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one dollar bills

No One Needs a Lifetime Supply of Anything!

Helpful Organizer BlogWhen I heard this phrase, “No one needs a lifetime supply of anything!” I laughed. I understand that the phrase is an exaggeration, but it is also true. Excessive shopping and stockpiling can create real issues. There is value in having a well stocked pantry, and it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, but when do we have enough? We are constantly being encouraged to buy, and the message that more is better is pushed on us. It is often difficult to know when we have enough and when we have too much.

When I asked a group of business women the question, “What does more stuff equal?” I was thinking they would answer that more stuff equals more to organize and maintain, but the resounding answer was, “More Stress!” These women clearly understood that more is not always better, but do they live that way? The average American household has 300,000 things in it. How many of those things get used regularly or frequently? How much time is wasted taking care of all the things we own?

I’d like to propose an experiment. In order to become more mindful consumers, establish a self imposed shopping ban for one month. Buy only essentials, such as food, medications, and toiletries for a month. Purchase what is needed, but no surplus, excess, or impulse buys. If you’re up for a tougher challenge, extend your shopping ban to include take-out food and eating out for the month. Notice what happens. How does it feel? Is it difficult or easy to shop less and spend less? Please share your experience with me.

My husband and I imposed the tough shopping ban for one month and found that shopping less was fairly easy, but we are lazy cooks. When we’re tired or our pantry is bare, we succumb to the temptation to eat out or get take out. We decided to work on this. We are trying new recipes, experimenting with new food and ingredients, and visiting the grocery store more often. We’re still working on this, but I’m happy with our progress so far.

Here are some additional ideas on how we can become more mindful consumers.

  • Buy multi-use and multi-purpose items. Examples: all purpose cleaners, multi-season jacket, furniture that serves a dual purpose.
  • Value quality over quantity to prevent the need for frequent replacement. (Example: better quality clothing, furniture, footwear, kitchen items)
  • Be a “cart” user when shopping on-line. Put items in cart and let them sit for a minimum of 2 weeks and then reevaluate before purchasing.
  • Be resourceful and use what we have. (Example: Use something completely to prevent waste. Eat left overs. Re-purpose items.)
  • Use up items from the pantry or fridge to show one empty shelf before replenishing.
  • Experiment with the power of ONE – Only one of each item and only one product open at a time. No back up items or duplicates.
  • Practice 1 in 1 out guideline.
  • Use gatekeeper questions.
  • Establish shopping guidelines.

©December 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Define Minimalism

Helpful Organizer BlogHow would you define minimalism? I asked this question at the beginning of a presentation I gave recently at Brown University in Providence, RI. The answers I received were varied, but most of them included the concepts of intentionally having less stuff, and living a meaningful life with less material possessions. This was consistent with what I found while doing research for this presentation, and reading how established minimalists defined minimalism. I found three definitions that I could easily relate to, one by Joshua Becker, one by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, and one by Miss Minimalist, Francine Jay.

Joshua & Ryan define minimalism

Miss Minimalist defines minimalism

After reading these definitions I was inspired to come up with my own personal definition of minimalism. This is what I came up with:

Minimalism is a lifestyle choice in which we focus on:
…minimizing consumption by shopping less, buying less, using less.
…embracing limits through reducing, reusing, recycling.
…protecting our environment and natural resources with voluntary simplicity.
…finding greater pursuits in life than material possessions.

This definition became the outline for my presentation on embracing minimalism. It also inspired me to adopt a more of a minimalist lifestyle. I’ll be sharing my ideas, tips, and experiences on aspiring to be a minimalist in future blog articles. I hope you stay tuned and get inspired as well. If you’re interested in having me share my presentation on embracing minimalism, please contact me.

Below are some resources on minimalism that I’d like to share. I hope they encourage you to make changes in your life, like they have encouraged me.

  1. Joshua Becker’s website, books, and blog
  2. Joshua Fields Millburn’s & Ryan Nicodemus’ website, books, and blog
  3. Francine Jay’s website, books, and blog
  4. Courtney Carver’s website, books, and blog
  5. Patrick Rhone’s website, books, and blog
  6. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  7. Becoming a Minimalist: Your Guide to Living a Great Life With Less Through Minimalism by Kimberly Wilson
  8. Minimalism: How Living on Less Means Living More Life by Addison Fenn
  9. The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life by Leo Bubauta
  10. You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel

©October 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All Rights Reserved

one dollar bills

Shop Less

Organizing tipShop less and buy less. When we have less coming in we have less decisions to make, less to organize, act upon, and maintain. One thing that has helped me buy less is to think before I buy and ask myself gatekeeper questions.

gate

Gatekeeper Questions

Helpful Organizer BlogDo you love to shop, hunt for bargains, and practice retail therapy? If so, you are not alone. For many, shopping is their favorite pastime. It’s easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy with friends. It’s thrilling to find great deals, and see how much we’ve saved. It’s fun to purchase gifts, and surprise loved ones. It’s so convenient to shop online and have things delivered right to our door. But how often do we stop and think before buying something? Do we really need a life-time-supply of dog chews? How much extra are we spending each year to get the “free shipping”? Is it worth getting two free if we can’t even use up one before it goes bad? How much of what we buy is extra, surplus, or wasted?

I’ve found a successful way to help me stop and think before I buy. I’ve compiled a list of gatekeeper questions that allow me to pause and ask myself, “Why buy this?”. These questions are called gatekeeper questions because we control the gates to our properties. We all have the power to prevent a purchase from entering our homes. When shopping ask these questions (to the item) before committing to buy.

  • iron gateWhy are we buying you? Need? Want? Impulse? Obligation? Fundraiser?
  • What value will you add to our household?
  • Are you a practical, useful item or are you just for show?
  • Do we already own something just like you? If so, why do we need another?
  • Are you a replacement purchase? If so, what will we do with the old item?
  • Will you make life easier or are you going to be more trouble than you’re worth?
  • Where do we have a place for you?
  • Are you well made and worth your price tag?
  • Will you make our space feel crowded, cluttered, or overstuffed?
  • Will we want to keep you forever or at least a very long time? If not, how hard will it be to get rid of you?
  • Are you a gift for someone? Will you be a pleasure to them or a burden to them?
  • What will happen if we don’t buy you today?
  • How will we feel if we don’t buy you?
  • How often will we think about you, if we don’t buy you today?

This gatekeeper system requires some practice and discipline, but it helps me feel more prepared to make a mindful purchasing decision. Hopefully you will find it helpful as well. Try it and let me know what you think?

©June 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

one chair

Try Minimalism

Organizing tipExperiment with minimalism. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with less? Why not give it a try? Less stuff means you have less to organize and maintain. Here are 3 ideas for you to sample for the month or for two weeks.

  1. Purchase only food and absolute necessities, but nothing else. To make it more challenging don’t eat out, get take out, or go through a drive thru.
  2. Put 5 items into a donation box each day and schedule a donation pick up at the end of the month. Make sure you only put in items that belong to you. It is very easy to get rid of other peoples’ “junk”.
  3. Schedule 3 fun activities with family and friends that have nothing to do with bringing home material goods.