The Spectrum of Clutter || Why Having Too Much "Stuff" isn't Always the Problem

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A few weeks ago, I asked my Instagram followers which “type” of clutter most weighed them down. The answers were, as you’d expect, all over the board, with most saying that physical clutter distracted them the most. But regardless of which type bogged an individual down more, one thing stood out to me as I read the comments of the photo.

Not one person said they felt like clutter didn’t affect them.

No one said that they had all aspects of their lives squared away and didn’t struggle with at least one area.

This struck me because, despite our obsession with Kon Mari-ing everything, downsizing, and ensuring our wardrobes are neatly edited and capsuled, it’s still not enough. We still feel stressed. We still feel overwhelmed…sometimes (for me at least) it’s an overall feeling of overwhelm that I can’t peg on anything in particular.

These moments of “general overwhelm”, I’ve learned, usually boil down to an excess in one of the following areas that I haven’t recognized until it’s too late.

Sure, we can’t weed out every aspect of stress or “extra” from our lives, but we can do our best to recognize when we’re doing too much, owning too much, or taking on too much and learn when to cut back. It’s been one of the healthiest mental exercises I’ve started doing for myself, and I hope that once you’ve become more aware of which area of clutter stresses you the most, it will do the same for you too. Learning to think of clutter in a broader sense can be much more helpful than you’d realize.

I’d love to hear which clutter-style you most relate to in the comments below ;)

*Disclaimer, I don’t claim to be an expert in any of these areas, nor am I a psychologist. The following areas are simply describing things I’ve noticed both in my own life and in the lives of those I love.

  1. Physical Clutter

The first “pillar of clutter” gets the worst rap of them all, likely because it’s the most visible and the most publicized. Physical clutter is out in the open, for you (and everyone who enters your home) to see. Our possessions are a reflection of what we value, so of course, they’re the first thing that gets attention when we get stressed or in need of a detox.

For some, myself included, untidiness is a major area of stress. I usually feel like I can’t sit down to write or be creative unless my space is at least a little bit cleaned up and I have a cup of coffee in hand. I’m drawn to aesthetics, so I like my space to reflect the kind of creativity I’m trying to conjure up. That’s likely why I was so drawn to minimalism after becoming a mom — it felt like the only way I could regain a sense of control and identity. Lots of you said the same thing on Instagram. You feel like you have too much stuff, too many clothes, too many unnecessary “junk drawers”.

Clearing out this clutter is a great and important step towards feeling more free, but it only scratches the surface.

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2. Mental Clutter

It usually takes a bit of a “self-discovery” journey to figure out whether mental clutter weighs you down or if you’re able to stay more or less “on task” when it comes to your thoughts. Through learning more about myself via the Enneagram, I’ve learned that as a type 9, I have an exceptionally hard time learning which tasks to prioritize. This often leads to a brain fog where I’m aware of everything I need to do, but can’t quite nail down which item needs checked off first. Usually, I end up doing something less important (scrolling Instagram or picking up after the girls for the thousandth time) instead of doing the more intimidating but important things first.

Mental clutter can look different for everyone though. Some people are able to mentally keep track of everything (Type 1’s i’m looking at you), but for others, it’s really their mental clutter that weighs them down more than anything else.

3. Calendar Clutter

Oh, the glorification of staying busy. We get bored, so we schedule more. All too often, we subconsciously assign ourselves value through how many playdates, or meetings, or business calls we schedule for a particular week. How much we do, or achieve, instead of who we are. Having things to do somehow makes us feel more important/valuable/validated.

I wrote a few years ago about this “glorification”, making the case that being busy isn’t better. In this post, I break down a list of “why’s” for doing something — for example, I sometimes sign up for something because I think it will make someone else happy, instead of doing it because I want to do it.

I try to use the same “spark joy” mentality that I use for the belongings I keep when it comes to the way I schedule my time.

4. Emotional Clutter

Physical clutter gets a bad rap, but it only scratches the surface when it comes to other types of clutter than can weigh you down. Which type do you relate to most?

