Transformation Tuesday #58: Another Detached Garage!

I wasn't kidding when I said it was garage season ... this was another fun organizing project working with my lovely friend Wendall. She uses this space for additional storage for her home and plans to create more of a work bench space where the main shelving lives. 

I snapped this picture before we started - from here, you can't see the work bench area she wanted to create. We came up with a plan of clearing out large items that needed to go. Extra tools, paint buckets, empty boxes - they all needed to go.

 
 

What a difference a few hours can make! We organized all the like items together (tools, paint supplies, gardening supplies, seasonal decor) and moved any items to sell/return to others toward the front of the garage. Now she has the space to set up her work bench on the shelving next to the door. 

I filled up my CR-V with donations and she rented a UHaul van to cart away trash and recycling. It can be so deceiving, but items can find their way into the nooks and crannies of a space. Until we start to clear it away, do we realize how much can hide away!

Have you started on your garage clean-out? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Transformation Tuesday #57: Garage Clear-Out

It's GARAGE SEASON, Y'ALL! I've been organizing several garages and basements this spring and summer and absolutely loving it. 

I got to spend a morning with a dear friend working on her detached garage. This is an area that's so easy to forget about because it feels very "out of sight, out of mind." My friend has been on a purging journey this year and it was time to finally tackle this space together.

 
 

We used the carport as the staging area for trash, recycling, and donation items. We worked through the garage clockwise, separating larger items to create more space before we began sorting through various tools, cleaners, and outdoor toys.

We were able to clear away two carloads worth of donations by the time we were done! There were several toys the kiddos had outgrown, furniture items like a rolling cart, lawn chairs, an old high chair, multiple BBQ grills - you name it, we found it! This was an opportunity to "shop" the garage for the "best of" items so that we could give away the duplicates.

 

A quick sweep and it felt like a new space. Sweeping is serious business. Now that several large items were removed, we could stack the bikes alongside one of the walls and create better accessibility with the industrial shelving. 

 
 

So satisfying to open up a pathway in this space! Spending some extra time to thoughtfully edit your garage or basement will free up your schedule in the future - no more hunting for tools or cleaning products. When you know where things belong, it's easier to put things away and stay on top of the maintenance of the room.

Transformation Tuesday #56: Reading Nook

Sneaking in this transformation before the day is over! I've been working with a lovely client on several spaces within their home got a chance to organize this little reading nook.

We had already done some paper purging and furniture-swapping in the study and guest rooms in our previous organizing sessions. They had a few chores they needed to tackle around the house so I asked if I could work on this space.

It's a great space situated off a hallway between a couple bedrooms. I love these projects because they are a great confidence-builder for those who feel overwhelmed with spaces like a bedroom closet or a basement.

In these areas, start with items that don't belong - remove any trash, recycling, dishes, laundry. After that, it's a just a matter of straightening up the books, art, and display items.

 
 

What are some of the "easy" areas you like to cross off your tidying to-do list? Let me know in the comments below!

Transformation Tuesday #55: Spring + Summer Capsules

Wow, it's been awhile since my last Transformation Tuesday post ... two months to be exact! I guess I needed a break. I've had a busy year and am still figuring out keeping myself organized when it comes to scheduling my own self-care, personal organizing projects, creating a content calendar, etc etc. That list seems to never end!

I enjoy sharing the process every season when I update my capsule wardrobe. My little organizing mind loves to keep track of how much I have, identify patterns in usage and what my aesthetic is leaning toward that season, and "breaking the rules" a little bit. I talked about this a little bit in January's capsule-building post. I feel way more comfortable picking the items that work for me vs. sticking to exactly 33 items.

So here's how it went these last two seasons:

April 2017 / Spring Capsule

I somehow managed to not take many pictures! Eek. I did clear out my closet like usual and it was a good reminder to swiffer the floor in there. I also invited my friend Maria over the following day because I needed my own spruce assistant to talk me through a couple items. I was on the fence on a few tops and cotton dresses that I couldn't seem to let go of. I would end up wearing them once in awhile and didn't know exactly why I wasn't ready to donate them. 

Maria asked me about when I liked to wear them and we discovered that they ended up being "work" clothes for basement/grungy days. They were all cotton, stretchy, comfortable yet cute. I was ok with getting them dusty and they were comfortable for the demands of crouching, kneeling, and all the bustling around of working on a basement. She suggested I create a mini capsule of just my work clothes. This was genius! I hadn't thought of this before and now I have about seven items in my work capsule, that I only wear for basement/garage days.

 
 

July 2017 / Summer Capsule

I actually found some time on July 1st to spend some time going through my clothes and it felt so good! In less than 45 minutes, I pulled everything out of the closet, dumped it on my bed, and started my review. I feel like I really love where my wardrobe is at. I usually treat myself in July to a birthday Stitch Fix box but I think I'm gonna skip it this year, mostly because I don't want to make more decisions about what to swap in new items for! 

This time around, I made a list of where I started and found it was easy to go in this order:

  • Outerwear
  • Pants / shorts
  • Sweaters / cardigans
  • Long-sleeves / 3/4 sleeves
  • Tees
  • Dresses
  • Tanks
  • Shoes
 
 

I'm pretty pleased with the 42 items I picked out. I'm very excited to break out the flowy tank/sleeveless tops and lots of cotton dresses!

What are you excited to wear in this summer's capsule wardrobe? 

 

Transformation Tuesday #54: Kitchen Pantry Catch-All

It's been a minute since I've posted some transformations and these next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorites!

I had the opportunity to collaborate with my friend, Krista Kenner, and work on her family's catch-all pantry in their beautiful cliffside treehouse in Bellingham.

We had been chatting earlier this year, sharing ideas on what has been helpful in building our businesses when we decided to collaborate on one of her own spaces. Krista's in the business of helping people get into the right home. I'm in the business of helping people streamline and love their home. Her New Year's resolution was to get more organized. Yet once again, she found herself unorganized in February and was ready to get the help of a professional to get started. We knew this was going to be a fun exercise!

Before I arrived, we talked about what she wanted for this pantry and she sent some pictures so I could see what I would be working with. She described it as a catch-all closet. It's a great, huge space - most people would kill for a central closet like this in their home! Yet it was filled to the brim, with no system to keep things in their place, it mostly just stressed her out. 

The first step to every project is to clear out the space. We completely emptied it, spreading everything out on the kitchen table, island, and floor, leaving some walkways to navigate around the piles. We categorized everything, quickly identifying what needed to be easily accessible like the everyday items of snacks, paper goods, cleaning products and supplies. Some of the less frequently used items stayed up high like vases, platters, staging materials, and gift wrap.

 
 

Krista was so ready to edit down this closet's contents. As we sorted and organized, she was able to see shelves open up with more white space around what would be going back in. When you are in that mindset of simplifying, many of the decisions are easier to make. We talked about the difference between doing it on your own and bringing in support to work through it. In her own words:

"Having a plan, and the experience behind tackling a project like this, was super helpful. I tend to just stare at a mess, get stressed out, and walk away thinking 'I'll deal with this later." But having someone who was like "First we're going to do this, then this, then this," was extremely helpful. Because once we got started, we were on a roll and it was pretty simple."

