You, and me

Many of you have commented since I started this blog in July 2013, and every time it has been valuable to me. Interacting with you
 makes me feel like I’m part of a broad community of simplifiers. It’s great.

In fact, I would love to hear from you even more. Why are you interested in simplifying? How did you start? What have the hurdles been? What is challenging and what has been easy? I hope you’ll share.


Ellen, Simplifying at Home

— I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, my home state, and I have also lived in France, Latvia, and Argentina. Although what I post makes most sense in an American context, I hope that there’s value here for people living in other countries.

— I’m an introvert who likes and is interested in people. Blogging offers a way to interact with a lot of people one at a time.

— I share my experience and what has worked for me, and try not to sound prescriptive.

— Two years ago I cut my work commitment to 36 hours/week. That small reduction in work hours has noticeably improved my quality of life, and I’m grateful to be in a situation where it is possible.

— I’d like to come up with more content for “Five-minute simplifying.” We all need more ways to feel successful, rather than overwhelmed, right?

17 thoughts on “You, and me

  1. Hi Ellen! Ask and you shall receive! Comments, that is. I found your blog through Cortney Carver’s, Be More With Less. I am a stay at home mother of six, from the fine state of Idaho. I discovered the whole concept of minimalism about a year ago and it has made me aware if the excess that most Americans consider to be normal. I have been simplifying and declutter-ing and re-thinking ever since. It’s a constant process. My biggest struggle is that my sweet husband isn’t really keen on the idea and tends to be sort of a pack rat, and a few of the kids do too… I don’t plan on getting rid of anyone, so do you have any advice? Oh, I also deliver newspapers in the early mornings… I’m on a mission to pay off debt and medical bills without abandoning my day routine. I have dreams of blogging, writing and traveling in the future!!

    • Hi! A household of eight would probably feel the effects of a simpler life even more dramatically than my household of three, so you’ve got a great story in the making.

      I’ve got some ideas about your challenges, but I think you could get even better answers from those who have direct experience with a spouse/partner who wasn’t fully on board with living more simply (same with kids). Stay tuned for a post soliciting road-tested suggestions from the crowd.

      And thanks for writing — your positive energy shines through. 🙂

  2. I’ve been working on simplifying for a while. I live in a small house and we are overwhelmed with stuff to the extent that we can’t even use all the space we do have. We have resolved to stay in the small house and take advantage of the positives and I’m committed to continue the simplifying process until we can effectively use all our space. I do notice that each time I finish a project, there is a sense of lightness, but I tend to set my goals too high and then get “frozen” by the thought of getting started or convince myself I don’t have enough time. I’ve decided that sharing my journey and commenting on blogs instead of just reading might help keep me going. I did a quick purge today of 60 items and the areas in my house that were good for five minutes purges were: cups, plastic storage containers, and hangers. I am an introvert too so I can relate to enjoying the connection offered online in this kind of forum.


    • Hi Cindy,
      Thanks for sharing your story — and for the great suggestions for five-minute purges!

      It sounds like things are going well for you, even if you sometimes feel overwhelmed. You know what you want, and that fact that you’re in a smaller space already should ultimately make it easier to reduce your stuff (less space to store things unnecessarily, fewer rooms where you can just close the door).

      We had some fixed deadlines in our process that, in hindsight, may have helped us get to our current “maintenance phase” a little faster, but whether it goes quickly or not I don’t think there’s any way to change the fact that reducing stuff takes physical and mental effort and can only be made less unenjoyable.

      If your experience is like mine, you’ve got more of a mess now than before you started reducing. Maybe there are piles of stuff to donate, piles of stuff to give or return to friends and family, piles of things to recycle (different materials, so different recycling locations), and piles of things to try to consign or sell to an antiques dealer or on Craigslist.

      Oh, and let’s not forget that reducing stuff is TIME CONSUMING.

      Because of all the effort required to reduce stuff, I think it’s helpful to have big goals written down, so you can easily refer back to them when you start to wonder why you’re spending your precious free time (but only five minutes!) pulling excess hangers out of the closet.

      Have any of these things helped you make the work less unenjoyable?
      — listening to energizing music
      — seeking a friend’s help and companionship (granted, sometimes it’s easier to work alone)
      — setting a time limit (for example, no more than two hours of work at a time)
      — choosing one small work area and taking your unwanted things out of the house as soon as you’re done
      — building in immediate, tangible rewards (for example, work all Saturday morning and then do fun activity X with spouse or friend in the afternoon)

      I hope you’ll write again with an update on how things are going.

  3. Hi Ellen! I too found your blog through Courtney Carver’s, Be More With Less and immediately felt a kinship. I too am looking to simplify my home, lifestyle and finances.

    I moved from Mississippi to Philadelphia 13 years ago and continue to struggle with the lifestyle changes that are the result of this move. My former home in MS was 1700 sq feet with an attic of the same square footage. When I first moved to Philly I lived in a 430 sq foot apartment. Luckily now I’m in a 700 sq foot place (which is plenty of space for a single person), but I still feel the challenges of limiting my stuff.

