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minimalism

Learning to Live with Less

As a minimalist, I’ve removed a lot of the physical clutter from my life. My new challenge is learning to not take on so many commitments and becoming more of a mental minimalist . . . and being ok with it.

Day 162: Country Swing by Loren Kerns from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Day 162: Country Swing by Loren Kerns from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

In the last few years as I’ve gotten my depression and anxiety under more control, it’s become apparent that I have some ADD tendencies. When you pair that with my perfectionism, it can be quite a challenge. I often find myself thinking that I can and should take on more because it will lead to positive attention and/or I could be badass at it.

Being ADD sucks – easily distracted by “shiny objects.” It’s hard to stay focused on projects for more than 15 minutes, and too frequently I find myself saying “Who am I; where am I; what’s going on?” That’s when I know my brain is being pulled in too many directions. One of my friends who is much more ADD than I am has a prescription for PRN medication that helps him. I saw my psych nurse recently and I asked her if I was a candidate for this medication too, and she told me I wasn’t a candidate and that I need to stop doing so many things.

Fine. Don’t let me take the easier softer way.

It’s probably a good thing that she said, “No.” When I asked my friend what it feels like to take ADD medication, his first response was, “Have you ever done blow?” I don’t think he was insinuating that his meds make him feel like he’s on uppers, but it that the rest of the world falls away and he can focus on the task at hand. Knowing me, it’s too likely that I’d take this medication daily and use it as a reason to do even more – just because I could.

My life is managed with to-do lists – color-coded annotated to-do lists. It’s what I need to do to manage my life. I don’t get things done without them.

Looking ahead to 2016, one of my goals is to be more ok with doing less. I am certain I will be working as hard as ever, but the scope of my work and my total commitments will hopefully to drop significantly. I plan to travel less, take on fewer speaking engagements, and probably not take on any more community activities then I’ve already committed to.

On the flip side, I hope this will give me more – more energy, more sleep, more time with friends, more non-work adventurers, and more time just to think. I definitely don’t give myself enough time to mull over ideas with no expectation of a final product. The biggest challenges with this plan is to let myself be okay with doing less, knowing that I could take on more.

I think this is the next step in the don’t-have-a-heart-attack, be-more-balanced plan.

Thoughts about Fashion and Minimalism

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter - Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter – Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

About a month ago, a friend asked me to comment on Joshua Becker’s post 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. This article brings up a lot of good points – if you have a personal uniform (i.e., Steve Jobs and his turtleneck and Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt), you save time and energy getting dressed in the morning. And you save money by not having an expansive wardrobe.

It appears the capsule wardrobe is catching on – a wardrobe of interchangeable pieces. Some people who are trying to be more minimalistic with their wardrobe do Project 333 – wearing a wardrobe that consists of 33 pieces for a 3-month period. I understand the concept of these ideas, but they’ve never appealed to me.

Being a minimalist has never been about limiting myself to owning a specific number of items but limiting myself to possessions that add value to my life. When it comes to the role of fashion in my life, I love this quote from Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists:

Now nearly everything I own is my favorite thing. All my clothes are my favorite clothes. All my furniture is my favorite furniture. All my possessions are my favorite possessions—all of which I enjoy every day of my life.

I love wearing clothes that make me feel good – soft fabrics, comfortable cuts, and items that make me feel beautiful. If I’m not seeing clients, my everyday outfit tends to consist of jeans, a t-shirt, comfortable shoes, and a hoodie or cardigan if it’s chilly. When I’m speaking, I’ll trade in my hoodie for a blazer. If I’m seeing clients, I may take my outfit up a notch to dress pants, a button-down shirt, a tank top, and dress shoes.

Here are two of the things I do to make sure I’m mostly keeping the clothes I love:

1. The Hanger Flip. At the beginning of the year, I reverse all the hangers in my closet. When I put a garment away after wearing it, I flip the hanger back to the proper direction. After a few weeks, I can see what garments I’m wearing the most. By fall, I can usually tell what I should get rid of because I can see what I haven’t worn through the previous warm and cold seasons.