Since we refreshed this space, she says she has gained confidence that to tackle other unorganized parts of the house. She used the same approach on her daughter's bedroom, which is turning into a play space now that her daughter is sharing a room with her older sister. Krista took everything out of the space - old toys, clothes, stuffed animals, baby stuff - and went through it all before it went back in. She got rid of a LOT of stuff. She now has an organized blank slate in which to reimagine, and is focused on making it a really usable space for the girls.

 
 

I loved every minute of this project! Plus, we had a couple of helpers who decided to pose for the camera :)

Not only did we have a beautiful space and plenty of storage to work with, Krista was excited to make the change in streamlining her home and we had it all documented by the one and only Ted Zee. Check out more pictures here in my new-and-improved project gallery

If you want to keep up on real estate trends in news in the Bellingham area, check out Krista's blog and follow her adventures on Instagram.

Meet the Minimalist: Judy Michael

I met Judy last year through our mutual friend and fellow simple-living advocate, Alexandra Perwin. We hit it off immediately - she understood what I was going through as a new entrepreneur trying to figure things out. She gave me lots of great advice and was embarking on her own adventure, having just left an operations role to take a break and explore a different way of working.

Over the last year, we would meet up, share ideas, see what’s working and what wasn’t with our businesses, and just catch up in general. In the last few months, she experienced some major changes which prompted this interview.

Read on to learn more about Judy’s experience with right-sizing her space and subscribing to a minimalist approach.

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What sparked your interest in simplifying?

It started last summer when I found myself at home after leaving a job and I needed productive things to do. That’s how I work things out emotionally - I like to do physical work and feel like I accomplished something. Many years ago after I got divorced, I was living with a friend. I was angry about some dealings with my ex, so I came home and cleaned my friend's house!

This time around, it was emotional purging as I was ending a big chapter in my life.  I cleaned out closets, steam cleaned the carpets, and cleaned out the garage. I even stained the fence in 95 degree weather! I like the physical work and having a result at the end. A cleaner physical space feels like a cleaner emotional space.

I saw the documentary Minimalism and there was something about their story that prompted me to do an even deeper emotional dive, therefore clearing out even more stuff than I had in the past. I even got up and cleaned out my kitchen drawers during the movie because I was excited about the concept.

A couple months later, I realized I needed to sell my house. What started out as a little bit of cleaning led to letting go of the house and ending that chapter of my life.

 

That’s a big change - had you thought about selling before?

I had tried to sell my house in 2011 and thought about moving to Edmonds. It wasn’t quite far enough past the recession to sell it because the market up here in the northern Seattle suburbs was still a bit soft.  In 2014, I was looking to sell it to move to the Midwest to be closer to my dad who is in his 90’s and had some health issues.  I figured it was a message from the universe because all the homes were selling in the area except mine. The third time - this spring -  really was a charm.

I was ready to be out of the house. I had minimized so much and was just ready to leave. Once I made the decision to move, it was a pretty fast turnaround.  I met with a realtor, listed it, had an offer in 48 hours.  The whole process was over within about six weeks.

 

Was preparing to sell the house the true start to minimizing and clutter-clearing?

Initial clutter-clearing began after leaving my last job.  My decluttering started as a way for me to detox from what I would call Incremental Stress. I had lost a few people, had my own health issues, and experienced the general ups and downs we have in life. Things pile up. You reach a breaking point and have to decide “am I going to carry this stress with me to the future?”

The house had a lot of symbolism; it was the “big girl” house that I bought on my own which was a great achievement. Then I filled up the space by buying things. I had three bedrooms, a huge kitchen, a walk-in closet, a garage. I just started filling up those spaces. It was time to let go of that chapter and scale down.

 

How do these changes inform your decision-making today?

It was little things I hadn’t anticipated because I hadn’t been living in a simplistic space.

For instance, my current fridge is half the size so I buy half as much food. I don’t do mindless shopping because I don’t have the space for excess things. I don’t have more than ten steps to walk to be in reach of everything I own. It saves time, effort, and having to think about it.

A friend and I were just talking about gifts. I don’t need another tchotchke, give me a gift card, or cook a meal for me. Simplicity results in fewer choices and a clearer head which is not a bad thing.

I am a bit of a numbers wonk and I think in terms of metrics. I timed it and it took less than 40 minutes to clean my apartment.  My house took over three hours to clean. I saved an hour a week in drive time because I live closer to people and stores I frequent.  Financially, I’ve reduced my cost of living by more than 30%!

 

Do you think if these events hadn’t happened, you would have discovered minimalism at some point on your own?

In 2001, I went from a 1,500 square foot home to living in a one bedroom in a friend’s basement after getting divorced and moving from California to Washington. I had to make a conscious decision on what I valued and what I didn’t. I left furniture behind. I had my clothes, dog, grandma’s china, some gifts from my parents. I’ve had several life events where I’ve had to leave stuff and a life chapter behind.

This is like the third round for me. It’s about getting back to what I value. I think I made more of a conscious decision this time around of what to keep and leave behind.

I knew I could scale down. Back in the fall of 2015, I had to go take care of my dad and slept on his couch in a one bedroom apartment in a retirement center. I lived off of four shirts, three pairs of pants, two pairs of shoes, and a borrowed jacket.  I didn’t feel deprived.  If I could live on less than 20 articles of clothing in ten weeks, I can definitely live on less longer-term.

 

 
 

Do you consider a minimalist?

I feel like a minimalist for me. I think it’s a self-defining term. I’m not the 29-year-old bro who can live with a backpack and no forks. I believe in consciously having the things that support you in your space.

If it’s taking too much of your time, money, or mental energy to support it, then it needs go.

 

What have been people’s reactions to these big changes?

The key reaction to selling my home has been the involuntary sucking in of their breath followed by “you’re selling your house?” with a panicked face.

They were either concerned for me or they may be concerned for themselves because we’re all in the same boat. I think some people were fearful of selling a house because if you own a house, you have a different level in society. “Homeowner” vs. “Renter” has a different connotation. At my age, there aren’t a whole lot of people who are on board with moving into an apartment because it can be perceived as a step down.

But it’s also a difficult decision to make here in Seattle,  It’s easy to sell a house, but buying a home can be a nightmare because of the expense and multiple bids that are required.  If you sell your house, you really have to be sure of where you are living next.  It’s a great investment, but a great expense at the same time.  It’s not an easy decision to make with many trade-offs.

 

Moving into less than half the space, were there any items that were still tricky to let go of?

I knew I was going to need a storage unit. A 10’ x 20’ was close to $200/month. Was the stuff going into that space worth $2,400/year?  No, it was not. I got a smaller unit, a 5’ x 10’ with the intent to sell some more things and eventually get rid of it all together.

I had all these kitchen appliances that I would use sporadically that could all be replaced by a really good knife or a blender! Scaling down the kitchen was tough because it was a creative space of rarely used items. They were too expensive to store so I got rid of them.

