30 Before 30: Streamline Wardrobe

By Caitlin Helgeson

 

Last fall I stumbled upon the Unfancy Minimalist Blog and was first introduced to the concept of capsule wardrobes; which is defined as a compact wardrobe consisting of staple pieces, usually thirty items and fewer. I was intrigued but apprehensive.

What about all the money I’d spent on the clothes in my closet? There’s no way I would have enough outfits for work, play, and special events if I’d paired my closet to just thirty items. How boring and uninspiring.

Around the same time, I was browsing Facebook when I saw a giveaway from the, Less is More Movement group; a year long movement to help break the cycle of over-consumption and its resulting clutter making space for what matters most to you – a joint venture between Charlotte-based companies Simplicity Organizers and Spunky Avocado. The giveaway was for two free hours of closet consultation, closet purge, personal styling services, outfit coordination and/or personal shopping services from Whitley Adkins Hamlin at the Queen City Style. I immediately entered and was thrilled when a few days later I received notification that I was the winner!

From there I had an initial phone call with Whitley, who is truly the epitome of a sweet Carolina Girl. I instantly felt comfortable with her, like an old friend, and knew I was in good hands with a true tastemaker. I shared with her that my closets were jam packed, but with few things that I actually loved. I expressed interest in having fewer, more quality pieces and that at almost thirty years old, was ready to have a more refined and sophisticated wardrobe.

A few weeks later, Whitley showed up at my house. She was spunky, energetic, inspiring and engaging. I think there can be a sense of intimidation about having a professional stylist come assess your things, but Whitley is so down to earth and feels more like a friend you’ve known forever. She asked a lot of questions about my home decor to get a sense of my style. Then we made the trek upstairs as I unveiled what I had been hiding behind closed doors…

“A streamlined wardrobe represents more time + more money + more energy for the things in life that really matter.” –Unfancy Blog

In full transparency of the actual process, I am showing you the true ‘before’ images. I had so much stuff that I had not only maxed out our master bedroom closet, but was also using the guest room closet which included a dresser also full of stuff. I am embarrassed to share these pictures, but confession is good for the soul, right? And it serves as a visual reminder of the clutter and chaos I was dealing with prior to my closet purge.

Closet One

Closet Two

Whitley and I systematically went through every garment in my closet. Some items were easy and immediately went into the “no” pile. These were the clothes that I had been lugging from house to house with every move, the ones that I always bypass in my closet with no intention to wear again. Then there were others that I was on the fence about; those I tried on for Whitley who gave me her best Joan Rivers-on–Fashion Police on what worked and what I should toss. By the end of the evening my bed was covered in clothes that no longer suited me and what remained in my closet was sparse.

You can see below that I paired my closet down by almost 67%! Wow, I’m a nerd… Was it shocking at first? Absolutely. In fact, Whitley made an effort to ask me a few times how I was feeling. There is certainly an initial feeling of panic when you stand before your closet and see more empty hangers than clothes.

ITEM BEFORE WHITLEY      AFTER WHITLEY
Tops 81                               38
Dresses 74                          14
Pants 25                              7
Skirts 12                              1
Hats 12                                8
Total 204                             68

After the purge we discussed what I felt my personal style was, whose style I admired and what were the most important pieces to replace first. Since I spend most of my time at an office, I let her know that getting some staple work pieces was my priority and then adding in some fun pieces for weekends, parties, and going out would follow.

About three weeks later Whitley returned to my house with a rack full of new clothes to try on. It was like being a real-life Barbie. There is a certainly a comfort about being in your own home and being able to try things on at your own pace. It was actually an enjoyable process which is very different than what I typically find with dressing room experiences. The in-home process helped Whitley to refine my style, tastes and sizes which was important.

I had completely underestimated the stress, disharmony and agitation that my chaotic closet was causing me every morning. I can now open my closet doors with a sense of peace; seeing things that I truly love, that fit me well, and make me feel confident. A sophisticated closet calls for grown up hangers so I invested in Huggable Hangers – crazy the amount of joy a hanger can bring.

