Springtime Simplifying, Sorting, + Selling!

 

Spark Joy

 

Last week at a baby shower I saw some women I hadn't seen in nearly a decade. While talking about organizing the baby's new clothes, someone brought up my organization skills. One girl exclaimed, "I only went to your house once, but I still think about your closet all the time! All your clothes arranged by color!" and another chimed in, "Oh my god! Yes! I remember you opening your make-up drawer and seeing all of your eyeshadows organized in perfect rows!" I beamed with pride, picturing my still-organized closet, my current make-up drawer with shadows still in a row.

I've been an organized person for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I was always sorting and re-organizing and decluttering in my room (perhaps as a result of the excessive amount of stuff I continuously accumulated!), and to this day I'm still one of the most organized people I know. Everything has a proper place, and everything is put in that place.

But, despite everything having a proper place, I still don't feel quite right about my possessions. While recently revisiting Marie Kondō's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it occurred to me why this is. I might have a proper place for everything, but everything's proper place isn't necessarily with me. So many of the things I own have served me well, and so I keep them. I'm starting to realize, though, that organized possessions are not the same as purposeful possessions. As Kondō's wrote: 

“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure. To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

It's that, right there, that I'm finally realizing. There are a great many things in my organized little apartment that no longer serve a purpose for me. And, silly as this sounds, I have a sense of guilt that comes from hanging on to them, and it leaves me feeling uneasy and unsettled. Unlike most people, who feel guilty about giving things of value away, I'm the opposite: I feel guilty for hanging onto things (especially beautiful, valuable things) that I no longer use.  

Because some of my things have brought me such joy or beauty in the past, I keep them. But, aside from a few extra special things, I know I would feel better if I set these things free, giving someone else to enjoy and experience them. I've thought about this many times, but followed those thoughts with excuses ("ugh, it'll take so much time to sort through!" or "I don't even know how I would sell these things!"). This time, I'm listening to what my heart is telling me -- let these things go -- and taking action. 

This is definitely a work in progress, but here's what I've done over the past week or so to simplify, sort, and sell! 

 


FIRST: SIMPLIFY

 

Tiffany Heart Links
Heartfelt Tiffany Heart Links

First, I decided I needed to simplify this process. If I were to just look at my whole apartment and try to sort and sell it all, I would be so overwhelmed that I would give up. I decided to try a bit of an odd approach: I sat down on the couch and thought, "Where should I begin?" The first thought that came to my mind was the one I would tackle. It happened to be jewelry. I have a lot of beautiful, meaningful jewelry. But here's the thing: I rarely wear jewelry. I'm not quite sure why, but that's the way it is. So it makes sense to start there, to simplify the overwhelming task of reflecting and sorting all of my possessions by homing in on the one thing that has a lot of value, just not to me.

No one who doesn't wear jewelry should have a drawer full of it. Just thinking about the pieces I have loved, the meaningful moments behind them, and imagining someone else getting a similar kind of joy makes it easy to let these beauties go. In this first stage, the simplifying part, I spent a lot of time thinking about Kondō's well-known question, "Does it spark joy?" but also adding, "Will this spark joy in someone else?" 

Simplifying your life isn't just about getting rid of the things that no longer have a purpose for you; it's also about considering how these things might be useful to someone else. 

 

SECOND: SORT

 

Juicy Charm Bracelet
Fun Juicy Couture Charm Bracelet

After choosing the area on which to focus first -- jewelry -- I moved onto the sorting part. I pulled it all out, Kondō-style, and went through, piece by piece. When it comes to jewelry, I could probably let it all go and be just fine, but I decided to hang on to a few pieces that were especially meaningful to me, or that I do, on rare occasions, actually wear. Those went into the KEEP pile. The next pile -- DONATE -- I filled with pieces that were either too well-loved to sell or that had little to no value (I'm looking at you, Forever 21 necklaces!). And, finally, the most beloved and beautiful pieces that were no longer serving a purpose with me went into the SELL pile. Everything in this pile was something I'd still love and wear, if I were the kind of person that wore jewelry. Everything in this pile was something I could look at and answer "yes!" to the question, "Would this spark joy in someone else's life?" 

(I'm not going to lie: this sorting business wasn't easy, particularly when determining what to KEEP and what to SELL. All of the pieces I decided to sell are valuable, not only in a monetary sense, but also in an emotional sense. But I determined that, if something had once brought me such joy, it would be a wonderful thing to put that joy back out into the world and allow someone else to experience it, rather than trapping it in a drawer for years. With that thought it mind, it made me actually feel good to list these items for sale.)

