Updates for our days in 2018

Hello there friends!

Oy, it's been a while. We went on our three-month sabbatical last autumn and, among other things, we used it to really disconnect from our old defaults, routines, and commitments. I stopped writing and doing a lot of things I normally do to see where it would take me. And since we got back, after the holidays, we've been slowly adding things back in.

Hmm, this sounds so still and luxurious. While it was an amazing opportunity, this trip and these intentions included constant supervision of an 18-month-old ;)

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I've been wanting to write an update here (though I kind of forgot how to blog :D) and a few other posts to share what's shifted for us, understanding that about 90% of my days are pretty much still the same. Certain aspects of life have gotten a lot more joyful while others have gotten more challenging. SO, SOME UPDATES FOR OUR DAYS IN 2018:

1. Our one-word theme for 2017 was “soul” and what a way to experience that through long journeys, some solo travel, exotic food and music, and months spent in very old buildings in Spain. 2017 really shook things up for me (which was incredibly unsettling for my personality ;) but I did feel expansion, new depths, and even some darkness.
Looking to lift that energy this year, my word for 2018 became "lively"! I was thinking joy, playfulness, color, vitality. I'm loving it.

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2. As soon as "lively" came to me, so did Jess Lively! I've followed her on and off but took a huge hiatus during maternity leave. I picked back up on her podcasts during the end of the sabbatical and then joined Flow With Intention Online in February. The day I committed to the course was one of the best days and I've loved watching her energy and coaching. This work was so in line with all of the disruptions I had caused to my routines and habits... in a good way!

3. I've tried to practice and teach keeping only the 9's and 10's in life or the "Heck Yes's"! Motherhood has challenged this for me (less with stuff and more with commitments) so the Flow class reemphasized the concept. I now mostly focus on doing joyful things or things I can respond "with pleasure" to. What a gift.

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4. Another main concept I have been leaning towards and which the class reinforced was that of a more casual and flexible morning routine. Back when I was sick and later had too many projects going on, my morning routine was a savior. It seriously made every single day better. But of course, it completely shifted after having a baby, nursing all night, and focusing on survival. We had routines but nothing very nourishing. On sabbatical, we felt this lack even more. Now I'm back to being proactive about my mornings but they're completely focused on joy and what will make me feel good at the moment. It changes regularly... I usually read fiction for a bit, play with Islo, cook a nourishing breakfast, and try to get some time to myself. I'm working on reincorporating regular meditation.

5. I've even started to set aside a part of naptime for movie watching!!! This felt like a crazy luxury a year ago but now it's regular and I love the lightness it brings to my afternoons.

6. I MISSED MEAL PLANNING! We all did, like so much. On the sabbatical, we were hangrier, ate less healthy, spent a lot more money on food, and enjoyed dining out a lot less. For this family, it was incredibly stressful and not free and flexible as it seemed it could be. So the day after we got back, I started meal planning and cooking a ton again and it's been amazing. It does take some time (my time) but as I've learned, it actually takes significantly less time than reaching every meal with the question of "what will we eat?". It's saving time, money, calories, food waste... so many things. I'm planning twice a week right now as it's 4 meals a day (or 3 and a snack) for those of us at home and my brain can only really handle 15 meals of planning and shopping at a time. I incorporate meals out and leftovers so we always have some flexibility if something comes up or there's a heat wave when I was expecting to have the oven on for an hour (ahem, Saturday).

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7. To make cooking easier and quicker every night (I do it solo with Islo under my feet or at the counter next to me), I prepare any parts of the recipes in advance that I can. This can look like: roasting veggies the night before; chopping my mise en place in the morning; measuring ingredients or mixing sauces during nap; or starting the slow cooker over breakfast. Breakfasts and dinners are now like those meal prep kits but better!

8. Islo and I have been spending lots of time outside or on adventures every day since being home. We both now have raingear inspired by our time in Copenhagen so we can hike, walk or play in the cold rain. We go to a couple of museums every month, usually through our library's free Discover & Go program. It's so fun to walk around and discuss art with a 2-year-old! We even spent two really cold and wet days at Ikea playing with the trains and eating meatballs. These adventures always include a lunch date. <3

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9. I'm still going strong on my summer 2017 habit to learn Spanish through Duolingo. I've missed a few days here or there but have been using it regularly for almost a year! I just got my first 120-day-streak without a miss too! I felt comfortable in Spain reading most things and listening to conversations but, as usual, I felt like a fool trying to speak. Working on it ;)

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10. Because of all these things (though not Duolingo) and some health issues, I haven't been working as an Essentialist as much. I want it to be a source of energy in my life and not a drain. For this season, joy looks like a walk through wildflowers with a little one and not as many donation piles. :D

+ But with nearly nine months of no decluttering at home, we are ready for some work ourselves. Closets! Toys! Spices! We even just replaced some of the air plants that didn't make it through three months of renters and are loving the upgrade!!