I was hit with an aha moment during this process – over-consumption is a disease that can creep into all aspects of life – not just your wardrobe. Food. Social Media. Distractions. Attachment. Natural Resources. Minimalism is not a lack of something, it’s having the perfect amount of something. I feel a huge sense of gratitude towards Simplicity Organizers and Whitley from the Queen City Style for giving me this opportunity! And now the after pictures…

What I learned:

My closet was lying to me! When I started to think about what I wore day to day, it was the same usual few pairs of jeans with a few different tops, and that’s about it. It boiled down to my choices being limited to the same few things that I felt comfortable in. The rest of my closet was full of things that I didn’t love anymore for one reason or another (itchy, missing a button, stained, outdated, no longer fit, etc.)

Prepare for a large upfront investment: Be prepared to spend some money upfront. It is certainly an investment to replace the majority of your closet, but that’s exactly what it is — an investment in yourself to look and feel better. I funded my new wardrobe by selling my old wardrobe. Places like Clothes Mentor will give you cash on the spot for your things. I took my nicer items to consign at J.T. Posh in Dilworth. I also joined a few local selling Facebook groups and had great success with PPU (read here for the premise and lingo). I let friends and family have their pick and then donated the rest to Goodwill (read about their new GW specialty store).

Don’t keep ‘fantasy clothes’: “I’m keeping that for a special occasion.”, “I will wear that again when I lose ten pounds.”, “I have no idea what to wear this with, but I’m keeping it because it’s cute”. There was no reason to keep clothes for made-up scenarios.

Staples First, Fun Later: For me and my lifestyle, I needed staples – jeans (black, white, and denim), quality work pants, quality and comfortable work shoes, a versatile navy blazer, etc. These items helped to build the foundation of my wardrobe and then I was able to fill in with some additional “fun” pieces.

Critique your multiples: I had probably fifteen pairs of jeans folded beautifully in my closet, but I only wear one or two. The other twelve no longer fit, weren’t comfortable, etc.

Say no to miscellaneous t-shits: This was hard for me. I saved every single sorority or fraternity function shirt throughout college. They all represented memories and I had tricked myself into thinking that if I no longer had the shirts, I no longer had the memories. My mom and I made a t-shirt blanket using the shirts I loved the most and I threw the rest away. Now I actively throw away or politely decline every t-shirt I’m offered. If you must accept a free tee for courtesy reasons, give it away or ‘lose it’ before you get it into your house. Once the free tee finds its way into your house – game over. It will stay there forever and become your new pajamas. Trust me, your husband will thank you for saying no.

Quality over quantity: I admit that I used to buy a new $20 Forever 21, Old Navy or Target item without thinking twice. These were the quick hits that I would wear to one specific event and then not like a month later. What I DO need is quality pieces in my wardrobe that I can easily style and re-wear frequently. Whenever you go shop really question your purchase. Are you just buying that because it’s on sale? Is this an impulse buy you’ll regret later? Do those jeans even fit correctly? Will this fall apart the second time I wear it?

Find out the other items on my “30 before 30” list here!

 

 


Toxic Products: The Monsters Under Your Sink

We all know the garage and basement can accumulate and store a stash of toxic products that are rarely if ever used. But underneath sinks, inside bathroom cabinets and closets can be just as guilty.

At some point we’ve all fallen for the As Seen on TV wood floor cleaner, soap scum eraser, callus remover, hair thickening shampoo or the like. As well-trained, albeit unfortunate, consumers of stuff, we tend to find what we think will be a better replacement before we finish the first one.

Household cleaners and personal hygiene items fall victim to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome turning bathroom closets and cabinets into clutter magnets. Not only do we tend to have a surplus of these items in our homes, but the majority of these products are rather toxic and can cause serious health issues.