 

THIRD: SELL

 

Tiffany Happy
Happy Little Tiffany Charm

In her book, Kondō writes: “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest." After going through all of my jewelry and the sorting process, I was left not only with a few meaningful items that spoke to my heart (however cheesy that sounds...), but also a whole bunch of pieces I really believe will speak to someone else's heart. I don't believe that items can actually take on emotions -- joy, pain, etc. -- but I do feel like there's something interesting about purchasing an item that you know brought someone else joy. 

To me, it's the added bonus that comes with buying a used thing. It was discarded by someone else because it had fulfilled its purpose with that person, but it arrived where you are so it could be purposeful for you. You get the tangible thing, of course, but also the knowledge that someone else loved this thing, too. It's a bit out there, maybe, but I think there's something to it. It's why we love antiques, why we consider something a relative owned to be of more value than it really is, etc. There's a meaning, a history, behind a used item that you just don't get with something brand new from a store. 

So, last week, I photographed, researched, and posted the joy-sparking jewelry on my Etsy shop. Every time I sell a piece, I feel a bit of excitement for the person who is about to receive it. Packing it up and shipping it off to a new home is an oddly comforting act, a kind of gift-giving feeling. It feels good for me, and I'm hoping it feels just as good for those opening their new-to-them items. If you want to see what's still for sale, check it out here

 

This whole process has been an eye-opening and revitalizing experience. Many of these items I thought I would never part with, but knowing that they are going to a new home, to a place where they will hopefully be loved and worn, rather than sitting idly in a drawer, sparks a joy in me that is much different (and better!) from the joy I get from the items I possess. If you're thinking of doing some spring cleaning or organizing, I highly recommend it! 

 

PS - I'm also still running a MAJOR sale in my Etsy shop to make way for some new things. Pins, stickers, and e-books are up to 50% off! Check it out here

 

 

 

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Break / Make / Take : Coping with News Anxiety

 

Positive News

 

Anxiety is something I've struggled with my entire life in various forms. At some points in my life, it's lessened; at others (like now), it's heightened to the point that, on some days, it feels almost unbearable. But, given my occupation and my desire to try to make my life better from the inside out, I'm always striving to assess and better understand my anxiety so I can counter it with calmness and positivity. Recently, one of the things that's been a big anxiety trigger for me is news. I used to think news was boring and depressing. I could never understand why people would want to watch all of the chaos going on around the world; the negativity just seemed like too much, especially since most people watch without taking action. 

Now, at this particular moment in American history, so much is going on (or so it seems!) that I find myself engaged and interested, waiting with bated breath to see what will happen next. While I believe it's a positive thing I've chosen to seek out information -- knowledge, after all, is power -- I notice a huge uptick in my anxiety when I spend time scrolling through Twitter and reading articles about the latest political and global situations. 

I don't want to -- nor do I know if I could -- go back to my old head-in-the-sand ways, but I also don't want to spend my life being made neurotically anxious by staying on top of the up-to-the-minute, never-ending parade of news. Keeping abreast of the latest happenings feels like I'm doing something -- I'm an active, conscious adult, knowing what's going on at the world at all times! -- reading and worrying about the latest news story isn't actually doing anything. 

All of the energy I spend obsessing over the news (something I never would have done in the past) drains me emotionally, and the stress of it takes away from actual productive progress -- of the political and personal variety. We only have so much energy given to us each day, and it's important that we all be aware of where that energy goes. So, what's a girl to do when she wants to stay informed, but doesn't want to be inundated by anxiety? 

I don't have an easy, get-calm-quick scheme, but I have discovered a three-step plan that's been helping me. If you're struggling with news anxiety, I'm hoping this will help you too. 

 

BREAK REFLEXIVE READING HABITS 

If you're like me, it's tempting to go on Twitter and binge on the latest headlines, but all of that excessive consumption doesn't necessarily make me more informed. Quite often, I'm simply reading similar stories or random people's perspectives on a topic. Instead of social media binges, it's a good idea to have a few (credible!) sources where you get your news -- maybe at a set time each day. I'd also highly recommend reading opposing views as well. If you decide CNN is going to be your go-to source, consider switching to FOX or MSNBC periodically for a different perspective. You don't have to agree with everything you see or read, but it's important to take in a variety of sources. Also, be mindful of how often you check for news. While I don't think I could ever go back to being uninformed, it does me no good to check the news dozens of times a day. It's much more useful not to keep tabs on the latest stream of commentary, but to seek out well-informed, well-researched articles by experts who are open-minded and thoughtful. 

