Creating margin in your life is a beautiful thing. It gives you peace and mental clarity. In our day and age of materialism and technology, margin is nearly impossible to come by without a little help. Here are some of my favorite ways I create margin in my life, allowing me to more easily live fully and to be happy:
– Get rid of your TV/Cable/Netflix/Hulu. Just get rid of it because it’s waaaay to tempting to keep around. Instead of watching tv: read a book, glance at a magazine, write in your journal, TALK to a person face to face (imagine!), play a game (even if it’s solitaire), just sit and be. It’s amazing how much TV crowds your mental space. When was the last time you just sat and spent some time mentally processing? When was the last time you just sat around with a group of people and just “hung out”, without phones, TV and other devices? A couple weeks ago, our WiFi went out, WE WERE TOTALLY LOST. Isn’t that sad? But that wifi being out forced us to make memories – and it was awesome! Try it. Make it a lifestyle. (If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of the TV, then just schedule “NO TV” days/hours.)
– On that note, decrease time on your smart phone. Same reasons as above ^^ Seriously, I can’t tell you the last time I just sat and thought for more then just a minute. Give me a SECOND to be still and I’m pulling out my phone checking Instagram. There were days when that didn’t happen. People were alone with their thoughts, they had to figure out something to do with their time. My husband and I definitely struggle with this one, we were waiting in the car the other day for my brother to run into the bank, within 2 seconds we were both on our phones. Doing something important? NOPE. Just fiddling and piddling and wasting our precious time. So I put my phone down and said, “Hey, how are you?” MAGIC.
– Bring in plants. Take out clutter. I own my own cleaning/decluttering business, so I’ve seen a lot of houses. And there are many, many homemakers out there who live with piles of just STUFF everywhere. Stacks of papers that will “one day” be filed, stacks of memories that will “one day” be put into an album, empty cardboard boxes that will “one day” be needed to mail a random item, lone socks we keep because “one day” we’ll find the match, envelopes that “one day” we’ll open and deal with, broken things that will “one day” be fixed – GUYS. STOP. If you have had an item for a month and “one day” still hasn’t happened – GET RID OF IT. I know that sounds crazy, but thing of it as a cleanse. I promise you, it’ll be 100% ok if you eventually find the other half of that lone sock and realize that you’ve already thrown away the first one. That one-day-maybe matching sock set is not worth cluttering your mind and spirit. So be brutal, and stop stacking crud. Oh and plants add life to a space and clean the air, so stock up.
– I’d like to point out above that I said I own a “cleaning/decluttering” business, NOT a “cleaning/organizing” business. That’s because you should never own so much stuff that it needs hard core organizing. Get rid of those plastic tubs. Keep the stuff you need. Keep the stuff you use, get rid of the rest. I know we have all seen the organization bins covered with dust, your stuff beautifully organized but never ever used. Not to mention, by show of hands, who of us actually KEEPS that stuff organized?! In my house, it always gets messed up. And then it takes more mental space from me to clean it again etc. It’s a vicious cycle of my stuff having ownership over my time and mental space. Don’t fall prey! — KITCHEN: – Here’s a good rule of thumb, only things that apply to the kitchen belong in the kitchen. I’ve used this method with several of my clients, and it’s awesome. Many of us collect the crud in the kitchen. It’s a main space, seriously everyone loves the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean it’s a drop-off spot for mail, jackets, shoes, etc.
– On that note, and this applies for the whole house, give things a home. If you’re short on space then do two things: Figure out what the main mess is. Figure out a home. In my kitchen, for example, one of our main messes is shoes and jackets. We have a small home and the kitchen really is multi-tasking – so I definitely understand the struggle! Our carport door (and the main door that we use) opens into the kitchen so that’s exactly where we drop all of our “stuff”. I know that my husband and I aren’t quite adult enough to take our shoes all the way to the bedroom closet every time we come in the door, and I don’t think we will ever be adult enough to hang up our coats on an actual hanger. Simple solution: Basket for shoes, coat rack for jackets, sweaters and my purse. DONE. See how easy that is? Another struggle for us, my husband has a lot of work type stuff that he needs to gather up every morning and drop every night (keys, phone clip, pocket knife etc.) and those things started cluttering up the kitchen. Solution: We found a beautiful wooden bowl and every night he drops his items into the bowl. SO EASY GUYS. Do this trick for every element of your house. And if you can, make the solution: “Get rid of said item”. Otherwise, give it a home, preferably a basket or bowl, not a pile, and keep it clean. – Use all the food in your fridge. Buy quality stuff and I promise that you won’t want it to go to waste. We have two grocery stores in my town: 1. a cheap, utilitarian store with shopping carts that are to big and glaring fluorescent lighting…and 2. a local, organic grocery store with Non-GMO and intentional practices. Obviously, item-for-item, the latter is much more expensive. But here’s what I noticed, when I buy things from the Utilitarian grocery I don’t appreciate what I have. I let things to go waste (heck it was only $1!) and I usually end up buying more then we can eat in a week. Not to mention, that crud food doesn’t make me feel anything. It’s the definition of “meh”, and I should probably mention that shopping at this store gives me high blood pressure from all the other customers and “rush rush” mentality. Scene 2, the other, more expensive grocer: Every item is like a piece of art (and priced like one too, sheesh), so I enjoy picking out my groceries. It smells nice. There are samples and smiling, healthy people. I choose everything with care, shop around the edges for the best prices and usually leave feeling inspired to cook and create. I can easily spend $50 at each store, but am more likely to use all of our groceries (and not let them go to waste!) if I buy the quality stuff that fills me with joy.
