Simplify by Sarah

5 Books to Inspire Your Simple Living Journey

Simple LivingSarah Anne HayesComment

If this is our first time hanging out in this great wide world of the interwebs, there's something you'll probably learn about me pretty quick — I am a major bibliophile.

I fell in love with stories at an extremely young age and the love for reading has never gone away. I spent my college years studying English, which of course required time spent studying classic literature and loved nearly every minute of it (Ancient World Lit and I did not get along). Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and I love fiction and nonfiction alike for the incredible things both can teach us about the world.

Appropriately, my simple living journey began with a book. Though I have found other resources like blogs and YouTube channels that I love and read or watch on a regular basis (and have obviously started this blog of my own), there's still nothing like digging into the long-form storytelling style of a book. And when I think about the pieces of content that have made the most impact on my simple living journey, they are books.

So if you're looking to disconnect for a little while (something I believe is infinitely important), pick up one of these books that have inspired my own simple living journey and go enjoy some of that summer sunshine! (If you're in the Western Hemisphere, that is.)

7: AN EXPERIMENTAL MUTINY AGAINST EXCESS BY JEN HATMAKER

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I couldn't make a list of books that have inspired my own simple living journey without including 7, seeing as that's where it all began.

Jen's book is a memoir, written mostly in real-time, of her and her family's experience in intentionally fighting against the excess of the American culture. Jen (and her husband and family to varying degrees) conducted seven experiments in seven areas of life over seven months to fight against the pull of overindulgence, greed, and excess that is so pervasive in the American culture.

The experiments included food, clothing, spending, possessions, stress, media, and waste. As Jen shares her story of only wearing seven items of clothing for one month, only spending money at seven places (including the grocery store and gas station) throughout a month, and more, it forces you to confront your own subconscious patterns of excess.

I read 7 just after moving for the second time in four months. I was already overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I was moving from house to house, and Jen's convicting observations and questions were the catalyst I needed to confront the habits of overindulgence, greed, and excess in my own life.

While the book isn't specifically about minimalism or even simple living, it causes you to sit back and think about the excess in your life in more terms than how many clothes are in your closet and how many items in your home. It quite literally changed my life.

Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

THE MORE OF LESS BY JOSHUA BECKER

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Joshua Becker's blog Becoming Minimalist is one of the first non-book resources I discovered on my simple living journey and it's still one of my favorites to read. Though I was nowhere near the beginning of my minimalism journey when this book came out, I was still excited to pick it up.

If you're new to the minimalism game, this is an excellent starting place and is the book I recommend to anyone looking for practical steps to starting the shift to a more minimal lifestyle. It's a combination of inspiration, education, and practical advice for anyone who is overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in their life.

Joshua thoughtfully shares practical advice and personal anecdotes about every aspect of minimalism, including the why and how, as well as the various benefits of it ranging from less stress and better health to more time or money to spend on the things you care about the most. 

He also thoughtfully shares stories about his personal experience shifting to a more minimal lifestyle, along with stories from others about the ways their lives have changed for the better when they decided to step away from the consumerist culture and be more intentional about what they let into their lives.

Though I was done with most of the initial decluttering of my home when I read this, I still really appreciated the insights and thoughts Joshua shares on the value of simplifying your possessions and your life.

Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

ESSENTIALISM BY GREG MCKEOWN

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Like many people, my simple living journey started with physical possessions, but over the past two years, it has spread into more and more areas of my life.

One of the first things I decided to tackle after decluttering physical items was my schedule and commitments. I have always been a perpetual overcommitter, priding myself on how busy I was and how much more I seemed to get done than everybody else, so this was an area of my life that almost required even more attention and intentionality than a physical declutter did.

Essentialism is more or less the idea of minimalism, but for your life, rather than your stuff. Greg posits the idea that many of make good contributions to the world, but few of us make great ones because our lives are so full of good that we never have time for great. He encourages you to consider the question, "If I could only do one thing, what would it be?" He talks about the importance of rest and play and getting back to the essential, the areas of life where we are able to make our greatest contribution to the world, both personally and professionally.

