I'm enjoying all the engagement with this question in the Minimalist Living community on Facebook.
I've been vlogging about my minimalist wardrobe and other elements of this minimalist nomad adventure we are currently on. (Current location: Portland, Oregon).
These are a couple of the vlogs I'm talking about:
It's been fun to see thousands of people watch (on Facebook) and I wanted to take some time here to explain how I choose my minimalist wardrobe.
5 steps to choosing a minimalist wardrobe:
1. Choose ethically and sustainably made new clothes.
I never buy new clothing unless the company has a committment to ethics and sustainability they specifically mention on their website. Also, there is a website that allows you to look up specific companies for their practices and you can see their grade.
2. When shopping for basics or need to buy cheap, thrift.
I love shipping thrift stores. When I buy second-hand, I allow myself to buy no matter what the brand is. Hey, you gotta draw a line somewhere. I do look for brands that follow ethical and sutainable practices often I end up buying something that is from Target or something like that. Thrift stores are for me a great way to shop for basics.
3. Fall in love with neutrals.
For me, even though I love bold color, neutrals are the key to a cohesive minimalist wardrobe. Most everything I wear goes with everything else because I have a lot of black, tan, and gray. It just works. If you don't embrace neutrals, you end up with closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.
4. Follow your own style guide.
Instead of shopping trendy colors that will disappear next season, choose colors that you love. My sister created a style guide for me. It has both neutral and bright colors and it serves as a guide when I shop. If an item is a color that is not on the style guide (or a neutral that goes with the colors in my style guide) I don't buy it. Easy peasy.
5. Find a couple companies you LOVE! I love softy, cozy, comfortable clothes that are flattering, have a bit of stretch, and are well-made. I fell in love with Encircled and decided to partner with them because their clothes are perfect for minimalist-mom-yogi-cyclist-nomads. AKA, ME. And maybe you :)
The other day I got an email asking for advice. It said, in part, "I wanted to ask what advice would you give me to help organize my closet. I gained a lot of weight after I had my son and fell into depression. My closet is so full of clothes that don't fit me. I was holding onto them as a motivation to lose weight. However recently I was hunting for something to wear and became so frustrated that it was full of clothes I can't wear. It was so full that a piece of the closet that keeps the clothes on the racks fell off and so did a bunch of my clothes. I need to organize it and get rid of what I can't wear.”
I can so relate to this. Having a baby is life-changing. I have done the same thing where I kept clothes to motivate me to lose weight and it doesn't usually help because by the time I lost the weight, I didn't like the clothes anymore or they didn't fit the same because even if you lose the "baby weight" your body shape is always a little different after having a baby (or indeed after gaining and losing weight).
Also, I have a tendency toward depression too. As recently as last year I was thinking some suicidal thoughts, and feeling like I was in a really dark place. I was on the phone with my mom, Maria Parker, who is not only CEO of Cruzbike, a motivational speaker, and a world-record holding ultra-endurance athlete, but also a trained counselor and one of my favorite people in the world. I was telling her about my dark thoughts and she said "you need to get help, you need to call your therapist." And I didn't want to, because when you're depressed you have brain fog and you're not thinking clearly and you don't want to do anything and you don't think you're worth helping or you think it's weak or pathetic to get help. I knew this because I have a long history with a self-diagnosed mood disorder. But I still didn't want to do anything because, well, depression.
So then my mom said, "Hang up, make the appointment and call me back after you make it." So I did. Because I realized that my dark thoughts were a message from my body and mind. Do something. What I had done was reach out to someone who loves me. The next step was to trust that person that I reached out to and do what she said even though at the time I didn't want to do ANYTHING.
So my advice to anyone depressed now or with a reoccurring tendency towards depression: Make sure you share how you are feeling with someone you trust and really lean on their advice for what you should do, like whether you should see a doctor or a therapist. Keep going, keep seeking support until you feel better. Medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes are all great tools in your arsenal. You are worth it.
And I've been there. Yes, it's a challenge. But depression can be a good thing if you see it as part of the adventure of life, and a flag that your body is asking you to do something different.
