Posts Tagged simple living

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?

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

This year I decided to take on a personal no spend challenge. I wanted to see if I could buy nothing for an entire year. Six months in, I’ve been successful (and learned a few lessons too).

As I’ve shared my story with friends and blog readers, many of you have asked how to take on a no spend challenge. In our world of buy, buy, buy, where almost anything is available instantly at the click of a button, a year without spending sounds daunting at first.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I could handle the challenge either. Even though I live in a tiny house and follow a mostly minimalist lifestyle, the thought of buying absolutely nothing for a year seemed tough. Now that I’ve been going on the challenge for six months, I must admit, it becomes easier when you start. It was a simple matter of setting up rules and then shifting my mindset. Here’s what I’ve learned about buying nothing in my first 6 months.

Why Try to Buy Nothing?

One of the first questions I get about the no spend challenge is “why?” To be honest, answering the question of “why” was a big part of the process to taking on a year without spending.

What it comes down to is, the no spend challenge isn’t meant to stop people from spending money because it’s somehow bad or wrong to buy what you want. There’s nothing wrong with shopping in itself.

When buying becomes a problem is when we spend money we don’t have on items we don’t need. It’s an issue when we buy items and tell ourselves little stories that aren’t true to justify our purchases. We expect our purchases to bring us happiness, friends, freedom, or other rewards they can’t possibly deliver. Ultimately, we end up less happy because those stories we told ourselves don’t come true and spending now detracts from our long-term goals in the future.

Personally, I have a lot of goals I’m working toward. One of the biggest obstacles to achieving those goals was money.

Spending money on extraneous items was causing me to delay accomplishing my biggest goals. It was creating a barrier to the big dreams I wanted to achieve. Once I realized my “why,” keeping myself focused on my no spend challenge has been much easier. No way am I going to pass up my big dreams for a temporary fix. Spending money now in lieu of a bigger, better future, isn’t worth it.

My No Spend Challenge Rules

I’m not a huge fan of rules, to be honest. In fact, one of the only rules I follow is that it’s a good idea to question everything (including the rules). I apply this “guideline” to my minimalist approach to work, as well as organizing my house.

Still, when it came to the challenge, I wanted to set up guidelines and parameters. Plus, I’m a stickler for semantics so I wanted to clearly define the rules, so I couldn’t exploit any loopholes. So, these are the no spend challenge rules I decided to follow:

1. Food Is Fair Game

Everyone needs to eat and I’m nowhere close to growing my own food at the moment, so realistically food was a necessary expense. As part of the no spend challenge I cut out all fast food and only allow myself to eat out at “sit down restaurants,” on special occasions. This means I’ve cooked a lot more.

2. Everyday Consumables Are Allowed

Consumable products were another necessity–like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, soap and other similar items that get used up over time. To make sure I didn’t find a way to exploit this no spend rule, I created an “inventory” before I started. I only allowed myself to keep those items and not add to the inventory list. These household items are super basic and have been reduced to only products I use every day.

3. Medical Items Are Allowed

If I need a prescription or an item recommended by my doctor, I can get it. I limited this to only the directions of my doctor. As a rule, this situation hasn’t yet come up, because I’ve stayed healthy. Still, health is too important to not add this caveat.

4. Only Buy What You Need, When You Need It

When an above-mentioned consumable or food is gone, I buy a replacement. This no spend rule stopped me buying items I don’t use. For consumables I use frequently or go through quickly, I set a number I’m allowed to store in my “inventory.” The rule is I can maintain my inventory numbers, but never go beyond them.

5. Fix First, Replace Second

All I really have in my house are the basics, which means if something breaks, I really need it. So, I said I had to first try to fix it, then if I couldn’t I could replace it. So far, I’ve only had to replace one thing that couldn’t be fixed.

6. Only Digital Version Of Books

I love reading and do a lot of it. One of my main goals is reading two books a month, minimum. So to do this I chose Audible audiobooks downloaded to my phone. In cases where I want a physical book, I’ve started using the library

7. Gifts For Other People

In some situations, it’s necessary to get gifts for other people. In many cases, I prioritize giving experiences over things. When a birthday or special occasion comes around, I may choose to take someone out to dinner, go to an event, take a trip, or another gift that doesn’t involve buying more “things.”