2. Select the Day’s Outfit in a Vacuum. I don’t open a drawer or step into my closet in the morning until I’ve decided what I want to wear. I don’t use visual cues but rather my knowledge of my wardrobe and that day’s calendar to select my outfit. It forces me to go with my gut feeling about what I really want to wear instead of getting lost considering all the possibilities.

The size of my wardrobe has diminished substantially over the last few years and I love it. (There’s no reason to own 15 sweaters when I consistently wear only 4 of them.) I love that my wardrobe is simple and filled with mostly classic pieces and awesome t-shirts. It makes getting dressed every day so much easier. I know that everything I own fits, serves a purpose, and feels good against my sensitive skin.

Closet Clean-Out 2015 Update

At the beginning of the year, I started my annual closet clean-out and I reversed all the hangers in my closet. The idea is that when I wear a garment, I’ll flip the hanger back when I put the item away. At the end of the year, anything that is on a reversed hanger is something I haven’t worn in the last year, so it’s an item that should be given away. This is something I’ve been doing for years, and every year I have fewer items and it’s easier to let go of things I don’t use anymore.

Part of my Closet - June 16, 2015

Part of my Closet – June 16, 2015

Last year, I thought I cleaned out a lot of my wardrobe, but when I moved last October, I challenged myself to replicate Ryan Nicodemus’ “packing party.” By the end of it, I had 10 boxes of stuff to give away and probably 2 of those boxes were filled with clothes.

A few days ago I stepped into my closet to assess how this year’s clean-out was going. The first thing I noticed is that most of my hangers have already been flipped back, which is a significant difference from past years. This is the smallest my wardrobe has been since becoming a minimalist. It might be the smallest it’s been at least since I stopped wearing a uniform to school. And I’m not going out of my way to wear things just because their hanger hasn’t been flipped yet. On most days, I decide what I want to wear before stepping into my closet.

I looked at the top of my closet and I noted that I have 6 pullover sweaters. This is a lot less than the 12-15 sweaters I used to have, but still – 6 sweaters?! What do I need with 6 sweaters?! Remember, I live in Phoenix. It’s pretty warm here most of the time. I took a quick glance through them and moved 2 to the charity pile.  It wouldn’t hurt to go through my jeans (I got a few new pairs for speaking engagements) and my accessories (which I rarely wear).  I definitely have more t-shirts and running shirts than I need, and I’m ok with that.

My annual clean-out isn’t about shrinking my wardrobe as much as possible. It’s about getting rid of things that don’t make me happy. I never want to feel uncomfortable in my skin, in my clothes, or in my home. When I get dressed, it makes me feel good because I feel comfortable and pretty in my clothes and I value myself enough to treat myself to fabrics that are super soft and garments that complement my personality.

I thought about challenging myself to do a capsule wardrobe – limiting myself to 33 items for 3 months – but I don’t think that would be much of a challenge compared to how I dress myself now. Instead, I’m going to continue my clean-out process and be honest about what brings value to my life when it comes to clothes.

Day 9/90 – WordTasting Tour

Day 9 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? The WordTasting Tour stop at Changing Hands featuring Colin Wright, Josh Wagner, Skye Steele, and Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists!

Two Pasty-Pale Minimalists - with Joshua Fields Millburn

Two Pasty-Pale Minimalists – with Joshua Fields Millburn

I became familiar with The Minimalists at the beginning of my journey with minimalism. I came away from their talk at SXSW buzzing with ideas for de-cluttering my life. I saw them again during their tour following the release of Everything That Remains, which inspired me even more. I also ripped off Ryan Nicodemus’ packing party idea when I moved to my new home.

The WordTasting Tour was a fantastic experience to connect with other minimalists and aspiring minimalists and to meet others in the minimalist community – like Colin Wright. He moves to a new country every 4 months and lives like a local to learn new cultures and see the world from a different perspective. Each of these authors is an incredible wordsmith, and they were accompanied and complemented by Skye Steele’s music. This guy is wicked talented.

