Sneaky Stockpiling

As I shared in a recent post, I sometimes have a hard time letting things go. I got new running shoes to replace a worn out pair, but kept wearing the old ones. I let the new ones sit on the shelf in the closet for months. The same thing happened with a pair of clogs at Christmas. I finally did move into the new shoes last week, but only because the soreness from running in the old shoes got to be too much. his is not new. Even as a child, when my mother bought me things I would put them in the drawer or closet and wouldn’t wear them for weeks. Apparently my stockpiling tendencies run deep. My family used to make fun and ask why I saved things for so long. I don’t think that I was ever able to answer them. So why was I saving my shoes? Part of me felt guilty for eating ice cream the day before and I didn’t feel like I deserved new shoes. Another part of me didn’t want to wear them because they were expensive and I don’t know when I will be able to afford another pair. Therefore, I wanted to delay using them as long as possible. Of course, I believe in using things completely. I believe that we should get all the use out of whatever we buy. But to continue to use something beyond its usefulness is impractical. To do this when you have a replacement is nothing more than stockpiling. Since I started simplifying I thought I had broken my tendency to stockpile. However, I am seeing that disuse is just another form of stockpiling. Stockpiling is not just buying more than what you need. Stockpiling is also not using what you already have. Either way you’re amassing a supply of something. Really, this is a trust issue. Isn’t it always? This is about me not trusting God to provide new running shoes when I need them. It is about a fear of scarcity or running out. Stockpiling is a behavior that is driven by fear. Stockpiling is a problem though. It’s a problem because when we stockpile we use things to comfort ourselves. We look to things to provide security instead of finding security in God’s promises to care for us. Another problem with stockpiling is that stockpiling can easily become hoarding. Hoarding is stockpiling taken to the extreme, where a person accumulates beyond the point of what is useful and beneficial. Storage becomes a problem; either finding enough space to keep all the stuff or finding a way to secure it. And this is where we see the ugly side of hoarding: obsession. At this point, the stuff owns us.   Not using what you have is just another form of stockpiling and it is rooted in fear. Judiciously use what you have and don’t give in to worry. When the time comes, ask God for what you need. He will take care of you.


Adventures on eBay

In the last month, one thing in particular has helped me to take minimalism to a new level: I have sold purses, old perfume, old jewelry, and even old books on eBay. Setting up an account is really simple.

Find Stuff

Look through your closet, bathroom, dresser or wherever else you keep stuff. Look to see if there’s anything there that you don’t use. Clothes, shoes, beauty products, anything. And don’t rule something out just because it is used. I have sold five bottles of used perfume on eBay. My aunt has sold used shoes. If you are looking to sell, chances are that there’s someone looking to buy. If you don’t want it, put it on eBay and get some cash for it. And a little extra cash is always good.

Set Up Your Account and Set up Your Auction

It is really easy to become a seller on eBay. Within a few minutes, I had registered myself as a seller. It took a bit longer to set up my first auction. There are a few steps involved. The loading of the pictures took the longest. You’ll also want to write an interesting description for your item. Set a price, specify shipping, and publish your post. Simple. And it is even easier with the mobile app. I only use the mobile app now because it is so much faster and easier.

Get Paid

Make sure your PayPal account is linked to your eBay account. You can go in and transfer the money to your checking account. There is an initial probation period. During this time, eBay and PayPal are checking you out, making sure you’re not defrauding people. During this period, it takes about three weeks for funds to clear. Funds clear faster after probation.

As you sell, eBay and PayPal get paid, too. They each charge a small fee for their services.

The Downsides

While eBay has helped me to simplify and make some extra cash (enough to pay student loans last month!), there are some downsides. The first is the constant running to the post office. I actually went to the post office twice today. It takes time out of your day to drive to the post office, stand in line, buy postage, and drive back home. This is time that could be spent writing, doing yoga, or doing laundry.

Another downside is that listing things on eBay can take time. Depending on how much you want to list, you could spend hours putting stuff on eBay. I have gotten faster, but it still takes about 7-10 minutes per item.

There is also packaging to consider. I am constantly going to buy bubble envelopes, boxes, and bubble wrap. I am always scouring the house for a box or newspaper to ship things in. Shipping supplies also cost money. This has to be figured into the cost of the item and whatever you charge for shipping.