Did you know: toxic products

According to the EPA, indoor air quality is typically five times, but sometimes up to 100 times more toxic than outdoor air?
Not only are many of the ingredients used in these products toxic to the touch and through the air we breathe, but once disposed (if not disposed properly) can leach into our groundwater.
Only about 10% of the 10,000 chemicals commonly found in personal care products have safety data.
The last time the US passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products was 1938.
Here are our suggestions to help you decide what gets to stay and what gets the boot, as well as tips for respecting the planet through the process:

Clean out. If you haven’t used it in 12 months or if it is past its expiration date, it goes in the trash. Remember many personal hygiene products have a limited shelf-life, especially cosmetics. So either use it or lose it.
Green out. Making your own hygiene products and household cleaners can save you money but also save you from exposure to potentially harmful substances. Here are some simple homemade recipes for hygiene items and household cleaners. If you aren’t comfortable yet with the idea of making these at home, EWG skin deep and EWG household cleaners are simple guides which can be easily accessed from your phone in the store aisle to help you determine which products are considered safe to use. See some of our favorite skin care and cosmetic items here.
Dispose responsibly. If it’s not safe for our bodies to ingest, absorb, inhale, etc., or if it is a medication, it should not be flushed or tossed in the trash. Earth 911 is a good resource for finding drop-off centers in your area. For local Charlotte folk, Extension Master Gardeners of Union County usually hosts an annual household hazardous waste collection every April. Many local sheriff’s offices will take OTC and prescription medications you need to dispose of, but you may want to ask if there are any they cannot accept.
Now, relax in your bathroom like the spa it was meant to be rather than the toxin-filled plastic bottle junkyard that it once was.

 

References:

EWG

Earth 911

Modern Hippie Housewife


Nature: Your Personal Decompression Chamber

Natures peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

~John Muir, Our National Parks

While rubbing elbows with the birds and the bees can become a bit more challenging during the winter months, getting outside and moving in nature should be a priority all year through. The benefits of crisp clean air, a good dose of bright light or the peace found in the sound of rippling water can go far beyond that moment to completely transform your day. Research is piling up to show that perhaps one of the quickest ways to a better mood and a healthier mind and body, is simply moving your lunch hour and/or your exercise routine to a park, a field, a forrest, or a patch of grass near you. So bundle up, if necessary, but just grab those boots and go. Don’t let a little weather keep you from getting out there and enjoying all those gifts the natural world has waiting for you.

Here are our top 4 reasons for soaking up a bit of nature right NOW:

  1. Kick the Seasonal Blues

If you are anything like me, the lack of sunshine during the winter months can get leave  you feeling a bit down. So much for myself, in fact, that we moved to Florida for four  years to combat it. It is not necessary, however, to pick up your life and move to the sunshine, just make an effort to get outside everyday around noon when the  sun is at its brightest, to soak up some of nature’s very best blues busters. If you also combine your time outside with some exercise, you get a double dose of that mood  lifting healing-power.

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it. “

~John Burroughs

  1. Relieve Stress Naturally

Think of nature as a personal decompression chamber that is always available to you. It heals, soothes, and restores. Feelings of overwhelm that are too often a part of our modern lives, can be gently and quickly eased by simply taking a walk outside, breathing, and noticing the beauty and continuity of the natural world.

Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. It Doesnt Get Boring

Nature is ever-changing. The color, the light, the scents, the living things, will never be the same from day to day and season to season. Research shows that we are far more likely to keep up with a workout that does not feel monotonous and at the same time, feeds our soul. So, while I am not suggesting you give up your gym membership, moving your workout or your yoga practice outside a couple days a week will keep you routine (and your lungs), fresh.

Is the spring coming? he said. What is it like? …‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.

