Before&After: Clothing Closet

In this before and after, my client needed help with her closet. Because she’s expecting another child, she has a mix of pregnancy and regular clothes both in one closet.

In the United States, it is common to have closets with a bar for hanging and multiple adjustable shelves. People generally use wire hangers that comes with their dry cleaning, and shirts and pants are folded and stacked. This method of organization is problematic because wire hangers ruins the shape of your clothing. And folded shirts gets messy every time you take one out from within the pile. The daily process of tugging and pulling makes a neatly organized closet difficult to maintain. Often in our busy lives they are left undone, and the pile becomes increasingly cluttered, adding stress to an already hectic morning time to get ready.

This tidying experience is a great example of when someone who has reached a breaking point and fed up with her storage problem. After spending 3.5 hours joy checking everything and discarding 8 bags of items, she gained some important insights. She learned that certain colors or styles she should never buy, and stores she shouldn’t shop at. She also realized reasons that will positively affect her future shopping decision making and habits based on the mistakes she made from past purchases.

After discarding, the storing process was a lot easier once she had the right amount of items intended for the size of her closet. We placed her regular clothes farther back, and the pregnancy clothes within reach. The clothes hung are in order from longest on the left, then rearranged within that to go from darker to lighter colors. This KonMari method of hanging can visually uplifts your spirit. From a maintenance stand point, it allows you to easily place something back in the same spot if you follow the length and color criteria.

All of her bags are nested inside of a large duffle bag and placed on the floor underneath. The folded clothes are separated by category. To infuse more joy, my client plans to get some boxes she likes to hold them (If you don’t have the budget, you can use shoe boxes or any rigid box, and cover it with wrapping paper that you like.) By separating folding items into subcategorized boxes, you create a more uniformed look, creating boundaries so you can easily find what you need, as well as less work for keeping them organized. (Note: The shelf that holds some denim and white shorts are folded and temporarily stacked one on top of the other. Those will be placed in a box so they’ll be “filed” instead of stacked.)

 

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After photo of the closet seen above: I apologize for my slightly out of focus After photo. My client is keeping up with maintaining this closet so I’ll be taking a better one next time.

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After photo of her post-pregancy clothes and shoes in the closet-above: We folded the clothes and stored them into an under the bed storage, sorted by category (work, pajamas, workout clothes) My client loves shoes, but is short on shoe storage. We placed her heels on a shelf (not shown) facing opposite direction to fit more pairs per shelf. Her sneakers and flats are paired up, placed them on their sides sole to sole facing opposite directions. Again, this allows more shoes to fit while keeping them visible and accessible.

In the end she had extra shelves in her closet which will be put to use after she brings back more regular clothes currently in storage. My client tells me she went from feeling frustrated every time she opens her closet door, to literally going inside to feel calm. And she looks forward to starting her day feeling positive as she gets ready for her busy day.

ZERO-WASTE DECLUTTERING PART 2: BOOKS

A few weeks ago I started this series of Zero-Waste decluttering tips as an add-on for my KonMari organization service. In the first category, I suggested options for the clothes we discard. I was actually surprised to learn that 95% of textiles can be recycled, but currently only 15% does while the rest end up in our landfills. I hope my article has helped to bring more awareness to change those numbers.

The second category to tidy using the KonMari method is books. For many, discarding books can be very difficult. Owning books means different things to different people. Some keep them as references for their work, some people collect them, others keep books because “it just feels wrong” to get rid of them. However, books do have expiration dates. Their information becomes outdated, as well as your interests and needs change over time. Have you ever been inside of an old library or used book store where you can actually smell the books? Maybe they are trying to tell us it’s been too long since they’ve been opened to get some fresh air.

It’s very common for our home library to be full of books that have never been read or finished. Truthfully, people tend to buy new books even if they have similar ones on the same subject. These days they’ll find the information online, in a digital book, even from an actual library. Chances are those books remain on the shelves collecting dust, taking up valuable space that can hold something else that sparks joy.

