Emergency planning

I took a vacation from this blog while my family traveled across Canada (a fantastic adventure!) and I’m not quite ready to return yet. There is one project I must complete before I add anything else to my busy schedule:

An emergency kit and plan.

I will be making a kit with information, phone numbers, extra clothes, food, water, and other supplies. Extra copies of important information and our plan go to an off-site location. Each person will have what they need for up to 3 days after an evacuation.

It’s definitely not minimalist but it’s important to be ready. Natural (and unnatural) disasters happen. I want to make sure my family is as ready as possible. If you want more information on preparing yourself, check out http://www.getprepared.ca

I’ll be back once that project is finished. In the meantime please feel free to leave your comments or feedback below.

Colour schemes

Why they matter

A colour scheme is a set of colours that all work well individually and together in any combination. Ideally your colour scheme will suit your personality and looks. You can use the same colour scheme for wardrobe, house paint and interior decorating…  anything you like.

Finding a colour scheme is important because it makes life much simpler. Everything coordinates so there is no clash. And things look better and more planned with less effort. I find it so much faster to shop because I don’t give a close look to anything unless the colour works for me. You could even keep less thread for sewing repairs in just the colours you love.

The plan

You could pick any set of colours but I suggest doing it thoughtfully. It’s more fun to live with colours you love and that make you feel relaxed and comfortable, and ones you won’t get bored with. I suggest starting with about 3-5 colours in varying shades… unless your style is “multi-coloured.” Try these:

  • hire a professional (search for a local wardrobe stylist or interior decorator) or do a mail-order quiz
  • read up on colour theory
  • check out what looks good on you using a mirror
  • use colours you are consistently drawn towards. Is there a particular throw pillow or scarf you love?
  • pull out the clothes you always wear/love/feel good in/know looks good on you – use those colours
  • experiment with combinations of paint chips, polyvore items, photos, magazine cuttings

The colours you pick are your personal choice. Don’t worry if you’ve never seen them before together or if someone remarks on the unusual combination. These are the colours for your life. If they work for you, that’s enough.

The implementation

You could throw away everything that’s in the wrong colours and replace them with items in your colour scheme, but that’s wasteful. Other ways to try out your colours are to wear neutrals and accessorise with colours to try out how they feel. Slowly work away by replacing items (when needed, if needed) with things in your colour scheme. You can carry swatches while shopping if that helps you remember the precise blend you like. I prefer to buy only custom clothing because I can choose fabric in the perfect colour, as opposed to the in-fashion-at-this-moment colour. I can’t always afford a dress maker though, so I sometimes make my own clothes and get a tailor to custom-fit them for a professional finish.

Ongoing maintenance

There is one decision to make when keeping your life within your colour scheme. At the very moment you are considering buying, making or accepting something ask yourself if the colour is right.

  1. If the colour falls within your scheme, check other points to see if it fits your style and budget. If so, enjoy!
  2. If the colour is not in your scheme, consider if you want to add it. If so, grand. Is there a colour you need to edit out to keep the scheme current? Part of getting the right palette is trial and error.

If you decide not to add the colour, DO NOT BRING IT INTO YOUR LIFE. Be strong and hold fast! If something is almost the absolute right colour, or if it’s a really good price or feels comfortable but isn’t in your colour scheme, put it down and say a firm “No thank-you.” An exception here and there will bring you a collection of uncoordinates. Being picky leads to the benefits listed above.

Have fun and enjoy your new colour scheme!

What are you waiting for

The work required

If you think stylish minimalism is for you, there are plenty of action steps already covered in previous posts. If you’ve been working through them, that’s great! Please post your comments about how your life is changing. If you haven’t quite started yet, this post is for you.

As much as we love silver bullets, the journey of minimalism involves work. Just reading this blog won’t change your life. It takes time and effort to go forward. It’s easy to come up with reasons why we can’t start. But all these reasons are just excuses. It’s time to move past the excuses.

What are you waiting for?

No matter the answer, there is always the same response: Do you really want to be a stylish minimalist? If your answer isn’t an enthusiastic YES! then I suggest spending your time on something you do really want instead of reading this blog.

Here are some common excuses and some suggestions on how to move past them.

I don’t have enough time.

  • Declutter your commitments. The next time someone asks you to do something, say no. You don’t have to make excuses. Your life is yours to dole out as you see fit.
  • Spend less or no time with technology. TV, internet, games, email, phones… they devour time. Turn it off and use the time to declutter for 15 minutes then enjoy that space for the next 15 minutes.
  • Rearrange your life. If you’re losing big chunks of time, you might need some drastic action. I was once commuting 4 hours a day. Moving closer to work gave me some time back.
  • Where are you spending your time? What can you live without doing? Minimise it!

I’m too tired.

  • Get more rest. Make the time (see above) but instead of more activity, go lie down in bed or sit outside.
  • Cut out any activities you don’t need to do. The ceiling lamps don’t need to be polished every week. I carry around my children less as they get heavier, saving me some energy.
  • Take a sabbatical. Take everything down to zero so your day consists of sleeping, eating, light exercising and resting. Even a weekend of rest can make a difference. Stay home and do the bare minimum.
  • Where are you spending your energy? What can you live without doing? Minimise it!

I don’t know where to start.

  • You can start anywhere. The important thing is to pick a place and get started. Jump in wherever you are.
  • Let go of your perfectionism. If we wait until we have enough time to do the job perfectly, it’ll never get done. Minimalism is a lifestyle, not a destination. Even a little effort will product some results. I try to keep the top of my bedroom dresser minimal, even when the rest of the house is in chaos.
  • What place catches your eye and drives you crazy? Minimise it!

