the likelihood we’ll miss something, make a mistake, or run late for an appointment. If you want to boost your productivity and free up your busy schedule, stop packing in extra tasks.

When we narrow our focus to the activities that truly matter, we’re able to become much more efficient. It’s about eliminating the extra steps and processes that don’t make sense. For example, when I started a new job a few years ago, I was training and noticed we were running the same report over and over. I spoke up and asked why we were running a report that seemed redundant.

The woman training me stopped dead in her tracks, and said, “I have no idea. No one’s ever asked before.”

focus your life and your calendar on what matters

After an exploration, they determined the report was truly superfluous and a waste of time. There were many other tasks like that on the to do list. Whether it’s simplifying your work life and office, or deciding to take back your time at home, always explore the reasons why you’re doing something. If it doesn’t make sense, or seems unnecessary, don’t be afraid to ask!

If You Say Yes to This, What Are You Saying No To?

Eventually, it will become habitual to ask, rather than simply perform a job or do an activity. Each time you’re presented with something to complete, ask yourself:

  • If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?
  • Is this worth using my time resource?
  • Could this be done more efficiently?
  • What is the reason for this task? (the reason may simply be fun!)

Once you’ve really clarified the necessity of a task and deemed it worthy of your schedule, mindfully commit! Block out time, to dedicate solely to the task at hand. This will help you really simplify and pare down to the job in front of you. You’ll complete the task faster and more efficiently.

If you’re fighting the battle of the busy schedule, adopting this strategic approach will help you parse your schedule down to the items you really want to do. You will feel at peace when you say no, and you’ll get the items on your to do list down faster and more efficiently.

The Best Time Management Tools For You

best time managment tools for you to master a busy schedule
If you purchase a planner, adopt the Pomodoro method, or download an app like Asana, before you’ve simplified your schedule, the tool becomes more of a distraction and an excuse. That’s why it’s so important we understand our priorities first.

We may spend hours writing items down, organizing our to do lists and planning out our tasks without really achieving anything. When we’re unproductive, we place blame on the tool. It’s important to remember each tool is only as good as the user. If you’re prepared and narrow down the items you need to tackle to what’s really important, any tool is useful. If you haven’t addressed the underlying mentality that comes with a jam-packed schedule, then any tool, no matter how great, becomes a procrastination excuse.

In reality, almost every commercial tool out there is pretty useful. They’re intuitive and user-friendly. It’s really about finding a tool you love and will stick to using. As long as you’re committed, a paper planner is as good as a robust program like Trello.

Here are a few of the better time management tools I’ve found:

Paper Planner

What it is: A paper planner may seem a bit old school, but for many people they’re easy to carry and give a nice, clear overview. Typical paper planners include a calendar and a daily/weekly/monthly agenda where you block out your time. A planner may also include goal setting tools and other helpful pages.

Who it’s best for: Those who are comfortable with paper, but like structure. If you love having something tangible to refer to, then a paper planner is a great place to start. The drawbacks of a paper planner is that it’s bulky and it’s harder to erase/change/move appointments. Paper planners to check out: Panda Planner, Erin Condren LifePlanner, Franklin Covey Classic Original.

Journal

What it is: Journaling is a different style of planning—more free-form and customizable. Some journals offer prompts or grids you fill in to track a variety of habits and activities. Journals are as simple as a notebook, or much more involved.

Who it’s best for: Goal-setters, creative planners and those who prefer a visual interpretation of planning. If you’re artistic, paper and list-oriented, and plan using mind mapping, then a journal planner could be a good fit for you. Look at resources on Pinterest for bullet journals, goal-setting journals and daily journals. A few journals to check out: The Habit Journal, The Mastery Journal, The Morning Sidekick Journal, The 6-Minute Diary.

Electronic Calendar

What it is: Google Calendar is available through Gmail. MS Outlook also uses a Calendar program. These calendar programs sync with the respective email programs and are accessible from nearly any handheld device or desktop. Both calendars offer multiple calendar options, automatic scheduling, and are very user-friendly.

Who it’s best for: People on the go, who don’t like carrying paper, and those who need a relatively simple calendar planning program to manage their schedule. If you always carry your phone with you and are comfortable with an electronic calendar, then these are two very easy-to-use programs. Outlook is available as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, and Google Calendar is free for Gmail users.

The Pomodoro Technique

What it is: The Pomodoro Method or Pomodoro Technique has been around for decades. This productivity method uses time blocks (typically 25 minutes) to work on a task. You decide on a task, set a time, work for 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break when complete (and a longer break when the full task is complete).

Who it’s best for: Procrastinators and those who struggle with distraction. If you enjoy working in short bursts and feel more focused “under pressure” then the timer is a big productivity booster. You will still need a calendar or a paper to track your tasks and block out your time. The method is explained in Francesco Cirillo’s book, Pomodoro Technique; there are Pomodoro apps and online tools as well, such as: Tomato timer and Focus Booster.

List Making Apps

What it is: When it comes to list making apps there are a huge variety out there. Most list making apps offer an opportunity to manage your to-dos, sync with your calendar and set follow up reminders. Certain apps are collaborative, allowing you to share tasks and projects with a team, while others are best for a single user. While, all list making apps aren’t created equal, at the end of the day, they all do a similar task: help you manage your lists.

Who it’s best for: If you’re a list maker, you may find any of the list making apps quite helpful. From the palm of your hand you’re able to access to do lists, receive reminders and keep track of all the tasks on your plate. Many of the list making apps are great for helping you break down goals into small, manageable steps. A few list making apps to check out: Wunderlist, Todoist, Remember The Milk.

Productivity Apps/Project Management Programs

What it is: A more robust and work-friendly project management tool, these apps are great for teams. For personal use, they’re helpful for families and for big projects with a lot of moving pieces (like building a tiny house). Some users simply prefer the interface and find project management tools help them really set goals and keep track of many different parts at once.

Who it’s best for: Those who use project management software at work, have large projects to manage, or really enjoy digging in. There are plenty of comparisons online between project management programs, but two of the most popular are Trello and Asana. Both have pros and cons but are worth checking out. One word of caution with project management software—if you’re new to planning, and simply hoping to manage a busy schedule and take back your time, the software is often too robust. Remember, you don’t want to use the project management software as another excuse to procrastinate (“I’ll get a handle on my schedule as soon as I figure out how to use this software.”)

At the end of the day, the tool you use is really about finding the best fit for your lifestyle. If you prefer an app, paper, or a timer, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you stick with it and apply it to your time management.

Taking back your time and getting a handle on your busy schedule, doesn’t need to be a battle, but it does mean shifting your mindset. Remember, if you only have 24 hours in the day, you need to use them wisely. Once you decide to prioritize and take back control of your time, you’ll find yourself more relaxed.

If you want the peace that comes with a simple schedule, start saying no to the extra tasks and commitments weighing you down!

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?