Overall, selling on eBay has been a very good thing for me. There are some drawbacks, but I feel that the positives outweigh the negatives. If you have things you don’t need and wouldn’t mind having a little extra cash, consider using eBay to help you simplify.

What Happens After You Purge?

You’ve gone through your things. You’ve determined what to keep and what to part with. You know what things have to go. But what will you do with them? Here are a few ideas for those things that don’t make the cut:

Give it away. There is a good chance that someone could use the things you no longer need. Do you know a mom that needs kids clothes? Does your church distribute food or clothing? Do you live near a Goodwill or Salvation Army? There are may ways to give to people in need. That sweater you never wear could really be a blessing to someone else.

Sell it. Similarly, there are many places to sell your stuff. There are lots of consignment boutiques that will sell your things for you and give you a portion of the proceeds. I recently discovered the joy of selling on eBay. It’s pretty simple to set up and account and start selling. If you prefer something more immediate you could host a garage sale — alone or with neighbors. You could also sell things on Craigslist. If you want to sell, chances are, someone is looking to buy. And it never hurts to get some extra cash.

Barter it. Bartering is gaining popularity. It’s alternative to buying. It is a way to get something you need and get rid of something you don’t. And bartering is not limited to goods. You can barter services as well. Maybe you need a Powerpoint presentation made and a friend needs your books from last semester. Each of your needs could be met with a simple barter.

Toss it. If you can’t donate it, sell it, or barter it, you may have to trash it. Some things are fit only for the trash. You shouldn’t feel bad for putting these things in their rightful place. Recycle when you can. When you can’t, toss it.

Yes, purging is difficult. Not only do you have to decide what you don’t need, but you also have to decide what to do with the items you are parting with. Thankfully, we have options. And with a little patience and creativity, you may even be able to get something in exchange for the things you don’t need. See? Purging is good for everyone.


Five Ways to Simplify Your Life Today

Sometimes the process of simplifying can be overwhelming. There are dressers to go through, closets to clean, and changes to be made. Just thinking about all that needs to be done is enough to make you want to give up on minimalism.

Don’t despair, dear one. Minimalism is a journey. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. It might not even be realistic to try to simplify everything right away. It is probably best to do it a little at a time.

In our society, though, even one step can be a major undertaking. It can take hours to clean out a closet. It could take days to clean out a garage. What if you don’t have the time or energy to complete a major project?

Fear not. There are ways to simplify your life without committing hours and hours of time. These are things you can do even with a hectic schedule. Here are five things you can do today to simplify your life:

  • Unsubscribe from store emails. Clearing clutter is central to the minimalist lifestyle.  The clutter on the bookshelf is easily seen. Electronic clutter may not be as obvious. While it is mostly invisible, electronic clutter is a problem because it consumes your time and attention. Do you have emails from retailers?  Hit “Unsubscribe.” Fewer store emails means less time cleaning out your inbox. It will also cut you off from the store’s advertisements, decreasing the chance that you’ll purchase from them.
  • Clean out your wallet. It’s a small project, but one that will benefit just about everybody. Are you storing receipts in your wallet? Go through them. Discard the ones you no longer need. Accumulating business cards? Enter meaningful contacts into your phone. Throw out the rest. And of course, dump out all your change. Your wallet will be lighter and thinner.
  • Do a mini-purge. Choose one surface (kitchen counter, dresser, vanity) and focus on cleaning that just surface. You don’t have to go through the whole dresser, just clear off the top. Clearing even a small surface is a step in the right direction.
  • Throw out 5 things. Look through your purse, backpack, briefcase, bathroom, refrigerator or another area. Look through your old mail. Look in the trunk of your car. Find five things and throw them out. Not a big step, but small steps repeated over time can have a big impact.
  • Unplug. We spend so much time connected to our devices. There is no shortage of sites to look at, statuses to update, and profiles to manage. These things take time and energy. One way to simplify is simply to unplug; to step away from our devices and do something relaxing. You can read, go out for a walk, or take a nap. The main thing is that you clear some space in your mind and in your schedule.

Minimalism takes time, but it can be done little by little. You may not be able to do a full purge by tomorrow but you can do something small. There are small things you can do today, usually in a few minutes, that will make your life simpler. What can you do today?