My partner doesn’t want to be minimalist.

  • Be stylish yourself. Minimise your personal posessions and commitments. Accept that you can’t change others, only your own actions. Realise you’ll have to compromise on some things as part of being in a relationship.
  • Check your values. Talk with your partner about why you’re doing this. Discuss your similar values and how minimalism applies. For example, it’s important to my husband and I that we save money for travelling. Therefore we don’t use our resources on consuming more than we need.
  • What can you minimise that doesn’t affect your partner? Start there!

What else is holding you back? Leave a comment if you would like some suggestions on how to move forward.

Decluttering and minimising

The difference

There is a distinction between decluttering and minimising. Although they’re based on the principle of less is better, the mindset when decluttering is moving from lots of stuff down to less. When minimising it’s about going from the bare minimum up to a thriving minimum. The questions we ask when decluttering are: Do I love it? Do I have another one? Do I use it? Regularly? When minimising, the questions are slightly different: Do I love it? If I didn’t have it, what would I do? Can I live without it?

The distinction is subtle so here’s a concrete example. I had a garlic press and used it every day because I always put garlic in dinner. When I decluttered, this little tool stayed in my kitchen. When I minimised, I gave it away and used my chopping knife for the job. It took a little more time to mince but less time to clean! Just because you use something every day doesn’t mean you need it.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to minimise down to the bare living essentials. There will be things that you keep because you love them and every time you look at or use them they make your heart sing. That’s what stylish minimalism is all about. There is a point between decluttered and empty where there is calm of minimalism fused with inspirational style. There could be a minimalist out there who keeps their garlic press.

Which one to use

If you have a lot of stuff, start with decluttering. The objective is to own things you use and enjoy often, and nothing more. The guidelines for how often depend on you. Once a month, or every week in season could be a useful guide. If you’re already clear of clutter, go to the next level and minimise. The objective here is further paring down things that you can happily do without.

Step-by-step decluttering

I love the FLYlady 15-minute technique. The key to this is that you declutter/minimise for a set time. After that time, even if you’re not finished, you stop. You don’t get distracted and start detail cleaning, or working on a project you found, or putting something away in the other room, where you start doing something else. You pick an area and work there for 15 minutes straight. You can do 15 minutes once a week or three times a day. No matter how often, you will be making progress. Even after 15 minutes there is a sense of accomplishment. Here are the steps.

  1. Pick a small area.
  2. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Start with a shorter time if you need to.
  3. Take one thing. Decide where it goes.
    • If you love it, use it or need it… keep it. Find a home for it, but don’t get distracted
    • If you’re ready to let go or have a duplicate, sell or donate it.
    • If you’re not sure or feel guilty about letting it go, put it in a box, write the date on it and put the box away. Whatever stays in the box for six months or a year isn’t part of your life. You probably don’t miss it and neither does anyone else. You don’t even need to open the box… go ahead and give it to the local charity.
  4. If you finish before the timer counts down, start on another section.
  5. When the timer beeps, stop! You’re finished unless you want to take a break and go again.

You can use the same steps for minimising. But since there’s less to start with, it might be easier to analyse things as you see them. Or pack things away and take them out as you use them, discarding the unused items after a set time.

How to be motivated

The importance of good motivation

Motive is a reason to do something. If you have a good enough reason to do what you’re doing, excuses melt away. Think about someone who has survived a heart attack. After recovery, health is the priority and old temptations don’t have the same hold. When you know your motive for becoming a stylish minimalist, it’s easier to do the work and keep going when you’re making tough decisions.

There are different levels of motivation. “I want to look great” is a weak motive. It relies on others’ opinions, which will always fail because it’s impossible to get 100% approval from 100% of everyone.”I want to survive” is a strong motive that helps a recovering heart attack sufferer make healthy choices. There’s almost nothing more important than living. The stylish minimalist has a motive tied to deep needs.

Your motivation is what you need to thrive. Being a stylish minimalist may fulfill your need perfectly. Or it may be only part of the answer. Or it may not be what you’re looking for at all. Ask yourself what else you could do to meet this need. You might find a solution you never dreamed of that fits your life even better than stylish minimalism.

What motivates you

The answer is as individual as you are. Why are you reading this blog? Why do you want to be a stylish minimalist? That’s your motive. But don’t stop there. Go deeper to find the need that’s driving your desires. Then you’ll have a motive that trumps all excuses.

It can be tricky to ask objective questions then search for an honest answer. Take your time or get a trusted someone to help. Ask yourself: Why? What would that give me? What’s behind that? What do I want instead? Keep going until you find what you need to thrive. Here’s an example.

  • I want to be a stylish minimalist.
  • Why? I want a minimalist home and personal look.
  • Why? The clutter stresses me out but I don’t want to be blank.
  • What would a clutter-free environment give me? An easy life.
  • How so? I would have free time to relax in a clear environment.
  • What would that give me? Peace of mind.
  • What would it mean to have a clear environment that is not blank? Some style, some very “me” objects and activities.
  • What would that give me? Happiness. Joy.
  • I need peace and joy to thrive. They are my motives for being a stylish minimalist.

Minimalism brings me peace and expressing my style gives me joy.

Getting motivated

Hold on to your motive. Make it your mission. Take it into consideration when you make decisions. Throughout your day, consider if what you’re doing is consistent with your needs. When you are tired and uninspired, a good motive will get you moving.