It caused me to really think seriously about the commitments I had made and helped this perpetual overcommitter to say no to three requests in three days because they didn't fit with the things I want to focus on in that season. If you're at the point where you're looking to move beyond simplifying physical possessions into simplifying the rest of your life, definitely check this one out.

Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

PRESENT OVER PERFECT BY SHAUNA NIEQUIST

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I read Essentialism and Present Over Perfect one right after the other and if I had to describe one in relation to the other, I would say Essentialism is the theory and Present Over Perfect is the case study.

I've been a fan of Shauna Niequist's work for a few years now and I've yet to read a book of hers that didn't make me want to leap up and yell, "Me too!!" As soon as I heard she was working on Present Over Perfect, I already knew I was going to absolutely love the book.

Shauna is like a lot of us. She got swept up in the rat race and the cultural mandate that in order to be valued in society, you must be productive and busy all the time. As a writer and a speaker, she was going a hundred miles a minute and beginning to lose the person she was in the process. So she stopped. She started saying no to the things and coming back around to the person she was created to be and focusing on the things that were most important to her.

Much of me is convinced Shauna is myself about 15 years older with an excessive love of cheese I will never be able to understand (#lactoseintolerantproblems), so it's possible her writing style won't grip you the same way it grips me. But Shauna is one of those writers who makes you feel comfortable and at home, so even if you can't relate to everything she writes about, chances are you'll still love this one.

Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

CHASING SLOW BY ERIN LOECHNER

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I've somehow managed to start the last two years in a row with a 5 star book and this is the one that kicked off 2017 for me.

Until I heard about Chasing Slow, I had never heard of Erin Loechner or any of the things she does, but in the months since I picked up her book, she has quickly become one of my favorite people to read, both on the internet and off, and her book is currently my favorite one of simpler, more intentional living.

Like Present Over PerfectChasing Slow is a memoir about Erin's journey away from a frantic, busy, draining way of live to one that is slower, simpler, and filled with the people and things she loves the most. She shares about the rise of her blog, how she and her husband lost nearly everything in the stock market crash of 2008, and the road they've walked in the nearly 10 years since then.

Perhaps one of the reasons I fell so in love with Erin's story and her writing is because, like me, Erin suffers from anxiety. As someone who has only been diagnosed within the last five years and has spent two and a half of those years simplifying her life, it was such an encouragement to read from the perspective of someone who seeks simplicity and also deals with the hardships of anxiety on a daily basis.

Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


There you have it, friends! Those are a few of my favorite books to inspire your simple living and minimalist journey. I hope you'll pick one up this summer and it will encourage you like it encouraged me!

The Simplify Series: Your Closet

The Simplify SeriesSarah Anne HayesComment

If you're anything like me, you have at least one Pinterest board dedicated to all the gorgeous outfits you absolutely love but feel like you'll never actually achieve. 

Deep down, I think we all love the idea of being that effortlessly stylish woman who looks put together no matter what and is ready for whatever life throws her way. And while we may have a few go to outfits that make us feel amazing, a lot of our closet makes us feel pretty 'meh.'

This is the spot I was in two years ago when I first discovered minimalism. After reading Jen Hatmaker's book 7, I started doing all the reading I could on minimalism, but it was a few months before I actually took the plunge and started decluttering. The first place I tackled? My closet.

There are all sorts of arguments for starting in various places when it comes to decluttering, but one of the most common places to start is with your wardrobe. I think this is for a variety of reasons.

One, the physical space is relatively contained, so it can feel less overwhelming than a larger room. Clothing is also something we have to deal with every single day, so even though there will be moments of "I still have this?!" as you sort through everything, those moments will likely be fewer and farther between than when tackling other areas of your home like rooms with cabinets and deep drawers.