Minimalism – Heart and Soul

Earlier today, I had an experience that caused me to question my commitment to minimalism. I looked at my bottle of perfume and decided that I would buy a new one. I love, love, love this fragrance and my employer is offering it to employees for almost 60% off. That’s an incredibly good deal. Being a bargain shopper, I decided to take advantage. That doesn’t sound like overconsumption. Minimalists wear perfume, too.

The problem is this: my current bottle of that fragrance is nearly full. Still, I decided to buy another – simply because it was a good deal. My aunt reminded me that I didn’t need another bottle because the one I have is full. I responded that my current bottle was the smaller size and would only last a few months. Surely that justifies purchasing another bottle, right?

After taking some time to think about it, I realized that I really don’t need another bottle of perfume. The urge to buy was partly fueled by my desire to get a good deal. But it was partly driven my tendency to stockpile. A few months worth of perfume should be enough for anybody. But my mind didn’t see what I actually had, it only saw what I didn’t have.

I consider myself an aspiring minimalist. I have a ways to go, but I have already begun simplifying my life. I have fewer clothes and body products. I buy less stuff. I get more use out of what I have. I have simplicity in my head, but is it in my heart?  Am I really living this thing out? Or is my commitment to simplicity so shallow that I can’t resist a good deal?

I look back at the progress I’ve made in simplifying my life. My attitude about stuff has changed dramatically. I have given away bags and bags of clothes and shoes. I have saved a lot of money. I have spent more time doing the things I love than ever before. This makes me want to simplify even more. I am thoroughly convinced that having fewer possessions leads to a fuller, freer life.

My life bears some of the fruits of minimalism, and I am really encouraged by that. It’s not just a cute idea, or something interesting to write about. This is how I live my life. It is a part of me. And getting caught up in the heat of the perfume moment does not change that.

Just because I’ve chosen to simplify doesn’t mean that I will never again feel the urge to purchase something that I like. What is does mean is that I will give careful consideration before I plop down the debit card. It means that I will determine whether the purchase will meet a genuine need, feed my need for security, or simply provide an emotional high. It means that I will buy only what is essential.

Minimalism isn’t about not feeling the urge to buy things. It’s about not giving in to the urge.

Do you still struggle with the urge to buy? How does it effect you? How do you get through it? I would love to hear about it. Comments are welcome.

Integrating Minimalism Into Your Life: The Mini-Purge

There are lots of ways to do minimalism. Typically, when I think of minimalism and simplicity, I have images of going through everything I own and spending hours deciding what to keep and what to throw away. This is certainly one approach, and it is appropriate in some situations.

For some, this can be overwhelming. For others, it simply is not practical. With jobs and classes and kids, it may not be possible to dedicate several hours to the task of simplifying.

In order to simplify, you have to determine what is essential and what to eliminate or purge. Purging is absolutely necessary. It must be done. However, it doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can take place over a series of mini-purges.

A mini-purge is simply a focused purge. Perhaps is strictly limited to old paperwork, or shoes, or (gasp) beauty products. It’s not the full-scale purging of everything. It’s a smaller, more manageable examination of a particular set of things.

I did a mini-purge yesterday. Yesterday’s purge was focused on items of clothing that are now too big. I purged shirts and undergarments. I am so proud to report that I tossed a third of my undergarments and I managed to part with a few shirts, too.

How did I accomplish my mini-purge?

  • I had a focus. I specifically set out to purge undergarments and shirts. I didn’t go through pants and skirts (those are next). I didn’t do shoes or books. I only addressed two things. My next mini-purge will be about something else.
  • I had criteria. I decided to donate or toss (in the case of undergarments) anything of a certain size –  no matter how cute or what function it served. Clothes that are too big don’t look cute when worn. I also decided to donate items that I didn’t like or didn’t look right. I want to get to the point where every piece of my wardrobe looks good and fits well. With this in mind, I purged. My criteria were set from the beginning, so there wasn’t much to think about as I went.

These two things kept me focused, so my mini-purging session was over pretty quickly. Focused. Simple. Efficient. Totally doable (for anybody).

I always feel good after a purge, but yesterday’s purge was especially fun because it marked a milestone on my journey to my ideal weight. I said farewell to all clothing items of one size, and that felt great.

The result of my mini-purge is that I have more room and less clutter. I feel better. And someone is going to get some new shirts. Everybody wins when you eliminate clutter. And eliminating clutter step by step is how you integrate minimalism into your everyday life.

