6 Things Minimalism Isn't

I don't like focusing on the negatives. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm hopelessly optimistic. To a fault even. I love seeing the good in everything, in my own slightly sarcastic and happy-go-lucky kind of way. But sometimes, focusing on the "negatives" is the best way to define the "positives" — or in other words, learning what something isn't can help define what it actually is. 

After the buzz that the new documentary from The Minimalist's created, I think its safe to say that minimalism is becoming a new "thing". Although it's not quite mainstream (yet), the film took the movement to new heights, reaching more people than ever before. 

And with so many new eyes on the art of living with less, there's bound to be some confusion and misinterpretation. So, allow me to present my definition of what I believe the heart of minimalism is, by defining what it isn't. 

Minimalism is a lot of things to a lot of people — but to understand it well, it helps to first understand what it ISN'T.

1. Minimalism isn't the "be all end all"

Although it can certainly cut out a lot of unnecessary problems and make life a heck of a lot easier, minimalism isn't the "ultimate good". It can't solve every problem you have.

It can, however, give you a system for dealing with excess — be it physical, mental, social, or digital. But minimalism isn't the ultimate. 

2. Minimalism isn't depriving yourself of things you love

I've heard a lot of people say that minimalism isn't for them because they don't think they'd be able to let go of a certain collection, or get rid of their favorite clothes, or a certain sentimental trinket from their past. But that misses the point entirely. Minimalism isn't deprivation. It's creating space so you can have and do more of what you love. Even if what you love is antique tea cups. 

It's all things in moderation. 

3. Minimalism isn't just about aesthetics

Although minimalist architecture and interior design may trend on social media and be serious #housegoals, the aesthetics isn't what it's about either. Ultimately, minimalism is a heart project — teaching yourself to live with less of what you don't need, so you can have more of what you do need.

4. Minimalism isn't just about stuff

Getting rid of "stuff" is a huge part of it, but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, minimalism is about way, way more than a 37 piece wardrobe or a sparsely decorated home. 

5. Minimalism isn't supposed to be hard

The initial work may be difficult, yes. Transitioning from a "more mentality" to a "less but better" mentality will definitely be hard. But in another sense, it is one hundred times more freeing and exciting than it is limiting and constricting. 

6. Minimalism isn't the same for everyone

Like most things in life, minimalism looks different for each person. You don't have to have an all white home with only a table and a set of chairs, or 100 belongings, or a curated capsule of 37 pieces to consider yourself a minimalist. More than anything, it is learning to be intentional with the things you allow into your home and into your life. 

Now that we know what it isn't, tell me what minimalism is to you....

7 Tips Anyone Can Use To Make Their Closet More Conscious

I remember when I first started my blog, I vowed to myself that I'd never let it become "just a fashion blog". And although, even to me, that sounds pretty condescending and silly, I really wanted to create a space of depth, and growth. A place where people were inspired to simplify and make positive changes to their life. And the thought of my blog being only a collection of sponsored posts and new clothes scared me (and it still does sometimes). However, as time goes on, I'm realizing what a powerful conduit fashion is, both for simplicity and ethical living.  

My step into capsule wardrobes a few years ago was one inch closer into "fashion blogger" territory. Then, when I made the commitment to stop buying from fast fashion last year, I became a full on advocate for ethical fashion. I never expected it to become such an integral part of my blog — since minimalism and simplifying was originally my main focus originally — but, I have a hard time separating things, and so minimalism AND slow fashion melded together to become the SL&Co. you know today. 

Even though I've become much more "fashion blogger-y" than I ever expected, my one and only goal with each and every outfit I post and every new brand I introduce is that it will encourage you bit by bit to make more informed purchases and support the brands that are changing the fashion industry for the better, all while learning to intentionally create a wardrobe you love. 

That said, I'm incredibly passionate about making slow fashion more approachable for anyone and everyone. Changing your shopping habits is a scary step, like anything that takes you out of your comfort zone (although in my experience, ethically made clothes are FAR more comfortable than their fast fashion alternatives ;). I hope SL&Co. is a resource that pushes you in that direction. I've created my affordable ethical brands list and my giant guide of brands for the sole purpose of showing that it is possible to shop more consciously, no matter your budget, social media following, location, or personal style. 

But you don't need a fashion blog, or an Instagram account, or an audience to start making your wardrobe more conscious. The conscious living and ethical fashion blogs exist to provide information, resources, and inspiration, but that certainly doesn't mean they should be the only ones doing it.

Here are a few super easy tips to take your wardrobe to the next level, ethically speaking. Without a blog post or a slough of hashtags afterwards. 

Ethical fashion isn't just for fashion bloggers. Here are 7 tips anyone can implement to begin creating a more ethical wardrobe.

 

1. Implement the "Run Out" Rule: 

I mentioned this rule in my post on sustainable baby steps a few weeks ago. It's one I personally use for everything from beauty products, to my closet, to my kitchen. 