With Skye Steele

With Skye Steele

I walked away from this event inspired, not only to be more dedicated to minimalism (remembering that things are just tools and focusing on the activities that add value to my life and allow me to add value to others’ lives) but also to my writing. Joshua Fields Millburn has an eloquent saying: “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.” But I think the most profound thing I heard at this event came from a poem by Josh Wagner: “Shut your mouth and scream.” As a writer, this line spoke to me. It reminded me to quit dicking around and do what I need to do, say what I need to say.

In case you missed it: Day 8 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I almost met The Namby Pamby!

Bad Minimalist – Too Much Paper Clutter Again

Grrr . . . . I feel like a bad minimalist.

One of the piles of paper on my desk right now

One of the piles of paper on my desk right now

Paper has taken over my life again. I have stacks of it in my office, the home office, and my kitchen – notes, receipts, documents to be filed for tax purposes, business cards, and probably a bunch of stuff I can recycle. It’s the one thing I don’t have control over in my life. I can stop buying stuff, but I can’t stop the paper traffic in my life. I can only minimize and manage it.

I’ve been traveling a lot this year and it started piling up before I left town for The Undeniable Tour. I was so busy for the weeks leading up to the trip that everything that didn’t have to get done before the Tour got put in a pile to be dealt with when I got back.

When I got back after being on the road for two weeks, I had piles of mail that arrived while I was away and everything I brought back from the road. Two weeks was a long time to be away from clients; I felt like I spent at least two weeks trying to catch up again. I somewhat got a grip on the day-to-day influx of paper (mail, business cards, receipts, bills) but I still had the piles from the previous weeks. And then I had to prep for my trip to speak at Ungagged in London so everything that I could put off until after I returned was put in a new pile.

Bah! Too much paper around me!
And don’t get me started on how bad my email inboxes are right now.

In my early days of embracing minimalism, I gave myself a 30-day challenge of processing paper through my life in 24 hours or less. It was a great experience that took diligence but it gave me a clean workspaces. Clearing of my desk and counter and creating a de-cluttered environment helped clear my mind. I felt less anxious and distracted. It helped me see that I only need to do one thing at a time and trying to multi-task makes me feel insane.

I need to be more disciplined about the paper in my life. It would be foolish to let it pile up all week, telling myself that I’ll take care of it over the weekend. That is total crap and I know it. Sometimes I’m so tired by the weekend that I don’t do anything but lay on the couch and watch movies between naps or I have events and activities that take up all my time. I think I need to think about paper like flossing my teeth – I don’t like doing it but it doesn’t take that long and the long-term effects are worth it. It’s definitely a suck-it-up-buttercup task.

So what’s the plan? I have a good system for staying organized and mostly clutter-free when I chose to use it. I’ll have to have a conscious effort to get rid of the excess paper in my life and keep it that way. Thankfully I promised Rosie and myself that I’m not traveling this summer so I’ll have time to tackle this project and work on making it a habit. In regards to my email, I’m turning my inbox clean-out into a post for Attorney at Work so hopefully that will motivate me to get it done and stay aware of what’s is/is not working in the process so I can pass those lessons along to my readers.

If you go through periods where your paper clutter gets away from you and you have to make it a big to-do to get un-cluttered, I’d love to hear what works for you. Likewise, if you’ve slayed this dragon, I’d love to hear any tips you an offer for how you stay paper clutter-free.

Traveling without Tech

London from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral!

Hello from London!

I spent last weekend at an SEO conference in London called Ungagged. (Yes, poor me, I had to accept a trip to London to talk about social media law.) Initially, I thought the trip would give me another opportunity to practice minimalist packing, but it gave me a much richer experience of traveling without a cell phone.

Before I left for this trip, I contacted my wireless provider and added a small global package to my phone. Unbeknownst to the clerk or me, they gave me a plan that doesn’t work in the UK, so when I arrived I had a cell phone that was worthless as a phone. I could still connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, but otherwise, my phone was an oversized pocket watch that was set to Arizona time with a built-in camera.