The other thing today: how you feel about your body. After we have a baby our body changes. We live in a society that is always telling us our body is wrong somehow. And we internalize it and that is no help to actually being healthy. So I think this: point all the weapons you have at the goal of feeling GREAT in your body as it is right now. Get rid of all the clothes that don't make you feel great right now as your body is. If you do keep anything in your old size, don't keep it for motivation, keep it because you like it and it feels good to imagine wearing it again. Keep like 2 or 3 things, not a whole closet full. Keep only a couple pieces that you truly love and that can inspire good feelings that override your sadness about not being able to wear them right now. Get rid of everything else. Empty your closet of everything that doesn't make you feel fabulous. Look for celebrities in your size and cultivate their confidence.
Affirm your body at every turn.
When you pass a mirror, find something you appreciate about your body and send love to it. Just send love as deeply as you can to your body.
It can feel like a battle to partner with our bodies because a lot of us criticize our bodies so harshly. And that's not kind. I used to be a harsh critic of my body.
Not anymore. Now I pass a mirror and I just think, Wow, Genevieve, you look fabulous, you feel strong, you have a great body, and what's more important, you are kind to your body.
I treat my body like a friend. I would never give my friend clothes in a size too small for her and say "hey, I thought you'd love these because they are great motivation to lose weight!" That would be so mean.
I think you can pursue weight loss and good health even more effectively if you send love and kindness and acceptance to your body as it is right now. Even if you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with your body now. If you feel negative towards your body now, you'll still feel negative towards it at your "goal weight." Seriously. I used to be 98 pounds which for me was my skinniest. And guess what? I had a lot of negative feelings about my body. And amazingly, I had the most honest love and positivity for my body at my heaviest when I had just given birth. It's all in your head. Seriously. So just decide to love your body and don't make it a one-sided love. LISTEN. Listen to what your body is telling you. If you listen, you'll hear when she's hungry and thirsty, when she wants to move and stretch, who she wants to hug, what park she wants to bicycle through on a spring day.
And over time, this loving relationship with your body, based in learning and listening, will lead you to your healthiest, strongest, most beautiful body ever.
By the way, If you're feeling curious about one way to partner with your body and have fun, pain-free exercise while meeting other needs (to explore, grocery shop, commute, ride without an invasive "seat" up your butt etc.) check out the Cruzbike T50 Kickstarter Launch Insider's list. Sign up and we'll keep you updated and you'll be the first to know how to get Cruzbike's most affordable bike ever. Cruzbike exists because my dad listened to his body and stopped putting up with the hunched-over angle on bicycles and the "seats" on old-fashioned bikes being, well... horribly violating and uncomfortable. This is the first partnership I've ever done. It's a product I can really get behind that will help you become #simplyhealthy.
I've been working on my relationship with money. Curious about it. Exploring it with my life coach.
She says she heard somewhere that one's relationship with money is often the same as one's relationship with love/romance/the opposite sex. I heard the same thing and it makes me think "haha." And I want to explore it.
So the idea is often you can say the same thing about both:
If you believe:
"Money comes easily to me."
You probably also believe:
"Love comes easily to me."
And if you believe:
"I have to work hard and suffer for money."
You probably also believe:
"I have to work hard and suffer for love."
Simple living can help you become financially free (and attract the romance of your dreams) because it can pretty much help in any area of your life you'd like to focus on. Simple living is all about focus. It's about admitting to yourself that 24 hours is 24 hours. You can choose wisely how you'll fill that time. You can hone, hone, hone. It's a process, and it's fun. My time is a beautiful and precious thing. I don't want to waste it on things I don't enjoy, or on thoughts that make me feel bad.
For example, I won't spend my time engaged in small talk with people I don't like. My friends and family, the people I hang with, are splendid humans. They don't stand around bitterly complaining about anything that is within their control to change. They take action. They have expansive spirits. They create things and keep going, keep rolling with their failures and their successes. They're honest about their foibles, which to me is the purest form of humor. Whether on purpose or accident, they are hilarious and fun to be around.
---SIMPLE LIVING FOR FINANCIAL FREEDOM---
There are lots of ways to make money or attract money, just like there are lots of strategies for attracting love and friendship into your life. But none of them work if you don't focus on cultivating wealth (or love or friendship) consciousness.