~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

  1. Up Your Ecological Intelligence Quotient

Even if you don’t consider yourself a true “nature lover”, exposure to nature is key. By upping your time spent outside and making an effort to absorb the gifts of nature, you will move toward an appreciation for it. So if bugs freak you out, or if the wind makes you a bit crazy, take a moment to literally stop and smell the roses or the rosemary or a sprig of pine and see if it doesn’t instantly pick you up. Then, give it a try the next day, and the next and the next. Your love of nature is sure to grow, making you far more likely to become a protector of this beautiful world. And it is no secret, that we need many, many  more protectors.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

 

 

 

 

 


Less is More During the Holidays

Wreath

Ultimately we want to fill the holidays with more joy, relaxation and time with family and friends. Instead, we have a tendency to fill the holidays with more commitments and more stress all the while draining our bank accounts and adding to landfills.

Many of us can certainly be guilty of spending half of a day making and packaging cutesy Pinterest holiday treats (which will soon be forgotten) for every last neighbor and co-worker, rather than spending that time fulfilling a holiday tradition with my children (an action, which will unfortunately, not be forgotten anytime soon by their precious minds).

How do we shift our actions to align with what we want and what brings us true happiness?

  • Wrap yourself up in only the important things. Decide as a family what activities/traditions are non-negotiable. Before taking on anything extra, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for myself, a family member or friend? Would I do this if I couldn’t brag on Facebook or Instagram that I did it? Am I doing this for pleasure or because I feel like I ‘should’ do it?”
  • Put on blinders to advertisements. First cancel, then recycle all catalogs. Unsubscribe from and delete emails from retailers. Consolidate your shopping trips and eliminate them, when possible, to free up time and to avoid the impulse buys.
  • Go green. Choose live decorations, garland and pine cones. The scent brings joy and there is nothing to store away at the end of the season.

The Center for a New American Dream reports that more than three-quarters of Americans want the holidays to be less materialistic. Yet people are still just gifting stuff for the sake of gifting, with utter disregard for the consequences to the recipient and the environment. An online survey conducted for eBay in Nov. 2008 found that of U.S. adults who receive gifts during the holidays, 83 percent receive unwanted items. It seems we love to give more than we love to get.

How do we remedy the issue of “stuff” while satisfying our desire to “give”?

  • Give experiences, not stuff. Click here for a list of suggestions on non-physical gift ideas for everyone in your life, including your children.
  • When a physical gift seems like a must, create something.
  • Re-gift. If you have acquired a gift that you feel bad getting rid of, sell it and donate part or all of the proceeds to a charity in honor of the person who gifted it to you. See our list of charity suggestions here.

We’ve all experienced the overwhelm of too much stuff. Our garages and playrooms are bulging at the seams and quite frankly, so are our nerves and patience. Review these tips for managing your garage and your playroom so you can spend more time living rather than being a manager of things.

In closing, remember one thing this holiday season…less can, in fact, be more.

 

SIMPLICITY’S DECEMBER PROMOTION

If you book services from Monday, December 12th-Wednesday, December 23rd, you will receive 15% off your entire organizational service.  This does not include organizational supplies.

SIMPLICITY’S GIFT IDEAS:

GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME!

When you purchase 4 hours of organizing,

you will receive one free hour that can be applied to a Needs Assessment

or a to a basic hour of organizing.

(Cost $260)

BUY 1-GIVE 1

Pre-purchase one hour of organizing for yourself and receive a free hour of service to give to a family member or friend who has not used our services before.

(Cost $70)

*Travel restrictions apply.


Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

 

garagesbasementsattics2

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Maybe you want your living space perfect, but better might be good enough for your storage areas. Don’t sabotage your efforts by holding these areas to the same standard you desire for the living room or bedroom. A good rule of thumb- if it’s not climate controlled, don’t sweat the details. And if it’s not climate controlled, be careful about what you store. Memorabilia, off season clothes and paperwork don’t fare well in damp, temperature-extreme conditions.

When it comes to organizing, the garage suffers an identity crisis. Is it part of the house or not? Does it merit a high level of “spiffing “ or does anything go? Is it a place to park cars or is that fantasy thinking?