Six months into my no spend challenge, the only item I’ve purchased (besides food and shampoo) was a new bathmat. Unfortunately, the one I had mildewed and became grungy. After washing the grimy mat (following rule the fifth rule), I decided it needed replacing. When I did replace it, I bought a quality mat and threw out the old one. In six months, only spending $20 on a bathmat is a purchase I can definitely live with, so I still consider the no spend challenge a success so far.

6 Lessons You Need to Succeed at the No Spend Challenge

There are six practical lessons I’ve learned from taking on the no spend challenge. As I work toward a year without spending, these lessons have helped me more successful.

Better yet, these lessons will still apply even after the challenge is up. I would say, even if you don’t plan on taking the no spend challenge for a full year or if you set different parameters for yourself or your family, you will still benefit from applying these minimalist lessons every time you purchase.

If you want to buy less, take on a year without spending, or save money and make wiser purchases, use these 6 lessons to guide you.

1. Start with “Why” Before You Buy

As I mentioned before, when I discovered my “why,” taking on the no spend challenge became much easier. It’s the whole “keep your eye on the prize” mentality. If there are bigger goals you want to achieve, focus on the deeper purpose.

Purpose will keep you on track and give you direction. Again, the no spend challenge isn’t about getting people to stop buying for a year because buying is bad. It’s about implementing plans and purchases to ultimately make your life better. If an item doesn’t make your life better or move you toward your larger purpose, then it’s probably not worth the money.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to take on a no spend challenge?
  • What are my larger goals?
  • Why will this challenge move me toward the goals I want to achieve?

Once you’ve discovered those answers, the rest is easier!

2. Do You Have the Money?

Perhaps the most obvious and easiest question to ask is one we often overlook. Especially with credit and “buy now, pay later,” promotions, it’s easy to live beyond our means. When it comes down to making a purchase—any purchase from a steak dinner vs. ramen noodles—as yourself if you can really afford it.

If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Plain and simple. If you’re facing a need you can’t afford, look at the other areas where you spend beyond your means. Are you renting a space that costs more than you can afford? It may be time to move. Does your car payment eat up your budget each month? It may be time to trade in for a cheaper vehicle.

A world of credit has skewed our view on what we can and can’t afford. At the end of the day, if you don’t have the money, don’t buy. It’s that simple.

3. Delay Your Gratification

When you’ve convinced yourself there’s a need to purchase something, add it to your list and wait until the next trip to the store. If you’re shopping and you see an item you want to buy (not on the list), wait until your next trip. The majority of the time the urge to buy will pass before you go back to the store.

This approach works really well with online shopping too. Whenever you want an item, add it to your cart and leave it there. Then the next time you shop, if you still want the item it’s there and ready. Chances are, you’ll find a solution to your problem without spending or you’ll discover you didn’t need the item as much as you thought you did. Waiting helps those who struggle with impulse purchases.  After doing this constantly for 6 months it’s amazing to me how often I find I don’t want something, it’s very eye-opening for a person who didn’t buy a lot to begin with.

4. Ask Yourself What You’re Actually Buying

We buy food because we need to eat. We have a biological imperative to get food. For the majority of our other purchases—clothes, decorations, exercise equipment, appliances—we buy because we’re purchasing an ideal or concept.

When you buy a piece of exercise equipment, it’s not simply because you LOVE to exercise, it’s because you want to get the end result: a healthy, fit body, more energy, lower blood pressure, and so on. You’re buying the equipment because you believe the purchase will give you the outcome you desire.

When you decide to purchase, ask yourself: What am I really buying? What do I hope to gain from this purchase? Will my actions result in the desired outcome or am I just telling myself it will?

We should always look at the stories we’re telling ourselves and the narrative we’re inserting into the purchase. I’ve seen this with people who buy RVs, only to find they wish they’d tested it out first. It turns out they aren’t really “RV people” and now they’ve made a huge purchase that’s hard to undo.

On a smaller scale, I ran into this myself last year when I bought a blender (before I took on the no spend challenge). I looked at the $500+ Vitamix blenders because I like to purchase the highest quality when possible. Looking at the price tag, I decided to opt for a $16 blender at Wal-Mart, telling myself if I used it consistently for three months, I’d splurge on the Vitamix.

Well, after a few weeks of smoothies, I discovered I don’t actually like smoothies all that much. They’re okay, but not $500-blender-level okay. By delaying my gratification and not buying the narrative that the new blender was going to convert me into a “smoothie person,” I saved myself $484.