For those who feel before analyzing (feelers vs. thinkers), emotional clutter can be debilitating. Oftentimes, this boils down to drama with family or friends or stressing over an important decision and being unable to prioritize anything else.

In cases like these, it’s so important to recognize which relationships are an added weight to your life without adding joy or edification. Of course, some relationships we can’t cut out fully, but there are most certainly times when saying goodbye to a toxic or unhealthy relationship is just the thing to help your mind heal and de-clutter.


Clutter, being the buzz word that it is, can be tricky to nail down. Clearing your life from clutter completely isn’t necessarily possible (or healthy), but being aware of your clutter stressors can help you live life more fully and simply.

Tiny Living || Reducing Waste in Our Kitchen

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Since the beginning of my #InspiringZeroWaste challenge in January, I’ve hesitated to tackle one of the biggest areas that my household (and most households, I think) creates waste.

The kitchen.

Smaller space, as I’ve learned, doesn’t mean less waste and sometimes, it can mean producing even more waste for the sake of convenience.

This post won’t portray me as a perfect zero-waster, because the reality is that, especially in the kitchen, I’m far from it. But I’m working on implementing small steps (that I can actually stick with) thanks to this monthly challenge.

Today, I’m excited to share a bit of what I’ve already done to decrease waste in my kitchen — in this post, I’m welcoming the help of Do Good Shop (although you don’t need to buy anything to lessen your waste!). I’ll also share a few goals that I have for the coming month(s) and hopefully spark a bit of inspiration on your end as well.

If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for ethical home goods, Do Good Shop is a great resource. They’re a non-profit marketplace stocking items that support artisans, end trafficking, and encourage traditional craftsmanship. You’ll be hearing lots more about them in the coming months.

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In my “waste audit” of my tiny kitchen, I learned that packaging and food waste are the two biggest areas my family and I create waste. Although I’m not sure we will ever fully eliminate packaging from our home (packing school lunches without single-wrapped foods is HARD) and I may never find the perfect balance of buying and cooking the perfect amount of food, I’ve found a few ways to consciously reduce waste in these areas that have helped tremendously.

We still produce far too much trash than I’m comfortable with, even for a small family, and I would ideally like to recycle even less than we do (consuming less in general) but reducing waste as a family isn’t easy and I’m choosing to celebrate each small step instead of beat myself up for the long ways I have left to go.

Here are a few ways I’ve gotten started that you can try too:

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  1. DIY as much as you can

    DIY-ing, as much as my aesthetics-loving self hates to admit it, doesn’t have to be pretty. First and foremost, it should solve a problem or expense in your life, ultimately saving you time and money. I’ve fallen in love with DIY-ing my own cleaning supplies which saves my home from unnecessary plastic packaging and the unnecessary toxins found in most cleaning supplies. I also DIY things like tupperware, meaning I’ll reuse packaging certain foods come in to save other food before eventually recycling it. Things like cheese cartons, or even the twist ties found in the produce section can be used in other ways.

  2. Swap cloth for disposables

    It can be a beautifully-made swap, like my cloth napkins from Do Good Shop made by artisans in India using time-honored block printing, or it can be as simple as a cut up old t-shirt to use as cleaning rags. I have (and use) both daily. While my tee-cloths are essential for cleaning the daily messes, I wouldn’t use them to serve as dinner napkins or even something to clean up crumbs or coffee grounds. With these two “products” I’ve eliminated paper towels and other disposable cleaning wipes from my home.

  3. Shop seasonally and avoid plastic where you can

    I won’t even pretend that shopping zero-waste for groceries for a family of almost five is easy, because it isn’t. We have limited access to farmers’ markets and bulk food stores, so I’m usually left with shopping from the organic produce section and crossing my fingers that I remembered my reusable shopping bags. BUT it’s do-able to make a dent in your packaging and plastic intake and it’s worth trying, even if you can’t do it perfectly.

