Browsing Tag


Family, Simplify

Frustrated Shopping? Your Guide to Experiential Gift Giving

Maybe you are still stuck trying to think of the perfect gift for your favorite traveller who hasn’t quite settled down or your best friend who is in full declutter mode. Maybe you want to give to someone that has waaaay too much stuff. What do you do?

Consider an experiential gift

Gifts of experience can be the answer to the question “What do I buy for someone who has everything?” or “What do I buy for my minimalist family member?” Perhaps you decide to gift them an activity or help them out with your expertise.

For example, my hubby is pretty handy, and he is always helping out my Mom with projects around her house. I think she appreciates his help much more than anything he can buy since she can no longer do the work herself.

What other kinds of experience gifts can you give?

For the kids:

  • Tickets to the local zoo
  • Tickets to a children’s museum (if you have one in your area)
  • Tickets to ride a train (really, any train. I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love a train ride)
  • Make them a certificate valid for a special outing to their favorite park with you.
  • Take them out for their favorite meal
  • Give them a day of yes. Basically, if they want to do something, then you do it. (I read about this awhile back, and the kids loved it. Let the recipient know they have to keep the requests within reason.)
  • Plan a family outing to one of their favorite places.
  • Take them to the movies or drive in

Frustrated Shopping? Check out our Guide to Gifts of Experience

For the bigger kids (aka adults):

  • Make them a meal or give them a gift card to a favorite restaurant.
  • For active peeps: Book a fun workout of their choice or one they have wanted to try. Better yet, do it together. (yoga, acrobatics, color run, obstacle course, etc.)
  • Help them complete a lingering household project
  • Movie tickets
  • Schedule time to hang out and spend the day on new experiences around town
  • Museum tickets
  • Bake something, bring it over, and spend time catching up while eating
  • Tickets to a favorite sporting or concert event (just make sure the recipient is available on the scheduled date)
  • For travelers: gift cards to their favorite airline.
  • If you are handy: Offer to help them with a project around the house. This is especially helpful for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • For avid online shoppers: offer to renew their Amazon Prime membership. At least you aren’t buying the actual items, just enabling their hobby a wee bit.

Do you have any other ideas for an experiential gift? If so, I would love to hear it. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Family, Simplify

Minimalism for Family Members

What do you do when you have embraced minimalism and the people who live with you are reluctant to do so? What can you do to motivate your loved ones or roommates to get on board? Is that even possible?

Our Story

I have been obsessed with simplifying for years. In 2009 I tried The Compact for a year and did not buy anything new with only a few exceptions. My husband has been supportive of my efforts, though he hasn’t completely embraced them. He already deplored shopping, and when I announced that I was going to buy nothing new for a year, he thought it was a great idea. When I invited him to join my experiment, he looked at me and said, “I already do that. You are joining me.”

I got a little miffed because he had the luxury of not buying clothes and other “stuff” because I did the shopping for him. He is also the kind of person who has a hard time letting go of stuff he has acquired even when he no longer needs it. I thought that he would cry uncle in the middle of my Compact year and realize how much I took care of him. He did not. Instead my husband went happily about his business, and if he went shopping for anything besides groceries, I never knew about it.

Simplifying Can Be a Solo Journey

So my journey toward a simpler life has been mine alone. As a couple we value experiences over things and we usually think hard about most purchases before adding anything to our home.

But when it comes to decluttering and purging old items that we just don’t use anymore, I am on my own. My hubby has had no interest in constantly culling through his closet or papers to get rid of what he no longer uses.

So I have worked hard to respect his space and things, working on my own clutter, trying to reduce what I have while leaving his stuff alone. All in all, it has worked pretty well. He doesn’t have a lot of stuff, but his organizational methods are a bit scattered, and it doesn’t bother him one bit.

His way of doing things has helped me work on my patience. I realize that our living space is not mine alone and I can only live by example. Right now I am reducing all of my papers. Granted, my papers have been hidden in file cabinets, but why do we even need them? If I scan most of my documents, then we can donate my file cabinets and make more space, which will make me happy.

minimalism-for-family-members“New” Ideas to Simplify from the Outside

A couple of weeks ago my hubby came to me very excited and said, “I just learned this new way of figuring out what clothes you actually use. You just turn the hangers around backwards, and then as you use clothes from the hangers, you flip them back around. After 3-6 months, you figure out which clothes you actually use by which hangers are turned around to the normal position. I am going to do that. It totally makes sense.”