5. Ask How Else Can You Achieve the Purpose

If there’s an item you want or need, such as clothing, books or tools, ask yourself if there’s another way to achieve the same outcome. Figure out how not to spend money, but still get what you need. Could you borrow the item from a friend? Could you somehow find a workaround to achieve the same results?

Oftentimes we purchase before we really explore alternatives. If there’s a book you want, chances are, you could find it at the library. The same goes for movies you want to see and music you want to listen to. For most tools, you can find rental options through home improvement stores.

Other items, such as clothing, appliances, and dishes are found for less at second-hand stores. You may even check Craigslist or neighborhood exchange pages to find the item for free. Barter and trade with others to get what you need without spending. Learn to create: cook, grow a garden, teach yourself to sew and do small repairs.

When we focus on the desired outcome, we may find many means to an end. A treadmill may seem to solve our desire to get in shape, but could you start going for regular walks instead? Is there an indoor track somewhere you could use for free? In the longer term, would a gym membership cost less and end up taking up less space than a treadmill? Simply buying an item won’t give you the end result you want, so you have to put in the effort. Could you get in shape without spending?

6. Ask: What Will This Purchase Replace?

In minimalism, many of us embrace the “one-in, one-out” rule. This, of course, is vital if you live in a small space. But, even if you have extra room, applying this rule will help you minimize clutter and keep excess stuff from taking over your space. Whenever you buy an item, ask yourself what you’re going to toss out to create room.

If you buy a new shirt, let go of your oldest one. New sneakers? Toss out your old smelly ones. New bathmat? Replace the mildewed one (which was the whole need for buying a new bathmat in the first place).

Don’t let yourself hold onto items that end up cluttering up your life and taking up your valuable space. Taking on a year of buying nothing will help you reprioritize and realize what really matters. What items do you buy “just to buy” and what items do you really need?

As you pare down and prioritize, you’ll discover there’s simplicity and beauty in maintaining the number of items you own. If you decide to purchase something new, toss out something old. Be sure the items you hold onto are what you actually need and enjoy—the items that make your life better and move you toward your bigger goals.

A year of buying nothing is a tough challenge, but not as tough as it may seem at first. Once you go through the process of trying a no spend challenge, you’ll be amazed at how your priorities shift. You may suddenly gain several hours a week you used to go shopping, you can now spend cooking a good meal, taking the time with your family, or going for a walk. You’ll move closer to your financial goals and build momentum to keep going.

I look forward to sharing more about how my year of buying nothing is going. I’d like to hear how you’re doing with your no spend challenge, too.

Your turn!

  • Have you taken on the no spend challenge?
  • What’s the longest you’ve gone without making a purchase?
  • What stories have you told yourself when you bought something you didn’t need?

 

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?

27 Great Hobbies for Small Spaces & Minimalist Lifestyles (+ 7 Bonus Tips!)

27 Great Hobbies for Small Spaces & Minimalist Lifestyles (+ 7 Bonus Tips!)

Building a tiny house, downsizing, organizing and simplifying are all time-consuming projects. Over the last several years, my tiny house journey has consumed a big chunk of my free time and focus. However, everyone needs a hobby or two, even when living in a small space.

hobbies for small spaces and minimalists

Of course, I can only speak for myself and I realize not everyone enjoys the same great hobbies I do. Fun hobbies for me might not be the same as fun hobbies for you. So, explore these simple hobbies for small spaces and apply them to your own taste.

If there was an activity you enjoyed before you moved toward a minimalist way of living, chances are, you’ll still enjoy it. The only problem you face is that…well, hobbies often take up a lot of space.

I’ve known people with entire rooms dedicated to crafts: studios for art, sound rooms for recording and game rooms for playing. In a small space, you can still enjoy fulfilling and entertaining activities. If you’re looking for great hobbies to fit minimalist lifestyles, you simply need to shift your approach to your pastime of choice.

So before I get to the list of hobbies, here’s how to make almost any hobby work in a small space.

How to Pursue Your Hobbies in Small Spaces: 7 Tips to Help

1. Stay Organized

First and foremost, one of the keys to hobby success is staying organized. A huge, overflowing and messy workspace won’t fit into a minimalist lifestyle or a small space. If you love paper crafts, organize supplies into a small binder. If your hobbies involve computers and electronics, keep cords and supplies neatly tucked into a container or bin.  Whatever your hobby, don’t neglect the organization of it.