For me personally, I found that decluttering my closet sparked an immediate change. Having a more limited wardrobe increased my creativity, boosted my confidence, and made me excited to continue decluttering the rest of my life.

GETTING STARTED

Like any decluttering task, the biggest hurdle for minimizing your wardrobe is just getting started.

There are a whole lot of different options and ways to approach minimizing your wardrobe and just choosing the approach you want to take can be a little bit overwhelming. Without a doubt, the most popular and common one out there is the capsule wardrobe.

If you're not familiar with it, a capsule wardrobe is a wardrobe comprised of a limited number of pieces (the actual number varies from person to person) that you absolutely love. Most often, you create a capsule for each season, rotating pieces out once every three months. Because of the limited number, most capsule wardrobes are also comprised of high quality pieces that will last for a long time, and versatile ones you can mix and match in a variety of different ways.

The capsule wardrobe is based on the thought process that most people, women in particular, only wear 20-30% of their wardrobe on a regular basis. If you think about it, you probably have a few outfits that are you go-tos for the mornings when you're running late, you don't know what to wear, or you feel gross but still want to look amazing. A capsule wardrobe takes all of those outfits and uses them to comprise the entire wardrobe, eliminating the excess pieces that you feel meh, neutral, or negative about.

Contrary to popular belief, the capsule wardrobe is not the only type of option available for a minimized wardrobe. Though I started my minimal wardrobe journey with a capsule wardrobe in mind, I quickly learned that based on where I live, a capsule wardrobe is not the best option. So I toyed around with a couple of different ideas and, after some trial and error, developed my own minimal wardrobe solution that meshes well with my personal style and the climate I live in (more on that in a future post).

If you're not sure if the capsule wardrobe is right for you or if some other minimal wardrobe option would be better, don't let that deter you from getting started on the decluttering process.

Minimalism at its core isn't about a specific way of doing thing. It's about removing excess from your life to determine what matters most. What works for you might not work for me and vice versa. The important thing is to just get the process going and determine, through experimentation and some trial and error, the form of minimalism that works best for you.

THE DECLUTTERING PROCESS

So you've decided today's the day. You're going to declutter your closet. Where do you begin?

Start by pulling all of your clothing (yes, all of it) out of your closet, dresser, and any other storage and putting it on your bed. I recommend putting it on the bed because this will hopefully motivate you to finish the task before the day is done — otherwise you have to push everything onto the floor!

DIVIDE THINGS UP

Once you've got everything piled up onto your bed (it might be a little overwhelming...that's okay), start by designating a spot for three different piles. You can do this by grabbing three boxes or bins, writing categories on an index card, or just making a mental note of which pile is which. You're only going to make three piles, but you're going to divide your clothing into four categories — Love, Maybe, Nope, and Seasonal.

The Love pile isn't actually a pile and these items are going to be fairly obvious. They're the ones you thought of earlier when I mentioned your go-to outifts, those pieces that make you feel amazing no matter what. When you come across one of these items, put it back in the closet. Don't worry yet about the quality, its versatility, or anything like that. The analysis of your total wardrobe will come later, but if you spend too much time on it now, you'll never make it through everything.

The Maybe pile is next. These are the clothing items that you're tempted to keep and you probably like, but there's just something that keeps you back from absolutely loving them. Maybe it's a shirt you used to love but it doesn't fit quite right anymore. Maybe it's a dress you bought for a party that one time and you do love it and look amazing in it, but because of your lifestyle, you hardly ever wear it. Maybe it's a piece you bought years ago and have never really worn (it might even still have tags on it), because once you got it home you realized it doesn't go with anything else you own...but you can't bear to get rid of it because it was expensive. If it doesn't scream "love!", toss it on the Maybe pile.