It simply means that once something you already have runs out or needs to be replaced, replace it with a more conscious and ethically made item. As you declutter your closet, define your style, and create a more streamlined wardrobe, you're bound to notice gaps in your closet. Add those items to your wishlist and slowly, one by one, replace them with a piece from an ethical retailer. 

It doesn't have to be all at once (in fact, it probably shouldn't,) so be patient and embrace the process of curating a wardrobe you love. 

2. Shop Second Hand:

I know, it doesn't have the same allure that buying a shiny new piece from a brand you admire, but thrifting is one of the easiest ways to up the consciousness AND affordability of the pieces you need to replace. 

Since you likely want to invest in pieces that are going to last, thrifting from places like ThredUp or Instagram shops that specialize in finding high quality pieces can be an awesome option. 

3. Utilize The Bloggers:

One of the greatest things about the influence of ethical bloggers is that they can act as genuine advertisement for brands that consumers can feel good about buying from. If you're unsure of whether or not a certain brand is ethical or not, utilize the blogs and resources you've come to trust. Look through their archives, send them a message. We blog because we are passionate about watching this industry change and we love watching it happen. 

4. Take It Slow:

Don't expect your closet to change overnight. It might take a while for your closet to evolve into a more ethical one, and that's totally ok. Even a year or so in to my ethical fashion journey, I'm still using the run out rule, researching ways to fill gaps, and discovering brands I love supporting. 

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5. Define Your Style:

One of the easiest ways to be more mindful about what you bring into your closet, is by knowing exactly what you love to wear and buying only that. Although I'm all for experimentation and trying new styles, besides the occasional "off brand" piece, you should stick to your favorite cuts/styles/colors. 

6. Ignore The Trends:

Along with knowing what you love to wear, learn to resist the urge to buy the newest trends as soon as they're released — with each of fast fashion's 52 micro-seasons. Instead, stick to pieces that are timeless and classic. They'll never go out of style. 

7. Choose Quality Over Quantity: 

Getting used to buying "investment pieces" instead of cheap alternatives that you'll need to replace in a year or two will not only work wonders for the pieces in your closet but will also make you more content with the pieces you do have, cutting the urge to shop all the time. 

How are you taking steps to make your wardrobe more ethical? Has it been an easier transition than you expected? 

Sustainable Baby Steps || Pela Case

I've talked a lot about how my journey into minimalism — and now into ethical/conscious living — has been much closer to a marathon than a sprint. I stopped buying clothes from fast fashion brands almost a year ago, but transitioning the "non-fashion" aspects of my life has been a harder adjustment than I expected. One of my "resolutions" for this year is to transition towards a zero-waste lifestyle. With two toddlers and a very non-zero-waste home to begin with, it will be quite the transition. But it's all about baby steps in the right direction. 

I'm learning that the best method is to take baby steps into "slow living", and not overhaul your entire life all at once. Which is why, instead of running to Walmart when I run out of something like mascara, body wash — or when I need, say, a new phone case — I replace the item with an ethically made one, from a brand I can support. 

It's a mindset shift more than anything. It's teaching myself that I can wait until I find an ethical option for most everything in my life. I don't need anything right. now. 

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Which is why, after one too many drops from our one and a half year old, I decided to research sustainable phone cases. 

I'd seen Pela Case on a few other blogs and fell in love with not only the design of their cases but the way they're designed as well. Pela's cases are 100% biodegradable — made primarily with flax seed and a blend of other natural and recycled ingredients they've dubbed "Flaxstic". This means that when you're done with the case, you can simply recycle or compost it. They're scratch resistant, light-weight, and best of all, keep your phone safe from toddlers. 

Plus, a phone case with a story is way more interesting than a mass produced case from Apple. 

Here are a few simple baby steps you can take to ease into sustainable living: 

1. Implement the "run out" rule: Like I mentioned earlier, it's easier (and more practical) to make the transition overtime than all at once. When you notice you're getting low on something, research ethically-made/sustainable options, and then buy it instead of your old go-to. Eventually the ethical items will outweigh the unethical. 

2. Buy in bulk: Buying in bulk saves you from picking up extra (oftentimes un-recycleable) packaging. Store things in glass, or re-usable containers. 

3. Simplify your list of "needs": When you get down to it, the list of things you actually need is pretty short. Simplifying each aspect of your life from your wardrobe, to the ingredient list for your favorite recipes, will help you be more intentional with the things you bring into your home. 

4. Research Before Buying: There is an entire thriving community of people and businesses changing the way we shop and consume. Do your research before buying something — you, as the consumer, have more power than you know. 

What changes have you made to live a more eco-friendly/sustainable lifestyle? 

Living With Lists: Getting Things Done The Simple Way

We can learn to live our life more simply — and decrease stress — by learning to make use of lists. A list can be beneficial for so many reasons. One, it helps us to see what needs to be done. Two, it helps us to prioritize. And three, we get to cross things off as they're completed. 

Writing out a list gives us a goal for the day, week, or month. It helps us to recognize tasks that we would like to complete in a given period of time. As you're writing out your list, consider something: what do you need to do for the day/week? Be sure to put these things at the top of the list or in their own category. They are your priority. 