2. Don’t Hold on to Leftovers

When you finish a project—a piece of art, a completed puzzle or a sewing project—don’t’ keep all the leftover scraps. Donate them, trade them or give them away. Use up only what you need for the project at hand. Storing extra bits takes up too much space. Besides, many of us forget about these items when we’re ready to start the next project.

3. Work on One Project and One Hobby at a Time

hobbies do them one at a time

If you love model building, RPGs and fly tying, you may need to focus on one hobby at a time. Depending on your storage capacity and time constraints, it makes sense to focus your efforts in one area. This is a different mentality from the “I’m bored, move to the next source of entertainment,” approach many of us are familiar with. Instead of multitasking, mindfully focus on the single project at hand.  This is what I’m trying to do this year, enjoy the hobbies I already have, not add new ones.

4. Scale Your Hobby to Your Space

Look at the hobby you love and scale it to your space. If you play an instrument, is there a smaller version you’d like to explore (guitar to ukulele or cello to violin)? If you enjoy woodworking, learning to carve and whittle give you a similar sense of satisfaction on a smaller scale?

5. Move Your Hobby Outdoors

geocaching as hobby

Depending on the climate, some great hobbies fit in very well outdoors. Taking your easel and paints outside, for example, could give you a new subject matter to explore and eliminate the stress and clutter of an indoor studio. Similarly, there are many great hobbies like birdwatching and geocaching that require time outside.

6. Share Your Finished Product

If you’re a creative person, share your finished project with others. Many people build models or paint large canvasses or design, with nowhere to store the finished project. If you’ve got a talent you want to share, consider donating your work once it’s completed. You could even set up an online store, but keep in mind, turning your hobby into a business may require even more time, space and energy.

7. Focus on the Core Value of the Hobby

If you’re looking for a satisfying hobby to pursue, consider the core value of what you already enjoy. For example, if you love to design and build, could you put those same skills to work by exploring culinary arts, making models or miniatures, or gardening? If you’re analytical, would you find puzzle games, escape rooms or web development interesting? Many hobbies use the same values and traits, in different applications.

The List: 27 Great Hobbies for Small Spaces

Ready to get started with a new pursuit? Again, not every hobby fits every personality or aptitude, but here are some ideas for great hobbies that fit well with minimalist lifestyles and small spaces.

1. Gardening

gardening on land

Gardening is one of the oldest hobbies. It’s extremely useful—growing plants and herbs for food or to beauty your home and yard. If you’re leasing property, you may not be able to plant a full garden (or if you’re living in a space without a yard). Fortunately, there are container gardens and even hydroponics that require very little space to produce a bounty. Start with a few plants on a windowsill and let your green thumb grow.

 

2. Stitching & Sewing

Similar to paper crafts, stitching and sewing are great hobbies that can also spiral out of control with supplies and projects. If you’re working on a textile craft in a small space, it’s important to stick to one project at a time, keep your supplies organized and only store what you need for the project at hand. When it comes down to it, needles, thread, yarn and felting tools don’t require a lot of space. It’s the yards of fabric and skeins of yarn that take over a space.

If you enjoy handicrafts and stitchery, consider embroidery, needle felting, tatting, and crochet, which use minimal supplies. Cross stitch is another fabric craft that doesn’t call for a lot of space. Tutorials on these projects are found on YouTube or Craftsy.

 

3. Culinary Arts

The world of culinary arts offers a wide hobby area to explore. While a small kitchen is a challenge, some chefs see it as an opportunity to really push themselves. The best part of cooking as a hobby is the end results are edible (and don’t require much storage). Hosting outdoor dinners to show off your creations is always an option if indoor entertaining doesn’t work for your space.

food dehydrator excalibur

Areas to explore are food preservation like canning, dehydration, and pickling. Bread baking is another popular small-space culinary pursuit. If the science of food fascinates you, explore nutrition or even molecular gastronomy.

4. Woodworking

Woodworking and carpentry becomes a passion for many who build and craft their own home. Once the work is complete, you may realize continuing carpentry requires many supplies and large-scale storage. Rather than give up the skills, consider shifting your focus to small-scale woodworking. Whittling and wood carving are great hobbies that don’t require much space. The results of a skilled woodcarver’s work are truly stunning.

5. Gaming

The world of gaming is huge and encompasses a vast number of interests. Not all games are perfect for minimalist lifestyles and small spaces, but many are. Role playing games (RPGs) require little more than a dice set and a group of friends. Board and card games are another excellent options. Check out the International Gamers Award winners, to find the best games. Chess is another great option for beginners.