I just stared at him for a moment before asking, “When did you learn this?” He looked at me and answered, “I don’t know, recently on some podcast…I think. Isn’t it great?”

“Yes, it is great.” I replied slowly. When I first started reducing my clothing I employed that exact method. In fact, I reversed my hangers a couple of different times. I talked to him about how great it was and how surprised I was by how many clothes I didn’t actually wear. I think he was listening. I’m sure he nodded or said “uh-huh.” But memory being what it is, he forgot. Likely, right after I told him.

When he heard the same advice from another credible source that was not his wife, he was in a different place in his life. He was ready to hear it. And most importantly, it was not being imposed on him from inside the home. It was his own idea.

And when I told him that I had mentioned the hanger reverse trick years ago, he told me that he didn’t remember, shrugged and apologized. “I really can’t wait to try it,” he said again. And I am not one to stomp on his enthusiasm for decluttering.

Why the Messenger Doesn’t Matter

I share our story to give hope to those of us committed to decluttering and simple living. You may have significant others, children or other family members who do not share your enthusiasm. That’s to be expected.

Forcing our loved ones to jump on the decluttering train does not work out well.

Living by example is a better way.

It doesn’t matter from where your loved ones learn their lessons to move toward a simpler life.

If you feel like they are never going to get on-board (and it is still important to you), see if you can find relevant information from people THEY respect for an outside perspective. Allow your loved ones to digest it on their own time.

Because if we push too hard they will resist and then resist some more.

So it’s best to stop pushing and live by example.

For now I am looking forward to seeing how many hangers are flipped back to their original positions at the end of my hubby’s hanger experiment. I might even volunteer to take the clothes he no longer wants to our local clothing closet.


Simply Good Reads

In the winter there is nothing better than sitting on a cozy couch with a book and a blanket when it’s cold outside. And since Northern California is actually getting rain and winter weather this year, I’ve been taking advantage. If I don’t have a book in my hand, then I’m usually reading an interesting blog or article on my tablet. Below are some of my favorite reads from this fall and winter. I hope they inspire you in the same way they inspired me.

Some of my favorite articles and blog posts on Simplicity

Tiny wins for a simple life

“Stop Googling, Let’s Talk” from the NY Times in September

Buddhist Bootcamp’s monthly newsletter

Motivating books

I started reading Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink with the intent to learn more about individual motivation, but its scope is much larger. It zooms in to motivation on the individual level and then zooms out to the organizational level to discuss what companies can do to keep employees engaged. Finally, it zooms waaaaay out to talk about what it would be like to have a motivated society. According to Pink, the motivation recipe is the same at the individual and societal level.

Intrinsic motivation keeps you going over the long haul while extrinsic motivation (think carrots and sticks) does not. American businesses can learn A LOT from this book. Most importantly, we all need to take stock of what motivates us on a regular basis to ensure that we are expending our energy in a way that adds to our lives. We all can tap in to intrinsic motivation. His book outlines just how to do it.

I also enjoyed reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown. He encourages us to remove anything that is not absolutely essential to our lives. The hard work is defining what is essential and what is not. Although the message was redundant at times, I enjoyed the minimalist philosophy of the book. And full disclosure, I listened to the audio version of this book while I was sorting through papers and other desk clutter. Win-win.

I am always a sucker for a good book on minimalism, voluntary simplicity and the like. There is always something new to learn…

Buy Nothing Day no gifts

What is Buy Nothing Day all about?

I first heard about Buy Nothing Day when I was a college student studying public relations in the mid-90s. One of our professors  introduced us to Adbusters, a Canadian magazine critical of consumerism. Founded by Canadian artist Ted Dave, the Buy Nothing Day  message was spread by Adbusters. It had never crossed my mind to consciously skip Black Friday before reading Adbusters, and I found the idea intriguing.