– Declutter the cabinets. Select 10 cups, 10 mugs, 10 plates etc. that you use the most and send the rest to the thrift store. You don’t need 10 wooden spoons, you need one or two. You only need one can opener, one whisk and one sieve. If you don’t use a crock pot, send it out. Don’t eat popcorn? Why do you have a pop-corn maker taking up space in your life?
– Get rid of beauty products that you don’t use. Get rid of empty bottles. Get rid of stuff you don’t like. JUST GET RID OF IT. I’m not asking you to use one product for everything on your whole body, all I’m saying is if you’re not going to use a product, it belongs in the trash can. Spent a lot of money on it? I’m sorry. Throw it out. Life is to short to hang on to a $12 bottle of gross smelling lotion.
– Clear the counters. Now that you’ve decluttered all your beauty products you should be able to fit everything in a drawer or a basket. Lots of bottles and tubes and hairbrushes on the counter leads to dust in the bathroom, and that’s always a weird concept.
– Two words: capsule wardrobe. I’ve written a LOT about this concept in the past, for your reference, but I need to warn you: capsule wardrobes wrecked my style. And over the past couple weeks I’ve realized that was a good thing. I am no longer even capable of walking into TJ Maxx or Ross and just grabbing a $5 shirt (oh and I’ve done a lot of research on fair trade clothing, so how can I buy a $5 shirt when there’s a child suffering for me to have such cheap prices? someone has to pay! But that’s a soap-box post for another day.) because I’m wondering “how does this fit into my wardrobe?” “what would I wear it with?” “does it fit me perfectly?” These are questions we should all be asking ourselves before we add something to our wardrobe, and creating a capsule has definitely helped me get there. I don’t use a strict capsule anymore, but I do live by a lot of the concepts. This keeps laundry from getting daunting. My husband and I each have four drawers and a small closet and we have more than enough clothes. I promise you will too.
– Get rid of clothes you don’t love. Haven’t worn something in a year? Take it to the Goodwill. My husband did this and he ended up seriously having 5 shirts. But that was good, because now he can clearly see what he needs to add for a complete wardrobe, and now he can look in his closet and be happy knowing that whatever he picks he will love wearing. – Repeat after me: My bedroom is not an office. Remember what we said earlier about the kitchen? Only things that apply to the bedroom belong in your bedroom. Lack of a specific office space? Ok, in that case I want you to go to a thrift store and buy a HUGE chest, or box or basket. Then, gather everything office-like that you’ve removed from your kitchen and bedroom and PUT IT IN THE BOX. Then put the box in your living room or somewhere convenient but out-of-the-way. Ideally, in a perfect minimalist world, you’d deal with all those things and find a home or create a perfect pinterest-y “office in an armoire” or something like that. But, if you do nothing else, put it in a box. Get it out of your line of sight, get it out of where it doesn’t belong. ESPECIALLY not on your nightstand or bedroom dresser.
– Clear the surfaces. I find that baskets really help me with my mental clarity. If I have a ton of stuff on my nightstand that I can’t get rid of, I’ll just buy a pretty basket and put everything in there (extra points if it has a lid!). Is this perfectly minimalist? No. But the space is clear.
– No-Phone-Zone. Imagine a bedroom without the glare of a cell-phone light. Heavenly.
– Keep as few furniture pieces as possible. Like I said above, my husband and I live with 4 drawers each and some closet space. I promise you, I promise you, that getting rid of extra furniture will feel better then keeping it all. I don’t know your specific life set-up, but most people really only need a bed, nightstands, dresser, dirty clothes hamper and a closet. Anything more is just taking up mental space.
– Dirty clothes go in a hamper, not in a pile. And better yet – get a cute wicker hamper, not a plastic one. Why not make your laundry cute?
– And while you’re at it, make your bed every morning.
– Move to a paperless system. Not only will this decrease the paper stacked up around the house, it’s also an awesome green option.
– Get out of debt. Only use money that you actually have. Just imagine the mental clarity of a debt free life! It’s tough, but I promise that YOU CAN DO IT!
– Learn how to say “No.” (And learn when to say “yes”) The “No’s” in your life are what give you boundaries. People are always going to need volunteers and favors – but you can say no. Let me repeat – YOU CAN SAY NO. Figure out your priorities, and if a volunteer opportunity inhibits what you’ve already deemed to be the most important, then very politely decline. I promise that the world will not end and everyone will be ok. On the other hand, saying “yes” can lead to awesome experiences and meeting new people. Find the balance. – Schedule margin. If you’re one of those people who just “looooooves” to be busy, skip this step. I personally hate being busy. I like scheduling time for a cup of slow sipped coffee in the morning or for a brisk afternoon walk. YOU get to create your life, and your schedule is where it all comes together – so schedule happiness.
EVERY ROOM (these are more “elisa’s version of feng shui”):
– Clean the space. Clearing away the clutter, like I said over and over above, makes a huge difference, but also take the time to sweep and dust and clear away the soil. This doesn’t have to be extreme, but basic and regular. Think of it as a cleansing.
– Open the blinds. Turn on the light. Bring in the day.
– Diffuse essential oils and/or light a yummy candle.
What do you do to create margin in your life? I’d love to hear your ideas!