The best way to declutter your books is to take everything off the shelves as if you are getting rid of all of them, then go through the stacks to pick out the ones you want to keep. One simple way to see if the book sparks joy for you is by asking yourself “Will I buy this again if I get rid of it now?” And if a well designed book cover sparks joy for you more than it’s content,  keep it visibly on display so you can enjoy it more.

Now for the discarding part.

ZERO-WASTE DECLUTTERING CATEGORY 2: BOOKS

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DONATIONS

This is the obvious solution. You can donate your gently used book to libraries, thrift stores, some churches and senior centers, homeless shelters, and even prisons. You can also do a city-specific search online and find local non-profit literacy programs.

Here are two nationwide organizations for a good cause:

Books for Soldiers:  Sends specific books to soldiers they hope to read, which they can request through the website.

Book4Cause: Supports the Good Books for Africa program.

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SELL

If you own valueable or new books that can be sold, I’d recommend finding a local bookstore that you can take them to instead of mailing it. Books generally cost a too much to ship and you may even lose money if you don’t price them correctly. If you do sell it on eBay or craigslist, make sure your buyer will agree to pay for the shipping once you calculate the exact amount.

You can also sell them when you have a yard sale, but generally for very little money.

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TRADE

Trading is not only a great way to get something free and new to you, it also allows more connection with others. Although trading means you will bring something back home with you, be sure you choose something that you truly love and will enjoy.

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REPURPOSE

There are actually people who will buy your old books to do crafts (which they can then sell on websites like etsy.com). If you are not crafty, maybe contact them and see if they’ll want to buy your books. If you want to create some original pieces yourself, just search online for “recycled book crafts” and get ready for an overload of inspirations.

Some kids books and art books have great pictures that can be framed or turned into greeting cards or gift tags. Use them to make collages, or decoupage an old tabletop with the book pages and give it a new life!

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RECYCLE

The quickest way to discard your books responsibly is to drop them in your paper recycling bin. Paperback books can be recycled as is, but hard cover books needs to have the covers removed (The covers needs to go in your regular trash, or make something cool with it) . If the paper has gotten wet or turned tan or brown, they can not be recycled and should be placed with your regular trash.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips. For the next category, I’ll be sharing lot of fun ideas on how to recycle and repurpose your paper!

 

 

 

Before & After: Kitchen Cabinet

With every organizing project, I always aim to increase the visibility and accessibility inside a storage space. In this Before & After, few simple changes have made my client’s time in the kitchen a much more enjoyable one.

The before photos actually don’t look too disorganized. However for a client who enjoys baking, reaching for her baking supplies stored in the green container (a great Lego Duplo box repurposed), was a big inconvenience. Getting the right bottle of vitamin from the bottom left shelf was difficult to do without knocking over the other bottles. And overall she felt her cabinets needed a clearer division for what each section holds.

BEFORE: Kitchen Cabinets

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We started by emptying out the cabinets and doing our joy check. I tried out my zero-waste decluttering with the KonMari method this time. Any food items that are expired, gone bad, or you no longer enjoy the taste, are first thanked then properly recycled or added to the compost. (For example, expired can foods are opened and dumped into the compost bin and the can is rinsed out and recycled.) The importance in thanking the food that we dispose is to recognize the waste, and start to be more conscious when shopping for food items.

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Simple Joy Tip:
When clearing out the kitchen, use your nose to determine if a food or ingredient sparks joy for you, does it smell fresh or inspire you to cook with it?

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The biggest enemy in a messy kitchen cabinet is the plastic packaging the food comes in. The irregular shapes are difficult to stand on their own, so they often end up piling up. The various labels on the bags also create a lot of visual clutter, making it hard to find what you need.

The best way to store your dry food products is in airtight containers. It is worth investing in a set, especially for baking ingredients, so the food stays fresher longer. And it’s easier to scoop or pour what you need from a container than a bag, meaning you’ll have less mess to clean up.

I also like to repurpose glass pasta sauce or jam jars to store my food. If you always buy the same brand, just placing 2 next to each other makes them a set! You can soak the container in hot water until the label peels off easily and scrub any remaining glue with a kitchen scrubber.