Buy Nothing Day poster

Image credit:

Today Adbusters frames Buy Nothing Day as an international day of protest against consumerism. They encourage people to engage in protest activities like taking a zombie walk, cutting up credit cards, or inviting friends to join you for what is called “whirl-mart.” All activities are designed to bring attention to the large role that consumerism plays in our lives. And the zombie walk sounds like a lot of fun. Of course, if protest actions are not your thing, simply not buying anything all day equals full participation.

According to the Adbusters website, “Buy Nothing Day isn’t just about changing your habits for one day, it is about rediscovering what it means to live freely.” The day is meant to wake us up from our consumerism stupor and become critical consumers, thinking before we buy.

Earlier this week I wrote a post about REI remaining closed on Black Friday and many California State Parks offering free admission to the redwoods for the day.

Finally, the idea of skipping the mall the day after Thanksgiving is catching on after 20+ years of Buy Nothing Day.

Why now? Rather than simply telling us what not to do on Black Friday, the conversation is now revolving around  alternative activities. REI started the conversation this year by encouraging folks to be active and get outside. And it is about time.

I recently read an article published in the Chicago Tribune that asked, “Is Black Friday dying?” From the sound of it, Americans are ready to leave shopping behind and replace it with something much more subversive, a day of physical activity after a food-filled holiday. Check out the #optoutside hashtag on social media.  It’s full of fun posts.

I like to believe that Buy Nothing Day started this anti-Black Friday trend. People are tired of stores opening early on Thanksgiving and ruining the holiday for their employees. Only we can decide to take back the Thanksgiving holiday so it feels more like a holiday weekend and less like another excuse to shop.

Ultimately, only we can decide how to spend our time and money. On Buy Nothing Day, you might just want to #optoutside.

Cruise Ship docked in Haines, Alaska
Simplify, Travel

How Cruise Ship Life Inspired My Minimalism

After graduating college in the late 90s, I landed a job working on a cruise ship. I got paid to play with kids and adults all day, and I loved it.
Cruise Ships in distance
When I left for my first contract, I packed my entire life into 2 giant suitcases. I remember how much I agonized over what to bring, and I was certain that I would leave behind something really important. In the end, all the clothes and accessories I packed ended up being way too much stuff.

Leaving stuff behind was painful during the packing process.

Having less became liberating once I was living on the ship.

First, I had no place to put stuff. Crew cabins are much smaller than passenger cabins and often 4 of us shared one.

Oh, have you cruised before? You didn’t think the cabins could get much smaller on cruise ships? Think again.

4 crew performing in uniform

Staff performance. Glasses help protect the innocent. I’m on the far right. 🙂

What was surprising was how liberating it felt to live with so little stuff. Our work uniforms were laundered for us. I didn’t need much clothing for off-duty times since we worked every day. The books I brought were read and passed on to others (this was way before Kindles). It was the ultimate sharing economy. Crew bought stereos and TVs and bequeathed them to friends when their contracts were up. It felt good to know that others would use your stuff when you were done. And it made our bags much lighter when we flew home.

By my second contract I only packed one suitcase and included half the stuff I brought on my first contract. And I was staying for twice as long.

Many of us have such a distorted view of what we truly need. How many times have you traveled and not worn half the clothes you packed? Not used that latest gadget that you had to have after one week?

It’s true, we didn’t have a lot of spare time during our contracts at sea, but the experience changed me. I already wasn’t a big collector, but living in a tight environment taught me that I could let go of what I didn’t need and trust that what I did need would float into my life. I learned to let go more easily.

In cruise ship uniform wearing life jacket

Goofing off with my cabinmates before boat drill

Most importantly, I learned to collect experiences rather than things. I had amazing experiences at sea, and I rarely bought souvenirs for myself. I took photos, but more often, I would do my best just to be in the moment.

In fact, after awhile, the idea of stuff started to weigh me down.

Even today I absolutely love passing on items to friends who need what is no longer useful to me.

After living in such a small space with so many people, I have learned that it is easier to get along in this world, and certainly much more enjoyable, if you don’t try to cram your closets with way too much stuff.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there is a term for this mindset. Minimalism.


Pin It on Pinterest