Regardless of how you view your garage, some organizing can be helpful.   This is a project to tackle when the weather is mild. Too hot or too cold and you’ve got a built-in excuse for quitting!

With garages, the contents may be different from what’s in your house, but the organizing process is the same. First, envision how you want your garage to function- what’s working and what’s not? Then, it’s time to roll up your sleeves.

Garage

Sort and Purge

Everything comes out and is separated into one of three piles- keep, donate or toss.

Reorganize

All the keepers are stored with like kind, with most frequently used items being easily accessible. Open wire shelving is an excellent, affordable option for keeping things off the floor and in easy reach. Shelf height can be adjusted to accommodate your needs. If your budget permits, a custom installed garage storage system is as good as it gets.

Contain

When practical, use clear, lidded containers for storage.   Dirt and bugs will be minimized and small items won’t be lost.

Label

If you have a label maker, use it. If not, consider buying one. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

Discard /Donate

Don’t sabotage your project by letting trash and donations linger. Call the city for an extra trash pickup and load the car with donations. If you’ve got a mountain of discards, using a professional rubbish removal service to haul it all away will be money well-spent.

simplicity-garage-promo2


Household Tips for Eco-Efficiency

eco-efficiency-october

We believe that people inherently want to be good stewards of the environment and its natural resources, but there are a few popular excuses that get in the way. Many people believe that going green will take more time or cost more money when in fact, it can even save you time and money, in some cases right up front.

Here are some simple steps to save energy, which will also save you some green.

  • Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs. For every degree you turn your heat down in the winter, you can save up to 5% on your energy bill.
  • Install compact fluorescent light (CFLs) or LED bulbs when your older incandescent bulbs burn out. CFLs use 75% less energy and last 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs. While they cost more up front, they pay for themselves 10 times over during the life of the bulb!
  • Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. Or, use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or “vampire” energy use. Americans spend about 4 billion a year on electricity for things they aren’t using!!!!
    1. Buy less electronics overall.
    2. Keep electronics as long as possible.
    3. Donate, if possible. There is no shortage of places that accept old phones for a great cause. Just google it.
    4. Recycle them! Simply Google search “Electronic Recycling” in your area.Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.While most of the Earth’s surface (nearly 70%) is covered in water, one may wonder why water conservation is so important. Well, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is actually usable by people. We also have to consider that the population is growing but the water supply is not. Follow these steps to save water, money and time:
      • Take shorter showers. Most standard shower heads today release 2.5 gallons per minute! You will not only save water, but you’ll save the energy used to heat the water you aren’t using.
      • Install low-flow shower heads. Many can be found for under $20. They typically release 2 gpm (gallons per minute). Save $23-$33 annually. So with only one person showering you have paid off your low-flow shower head in less than one year!

      Even the foods you eat make an impact. According to the EPA, in 2012, nearly 30% of municipal waste was from containers and packaging. Here’s what you can do to help:

      • Buy from the bulk bins and avoid single-size packaged foods (which we don’t recommend packaged foods to begin with). You’ll save money and eliminate package waste.
      • Make one day a week meatless. Standard meat production is taxing on the environment and can be rather expensive. 1 pound of ground beef costs more than 1 pound of organic lentils. Yet the lentils yield more than double the servings than the ground beef and one serving of lentils still yields 11 g of protein.

      See more ideas on simplifying your pantry here.

      We are a society of convenience. But if we continue on as we have been, many of our greatest conveniences will be lost forever. Here are some ways to replace single use or disposable items without compromising convenience:

      • Quit the plastic water bottles. Simply use a filter from your fridge door or Brita or find a water bottle that has a filter built in.   Save $500 a year by eliminating 1 bottle of water a day. The production of plastic bottles uses a lot of oil and they typically head straight for the trash. Here is one of our favorite re-usable water bottles.
      • Use Micro Fiber cloths to replace paper towels. 1 Skoy cloth can replace 15 rolls of paper towels!
      • Use beeswax Abeego to replace foil/plastic wrap.