AFTER: Kitchen Cabinets

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Often you will find that you have all the containers you need already in your home. In this case, she had 2 extra pasta containers above her refrigerator just sitting empty. She had an empty box with lid from another closet that was perfect for smaller bottles and packages. By Placing similar shaped containers together to creates a more uniformed look, we add more joy to our cabinets.

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Use a box and lid to store smaller bottles from the same category and place items by descending height from back to front for visibility and accessibility. In this example, the teas and drinks box now holds packs of hot chocolate, drink mixes, tea bags, and honey. The vitamins are stored in a box lid that easily slides out, nothing gets knocked over. Every person who access these can easily put back the item they use without messing up the organization.

The top shelf has 2 Tupperware containers that didn’t bring my client joy. They were the last of the set they came with, but niether quite fit their refrigerator shelves very well. We decided to placed her water filters in the blue lid one, and holiday cookie cutters in the green one. The colors were enough to help remind her what’s in them so we didn’t need a label. This is a good example of infusing joy into something by giving them a new purpose.

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Although the client uses the pasta in the middle shelf more often than the flour and sugar, we were restricted by the irregular height of these old shelves. With this placement, she can still reach the pasta with a little extra care. On the plus side, she does enjoy the look of seeing the colors and textures inside the food containers, so she didn’t mind as much that the pasta is higher on the shelves.

Here’s a tip I love, creating a treasure chest of flavors! The box on the lower shelf now holds pasta sauce and a variety of packaged seasonings. This solution really comes in handy when you don’t know what to cook for dinner. Just look in the box and decide if it’s Italian pasta, Indian curry, or Mexican taco night!

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Placing the Dutch oven, slow cooker, and salad bowl in a row on shelves that matches their height creates a nice visual of circular containers. The green box with the baking ingredients are now within reach. It holds the opened ingredients for baking that don’t have individual air-tight containers. The box lid next to it holds smaller baking supplies. this organizing system for your kitchen cabinet will work hard for you.

This makeover took about 2 hours to complete. Other than the plastic bags from the food packages which are not recyclable, the rest were disposed properly and responsibly. This process also made my client more aware of the types of packaging her food comes in, and plans to reduce the amount of plastic bags from her purchases.

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Start your own kitchen cabinet joy makeover today! tidyup@simplejoywithann.com

NEWS: Chicago 2017 KonMari Consultant Seminar

On the morning of April 28th, 2017, I walked anxiously into a ballroom at the Gwen Hotel in Downtown Chicago. I was amongst the 80 attendees who either wished to further their joy sparking skills, or become certified as a KonMari Consultant. It was surprising to learn that majority of the people there have traveled great distances from over 20 countries to this seminar. For the next three intense days that followed, we not only learned what it takes to be a KonMari Consultant, we gained many friendships with those who share the passion for organizing and improving the lives of others.

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The seminar was taught by Marie Kondo’s former client turned master instructor Mitsugu Ando. Every lesson and question answered were translated from Japanese to English. Positive energy filled the room as we shared our stories and experiences from the magic after tidying up. From recovering hoarders and minimalist, to people who took a leap of faith and quit the jobs that didn’t spark joy for them, each heartfelt stories shared added to the unique bond of this group.

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On our final day of the seminar, a cheerful and sweet Marie Kondo joined us to share some closing thoughts. We got a chance to get our books signed, and be photographed with her to receive our Certificate of Completion as a KonMari trainee.

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This seminar was step 3 of an intense 7-step certification process. The KonMari Media Inc. has created a supportive community for the attendees to continue to connect and learn from one another. This experience has challenged me to keep making choices that brings me joyI feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet my idol, to learn from her, and to be part of her mission to organize the world.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Your likes and follows keeps me motivated to keep moving forward. And thanks to all the amazing people I met at the seminar and the KonMari Media team for being part of this wonderful journey.

 

Zero-Waste Decluttering Part 1: Clothing

My last blog post about redefining waste touched on how I started composting and taking our used clothing to be recycled. The once tedious chore of dealing with our garbage has become a joyful act to live a more earth-friendly lifestyle.