Whenever I wasn’t in the hotel, I felt like I was back in the late 1990’s when I had to go back to the computer in my college dorm room to check my email. Actually, it was better than that because I had a pager in college so there was always a chance my hip would start vibrating. I bopped around London virtually tech-free. Many times I left the hotel without taking my phone with me and when I did take it, it was only to be able to take photos.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

I loved walking along the Thames River, looking at the various shops. I navigated only with the recommendation from the concierge – not even a map or a guidebook to direct me. I figured if I got lost, I’d stop at a shop and ask directions. It was quite freeing to travel untethered to my phone – nothing to distract or direct me. I simply followed the streets and whatever whims moved me. As I walked along I thought, “This is what being a tourist used to be like.”

My hotel was located near St. Paul’s Cathedral which has a dome that towers above much of the surrounding skyline. When I wanted to return from whence I came, all I had to do was turn around and head in the opposite direction. If I moved in the general direction of cathedral, I knew I’d get back to my hotel eventually. I was never afraid of being “lost” in the city.

It was so wonderful and relaxing to leave my phone behind and enjoy London. I suspect I got to see and experience more of the city merely because I wasn’t distracted by notification chimes or tempted to bury my head in my phone. It’s definitely a practice I want to adopt more often.

Traveling Reveals What’s Important

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

I spent the last 2 weeks on the road with The Undeniable Tour. I flew to San Diego and drove to Seattle, doing a speaking engagements and mostly staying in hostels along the way. I lived out of a small suitcase in the backpack, and I could have brought less if I didn’t have to dress like a professional or be prepared for such a wide variety of weather.

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

When I step back and reflect on my adventurers from a personal perspective, I see that traveling with such few possessions and traveling by myself reveals some of my core values. I hand selected my speaking engagements, lodging, who I interacted with, and how I spent my free time. It’s been a long time since the last time my days felt like they were my own and not dictated by deadlines and to-do lists. I often drove without music or the news playing in the car so I had lots of time to be alone with my thoughts.

Even though I am a gregarious performer, I’m a very simple person when it comes to my tastes and what’s important to me. I like super soft fabrics, memory foam mattresses, hot coffee, and excessively hot showers. I like to be near the ocean even though I hate getting sand in my shoes. When I had down time during the tour, I often went for a walk, read my book, or slept. I wish my city was more walkable.

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

I enjoyed chatting with my fellow travelers in the hostels, but I wouldn’t say that I socialized with them. I was in each city for only a couple of days at most so I was picky about who I spent quality time with. I’m really glad that this trip allowed me to see so many of my friends, some of who I hadn’t seen in close to a decade. There have been several times I’ve contemplated putting a map of the U.S. on my wall and marking where all of my friends live with push pins to help me remember who to look up when I’m on the road.

Living out of the suitcase reminded me how little I need to be happy and comfortable. It made me want to continue my diligence in regards to living a minimalist lifestyle. Since returning to Phoenix, I’ve added a few things to my donate-to-charity pile.

This trip definitely showed me that it’s important to periodically take a break from my everyday routine and surroundings to reflect on who I am, where I’m going, and what’s important to me. As much as I enjoyed sharing information and ideas with my audiences about how lawyers and law students can use social media and the blogging in their professional careers, the weakest gained from this trip for me personally was it gave me some time and space to think about my priorities.

Minimalist Travel Update – Doing Laundry on the Road

Golden Gate Bridge!

Golden Gate Bridge!

A few days ago I wrote about what I’m doing to separate my dirty clothes from my clean clothes during The Undeniable Tour. I roll my clothes to save space in my bag. At the end of each day, I flip my shirt inside-out and roll it up with my socks and underwear I wore that day and put the bundle back in my bag.

I did my laundry on Day 8 of the tour while I was in San Francisco. I had worn each article of clothing I brought with me except for my bathing suit and my yoga pants. I took those out of my bag along with my blazer and sweatshirt and took my suitcase down to the laundry room.