There is only one thing that I miss and it’s a workout shirt that I cannot find anywhere! I gave away close to 400 pieces of clothing and this is the one thing I wish I could find.

 

What is your advice to someone who wants to start minimizing?

Ponder the question as you look at things “what is of value to me?” Just ask yourself if you even like it anymore. If you are conflicted about it, that’s likely an indicator that you should let it go.

If you are still asking the questions but/if/when/can’t … you are likely not ready to let go of it.  If you’re going to have a sleepless night because you gave away your favorite books, then don’t bother.  But find your leverage point - is it emotional, financial, or logical?

For me, it was financial leverage point which was paying $2,400 to store stuff I wasn’t really using. There were also silly emotional reasons. Did I really need to keep all those pants I could no longer wear, but just hung there, mocking me, knowing I would never fit in them again? Did I really need to have two guest bedrooms just in case someone came to visit?  Not any more.  I will happily pay for someone to stay in a hotel - it’s much cheaper!

I generally have the rule that if I can’t lift it, I’m not taking it with me. There are only two things I would need help moving - the couch and bed frame. Financial costs and ease of use are the critical points for me. For others, it might be emotional.


 

What have been the other benefits of living simply?

I’m starting up my own business of writing, coaching, and training around retirement and cash flow, how to prepare now for the future. When I approached business in the past, I was looking for the latest tools, what’s the best coach, platform, what’s cutting edge. Now, the question is “how can I simply get this done with the best effort for the least cost.” I want to provide the best product with minimal effort and cost. I spent too much time and energy doing things in a complex way before. I discovered people would rather you be authentic in your approach versus having the most exciting tools.

I enjoy thinking more clearly and having fewer choices on a daily basis. I say “no” more frequently to perceived obligations.

 

Is there anything else you want people to know about you?

Yes!  I will be publishing two books this summer.  I first wrote a book about calculating how much you need for retirement, and presented facts and figures that would incent people to take action.  I also identified what I call the “10 Retiremyths” of what we are told about preparing for retirement, and what the reality is.

For instance, most financial advisors quote a rule that you need $1 million to retire at age 65.  Seriously?  If fewer than 10% of US households are millionaires, but everyone needs to be a millionaire to retire, then why is it a rule?  Is it even achievable?

I had all these nice facts and figures about retirement, and then I started to live many of the retirement issues that I was writing about. Caring for my dad when he was ill, saving for retirement, and even facing some age discrimination issues was an eye opener.

Now, I have a story to share on a personal and emotional level that goes beyond the facts and figures.  What’s it like to live your future in a retirement home?  What’s it like to downsize?  How do you look at your outdated beliefs and institute new ones?  I was able to face my challenges, simplify, and tell a story about it.  So now I have the “before” and “after” books to publish. I am using them both to put together programs to help people look at their future and what they spend, what they bring in, and the kind of mindset they need to balance it all.

My goal is to have people take responsibility for their future financial decisions through understanding their cash and living the life that they want to create.  “Managing your cash” is a bit overwhelming for people at times, but there’s such an emotional component of having the right mental framework to use your cash where you most value it.

I can still help people and it’s from a truly experiential place. All the retirement commercials aren’t really getting people to change, but when you connect with someone else’s experience of having scaled down, dealing with health issues, caring for aging parents, that’s what will help people to change.   Your story needs to help them live their story.  It’s much like what you do with your work, Rachel.  What you’ve experienced personally and with clients helps them get through their challenges more easily!

_______________________________________________________________________________

I knew Judy had seriously right-sized her space and minimized her belongings over the last year, but I didn’t know how this has been a common theme throughout her life. There were so many great nuggets of wisdom in our conversation, namely:

“If it’s taking too much of your time, money, or mental energy to support it, then it needs go.”

If you want to learn more about Judy’s books and programs, you can visit her website here. (Note: she’s going through some website changes, which should be completed in June 2017!)

Transformation Tuesday #53: Kid's Toy Room

I've been doing a lot of organization work with a friend and had the opportunity to help her kids work on the bedroom/playroom spaces. Honestly, I was a bit anxious leading up to working with the kids, especially the older child, who expressed how much they didn't want to let go of anything.

I talked with my friend about setting the right expectations - I mean, I can make some organizing magic happen, but only if the client, regardless of their age, is ready for the change. Thank goodness she had been talking about it a lot the last couple months, because her daughter was ready! She may have been motivated by our scheduled pizza dinner afterward, but I will take what I can get!

We spent about an hour and a half working on the toy closet/playroom. My nine-year-old client was surprisingly ready to purge and very thoughtful about items that she wanted to save for her younger brother or cousins (set aside in a bag for mom to review as a double-check). 

Once we started filling up bags with donation, trash, and recycling, she saw lots of fun books and toys she had forgotten about. It was pretty cute hearing her tell stories about some of the items, who gave them to her, why they were special. I enjoyed this so much and found myself just chatting away with her as we sorted the toys.

Our big win of the day was letting go of the dollhouse. She decided she wanted to sell it so she could earn some spending money. She even wrote the ad up herself! I love how motivated this kid is. I told her when she's old enough to work, I would hire her as my organizing assistant. I was so impressed how easy it was to talk through giving away items, especially ones that she had outgrown or that she still liked, but knew was time to give away to another child to enjoy.

 
 

Do you have any success stories of decluttering with kids? Let me know in the comments!

Also ... if you know anyone in need of a dollhouse, I know the seller will be very excited to earn a little bit of money from all her organizing work :)

Happy Mother's Day!

I want to wish a very Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, but especially to my own mother. I've mentioned before that she inspired me to turn this organizing thing into a job. She taught me how to live light in a smaller space, to respect the things I owned, and how to create a home for myself (pro tip: paint is easiest way to transform a room!).

She has always encouraged me, offered advice, listened to my ups and downs, and acted as my cheerleader. I am forever grateful for everything she has done for me, my siblings, and our family and friends. I feel a little guilty that growing up, we really struggled with her request of "peace and quite" as the gift she wanted for her birthday and Mother's Day. We would say "ok, so like, we're not really sure how to do that so what can we buy you?" 

Since I've spent the last year and a half simplifying and creating harmony in my own space, I'm starting to get the peace and quiet bit that she requested. I think she just wanted us kids not to be squabbling, but she also just wanted a calming space which translated to a tidy home.

When the outside world feels really stressful, I want to retreat into a comfortable place - a freshly made bed with a good book, or sinking into the sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea. So, thank you, Mom, for teaching me how to enjoy these simple pleasures. I not only get to enjoy this in my home, but I have the privilege of helping others find this kind of joy in their homes as well.

 
 

Meet the Minimalist: Sunny Gill

I worked with Sunny about a year and a half ago and would gush about the latest KonMari adventures in my home with him (and make the occasional request that he create some kind of tidying emoji for me). I didn’t realize how tidy and truly minimalist he really was until I visited his home in Beacon Hill. There was a lot of open space and everything had a purpose or meaning for him. I wanted to learn more about his minimalistic approach not just with his home, but work and life in general.