 

MAKE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL 

One of most challenging -- and anxiety-producing -- aspects of news intake is the helplessness that often comes along with it. So often, there are stressful stories or tales of those who are suffering, and, with all that's going on in the world, it can be frustrating and overwhelming to feel as if, even though you're informed, you can't actually do anything meaningful. But that's a falsehood we perpetuated by believing that meaning comes only from large, sweeping actions. The reality in which we all live is made up of moments, and every moment is a chance to make something meaningful. Make a connection with a smile; make a friend with a conversation; make a piece of art to express your emotions (and share it with others to inspire or connect with them); make time for yourself (the more at peace you are internally, the more external progress you can make). There are so many ways to create meaning in your life. While these might not feel directly related to what you see on the news, never forget that everything is oddly, beautifully intertwined. The goodness, positivity, and contributions you put into the world matter -- they have a ripple effect and you never know how wide those ripples might spread. 

 

TAKE TANGIBLE, IN-REAL-LIFE ACTION

It can be tempting to consider sharing a post or retweeting a story to be doing something, but it's not the same as taking real action. Social media is not social action. If you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with the world around you, you're never going to feel a relief from that anxiety by simply liking a tweet or Facebook post. To feel a sense of fulfillment, you have to do something. We live in a time where we have the world at our fingertips; whatever you want to do, whatever cause you want to help, all you have to do is Google it and you'll most likely find a list of things you can do to make a difference. No matter what you feel passionate about -- or how much time, money, and energy you have -- there's something you can do. And, take it from my experience, taking action (no matter how small!) feels infinitely better than clicking a like button. Plus, when you're actually doing something -- whether it's donating your time, researching how to help a cause, or working toward positive change -- you have less time to endlessly scroll! 

 

I know I'm not alone when it comes to news anxiety -- particularly of the social media variety -- and I know these three tips won't work perfectly for everyone, so if you have any additional ideas or tips that have worked for you, I'd love to hear them in the comments below! And remember: the more you follow the Break / Make / Take method, the less anxiety you'll have. And the less anxiety you have, the more you can make positive progress! 

 

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Chasing Slow (Online) + a GIVEAWAY!

Thinking Living

 

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Erin Loechner's Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path. I receive a lot of books in the mail, but I only write about them here in special cases -- and this is definitely one of those cases. I'd seen the book around online for weeks, popping up in various Instagram feeds and mentioned in articles and podcasts, but I wasn't sure if it was a book for me. I've loved Erin's work on Design for Mankind for years, but I was nervous that the religious elements of the book wouldn't resonate with me, a childless, agnostic atheist. But as I kept noticing it more and more places -- and kept getting drawn to the title and the book's beautiful, simple aesthetic -- I decided I needed to give it a try. And I'm so glad I did. 

Not only is the book beautifully designed, including beautiful photos and little journal prompts throughout, but it's also incredibly inspiring, especially for anyone who spends a lot of time online (like bloggers) or on your phone (like most of us). The book covers a variety of topics -- blogging, success, motherhood, mindfulness, work/life balance, and more -- but one of the topics that resonated most with me is the topic of social media. You might have read my post, Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice, earlier this year, and so you know I'm thinking a lot social media and how it can impact the amount of positivity in your life. 

In the book, Erin writes about how she learned that "thinking about living is not the same as living." Those words -- particularly in relation to social media -- really hit home with me. When we're online -- whether it's reading blog posts, checking email, scrolling through social media, reading news, etc. -- we're, for the most part, thinking and consuming, rather than living and doing. Through the book, Erin brings up the question What am I looking for? and when I read those words, I was stopped in my tracks because one thing I love about my online life is the looking. I love that I can find almost anything I'm looking for at almost any time. I love that, in that looking, I've found newness: new friends, new items, new ideas, etc. I love the hunt. But, as Erin so wisely writes:  

The same hunger that seeks community, togetherness, discovery, and expression also roars with pride — with self-doubt, comparison, envy, loneliness. Online, we fed ourselves both.

For every force, there is an opposing force. Though the online world is amazing and inspiring at times, it's also uncharted and overwhelming at times. It's both wonderful and terrible. We spend so much time looking, and, as Erin writes, "Sometimes, when we're looking for what we want, we find what we need." In reading Erin's book, that's what happened to me. When I picked up the book, I was looking for information on how to take some of the stress out of my life, but I found something else: and important reminder and incredibly insightful wisdom on how I'm using technology in my life. 

Her words on Pinterest -- my most popular social media platform -- were particularly eye-opening for me. (If you're not a Pinterest fan, imagine that this is about a different platform, or whatever aspect of life you turn to to see what "perfect" looks like.)

Pinterest has, in a few short years, become an addicting escape, and impossible standard, an invaluable resource. A synonym for perfect... Who could've seen the downside as we pressed our noses to the screen, eyes widening with wonder, watching as our dreams scrolled by, pin after pin after pin? Who could've known that more isn't what we truly need? You could've known that more would make us feel like less?