      Click here for more products we love that replace single use and disposable items.

      We all know how quickly technology gets updated and old technology becomes obsolete. This is very taxing on the environment, our happiness and our pocketbook. There truly is a battle here of wants versus needs. Getting the latest/greatest iPhone because it is more cutting edge is a want. Getting a new phone because yours is broken (or almost broken) is “closer” to a need. We can save money and the environment by hanging onto our TV’s, computers, phones and other electronics for their lifespan.

      Follow these simple steps (in order) to minimize your technology footprint:

    As with anything else in life, you don’t have to do it all at once. Pick one or two things to start with, then once those are habit, pick another suggestion to try.

    References:

    www.usgs.gov

    www.epa.gov


80/20 Rule for Closet Organization

 

Clothes and Accessories Swap Party

The Pareto Principle  (aka The 80-20 Rule)

This principle was first conceived in over 100 years ago by an Italian who observed that 80% of the land in his country was owned by 20% of the people. We’ve all heard in the classroom how 80% of the trouble is caused by 20% of the students. So what does this have to do with Simplicity? Actually, quite a bit:

We are all looking for efficiency in our over busy, over stuffed worlds. Figuring out what 20% matters- in what we own and what we do, would be huge. Even if it’s not 80% wasted time or unused possessions, most of us have a great deal of fat in our schedules and bloat in our stuff.

 

WhitleyCloset1

How you say?
How much of the contents of your closet never see the light of day?

How much of the stuff that lives in your garage, attic or basement should have been discarded or donated rather than boxed and stored?

How many of your children’s toys never come out of the toy box (if you were lucky enough to have them corralled to begin with)?

How much of the backlog of magazines, journals and papers will never be read?

How much of the stockpile of staples in your pantry will expire before being consumed?

How much of what’s on your calendar or agenda is productive, necessary and meaningful?

Maybe eliminating the 80% that isn’t used, enjoyed, productive and meaningful, could take you a long way toward accomplishing more of your goals. Activities and commitments that are “low value” or “no value” may need to go. The same is true of the unused, unloved, outdated clothes, toys, foodstuffs, and paper piles.

If you haven’t used something for a while, ask yourself why you are keeping it? Because I might need it one day, or it’s too much trouble to make the cull, are not good excuses. If you’re saying yes to commitments out of fear or embarrassment, reconsider your motives.

Remember, better the right 20% than the wrong 100%!

 

 

 

 


Mindful Technology

Mindful Tech

“It is not what technology does to us, it is what we do to technology. Used skillfully, it can improve and enhance our lives beyond our wildest imagination. Used unskillfully, it can leave us feeling lonely, isolated, agitated and overwhelmed. Get smart with technology, choose wisely and use it in a way that benefits both you and those around you.” ~Headspace

Ever since a cell phone was first thrust upon me as a young professional in the 90’s, I’ve been somewhat vexed by technology. I resented the thought of 24 hour availability. And, as a 20 something at the time, how could I maintain my aloof nature if I could always be tracked down?

Decades later, I’m slightly less aloof but still maintain a love-hate relationship with the technology that saturates my family’s life. We own “i-everything” it seems, and are far too often in front of or behind a large or small screen. Much of my day is spent online purveying health, nutrition, eco-wellness and spiritual wisdom through our Spunky Avocado website, blog and social media. At the end of the day, everyday, I’ve been finding myself actively squelching the urge to calculate just how much of our precious time as a family had been mindlessly spent on our many devices.

I decided it was time to confront the ugly truth and take a deep, honest look. What I found was that despite all my efforts to get my family out into nature, to travel, to have great experiences and quality time together, we were way out of balance in terms of our collective technology use. It was also clear that in order to make changes to our family’s bad habits, I would first need to address my own. So in an effort to bring it all back to a place that felt balanced and productive, I put on my researcher’s cap and and dug in. Here is what I have found to be most helpful.