When he’s not at his day job as a systems support tech, he’s obsessing over his new Botanicum book, creating all kinds of ceramic pieces, and taking Spanish lessons with plans to travel to Cuba someday.

______________________________________________________________________________

Do you consider yourself a minimalist?

No, to be honest, it’s just a lifestyle I’ve lived since I was a kid. I’ve grown up all across Washington from Monroe, Kent, Tukwila, to Bellevue. My dad was a business owner and we moved around a lot. Every where I lived, it didn’t feel like I was there for very long.

Even now I can look around at a room and break down how I would move my stuff. Not having an extraordinary amount of stuff, it’s second nature to me.

 

Was that hard as a kid to move around like that?

This was normal for me. We had family photos up and that kind of thing in my house, but not the excess stuff you usually see in homes.

I like to have meaning behind my stuff. The tapestry I have hanging up is from a street market in Delhi. I was shopping with a friend, saw it, and had to have it. The framed art in my kitchen are illustrations by friends. If there’s no meaning in it, it eats up space.

Going to Ikea or Target and buying stuff for the sake of hanging it up, I don’t connect with that.

Literally everything around me has meaning … well, except for my plants … well, my nursery. I keep rescuing all these plants!

 

Have you ever had challenges with roommates when they don’t share the same minimalist mindset?

My current roommate is also pretty minimalist, but yes, it’s been a source of frustration in the past living with people who aren’t as organized as I would like to be. But some things you just have to let go of.



How has minimalism helped you in a positive manner?

It’s helped immensely at work. A coworker of mine left my company and they were hoarding all this stuff! I stripped it down and got rid of ⅞ of the stuff. It’s now streamlined and you can find what you need.

I’m always about keeping organized space. I don’t need extras of anything. It also looks really nice. It’s just a professional way to be.

I find that I have a less cluttered mindset when I have less stuff around me. It definitely transfers over to work for me. It kind of becomes part of you.

 

Has anyone ever given you grief for being so organized?

Sure, especially because it’s seen as a more feminine characteristic. But I benefit from being so organized. You can tell what someone’s mindset is by looking at their desk and their home.

 

What’s your philosophy on stuff?

I know that people hate getting rid of things because of the amount of money they spent on it. What’s the use of it, though, if it’s not getting used? It’s filling up space. You should connect to your stuff and find the meaning in it.

 

How does minimalism inform giving gifts to others?

Instead of giving teddy bears or chocolate or some garbage, I focus on things that are functional. Like a candle holder that can also be used as a cup. I have always given things that help people in some way that can be used like socks, a raincoat, something that can be useful.

Someone gifted me some Lego holiday pieces and I just recycled it. I didn’t know what to do with it!

 
 

What’s your most prized possession?

That mirror! It opens up the room, it extends light, and I just love having this gigantic mirror. It’s funny because it’s my second one, [my cat] Miso broke the first one. The second day we had it, it wasn’t bolted to the wall, she got curious and knocked it over. An $800 mirror turned into a $1,600 mirror (from West Elm). This one IS bolted to the wall.


 

What’s been the most ridiculous thing you’ve gotten as a gift?

Actually, the stuff from my mom! Which is funny because she doesn’t like having clutter around so she’s always trying to give me kitchen appliances, mugs, plates. I’m always refusing this stuff! It comes from a loving place because she knows I love cooking but I have what I need.

 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned as a result of growing up minimalist?

It’s hard for me to answer this question, to be honest. I never get too comfortable with my surroundings. I think that helps. I like to move things around.

The art and tapestries have moved around. Having more space helps. One thing that causes clutter is that people get too comfortable in their space - not paying attention to what’s around them.

 

What do you want people to know about this lifestyle?

This is a reflection of my mind, really. I have an organized mind and don’t feel overwhelmed taking on chores, tasks, projects. Minimalism isn’t something you turn on and off, it becomes part of your disposition.

It’s a step-by-step situation, not something that happens overnight. Think of exercising a muscle in your body, over time it becomes stronger and more prominent. The more you practice it, the better you become at it.

 

Has this helped reduce stress around travel, moves, etc?

Definitely. Some people take multiple suitcases to India and I only take a small suitcase, not even full. Packing light makes travel easier, especially international travel.

Some people are buying these expensive things that are designer with labels. Most of what I wear don’t have labels (Nudi jeans, Everlane shirt, labeless hat).

 

What’s your best organizing hack or tip to share?

If I don’t use something for about a week, I’ll put it away or get rid of it. I bought this set of mugs thinking I would use them with guests over,  and they come over, I found that I was only using half of them.

I do a lot of bulk spices - I don’t want to use a whole thing of vanilla bean powder. I buy what I need and work it into my meal plans. I focus on what I’m going to make then go out and buy it. Maybe it takes a little more time to plan, but it saves time, money, and space.

You don’t have to Craig’s List it. You can recycle it! People always want to make an extra dollar but how much time do they spend trying to make a few bucks?

 

What’s your advice to someone who is ready to simplify?

You don’t have to go at it and be overwhelmed with everything around you. Take one drawer at a time or make one small change at a time.

With my lawn, I made one change at a time and now it looks gorgeous! It can be overwhelming trying to do it all at once. You don’t have to do a huge spring cleaning event to get there.

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If you want to see more of what Sunny’s up to, you can follow him on Instagram


 

Transformation Tuesday #52: A Year of Sprucing

I'm excited I have hit the one year mark of full-time organizing, decluttering, simplifying, and transformations! I honestly didn't know what would happen over that year. I continue to love this work more and more, if that's even possible. From blogging about organizing, to tracking business expenses, to the hands-on work with clients ... I am thrilled that I call this my job.

There are days when I question how I can sustain this. Where's my next project coming from? Am I setting the right expectations for my clients? Do I really know what I'm doing? While I will always have these nagging questions floating around my brain, seeing how I've impacted another person's life through simplifying their space is worth it and why I keep at it.

With that said, today isn't a fun before and after (don't worry, there are more to come!), but a round up of donations that have left the homes I've worked in this past year.

 
 

These pictures represent all the stuff donated to Goodwill, Interconnection, Seattle Recreative, and Second Use. What you don't see:

  • 46 trips to Goodwill
  • 2,687 miles traveled
  • 25 happy clients living lighter with less stuff

I'm excited to see what this next year holds for me and this little organizing business. Let me know what your favorite transformation has been or if there are certain spaces you'd like to see a before and after of!

 

 

 

Transformation Tuesday #51: the Mom Cave

In a recent organizing project, I had the pleasure of working with a fellow small business owner who wanted support in refreshing her home office, also known as "the mom cave."

She had great ideas about what she wanted for the space, and even had a framed peg board, ready to be adorned with all her arts and crafts supplies. The space had so many great organizing solutions - clear bins, industrial post shelving, small plastic drawer caddies ... but nothing was really working the way it should.

We spent two half-day sessions working on this space. We started here:

 
 

The biggest problem area were the large plastic tote bins. They were towering on the shelving unit, hanging off about six inches. These held all her work supplies and needed to remain on these shelves. We spent half of the session editing these down so we could consolidate as much as possible. We emptied a few bins/containers that she could repurpose elsewhere in the home and made a list of what we needed to finish up. We decided on the smaller Samla bins from Ikea and color-code the labels; this makes it easier to know what's what at a glance.