Video games are another popular hobby. Most gaming units are relatively small, including handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch (which is a handheld and console unit) or the Sony PlayStation Vita. You can also get started playing video games on your phone or computer. Online gaming offers the option to play with others around the world, right from your own screen.

6. Writing

Writing is a fantastic minimalist hobby. As a blogger and writer, myself, I must admit it’s ideal for small spaces. You can write from anywhere—all you need is a laptop and an idea. Blogging, journaling, and creative writing are all great hobbies and getting started is easy!

writing notebook

If you’re living in a small, or minimalist space, you don’t need to give up your hobbies. With a few adjustments and modifications, you’ll enjoy plenty of great hobbies to fit your small-space lifestyle and help you relax and enjoy life.

7. Mindfulness Pursuits

Yoga, meditation, and spiritual exploration are excellent pursuits for small spaces. Many of these studies and practices help you explore your mind-body connection and learn to be present, connected and aware of your surroundings. Yet, most mindfulness pursuits require very little in the way of equipment or supplies.  You can start with a book or by following yoga tutorial videos. You may also want to download a mindfulness app, such as Headspace.

8. Ham Radio

Amateur or ham radio is a popular hobby that’s been around for many years. It’s a way to communicate with people around the world (English is the universal language of ham radio). Ham radio is also used for emergency communication, such as weather watching, so it’s a helpful hobby to learn. Because radio transmissions are sent internationally (and can receive communications from emergency personnel and law enforcement) the hobby is regulated by the International Telecommunication Union and licensure is required. Learn more from the ARRL (National Association for Amateur Radio).

9. Jewelry Making

Jewelry making covers a variety of great hobbies from beading, to lampwork and metalwork. Many jewelry makers start simply by creating necklaces and bracelets for themselves, friends and family. As the craft grows, you can move to more expensive mediums and a variety of substrates such as glass, acrylic, fine metals, jewels, and gemstones. Explore the classes available on sites like Craftsy to learn to create a wearable work of art.

10. Knots

knot tying

Knot tying may seem like a dying art, but many people still enjoy learning knot tying and it’s particularly useful for sailing and outdoor survival. Believe it or not, there are thousands of knots and the oldest example of knot tying was used in a fishing net dated 8000 BC. You can use knot tying skills to for paracord tying; knots are also a key part of fly tying, both of which are great hobbies for minimalist spaces.

11. Leather Working

Leather goods hold up to years of use. You can create beautiful belts, bracelets, pouches, and bags out of leather. Large leather work requires quite a bit of space and larger tools, but on the small-scale leatherworking is a fun project for anyone. To get started in leatherworking, you may want to purchase a kit for a small item like a coin purse or bracelet and explore online videos and tutorials to help you get started.

12. Illusions & Cards

Magic, card tricks, sleight of hand and optical illusions are fun for many people, but they often require practice. Fortunately, this practice doesn’t require much space or equipment. You can learn by watching simple YouTube videos or taking an online course. Professional card dealers often attend classes and even go to casino gaming school, but you’ll get far with regular practice and self-study.

13. Model Building

model planThe world of model building is huge and combines the art of sculpture, painting, and design as well as engineering. Model-makers create miniature replicas of everything from spaceships to ships-in-a-bottle. A popular model building area is in repainting and redesigning figures with incredible attention to detail. There are even conventions such as WonderFest USA to showcase and award top model-makers.

Similarly, creating miniatures, whether for a dollhouse, terrarium or simply a display is another small-scale hobby many people enjoy. Using polymer clay or other materials they recreate and “miniaturize” everyday items.

14. Music

If music is your hobby, there are many ways to adapt your creative outlet to fit in a minimal space. Singing, music writing, and many instruments are still easily incorporated into many different sized homes and lifestyles. Of course, you may need to pare down a collection of instruments (and a piano is much harder to fit in a small space than a ukulele), but many people embrace music as a hobby.

15. Nail Art

Now, I can’t speak to this personally, but I’ve heard nail art is one of the preferred hobbies for women. Painting designs as part of a manicure or pedicure requires few supplies. Your fingers and toes are your canvas and nail artists get quite into their craft—some nail artists even add jewels to accent their designs.

16. Paper Crafts

When it comes to paper crafts, it’s a hobby that can quickly take over a space. After all, paper can result in a lot of clutter. Yet, there are ways to enjoy paper craft on a small scale. Origami (the art of paper folding) is one such example. Quilling, or paper rolling is another. When pursuing a hobby such as paper crafting, it’s important to remember the seven guidelines above to keep your supplies organized and only keep the project you’re working on at the time.