  4. Use your food scraps

    It’s hard to plan how long your food will last and, similarly, how much of it your three and five year old will eat once you make it, but there are ways to reduce your food waste by cooking with unused food scraps and strategically cooking/shopping to reduce extras. I learned about some great ways to use food waste from Going Zero Waste and her newly released book, but you can also do a quick Google search to find lots of inspiration. There are also lots of foods you can regrow from the stems and bottoms, so I’ve been experimenting a lot with that lately too.

  5. Meal Plan

    I’m the worst at meal planning. The absolute worst. In my almost six years of marriage and 5 years of motherhood, I haven’t consistently stuck with it until this year, when I realized how much of a money and sanity saver it really is. Meal planning, it turns out, can significantly reduce your waste in the kitchen too.

Not a super glamorous list, I know, or even what you may have expected (a list full of products you need to buy and eco-switches you need to make). Although products can be helpful for convenience and keeping you motivated, I’ve learned that reducing waste is really a mindset (and ultimately a lifestyle) shift, especially in the kitchen.

I love keeping a few "pretty things” around to keep things cheery and bright, like my Olivewood Serving Tray from Do Good Shop that serves as an in-bed tray, a plant display, a snack server and so much more, and a few pretty napkins and hand towels. But other than that, the kitchen is a place to make messes and get creative, and reducing your waste in the kitchen may not be as pretty as you’d expect either.

My #InspiringZeroWaste goal for this month is to research small space composting! I’d LOVE any resources you know of or tips that have worked well for you. I’m not opposed to an outdoor composting bin (in fact, I’d prefer it) but it needs to be bear and wildlife proof! (#mountainliving).

How hard has reducing waste in the kitchen been in your life? I’d love to hear your tips!


*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Do Good Shop. But all opinions, creative direction, and photographs are my own. Shop the links in this post to support brands that create a better world for artisans all over the world!*

Kitchens are one of the most wasteful areas of most rooms, but you might be surprised at how simple it is to start reducing your trash, even with kids in the house.

Turkish Textiles || Quiquattro

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The longer I work with brands and write about their products, the more fascinated by textiles I become. I find the process from plant to thread to fabric so fascinating and, when done ethically and sustainably, something to be truly celebrated and supported. There are so many ways to “spin it” when it comes to fabric creation, but hand-woven pieces made from natural fibers have to be some of the most heirloom-worthy.

In my pre-slow fashion days, I would run to Target or H&M or *Insert-big-chain-fast-fashion-store-of-choice-here* when I needed something like a blanket or a towel (in fact, my freshman year of college, I literally had one orange towel that I bought from Target). And although I was thrifty, my purchases reflected their true worth. They’d unravel after a few uses, pill after a few washes, or dull in color after a bit of wear and tear.

I’ve been in seasons of life when it’s financially necessary to choose the cheaply made option and, without a doubt, recognize the privilege involved in being able to choose better made alternatives, but let me tell you — the difference between supporting handmade versus unnamed-factory-somewhere-made is palpable.

There’s something about cozying up with a blanket or drying off with a towel knowing that the hands who made it were treated fairly, paid well, and were supported through its creation.

Quiquattro is one such brand who takes the “weaver to customer” mentality seriously.

Their products — a beautiful collection of pestemal towels, bedspreads and beachwear — are all handloomed by women weavers in Turkey using bamboo and cotton. The result? Gorgeously intricate detail and a textile that can withstand day to day use and washing.

I packed the Stone beach towel in my suitcase on our babymoon to Cancun because I loved how beautiful the towel was and couldn’t pass up an excuse to put it to use (no surprise that Colorado winters don’t allow for many beach days). It doubled as a cover up, beach blanket, and towel and was just absorbent enough to keep me dry without becoming too wet. It’s woven with stunning detail, but is still sturdy enough to act as a true towel.

And because my girls are over the moon when they get special surprises in the mail too, the sweet folks at Quiquattro sent over two matching bathrobes to keep them cozy and dry. We use them after showers, at the pool, and most recently, on a family morning trip to our local hot springs.