Rolling my laundry worked out great! As I tossed each bundle into the washing machine, I held on to the edge so it unrolled as it went in. I loaded the machine in about a minute and I had no issues with laundry sticking together.

I will definitely keep doing this for the rest of my trip. Rolling my dirty clothes keeps my luggage tidy so I can easily and quickly get ready in the morning, which is a huge asset when you’re living in a hostel and have to get dressed in the dark if you’re awake before your roommates.

Minimalist Traveling – Managing Laundry

All Smiles in Santa Monica

All Smiles in Santa Monica

I am on The Undeniable Tour and living out of a suitcase and a backpack for two weeks. I only packed what I knew I would need for a week with plans to do laundry at one of the hostels where I’m staying.

When I packed my bag, I rolled most of my clothes which makes it easier to maximize the space in my bag. Rolling takes up significant less space than folding. One of the downsides of rolling your clothes is you can’t have a clean clothes and dirty clothes pile in your bag and it might be hard to determine what you’ve worn – especially things like socks. I didn’t want to create a mess when it came to sorting out my clean clothes from my dirty clothes come laundry day, so here’s what I did at the end of each day.

  • Take off shirt from the day and flip it inside out (inside out = dirty; right side out = clean).
  • Lay shirt flat on the ground.
  • Put dirty socks and underwear on shirt.
  • Create a mini bundle of dirty clothes by rolling up shirt with socks and underwear in it.

My suitcase is still filled with rolled up clothing, but come laundry day it should be easy to manage because all I have to do is shake out each bundle with an inside out shirt into the washing machine and turn it on. That’s my master plan at least. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve been traveling with rolled up clothes for decades. I’m surprised it hasn’t dawned on me to roll up bundles of dirty clothes before. It’s definitely made it easier to get ready for each day because my dirty clothes are segregated from my clean ones.

Traveling definitely helps me see what things I really use in my day-to-day life and makes me question if certain things actually add value to my life or if they’re just taking up space. And for those of you who read my Burning Books post, I started the tour with 6 books. I’m currently down to 3.

Burning Books

No, I’m not advocating the burning of actual literature, but it is one of my sub-themes for The Undeniable Tour.

These are the Books that Started The Undeniable Tour with Me.

These are the Books that Started The Undeniable Tour with Me.

“Burn your books” is something I got from the movie, “Wild.” Reese Witherspoon’s character walked the Pacific Crest Trail and started out with way too much stuff in her pack. It was so cumbersome that she could only walk 5 miles a day. Along with cleaning out the superfluous stuff in her pack, an experienced outdoorsman advised her to tear the pages out of her books as she was reading them so they wouldn’t add weight to her pack. I’m doing something similar for my trip.

As I was packing for my trip, I put 6 books in my bag. Yes, the aspiring minimalist took 6 books on a 2-week trip. But I swear there’s method to my madness. Two of my books are copies of Flash Mob Law which are gifts. They won’t be coming home with me.

The other 4 books are from my “Read Me” box. When I finished my “packing party” I had a banker box of books that I’d been holding onto because I wanted to read them eventually. I made myself a deal – I had 1 year to read these books. If there’s a book in the box at the end of this year, I can’t be that motivated to read it so I should get rid of it. I threw 4 of these books in my bag. Most of them are thin and paperbacks – easy to tote around in a suitcase or backpack.

I tend to read a lot when I travel – it’s a great way to fill down time. I think every hostel I’m staying at has a book exchange where you can leave books you finish and grab new free ones if you’re so inclined. Instead of actually burning my books when I’m done reading them, I’ll be leaving each one behind wherever I finish it. I like that I’ll be passing along my books to fellow travelers.

My first book is Lilith’s Love by Dan Shuarette. I won this book at Podcamp AZ years ago and I’m finally getting around to reading it. I’m only about a quarter of the way in but I’m enjoying it. Check it out if you’re interested in vampire fiction. (And I’m someone who has no interest in Twilight.)

Hopefully I’ll finish all my books on this trip and I’ll be going home with a lighter bag than when I left.