We decided that all craft supplies would live on the peg board and used the hooks she had in place, picking up a few buckets from Michaels to store all the paint brushes, pens, markers, pencils, etc. This is definitely my favorite part of this room and I would call this a Pinterest win!

We swapped out the DIY work station for a proper Ikea table (shout out to another client for selling it to us). Puzzle and paper storage moved away from behind the office door to under the table.

 
 

This was an incredible transformation and it was just a few adjustments and designating homes for items that made the difference. What's your favorite organizing tip for a work-from-home or office space?

Transformation Tuesday #50: Get Your Garage Ready for Spring!

As I've mentioned before, the garage is that critical space that most people pass through everyday, but can't seem to get a handle on keeping organized. Some people struggle with being able to park their vehicle in the garage. Oftentimes when that happens, the garage starts to accumulate more stuff from empty Amazon boxes that you don't have time to break down, to friends or family needing a "quick storage spot" and leaving their stuff for safekeeping.

I spent a half day with a client going through her garage so that we could make room for her car. We spent about an hour sorting through, box by box, grouping into these categories:

  1. Trash
  2. Recycle
  3. Donation
  4. Keep - store in house
  5. Keep - store in garage

After an hour of sorting, I started moving the categories of items around. It happened to be trash day (yay!) so clearing that out helped free up floor space. All the items she wanted to keep in the garage didn't take up that much room, so I was able to stack a few bins alongside the wall. This is a great opportunity to grab a broom and clear out the cobwebs.

 
 

I moved donation items to my car so I could haul those away then spent the rest of the time putting various household items back inside. This is what takes the longest, but after seeing a newly cleared space, should give you a little boost of energy so you can finish out the project.

Are you ready to work on your garage this spring?

 

 

Meet the Minimalist: Rachel Corwin

A year has flown by since I joined the world of self-employment and I couldn’t be happier! It has been an incredible experience, learning so much about myself, this work, my clients, being equal parts terrified and thrilled to be running my own business.

So much has changed over the past year and I wanted to acknowledge that in this “interview." Seems cheesy but I also thought it was a good time to reflect on the questions I have asked others for this minimalism series and decide how I would answer them today.

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What sparked your interest in simplifying and decluttering?

I used to have one great response to this but now I have three! So here goes:

When I returned from an Australian vacation, my boss asked why I hadn’t responded to a particular email they sent. I was immediately alarmed that they would even ask this question and thought they must be joking. But they kept talking about it! Then I became frustrated and decided it was time for a change, to dial down the long hours I had been working up to my trip.

I started making small changes like scheduling a lunch break. It sounds so simple yet if it didn’t go on my calendar, it didn’t happen. I made a point to eat lunch with my colleagues outside (it was an incredible summer!) and take real breaks where I would walk around, get away from my desk, look away from my screen.

During this time, I started to realize that I wanted and needed to make a change in my career path. I had worked in human resources for ten years and the thought of changing jobs, let alone a career, was pretty stressful. I had to reflect and take my own advice that I would give to others. Think about my transferable skills, what companies would I want to work for, if I wasn’t in HR, what field would I be in? Would I need to go back to school?

I continued asking myself these questions for the next couple months when I discovered The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book really spoke to me because I realized that I felt out of control in the work area of my life, not knowing what to do next, and decided to take control of my stuff, the physical things around me that were cluttering up my life.

 

So that sounds like two things … wasn’t there a third?

Yes! Let me tell my long story long, self! When I was creating my last capsule wardrobe, I realized that I’ve always had capsule wardrobes and been into simplifying. When I was five years old, my parents divorced. I would pack a bag every Wednesday and every other weekend to take to my dad’s house. I had to be really thoughtful about what was going on that weekend - was there a birthday party, were we traveling anywhere, what was the weather going to be like, and pack accordingly.

It was devastating to forget something at my mom’s when I really wanted to wear a particular shirt for an event during a weekend with dad or misplaced a book that I needed to read for school. From a very young age, I had to get into planner mode and be resourceful with what I had and make it work.

 
The first picture I posted on my blog of myself in the midst of organizing! So nice to enjoy an empty space.

The first picture I posted on my blog of myself in the midst of organizing! So nice to enjoy an empty space.

 


What’s your philosophy on stuff?

As a child, I think like a lot of kids, I wanted things - books, dolls, crafts, games, clothes, etc. I was very good at sharing, growing up with three other siblings. I loved my things and had great respect for them.

Moving back to Seattle after college, I had accumulated a lot of random crap. I think during high school, we keep so many weird knickknacks, notes, pictures, mementos and we don’t really go through it until we start moving our things, whether it’s moving for school or for a job. I just kept all that stuff in a box and didn’t really think about it until I settled in my current home, which I’ve been in for nearly ten years.

We need stuff to do stuff. I need some mugs to drink my tea, I need some clothes to wear to work, etc. It’s the excess that drives me crazy! All the deals/bargains/coupons out there are telling us that we need multiples of all the things and we just don’t.

Recently, I treated myself to a Stitch Fix box, mainly because I had a referral credit and gift card on my account, so I could probably get one or two items. I have a history of buying the entire box because 1) I have an awesome stylist (shout out to Natalia!) and 2) there’s a 25% discount when purchasing all five items.

At a glance, I loved all the items she sent me. Two tops, a lightweight sweater, a dress, and a statement necklace. I tried everything on and didn’t love the dress or the striped shirt. I mean, I liked them enough that I was willing to spend about $100 to keep the whole box. Then I thought I could sell the two items I didn’t plan to wear on one of the Stitch Fix Facebook groups. And then I took my own advice that I’m always giving to clients (when they ask!): choose only what you truly love, forget the rest.

I really didn’t need another statement necklace and the two items weren’t a great fit/I wasn’t thrilled with the material. I knew I didn’t really want to spend time posting the items and waiting around for someone to buy so I dropped them in the return bag and sent off right away.

 

Do you consider a minimalist?

I do now! Minimalism for me is about having a few choices and making the best one that works for me and the lifestyle I want. It’s also about investing in things that I want to last so that I’m not constantly shopping for the perfect sofa/dress/skillet whatever … I don’t want to use all my brain power on these decisions and I want to channel that energy into doing things I love like being with my friends, traveling internationally with my partner, that kind of thing.

A friend’s mantra is if you have less stuff, you have less to take care of. To me, this means I don’t have to move things around to sweep the floor, it’s not a chore to find something because it’s not buried at the bottom of a closet.

 

What has been the most beneficial to having a minimalist mindset?

I don’t impulse shop like I used to! I’m much better about taking a list with me and sticking to it. I can easily window shop and not feel like I’m missing out when I don’t buy something.

I also try to focus on using up what I have. I’ve wasted so much food over the years because I didn’t pay attention to expiration dates on things and would overbuy (and not always clean out the fridge or pantry in a timely fashion). This has helped me get more creative with meal planning because I need to make do with what I have.