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To be honest though, through travel, renting, toddlerhood, seasonal and body changes, our lives have survived no decluttering. With existing systems in place, very little came in or stuck around if it wasn't essential. What validation for Essentialism: you can go through many major life changes at one time and put little effort into stuff and home, but everything stays pretty organized, peaceful and easy!

As always, thanks for being here! xo

++ I've been asked a number of times about the nursery and how we've liked it one and two years in... I'm working on updates to answer some of the questions. 🦄

Goodbye Stuff! (a guide to getting it out of your home)

Oh my, we're almost done with July! While we're continuing to work on our garage with July Habit: Sell 1 Thing A Day, we're once again back in the world of getting rid of our stuff. I help people get rid of stuff all the time and I've learned that it's crucial that this step be easy. Sure it's good to tie this step into your values or to make a little extra cash to help pay down debt but none of that matters if the items stay in your space for months or years. 

+ If you need help figuring out what to get rid of, read Essentialism 101, especially Step 4: What's Not Working. We'll finish out that series soon with Step 5: Restore and Incorporate Maintenance!

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THE 5 BEST WAYS TO GET RID OF YOUR STUFF: (in my order of preference)
1. Trash: Or trash/recycling/composting. This is the easiest way to get rid of anything. Remove all the obvious trash first and consolidate cardboard and packing materials (you can even list them for free and people will flock). While I don't condone trashing usable items, "trash" encompasses a few interesting options. In San Francisco, yard trimmings and cardboard bundles can be placed beside the collection bins. Paint and other hazardous household items can be collected (and reused!!) with a quick phone call. And 10 "bulky items" can be picked up twice per year with a phone call. Think broken furniture, scrap metal and wood, or unusable mattresses. (This also works for electronic waste!)

2. Donate: For 9 out of 10 items, donation is the way to go. Selling always slows you down. The energy involved in selling something isn't worth it for the majority of stuff in our homes. Gather it all together, drop it off, and enjoy the tax deduction!

For a majority of stuff, I recommend Goodwill or similar thrift stores. (They might even pick up for free!) Make sure the items are in a good and usable condition. If you'd like to know who your stuff is helping, try to find sites for specific items. A few of my favorites:
Friends of the Public Library (or the local veterans association) for books, records, dvds
Teachers and nonprofits for art supplies
SPCA for pet supplies
Shelters or ministries for unopened toiletries
Homeless Prenatal Program for diapers and gently used baby items
And I'm a fan of our local Buy Nothing group

+ For tax purposes, if a donated item or group of items is worth less than $5000, you don't need an appraisal. I like to snap a quick photo of the items and attach it to the donation receipt for tax time. The deduction amount is Fair Market Value (FMV) or what somebody would pay at a thrift store. Maximum deduction is 50% of your AGI. So let's say you donate $1000 worth of goods in a year and your tax rate is around 20%... that means a $200 refund (if you itemize), with virtually no effort. 

3. Craigslist or Ebay: For larger or more valuable items, selling them to someone else is a great way to make a little cash as you pass them on. Ebay requires a good amount of effort per item but you'll have a large audience and will probably net the most money. It's best for smaller, more valuable items like electronics and designer clothing. (You do have to ship them!) Think laptops, cameras, watches, and handbags. 

Craigslist is the best way to go for everything else. Furniture? Check. Appliances, baby products, tools, gardening equipment, bikes? Check. We've sold an oven, a juicer, shelves, sofas, old iPhones and even our first car on Craigslist!! My guide to Craigslisting is coming up!

+ The most important thing you can do when selling an item is to take good pictures. Make sure the item is clean, place it in an uncluttered and realistic setting, focus on good lighting and composition, and then take both wide and detailed shots.

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4. Consignment: This tends to be better in theory than in practice. You get to sell some items but don't have to do any of the work? Woot. If you have designer clothing, furniture or maybe the latest hot video game, you might be able to make a bit of cash. I worked with a client who had a lot of nice athleisure wear and she was able to drop off a bag of clothes in exchange for money. But usually we think our older clothing is worth a lot more than it is. If a consignment shop will take something, it rarely sells. I'm not an expert on consignment but I don't recommend taking the time unless you have a store that you frequent and you know what they're looking for. 

Vintage furniture is an exception. If you have a number of pieces that you think might be worth more than a listing on Craigslist, hire an antiques appraiser. 

+ For video games or consumer electronics, Amazon Trade-In is an easy way to send everything in for a lump sum... or amazon gift card ;) You won't get top dollar but the process is very straight forward! 

5. Garage or Yard Sale: Ugh. These sales are rarely worth the effort. We hosted one in 2013 with a friend and sold hundreds of items. I still don't think it was worth the energy and time. There's cataloging, pricing, labeling, taking photos, marketing, displaying, negotiating, keeping track of cash. If you're up for it, it's helpful to have some big-ticket items to get people interested. Start pricing at about 25% what you paid and work down to 10% or less as the sale goes on. The benefits are that you're getting rid of a lot at once (if you have a good turn out) and it's emotionally nice to see where your stuff is going. 

Love how crafty that man is <3.

How do you like to get rid of your stuff? Any garage sale success stories out there?