The Nope pile comes after this. Similar to the Love pile, these items should be fairly obvious. They're those pieces you've been meaning to get rid of forever because you can't even remember why you ever thought it looked good. Or those pieces that are clearly falling apart and will never be put back together again. Or the ones that make you cringe every time you put them on. Whatever the reason, you look at the piece and immediately think, "Nope!"

The Seasonal pile is the last one. If you're doing this in the middle of winter, hold off on sorting through your spring/summer clothes until that season rolls around. Or, if you're doing this in the middle of summer, hold off on decluttering those boots and sweaters until the weather's turned cold again. This can be particularly helpful if, like I mentioned, you're intending to do a seasonal capsule wardrobe. It's also helpful if you're in the process of getting into better shape or losing weight and the items will fit differently in a few months when that new season arrives.

Once you've finished dividing everything up, there's still a bit more work to be done. Start by taking your Seasonal pieces, boxing them up, and tucking them away. You can put them under the bed, up in your closet, or in another room — wherever works best for you. Leave those pieces in the box until their season rolls around, and when it does, do the same love/maybe/nope analysis that you did with your other items.

For the Nope pile, divide these up a bit further by determining which items are still in good condition and could potentially be sold or donated, and which items need to be recycled instead. And finally, for the Maybe pile, have a box at the ready to pack them up and store away like your Seasonal pile, but not just yet.

DO SOME ANALYSIS

Now that you've divided all of your clothing into those different piles, you can start to analyze things a little bit.

Start with your Love items and your Nope items and search for some commonalities. It could be the cut, the color, the fabric, the specific type of items (skirt, shirt, etc.), but chances are there are some commonalities between the items you love that make you feel amazing and the items you didn't hesitate to get rid of.

It's been a long time since I did my initial closet declutter, but for me, I noticed that I gravitated toward shades of green and burgundy/red, I have a serious love for a-line pieces that have a defined waist, and I also lean toward pretty classic silhouettes and pieces. Oh, and I have a serious obsession with scarves and cardigan sweaters.

The common theme was they were all pieces that emphasized my natural features like my eye and hair color, and they also made me feel elegant and feminine without feeling super young. Whatever the commonalities are for you, take a minute to jot those down to keep in mind in the future as you begin to more intentionally curate your wardrobe.

GIVE IT SOME TIME

Depending on your specific approach to the wardrobe and the number of items you wound up with in your Love pile, you may want to supplement with a few items in your Maybe pile. It's also possible that you may need or want to weed your Love pile down a little bit more than you already have.

Unless you've decided you're going to do a capsule wardrobe and have a set number of items you're aiming for, this is where I recommend stopping for now. Don't buy anything new just yet. Store your Seasonal and Maybe pieces away. Sell, donate, or recycle your Nope pieces, and give the rest of your closet space to just breathe for a bit. 

Choose a set amount of time -- it could be a couple of weeks or a couple of months — to get yourself used to the idea of a smaller wardrobe. If you had a hard time figuring out commonalities in your favorite pieces right off the bat, use this time to help you discover those things. As you spend more time with your minimized wardrobe, you'll start to notice the pieces you still lean toward all the time, as well as the ones you wish were in your closet.

When you find yourself wishing you had a certain piece, make a note of it, but don't go out and buy it right away. If it's a piece that you keep wishing you had, chances are it would be a good fit in the rest of your wardrobe and is something to invest in.

From here, there's a lot of different ways you can go. If you're doing the capsule wardrobe thing, in a few months time, you'll want to go through and reshuffle your wardrobe. If not, still think through your ideal wardrobe and examine potential pieces for their versatility and quality.

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THE MISCELLANEOUS PIECES

Now you might've been reading this whole post and thinking, "What about workout wear? What about undergarments? What about my jewelry? What do I do with all of those?"

There are two ways to approach all the miscellaneous items in your wardrobe — you can include them in this initial declutter, or you can tackle them one at a time.