As I build my organizing consulting business, I decided to offer a Zero-Waste decluttering option. One of the biggest reasons why people have trouble getting rid of things is the guilty feeling of being wasteful. By offering my clients a green option, they will not only be relieved of their negative feelings toward discarding, they will find joy in doing something positive with their discarded materials.

The KonMari method of decluttering is to sort through categories of items in a specific order instead of decluttering by room. Over the next few weeks, I’ll go through each of the categories and offer suggestions to declutter with zero-waste.

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ZERO-WASTE DECLUTTERING CATEGORY 1: CLOTHING

The average American throws away 70 lbs. of clothing annually.

We are now living in a “disposable fashion” culture of clothing produced cheaply with synthetic material, and often made in factories oversees where laborers work under brutal conditions. Fashion designers used to only design for 4 seasons, but now they can design as many as 52 collections a year.

Shopping for clothes can become addictive because of that instant gratification. Our brain gets a release of dopamine, a chemical signal that helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Our clothing can give us a sense of confidence. They can make us feel sexy or motivate us to work out harder in the right athletic outfit.  We feel fit-in when dressed appropriately for an event. A plush robe or a pair of worn-out sweatpants can help us feel relaxed. These are all such big responsibilities for our clothes to handle. And by taking the time to sort through and find the ones that truly sparks joy for us, we are rewarded by the positive feelings they bring. However, there are so many pieces we own that do just the opposite.  The uncomfortable, ill-fitting and fashion mistakes sometimes cost us not only money, but stress, guilt, and regret. So take the time to say thank you and goodbye to the ones that have “fulfilled their purpose”. They have taught us to never buy that style, color, or fabric again. And for the ones that made you look and feel great on a special occasion but haven’t seen the light of day (or night) in years. Anything that no longer sparks joy still deserve a proper farewell.

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DONATIONS/GIVE-AWAYS
Any item in good condition that you think your family or friends might enjoy, put them in a bag and label with their name. Give or send the items as soon as possible. Include a note that they are not obligated to keep them if the clothes don’t spark joy for them. And ask that they donate or recycle anything they don’t want to keep.

Goodwill, Salvation Army, local thrift stores, charities, and churches have drop-off locations all over the country. Most places will give you a tax-deductible receipt when requested. You can also pack a box full of items to donate to Goodwill and ship it for free by printing a label from givebackbox.com.

Bridge to Success is an organization that takes business attire donations.

Cinderella Project is an organization that takes party/prom dresses for underprivileged youth.

Loved Twice collects clothing for newborns and distribute them exclusively through social workers in hospitals, shelters, and clinics.

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SELL
If you live in a house or in an apartment building that allows you to have yard/stoop/garage sales, you can make some quick cash just outside your doorstep.

Selling purses, designer clothing, jewelry and accessories online is easy and most effective through Ebay.comCraigslist.com is better for seasonal or specialty clothing such as winter coats, or baby clothes (in bulk, not individual pieces). Take a few nice photos, write a description, and buyers will contact you by email. For your privacy, I’d advice you to create a separate email account if you are planning on doing a lot of selling online. Also, please make sure you read the fine prints for these websites for safety rules and regulations. Keep in mind these options take a little more time to respond to the potential customers, however you can sell at a better price than a yard sale.

Some neighborhoods also have second-hand or consignment stores. So check your local listings.

Thredup.com has become very popular to sell or buy designer women and children’s clothing. However, they charge you a $9.99 processing the items you place in their clean-out bag (they’ll mail you a pre-paid bag in the mail). The payout for each piece is probably less than you’d expect, but they do carry some nice designer second hand clothing in near-new condition if you want to save some money. Also, if your items sold is worth less than $9.99, you don’t get any credit from your sales. It’s not a great policy, but they have to cover their expenses.

Swap.com is the largest online consignment and thrift store.

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TRADE

Maybe you have a friend whose style you admire, or want a fun theme for a get together by swapping your clothes and accessories. Trading is not only a great way to add some new pieces back into your wardrobe, it’s a great way to connect with your friends and family. (Only do this after you have gone through your own clothes, and knows what style of clothing you like, and what’s missing from your wardrobe.)