Consciousness. Awareness. Sound familiar? Simple living is all about focused conscious living for your flavor of freedom. Choosing what you want to focus on. Do you want to focus on money or lack of money? Do you want to focus on love or lack of love? I know which one sounds more fun to me.
I'm playing around with these intentions and beliefs around money and I thought I'd share them, in case you too are using simple living to gain ever more financial freedom:
---HAPPY MONEY MANTRAS---
I like money because it helps me feel free + joyful and it fuels the ease I feel in my creative life.
Making money is easy and relaxing.
Me and money have fun, play, and relax together.
I get paid to ____________________ (insert creative activities that bring you joy) and that feels great.
Making money takes creativity and authenticity. To have a positive relationship with money and to make abundant money is a worthy and worthwhile path. Money is easy, relaxing, fun, and even thrilling and delightful to be in relationship with. Money flows to me effortlessly and I feel relaxed about it.
How do you feel reading these happy money thoughts? It's good to focus on the financial freedom you have now, even if it seems limited. Paradoxically, minimalist living actually helps you feel like life is more abundant. Maximalist living. Because it's about choosing to declutter the things and thoughts that bring you down and keep the things and thoughts that support you.
I've learned that people have strong feelings about books. I do too. I know that telling you to declutter your books may trigger a knee-jerk response of HELL NO DON'T TAKE MY BOOKS. I get it. I was once a lonely teenage nerd and that part of me still views books as my best friends.
I love books. Reading is my go-to pastime. I buy new e-books frequently. I read 30-50 books a year. I love the way printed books smell and feel. I love the way books look lined up on a shelf or stacked up on an end-table.
I tell you this because I want you to know I understand what it feels like to be a book lover before I advise you to give most of your physical books away. I see that horrified look of betrayal, fellow bibliophile. Still, I recommend that you stop collecting physical books and perhaps give away the bulk of your current collection.
The problem with collecting books, let's be honest here, is that most of them aren't going to get a second reading. And that's sad for a book. It just sits there on your shelf, waiting to be read again or lent or given away. Books should be in circulation. They were made to be read.
For all your best intentions, you will probably not re-read that best seller from three years ago. And despite the generous idea that you want your family and friends to peruse your shelves and have a wide variety of books to choose from, that rarely happens, right? Correct me if I'm wrong. By all means, if you're an active amatuer librarian and all of your books are borrowed and read regularly, keep doing what you're doing. Otherwise, let libraries do their job. If the spaces between your books haven't seen the light of day in a year, let those poor books go free. Let 'em fly. Keeping a book without reading it is like keeping a sparrow in a cage for its whole life. Don't be that guy.
I suggest gathering all your books into a single room, and choosing to keep only those that you love so much you re-read or at least flip through them (with a joyful feeling, not a guilty feeling) once a year.
Give away the rest to a library, school, or charity.
Decluttering your books gives you a chance to really enjoy the few that you keep and keep the few that you enjoy.They won't get lost in the rest of your stuff anymore. They'll have a place of honor in your life, and they'll make it better.
Many people feel wasteful/guilty if they get rid of a book they haven't read yet or that they feel they could learn more from. If you've had it for a while and you still haven't read it, give it away. Let someone else enjoy it. And if in the future you find yourself with a strong desire to read it, get an e-copy of the book. Which leads me to...
I Love My E-Reader
It's not the same experience as reading a printed book, but for me, the benefits of an e-reader far outweigh the disadvantages.
My Amazon cloud holds a library of hundreds of books. No matter where I find myself - in a park on a beautiful day or waiting in the doctor's office, I can take my pick from my current reading list.
On my Kindle App, I can simply press on a word I don't know and the dictionary definition appears. I can also borrow some books, or join a subscription service for access to certain books and periodicals. By buying e-books, I'm saving trees, which is icing on the cake.
There are several e-readers available, and now apps available for tablets and laptops and smartphones, making the book-buying process faster, easier, and less expensive.
Not every book is available in electronic format, and there will always be some books you want to have a physical copy of. But there's no need to have a large collection of books collecting dust and being moved from place to place. Unless, that is, you truly feel that your life would be worse without them.
Every bit of space in your home and energy in your life matters. It counts. Make conscious decisions about how your are going to "spend" your space and energy. Use them on things that fill your life with love and joy. If books do that, keep some around in physical form and more in electronic form.