17. Photography

camera and photography

Of all the great hobbies for small spaces, photography is one of the easiest to pursue—particularly because of the advance of digital photography. With little more than a camera and photo editing software, you can capture and design incredible photographs. Learning how to alter and edit photos using Photoshop (or any free editing software) is another way to explore the hobby even further. Many of us carry a camera all the time, via our phone, so learning to take great photos is the next logical step.

18. Puzzles & Deduction

Many hobbyists enjoy cracking codes, figuring out puzzles and playing logic games.  While boxes of jigsaw puzzles may not fit with a minimalist lifestyle, there are plenty of digital puzzle games, books of crosswords, Sudoku and logic puzzles you can check out. If you enjoy forensics, check out Hunt a Killer, which is a monthly detective puzzle game.

Brain benders, meta, and wooden box puzzles are also a fun pursuit to stretch your brain and turn the gears. Rubik’s cubes and other combination puzzles will keep you occupied for hours. Similarly, lockpicking is a popular pursuit, where you apply the same techniques to locks (check out Locksport International for information on getting started).

19. Outdoor Exercise

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to pursue great hobbies is to do them outdoors. Outdoor hobbies can be split into two categories: active and leisure. On the active side, of course, the options are limitless but bear in mind, many outdoor hobbies require equipment: skiing, kayaking, golfing and so on. Fortunately, if there’s a hobby you really love, you can possibly rent the equipment to cut back on the need for extra storage.

A few outdoor pursuits that don’t require much in terms of supplies are swimming, jogging, running and hiking. Fishing, tennis, Frisbee golf, and even snorkeling is possible, provided you parse down the extra supplies you need to the bare minimum. Team sports like soccer, softball, and volleyball are other great options, where all you need are some friends and a ball to play.

20. Outdoor Leisure

Outdoor leisure pursuits include walking and spending time outdoors. You can enrich your outdoor exploration by including an element you wish to study, such as plant identification or birdwatching. Foraging for wild edibles is another hobby you can leisurely pursue outdoors.

hiking with gps and a moutain view

Geocaching is a fun option many outdoor explorers enjoy. Geocaching is essentially a big outdoor treasure hunt using GPS. They keep a log book, recording whenever they discover an item (using GPS coordinates) in a cache. They take an item, leaving behind an item of greater value (items are typically small toys).

21. Reading

Perhaps the ultimate minimalist hobby, reading is a favorite pastime of many people. That said, books take up a lot of space. If you’re cutting back, downsizing and decluttering, you may want to sell your used books as you finish them. Other options for avid readers are using an eReader (like a Nook or Kindle) or borrowing books from the library. Check your neighborhood for Little Free Libraries as well—you can drop off and pick up books any time. If reading is your preferred pastime, you can easily enjoy it and still embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

22. Computers & Technology

Computers and technology are great hobbies for minimalists. With cloud storage, web, app and game development is possible from nearly anywhere with very little equipment. Frontend developers focus on design and user experience and generally need to learn to code (like HTML or JavaScript). Backend developers work use logic and problem solving to improve the function of an app or site, using server language like Python.

On the DIY building side, Raspberry PI is a small programmable computer that’s a lot of fun for beginners. Arduino, is a micro-controller motherboard popular in the DIY computing community. If you’re interested in computer technology, it can become an excellent and even lucrative hobby.

23. Video & Recording

Similar to photography, videography and recording works well with a small, minimalist space, provided the hobby stays on the small scale. Cameras like the GoPro Hero are used to film some really fun videos with very little extra equipment needed.

If you enjoy making videos, you could start a YouTube channel and vlog, or record tutorial videos for others (those who are camera shy, may prefer to explore podcasting instead). There are a vast number of topics and ideas for videos, so the options are endless. If video and filmmaking is high on your interest list, you could also try your hand at digital or stop-motion animation.

24. Visual Arts

Visual artists often worry they’ll need to give up their art if they move toward a minimalist lifestyle. After all, tubes of paint, easels, and brushes can take over a space pretty quickly. If art is your outlet and one of your preferred hobbies, consider drawing and sketching which are more portable and only require a notebook and graphite.