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REPURPOSE

Do a search online for “upcycling ideas for clothing” and you’ll find tons of innovative ways to repurpose your old clothes. There are also many craft ideas that you can do with little kids such as making clothes for their stuffed toys. Better yet, make a stuffed animal out of your old clothes. A nice patterned shirt cut into a square or circle can become a fun gift wrap. All those old concert t-shirts can turn into awesome retro pillow cases.

Even if you are not the artsy crafty type, maybe you know someone who will be excited and inspired to turn your old clothes into cool creations.

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RECYCLE

Up to 95% of the clothes, shoes, and linen in our landfill could have been reused or recycled. Different cities now offer textile recycling so nothing is wasted. Even some large apartment buildings have special bins that will get picked up by the donation/recycling organization. Who knows, maybe someday the clothes you recycle will come back as your favorite outfit!

The American Textile Recycling Service  has partners and donation bins in 12 states.

Bag2School is a used clothing drive that helps raise money for your school.

Clothingcollectors.com will pay $0.10 per pound of your used clothes. They collect adult and children clothing, shoes, belts and purposes.

SMART-Secondary Materials And Recycled Textiles has more detailed information if you want to learn more about the subject.

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I hope you enjoyed this article. Be sure to follow my blog. Next time, I’ll be sharing tips on Zero-Waste decluttering books.

Before & After: Spice Organization

Recently someone reached out to me for help with her spice organization. She doesn’t live near me, so we did an email-consultation. It was a great experience and I’d definitely do it again.

We started the process by me asking her some questions about her current set up and what problems she has with it. The biggest issue was she had spices in jars and bags and they just pile up. This made looking for what she needed very difficult and frustrating.

BEFORE: Spice organization

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These are a few of the questions I asked:

Which of these of your spices are for everyday cooking?

Do you dash, spoon, or pinch your spices when you cook?

Does most the spices you buy come in those plastic bags?

She told me that she had already bought some plastic containers to hold her spices, but she had not tried them out yet. Having not seen those containers, and not knowing the dimensions of her cabinet, I gave her some initial tips to try:

1. Take out all the spices and see if any of them needs to be discarded. Reasons for throwing them out may be that she doesn’t like the taste, the flavor has faded, dried out, or bought it but never used and maybe never will.

2. I suggested “filing” the bagged spices in a box. She can decide to file them in whatever order that works best for the way she cooks.

3. Put the bottled spices in a box (or box lid so it becomes a tray.) Organize them the same way she decided in step 2. But do put the bottom in descending order of height with the tallest in the back. (Option: consider adding a label on the cap to make each spice easier to find.)

These are the notes from her experience:

She pulled all the spices out of the cabinets and threw out the ones she would never use. Then she paired up the bagged spices with the bottle spices. She noticed that she really likes cumin and Mexican oregano! The duplicates were combined and labeled. And she decided to organized the spices in order of frequency of use. (Other options may be by alphabetical order, the type of cuisine, or by type of flavor)

Unfortunately she was unable to fit the containers she purchased side by side in her cabinet, or in a way where they’d be easy to remove. So instead the bottles went in the containers, and the bags are attached with a binder clip. The binder clip helps keep the bags together and easier to remove from the cabinet.

DURING: Spice Organization

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AFTER: Spice Organization

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I thought she did a great job sorting through her spices and coming up with a way to store them that works for her. It definitely looks like she will be able to get what she needs and put them back easily. One idea I suggested worth trying in the future is to find a container so she can put 2 side by side. Then try rolling the bags and store them in the container vertically (sort of like sushi rolls standing up). I think she might be able to fit more bags on a shelf that way. Also, to keep an eye out for other boxes that doesn’t have a lip or tapers on the bottom, which takes up more usable space.

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Simple Joy Tip:
Always be on the look out for rigid cardboard boxes that you can repurpose. Shoe boxes and lids that don’t have a lot of graphics on them are practical and has many good uses. Photo storage boxes are inexpensive and usually have nice fabric covers to fit your style. Smart phone and fancy chocolate boxes are perfect for storing smaller items in your desk drawer or hair and beauty accessories.