The Next Level

Over the last several months, I’ve been simplifying my life. In addition to purging unused shoes, clothes, books, and makeup, I’ve also been working on not buying more stuff. It is definitely a journey, but I am making progress.

However, it’s time to take it to the next level. When I discovered minimalism, I was staying with a friend temporarily. Most of my stuff was in storage. I had only what I would need from day to day. I have since relocated to my grandparents’ house. The vast majority of my stuff remains in storage.

I’m proud of the progress that I’ve made, but I want to go deeper. I want to commit to going through my storage units and selling, donating, or throwing out everything that I do not absolutely need.

Yes, it will be quite an undertaking. It will take weeks. It will require moving things, going into boxes and most likely, several trips to Goodwill. But it must be done.

Why now? Because I want more from minimalism, and from life in general. I believe that I will be in a better position to move into the life I want if I have less stuff.

I am also thinking ahead. I know that I won’t live with my grandparents forever. I will take those things out of storage at some point. Rather than having to go through this process when I move out, I would rather purge little by little now, so that I will only be moving the essentials.

I think that I am also settling into minimalism. I have gotten more comfortable with the idea of living with less. I have been doing this for about nine months now, and I see that it’s not so bad. I think I can take it a step further. I can get rid of those old clothes. I can put that furniture on Craigslist. I can do this.

So far, my encounter with minimalism has been pretty superficial. Now it’s time to fully engage. I find this prospect both terrifying and exciting. Can I really do it? Will I regret it later? Only time will tell, but I will never know if I never try.

Wish me luck!

Fear Exposed – The Root Of It All

I’ll admit it: I have a problem with bath products. I can’t even begin to describe the stash of bath products under my bed. To say that I collect various products in various scents is a gross understatement.

But it’s not all about smelling good (though part of it is about that). It’s not even all about the sales (though that’s part of it, too). Part of it is about the fear of not having it when I need it. This is at the root of it all.

It started when I was in college, and I didn’t have a car. So the summer before my first year I stockpiled all kinds of things that I didn’t want to run out of, from soap to ketchup packets. It was so bad that at the end of the year, I had a huge bin of bath products. There was enough to sustain my mother and me for six months.

As ridiculous as it may be, that same fear still lives in me. It’s the reason that I get a new stick of deodorant the minute my current stick reaches the halfway mark. It’s the reason I that I have three extra toothbrushes. It’s the reason that I go crazy when the Body Shop has a sale. Sometimes it’s about not wanting to physically run out of something because I somehow think that it will be catastrophic (like deodorant). Sometimes, it’s about buying it now because I’m not sure I will be able to buy it later. Either way, it’s the fear of running out that causes me to buy and buy and buy.

Committing to live simply has forced me to deal with this fear head on. I can’t just go to The Body Shop and mindlessly buy body butters. No, I have to deal with it for what it is: fear. I’ve been shopping based on fear for years. It’s interesting that no matter how much I bought, it didn’t make the fear go away. Sure, it would temporarily mitigate it, but the fear always came roaring back, and I would dutifully go and shop.

Now, when I start feeling anxious about my reserves, I have to work through the fear of running out. I have to remind myself of my ridiculous stash, and tell myself that I will not run out. I have to remind myself of my commitment to minimalism, and that shopping will not be consistent with my new lifestyle. I have to remind myself that I already have more than what I need. Usually, I have to think back to the root of the fear and address it.

Once again, it comes down to trusting God’s provision (see this blog post). Will I/Can I trust God to make sure that I have deodorant? It sounds silly, but this is what it’s about. For me, this is part of what minimalism is about: trusting God. Yes, clearing clutter is part of it. Yes, being free to live the life of my dreams is part of it. Saving money, unplugging from consumerism, downsizing, are all facets of minimalism. But for me, part of it is learning to trust God and his provision.

In less than a year, minimalism has improved my life. It has saved me money and helped me to clear clutter. I has helped me to unplug from the consumerist culture, and to give more thought to what I really need. It has given me a different focus. And it has forced me to confront one of my deepest fears. It has impacted me more than I thought it would, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

Kitchen Sink

I have an embarrassing confession to make. If you took a look in my purse, you would never know that I am a minimalist. Twice this week, people commented on how much I have stuffed into my purse. People ask how I can carry it without back and/or shoulder pain. According to my coworker, I have everything in there but the kitchen sink.