    I really became interested in the concept of minimalism after starting Courtney’s Project 333 last year. Limiting myself to 33 items of clothing for 3 months at a time was so liberating. It meant that I always had something I loved to wear. I’m currently trying to take that same concept to my kitchen. No reason to have multiples of things, just good gear that’s easy to care for.

    Thanks for sharing your journey 🙂

    • Hi Angie — thank you again for steering me to your recipe board on Pinterest. Beyond the recipes (one of which we have already made about a dozen times), you helped me find a use for Pinterest: I pin recipes, and then when I’m at the grocery store I can very easily look up their ingredients.

      Wow — going from a 1,700SF house to a 430SF apartment sounds like a big challenge. But as a single person I can imagine that keeping up with a big house was even more of a challenge.

      I’m not sure what to do with my kitchen stuff. Now that I’m cooking more, I’m using more of my cookware and utensils — but not everything. I’m nervous that if I give something away I’ll just end up “needing” to buy a new one (a classic excuse not reduce unneeded stuff if ever I heard one). I wish I had friends or family who lived closer so we could more easily share things like a springform pan.

      While I go through my clothes more or less seasonally and pull out things that I haven’t worn (getting better at my original purchases) or things that I am sick of because they were *so* practical and loved, I have not even considered something like Courtney Carver’s 333 project. Maybe I’m scared off because right now all of my clothes (for all seasons) are hanging up in one place and it looks overwhelming. Thanks for the nudge, even if it wasn’t intentional. ; )

  4. Hi Ellen!
    Like the others I also found you through Courtney Carver, who is also new to me. I started simplifying about two months ago, trying to think in a minimalist way and I think it is so wonderful and liberating. My husband is on board and my kids are starting to get it too, and the changes we have made feel amazing! For example we have not watched TV in three weeks. The kids has seen two movies but no cartoons or other TV-shows, and I can see them interact with each other, and us!, so much more. We read more, play more games, talk to each other…. I have also spend two weeks trying to get rid of most of our “Stuff”, and I can feel the difference when I get home from work – not so much clutter and things to clean before enjoying family time. I am sold, to say the least!
    Oh, and, I’m from Sweden 🙂


    • Hi Therése — thank you for writing and sharing some of the positive effects you’ve seen from trying to reduce stuff. How wonderful that your kids get it too. It’s time for me to start working with my son, who is five, to understand that he needs to periodically go through his things and recycle some (so many papers) and give away others. Up to now I have done it, but that’s not helping him learn.

      We got rid of our TV about five years ago, so I take it for granted that we aren’t spending our time watching TV. We quickly found that we didn’t miss it at all. (Yes, we still like to be entertained, and yes I can still find ways to fritter away my time.)

      Thanks for letting me know you’re from Sweden. I *love* that the Internet can make the world smaller.

  5. I also found your weblog through the one mentioned above 🙂 I’m decluttering because I don’t want to move as much items-I-don’t-like with me next time I move (which will be this year or next year within the country, but I also see myself moving abroad sometime in the future).
    I don’t think a photo is necessary, though I do like to read a nice “About” text (and your text is nice, but I’d put the photo there instead of in this blog post…).

    • Hi — thanks for commenting. Preparing our house for another family to live in while we were out of the country was how we first started working to reduce our stuff. We hope to live abroad again, so it’s definitely on our minds that we don’t want to acquire more stuff because then we’ll just have to put those possessions in paid storage (or try to sell them or give them away).

      Also, I looked at your blog and see that you are writing in three languages — impressive! 🙂

  6. Hi Ellen! It’s been a long time since HHH. I just came upon your blog and was so happy to see your face again. Love the haircut by the way. I now have 3 children so simplifying my life is always a goal but for now I try to just get through the day. Our big issue is toys and unneeded clothes. The material items and consumption stare at me in the face. I’ve definitely enjoyed taking things to Joseph’s Closet in St. Paul, but I’m always open to other great ideas. I’ve always wanted to find a women’s shelter for my unneeded clothes so any ideas there are welcome.

    • Hi Jamie — what a nice surprise to see your name! Yes, I’m sure that with three kids (one who must still be little) there are several priorities above cleaning out closets. I would like to write more about kid-related topics, and hopefully you’ll come back and see something useful.

      I didn’t know about Joseph’s Coat (an outlet for people in need to get household necessities and seasonal clothing, for anyone else who may be reading this), but I will consider it in the future.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  7. I am so late to this party! I just found your link on Courtney’s site and felt an immediate connection. I too live in MN, just east of you in Stillwater. I am thankful to find your Twin Cities resources! I have been a textile hoarder for decades now, and am in the process of reducing my stash all while enjoying my hobby of quilting. Recently I gave away all the garment intended fabric and kept only the quilting fabric that I absolutely love. My intent is to be a “one-quilt-at-a-time” quilter by 2021. (I’ve too have started a blog to document my progress, but its in the very baby stages still)
    I’m looking forward to reading your back posts and following all your new ones!

    • Hi Amy from Stillwater! : )

      It sounds ridiculously simple, but what has worked for me is to say to myself: “That [trigger item X] is so [drooling adjective]! I am going to fully appreciate it right now, so that I don’t have to take it with me.”

      Thanks for reading, and best wishes with your plan to streamline your textile materials.

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