Now think about other tasks or activities that you want to do, time permitting. Add them! Be sure to put some fun things on that list — we all deserve to have a little fun, right? 

Now that you have your map — a list of things to do — you can work towards where you need to be! You may be super disciplined and do all on the need list first with the want list as your motivating factor to get to after. Or, you may do a few from this list and then choose to reward yourself with things you actually want to do. Find what works for you, but be sure to prioritize the things on the need list. 

What can work by itself?

There may be some things on your list that don't need much help from you. An example — the washing. Sure, you need to put it in the machine and set it going, but then you can leave it alone for 45 minutes or so to do its own thing. I love these tasks. As long as you can get the washing started, it will work away being productive for you until it's ready to hang out or dry. 

I often put a load of washing on when the house is silent, before the kids wake up! It's great to know that this is happening in the background whilst I tend to my littles once they're awake. Something productive from my list is happening, even when I'm not doing it— perfect!

Are there other tasks like this? Do you really need to dry the dishes, or can they sit and dry all by themselves? Picking up toys after your children — do you need to do that? Or can you teach them about responsibility and have them do it instead? 

Are there tasks that need the perfect environment before you can work on them? Be sure to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise? We don't have a dryer at home, so when we get gorgeous sun, I do as much washing as I possibly can on that day in case the rest of the week is cold and wet. It feels great to get all of the family washing out of the way in the course of a day!

Learn to make lists for yourself. At the end of the day or week it is great to be able to see what you've achieved. Look at all the things you've crossed off your list — if you've managed to get through all of the needs list and a few extras, go you! Be sure to congratulate yourself as you achieve what you need to, and then some!

Get excited about making lists. They give a sense of direction and can help you prioritize. It makes organizing your day a lot easier — especially when you need to work around the family or other commitments. 

Why Being Busy Isn't Better

To say we live in a culture of excess is an understatement — and something that's probably abundantly clear to anyone reading this piece. But society's obsession for "more" goes much deeper than just an urge to collect stuff. We're pressured to have excessive houses far too large for us packed with stuff we don't really need, obtain excessively "perfect" bodies, and maintain excessively busy lifestyles. The problem with all of this excess is that ultimately, we're left craving more — feeling burnt out and under-appreciated in spite of our unrelenting efforts. 

Part of the beauty of simple living is that it touches all areas of life, not just the amount of stuff you allow yourself to accumulate. It applies to your relationships, your mindset, your diet, your social life. Everything. And while there's much to be said about all of those things, one of the hardest for so many of us to change is our (seemingly) innate glorification of staying busy. 

Don't get me wrong, minimalism isn't about sitting on your couch doing nothing in your empty house all day long. It's not about saying no to things you enjoy doing or being "bored" all the time. It is, however, about being mindful with the way you spend your time and if the way you're spending your time isn't really consistent with your "less is more" philosophy, then maybe it's time to downsize your social schedule too. 

We live in a culture of constant business, but how does minimalism apply to your social schedule?

When your time is filled with endless meetings, play dates, after school activities, extracurriculars, errands, and chores there's no room to simply be. There's no room for self-evaluation, elimination, re-focusing, or simple self care. 

Sometimes your job may require you to have a full schedule, or your kids may be filling your calendar with birthday parties, soccer games and field trips, or maybe you're just addicted to being busy, always saying yes and never saying no. 

But the danger lies in believing your life is more fulfilled when it's filled to the brim with to-do's. And I believe the heart behind a simple life is one that knows when to say no and just take time to be. 

And by "be" I don't mean sitting in a room and meditating instead of going out for coffee with a friend. I mean learning the difference between over-booked and fulfilled. 

Here are four ways I've learned to narrow down my "schedule" so that I can focus on the things that I love: 

1. Does this event/outing/party bring me joy?

While there are certainly events that are "musts" — like family events, paying bills, business meetings and such. But others are totally optional. Weighing your choices based on the level of happiness vs stress it will bring can be a great way to pick and choose what you do. For example, as an introvert, certain social events put more stress on me than they would someone who is more extraverted. When you do have a choice, make the one that brings less stress to your life, not more. 

2. Have I Practiced Self-Care Today?

No matter how packed your schedule is, it's vital that you make time to care for yourself. Be it a hot bath at the end of the day, a trip to a coffee shop to read a good book, or an all out spa day, doing something just for you each day will ensure that the things you do decide to do aren't adding to your exhaustion. 

3. Am I Going For The Sake Of Someone Else?

Oftentimes we do something because we're scared of how someone else will react if we don't (or vise versa). Worrying about the opinion of others (whose opinion truly doesn't matter to you) is not only unneeded stress, but it adds complications to your life. 

4. If it's a "must do", how can I simplify elsewhere to ensure I'm not over-booked?

Making sure to carve in some downtime in your day, no matter how busy, will help you from getting too busy. 

Is being constantly busy something you struggle with? What's something you can do to bring more simplicity to your schedule?