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We’ve also been loving their Navy Blue Bed Cover and have had it for four or five months now. It’s surprisingly heavy, intricately made, and very high quality. We put it on top of our duvet cover and it’s been the perfect thing to keep in the heat all winter long.

Although running to the closest fast fashion store is undoubtedly the more convenient and instantly gratifying option, choosing to support brands like QuiQuattro to furnish your bedroom and bathroom means that women artisans are able to make a living for themselves, sustainable craftsmanship is pushed forward, and you’re left with a piece that will last you years and years, instead of only a few rounds through the washer and dryer.


*This post was in partnership with QuiQuattro. All opinions, photographs, and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible!*

De-Cluttering without Wasting — 5 Tips for Conscious Downsizing

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The topic of living a “clutter-free” lifestyle isn’t a new one around here. I’ve been through several downsizing/minimalism phases, each one varying in severity and longevity, and bits and pieces of my journey are littered throughout the online pages of this blog. Getting rid of stuff, it seems, comes and goes in trendy waves. I’ve ridden several and, I hope, crossed over into a balanced lifestyle of intentionally living with less without the guilt or restriction I once felt about the label “minimalist”. (A label I don’t subscribe to, by the way).

With the recent success of Netflix’s rendition of Marie Kondo’s not-so-new method of tidying up, it seems minimalism is on another trendy high, with folks all over the world declaring which items do and don’t spark joy in their lives. I love lots of things about Kondo’s method, especially the subjectivity, but one thing I’m hesitant to love about this “mass exodus” of ex-hoarders into minimalist territory is the sheer amount of waste that’s bound to be created, despite the KonMari warnings to dispose of things mindfully.

It’s inevitable, somewhat, creating waste initially when you begin to live a more conscious lifestyle. But I think it’s possible to Marie-Kondo your life without throwing all of your non-joy-sparking possessions into a landfill.

This blog post could go much more in depth, but, for sake of time and practicality, here is my quick two cents on how and why to de-clutter as mindfully as I think we should do anything else. Whether it’s your first bout of downsizing or you’re a veteran minimalist, living with intention requires you to be mindful in all areas of life, including where you put the things that don’t serve you anymore.


Infographic via  Trade Machines.  See the entire image  here  - it’s very eyeopening.

Infographic via Trade Machines. See the entire image here - it’s very eyeopening.

  1. Get rid of clothing responsibly

    Americans purchase one article of clothing per week and we keep our clothes for only half as long as we used to 20 years ago. It’s estimated that Americans toss about 70.5 pounds of textile waste into landfills each year, with a measly 15% ever being donated. The pictured infographic is wonderfully helpful for explaining more.

    Here are a few simple ways to be mindful with your downsized clothing:

    • Host a clothing swap

    • Sell or re-gift them

    • Send pieces to relevant charities

    • Send them to a certified textile recycling center (a full post is coming soon on textile recycling, but here’s some great info in the meantime!)

  2. Purge Heirlooms Carefully

    Sentimental clutter is one of the hardest areas for most people to purge. The memories associated often seem to attach themselves to the physical item. I’ve never ascribed to the “rule” that you can’t keep any sentimental items, but here are a few rules that I follow when getting rid of anything with sentimental value.

    • Send the most valuable to other family members

    • Keep what you love without guilt

    • Host a garage sale or “free sale” to purge the rest

  3. Declutter your Kitchen without Throwing it all in the Trash

    Things like spices, mismatched sets, and appliances that you never use all probably fall in the category of “not sparking joy”. Be careful that you don’t lump it all into the trash when, chances are, each item needs individual consideration.

    • Sell/donate appliances and supplies in good condition

    • Combine extra spices/herbs or use them up before recycling the packaging

    • Compost food waste

    • Recycle as many containers as possible

  4. Find charities/organizations that may need your miscellaneous extras

    For odds and ends that you don’t use and aren’t sure what to do with, there may be a charity or organization that will take it off your hands. Many schools will accept musical instruments, office supplies, or children’s toys. Homeless shelters often take clothes, unused food, and the like. Do some digging into local organizations and send some items their way.