Other options for visual artists are to explore the world of graphic design. Apply your art skills in the digital world and learn to create on a computer. You could also do micro portfolio work. Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and ACEOs (Art Cards Editions and Originals) are miniature works of art measuring 2.5” x 3.5” and they’ve become quite popular. Many artists swap them online and at swap events. The collectors market is rising for these miniature treasures.

25. Wine, Beer & Spirits

I’ve seen brewing listed time and time again as a suggested hobby for homesteaders and tiny lifers. It’s interesting because brewing wine and beer (and fermenting drinks such as kombucha) can take up quite a bit of space. Homebrewing also has specific temperature and sanitation requirements and it can give off a smell you may find overpowering in a small space.
beer and homebrewing

If you’re a hobbyist who loves homebrewing or the culture of beer, wine, and spirits, you may want to explore other areas of the beverage field. Wine pairing, beer tasting, and appreciation can become quite a fun and pleasurable hobby. Bartending and learning mixology is another great area of focus. Not only can you learn a (possibly) marketable skill but it’s useful knowledge for many situations.

26. Floral Arranging

Floral arranging is a beautiful and useful hobby, particularly if you enjoy growing flowers in a garden, or have access to fresh flowers. Flowers are temporary, and the arrangement is enjoyed for a while and then transitioned to a different look. The short-term aspect of flowers makes floral arranging a good option for those who live the tiny life. One place to get started is by exploring Ikebana, the traditional Japanese style of flower arranging.

27. Astronomy

Amateur astronomy doesn’t require much equipment or setup, other than a telescope and a notebook. If you live in a rural area (away from city light) this is a fascinating hobby where you can really explore the universe. Sky & Telescope is a great place to get started.

Your Turn!

  • What are some of your favorite hobbies for minimalist lifestyles?

 

5 Easiest Vegetables To Grow For Beginner Gardeners

I’ve been there, the seed catalogues come in January and you get all excited about what to grow this year in your garden.  It can be hard to figure out where to start, so I thought I’d share my recommendations on five easy vegetables to grow in your garden in your first year.  The biggest mistake new gardeners make is not starting small:  They have too big of a garden, they try to grow too many things, and in the end they get burnt out.

what to grow for begginers gardening

My advice after teaching people how to start gardening for years is to only start with a few things.  Three to five types of vegetables in a single variety of each.  This will give you a really good foundation to start your gardening journey.

Grow What You Eat

grow the vegies that you like to eat basketA very common this that I see newbie gardeners do is get excited by what they could grow, but they may not really like things or they try new stuff before they find out if they really like them.  If you were to look in your kitchen right now, what vegetables are you purchasing from the store?  Many of those could be good contenders for your first year’s short list.

There will be some things that you buy that aren’t in season or are more complicated to grow, but many of what most people like will be on our list below.  So consider what you eat, choose the easier ones to grow and let’s stack the deck in our favor!

Get Your Garden Prepared

It’s important to not just think about the vegetables that you’re going to grow, but to also think about growing good soil.  Have good soil is really what makes a garden go from okay to amazing, so don’t skimp on this step.  If you have never gardened before, check out our post on how to prepare your soil for a vegetable garden.

From Seeds Or From Seedlings

There are some things that do really well from seeds and some things that starting with a seedling is the way to go for first time gardeners.  Seedlings are simply very young plants that have been started ahead of time indoors, that you later transfer outdoors into your garden.

seedlingsIt can be tempting in your first year or two to in addition of starting a garden to also raising seedlings indoors, but my advice is to avoid this.  Your first few years to learn gardening is a lot, to add learning to start seeds into seedlings is too much and you’ll just burn out.

 

Below I’ll mention which ones I’d start from seed and which ones I’d start from seedlings.

What Plants To Start With?

Here are a few of my favorite plants to start with.  These are pretty easy, widely available and you can find lots of knowledge from local people and online. Start with three to five of these in a single variety.  It will be tempting to choose a bunch of types of vegitables and a few varieties of each, but doing so will bring complexity, stress and a greater chance of failure.  We don’t want that!

Zucchini

zucchnis from gardenThere is an old joke that I like to tell.  In the city people lock their doors so people don’t steal their stuff, in the country they lock their cars so someone doesn’t leave them a bag of zucchini and squash in their front seat.  What is really great about this plant is that it grows really fast, its very simple and it produces a ton of vegetables.

I’d suggest starting out with three plants of zucchini if you have a family.  There will come a point where you can’t eat anymore (trust me), at that point I usually just pull the plants out of my garden and compost them. For your first year I’d start these from seedlings, they’re easy to find, cheap and makes it easy to start.