Seeking more -- more information, more followers, more inspiration, more perfection -- almost always makes us feel like less because, after all, when you're seeking more, you're essentially saying, Right now is not enough. And, on a more personal level, I am not enough. 

This feeling becomes amplified when you work online. You begin, as Erin writes, "to see yourself as one dimensional, a girl on the screen." For many bloggers and online creators, there's a huge gap between the images on the screen and the real person behind those images (as anyone who knows me in real life knows well!). To keep up with what we do, bloggers need to be online and on social media. But finding balance (particularly for those like me, who have strongly addictive personalities) online and on social media is incredibly challenging. 

When your personal identity is so intricately linked with your online presence, this becomes even more complex. Erin writes, "Identity is a powerful force. We rarely see ourselves as others do, and we often view the world — our own, someone else's — through a distorted lens." We want to believe that who we are is not what we do online, but the more time you spend online, the more the line between our identity and our technology becomes blurred. At one point in the book, Erin is writing about Adam and Eve and she says, "In the pursuit of knowledge, they lost wisdom. In the pursuit of themselves, they lost themselves." To me, this says a lot about who we are now, at this point in society. So many of us are seeking some validation or understanding of ourselves online, and, frustratingly, we still feel misunderstood. Erin writes: 

I do feel misunderstood, but the one doing the misunderstanding is me. The one doing the misunderstanding is the one who wrongly assumed my social media profile and smiling square image must perfectly capture who I am. That my presence online must perfectly match my present off-line. That who I am is what I do, that my outsides match my insides...

...But what do we know of comparing our self to ourselves? What do we know of comparing our richest reality to the one-dimensional screen? What do we know a flattening our identities so they can be cropped, manipulated, forced into one-liners and profile explanations?

This whole online world -- and how it relates to who we are and who we'll become as a society -- is still so new, relative to the whole of humanity. But, with the ever-growing online world, something honest, something true is being lost. When I read these words in the book -- "On a good day, I tell the truth on Instagram.… But on most days, I don't write what I think in that moment. I write what I think others expect me to think in that moment." -- I found myself sighing deeply in recognition. As Erin puts it, "Our culture is prone to concealing what is.… Under-the-rug sweeping is the default." Social media only exaggerates this tendency of ours to push away the imperfect. Social media is often criticized for being an addictive, mindless, time-suck, but, as Erin puts it, that's not the true danger: 

The dangers of social media or far subtler than the distraction, than the addiction, than the habits we form by scrolling through screens multiple times a day... social media has encouraged us to crop out the contradictions in ourselves. It has caused us to airbrush the parts of our lives we don't love about ourselves. It has caused us to sweep our personalities — whether too big or too small — under a Moroccan Pinterest rug in the name of a consistent social media presence. In the name of online optimism.

The most worrisome aspect of social media isn't the time we spend on it or even the sometimes soul-crushing comparisons we make between the screens and our real lives. The most problematic aspect of social media is what it does to our personal identities when it encourages us to crop and summarize and condense who we are into a limited amount of space. Social media can feel spacious -- a variety of platforms from which we can see the world and connect globally -- but it's actually incredibly restrictive. We are not flat, square images. We are not black text on a white screen. We are endless shapes and colors and moods and feelings. We are complex and intricate and mysterious. We are gloriously imperfect shades of gray. Erin writes: 

Excepting that we are gray, that we are flawed, that we are a great many things, is one of the most difficult parts of today's information society. We are taught that knowledge is power, that what we do not yet know can be explained and placed in a box on the shelf, lid sealed until further notice. We spend our time on social networks attempting to condense our personalities into tiny profile boxes, trying to verbalize intricacies within flattened screens.

The intricacies of who we are as people cannot be accurately conveyed through a screen, no matter how many images, words, or videos we share. Our truest selves will always be present only in real life, and only in the ever-shifting day-to-day interactions and thoughts and emotions we have. We can do our best to tick of boxes and define who we are, but no definition will ever be enough to encapsulate the whole of who you truly are. As Erin so wisely puts it: "We are not either/ors. We are both/ands."

All of this online / social media stuff is just one aspect of this amazing book. In reading it, you'll not only gain insights into Erin's story (which, I feel, many people will relate to in some way -- whether it's as a blogger, a parent, a friend, a spouse, or just a person trying to make the most of what she's been given in this life), but you'll also gain tons of unexpected inspiration. I really enjoyed reading it, and I'm so glad I picked it up. (A reminder that, just because something doesn't necessarily tick off all of the boxes you identify with, it doesn't mean it won't teach you amazing things.) I'd highly recommend you read it, and I'm so thankful that Erin's publisher has agreed to give away a copy! 

  Chasing Slow


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