Technology

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a psychologist at Stanford University, helps us identify when technology is having a negative impact and too much control over our life (click here). She suggests that any of the following indicates an unhealthy relationship with your technology:

  • Separation anxiety when you aren’t sure where your phone is.
  • Physical discomfort when you haven’t checked your device in a while.
  • Intimacy with your device. For example: Do you sleep with it? Does it call to you in the middle of the night? Do you check it as soon as you rise in the morning?

If you recognize yourself or a family member here, don’t despair. It certainly hit home with me. But, with some simple and sustained practices, you can adopt a more mindful approach to the use of your technology.

  • Start by taking a serious look at your own tech consumption habits. Pay close attention, be honest and consider these questions: Are you using it in a way that is productive? Is it moving you forward in your life? Do you find that a simple check-in on social media results in an hour of lost time? Does it ever leave you feeling anxious, unsatisfied with your life, or ruminating? Does it leave you with a smile and a feeling of connection? Are you spending money that you regret spending? Is it distracting you from your life and the people you love? Does it keep you from being physically active? Do you feel like it is time well spent?           This purposeful attention to the way your tech time makes you feel will allow you to better evaluate its impact on your life. Instead of allowing yourself to be on device autopilot, you can instead approach technology with mindful awareness.
  • Set your intention, daily, for your technology use and it can become an effective tool in your life rather than a time suck or even, an addiction.
  • Turn off notifications and alarms that aren’t absolutely essential; all those alerts keep us from being in the present moment. Set specific times where check-ins occur and hold yourself to those times. Set an alarm, if necessary.

Further, in an excerpt from Elizabeth Millard’s article Intentional Computing in Experience Life Magazine (click here), she suggests the following 5 techniques for upping your mindfulness game:

  • Breathe when you log on, notice if youre holding your breath. Breathing slowly and evenly releases physical tension and helps you be more restful and alert when you engage with information technology.
  • Take advantage of software that helps you avoid disruptions when you want to focus. Some applications turn off email and chat notifications or block time-wasting websites. Consider apps that can help you be more productive and creative.
  • Programs that keep you on task are great, but youll benefit most from disciplining your mind. Learning to sit and count your breath is a starting point for noticing your tendency to get distracted and for staying on track.
  • Log how much time you spend with your devices each day. If you would like to refine your usage, experiment with different choices communicating in person instead of via email or limiting social media to certain times, for example.
  • Unplugging altogether (for an evening, day, or week) lets you slow down from the fast pace that technology enables. Return from your digital sabbath rested and with a fresh perspective that supports creativity and connection.

Additionally, there are very useful apps which help keep track of how time is spent on devices as well as those that help with mindfulness in general. Headspace is my favorite but here are a few articles that will help you choose the one that is best for you: here , here,  and here.

At the end of the day, I want to know that technology has enriched my life and the life of others through me. I also want to know that I’ve been a good model of healthy tech habits to my kids. Waking up to my own less than perfect practices has been a gift.

You might also enjoy this Spunky post.

 

Sources:

https://experiencelife.com/article/intentional-computing/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/technology-mindfulness_b_2526737.html

https://bewell.stanford.edu/mindful-use-of-technology

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-some-headspace/201307/the-mindful-use-technology


Preparation is Key in the Kitchen

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Ben Franklin

Checklist

Failing to prepare, procrastinating, putting off until tomorrow what should be done today…
These are all strategies for disorganization, chaos, waste and heartache- outcomes that few seek. So why do we do the very things that sabotage success we crave? The answer is at least in part-we’re human and we’re creatures of habit. In our busy lives and fast-paced world, there always seems to be more to do than time to do it. Putting things off is a coping mechanism.

But preparation skills can be learned, practiced and habit-forming. And in the process, life becomes calmer, simpler and happier.