One piece of advice that I give is I’ve found that there comes a point when I start to see squash bugs on my plants.  When I see more than 2 or 3 of them on a plant, I pull that plant right then and there.  New gardeners will often be hesitant to prune or pull out plants, you can’t be afraid to.  Squash bugs are very difficult to combat, every trick I’ve read online doesn’t do anything for my garden.  So I plant a few extra than I need and then just pull the plants as soon as I see the bugs and am content with whatever squash I got to that point, usually I’m sick of it by then anyways!

Tomatoes

These are a favorite for most people and a garden tomato can’t be beat.  I would absolutely use seedlings for tomatoes.  The two varieties I suggest are “Early Girls” or “Roma”.  If you have short growing season I’d suggest Early Girls because they produce pretty quickly and earlier than most tomatoes.

tomatoes just picked

A few notes about tomatoes:  If you find that you are getting a lot of flowers, but they’re not really translating into tomatoes it’s often because they aren’t pollinating well enough.  This could be because they’re aren’t enough natural pollinators like bees or Humidity is binding up the pollen.  Tomatoes will often stop fruiting when it gets really hot, then start back up when summer temperatures start to wind down.

If you live in a very hot and humid area and Early Girls aren’t working for you, consider the variety “Pink Brandywine”.  They produce great tomatoes that are huge and tend to fair a bit better in higher heat.

Finally know that you will need to support the tomatoes in some manner.  This could be a cage, it could be a be a steak or string.  My favorite way to stake these is get a 6 foot pole that is durable metal coated in plastic and then use the rolls of twist ties you can buy at the store.  I find other options just don’t hold up over the years or are too cumbersome.

Radishes

I’ll be the first to say these aren’t my personal favorite, but they are super easy to grow and they open up the soil some as they grow.  I’ll plant these for the chickens to peck out of the dirt and for friends who like them.  Radishes take between 14 and 21 days to grow full which is very fast and they are a cooler weather crop so early spring or fall is a great time for these.

radishes from garden

These are very easy to grow from seeds and they’re very cheap to buy a lot of seeds.  The seeds are very small, so what I will do is prep my bed nice and even, then just scratch the surface a little bit with the back of a garden rake.  The rule of thumb for seed depth is 3 times the length of the longest dimension of the seed.

In the case of radishes this means you barley cover them if at all, just make sure you keep them nice and moist with a fine mist (not a spray).  It can be easy for these to dry out, but since we plant in the cooler parts of the year it’s a little easier.  For spacing I follow the same approach I use with lettuce, so read below to find out how I do it.

Lettuce

There are a million varieties of lettuce so it can get overwhelming.  Ask around locally to see if people have favorites that do well in your area.  I often just get a lettuce seed mix which is several kinds all mixed together.   You loosely broadcast the seeds over a smoothed and prepared bed and lightly water.

leafy greens

Since we are starting from seeds, we need to know how to space them so they’re not so close that they crowd the others, but not too far that we allow for weeds or wasted space.  For lettuce I typically just shake the seeds out over the entire bed as evenly as I can, then when they start to grow up to about 2 inches, I go in and pluck out some of them to make enough space.  I typically go for about four inches apart from other plants, but I also try to choose the strongest ones.  It doesn’t have to be perfect!

Lettuce is grown in cooler weather, so spring or fall, the heat of the summer is often too much for most varieties, but there are some options for those who live in hot climates.  From seeding to harvest is about 3 weeks and you often can cut the leaves right above the soil about an inch and the lettuce will grow back another two times or so.

Beans

green beansThe two main types are “bush” or “pole” beans, the only difference really is that the pole beans need something to climb.  I often just stick with bush beans because it’s less poles and structures I have to deal with. These are a great plant to start out with in your first garden.

Beans are easily started from seed and are a larger seed.  Because we know the rule of thumb: plant three times the longest part of the seed, they typically get buried about an inch or so below the soil.  I usually take my rake and with the handle side make a little divot, drop the seeds about 6 inches apart and then lightly brush the soil of the trough back over the seeds.  Again, we don’t need to get out our ruler here!

So those are my recommendations on how to start a garden the easy way, to stack the deck in your favor and keep it all fun.  In the comments let me know what you’re going to try.

Your Turn!

  • What’s on your list to plant this year?
  • What tips do you have for first time gardeners?