When I first started, I did only my main wardrobe which included tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, and outerwear. I left my workout/loungewear, undergarments, purses, and jewelry for another day. Since that initial purge, I've done a couple other major purges and some smaller ones that were specific to some of those miscellaneous categories.

When it comes to accessories like jewelry and purses, it can be especially helpful to wait before deciding to declutter. As you get a better feel for the kind of clothing you're curating, it'll be easier to determine not only the kinds of accessories that will complement your clothing, but also the kinds of accessories that are practical for your lifestyle. My recommendation is to wait (unless, of course, there are some pieces that are a definite "nope") until you've spent a bit more time with minimized clothing before you determine what stays and what goes.

For some people, minimal accessories pairs well with minimal clothing. Others go extremely minimal on the clothing, but have a higher number of accessories so they can still mix things up. You might fall somewhere in the middle. It's all about experimentation and taking time to figure out what works best for you.

TIPS FOR FUTURE CURATION

After this initial purge is complete, it might still seem like you have a long way to go before you have the wardrobe of your dreams, and that's totally okay! It's been nearly two years since my initial closet purge, and I'm still in the process of curating my wardrobe. It's not quite where I want it to be yet, but through patience and a lot of experimentation, I'm much closer than I used to be!

I'll get into some more specifics about this in future posts on curating a minimized wardrobe, but here are a few tips to consider when you're starting to put together a wish list of pieces to add to your wardrobe.

SET THE RULES

One of the best things I ever did for my wardrobe was come up with some rules for it. In addition to being carefully considered (no impulse purchases!), every single item that comes into my closet has to be fit the following rules:

  1. Comfortable — In its fabric and cut, the piece must be comfortable. There can be no poking or prodding, and it can't be a piece that I will constantly feel the need to adjust, fix, or watch.
  2. Versatile — It must be an item that can be paired with multiple pieces throughout the wardrobe based on its silhouette and color, and must be able to be styled a variety of different ways.
  3. Quality — All items must be made from quality fabrics with good stitching and construction, and whenever possible, they should be ethically and sustainably sourced.
  4. Confident — Whatever the piece is, it must make me look and feel absolutely amazing. No exceptions.

Setting up these four rules for my wardrobe means that sometimes it's hard to find pieces and I might be looking for a certain item for a long time (I've been on the hunt for the perfect navy blue cardigan for almost two years), but it also means that the purchases I regret are incredibly few and far between.

DEVELOP A WISH LIST

I've mentioned this a couple of times already, but developing a wish list is one of the best ways you can begin to intentionally curate a wardrobe. 

Think through the items you've always wanted, the ones that pop up most often on that Pinterest board of yours, and the items you're constantly thinking, "Ugh. I wish I had X."

One of the items I had on my wish list for a while was a cross body bag. I've been a big purse/tote girl for a long time, but I had a lot of situations over the last year or so where I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a bag that wasn't so giant, but was just big enough to fit my wallet, keys, phone, and chapstick.

After some research, I found a high quality bag from a small business based in the U.S. I only ordered it a couple of weeks ago, and they're handmade so it hasn't arrived yet, but I already know it's something I will use a ton because of the number of times I've wished I had it.

DETERMINE A COLOR PALLET

One of the things that can help most with versatility (an essential component of a minimized wardrobe) is a cohesive color pallet.

You might think that all minimalist wardrobes are filled only with neutrals and if you love color then you have no hope of having a similar wardrobe. This is simply not the case. Yes, neutrals make it a lot easier because, by nature, they're designed to be versatile, but you can still add color into a wardrobe and keep it versatile.

When I determined the color pallet for my wardrobe, I thought through the colors I wore most often. I tend to gravitate toward jewel tones or brighter colors, but stay away from pastels because I'm relatively pale. Because of my coloring, those jewel tones and brighter colors tend to be shades of green, burgundy/pinks, and the occasional teals, purples, and oranges.