Consider these possibilities for success through preparation in the kitchen and pantry.

Grocery Store

Plans meals and keep a grocery list (easier than ever with technology) rather than impulse buying and not having anything that constitutes a meal. Shop less often but more intentionally.

Prep groceries when you unpack them. This means rotating your pantry stock, washing greens and cleaning veggies, unwrapping or unsealing the bottle or jar before you put it in the fridge. Spending a bit of time on the front end pays off handsomely on the back end.

Take stock of your pantry. Mystery jars outdated spices and cans all can be discarded. Food gifts you’ll never use can be donated to someone who will. Be ruthless. If you can’t fathom making a meal of something in your pantry, let it go. And don’t ever buy it again.

If you’re a small family, do you really need the jumbo-sized, discount grocery store? Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a good value.

Not every meal has to be a gastronomic masterpiece. Ingredients for your go-to meals should be staples. If the ingredients are on hand (and prepped), eating at home is quicker, tastier, healthier and cheaper than blasting through the fast food drive thorough. And home cooking results in leftovers, which become the basis for lunches or subsequent dinners.

We’ve gotten in the habit of eating out. It’s dealt our pocketbooks and waistlines a blow. At Simplicity, we encourage you to get in the habit of eating in!


Simple Habits for Mindful Eating

“Food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains life of the sun and the earth. We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread! Contemplating our food for just a few seconds before eating and eating with mindfulness, can bring us much happiness.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

SimpleHabits

We’ve all done it. We eat on the run.  We eat behind the wheel.  We eat behind a screen. We scarf down what’s within reach without thought from whence it came or how it would or would not nourish our bodies.  We eat when we are nervous. We eat when we are bored, sad, or happy.  We rarely slow down long enough to recognize hunger or take the moments required to determine why we are munching.  We may graze mindlessly through our day or numb ourselves with too much food at each meal. Eating this way, is it a wonder that we often find ourselves unsatisfied at the end of a meal, feeling unwell, and perhaps, un-nourished?  Of course not. And if you find that this is your reality more often than not with food, you will find great benefit from learning to become a more mindful eater.

When you begin to eat more mindfully, you will likely find that you:

1)    Consume less and are satisfied with less because you take the time to notice and experience each bite.

2)    Enjoy more fully the experience of eating.

3)    Consume better foods because you are more conscious of the quality of each bite and the effect foods have on your wellness.

4)    Have better digestion because you are slowing down, reducing stress, and taking the time to chew your food.

5)    Become more aware of hunger and satiety cues.

6)    As you cultivate mindful eating, you will become more aware of “enough” and eat/order/shop accordingly.  Less food will be wasted.

So, what habits should you develop to become a more mindful eater?  Well, as you will hear often from us in the next several months, “It’s simple but it’s not easy.”  Practice is the only way.  Here are some suggestions for getting started.

1)    When you are eating, only eat. Do not attempt to multitask with the exception of sharing the experience with those you love.

2)    Always eat at a table. This will eliminate your tendency to mindlessly graze.  Even a snack will be etched into your consciousness if your rule is to sit down at a table to eat it.

3)    Practice gratitude for the abundance in front of you.  Appreciate the appearance, the origin of the food, and the preparation.

4)    If you have prepared the food yourself be also mindful in its preparation.  Think of it as a gift you give yourself and those you love rather than as a chore.

5)    Take it one bite at a time.  Notice your sensations as you eat.  Chew each bite thoroughly.

6)    Take the time to consider the interconnectedness between all living things, our planet and its peoples, as well as the impact our food choices have on each.

We invite you to join Simplicity and Spunky Avocado on our Less is More journey. If you’d like to join our private Facebook Group, Less is More, which we hope will bring you inspiration, confidence and motivation to get out there and live more while consuming less plus monthly giveaways, email us.

 

Sources: Psychology Today, Eating Mindfully, Huffington Post