 

Will you ever be done organizing your own home?

I don’t think I will ever be completely done because life is happening all around me! I’ll have an especially busy week with clients and I can tell by looking at my entry way - there may be a pile of laundry, stacks of mail, the random to do items that creep up.

Each season, I create a new capsule wardrobe and it’s a good reminder to pull things out of the closet, dust them off, decide what to keep, what I’m ready to let go of.

 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned as an organizer?

That it can take time to let go of things. I noticed this for myself when I was doing another round of editing my clothes and knickknacks in my bedroom. I have a drawer where I store some jewelry and random things. I finally let go of these pins that I had since I was 14! Never took them out of the package and I wasn’t saving them to give to someone in particular.

Also realizing that it’s ok to not like something that you used to, whether it’s a book, article of clothing, a gift from someone. You have permission to not enjoy it anymore and that means it can be enjoyed by someone else, it does not need to take up space in your home or space in your mind.

We hang on to these ideas of “I should love this {insert name of thing} because {insert reason}.” Guess what? These ideas can go out the window and it doesn’t make you any less grateful for having given the thing a home because it was a gift, or you used to love that jacket but it’s just not your style anymore. If you can keep these things to a minimum, putting them into a box or having them in a space in your home where you are reminded of them, but don’t need to make a decision about right away, can be really helpful. Then, when you’re ready, it feels so effortless to give it away.


 

What’s your advice to someone who’s ready to start simplifying?

I know I love a good transformation and can be tempted to do things in one fell swoop, but that isn’t always practical. That method itself can be too overwhelming and dramatic.

Each person needs to figure out what works for them and I really do believe starting small is a great way to go. This starts with the question of why do they want to simplify - are they feeling overwhelmed by stuff, work, relationships?

This was something that my friend Alex talked about when she starting simplifying - she started saying no to the never-ending obligations, requests, and invites.

Talk about it with people that are important to you - your partner, kids, friends, parents, colleagues, neighbors. This might spark ideas on how you can help each other create that positive change together and build in accountability.

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So that’s my interview - thanks for playing along!  I would love to hear any questions you have for me after reading this - let me know in the comments.

Transformation Tuesday #49: that bathroom drawer again!

In my sprucing adventures last week with my mom, she found she had all kinds of extra little clear containers which I decided to repurpose for this week's project: that bathroom drawer.

I think this is my third iteration on this drawer but now I feel like it's just how it's supposed to be, know what I'm talking about?

My mom gave me a larger clear container that I turned sideways so I could shift things around. Also, since I recently cut my hair short again, I could move the hair ties and bobby pins toward the back (always good to have a few of these around). 

If you need a quick tidiness/happiness boost, here's how to conquer the toiletries drawer:

  1. Empty the entire drawer and wipe it down
  2. Have your cat join you for moral support (Archie just stared at me the whole time)
  3. Replace like items back into containers (hair, skincare, makeup, dental care, etc)
  4. Toss anything that's expired and donate unused shampoo, toothpaste, lotions, etc (or partially used, depending on the charity - the Ballard Food Bank accepts half used toiletries)
 
 

And voila! A quick tidy up can save you a little bit of time when you're getting ready to head out or when you're sleepily washing your face before  you crash for the night.

Transformation Tuesday #49: Basement + Laundry storage

This is a particularly fun transformation post because I did this with my mom, the person who taught me to be organized, respect my things, and keep small spaces tidy!

She and my stepdad moved to LA two years ago for his job and she wanted to go through some of the bins that she had hurriedly packed away during the move. She's no stranger to tackling these projects on her own but I offered to help because I knew that with our powers combined, we would be pretty speedy. Plus I was helping haul away all the donation items.

First, we started with the laundry area. We started with the way back and went bin by bin. Our goal was to clear out trash and donations, then repack items for storing. This was mostly fancy dishware, my stepdad's jam-making paraphernalia, and a few odds and ends. In two hours, we filled up the recycling and trash bins, and had tower of four or five empty storage bins. We got rid of about half the stuff that was stored down there!

 
 

Mom would have kept going but I forced her to take a coffee break. We needed to re-energize with some lattes and shortbread.

When we got back to it, we worked on the storage underneath the stairwell. This contained clothes, outdoor gear, and my mom's house decor (Christmas and other seasonal stuff). We pared down quite a bit here as well - maybe about a third of the stuff went away. Although my mom is still hanging on to my First Communion dress and veil (which is 25 years old, btw). Since she purged so much other stuff, I told her I would not judge her for hanging onto this!

 
 

After all was said and done, Mom said she felt good about having me there to speed up the process, help make decisions, and of course, clear stuff away so that it wasn't sitting around the house.

These projects are so much easier with a buddy! What kind of home projects do you like having a friend or family member help out with?

Transformation Tuesday #48: Where It All Began

I was racking my brain for ideas on transformations to post about when I stumbled across pictures of my own home improvement. I was kind of shocked to see the before picture because I really don't remember what my living room used to look like!

This was the moment that I realized "it all begin here" ... meaning, the decision to save up (in cash, no less!) for bamboo flooring in my little condo was the moment where I decided I wanted to really love my home. I knew I was going to stay here for a while and my partner had moved in a few months earlier. There was a need to make the space our own.

This project paved the way for all the organizing projects I've done since - you know things are going to get worse before they get better (having tools out everywhere during construction or pulling everything out and sorting when purging). That feeling when everything is back where it should be is priceless. Once we completed installing the new flooring, it was easier to maintain (we have cats) and we slowly started updating our furniture, piece by piece.

 
 

It was fun to look back and see how dramatic the change was from darker furniture, lots of dark chocolate browns and light cream accents to neutral blue-gray tones with pops of color. 

What's the biggest transformation that you've made in your home? Has it changed how you treat your stuff/maintain your space?

Transformation Tuesday #47: Memorabilia + Pictures

About two years ago, when I had the ultimate summer of funemployment, I decided to finally organize all my boxes of pictures.

First off, why do we shove pictures into weird, old boxes that collect dust? And pictures get all bent up? Why do we keep so many bad pictures (blurry, unflattering, etc)? I'm asking because I had still kept all of these myself!

During this round of organizing, I picked up two photo albums from the local craft store and got to work. I pared down maybe 30% of my photos and sorted them by "childhood" (through high school) and then "after" (college and beyond). After checking this off the list and texting my family some hilarious pictures from our childhood, I promptly packed up the books and put them in a corner of my closet. 

Fast forward to a month ago when a new client reached out, wanting assistance in finalizing her picture and memorabilia items. She had already done a fantastic job paring down several bankers boxes worth of stuff to about four boxes. We spent ten hours over a few days sorting through pictures, her editing out what she didn't want, then organizing them into handy photo containers. This made it easy for her to grab pictures from a particular trip or time in her life (childhood, high school, college, weddings, etc). 

This project inspired me to go back through my box - namely, the two bulky albums and pare them down to photo containers.