Neutrals do comprise a lot of my wardrobe because I happen to really love them, but you'll notice that all the colors in my wardrobe are some shade of green or burgundy/pink, with the occasional teal and purple. I chose those colors partially because I look and feel great in them, and partially because they also happen to mesh well together, which means even my colors can be mixed and matched.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

If you're looking for additional inspiration or ideas, below you'll find some of the resources I've found most helpful in my own wardrobe curation journey. And if the capsule wardrobe isn't the solution for you, don't worry! I have a post coming soon where I'll give you all the deets on my non-capsule minimal wardrobe!

  • Un-fancy — This is how I began my minimal wardrobe journey. Caroline's blog is where I got the idea of the four different categories and one of the places I continually go back to for inspiration and ideas on all sorts of things related to a minimal wardrobe.
  • Project 333 — Courtney Carver's capsule wardrobe experiment is probably one of the best known out there. Though this wasn't the approach I took when I started curating my wardrobe, it could be particularly helpful if you're working on the experimentation process and trying to figure out what works best for you.
  • My Green Closet — Erin's YouTube channel is one of my current favorite resources, particularly as I've begun the shift toward higher quality items and more ethical and sustainable fashion. Her voice is super calming and she has all sorts of great advice for not only curating a versatile wardrobe, but she has tons of resources if you're looking to add more sustainable and ethical items to your wardrobe as well.
  • The Curated Closet — If you're more of a DIYer when it comes to curating a wardrobe, this book by Anuschka Rees is a fantastic, all-in-one resource, but be prepared to do some work! She takes you through a step-by-step process of identifying the outfits you love most, the styles you're drawn to, what works best for your body type, and more. This isn't a book specifically for minimizing your wardrobe, but rather focuses on helping you discover your own style and curate your closet, which, in my experience, automatically results in a smaller wardrobe because you're more particular about what goes in.
  • Outfits by Cladwell — Maybe you're not quite ready to overhaul your current wardrobe but want a bit of inspiration or just some help in deciding what to wear each day. Enter Outfits. Created by a fantastic company called Cladwell with the mission of giving you a smaller wardrobe and a bigger life. Outfits is an app that allows you to select the items in your closet and will give you daily outfit recommendations based on what you already own and the weather. Outfits keeps track of how often you wear individual items, how much of your closet you actually wear, and gives recommendations for versatile pieces to add to your wardrobe as well!
  • Capsules by Cladwell — If you want to try out the capsule wardrobe thing but the thought of choosing a color palette and curating it all yourself is overwhelming, then Capsules could be the thing for you! From the same fantastic company that brought you Outfits, Capsules helps you create the capsule of your dreams by taking into account your lifestyle, color preferences, and the items you already own and love to wear. Like with Outfits, it is a paid service, costing $5/month billed every three months.
  • Roadmap for Men — Don't worry, dudes! I didn't forget about you! Cladwell's program Roadmap is more or less the men's version of Capsules. You give them info about your body type, coloring, lifestyle, climate, and more, and they help you generate a great wardrobe! As with Cladwell's other apps, Roadmap is a paid subscription service, costing $7/month billed every three months.

Intentionally curating anything — a wardrobe, a home, or a life — takes time, effort, and a fair amount of self-reflection. I know today's post was a lot of information, but I hope it gives you a good place to start in curating the wardrobe of your dreams. 

Next Friday we'll continue the Simplify Series with your bedroom, so be sure to check back!

(Before you ask...yes, all the photos are of my actual closet and accessory collections!)

What Does "Simplify" Mean?

Simple LivingSarah Anne HayesComment

A couple of weeks ago, the same day I launched this lovely blog here, my dad asked me about some of my plans regarding freelancing, business ventures, etc. as I continued to prepare for my upcoming transition down to Florida.

As I shared with him the launch of this new blog and other ideas running around in my head, he asked me, "You keep saying 'simplify,' but what does that mean?"