  5. Carefully consider future new belongings

    The cornerstone of a mindful lifestyle with less clutter (which ultimately means creating less waste), is what you do moving forward. If you purge your belongings only to replace them shortly after with “new and improved” ones, you’ve missed the point.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop or buy things that do, indeed, spark joy or fill a gap. However, once the initial purge is over, being extra cautious of what you buy/accept/bring in means that you’ll have less clutter and less to worry about downsizing later.

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As you Kon-Mari your belongings, remember to do it without creating unnecessary trash. Here are a few ways to de-clutter without waste.

Of course, none of us do this perfectly. It’s impossible to exist without creating waste of some sort. However, I hope these tips inspire you to Kon-Mari your life away and dispose of the joyless items responsibly.

Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat more!

#InspiringZeroWaste || January Goal

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As promised, the first installment of my #InspiringZeroWaste goals. I’m so excited about the reaction to this challenge and can’t wait to hear how your months go and which areas you choose to work on. I sat down with my planner today to map out each of my goals (I got halfway through the year and will reevaluate what I need to focus on as the year progresses) and was surprised by how tricky it was choosing what to focus on.

I’m not new to the “Zero Waste” lifestyle — I’ve been slowly working on reducing the waste my family and I produce for three or four years now. However, despite the progress I’ve made, I still found myself getting discouraged and overwhelmed by the amount I still had left to tackle. All of the little conveniences that we don’t even pay attention to until we realize how wasteful they are, all of the road trip stops at gas stations for a quick (plastic wrapped) snack, all of the in-flight plastic cups, or waste created while on vacation. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

This challenge, as I mentioned in my introduction post, is meant to aid you in cultivating an overall awareness of what you’re consuming and where your lifestyle is headed while making tangible progress towards your goals. How is it going for you so far? Let’s support each other along the way and watch as our goals become habits over the year.

So, my first goal of the year is to “zero waste-ify” my shower routine. I’ve been using clean, organic and healthy beauty products for a while, but of course, each of them usually comes in (recyclable) plastic. There are a few other options I’ve found, like Plaine Products’ amazing refillable aluminum containers, or Seed Phytonutrient’s biodegradable recycled packaging. But I would ultimately prefer to skip the “packaging” step all together and use a product that was truly waste-less.

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For Shampoo: I trying my hand at shampoo bars (gasp! I know). I’ve wanted to for a while, but have either been testing other brands or waiting for my old shampoos to run out. The timing was perfect for this month, so I decided to jump right in. I’ve been using the bar shampoo from Natural Vegan Club for a week or so now (washing my hair usually twice per week) and am pleasantly surprised. I’m still using up an old conditioner, but plan to buy a conditioner bar from Unwrapped Life.

For Bodywash: Similarly, I’m waiting for a bottle to finish (that I’ll recycle) and then I’ll use bar soap for shaving and washing. I have quite a collection built up from several brands, so I don’t suspect I’ll be buying any new soap for a while.

For Shaving: This is the area I’ve struggled with the most. I use my razor a lot — daily in some way or another, so I’ve tried just about everything. Except a safety razor. So this month, I’ll be buying one (I’m debating between Leaf Shave or Oui Shave — I’d love your recommendations!) Safety razors are zero waste in that there isn’t a plastic cartridge or handle that you throw out (because, as far as I know, they can’t be recycled) every few weeks. Their blades can be saved and sent to centers that specifically recycle razor blades. I’m nervously excited to order mine (they’re a bit of an investment) and will definitely be sharing about how I like it.

My favorite part about this routine is how versatile it is. My kids can use the same products I do (except the razor, of course) and each of them travels extremely well without needing to waste travel-sized products or cram giant shampoo bottles into my carry-ons.

I’ll plan to write an update on how each month goes (maybe as a “quarterly update” if monthly updates don’t work out), but for now, I’d love to hear what your goal for January is and/or if you’ve ever tried zero waste-ing your shower routine.


Don’t forget to use the tag #InspiringZeroWaste to share your posts with me and others in the community!