Redefining Waste

waste [wāst] NOUN
1. an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose

As a child, my understanding of not being wasteful was to finish all of my food, not throw things away if they can be fixed, and shop for the best deal. Even though they were all good rules to live by, they also created problems of their own. Our house was cluttered with broken items that were never fixed. Items purchased on sale piled up in the closets. And even to this day, I struggle with over-eating to clean my plate. I also spent a lot of time searching for cheaper versions of things I liked, when they never sparked the same joy as the original.

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, she says that sometimes waste is not what we throw away, but what we hold on to. I couldn’t agree more. When my father passed away unexpectedly, I was the one responsible of cleaning out his stuff. My father didn’t own much of anything that had monetary nor sentimental value. He didn’t have any hobbies either. So after donating his clothes, the cluttered 12×15 room packed with worn and broken stuff were all discarded. The only memento my sister and I kept were a watch and a ring worn by him daily. It saddens me to wonder what could have filled the room if he wasn’t stuck in his way of defining waste. Maybe there would have been more clues to what brought him joy.

As for my mom, she has no trouble spending money. She is just as comfortable buying high-priced fine jewelry as she is finding a great bargain at a yard sale. She often buys multiples of things so she can give them away as gifts, although the items mostly stayed in our house. When she decided to move back to Asia, I was once again the one to help with deal with all of her stuff. She lived alone in a 3-bedroom house with a 2-car garage, all packed to the top. It felt like a never-ending process, but eventually we were able to sell most of the stuff through weekly garage sales. The thrill from the great discounts she got during her purchase didn’t last nearly as long as the disappointment from letting them go for cheap.

Those examples shaped my purchasing habits, and in a way how I saw myself. Part of me felt like I was undeserving of having nice things. My pride in finding a bargain was sometimes mixed with shameful feelings of not being good enough. I felt insecure about the way I looked in my cheap clothes, even though I was the one who made rigid rules on how little I can spend.  I was jealous of people who can buy what they love, when I couldn’t help but focus mainly at the price tag.

After learning the KonMari method, I finally understood I was actually being wasteful. I  wasted so much time contemplating and researching which cheaper items to buy when my decision should have based more on the features and my needs. I wasted money on things with lesser quality, which in the end had to be replaced sooner or be tossed. I wasted space with a closet full of clothes that I didn’t like to wear. I accepted hand-me-downs that I didn’t need, afraid I might offend the giver. In reality I was wasting the opportunity for someone else who could have utilized and appreciated them more. I wasted my emotional space with guilt of spending too much or too little on things, as well as fear of the same things.

My first realization that my definition of waste needed re-evaluating was after I did the “joy checking” to decluttered my clothes. After handling each piece of clothing and separated the ones that brought me joy and wanted to keep, I noticed they all had a similarity in the style and shape. All this time I had been searching for my “personal style” elsewhere, turns out were in my closet all along! I begin to love the way I dress. I can get ready in almost no time because everything I put on made me feel good. I stopped having the urge to shop. And even if I did, I knew exactly what style I should buy. If it happens to be on sale, super! If not, I was willing to pay full price if I know I truly love it, will happily wear it, and take good care of it.

I also started composting, storing the food scraps in a small container, kept in our freezer, and taking them to the local farmer’s market weekly where they collect them.  By making this small change, our trashcan no longer smells bad or gets drippy. And the leftovers goes on to benefit the local farmers. I pay closer attention to the fruits and vegetables in the house, so I can soups and smoothies before they go bad. The same collection location also accepts used clothing to recycle the material. And I use the Give Back Box service to donate to Good Will.

My previous connection to waste was linked so much guilt and negative feelings. Now, I am more conscious shopper. I recycle and repurpose as much as I can. I actually enjoy my “waste” and the extra space in my home, the money I saved, and extra time to spend on the people and things I love.

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 Simple Joy Tip:
If you can’t decided if something brings you joy, ask yourself
“If I lost this item, am I willing to buy it again to replace it?” or
“If someone ask me about this item, can I recommend it?”