Because I'm a word nerd, the first place I go for the meaning of something is to the dictionary — Merriam-Webster, to be exact — and according to good, 'ole Merriam-Webster, to simplify is "to make simple or simpler, such as: to reduce to basic essentials; to diminish in scope or complexity; to make more intelligible." Synonyms for it include streamline and clarify, but the basic idea of it is to make something easier to do or understand.

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It's no surprise to anyone that life is often hard. No matter how well you try to plan, unexpected difficulties can pop up out of nowhere. So why is it that even with those unplanned hardships occurring, so many of us are in the habit of making life harder for ourselves in the day-to-day?

We live in a pretty complex and crazy world. Information comes at us at breakneck speeds and the world literally sits at our fingertips. While technological advances are intended to make our lives simpler, they often do the exact opposite because, rather than having a limited number of options to choose from, the possibilities for an exercise program, a new recipe, or this weekend's activities are seemingly endless. We're wound up and stressed out and it isn't doing any of us any good.

Last year, I stopped by the bookstore one day. I was itching to read something new and had a few options on my radar. As I wandered through the store, I picked up a number of books — both ones I had on my radar before I entered the store and others that caught my eye as I wandered the aisles. Eventually, I knew I needed to make a decision and that I had a budget to stick to, so I could only purchase one or two books at most. I stared at the more than  half a dozen options for what felt like ages and eventually left the store empty handed because I simply could not decide. The options led to paralysis analysis and stress rather than the joy of bringing home a new book to read.

When I began my simple living journey, it was because the amount of stuff — physical, digital, mental, and more — was overwhelming. Most days it felt like I couldn't even hear myself think because the clutter in my home, the notifications on my news feed, and the endless stream of information continued to distract me. Decisions were hard to make, not because I was an indecisive person, but because the number of options overwhelmed me. The same paralysis analysis that attacked me in the bookstore last year was affecting so many areas of my life — so I decided to simplify.

I started by decluttering, in the process became a minimalist, and eventually became a simple living advocate. Like most of the things in our lives, the questions I asked myself began to change and grow as I changed and grew as a person. The questions were no longer, "What can I get rid of?" or "Does this spark joy?" or "What do I want to keep?"

Now everything goes through a litmus test of two questions — is it essential and does it make my life easier? Does it make life simpler, less complex, and less overwhelming so I am able to focus on the things that are most important to me?

If the answer is no, it doesn't stay or come into my life. Period.

It's worth pointing out that simple for me is not going to look the same as simple for you. From an outside perspective or at the start of something new, things might look more complicated than they were in the past. But in the long run, if it lets you breathe easier and live easier in the day-to-day, then it's worth the effort at the beginning.

Take curating a capsule wardrobe, for example. At the outset, it might seem complicated and possibly even stressful. You have to go through your entire closet and sort through everything you own, deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to donate, and what to throw away. You then have to consider color palettes and find pieces that mix-and-match together. If your goal is to increase the quality of pieces you buy or to start purchasing ethically or sustainably, then you also have to do the additional research of finding those companies and brands.

From an outside perspective, all that work seems far more complicated than simply heading to the store and picking up a new top when you feel like it. But in the long run, it's worth the effort when you know that you love everything in your wardrobe, it all works well together, and getting dressed in the morning now takes five minutes instead of 30 because the effort put forth at the outset means putting together an outfit day-to-day is easier. 

We can't insulate ourselves from all the hardships in life and there are seasons when some things, or many things, are going to be a little bit complicated. Having grown up in a family of four kids who were all homeschooled and all had different extracurricular commitments, there was certainly a (rather long) season of life for my mom that probably seemed anything but simple. But looking back on it now, I can still see systems that were set in place and choices my parents made, or had us kids make, that kept things as simple as possible.

Simplicity is not possible in everything, but it's always possible in some things. And those simple some things can add up quickly to a life that is slow and calm rather than rushed and frenzied, and what a world of difference that makes.