 
 

The two albums in the box and the one sitting next to it were all consolidated to three 5x7 photo containers! I tossed a few photos along the way - mostly duplicates. I came across a few things that I had forgotten about that I'm keeping at the top of the container so I can see it immediately and smile - my Cabbage Path adoption papers of Harriet Delilah (I didn't even remember that this was the doll's name) and a beautiful card from a family friend from when I was born. This friend gave these beautiful tiny cards that are colorful, with this gorgeous laser-cutting detail. I still have one from my first communion as well that she gave me because I love looking at them.

What has helped you in the organizing process when it comes to photos and childhood items? Anyone tackled yearbooks yet? 

 

Meet the Minimalist: Jenny MacLeod

Last September, Kat invited me to a trunk show and book release party. I looked up the book, How to Become Self-Employed in Seattle, and decided to check out the event. I picked up a copy and read it cover to cover. It’s like it was written for me. I immediately researched the author and saw that she offered consultations and I reached out right away.

We’ve been working together the last few months on how to organize my business, mainly the marketing ideas. Jenny was able to pick up very quickly my need to simplify not just in my work, but how I approached my business as well.

Through our conversations, I noticed that minimalism is a key theme in her work supporting others. I knew a little bit about her background from her website, but wanted to dig deeper.

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What sparked your interest in simplifying as it relates to your work and how your live your everyday life?


My parents divorced when I was seven and my mom moved once or twice a year. When you move that often, you tend not to collect as much stuff. I came to treasure my few belongings. Happily, she always made each place very homey with art and colorful items.

Meanwhile, my dad lived in the wilderness on the Yukon River in Alaska.  I spent the summers with him and a few winters too. We were 40 miles away from the nearest village. We had a dog team, melted snow for water, fished in the summers, no utilities. Four of us lived in a one-room cabin. My only space was four feet of storage under my bed.  It was a lovely and interesting time!

We were content in a contained space with very little stuff. It also taught me about our impact on the land. When we were done with any item, we would try to repurpose it, or we would burn it.  If we couldn’t do either, we’d have to put it in the dump on our land. This really makes a person think about what they’re using because putting something into the dump felt like a failure…because we were creating a scar on the land. Very little went to the dump.

 

These are two very different worlds, yet both had a theme of minimalism. What was that like as a kid growing up?

At first, I felt left out in many ways.  I always wished for a big, beautiful house with a yard and full pantry….and my own room with more clothes, toys.  But sometime in high school or college, that changed.

Since I was always moving, I was always adapting.  I became a people-watcher.  And in high school, I got to spend a lot of time with other families in big, beautiful homes.  I noticed some things.  First, I saw that most people spent all their time in one tiny part of the house! Second, I was amazed at all of the stuff that people owned. It was common for people to have garages so full, they couldn’t fit their cars in them.  That seemed funny to me, and like a burden (imagine having to move all of that!).  Most importantly, all of these families varied in happiness, some were, some were not. I saw that the idea that people with lots of stuff, in big, “wealthy” homes who had it all would be happy … well, it wasn’t actually true.

After college, I came across the book Material World. In it, families from around the world put everything they own out on their front yard. Americans had so much stuff!  And in other places, people had just a few items.  It was like looking in a mirror about what our culture does. It really impacted me to this day. I only want to take what I need and no more.

When I was a young mom, so many items came into our house for the kids - gifts, toys, hand-me-downs, supplies.  I made a regular practice of taking things to Goodwill.  I had this idea that whenever things came into the house, things needed to go out! I didn’t want my life to look like one of the homes in Material World.

Eventually, this taught me to restrict what comes in in the first place—to be more choosy about what we purchase and use.  I built this muscle as a mom early on.  I’m so happy that I did, because later, these same habits have helped me with managing email, social media and time.

 

You don’t have a cell phone - let’s talk about this! Has this always been the case, or what prompted this? 

I didn’t want to pay for a home phone and a cell phone. If I had a cell phone, I thought that at some point I would lose it or lose the charger so I made a choice to keep the home line.  I was fine with my choice.

But then, after cell phones started becoming more common, people started to put pressure on me to get one!  Whenever it came up, I’d think about it ... but then, I’d always have more reasons to not have a phone.   

They would say, “I wish I could call you to change plans or location.” I didn’t like the idea of having a cell phone just for this reason.  I liked sticking to a plan!  Out-of-town family would say, “Then I could call you to visit.”  Well, if I’m in a store with two kids, I couldn’t be visiting with them anyway!

Some would question my logic or sense of responsibility with “What if your kid is sick at school?” I would tell them “well, they would lay in the nurse’s office until I got home and got the message that they’re sick. That’s how it used to be when we were growing up.”

The pressure made me more thoughtful about phones, and again, I’d watch behaviors.  I noticed people would allow their phones to distract from our conversations.  Or be late.  Or check in with work more often.

I really like being present and more and more it felt like a cell phone would distract me. I started to see not having a phone as a tool to be present and really in conversations with people.

Over the years, reactions from others have changed from:  why not? ... to concern/worry … to awe/disbelief, and now, many say to me, “I wish I could do that.”  I thought I would need to get one when I went back to work, but haven’t so far!  Now it’s like a social experiment - how long can I go without a cell phone!

Both my kids have smartphones and my husband used to have one but downgraded to a dumbphone as an experiment.

 

Are there any best practices or family guidelines about the kids’ use of their phones?

The only rule is that there are no phones when we’re eating. I want to create some more rules (like maybe a parking lot for phones for bedtime).  But for now, I think it’s a start that we are role modeling having limits with technology and making choices around this.

In the future, I want to have some discussions around the risks of using their phone too much, not being too reliant on it, not while driving, etc.  And, the idea that they need to take breaks.

 

We had a conversation during a meeting recently about how people are expected to keep up with all the different technologies, learn every skillset, and also run their homes with ease / raise brilliant children. This just seems impossible! I thought it was very relevant and a great reason why people need to outsource certain things in order to be good at just one or two things.


It’s so true!  It’s like we have to be Supermom boosted!  And not just moms - women, men, everybody.  There are a variety of crazy pressures on us.

First, the internet, magazines, and culture tell us we need to be great in so many areas.  We need to be in shape, do yoga, marathons, cook everything, have a garden, be sexy, be financially stable, have children who are sporty, speak another language, test super high, etc. Facebook adds to this, where it’s a constant stream of people at their best. It makes the bar high in so many areas.

Next, because all the resources are available to do everything, we’re supposed to do everything ourselves.  Clean and decorate, find new recipes, download a workout schedule….and research everything!  The best trip to France, the best insurance plan, the best place to buy a car.

On top of that, technology is always changing.  There is a constant pressure to upgrade, or things won’t work.  This means we’re always having to relearn our tools.  It’s so disruptive.  As we get older and wiser, the idea is that we can get more efficient in our work. With tools changing all the time, it takes away because we have to stop and relearn the technology.

I have felt these pressures increasing over the last 15 years, and have been fighting them in my own ways, thanks to some amazing books!  

Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz was huge for me, and helped me instantly. He started with “is too much choice a bad thing?” He was at the forefront of the discussion around decision fatigue. He also explained how trying to maximize every decision actually created a lot of stress and unhappiness.  He encourages readers to look for the good enough.  This took a lot of pressure off me!

Another great book I read, advised readers to be pointy, not well-rounded … as in develop your strengths and outsource the rest.  This was Now, Discover Your Strengths, based on Gallup Research. You can’t be super strong in one area when you are trying to do a million other things.

Many other books inspired me to want space in my life, physically and mentally, for being present, for happiness, for peacefulness.  

To do this means embracing some limits.  

 
 

 

You’re in the business of helping others, in a way, simplify their business ideas / goals. If you weren’t doing this kind of work, what would you do?

I would probably be teaching art to preschoolers—I used to do that and loved it, or I’d thought about being a remodel consultant for moms. In an alternate universe, I’d have gone to grad school and would be doing social science research.

My next dream job is to be a professional critiquer (I don’t know if this exists.)  Where I would look for everything that is or isn’t working in a space or user experience.  I love making things work so the customer feels welcome and taken care of.

As an older lady, I’d love to create large, concept sculpture.  

Oh!  Or I would be a bartender. I love a Negroni served up and with an orange twist.

 

Why do you believe it’s such a struggle for people to get clarity on their own / why work with a business coach? What do you see as the biggest roadblocks for them?

I think this is related to the other questions - the biggest struggle is that there’s a lot of parts of the business to work on and so many options and/or tools to do it.  Self-employed folks feel the pressure to do it all and to do it all themselves. Just because you have a business doesn’t mean you need a website and Facebook and QuickBooks and to offer coupons. Every idea they have heard, people think that they have to do.

The other thing is that research can be overwhelming. It can be hard to find an answer and then you think you have to keep researching. You could look at how to market a small business for three weeks straight!  People will look at websites of others in their field and think “they are already doing it” or “they are doing it better than me.” It makes it hard to start because of that pressure.

The fun part for me is to ask clients what they want most and help them get that.  We focus in on what they really want (with work and life), who they want to work for, and what their style is.  We use those things to say yes to some strategies and tools and no to others.

A really big thing is to pick tools that you like.  For example, if you are on Facebook and love using it, then yes, use it for your business!  But if you hate Facebook, then don’t!  If you like QuickBooks, then great.  If you hate it, then use something else—Excel, a notebook, or hire a bookkeeper.  

People come in with a lot of “shoulds” around business. I ask what they WANT and LIKE and do these as much as possible. I help them limit the tools and plans so they can get some movement on their plans.  I suppose this is a more minimalist approach.

 

Do you consider a minimalist?

Hmm, at first I didn’t, but now I think I do! When I first heard this word, I kind of imagined someone who had an apartment with a white carpet, two pieces of furniture, very spare and spartan.

Then I realized, I like minimalism. It means having a few things that you love and that work for you, and blocking out the rest. I actually think this is the most important skill that the next generation needs - to learn how to block out the stuff they don’t want or need. There is always a flood of opportunities and pressures and things you “should” do.

Limiting what comes into my life saves me so much time and energy later, and creates more room for the simple pleasures and what makes life feel special.

 

What’s your advice to someone who’s feeling the overwhelm and wants to start simplifying their life?

Write out everything that is bothering you or is on your mind. Just get it all out so you can see it. We’re not allowed to “complain” in this culture. This is your chance. First, observe how much you were carrying around!

Then, find a way to work on one thing at a time. Perhaps, write each one on an index card and pick one to do at a time … perhaps randomly. Or pick the easiest thing to do on the list, get it done, then cross it off.

And/or, I suggest picking up a great book for inspiration and guidance.  Perhaps, Getting Things Done, by David Allen, or the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, of course.  Or The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

And, I really recommend getting a book vs. looking at the internet.  The book is limited and contained.  ☺

 

What else do you want people to know about the life of Jenny Girl Friday?

My son has a wrench for a doorknob, we have a dirt yard, I drive an old VW van and have to get in through the passenger side door … all of that is to say our life may look a little quirky or unfinished from the outside …  But, I’m very happy and love my life.  My teenagers are really funny and easy to spend time with, and my husband is constantly doing interesting things!  I love my friends and Seattle community. I'm doing my dream work (my clients are the best!).

Somewhere, I read or figured out … to identify the #1 thing you really want in your life and find a way to have it or work toward it … and then, it’s easy to give up other things and have less when you have that number one priority in your life. For me, I wanted to savor my life each day, which means loving my work, a peaceful home/family life and having a few simple pleasures.  

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I felt so energized after this interview. She had so many great bits of wisdom to share and quite a few book recommendations that I want to add to my reading list.

If you want to learn more about Jenny’s work as a new-fashioned Girl Friday, you can find her on her website. If you need a kickstart to tackling all your business to do’s or have just bouncing some ideas around self-employment, grab a copy of her book here. You’ll find everything from handy checklists to words of encouragement for working your dream job.


 

Transformation Tuesday #46: the Craft Box

I love transformations, big and small, and the craft box, or "stash" as my friend explains here, is no exception!

Last month, I decided to remove the gift wrap/craft storage that hung over the door of my hall closet, mainly because the hook was starting to bend which meant I had too much stuff. I consolidated ribbon, a couple gift bags, and all the art supplies into whatever box I had around the house. This sat on my bedroom floor for about a month (yikes!) until I found the right storage solution.

I decided to treat myself to a trip to Storables and found the large Cascade bin in gray - I wanted something pretty and sturdy. I also needed an odd size in order to fit my practice calligraphy pad and this was one of the few options out there.

 
 

Seeing all my supplies in a nicer bin makes me so happy and it was such a quick fix. What kind of tiny transformations have you made around your home? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Transformation Tuesday #45: Unpacking the Bedroom Closet

I had the privilege of working with my dear friend who recently moved to Ballard and needed to strategize how to set up her closet. She and her husband, the talent behind these fun videos, moved to the neighborhood so they both could be closer to work and save time off their commute.

Not only was I thrilled to have more pals nearby, but this meant I got to help them out with getting their closet the way they want it. That's the fun part about moving - you're starting over in a new space and can set things up that make sense and make life easier.

Crystal had already done a significant clothing purge before moving. We didn't get a chance to connect before they had to leave their old place what with work and travel, but I made it over there a couple days after they got into their new place.

We sorted by category and set aside a Uhaul box for all donation items. We ended up filling two boxes with clothes and shoes! I was impressed by her quick decision-making ability, by this time she had really built up that muscle and was just ready to get her closet in order.

We spent time talking through what types of items worked well for her corporate job and the numerous PR events she attends versus what she wants to wear when lounging around at home.  By the end of the afternoon, we had the left side of the closet with work only items, with a pants/skirt hanger used to help visually divide between that and the next mini wardrobe. She had quite a few items that are great year-round and can be worn at work or when she's out and about working on her side projects or hanging at home on the weekend. The far right of the closet housed tops and dresses that aren't part of her corporate wardrobe.

It was fun to see it come together and we'll have more pictures once she picks out a bed frame with built-in storage. Stay tuned for the final "after" pictures!