Of course, I never intended to have a purse with a jungle inside. It just happened… very gradually. And that’s the way it tends to be: you add a little something here, drop a couple of items in there, and soon enough your purse weighs as much as a small child.

Just so you can get an idea of what’s in my purse, I’ll list some of the contents:

  • wallet
  • sunglasses w/ case
  • makeup bag, which contains an embarrassing array of products: 4 lip liners, 5 lipsticks, 4 lip glosses, 1 lip balm, and 1 lip brush
  • car key
  • house key
  • coin purse
  • iPod touch
  • hand lotion
  • mirror
  • a bottle of Aleve (nearly empty)
  • a bottle of prescription naproxen
  • comb
  • gum
  • tissue
  • hair ties (3)
  • mini jewelry catalogues (10)
  • powder (to remove excess oil from my face)
  • facial blotting papers (also to remove excess oil from my face)
  • library card
  • samples of Elizabeth Arden facial moisturizer and anti-aging serum
  • miscellaneous mail
  • gift cards: Cheesecake Factory, Target, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks
  • feminine products (4)
  • business cards (2)
  • assorted pieces of jewelry
  • 1 fiber bar
  • 4 pens, 1 highlighter
  • assorted receipts
  • a plastic water bottle

I know, I know, it’s ridiculous — even for a non-minimalist. But for a minimalist, the state of my purse is an abomination.

In examining the contents of my purse, I realize four things:

  1. that I have trouble differentiating what I need from what I want
  2. that I have not yet conquered the fear that “I may need it later”
  3. that I will use the “just in case” rationale to justify just about anything
  4. that I don’t know how to make do with what I have on hand

I knew that I had lots of room for improvement as I pursue simplicity in my life, but I had no idea that my consumerist/hoarding tendencies were this severe. I read about people who have simplified their lives to the point where they can fit everything they own into a backpack. They own little, and they carry even less. What kind of minimalist am I when I carry all this crap with me everywhere I go?

This is ridiculous. If I can’t simplify my purse, how can I simplify my life? If  I can’t sensibly determine the things that I need to have with me at all times, how can I hope to determine the things I need in my life overall?

Though I am very discouraged by my lack of progress, I am committed to steady improvement. I have decided to challenge myself with these immediate changes:

  • where I have multiples, I will reduce to just one
  • seriously reevaluate what I need to have with me. Do I really need a mirror all the time? When is the last time I have been to the Cheesecake Factory? (perhaps I need to take a trip there and use these gift cards)
  • clear the clutter. It’s time to remove the mail, the receipts, the fiber bar, the water bottle…

The real challenge will be long term: learning what it is that I truly need, and sticking with that.

Shoe Addiction

For me, there’s always a reason to buy a pair of shoes. Whether it’s an upcoming special event or the outfit that makes my legs look great, it seems that I aways need a pair of shoes. Or so I tell myself.

I was doing some online shoe shopping earlier today. Why was I doing this? Yes, part of the reason is that I was helping my aunt (who has a legitimate need for shoes) find a new pair. The main reason, though, is the fact that I always believe that I need another pair of shoes.

Until I made a commitment to simple living, I never questioned this “need.” I believed that I needed shoes, so I bought. And bought. And bought.  Fast forward a few years and I have a HUGE plastic tote full of shoes.  But did that stop me from shoe shopping today? Of course not!

I am pleased to report that I purchased no shoes. Why? Because minimalism has destroyed my love for shoes? Not at all. It has made me stop and think, though. While salivating over my computer, I was able to stop and ask myself “Do I really need this?”

Today I was forced to reexamine my constant “need” for shoes. Why do I need more shoes? I only have two feet! I have enough shoes to last me a long time. I don’t have a genuine need for shoes. What I have is a desire for more shoes. And that is another matter entirely.

For me, this is what minimalism is about. It’s not about denying my needs. It’s about determining my needs, and focusing on those needs. It’s about asking myself “Do I truly need this? Can I do without?” It’s about focusing on what I need rather than collecting every single thing that I want. It’s not about asceticism or self punishment. It’s about freedom from excess.

Minimalism has caused me to question my “needs”. Even my need for more shoes. It has caused me to focus on my real needs, and to stay away from excess. For me, that’s what simplicity is about: choosing needs over wants.